The Checkered History of Unionist, Jim Larkin

Jim Larkin is a renowned trade unionist, best known as the founder of the Irish Transport and the General Workers Union (ITGWU). According to an excerpt published on, Larkin was born in 1874 in Liverpool, England and passed on in 1947 in the Irish capital of Dublin.

Jim Larkin traveled to the US in 1914 soon after ITGWU broke apart following the infamous Dublin Lockout. During his stay in the US, Larkin was a fervent Marxist who believed in the strong tenets of the labor movement that permeated the 40’s.

Jim had a checkered past, having been born in the slums of Liverpool and growing up with little education. During his youth, he did menial jobs to make ends meet before settling as a foreman at the Liverpool docks. Read more: Jim Larkin – Biography

Being a committed socialist, Larkin grew up at a time when most workers were being treated unfairly. It is this predicament that pushed him to become a member of the National Union of Dock Laborers (NUDL) and a full time trade union organizer.

ITGWU’s primary goal was to combine the skills of all Irish workers to form a formidable movement and organization. The most prominent of these strikes was the Dublin Lockout of 1913 that saw over 100,000 workers strike for 8 months to win fair employment.

Back in 1907, Larkin helped found the Irish Transport and General Workers Union after some members of NUDL found his militant strikes alarming and unbearable.

Larkin was also instrumental in spearheading the formation of the Irish Labor Party, which led to a series of strikes to champion labor causes. He also famously took part in the massive anti World War I demonstrations in Dublin.

Larkin was deported to Ireland from the US following his 1920 conviction for supporting communism and criminal anarchy. Before being pardoned and deported, he served 3 years in jail. When he returned to Ireland, Larkin helped the Worker Union of Ireland secure recognition from Communist International group.

n his old age, Larkin continued to champion various workers’ causes. According to, Larkin helped the Catholic Church mobilize people against the communism in the 30’s. During the 40’s he greatly reduced his activities due to old age, as he enjoyed partial rehabilitation in the labor movement.

His activism on the Dublin Corporation and the Dublin Trade council mostly focused on solving the hectic housing problem. He was later was elected the Labour TD for North East Dublin in 1943. He died at the Meath Hospital after falling down while supervising repairs at the WUI Thomas Ashe Hall.

The Larkin Legend came into the fore during the marking of 50 anniversary of the Lockout strike. He will be remembered as a visionary agitator and magnificent leader and, more significantly as the man who revolutionized trade unionism by instituting changes to the policy that depended heavily on the British Labour. His long struggle to fight for the rights of workers made it possible for unskilled laborers and workers to be unionized.