Hundreds injured as British order police to attack workers in Dublin

A statue commemorating Jim Larkin in Dublin.
Tony Webster – CC BY 2.0 – via Wikimedia.

31 August 1913

On 13 August 1913, a crowd gathered in O’Connell Street, Dublin, to protest against the refusal of employers to recognise the Irish Transport and General Workers Union (ITGWU). Four days earlier, tram workers, who had joined the union, found themselves locked out by the management and their jobs replaced by non-union scab labour.  James Larkin, one of the ITGWU leaders called for a rally for Sunday 31 August, but the British authorities immediately declared any such assembly illegal.  Larkin’s reaction was to publicly burn the British proclamation.1

The Dublin police were ordered to disperse any attempt at an assembly.  They first identified and arrested Larkin who managed to infiltrate the crowd disguised behind a false beard. According to the Weekly Freeman’s Journal, ‘Larkin sought to address the crowd, but the police rushed him down Sackville Place to the police station.’ Moments later, ‘the police drew their batons and a terrific charge ensued when men and women were beaten indiscriminately.  Soon there were scores of people all over the street lying on the ground, their hands to their heads and bleeding from the wounds inflicted.’2

Journalist Anrold Wright recalled that ‘individuals fled in all directions in their attempt to escape the blows which were dealt with fierce intensity by the infuriated members of the police force… the scene of the disturbances was strewn like a battlefield with the bodies of injured people, many of them with their faces covered with blood and with their bodies writhing in agony.’3

Two men, James Byrne and James Nolan were beaten to death and 453 hospitalized with serious injuries.4 The massacre became known as ‘Bloody Sunday,’ not to be confused with the ‘Bloody Sunday’ massacre of 30 January 1972, when 14 Catholic protesters where shot dead by soldiers of the Parachute Regiment in Derry, Northern Ireland. A report commissioned by the British authorities insisted that the police had not acted to crush the strikers, but ‘solely for the protection of property.’ 5


  1. Aengus O Snodaigh,  ‘Remembering the Past: 1913 lockout,’ accessed online at http://www.anphoblacht.com/contents/3895
  2.  “Indiscriminate Baton Charges,” the Weekly Freeman’s Journal, 6 September 1913, p. 1
  3. Arnold Wright, Disturbed Dublin, The Story of the Great Strike, London, 1914, pp. 141-2 cited in Diarmaid Ferriter, A Nation and Not a Rabble, Profile Books, London, 2015, p. 140.
  4. ‘Appalling Scenes in City,’ the Weekly Freeman’s Journal, 6 September 1913, p. 1
  5. Diarmaid Ferriter, A Nation and Not a Rabble, Profile Books, London, 2015, p. 140.

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