Lockout inspires struggle against austerity - Bateson

Magherafelt Councillor Peter Bateson.

Magherafelt Councillor Peter Bateson.

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MARKING the Centenary of the Great Dublin Lockout of 1913, Magherafelt Sinn Féin councillor, Peter Bateson said the Lockout left a legacy of real long-term gains for working people and showed the power of unity and solidarity, continuing to inspire today’s struggle against austerity.

The leading republican made his comments in advance of tomorrow night’s debate: Is the cause of Ireland the cause of labour? which will be addressed by leading voices from academia, politics and Ireland’s trade unions including Basil McCrea MLA and Sinn Féin Vice-President, Mary Lou McDonald.

Cllr Bateson said:”The Centenary of the Great Lockout of 1913 is not only a reminder of the heroism and courage of working people in the past, it is also an inspiration and a call to action today.

“In 1913 thousands of workers, who lived in dire poverty in slum housing and on starvation wages, were prepared to face even deeper poverty rather than sign the anti-union pledge demanded by William Martin Murphy and the Dublin employers.

“The workers were locked out of work, beaten on the streets and in their homes by the Dublin Metropolitan Police (the British government’s police force in the capital), demonised by the press and condemned by the Catholic Church. Yet they held out for months, sustained by their sense of community and solidarity.

“The bosses failed in 1913 to smash the trade union movement which went on to win real gains for working people in the following years, as well as playing a key role in the fight for Irish independence.

“We cannot celebrate this Centenary without recognising that many of the gains made by workers over the last century are under attack as a vicious austerity regime is imposed by the Fine Gael/Labour Government in the 26 Counties, by the Tory government in London and by the EU elite across Europe.

“Today we face mass unemployment and emigration on a scale not seen for half a century, the erosion of workers’ rights and the dismantling of vital public services. Pay and working conditions have been eroded and the right to collective bargaining for all workers has not been legally vindicated in the south. And all this with an Irish Labour Party in government, laughably claiming the mantle of the Lockout.

“Sinn Féin is proud to remember the Lockout and we are inspired by its legacy of people’s unity and solidarity as we struggle against the disastrous policy of austerity and work for a New Republic based on community and equality.”