2013 marks the centenary of the 1913 Lockout of Dublin workers, which historian Desmond Ryan described on RTÉ Radio as an awakening, “the beginning of an Irish revolution”. So what exactly did it awaken? What were the major workers’ disputes in the century that followed, and how were they fought? RTÉ Archives looks back at a century of strikes, protests and pickets in Ireland, from the 1913 Lockout to the sit-in of Vita Cortex workers in 2012.
Women laundry workers tell how they won the right to a fortnight’s holiday for everyone in 1945. A family caught up in the maintenance workers’ strike of 1969 explains to ‘Seven Days’ how they have been left with “no source of income at all”. We look at the effects of the bus strikes of 1974 and the bank strikes of the 1970s. There is footage from ‘Frontline’ of postal workers clashing with Gardaí at a CIÉ picket during the 18-week post strike in 1979. Other forms of protest included are the mass marches against PAYE that began in 1979 and the tractorcade of 2003, when farmers drove their tractors to Dublin in protest against falling farm incomes.
A new phase in industrial relations began in 1987, with the negotiation of the first social partnership deal, the Programme for National Recovery. 20 years later, trade unionist Peter Fitzpatrick lamented that “people nowadays don’t understand the sanctity of the picket” on RTÉ Radio’s ‘Passing the Picket’.
The accompanying image shows a PAYE protest march in Dublin from 1980. © RTÉ Archives 2319/014
Historian Desmond Ryan explains the significance of the 1913 Lockout and why it continues to capture the imagination.
Women laundry workers tell how they went out on strike for a second week’s holiday in 1945 and ended up getting it for all workers.
Dubliners tell John Horgan how much they miss the newspapers, which were shut down by a printing strike for 10 weeks in 1965.
Women and children march on Dublin Corporation in protest at the uncollected rubbish that is accumulating on city streets while corporation workers are on strike.
The plight of a family caught up in the maintenance strike, which brought Irish industry to a standstill in 1969.
Loyalist strikers bring down the Sunningdale agreement by paralysing Northern Ireland with a general strike.
A 9-week bus strike in 1974 resulted in huge losses to the clothing and footwear industries.
Businesses react to the third major bank strike in a decade by refusing to cash cheques.
PAYE workers protest against the tax system in one of the largest assemblies ever seen in Dublin.
Striking postal workers clash with Gardaí while picketing a CIÉ depot in Sheriff St, Dublin.
Dunnes Stores workers tell how they ended up on strike following a union instruction not to handle South African goods.
Ireland’s first social partnership deal in 1987 brought about a new phase in industrial relations. RTÉ News reports on the Programme for National Recovery.
Waterford Crystal workers strike in 1990 over cost cutting by managers who believe their jobs can be outsourced.
5 days of power cuts wreak havoc across Ireland in 1991.
As Gardaí are not permitted to strike, they express their dissatisfaction with pay by calling in sick.
Farmers drive their tractors to Dublin in a 5-day protest against falling incomes.
Vita Cortex workers give the background to their protest over unpaid redundancy money, which led to a sit-in at the plant.
Key players in the trade union movement reflect on their experiences and the changes that have taken place over the years.