Major Theme - {title}
Striking workers imprisoned in Sligo
A view of Sligo where disturbances have resulted in the imprisonment of striking workers (National Library of Ireland, LROY 03272)

Striking workers imprisoned in Sligo

Police assaulted and ‘strike-breakers’ attacked by women

Sligo, 7 May 1913 - There were disturbances at Sligo Borough Court today as striking workers were convicted of riotous behavior and with assaulting the police.

When Magistrates ordered the imprisonment of several workers, there was a great outcry from a number of women. As the uproar continued unabated, police ejected the women from the courtroom. One of the men convicted was Patrick McMorrow, a trade union member. Mr. McMorrow was described to the court as a ‘former convict’ who had resisted arrest when served with a warrant.

Police told the court that Mr. McMorrow had pulled the arresting constable’s cape over the constable’s head and had fought to get free, despite the fact that four policemen were attempting to bring him to jail. Later, the court was also told that it was now very dangerous for police to enter into certain districts. District Inspector Moore said: ‘If police had to execute a warrant now, they had to send quite a company of them, as no two police would venture the task.’ Almost the entire sitting of the court was dominated by other cases relating to the worsening industrial relations in the town. Strikes at Sligo port, at factories in the town and also at shops. In one case before the court, two women, Mary Evans and Kate Callaghan, were each fined a shilling for abusing ‘strike-breakers’ on their way to work.

Figures for the number of Crimes presented before the Irish courts in the summer of 1913 point to the impact of the quay labourers strike on law and order in Sligo. (National Archives of Ireland, CSROP 1913: 14647)

A further case was taken by union member, Michael Foley, against John Noone, a shop merchant. Mr. Foley claimed that Mr. Noone had assaulted him outside his shop.

Mr. Noone’s solicitor, John Tarrant, claimed the case against his client was a trumped up one, taken to case annoyance to him and was part of a concerted campaign which saw his premises picketed night-and-day. Mr Tarrant continued: ‘If fellows like the complainant could bring respectable merchants into court on bogus and vindictive charges, Sligo would very soon be like a deserted village.’ The charges were dismissed by Magistrates.

The disputes in Sligo are part of escalating industrial unrest that is spreading nationwide. In the last week alone, strikes had been undertaken by tailors in Waterford, masons in Enniscorthy, girls who work in a cocoa factory in Dublin, while strikes by carpenters in Limerick and by 1800 building workers in Dublin had been narrowly averted. A bitter month-long strike by labourers in Galway has just been brought to an end after lengthy negotiations, but feelings in the town remain extremely high.

A Royal Irish Constabulary Minute notes the Chief Secretary’s interest in the causes of the increase in crime in counties Sligo and Wicklow. (National Archives of Ireland, CSROP 1913: 14647)

This handwritten RIC memorandum to the Under Secretary in Dublin Castle explains the reasons for the increase in crime in Co. Sligo and the type of offences directly attributable to the strike (National Archives of Ireland, CSROP 1913: 14647)

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]


Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.