1916: A Workers’ Year

1916 full collage2016 marks the centenary of two seminal events in the history of this island: the Battle of the Somme and the 1916 Rising.

On April 25th, in Belfast, Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey outlined Unite’s perspective on these events, summarised in this statement issued by the Ireland Region.

In preparing our programme of events and outputs to mark those events, Unite chose the theme ‘1916: A Workers’ Year’.  In 1916, many workers’ lives were ended or changed not only as a result of the events surrounding the Rising and World War I, but also as a result of the economic conditions facing working class communities – conditions which predated the War and the Rising, and were to endure long after.

On July 25th, in Dublin, Unite Assistant General Secretary Steve Turner launched the 16 Lives set of postcards remembering sixteen of those lives.  They include labourers, a nurse, a bottle blower, a millworker, a munitions worker, a schoolgirl and an infant.  Theirs were the lives which too often slip through the lines of history – the lives of workers and their families.

During the event, historian and demographer Peter Connell gave a context-setting presentation on infant mortality in Dublin and Belfast during the period.

The event also featured a presentation by oral historian Mary Muldowney on Unite’s 2015 oral history project Uniting Workers’ Memories, exploring memories of World War One through the eyes of Unite members.

Jimmy Kelly signature

Jimmy Kelly, Regional Secretary, Unite the Union