16 December 2005

North Belfast artist unveils Larkin tribute


James Larkin - BBC photo

Belfast is to get a permanent reminder of trade union leader James Larkin thanks to North Belfast artist Anto Brennan.
The man best known for his political chess boards, which take pride of place in the offices of power around the world, has now turned his attention to the Irish trade unionist because of a personal interest in Irish history, and the Irish Congress of Trade Union’s plans to mark their founding father.
“I just got an interest in the man about 18 months ago and have been doing a lot of reading about him,” Anto said.
“He was a real character and I hope that I have captured this in my statue.
“Lately there has been a renaissance in trade union history and when the ICTU said they wanted to commission a work to remember him I was happy to have been chosen to do this.”
James Larkin was born in Liverpool and reared by his grandparents in Newry, County Down. At the age of nine he rejoined his parents in Liverpool and became a Docker soon afterwards, eventually getting fired for joining a Dockers' strike. In 1908 Larkin moved to Dublin where he founded the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union in 1909.
He became a famous figure throughout the world organising workers throughout Ireland, England and even New York.
The statue, which was unveiled last night in the John Hewitt, is Anto’s first major public work.
“It took three months to do and I took the likeness from a photo that was taken of him from 1907.
“I wanted to capture his passion and anger. He represents a part of history everyone can buy in to.”
The statue will now be sent to Dublin for bronzing and will be erected outside the ICTU building in March.

Journalist:: Evan Short

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