09 May 2006

Life-size sculpture of Jim Larkin unveiled in Belfast

Daily Ireland

by Mick Hall

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usA life-SIZE sculpture of one of Ireland’s most celebrated trade union leaders was unveiled last night at a ceremony in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter.
The bronze statue of Big Jim Larkin by the Belfast artist Anto Brennan was unfurled at the gable wall of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions office in Donegall Street Place.
This is close to Waring Street, where Larkin led the Belfast dockers’ strike of 1907.
The project started two years ago. It was jointly funded by the union federation and the Laganside Corporation.
The artist said: “It is appropriate that this sculpture should be unveiled on the eve of the centenary of those formative events in 1907.”
Mr Brennan and his studio Open Windows Productions form part of a new generation of artists located in the Cathedral Quarter, whose work is geared to representing the city’s cultural diversity.
The launch was complemented by a slide show of old Belfast by the Northern Ireland Film and Television Commission, live music, poetry, and refreshments in the form of a soup kitchen and bar facilities provided by the neighbouring John Hewitt pub.
Many participants were dressed in period costume. John Gray, a historian based at Belfast’s Linen Hall library, delivered a talk about the significance of Larkin and the events of 1907.
Mr Gray said Larkin had “galvanised the previously unorganised and impoverished unskilled workers of the city, recruiting all the dockers and carters to the National Union of Dock Labourers”.
He added: “The strike was marked by extraordinary working-class unity across the sectarian divide and in the face of the overwhelming hostility of employers and the political establishment.
“Events in Belfast preceded and foreshadowed the famous Dublin lockout of 1912-13. They were the first milestone on the road to the organisation of unskilled workers in Ireland, a road on which there are still many milestones to be passed in achieving justice and equity for all.”

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