Date Released: 08 March 2013
To commemorate the founding of the Irish Women Workers’ Union more than 100 years ago and its role in the 1913 Lockout, a ceramic plaque will be unveiled by feminist and historian Margaret Mac Curtain and the union’s last serving General Secretary Padraigin Ni Mhurchu along with IWWU member Kay Marron at Liberty Hall today, International Women’s Day (8th March), at 5.00 p.m. Jack O’Connor, president of SIPTU which has sponsored the plaque, will also be present along with sculptor Jackie McKenna, who created it
Dreaming in the Zeitgeist, a poem written specially for the occasion by Paula Meehan, will be read for the first time. Community activist and IWWU commemorative committee member Rita Fagan will give a rendition of the Laundry Workers’ Song.
Feminist and historian Margaret Mac Curtain says: “The significant contribution of many Irish women has frequently been sidelined in our history. The Irish Women Workers’ Union is an example. Initiatives such as the one today serve to remind us all of the central role played by women generally and, in particular, the membership of the IWWU in the 1913 Lockout. The union played a key role in the events of 100 years ago, not only standing up for their own right to organise in the pursuit of better pay and working conditions but also, in many cases, working tirelessly to support others in their fight.
“Women like Delia Larkin, Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, Louie Bennet, Helena Molony, Mary Galway, Rosie Hackett and a host of others have become part of the school curriculum because other women will not let them be forgotten. Jackie McKenna's plaque will ensure we continue to remember these and other women and establish them in the mainstream rather than the margins."
Jack O’Connor, president of SIPTU which is sponsoring the plaque, says: “The decision by three young women, members of the women workers branch of the ITGWU (which later became the Irish Women Workers’ Union) to refuse to take off their union badge while at work in Jacobs Biscuits played a significant role in the decision by Dublin employers to enforce the lockout.
“It is important to commemorate their role and that of the women who came after them in the union and the wider labour movement in Ireland. Today, more than half of those in Irish trade unions are women. The struggle for decent working conditions for Irish women is far from over. But we could not have come this far without the heroic contribution of our sisters in the Irish Women Workers Union.”