When the workers took over a city - Liam Cahill's book on the Limerick Soviet

Story by John Donohoe

Saturday, 25th May, 2019 5:44pm

When the workers took over a city - Liam Cahill's book on the Limerick Soviet

Liam Cahill presents a copy of his book to President Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin.

A former RTÉ journalist turned historian, Liam Cahill, who lives near Dunshaughlin, has published a new book telling the forgotten story of the deep involvement of workers and their trade unions in the struggle for Irish Independence in the years 1916 – 21.
Entitled ‘Forgotten Revolution (The Centenary Edition) The Limerick Soviet 1919’, the book takes as its starting point the Limerick General Strike, or Limerick Soviet, of April 1919, when 14,000 workers protested against the imposition of military law on the city. The British government imposed severe regulations following the shooting dead of a policeman and an IRA prisoner during a rescue attempt at a local hospital. Workers were required to get a military pass and go through checkpoints four times a day. Limerick United Trades and Labour Council rejected the restrictions and, instead, took over the running of the entire city for a fortnight, including printing their own currency and newspaper. The strike received worldwide coverage in newspapers and newsreels and became known internationally as the Limerick Soviet. 

Liam Cahill presented a copy of his book to President Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin. Speaking after the presentation, the author said the book goes beyond the story of the Limerick Soviet and contains intriguing new information from the Military Archives in Dublin, that shows events and developments in the vital year of 1919 in a new light. 

Cahill said: ‘From 1916 onwards, the British authorities saw workers and their rapidly growing trade unions as posing as big a threat to their power as the Irish Volunteers or Sinn Féin. This threat came to a head a century ago as the First Dáil convened publicly in Dublin, as the first shots were fired during the ambush at Soloheadbeg, county Tipperary and as militant workers took over the city of Limerick.’
Recalling recent comments by President Higgins at a history seminar in University College Cork, Liam Cahill said: ‘A highlight of the Decade of Centenaries has been the recovery and honouring of the role of women in the fight for our freedom. However, in the remaining years of the Decade, it is imperative that historians and researchers actively redress the similar neglect of Labour’s role. Otherwise, the rest of the Decade is in danger of becoming a monotonous parade of ambushes, assassinations and raids with the role of workers and their trade unions continuing to be airbrushed out of our history.’
Priced at €15, including a map, Chronology of Events and many photographs never published before, ‘Forgotten Revolution’ is on sale in the Community Centre, Dunshaughlin, Tara News, Dunshaughlin, and at the Meath Chronicle office, Navan, and is also available online as a paperback or e-book from Amazon and other leading Internet bookstores.

Liam Cahill is giving a public talk and book signing in Oldcastle Library, at 7pm on Thursday, 13th June, on 'Forgotten Revolution? The Role of Organised Workers in the War of Independence 1916-21.'

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