"Jim Larkin crashed on upon the public with the devastating roar of a volcano exploding without even a preliminary whisp of smoke. I have myself been called an agitator and have not resented it. Believe me, however, in my earliest and hottest days of agitating I was more fridid than a frozen millpond in comparison to Larkin"
This tribute from a fellow trade union leader give an indication of the extraordinary impact that Jim Larkin had on the Irish working class movement. Born in Liverpool of Irish parents, he had worked in the docks before moving to Belfast as the organiser of the National Union of Dock Labourers.
In 1907 a fierce dispute took place in Belfast which resulted in dockers, carters, coal and tobacco workers rioting. Larkin adopted his trade mark tactics of mass flying pickets across all grades of work. An significant result of this approach was the appearance of a movement which united Protestant and Catholic workers.
Frustrated by the conservative leadership of the NUDL and attracted to the growing world wide syndicalist movement, Larkin created the Irish based Transport and General Workers Union in 1908. This union was extremely successful in organising unskilled workers until checked by an alliance of employers in a great lockout based in Dublin, 1913.
Demoralised by defeat, Larkin went to America to raise funds for the ITGWU as well as to continue his agitation there. In the atmosphere of repression on America's entry into the Great War, Larkin was arrested and missed the formative years of the establishment of the Irish state in the War of Independence.
Larkin returned to Ireland in 1923 and devoted his life to the labour and trade union movement. Despite his senior positions in the movement, and unlike most modern trade union leaders, Larkin refused all privilleges and died in relative poverty in 1947.
His name is commonly evoked in Irish politics as a symbol of principle and working class militancy. A very dramatic statue of Jim Larkin stands, arms awide, in the centre of Dublin's O'Connell Street.