Rosie Hackett bridge

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On Monday night (September 2), Dublin City Council voted to name the new Liffey Bridge at Marlborough Street after early 20th century socialist-republican, union, political and military activist Rosie Hackett.  An original list of 85 possible names was first whittled down to just five, of which Rosie Hackett would have been – initially anyway – the least publicly known.  Independent councillor Nial Ring said that the process of choosing a name hadn’t been easy but the choice of Rosie Hackett meant “we will soon have a bridge over the Liffey named after a woman, a trade unionist and a rebel all in one.”

He further commented, “I am sure the public will warm to the new name and appreciate why Rosie was selected ahead of such eminent names.”  Councillor Ring expressed his pleasure that “someone so closely associated with the 1913 Lockout and the 1916 Easter Rising has been selected”, while also doubting that “officialdom” would be all that pleased with the decision.  Officialdom, noted councillor Ring, might not be happy about the reminder of “our past history” and would probably prefer that it be forgotten after the “decade of commemorations” (1913, 1916 and, presumably, the founding of the Free State in 1922).

The naming decision was especially welcomed by éirígí Dublin City Councillor Louise Minihan who said, “It was an honour to vote in support of a dedicated socialist republican like Rosie Hackett, to play a part in ensuring that her name will endure long into the future. One hundred years after the Great Lockout, the courage of women and men such as Rosie Hackett should serve as an inspiration to all involved in the struggle for a better Ireland today.”

Cllr Minihan went on to outline Rosie Hackett’s life:

“Born in 1892, Rosie lived her life in the service of Ireland and her people. When the Irish Transport & General Workers Union was established by Jim Larkin in 1909 Rosie was one of the first to join. At this time Rosie worked as a messenger at Jacobs biscuit factory. It was here that Rosie’s talents as an organiser would emerge.

“In 1911, when men working at the factory went on strike for better conditions, Rosie was one of the first women to go on sympathetic strike in support of their demands. Aged just eighteen, Rosie helped organise 3,000 women as part of that protest. The workers were ultimately successful, winning better working conditions and an increase in pay.

“Following the success of the Jacob’s strike, Rosie helped to establish the Irish Women Workers Union, dedicated to organising women against their exploitative working conditions. The union would go on to play an important part in the 1913 Lockout.

“Rosie was involved in the mass protest on O’Connell Street on the 31st August 1913, now known as ‘Bloody Sunday’, which led to the establishment of the Irish Citizen Army. As the 1913 Lockout intensified, the IWWU refused to take William Martin Murphy’s anti-ITGWU pledge and many of its members were also locked out. Rosie played a leading role in struggle throughout this time.

“In 1916, Rosie fought as a member of the Irish Citizen Army for the establishment of an Irish Republic. She was a member of the small group of Citizen Army volunteers who printed the first copy of the 1916 Proclamation in Liberty Hall and presented it to James Connolly. During Easter week Rosie was attached to the Citizen Army detachment under Michal Mallin and Countess Markievicz at Stephen’s Green. Here, Rosie was involved in the capture of the College of Surgeons. After the Rising, Rosie was imprisoned in Kilmainham Gaol. On her release she immediately threw herself back into the struggle, re-establishing the IWWU and continuing the fight for a national and economic freedom.”

Rosie Hackett was one of the republican veterans who contributed to the witness statements collected by the Bureau of Military History back in the 1940s and 1950s.  When I was in the National Archives in June I saw her witness statement, but that particular day I was after Aine Ceannt’s (see here).  Anyway, if anyone wants to see Rosie’s, it’s publicly available in the Archives; Witness Statement 546.*

One of the things her witness statement mentions is the first anniversary of James Connolly’s death.  Comeheretome has put up the relevant part of her witness statement.  Rosie records:

On the occasion of the first anniversary of Connolly’s death, the Transport people decided that he would be honoured. A big poster was put up on the Hall, with the words: “James Connolly Murdered, May 12th, 1916″.

It was no length of time up on the Hall, when it was taken down by the police, including Johnny Barton and Dunne. We were very vexed over it, as we thought it should have been defended. It was barely an hour or so up, and we wanted everybody to know it was Connolly’s anniversary. Miss Molony called us together – Jinny Shanahan, Brigid Davis and myself. Miss Molony printed another script. Getting up on the roof, she put it high up, across the top parapet. We were on top of the roof for the rest of the time it was there. We barricaded the windows. I remember there was a ton of coal in one place, and it was shoved against the door in cause they would get in. Nails were put in.

Police were mobilised from everywhere, and more than four hundred of them marched across from the Store Street direction and made a square outside Liberty Hall. Thousands of people were watching from the Quay on the far side of the river. It took the police a good hour or more before they got in, and the script was there until six in the evening, before they got it down.

I always felt that it was worth it, to see all the trouble the police had in getting it down. No one was arrested.

Of course, if it took four hundred policemen to take four women, what would the newspapers say? We enjoyed it at the time- all the trouble they were put to. They just took the script away and we never heard any more. It was Miss Molony’s doings.

Historically, Liberty Hall is the most important building that we have in the city. Yet, it is not thought of at all by most people. More things happened there, in connection with the Rising, than in any other place. It really started from there.

* I’ve just noticed (October 1) that Rosie Hackett’s witness statement is available on-line: http://www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie/reels/bmh/BMH.WS0546.pdf – Phil

 

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Posted on September 6, 2013, in 1913 lockout, 21st century republicanism and socialism, éirígí, Civil War period, Economy and workers' resistance, Free State in 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, Historiography and historical texts, Irish politics today, Republicanism post-1900, Revolutionary figures, Social conditions, The road to the Easter Rising, Trade unions, Women, Women in republican history. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Nice to see them name something after a true hero.

  2. I was gobsmacked!
    Phil

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