An argument can be made that the historic life of Jim Larkin, the most significant labor leader for Ireland in the 20th Century, can be traced back to England in the 1860s.
It was in 1867 that Jim Larkin’s uncle, Michael Larkin, was hanged by the British government. Larkin has been charged with the murder of a police officer along with two other co-conspirators in a crime that came to be known as the Manchester Outrages.
But to the Irish people living in England, the Manchester incident was not a case of murder. It was a legitimate military operation in Ireland’s ongoing struggle to gain independence from the British Crown. Learn more about Jim Larkin: http://www.rte.ie/centuryireland/index.php/articles/jim-larkin-released-from-prison and http://ireland-calling.com/james-larkin/
The death of the police officer happened during a daring raid on a prison van that was carrying three Irish prisoners. Michael Larkin along with William Allen and Michael O’Brien ambushed the horse drawn wagon.
It sported a cage in which the prisoners were locked during their transport. The waylayers managed to free the captives, killing a police guard in the process. The prisoners escaped, but the three accosting Irishmen were captured, tried — then hanged.
Jim Larkin is known to have commented on the fate of his uncle. He suggested that one member of his family gets hanged in every generation of his family — perhaps a bit of hyperbole since Michael Larkin is the only known relative of Jim Larkin to suffer such a fate.
But the Manchester Outrages demonstrates the context of the struggles between Britain and Ireland that would shape the life of Jim Larkin.
It must be noted, however, that Jim Larkin was not so much a freedom fighter for his nation — but for the urban working poor of Ireland and England. His enemy was not so much The Crown as it was the wealthy elite and the politically powerful.
Larkin himself would spend more than one stint in prison, although he never came near to facing capital punishment. It seems clear, though, that the revolutionary spirit ran deep in the bloodline of the Larkins. They spoke truth to power, and backed it up with bold action.