Plaque to James Connolly
in The Cowgate.
(5th June 1868 - 12th
James Connolly was born at 107 Cowgate,
Edinburgh, the son of Irish Catholic Immigrants. His upbringing
was one of extreme poverty, and he was working to support
his family from the age of eleven. At fourteen he joined
the British Army, serving in Ireland for seven years. When
he returned to Edinburgh in 1890 he became actively involved
in socialist politics, and proved a voracious scholar of
politics, history, sociology and economics.
He moved to Dublin in 1896, founding the Irish Socialist
Republic Party and voiced his opposition to Home Rule in
Northern Ireland through the associated newspaper The Worker’s
Republic. He conducted a series of lecture tours in the
United States and Scotland, finally moving his family to
America to live. It was here that he founded the Irish
Socialist Federation which published The Harp newspaper.
He was the organiser for the Industrial Workers of the
World from 1908 when he expanded support for socialist
groups primarily on the east coast with its large American-Irish
In 1910 Connolly returned to Dublin where he was appointed
the Belfast organiser for the Irish Transport and General
Workers Union. He formed the Irish Citizens Army during
the Great Lock-Out of 1913, which was intended to defend
striking workers against the violent factions of groups
like The Employers Federation.
It was at this time that James Connolly revived
a newspaper called The Worker’s Republic, a significant
step towards an anti-establishment movement. During the War,
John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, supported
the suspension of the 1912 Home Rule Bill which caused the
loss of 11000 Irish Volunteers in opposition to this delay.
In February 1915 The Worker’s Union
was banned by the Irish Government while James Connolly was
appointed acting General Secretary of the Irish Transport
and General Workers Union. He had by this point become actively
militant, parading units of the Irish Citizens Army in Dublin.
This demonstrative tactic was strongly opposed by ex members
of the Irish Volunteers who had gone on to form the Irish
Republican Brotherhood (IRB). They were in the process of
planning a rebellion against the state, and felt he was bringing
unwanted attention to their cause.
The IRB decided to bring Connolly onboard
to counter this and he was soon made aware of their intentions
for an uprising on Easter day, 1916. He was appointed Commander
of the Republican Forces in Dublin and when the rebellion
started on April 24th, he was one of seven signatories to
the proclamation The other six signatories were Patrick Pearse,
Tom Clarke, Thomas MacDonagh, Joseph Mary Plunkett, Eamonn
Ceannt and Sean Mac Diarmada. During the fighting, Connolly
was posted at the rebels’ headquarters, which was the
General Post Office. He was badly wounded and soon arrested
when the rebels were quickly forced to surrender.
He was court-martialled in a military hospital
in Dublin and charged with treason. On May 12th, 1916, Connolly
was shot by firing squad at Kilmainham Jail along with the
other six signatories and another nine men involved in the
Although the Irish people had been politically indifferent
to the rebel cause, before the uprising, widespread anger
at the circumstances of his death helped create new support
for a Republican government and Home Rule devoid of British