15/4/1919 The Limerick Soviet: dawn of an Irish socialist revolution?

Ireland is in an increasingly restive state. In Dublin through Dáil Éireann, the self-declared national parliament, Sinn Féin members are attempting create the trappings of an independent nation. Meanwhile a military campaign is building as members of the Irish Volunteers (now increasingly known as the Irish Republican Army) attempt to seize arms and carry out attacks on British forces. The political and military campaigns operate in tandem, with some of the leading Sinn Féin members also being involved in directing IRA operations.

Tensions are mounting in particular in Limerick. Here Robert Byrne, a local trade unionist and IRA organiser, has been arrested by the authorities. The IRA launch a daring attempt to free him but the mission goes awry: one of his would-be rescuers accidentally shoots and kills Byrne. The incident causes uproar, with many believing that Byrne has in fact been murdered by the police. The city sees an upsurge in demonstrations and protests against the authorities.

The British respond to the unrest by declaring martial law in Limerick, creating a cordon around it and blocking movement into or out of the city without permission. In response, the Limerick’s trade unionists declare a general strike. They also take over effective government of the city, issuing their own money and organising the distribution of food. The strike committee starts being referred to as the Limerick Soviet, a sign that perhaps Ireland too is about to follow Russia, Hungary and Bavaria down the road to socialist revolution.


British soldiers and a tank at a checkpoint into Limerick (Limerick Soviet 2019, @LimerickSoviet on Twitter)

Limerick Soviet promissory note (Libcom – Forgotten revolution: Limerick soviet, 1919, by Liam Cahill)

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