Wexford's May Day tribute to Connolly
With the rain holding off, Wexford marked May Day with a gathering at the Lock Out Gates in the Faythe on Sunday, commemorating the centenary of the death of James Connolly, patriot, trade union activist and inspired leader of the 1916 Easter Rising.
Angela Laffan, district manager of the Wexford Borough District, was the MC and addressed the gathering ahead of the opening speech by Mayor Cllr Ger Carthy, and an address by Helen Corish Wylde on the history of the Lock Out, with emphasis on the important role played by Conolly, and excerpts from Connolly's speeches ready by Cllr Davy Hynes.
There was a recitation of a poem 'Connolly', written by Liam Mac Gabhann and the song 'Freedom's Pioneers' - written by James Connolly, to the air of 'The Boys of Wexford', was sung by Ger Lawlor and singers and all in attendance, accompanied by members of St. Patrick's Fife and Drum Band, as was the national anthem.
Wreaths were laid by Cllr Carthy, Minister Brendan Howlin - on behalf of the Irish Government, John Connolly, grandson of James Connolly, on behalf of the Connolly family, and Ted Howlin - on behalf of The Labour Party.
The ceremony was attended by descendants of James Connolly -- his grandson and granddaughter John and Maggi Connolly, great granddaughter Roisin Flood, and great grandson John Connolly.
Others attending included Bishop Denis Brennan, Patricia King, General Secretary of The Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Joe O' Flynn Gen, General Secretary SIPTU, Minister Paul Kehoe, Willie Roche, President of Wexford Lions Club, members of Wexford County Council, members of Wexford Trades Council and members of the former 1911 Lock out Centenary Committee.
Tribute was paid by Cllr Hynes, to the late Peter Hodnett, sculptor, who created the 1911 Wexford Lock-out Gate, which was unveiled by Michael D. Higgins in 2012.,
The organisers said they wanted to thank John Ross and the staff of Wexford Borough District Council who braved the elements to prepare for the ceremony.
Speaking at the ceremony, Brendan Holwin said that on the 17th February, 1912, 'over 5,000 Wexford people (men and women) gathered here in The Faythe to cheer James Connolly and the courage and steadfastness of Wexford workers.
'After many months of arduous resistance a settlement to the 1911 lockout had been brokered by Connolly who had arrived in Wexford after the imprisonment of P.T. Daly the agent and organiser of the ITGWU.
'It had been a dark and difficult time in our town. 700 foundry men had been locked out by their employers and other employers followed suit - any man who joined the Transport Union was locked out. 150 RIC Officers were brought into the town and blackleg labour was imported from far and near.
'But the settlement was a victory for organised labour - Wexford had again shown its mettle and determination.'