Bounce Beaver O’Brien
Black work in the North

OU Rube in The Workers’ Republic, 5th May 1923

A few weeks ago we inferred in these columns that the ‘Beaver’ by a process of decentralisation was attempting to forestall any action by Larkin n his capacity as general secretary. This can be understood, though not condoned, as the lust for position and power grips small mentalities fairly hard, and we suspect Beaver of being no bigger than his actions denote. But a strong suspicion is growing that O’Brien is making a more dangerous move against the Irish workers than that of which we accused him. We were forced to believe that someone in Liberty Hall is trying to kill the [Irish] Transport Union in Northern Ireland. On the surface O’Brien and Kennedy seem to be guilty, probably with Ridgeway as a pliable tool.

If there is anywhere that the Transport Union should be strong it is in Northern Ireland, yet nothing is being done about it. No move is made to give very badly needed help at Belfast. Newry has a branch today only because of good hard, rank and file fighters, and the Derry branch has gone completely out of existence, killed by red tape and bureaucracy at Dublin. The seamen’s section and that for farm labourers, also organised by this branch, were, from an industrial union point of view, wretchedly betrayed by Dublin. Ridgeway, in his capacity as organiser, confined himself to organising not the union but dances for the women’s section. In fact the whole of the history of the Transport Union in Derry for the last six months has been a record of sabotage by Dublin of the struggles of bonny fighters who remained true to the faith. One is forced to conclude that throughout the North the same heartbreaking state of affairs exists.

In justice we will admit that the holding of the North means real sacrifice, means that O’Brien’s old age pension, the Reserve Fund, is due for a few bumps, but so long as the workers stand four-square on the industrial field, no political position is hopeless, there is always a chance for a rally against the enemy. But disunity and defeat on the industrial field mean that all Johnson’s ravings and ‘victories’ are worthless. If the Six Counties are going to be separated by the Transport Union, then we demand that the Beaver be candid and give the boys a chance to organise under the different political regime. If Liberty Hall doesn’t relish the fight against the Black and Tan Government, then a straight confession of failure will let the workers of the North have a chance of knowing where they stand.

To this end we ask that every Transport Secretary in the Northern Counties get into direct contact with each other, and thresh out a common plan of action. As tentative proposals we advance the following:

  1. Formulate an offensive alliance against the clique at present in power calling fro a sworn inquiry into the following suppositions: (a) The attempt to split off the Northern vote at the Annual Conference, and in effect to disenfranchise the Northern branches by regional preliminary conferences. (b) The murder of the Derry branch and the attempt to kill the other Northern Branches; or

  2. The formation of a real One Big Union in the North on a geographical basis, withhold per capital taxes from Dublin and make a test case if prosecutions follows.

  3. Write to this office for the names of all rebel Transport Secretaries with a view to initiating an unofficial rank and file conference to overhaul thoroughly the entire machinery of the union.

Nowhere in the world are to be found better industrial fighters than the secretaries of the branches of the Transport Union. In these days when the whole world of labour is in retreat, these boys are putting up a noble fight, we must not let them be betrayed by officialdom. They and they alone are the real backbone of our union.

Will they ever claim their own?

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