Northern Irish Labour Movement

(Responses to the SCW)

Labour News (extracts)
Northern Ireland Labour Party, Conference record
Newry Labour Party (extract of minutes)
Belfast Trades Council minutes (extracts corrected, 14.4.00)
Socialist Party of NI

Belfast Trades Council and Executive Committee minutes
Extracts from the minutes relating to Spanish Civil War and China. The minute books are held in the Linen Hall Library, Donegal Sq North, Belfast.

Trades Council 13th August 1936
Mr. McAleer[? the handwriting left a lot to be desired!] raised question of [the] Revolution in Spain where the Fascists were attempting to overthrow the Republican Government and establish a dictatorship. It was moved and agreed that 1 be sent to Trade Union Congress Fund in support of Spanish workers, and that resolutions in support of Spanish workers be sent to Press.

3 December 1936 New Business
Mr. Wm Boyd (ITU) moved the following resolution. 'In view of the disturbed state of Europe and the imminent danger of war, we view with alarm the whole foreign policy of the National Government with the utmost concern. Believing, as we do that this policy is encouraging the Fascist Governments of Europe in their war designs, we warn the working class and all those opposed to war of the dangers involved by support of this policy.

Furthermore, we view with alarm the recent recommendations of the Royal Commission on Armaments to conscript all Labour in the event of War as we see I this an attempt to set aside all Trade Union conditions.

We call upon the executive to oppose these recommendations in every possible way'.

Mr. H Todd seconded.

Mr. M Morgan stated as Chairman of his Union, he had no knowledge of the resolution, Secretary that resolution as handed up by Mr. Boyd was written and signed by Secretary. Discussion took place, the resolution was unanimously agreed to.

Council in Committee
Letter received from Anti-Fascist Joint Committee stating a demonstration protesting against Fascism was being held on 6th inst. and asking Council to send a speaker. It was moved and agreed to support demonstration.

6th May 1937
Mr. McKenna, branch of A.E.U. moved the following resolution:

This Council strongly condemns the foreign Office refusing a visa for Spain to Frank Pitcairn, reporter of the Daily Worker, we condemn this unfair attack on a working class journalist and demand the same civil rights and liberties for working class journalists as are afforded to others.

We demand that the ban be immediately lifted and that he be allowed to return to Spain in his capacity as journalist. Mr. W. McCullough seconded. The resolution was agreed.

30 September 1937
Letter read from Communist Party, requesting a representative to be sent to a Conference regarding Volunteers returned from Spain. H.T. and O.J. Millar were appointed to represent the Council.

7 October 1937
Mr. Wm McCullough (N.U.R.) asked permission to move a resolution on the war in China, on permission being given he moved the following. 'This Council views with horror the massacre of Chinese people by the Japanese imperialists, the acquiescence by the people of the rest of the world in this barbarism would endanger the future of Civilisation.'

Mr. H Todd reported on Conference he attended as representing Council, on Volunteers returning from Spain, stating a Committee had been set up representing the various organisations to organise funds for their assistance, and read copy of circular drawn up for purpose of soliciting subscriptions.

Mr. Colin Caldwell moved that Council endorse Circular as drawn up, with the name of Council on same, and that a grant of 1 be given.

Mr. H Todd seconded, the motion was agreed to.

7th October 1937
Considered a letter from Minister of HomeAffairs re disturbances at Socialist Party meeting at Custom House steps, they decided to send a delegation. Council to appoint the members.

6 January 1938
Circular letter from ITUC asking support for fund for Chinese people. Secretary moved that a grant of 1 be given and that N.E. be requested to institute a boycott of Japanese goods. Mr. McKenna seconded. Discussion took place, the motion being agreed to.

7 April 1938
1. Circular from N I Committee for Spanish relief, intimating a conference would be held on 9th inst., and asking that Council send representatives, it was moved and agreed that two representatives attend, it was further moved and agreed that Messrs H Todd and Wm H McCullough be Councils representatives.

2. Mr. H Todd stated a public protest meeting against Japanese aggression against China was being held and moved that a representative of the Council should attend. Mr. McCullough seconded, the motion was agreed to. Mr. Todd, J Glass, C Caldwell and Chairman were appointed.

21 April 1938
Mr. H Todd reported on Conference he had attended on help to Spanish people, stating that a large number of representatives from the various Churches with representatives from Trade Union had attended, a Council had been set up, which had since met and decided to raise funds for the Spanish refugees.

5 May 1938
1.Letter read from Joint Committee for Spanish relief asking for support in distributing collecting sheets, Mr. J McIlveen undertook to look after the collecting sheets.

Mr. H Todd reported on Conference he had attended on behalf of the Council, on this question, adoption of report was moved and agreed to.

2.Secretary reported that May Day Demonstration had been held, and collection realised of 2-4-6. It was agreed on Socialist Party and Communist Party paying 1 each towards expense of meeting, that collection be handed to joint Committee for Spanish relief.

19 May 1938
Question of resolutions for agenda of ITUC was considered, it was agreed to submit resolution on 40 H[our] W[eek], Holidays with pay, on Fascism and protesting against Japanese aggression in China.

2 June 1938
[6 draft resolutions were put forward by the EC to the Council for the agenda of the Irish TUC conference, here are 2.] War in ChinaThis Congress protests against the brutal attack of the Japanese Militarists against the Chinese people, in their attempt to exploit and subjugate her people in the interests of intensified Capitalism.

We call upon all Workers to boycott Japanese goods, so that we may demonstrate the horror felt by our people against such brutal action.

This Congress views with alarm the growth of Fascism throughout Europe, and protests against the interference of these Dictator Countries, in their attempt to overthrow Democracy, and calls upon the Workers to be on their guard against Fascism, which would mean the loss of all liberty, and the abolition of the Trade Union Movement.'

Council in Committee 2/6/38
Letter read from Communist Party requesting Council to send a speaker to address meeting in support of Spanish people as there was no proposer Chairman called next business.

Labour News

Labour News was produced by the Labour Party in Dublin. As I can get down to the National Library, Kildare, Street, Dublin, I will read more and put additional extracts online.


Headline, Olives are Bleeding
'The private war in Spain has been turned into a battlefield of contending ideologies, so that it may be doubted whether Spaniards are any more interested in the outcome of the fighting.'

Irish Christian Front held a rally on 4/4/37 in College Green, Dublin.

24/7/37, p4-5
Article on how the Spanish peasantry had benefited from the expropriation of land from landlords.

4/12/37, p7
Reception to Defenders of Madrid.

'A reception was given to Messrs M Lehane, P Duff and P McElroy - recently back from Spain where they were wounded while fighting for the Madrid government - at 5 Leinster St,, Dublin, on Tuesday night by the Spanish Aid Committee.

Michael Lehane, who spent 10 months in the trenches on the Madrid, Granada and Aragon fronts said that the Gov. forces would eventually crush the rebels and their German and Italian allies. He analysed the position in Spain leading up to the attempt by the Fascists to overthrow the Gov. of the republic.

Paddy McElroy was severely wounded in the chest and arm at Jarama where the Irish unit distinguished themselves.

Patrick Duff also described his experience while fighting under command of Major Frank Ryan.

Dr Katherine Lynch, in the chair, appealed for funds, cigarettes, and books to be sent to the committee for the Irishmen still in the trenches.

Mrs. Sheehy-Skeffington, Miss McCord (USA) and John Swift also spoke.'

[27/11/37 5 Leinster St is also used by the Left Book Club]

NI Labour Party 1939 Conference

The following items come from the Report of the 16th Annual Conference of the Northern Ireland Labour Party, held in the Labour Hall, York Street, Belfast October 28-29 1939.

Report of the Executive Committee Spain.

Up to the conclusion of the war in Spain we gave every possible assistance to relieve the distress among the workers in that Country. Although the War is concluded we desire to take this opportunity of reminding all those associated with the Party that there are still a number of Spanish Seamen residing in Belfast who have been unable to return to their own Country, due to the fact that they supported the government against Franco.

Those seamen are depending on the generosity of the British and Irish people to maintain them until such time as they can settle in another country and provide for themselves. A subscription from any individual member of the Party, or from any affiliated organisation towards this object will be greatly appreciated.

Frank Ryan's release
The release of Frank Ryan who has been sentenced to 30 years imprisonment in Spain, has received our attention during the year. We have been in touch with the British and Eire Labour Parties in regard to this matter. Both parties made representations to their respective Governments relative to the imprisonment of this heroic fighter for Democracy.

We have also supported the local committee on this question.

In the section of the report dealing with resolutions is the following detail.

Spain and Japan
Speaking on the paragraph dealing with Spain, Mr. H Todd said that a tribute should be paid to the chairman and secretary of the Belfast Trades Council (Messrs. Dawson Gordon and R Morrow) for having secured substantial grants from the international Solidarity Fund for the Spanish seamen who have been stranded in Belfast.

Frank Ryan's release
That this conference demands the release of Frank Ryan who is interned in a Franco Prison, and a copy of this resolution be sent to the British foreign Secretary.

East Belfast Labour Party

Taken with last paragraph [of the Executive report, see above]

Mr. T A C Agnew (East Belfast Labour Party) moved.

Mr. H Todd seconded, saying that Frank Ryan fought a real war against Fascism.

Mr. S McVicker said that he had yet to hear of a trade union that had passed a resolution demanding Ryan's release.

Mr. Joseph Boyd suggested that the reason Ryan was held was his usefulness in Ireland.

Mr. P O'Connor said that the Socialist Party of Northern Ireland had communicated to Mr. De Valera and had also sent a telegram to Mr. Chamberlain.

The Secretary said that the British labour Party took up the matter with the Foreign Secretary, and the Eire Labour Party approached the Eire Government.

Mr. P McGowan (A.T.G.W.U) said there were internees in Northern and Southern Ireland who should be included in the resolution.

The resolution was passed.

Newry Labour Party

These notes come from the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, Balmoral Avenue, Belfast.

File number, D.3929/4/1Minutes of the Newry Labour Party, 29/6/37 to 30/6/38. These minutes are very brief and serve to illustrate how the established Labour organisations did not build support for the Spanish republican cause.

29/6/37, inaugural meeting

Cde Howley [Vice Chair] 'pointed out that there was nothing communistic about Labour'.

By 2/7/37 it had at least 28 members and the meetings were held in the Labour Hall, Lower Catherine Street. The standard meetings were concerned with local issues, plus nominations for Board of Guardians, LP Conference, etc.


'The Secretary read the Committees report which was adopted excepted the one referring to exhorting the NI Labour Party to co-operate with the British Labour Party in getting arm[s] for Spain.'


'Cde P Keighrey [?] said he stood on the Spanish question as we all did but we ....about local affairs first and more after' [Could not read the missing word. There were 8 at this meeting]

These notes come from the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, Belfast. For some other fragmentary material stored there, see the related material.