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James Connolly

Updated: May 1

James Connolly was an Irish republican, socialist, and trade union leader who played a significant role in the 1916 Easter Rising against British rule in Ireland, ultimately being executed for his involvement. Born in Scotland in 1868 to Irish parents, Connolly became involved in socialism and moved to Ireland in 1896, where he established the country’s first socialist party, advocating for Irish independence from both British rule and British capitalism.

Connolly’s early life was marked by hardship and military service, but he eventually found his calling in socialist activism. His involvement in the Dublin lock-out of 1913 and his leadership in the ICA exemplified his commitment to workers’ rights and Irish independence.

From 1905 to 1910, Connolly organized for the Industrial Workers of the World in the United States, focusing on syndicalism over doctrinaire Marxism. Upon his return to Ireland, he worked alongside James Larkin in organizing the Irish Transport and General Workers Union.

Connolly’s efforts to unify Protestant and Catholic workers in Belfast were unsuccessful, but the 1913 industrial unrest in Dublin provided a new avenue for his socialist vision. He committed the Irish Citizen Army (ICA), a union militia, to support the Irish Republican Brotherhood’s plans for an insurrection in 1916.

In the lead-up to the Easter Rising, Connolly’s support for armed resistance against British rule intensified. He played a crucial role in planning and executing the rebellion, despite disagreements with other leaders over strategy and tactics.

During the Easter Rising, Connolly commanded the ICA from the General Post Office in Dublin. Despite being wounded, he played a significant role until the rebels surrendered. Alongside six other leaders, he was executed for his part in the rebellion.

Following the failure of the uprising and his subsequent execution, Connolly became a symbol of resistance and martyrdom for Irish nationalists. His death, along with other rebel leaders, sparked outrage and condemnation both in Ireland and abroad, ultimately contributing to a shift in public opinion towards independence.

Throughout his life, he maintained connections to both Scotland and Ireland, embodying a unique blend of Irish nationalism and international socialism. James Connolly remains an iconic figure in Irish history, revered for his unwavering dedication to the cause of Irish freedom and social justice.

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