‘The Red Flag in Ireland’ by Nora Connolly from Truth (Duluth). Vol. 3 No. 25. June 27, 1919.

Workers march through Wickham St onto William St, Limerick, in April 1919 during the general strike.

Nora Connolly, James Connolly’s daughter and co-worker, writes to Connolly’s old Belfast comrade Jack Carney’s Minnesota newspaper ‘Truth’ reviewing the events of May Day, 1919 in Ireland. This is a marvelous snapshot of a moment in Irish history when Labor was, arguably, at is zentih.

‘The Red Flag in Ireland’ by Nora Connolly from Truth (Duluth). Vol. 3 No. 25. June 27, 1919.

Reminiscences of May Day.

November, 1918.

Thanks to the authorities, especially that they were to the fore on May 1st. They have sanctified the Red Flag with the frown of their disapproval.

In other countries where May Day has been generally observed for many years one will not readily understand or realize what a great event the celebration in Ireland of May Day this year means. For the first time in Ireland the people have demonstrated their comradeship with the workers of the world. They demonstrated their realization that communication with the world henceforth must be through the ranks of Labor. And with that demonstration has come to them the realization that they are the important body of the community, that without them their masters could not exist, but that they could exist without their masters.

For the people in Ireland that is a great step forward. It spells the awakening of the people to the fact that political freedom is not the be-all of freedom; that to be truly free economic freedom must be linked with their political freedom. The inevitable has come. With the awakening of revolutionary spirit (caused by the insurrection of 1916) has come an intensive growth of revolutionary thought. The people of Ireland have always felt a quick sympathy with any movement by a people towards freedom, and have always rejoiced at the overthrow of a tyrant or oppressor. Since the overthrow of the Czar the Irish people have watched, as far as they were able, the acts of the liberated Russians, and the system they have set up in the place of the old tyranny. And they have found it good. It appeals to them, it is easy for them to understand, easy for them to approve. They have placed it side by side with the systems that prevail in the free republics of France and America, and have decided that the Russian system is the system that appeals to them, and which appears the most Just. And we in Ireland have long been hungry for justice; our hunger has whetted our desire.

Limerick general strike, April, 1919.

But to get back to May Day. All over the country it was observed with the exception of a few places in the North. The thrifty, hard-headed Northerner could not support a principle at the expense of a day’s pay, so we had the amazing spectacle of “Progressive Ulster” being two days behind the world in celebrating May Day. As one of the reports has it, “They had a May Day of their own on May 3rd.”

A general order appears to have been sent out by the authorities to the police all over the country that they were to warn the people not to carry Red Flags under pain of prosecution. I will take a few extracts from reports on May Day to show how the people met this order. The first is from a town in Monaghan, one of the Ulster counties.

May Day, 1919.

The workers assembled in their meeting halls, and dividing themselves into squads with a leader to each, went on an organizing mission through the country districts and stopped all work, turning back all vehicles going to the railway station or to the town. It was market day in the town, but a week previous notices had been posted up in the surrounding districts announcing. “The World rests on May 1st, 1919—no work on that day.” The local police, however, went round the town trying to get the shopkeepers to open, and promising them police protection. On the morning of May1st the police came into the town and posted themselves at various points. Notwithstanding their activities closed down with one exception, whose eight assistants were brought out. The day was brought to a fitting conclusion by a workers’ dance.”

This district scarcely two months organized!

In another report from the North we are told that the police issued the usual warning about the Red Flag. The workers had a red banner. On receipt of the warning a deputation went to the police to know if their banner could be called a Red Flag. “We want to know,” said one of the deputation, “if our banner can be called a Red Flag. If not we’ll have to get one.”

A young Nora Connolly in her Cumann na mBan uniform.

Report from Maryborough.—“Labor Day was observed as a general holiday all places of business, without except being closed, and there being an all round downing of tools. The great country demonstration which testified to the strength of labor was a huge success, and made a big impression on all who witnessed it. The procession was quite as imposing as that which took place on the memorable 23rd of April last year, and even move so, having regard to the display of red flags and banners, which was quite an innovation. Red rosettes were generally worn by the processionists. The day was not merely a “red letter” day. It was a Red Flag Day and no other color but red could be seen. Who would dare to sing ‘The Green above the Red’ on a day like this? The speeches, delivered at the great public meeting were masterpieces of oratory and well worth listening to, and the conduct of the crowds after the meeting was exemplary, reflecting the utmost possible credit on the Labor movement: Labor omnia vincit! Altogether Labor can feel proud of its achievement on May Day in Maryborough.’’ This extract is taken from the lead press.

At Kilmacthomas 2000 marched in a procession headed by a red banner bearing the inscription “A Workers’ Republic.”

Maynooth workers marched to Kilock carrying the Red Flag triumphantly, although warned not to do so by the police, who threatened prosecutions.

Mount Mellick workers marched to Maryborough. Before the procession started the police endeavored to seize the Red Flag, “’but the workers weren’t having any.” Having failed in their efforts the police busied themselves in taking names

Street observed Labor Day. “Every worker doing the gent.” The farmers of the district are described as “wondering what the world is coming to.”

Dunshaughin was the scene of some excitement when the police endeavored to take down the Red Flag. One result of their action was that the spokesman of the workers procured a supply of red material and distributed it amongst the people who displayed the color prominently.

In Drogheda the Trades Council on receiving the warning from the police re Red Flag, decided to hold no celebration. The I.T. and G.W. Union members insisted on celebrating Labor Day, and they held a most successful demonstration at which the Red Flag was prominently displayed. Ballyclough workers marched to Mallow to take part in Labor Day demonstration, a distance of twenty miles. Cappoquin reports that Labor Day was a great success. As a result “Labor advanced to a solid position in the weak spots.”

In one place in Co. Dublin the speaker turned the police warning into ridicule. Immediately after being warned by the police not to carry the Red Flag he mounted the platform and holding the Red Flag in his hand said, “The police object to me carrying the Red Flag. Well, I’ve carried a red head for over twenty years and nobody has ever objected to it.”

And so I might go on through over a hundred reports but I think I have given sufficient to show that the workers of Ireland have definitely pledged their support to the banner of Labor.

‘Liberty Hall, 1919. William O’Brien, Cathal O’Shannon and Nora Connolly.’


Truth emerged from the The Duluth Labor Leader, a weekly English language publication of the Scandinavian local of the Socialist Party in Duluth, Minnesota and began on May Day, 1917 as a Left Wing alternative to the Duluth Labor World. The paper was aligned to both the SP and the I.W.W. leading to the paper being closed down in the first big anti-I.W.W. raids in September, 1917. The paper was reborn as Truth, with the Duluth Scandinavian Socialists joining the Communist Labor Party of America in 1919. Shortly after the editor, Jack Carney, was arrested and convicted of espionage in 1920. Truth continued to publish with a new editor J.O. Bentall until 1923 as an unofficial paper of the C.P.

Access to original issue: https://www.mnhs.org/newspapers/lccn/sn89081142/1919-06-27/ed-1/seq-4

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