James Larkin’s activities in ITGWU

The Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, ITGWU today holding the name SEPTU, was first formed by James Larkin. As the union’s Secretary General, Jim Larkin set out the goal of the organization as the unity of Irishmen under a recognizable organization that would protect the rights of both skilled and unskilled laborers.


Jim Larkin bore the idea to form ITGWU after his expulsion from the National Union of Dock Labourers. This expulsion was mainly caused by Jim’s disobedience of instruction that NUDL laid out for him, concerning the organization of workers. Jim would explain his actions as caused by his rift with James Sexton, NUDL’s GS at that time.


Having the experience of several years’ work at the docks and with NUDL, James Larkin hoped that with ITWGU things would be different, and he would be able to, with the union, lead Irishmen to a successful bid of their grievances.


However, James Larkin’s abandonment of ITGWU to form ILP was taken negatively by the then members of the union. He further dropped all his activities in England and Ireland and went to the United States. Although many considered this to be a neglection of duty, James Larkin had different aspirations in the US.


It was hurting to lose a close friend like James Sexton in the Easter Rising, and James Larkin saddened, formed a union while in the States and named it after his friend, as a memory and a representation of his last respects.


James Larkin returned to Ireland years later and expected to still take over ITGWU’s leadership because his position as the GS was not yet revoked. However, the union leaders did not agree to this, and the opposition brought about a lot of bitterness.


James Larkin did not quit, however. He formed two other organizations, and the two came to gain a lot of recognition. Larkin decided to spend the last days of his life doing what he had been doing all his life; good to the community and especially the workers of Ireland and England. He passed on while rather old, but still very able.