The Limerick Soviet was a self-declared Irish soviet that existed from 15 to 27 April 1919 in Limerick and was organised by the Limerick Trades and Labour Council.
4 March District Inspector Craig starts a prosecution against Robert Byrne at Limerick Petty Sessions Court for alleged damage to furnishings – ‘the property of His Majesty’s Government’ – in his prison cell. Constable Moffatt is the witness for the prosecution. pic.twitter.com/AWnzzHkOKF
— Limerick Soviet 1919 (@LimerickSoviet) March 4, 2019
Limerick Soviet 1919 remembered on year of centenary through social media
by ilovelimerick correspondent Conor Owens
Historian and writer Liam Cahill recently started a new Facebook and Twitter page that describes the day-to-day events of the Limerick Soviet that existed from 15 to 27 April 1919, during the Anglo-Irish War.
The social media pages aim to raise awareness to the historical event on the year of its centenary, by describing it in a step by step, easily accessible format. Historian Liam Cahill has studied the events surrounding the soviet for years and previously authored a book ‘Forgotten Revolution; Limerick Soviet 1919: A Threat to British Power in Ireland’ that investigates the causes and impacts of the 1919 Soviet in Ireland.
“I always had an interest in the Limerick Soviet. I have written books, talked about it on radio and been on television programmes about it. As we were coming up to the centenary, I thought it would be a good idea to raise awareness of the Soviet. I decided to adapt and use social media to cover the event, because of how much more accessible it is than a book.”
The response Liam has received on Twitter and Facebook for his work on the Soviet has been strong and positive. “The Facebook page has been very responsive, which has been a great help to my work. The social media gives the facts about the event in a simple step by step format, so it’s easily accessible. Unfortunately, a lot of people today don’t read, but they are online. Unlike a book, the reach of social media is worldwide.”
The Limerick Soviet was a self-declared Irish soviet that existed from 15 to 27 April 1919 in Limerick. At the beginning of the Irish War of Independence, a general strike was organised by the Limerick Trades and Labour Council, to protest the British army‘s declaration of a ‘Special Military Area’ under the Defence against the Realm Act, which covered most of Limerick city and a part of the county.
The military control regulations that were implemented required all citizens to carry special permits and thousands of workers faced the prospect of police scrutiny several times a day as they went to and from work. British Army troops and armoured vehicles were deployed in the city to ensure the compliance of the people of Limerick.
On Sunday 13 April the general strike was called by the city’s United Trades and Labour Council and by Monday evening, fourteen thousand Limerick workers had joined the strike.
Within twenty-four hours, the Strike Committee became the effective governing body of Ireland’s fourth largest city for the duration of the strike. The Strike Committee – or the Soviet as it became known – regulated the price and distribution of food, published its own newspaper and printed its own currency.
The Limerick Soviet was the first of its kind in Britain and Ireland and it brought the Irish Labour movement to the brink of a revolutionary confrontation with British power in Ireland. When asked about the Soviet’s success, Liam Cahill said “There were many other Soviets around the country, but none to the same scale and duration as the Limerick Soviet. It was the only one to properly challenge the authority of the British government in Ireland and be considered a threat.”
The general strike was extended to a boycott of the troops and a special strike committee was set up to print their own money, control food prices and publish newspapers. The businesses of the city accepted the strike currency, but outside Limerick, there was little sympathy for the Soviet, particularly in the main Irish industrial area around Belfast. Ultimately, the Soviet could not last forever and eventually was declared over by its participants.
However, the legacy of the Limerick Soviet continues to live on, and Liam Cahill believes the work of historians today are helping to bring this piece of history into public knowledge. “I’m not sure if the Limerick Soviet is recognised on a national level for what it was and what it achieved. But thankfully more people know about it now than 15 years ago. I’m sure at the end of 2019 it will be more widely known. ”
As part of the celebrations for the soviet’s centenary, the ‘Limerick Soviet 100’ festival will take place from April 12-27 and will include plays, conferences, walking tours, re-enactments, exhibitions, podcasts and more. A highlight for the ‘Limerick Soviet 100’ will be the Breads not Profits play written by Mike Finn and performed between April 16-27.
For more information on Limerick Soviet 100, click here
For more stories about the history of Limerick, click here