"Archbishop Walsh on the ‘Save the Kiddies’ Campaign"

Contributors: GD, TOR.

 

Introduction. Labour activists, philanthropists, and middle-class sympathisers, were extremely concerned about the plight of strikers, and their families. At a meeting in London, 10 October 1913, Dora Montefiore, an English socialist and feminist, suggested that the children of strikers who were worst affected should be sent to England for the duration of the strike. Larkin supported her idea, and within a week, three hundred workers in England and Scotland had offered assistance. Upon arrival in Ireland on Sunday 19 October, Montefiore and other labour activists outlined their plans at a packed meeting in Liberty Hall. They got great support from women on strike, and the wives of locked out men present, many of whom gave their children’s names for the scheme. The first group of children (six) left for London the next day. On 20 October 1913, the archbishop of Dublin, William Walsh, wrote a public letter condemning the plan, which, he believed, might endanger the faith of Catholic children. Walsh’s letter was published in all the main newspapers the next day. He had good relations with employers and labour representatives. He appealed for an end to the strike, and argued that this would be the best way to help the children.

 

Source. Irish Times, 21 October 1913.

 

Sir, I have read with nothing short of consternation in some of our evening newspapers that a movement is on foot, and has already made some progress, to induce the wives of the workingmen who are now unemployed, by reason of the present deplorable industrial deadlock in Dublin, to hand over their children to be cared for in England by persons of whom they, of course, can have no knowledge whatever.

The Dublin women now subjected to this cruel temptation to part with their helpless offspring are, in the majority of cases, Catholics. Have they abandoned their faith? Surely not. Well, if they have not, they should need no words of mine to remind them of the plain duty of every Catholic mother in such a case. I can only put it to them that they can be no longer held worthy of the name of Catholic mothers if they so far forget that duty as to send away their children to be cared for in a strange land, without security of any kind that those to whom the poor children are to be handed over are Catholics, or, indeed, are persons of any faith at all.

I am much mistaken if this recent and most mischievous development of our labour trouble in Dublin fails to appeal to all who are involved in the conflict, employers and employed as they may be, or fails to move them to strive with all earnestness to bring the conflict to an end.

With all my desire to see an end of the strike, I make no difficulty in saying in public, as I have been freely saying in private, that I think the employers have been to some extent justified in hesitating to enter into an agreement for the removal of the present deadlock until some guarantee was forthcoming that any agreement now entered upon would be faithfully kept. For my part, I should like to see guarantees given at both sides.

Now what is our present position? I have just read a newspaper report of an interview given by one of the leading representatives of the interests of labour, Mr Gosling, in which the following occurs:—‘On the question of guarantees, so insisted on by the employers, he said, if the parties would come together, ample guarantees would be forthcoming to ensure the carrying out of agreements, and the support of English trade unionism and public sympathy would depend upon this’. May I venture to ask why, in the face of this explicit statement, the parties should not come together, and see whether something cannot be done to put an end to a conflict that is plainly disastrous to the interests of both?

Tomás O’Riordan