May – November 1907

Belfast Dock Strike

Liverpool born James Larkin was the organiser for the National Union of Dock Labourers. Larkin wanted to organise unskilled Belfast dockyard workers (Protestant and Catholic) into a union, to negotiate better pay and conditions with employers. Unskilled dock workers had no job security and could work up to 75 hours per week for little pay.

On 6th May a small group of the dockers went on strike to protest against the coal merchant, Samuel Kelly's, dismissal of union members from his workforce. When the dockers went back to their work they found they had been replaced by labourers from Dublin.

Strikes spread throughout the city and by June over 3000 people were on strike. In July, after increasingly violent attacks, hundreds of police joined the strike and the army were brought in to restore order. In August riots on the Lower Falls Road led to the shooting of two protestors by the army.

The strike ended on the 28th August with the union negotiating with the employers, however, most of the union’s demands were not met.

Labour Movement, Industry, Welfare, Military & Policing
Motor vans delivering goods in Belfast under police escort.
National Library of Ireland [EPH A237]