Labour, Civil War and Executions in Kerry


  • Kieran McNulty


This essay examines the period of the Civil War in Kerry, seeking to move beyond the traditional narrow focus on the military conflict between the IRA and Free State. Specifically it aims to analyse the response of the labour movement to the National Army’s summary or extra- judicial executions of Republican prisoners. This is an aspect of the Civil War that has received little attention from academic historians. This article will pose the question, by accepting the Treaty and remaining in Dáil Éireann were the Labour TD’s complicit in the actions of the Free State regime regarding the execution of prisoners? It will argue that the many speeches and protests in the Dáil by the Labour Party leader, Thomas Johnson, had absolutely no effect in ending the Free State’s policy of executions. These Labour leaders were not socialists in the mould of Connolly or Larkin, and seemed more concerned with limiting the actions of militant workers - the National Union of Railwaymen, the postal workers, the dockers, the soviets etc rather than supporting a movement of mass class struggle. Only a radical form of protest, withdrawal of Labour TD’s from the Dáil and a general strike could have had any hope of challenging the counter-revolution. These were actions the conservative leadership of the labour movement had absolutely no intention of pursuing and unfortunately for the Irish working-class no alternative revolutionary socialist party existed to challenge the Labour Party.