1913 Lockout Centenary Commemoration
S.I.P.T.U SERVICE OF REMEMBRANCE FOR DECEASED MEMBERS
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin
Newman University Church, 12th November 2013
From the Letter of James:
My brothers and sisters: do you with your acts of favouritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and fine clothing comes into your assembly and if a poor person with dirty clothes comes in and if you take notice of the one wearing fine clothes and say: “Have a seat here please” while to the one who is poor you say: “Stand there”, have you not made distinction among yourselves and have become judges with evil thoughts”
The Dublin of 1913 was a divided city. It was what we would call today a structurally divided city. There were pockets of great wealth, with houses of such elegance and sophistication, which still today, only the very wealthy can afford. At the same time, the Dublin of 1913 was marked by extreme poverty with conditions of squalor in which even basic health was at risk and the living conditions especially of women and children were scandalously disregarded.
This was a situation, which had gone on for years; but in the early years of the nineteenth century, something was changing. Establishment – whether in Church or Government or Industry or society – was beginning to be challenged. A strong labour movement was emerging in various parts of the world. Men and women were organizing themselves and with courage were setting out to vindicate their rights and their fundamental human aspirations. The suffragette movement was emerging as women began to vindicate their role in society.
My mother was born in 1904 and often told of her earliest memories of childhood in that changing Dublin. One of her sisters worked in Liberty Hall, another was in Cumann na mBan, her brother was active in 1916. They were part of that ferment which was taking place in Dublin in the first decades of the nineteenth century.
There was ferment in society yet there was also resistance to that ferment. There was insensitivity to the suffering of people and an almost acceptance of the harsh poverty in which so many lived. Dublin was a divided society. The Church – all our Churches – was a divided a Church. Where was the teaching of Jesus, or for Catholics where was the teaching of Pope Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum on the rights of workers to unite? Where were the words of that same Letter of James which cried out unambiguously:
“Listen, the wages of the labourers who ploughed your fields, which you have kept back by fraud, cry out”
It would be too simple to say that the insensitivity of 1913 was simply the insensitivity of the few. The mainstream failed to see the shadows that existed in society. That was true in 1913 as it is true today. We can so easily get caught up in our own concerns, placing them first, that we do not notice that our sight has become blurred.
Dublin is certainly a wealthier society today, but shadows and inequities are still there and are still not necessarily being seen by the mainstream. The poor rarely clamour. They just try to survive. When they cry out, the ears of the mainstream may well be too distracted to hear them.
None of us should be satisfied that we see the poverty around us. For the past number of months, the Crosscare Food Bank of the Dublin Archdiocese has not been able to keep up with demand for food from people in need all over Dublin. Last year, they gave out 500 tonnes of food. So far this year they have needed 750 tonnes.
We remember at this commemoration all those who have gone before us who heard the cry of the poor and responded to it. We pray that the Lord will give us similar eyes, ears, and emotions to hear the cry of the poor, to feel the plight of the poor – and to respond. ENDS