Catholicism, Ireland & Labour Rights

28 September 1921, Cork Examiner

The relationship between organised labour and the Catholic Church was not harmonious in early 20th century Britain and Ireland. The Catholic Church had condemned the workers of the 1913 Dublin lock-out, and Jim Larkin in particular, as socialist revolutionaries. By 1921 the Catholic Church’s position had not changed much. This Cork Examiner (now Irish Examiner) article reported on the agenda being set for the annual Conference of the Catholic Confederation of England and Wales, where Catholics were discouraged from paying their dues to trade unions if they were affiliated with the “Socialist International”. The article also highlighted the Confederation’s denial that any future Irish state would be “governed and guided” by the Catholic Church. 

Catholic Conference

Ireland and Labour

The annual Conference of the Catholic Confederation of England and Wales is to be held at Sheffield on October 1st and 2nd, under the presidency of Mr. Edward Eyre. One of the items on the agenda concerns the Catholic attitude to trade unionism, and a resolution will be submitted by the National Executive Council drawing attention to the following facts:- That a Catholic cannot be a Socialist; that the Labour Party became a Socialist Party in 1918; that Catholic trade unionists are voluntarily paying an individual levy to the Labour Party; that Catholic trade unionists and non-trade unionists are voluntarily joining the Labour Party; that the trade unions are affiliated to the Labour Party and to the Socialist International; and that Catholics since 1918 have, in effect, accepted the Socialist position. The Executive Council suggests the advisability of Catholic trade unionists, acting inside their trade unions, withholding payment of the Parliamentary levy, and opposing the affiliation of their trade unions to the Labour Party and to the Socialist International. 

A further resolution of the Executive suggests the advisability of Catholic co-operators opposing every attempt to connect the co-operative movement in any way with the Labour Party.

The annual report of the Executive states that a resolution had been adopted on the motion of the Salford Confederation on the subject of Ireland in the following terms:- “This meeting of Catholics calls the attention of his Majesty’s Government and of the British public to Sir Edward Carson’s Belfast statement that their brave volunteers would never submit to the yoke of a Dublin Parliament, government and guided by the Hierarchy of the Church of Rome, and that this meeting emphatically repudiates the idea that a Dublin Parliament would be so governed and guided.