Irish Worker, 3 January 1914.
Recently republished in Red Banner, No.5 (PO Box 6587, Dublin 6).
Transcription: Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh.
HTML Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
We are informed that on Wednesday, December 31st (New Year’s Eve), a special meeting of the Employers’ Association was held in the Antient Concert Rooms to hear an address by Mr William Martin Murphy. The meeting was called at the personal request of that gentleman, and was the most remarkable gathering that has been held since the beginning of the dispute. The great hall was taxed to its utmost, and the remarkable address was listened to in absolute silence, in fact with a feeling almost of awe-struck wonderment. We dare not speculate upon the possible results of this unique pronouncement.
Mr Murphy said: “Gentlemen, I have called you together on the eve of the New Year, 1914, because I have something to tell you that I feel can better be told upon such an occasion than upon any other. It has long been the custom amongst Christian nations to make the closing of the old year and the opening of the book of the new an occasion for the promulgation of new policies, and for the renunciation of old sins. Such of us as feel wearied and worn out with old forms of iniquity and desirous of aspiring after a newer life in which to qualify for a greater righteousness naturally choose that period in which the thoughts of men turn to change as the period best suited to mark their change of heart. For that reason I have fixed upon this evening as the most auspicious occasion, and the one most calculated to awaken in your breasts a responsive throb for the review of the past and the announcement of the change of policy I intend to follow upon my change of heart (sensation). Yes, gentlemen, I intend to embark upon a new line of policy – a policy that I hope will reconcile me at last to the great heart of the Dublin public, of the generous Irish public from whom I have been so long estranged.
“For years I have followed in Ireland a policy which set my own interests above and before everything else. I have schemed and contrived by every means to obtain control of every kind of business, even if in doing so I had to destroy the business and wreck the prospects of helpless orphans. I have never followed any policy of Christian charity, of humane pity, even of common decency, to restrain me when engaged trying to obtain possession of the business interests of those whom I considered as business rivals. I have made a fine art, or perhaps I should say a scientific business of the accumulation in my own hands of the fortunes and control of destinies of others. My path through the business world has been marked by the ruin of others, and all over Dublin and the other scenes of my activities can be traced the sufferers – suffering in silence for the most part, as I have successfully manipulated into silence every avenue of publicity by means of which they could make themselves heard.
“What I have done to the business people in this business world I have done even more ruthlessly and unscrupulously to those members of the working class who dared to cross my path. You all know the tale of the West Clare Railway. How I terrorised the whole countryside into acceptance of my terms, how I evicted poor Irish labourers for daring to ask as a weekly wage a sum not sufficient to pay for a box at the Opera for one of my guests at Dartry Hall, how I secured that this eviction should pass and win the approval of a venal Home Rule Press which had grown into popularity by the denunciation of evictions not one half as cold-blooded and merciless, and how in spite of this eviction of my poor countrymen and women I still managed to pose before the public as a pure-souled patriot and lover of my kind. All this you know, gentlemen! You also know – for you have been participating in my crime – how I managed our latest attempt to reduce to soulless slavery the gallant workers of Dublin. You know how I managed to secure a sufficient number of slaves prepared to sell their manhood for a chance to earn a few miserable shillings; how I used those slaves, and when I was sure of their slavishness proceeded to goad the more manly workers into revolt, and then supplanted them by the help of those Judases. How I had prepared my plans so that the Judge who tried the strikers, arrested by a police force drunken with rural hatred of the city, should feel that his own right to dividends was on trial when confronted by a working class prisoner, and should hit out vindictively with fiendish sentences accordingly. You also know, none better, how we had our secret agents in every club, society and gathering place in the city. How we encouraged them to play upon the most sacred offices and the most hallowed institutions and to divert them to our uses. How we made priests of the Most High imagine they were obeying the call of God when in reality they were only being galled by our carefully poisoned suggestions – made them mistake the insinuations of the devil for the inspirations of God. How we secured that through the influence of some of our lady shareholders the uniformed ruffians of the police should be let loose to insult with foul-mouthed indecencies the brave girls who dared to strike against the unbearable conditions you imposed upon them, and when in the pride of their outraged purity they resented the insults the same police bullies beat them, arrested them, and perjured themselves to swear their liberties away. All this you know, gentlemen! You also know how we made the streets of Dublin a place of terror for every worker not prepared to sell his class; how our uniformed brutes (whom I despised even whilst using them) batoned, kicked and maimed all and sundry; how we murdered two men in Dublin and left another widow and six orphans in Kingstown ; how we armed scabs to shoot at will, and how, in short, we have made of the Capital City of our country a place of slaughter, of misery, and a byword amongst the nations.
“Well, gentlemen, what has it all profited us? At the end of it all we find that the workers of Dublin are still unsubdued, and I now believe are unsubduable and unconquerable. You can extract what comfort you may from that fact. For myself now at the opening of the New Year I am determined to do what I can in the few years left me to try and make amends for all the long array of crimes against my kind of which I have been guilty. I, at least, will no longer make war upon the liberties of my poorer brothers and sisters, or use my ill-gotten wealth to exploit others. What I have done I cannot restore, but I can restore to the working class the rights of which I used my wealth to deprive them. From this night, gentlemen, I cease to hold the pistol of starvation at the heads of the poor to make them surrender their souls and liberties. I propose to go down to the Tramway Depots and hunt away the foul vermin who now pollute the cars by their presence. I propose to open the dispatch business of the Independent and Herald with Transport Union members, and if they will permit me I will grasp the hand of each and beg their pardon for my crimes against their manhood. These will be but the beginning.
“From this day forward I am at the service of every honest cause, and I trust that the closing years of a life spent in unscrupulous acquisition of gold may be worthy of some honour when spent as they will be spent in trying to win instead the esteem of my fellows.
“To-day I am sending to Jim Larkin, whom I have grown to esteem and value as a worthy citizen, an invitation to do me the honour of consenting to dine with me on New Year’s Day at the Imperial Hotel. There on the spot made historic by Larkin , I propose that he and I shall make a pact of friendship, and trust that united our efforts will succeed in purging Dublin and Ireland of much of its squalor and misery, and set its feet upon the upward path that leads towards righteousness.”
(NOTE. – Up to the present the invitation has not arrived, and we are wondering whether our reporter invented the speech of Mr Murphy, as Murphy’s supporters have hitherto invented so many speeches attributed to Mr Larkin.)
1. James Nolan and James Byrne were killed by a police baton charge, and another James Byrne died on hunger strike in prison.
2. It was from a balcony of the Imperial Hotel that Larkin spoke on Bloody Sunday.
Last updated on 20.8.2003