Festival to remember Author of “The Red Flag”

On May 3rd and 4th, in Crossakiel, Kells, Co.Meath a commemoration took place to celebrate the life of Jim Connell. Over 100 people took part in a parade on the Sunday. Speakers on the Sunday included: Gerry McCormack (SIPTU) and Bob Crowe (Gen Sec, RMT Union- UK), who gave a passionate speech on Jim Connells legacy & called for Irish people to reject the Lisbon Treaty, which he described as a bad deal for working people.

Bob Crowe, RMT General Secretary speaking at Jim Connell Festival May 2008

The event was attended by crowds from the local community and various political organisations; People Before Profit Alliance, Labour Party, Labour Youth, Communist Party of Ireland and others. There was music by trad group Grada and upcoming rock band Ham Sandwich. Jimmy Kelly, brother of Luke Kelly sang the Red Flag at the parade. In previous years artists such as Billy Bragg have played at the event.

For more on Jim Connell himself……

Jim Connell was born in Kilskyre near Kells, Co. Meath and as a teenager became involved in land agitation and joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Aged 18 and a signatory to the Fenian Oath, he moved to Dublin where he worked as a docker until he became blacklisted for attempting to unionise the workers.

In 1875, he came to live and work in London. He held a variety of jobs, including time as a staff journalist on Keir Hardie’s newspaper The Labour Leader, and was secretary of the Workingmen’s Legal Aid Society during the last 20 years of his life.

For 10 years he was a member of the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) led by Henry Hyndman, which supported the cause of Irish land reform and self-determination; both Connell and Hyndman were on the executive of the National Land League of Great Britain, which aimed to promote the need for land reform in Ireland amongst the workers in England. In the late 1890s, however, Connell left the SDF and joined the Independent Labour Party.

Connell was inspired to write a socialist anthem “The Red Flag” after attending a lecture at a meeting of the SDF during the London Dock Strike of 1889. The song became an international anthem for the working class movement.

For more on Jim Connell click here


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