The ‘Labour Hercules’: The Irish Citizen Army and Irish Republicanism, 1913–23


Jeffrey Leddin

March 2019

The most extensive survey of the movement to date, The ‘Labour Hercules’ explores the ICA’s evolution into a republican army and its legacy to the present day.


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The Irish Citizen Army was born from the Dublin Lockout of 1913, which sparked one of the most dramatic industrial disputes in Irish history. Faced with threats of police brutality in response, James Connolly, James Larkin and Jack White established the ICA in the winter of 1913.

By the end of March 1914, the ICA espoused republican ideology and went on to fight alongside Irish Volunteers during the Easter Rising. Despite Connolly’s execution and the internment of many of its members, the ICA reorganised in 1917 and subsequently provided operative support for the IRA during the War of Independence in Dublin.

In Jeffrey Leddin’s extraordinary new work, the most extensive survey of the movement to date, The Labour Hercules explores the ICA’s evolution into a republican army and its enduring legacy to the present day. It outlines the impetus for the movement’s use of force, and, through analysis of the Military Service Pension files, provides vital new information on the military and ideological developments of the army. By examining the force’s participation in the College of Surgeons, Dublin Castle, and the GPO during Easter Week, the true significance of the force’s influence on twentieth-century Ireland’s first rebellion is highlighted. Leddin reveals the ICA’s crucial involvement in intelligence and arms gathering during the War of Independence and explores the developing alliance between the ICA and IRB during the year that preceded that war. The Labour Hercules also dissects the ICA’s alignment with anti-treaty republicans and their contribution to the Irish Civil War.

A century on from the 1916 Rising, The Labour Hercules illuminates how a force forged from the aftermath of the 1913 Lockout became a vital cog in Dublin’s revolutionary movement.

Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. ‘Glorious times’: The Formation of the Pre-Constitutional Citizen Army
    3. ‘So arm and I will arm’: The Pre-Constitutional Citizen Army
    4. ‘Changed from an airy nothing’: The Army Revitalised
    5. ‘Closer communion in thought, principle and action’: Relations with the Irish Volunteers
    6. ‘For a republican freedom of Ireland’: Political Developments under Connolly
    7. ‘To enlighten and instruct our members’ Military Developments under Connolly
    8. ‘Under arms in Liberty Hall’: Final Preparations for the Easter Rising
    9. ‘Baptism of fire’: Stephen’s Green and the Royal College of Surgeons
    10. ‘That small garrison carried out their orders’: Dublin Castle and its Environs
    11. ‘Left wheel, charge’: The General Post Office
    12. ‘Swept up’: Executions and Internment
    13. ‘We were preparing’: Reorganising the Army
    14. ‘We stand solid for an Irish Workers’ Republic’: The War of Independence
    15. ‘Irish workers’ republic, without fear and without comprise’: Split and Civil War
    16. Legacies

Appendix 1. ICA Constitution, 22 March 1914
Appendix 2. Revised ICA Constitution
Appendix 3. ICA Drill circa 1915, Map
Appendix 4. Population Distribution of ICA circa 1916, Map
Appendix 5. Dublin Castle Bases, Easter 1916, Map
Appendix 6. Outline history of 1917–23 by O/C John Hanratty
Appendix 7. South County Dublin ICA Memorandum of Active and General Service, 1920–3
Appendix 8. Deportation of ICA Members, 1916 to British Prisons
Appendix 9. Irish Transport Union and General Workers’ Union Branch No. 1 Minutes Relating to the Irish Citizen Army

About the Author

Jeffrey Leddin was awarded a PhD by the University of Limerick in 2017, where he is currently a Graduate Teaching Assistant. He was editor of volume 15 of History Studies, Ireland’s oldest post-graduate history journal.

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