No, I’m not talking about EVA or Limerick Lace or even the Rubberbandits. I’m talking about the one and only Limerick Soviet.
In April 1919, during the Irish War of Independence, the British authorithies decided to impose martial law after the killing of a policeman, Mark O’Brien. They declared Limerick a “Special Military Area” which meant that all citizens had to apply for a permit to enter the city.
This did not go down well with Limerick folk and the Limerick Trades and Labour Council responded by organising a general strike. They took over all the shops and businesses in the city and a special strike committee was set up to control food prices, publish newspapers and print their own money. And so the Limerick Soviet was founded and the businesses of the city accepted the strike currency.
The Limerick Soviet became worldwide news because of the presence of hundreds of international journalists in the city at the time, who were there to witness an early attempt to fly across the Atlantic, from Bawnmore in Limerick to the American continent.
The term “soviet” (meaning a self-governing committee) had become a popular term around 1917 recalling the Russian soviets that would lead to the formation of the USSR. However, it could not be said that this was a truly Communistic uprising. Ruth Russell of the Chicago Tribune remarked on the devout nature of the strike committee when she saw the red-badged guards rising and blessing themselves when they heard the Angelus bells ringing from the church of St. Munchin.
Whether it was the prayers or the stubborn courage of the workers (or both), we’ll never know but the permit system was overturned and this was a victory for the Limerick workers. Unfortunately, the general strike was not supported in the rest of the country and so it ended there.
Now, if you’re wondering why I’m writing about the Limerick Soviet it’s because I’ve been reading about the history of Limerick before my 2 person show there next month (in the Belltable). Still a few paintings to finish but the painting above – Tinteán Tréigthe no. 30 – that’ll be in the exhibition. And if you were wondering about the image at the top – it’s one of my old Limerick cityscapes with a Tinteán painting superimposed over it. My red tribute to the erstwhile Limerick Soviet.
Now, if you think that there’s other, more special things about Limerick, please let me know. Drop me a comment 🙂
And there’s more information about the exhibition at: