James Larkin - Irish trade union leader and socialist activist Photo by: Google Images

Historic files from Irish Free State on James Larkin’s deportation from US released


James Larkin - Irish trade union leader and socialist activist Photo by: Google Images

Classified files just released by the Irish Department of Justice and Equality have revealed the anxiety that legendary trade union figurehead Jim Larkin created for the Irish, British and US governments.

The just published files reveal detailed correspondence between the British Consulate General in the US, then British government in Downing Street, and the fledgling Irish Free State prior to Larkin's release and deportation from the US in 1923.

Imprisoned in New York’s Sing Sing Correctional Facility from 1920 until 1923 for 'criminal anarchism,' the news of his impending release was conveyed to Ireland by Gloster Armstrong, the British Consulate General.

According to TheJournal.ie, release efforts by 'Irish organisations' had made significant progress and the then Governor Smith was preparing to grant Larkin's release.

Finally Governor Smith set Larkin free, stating that there was 'no evidence’ that Larkin ever endeavoured to incite any specific set of violence or lawlessness. 'The State of New York does not ask vengeance and the ends of justice have already been amply met,' Smith wrote. 'For those reasons I grant the application.'

With these words Larkin became the recipient of the first unconditional pardon from Sing Sing that had been granted in five years.

Upon his release from Sing Sing Correctional Facility, Larkin's movements were tracked, before being transmitted back to Ireland by Armstrong.

However, in a letter dated January 18, 1923, Armstrong reported that Larkin had 'disappeared with friends' and that no information was known as to his address. This was described as being 'characteristic of Larkin, who likes to surround himself with mystery.'

Armstrong added that he believed Larkin was 'very anxious' to return to Ireland.

'From certain sources I learn that his chief anxiety to get to Ireland is in order to associate himself with the Republican Party. I venture to suggest to Your Excellency that Larkin’s presence in Ireland would be undesirable, from the standpoint of the Free State Government, and consequently I would appreciate instructions as to what action should be taken should this man apply for a passport.'

Less than two weeks later, Armstrong writes of an 'Irish meeting' in Boston that was rumored to have been attended by Eamon de Valera. Armstrong's report claims that 'Jim Larkin had received an enthusiastic reception' from the assembly.

At the meeting Larkin reportedly condemned the attitude of the church in Rome, the Knights of Columbus, and the 'fickleness of the majority of Irish in this country.' He closed his Boston address by appealing for volunteers to fight against the present Irish government, as well as for money which would be used to buy supplies for what he termed 'relief work.'

A further letter dated 24 April and written by Timothy Michael Healy, the first Governor-General of the Irish Free State, confirmed that Larkin had been deported and had boarded the SS Majestic which was bound for Southampton. His US misadventure was at an end.


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