Jim Larkin Assassination Plot - The wrong James, the wrong Joyce?

Antóin Mac Comháin

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Larkin assassination plot reported a hundred years ago

A hundred years ago this week a strange tale of political intrigue with a potential deadly twist was landing on desks at the U.S. government’s Bureau of Investigation, forerunner of the FBI.

A report compiled by a Bureau of Investigation agent in New York pointed to an assassination plot aimed at James Larkin, the prominent Irish labor activist who was campaigning in the United States on behalf of workers’ rights.

The alleged plot might have been lost to the deepest recesses of the federal archives but for an error following a request by a college professor in Ohio for a file on James Joyce.

The revelation that there was a plot against Larkin, who led workers during the “Great Lockout” in Dublin in 1913 and, in later years, was imprisoned in the U.S. for his pro-labor activities, was first uncovered some years ago by Claire Culleton, an associate professor of Modern British and Irish Literature at Kent State University in Ohio.

Culleton obtained the files during follow-up research that originated with her interest in possible FBI files on Joyce.

The FBI dug up a file on the wrong James..
 


Antóin Mac Comháin

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Although the article on the Larkin assassination plot doesn't make any reference to him, there was an Irish Citizen Army Volunteer who shared the same name as the famous writer, James Joyce, who fought with the ICA at St Stephens Green in 1916, and who following his release from imprisonment was involved in the War Of Independence and then took the Republican side in the Civil War, and who was part of the guard-of-honour at the funeral of Daniel Courtney, 'The Grandfather of the Irish Citizen Army.' I wonder if they dug up a file on the wrong James and the wrong Joyce?

Saint Stephen’s Green - So far we have identified the names of 136 people who served in the Saint Stephen’s Green Garrison during the Rising. 81 were members of the Irish Citizen Army during the Rising.

Joyce James - Private, Irish Citizen Army. Died on the 26th of March 1948. Fought at Davy's Public House on the corner of South Richmond Street and Charlemont Mall (his place of employment), Saint Stephen’s Green, Little’s Public House and Jacob’s Biscuit Factory. Although part of the Stephen’s Green garrison he was part of a group trapped in Little’s Public House, unable to re-join their own Garrison they made their way to Jacob’s. He was tried after the surrender and sentenced to penal servitude for life commuted to 5 years penal servitude. He was deported first to Dartmoor and he was also detained in Lewis Prison. He was released on the 23rd of June 1917. He was employed at Davey’s Public House up to the 19th of April, on Easter Monday he was part of a group that occupied Davey’s and was recognised by the bookkeeper and manager, both gave evidence against him at his Court Martial. He re-joined the Citizen Army on release and served throughout the War of Independence although took no active part in any fighting. He took the Anti-Treaty side in the Civil War and was involved in the occupation of Barry’s Hotel, he took no further part in the Civil War after leaving Barry’s Hotel. He was married to Margaret Joyce. - Irish Medals

Daniel Courtney – The Grandfather of the Irish Citizen Army

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"Daniel Courtney was born in the old Weavers district of Dublin at 19 Poole Street on the 18th September 1865. It was a street of cramped dilapidated buildings prone to regular outbreaks of fever and disease. The 1901 Census shows there were five tenements with up to three families living in each. While still a child his family moved to Britain Street (now Parnell Street) continuing a nomadic existence familiar to many working class Dubliners. Lack of documentation means we know little of his activity during the Lockout of 1913, however he must have played a part in organizing the sympathy strike that would have such a tragic conclusion. As the men went on strike, Free Labour or “Scabs” were brought in from Co. Meath and Manchester and the Merchant’s Company decided to evict the striking occupants of Merchant’s Road to accommodate them.

Bernard Courtney was born at No. 9 Tighes Cottages on 21st February 1899. He first attended St. Laurence O’Toole’s school and in August 1907 moved to The Wharf School, East Wall Road. (His registration details list fathers’ occupation as Labourer). He was a pupil here during the school boys strike in September 1911, which was inspired by the railway and related sympathetic strikes occurring locally at this time. Possibly through the influence of his schoolmates Bernard joined the Irish Volunteers in February 1916, but on April 24th, the day the Easter Rising began he initially set out with the Citizen Army. According to The Catholic Bulletin of February 1918 Bernard was distraught when the demobilising order was brought to the Courtney home on Easter Sunday. When orders came for his father to go to Liberty Hall the following day Bernard demanded to accompany him and fight with the Citizen Army. He was assigned to Jacobs Factory on Aungiers Street commanded by Thomas McDonagh.

He would then take part in the intense effort to break through the walls and move through the entire street. On arrival at No. 10, Coogan’s Grocers; he was reunited with Tom Leahy, who was tasked with putting together a team to tunnel through the block to make an escape route to William and Woods chocolate factory for a final stand. Leahy, Courtney, and George King, with covering fire provided by Harry Boland, Oscar Traynor, Sean Russell, and Vincent Poole, worked themselves into exhaustion until they reached Miss Matassa’s Ice Cream Parlour at No. 25 at which point they collapsed. Awakening from their first proper sleep for several days they were given the news that their force was to surrender. Devastated at the news, Tom Leahy recorded that many chose to smash their precious rifles, bought with hard save pennies and sixpences, while others chose to bury them in the gardens of the Moore Street buildings. Some carried them out and then destroyed them before the eyes of their captors near the Parnell monument. Having been taken prisoner, Daniel was taken to Richmond Barracks from where he was transferred to Knutsford Prison in England on the 1st May. Later on he was sent to the prisoner of war camp at Frongoch in Wales which would become known as Irelands University of Revolution.

Courtney’s last major public outing was on Sunday 23rd October 1938 at Croke Park where veterans of the GPO Garrison were once again united for what is now a famous photograph. In keeping with the times, the session had to be delayed to accommodate a number of veterans then resident in the South Dublin Union. Throughout this period he was active with the Old Citizen’s Army Comrades Association and prominent in their annual Children’s Charity events at Christmas. Courtney had moved to No. 10 Upper Stephens Street within a stones throw of Dublin Castle where he died on the 24th August 1943. His funeral was one of the last major outings by the dwindling band of ICA veterans of the Rising. The honour guard included Walter Carpenter, Vincent, Christy, and Patrick Poole, James Joyce, Bill Oman, Joe Whelan, and Fred Henry. A delegation from the 1916 Veterans Associations was present as were veterans from the 2nd Battalion of the Dublin Brigade. True to the end his coffin was draped in the Starry Plough of the Irish Citizens Army and a firing party saluted him as the Last Post accompanied the lowering of the coffin. He was the oldest surviving member of the original ICA of 1913 and affectionately known as the Grandfather of the Citizen Army. He is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery."
 

McTell

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Larkin assassination plot reported a hundred years ago

A hundred years ago this week a strange tale of political intrigue with a potential deadly twist was landing on desks at the U.S. government’s Bureau of Investigation, forerunner of the FBI.

A report compiled by a Bureau of Investigation agent in New York pointed to an assassination plot aimed at James Larkin, the prominent Irish labor activist who was campaigning in the United States on behalf of workers’ rights.

The alleged plot might have been lost to the deepest recesses of the federal archives //

Not a huge surprise TBH, as Larkin "knew too much" about the 1916 NYC Black Tom explosion, but was paid to spill the beans in the 1930s when the yanks went looking for compo from germany.

Organised by the over-busy John McCloy, later known as the "chairman of the establishment". One of our diaspora, natch:


 

Antóin Mac Comháin

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Not a huge surprise TBH, as Larkin "knew too much" about the 1916 NYC Black Tom explosion, but was paid to spill the beans in the 1930s when the yanks went looking for compo from germany.
That's an interesting take on it, but..

"The reason for the planned assassination, according to the report, was that Larkin was seen by the plotters as being opposed to Sinn Féin – this on the grounds that the party had become too capitalistic. The names of the four alleged plotters were blacked out on the file first obtained by Culleton..

Other than that, it doesn't surprise me, nor did the fact that the future head of the FBI was willing to turn a blind-eye:

"The report on the assassination plan did not result in any arrests, despite the fact that the ambitious and upcoming J. Edgar Hoover was aware of the plot."
 

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Antóin Mac Comháin

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Yes, at the time / 1919 / hoover wouldn't have minded one bit if they had topped him..
"The reason for the planned assassination, according to the report, was that Larkin was seen by the plotters as being opposed to Sinn Féin – this on the grounds that the party had become too capitalistic. The names of the four alleged plotters were blacked out on the file first obtained by Culleton..
However, 'in the 1908 North Leitrim by-election, Sinn Féin secured 27% of the vote. Thereafter, both support and membership fell. Attendance was poor at the 1910 Ard Fheis, and there was difficulty finding members willing to take seats on the executive. While some local councillors were elected running under the party banner in the 1911 local elections, by 1915 the party was, in the words of one of Griffith's colleagues, 'on the rocks', and so insolvent financially that it could not pay the rent on its headquarters in Harcourt Street in Dublin', so I find it hard to swallow the aforementioned motive, but 'in 1969, a group of school children sat down to a free breakfast before school. On the menu was chocolate milk, eggs, meat, cereal and fresh oranges. The Free Breakfast For School Children Program began in January 1969 at an Episcopal church in Oakland, and within weeks it went from feeding a handful of kids to hundreds. The program was simple: party members and volunteers went to local grocery stores to solicit donations, consulted with nutritionists on healthful breakfast options for children, and prepared and served the food free of charge. School officials immediately reported results in kids who had free breakfast before school. “The school principal came down and told us how different the children were,” Ruth Beckford, a parishioner who helped with the program, said later. “They weren’t falling asleep in class, they weren’t crying with stomach cramps”, she continued. The night before the first breakfast program in Chicago was supposed to open the Chicago police broke into the church and mashed up all the food and urinated on it. The FBI worked to weaken and exploit rivalries between community groups and to undermine and dismantle the Free Breakfast for Children Program and other community social programs, and although the FBI were not responsible for leading the raid, a federal grand jury later indicated that the FBI played a significant role in the events leading up to a raid which resulted in the deaths of two volunteers attached to the program, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, who were asleep in their apartment. J. Edgar Hoover dubbed the Breakfast Program “The greatest internal threat to national security”, so not alone do I think Hoover would have welcomed Larkin being topped, I don't think it's too much of a stretch to suggest that he would have been willing and capable of doing a bit more than turning a blind-eye, but Larkin having arrived Stateside in 1914, when SF were 'on the rocks', tells me there must be another motive, and that there's more to this than meets the eye. Intriguing nonetheless..
 


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