Tree planting takes place ahead of May Day, at an event to mark the 50th anniversary of the Irish Labour History Society
The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, today planted a tree and unveiled a commemorative plaque at Áras an Uachtaráin in memory of Tom Johnson, author of the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil.
Tom Johnson, who was born in Liverpool on 17 May 1872, died 60 years ago this year on 17 January 1963. As Leader of the Irish Labour Party, Johnson served as the first Leader of the Opposition from 1922 to 1927.
The tree planting took place ahead of May Day, with the Irish oak tree planted close to ‘The Plough and the Stars’ – a piece of public art unveiled by the President and Sabina Higgins in 2018 in commemoration of the 1913 Lockout, the Irish Citizen Army and its first secretary and historian, playwright Seán O’Casey.
The tree planting took place in tandem with an event to mark the 50th anniversary of the Irish Labour History Society. The event was attended by members and supporters of the Irish labour movement past and present, including the President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Kevin Callinan, the General Secretary of SIPTU, Joe Cunningham, the leader of the Labour Party, Ivana Bacik, and former Labour Party leader Ruairí Quinn.
The event was addressed by President Higgins and by Shay Cody, President of the Irish Labour History Society and former General Secretary of Fórsa.
Speaking at the event, President Higgins said:
“This year we recall the transformative role in the trade union movement of this country played by Thomas Johnson, whose death occurred 60 years ago.
Not only the Irish labour movement, but all who believe in parliamentary actions, are forever indebted to Tom Johnson and his advocacy of a peaceful alternative to the bloody conflicts that gripped the decades of our nation in its infancy.
The alternative path Johnson advocated was one in which the shared concerns and interests of everyone in Ireland had to be addressed and pursued, a reminder to us all that the pursuit of peace must always be prioritised over war and conflict, with all of its attendant bloody consequences and inter-generational transmissions.
On this May Day, let us all affirm our commitment to playing our part in the creation of a society that removes the obstacles standing between so many of our people and their full participation.
Let us stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable, lowest paid and least protected workers in society as we battle a cost-of-living crisis. Let us defend their rights as the founders of the trade union movement, like Tom Johnson, did more than a century ago.”