A discussion at the forthcoming Spirit of Mother Jones Festival will tell the amazing story of Timoleague’s Sean Dunne, from the death of his father in the 1920 Ambush at Ahawadda, to his own death in 1969
THIS year’s Mother Jones festival, honouring the woman who became a prominent union organiser in the US, also tells the story of Sean Dunne, a trade union organiser, who was mentored by Jim Larkin. He later became a Labour Party TD.
The festival will include a film discussion with local historian and author Diarmuid Kingston and recount the story of the Ahawadda Ambush (located on the road to Ring outside Timoleague) on May 10th 1920 in which three Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) members from the Timoleague RIC station lost their lives. It led to the greatest loss of life of old RIC members in a single ambush in West Cork during the War of Independence.
Among those who died was Constable Edward Dunne from Co Laois. He was 32, married to Bridget Coppinger, a schoolteacher with two children. His young son Sean born in Timoleague was not yet two years old.
Sean grew up in Waterford and Wicklow and in the late 30s was arrested and served time in the Curragh Internment Camp for Republican activities. He came under the influence of Jim Larkin and the Workers’ Union of Ireland (WUI) and became one of the most effective union organisers in rural Ireland in the 1940s, founding the Federation of Rural Workers (FRW), which had up to 20,000 members, mainly farm workers at its height.
As its general secretary, he organised countless strikes among rural workers and delivered the weekly half day for his members in the early 1950s.
He was widely regarded as one of the most effective union organisers in the trade union movement.
Later he was elected a TD for the Labour Party, when he was just 28 years old, and became one of the most colourful elected public representatives in the Dail.
He had the record of being ejected from two parliaments, Dail Eireann and Stormont, as well as British Labour Party conferences.
Once labelled ‘an extreme communist’ by Sean MacEntee, Sean Dunne was described by one political correspondent as being ‘in daily conflict with authority on cases of social justice, on the side of the lost nobodies of the world’.
Sean Dunne died suddenly following the General Election in 1969. His funeral at the Pro-Cathedral was attended by President Eamonn De Valera, Taoiseach Jack Lynch, Fine Gael Leader Liam Cosgrave and the Cabinet and thousands more.
The 2020 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival will take place online from November 27th to November 30th and includes a commemoration of the 90th anniversary of the death of Mother Jones, who was born Mary Harris in Cork in 1837.
• For more details on the festival see www.motherjonescork.com