When the 1913 Lock-out ended in failure, James Connolly's comment was a bitter one. Irish workers had, he said, eaten the "bitter dust of defeat and betrayal".
A century later the labour movement will commemorate this seminal event. The irony shouldn't be lost on us: One hundred years after suffering a Lock-out, Labour and its union allies appear to have inflicted another one: The 2013 Lock-out.
In 1913 the unions fought for the right to strike and decent living standards. In 2013 they are arguably misusing that power to strike to threaten the Government with mayhem if the highest average public pay in the eurozone – 47 per cent above private sector levels – is not preserved. A differential of a kind seen only in other crisis countries like Portugal and Greece. A differential that is now being paid for by cuts in child benefit and carer's allowance. And by the cut in pay for new teachers and nurses.
With only token objections from anyone in Labour or the labour movement, the two-tiered system of pay inflicted on the most hard-working and frontline of public sector workers gives the lie to this lock-out being public versus private. Eoghan Harris put it beautifully a fortnight ago: "Labour is the party of the professional bourgeoisie. . . status-conscious not just socially but culturally. Continually trying to catch up with the consensus of their class."
Like the Fabian elites in the Bloomsbury group of the 1920s, they don't seem to have much time for real workers. Notice, for instance, how a Labour minister, Brendan Howlin, threatened "bad" teachers with the sack but breathed not a word about sacking incompetent academics or public service managers. Let's stand back and consider this for a minute: Primary and secondary school teachers not only give up to 30 hours a week teaching to children, often in appalling and overcrowded conditions, but they also devote an additional 10 hours work outside the class and good ones do many more. For this they earn a respectable but far from lavish salary, not that much higher above the average industrial wage.
Likewise, nurses work around the clock and are the lowest paid workers in the health profession. Yet in both groups a fair and equal opportunity-based pay system has been turned into a Downton Abbey divide with protection for incumbent workers and huge cuts – and threats of the sack – for younger newcomers. But there will be no threats of the sack for Labour's beloved elite academic and public sector managerial class. Under the guise of a " stimulus package" a new palace is even being built for third-level teachers in Grangegorman at a cost of hundreds of millions of euro. Meanwhile, primary and secondary teachers work in overcrowded classrooms.
That it took a former Labour general secretary, Fergus Finlay, to point out how a public sector pay freeze could save €300m – enough to prevent the cuts to carer's allowance 10 times over – which was ignored by a Labour Minister for Social Protection is quite a statement of the modern Labour Party's priorities.
Looking at the pay scale for the Dublin Institute of Technology, in which Joan Burton once worked, one can see pay grades that are utterly incomprehensible: €81,730 to €99,918 for a principal officer; €76,407 to €97,520 for a middle ranking senior lecturer; and from €53,983 to €84,194 for a student counsellor.
To fund the increments along these pay scales, the children of families on the breadline and carer's devoting their lives to loved ones will see meagre incomes cut. It could have been different: Welfare could have been means tested. But this would offend against that pillar so beloved of Labour's Fabian intellectuals: The cult of universal welfare payments.
Local government administrators and managers are another protected core, with county managers earning up to €140,000 a year and even arts officers progressing along a scale from €63,000 to €84,000 a year. With 32,000 local government employees and a running cost of €6bn, there was clear scope to cut costs radically without new taxes. But academics, civil servants and other "experts" went along with the idea of a new tax. It isn't hard to see why: If local government managers are asked to take pay cuts to offset more taxes, those same academics and civil servants know they will be next. Which is why the vast majority of groups representing State- funded bodies or employees stand shoulder to shoulder, protecting themselves against cuts and inflicting ever more taxes on the majority of middle Ireland.
Another essential plank in this solidarity is RTE. In a year in which the Department of Social Protection inflicted cuts on children, carers and pregnant women, the Government continued an annual €59m stipend to RTE, one of whose broadcasters earns three times what the Taoiseach earns (and our Taoiseach is the third highest paid head of government in the eurozone). This reveals the crux of the problem: RTE cannot criticise our Fabian out-of-touch elite because it is part of it.
Broadcasters who earn more than Barack Obama are in no moral position to question academics and managers who earn more than the Dutch prime minister. So our national broadcaster allows only meek and token criticism of Croke Park while its radio panels are full of "experts" telling us why we need a second property tax.
Fianna Fail and Fine Gael should represent the majority but as they refuse to coalesce, Labour and the unions will play one off against the other and the 2013 Lock-out will continue. But a word of warning: Even though the majority were defeated by the 1913 Lock-out, the pent up anger and frustration that followed led to the 1916 Rising. History may yet repeat itself.
Marc Coleman presents 'Coleman at Large' each Tuesday and Wednesday from 10pm on Newstalk 106-108fm. @marcpcoleman