Poverty of Dublin's slums to be remembered in exhibition

Alan O'Keeffe

MEMBERS of the public will soon be able to view the dreadful living conditions of slum dwellers in Dublin during the 1913 Lockout.

A vivid depiction of a typical tenement building will be available to visitors at No14 Henrietta Street, an old Georgian building in the north inner city.

The appalling poverty endured by families forced to share sub-divided old houses will be evident when No14 opens to the public this summer.

The building underwent restoration work by Dublin City Council and an exhibition will be opened at the house in time for the centenary commemorations in August of the historic Lockout labour dispute that convulsed the city.


In 1913, slum dwellers sought higher wages and better working conditions by joining the Irish Transport and General Workers Union.

But as labour unrest grew, employers insisted their workers give up union membership and sign a pledge swearing that they would not join the union.

In the disputes that followed, more than 20,000 workers were either locked out of their jobs by their employers or went on strike.

The dispute lasted six months and resulted in widespread hardship among Dublin families. Hunger forced the workers to finally surrender and seek their jobs back.

But many were never rehired and the resulting poverty pushed the workers' already tough existence to the brink.

The terrible poverty and the 1913 Lockout also contributed to emigration and to the growth of Ireland's worldwide diaspora.

An exhibition to illustrate some of the harshest living conditions of tenement life during the Lockout is being organised at No14 by the Irish Heritage Trust.

Kevin Baird, chief executive of the charitable trust, said the conditions that families in tenements endured around the time of the infamous 1913 Lockout were absolutely terrible.

"A census showed that 100 people were living in a single house in Henrietta Street. Visitors to No14 will be able to see what living conditions were like," said Mr Baird.

The walls of the houses were painted by landlords with a copper sulphate disinfectant and each room was sub-divided to cram in more families to get the maximum rent possible, he told the Herald.

"Often, very small firegrates were placed in the large fireplaces. This showed that people only had a few lumps of coal to burn."

He said the 1913 Lockout gave rise to amazing, intertwining stories of life in Dublin with the areas of Parnell Square, Moore Street, Dorset Street and Henrietta Street rich in community lore, local history, and cultural heritage from the time.


According to Mr Baird, the exhibition will be very strong in terms of participation for visitors.

The Trust is also seeking funding to develop follow-on visitor experiences of those momentous times.

"The area has a strong community identity and many people whose stories and local knowledge bring history to life.

"Cultural curiosity is becoming stronger for visitors and those seeking to know more about the places and people in the city."

It is hoped the planned exhibition and local tours will be the basis for a more permanent visitor attraction.

The exhibition will be designed to appeal both to locals and visitors alike.