NY Workers Raise Money for Belfast Connolly Centre

New York transport workers have given the go-ahead to create a new interpretative centre in Belfast that focuses on James Connolly. Connolly was an Irish republican and socialist leader executed by a British firing squad in 1916 for the part he played in the Easter Rising.

At the opening event of the New York New Belfast Conference, the Transport Workers Union president, John Samuelsen, said the TWU’s 44,000 workers had always felt a kinship with Belfast. He compared the cities are products of industrialisation, sharing a history of struggle and conflict.

The Transport Workers Union was organised in New York in the subway system more than eighty years ago. Many of its founding fathers came from Ireland, including the union’s first president, Michael J Quill. Quill, Samuelsen, said had been inspired by the “legendary labour leader”, James Connolly. Connolly’s commitment to equality had inspired the TWU. During its earliest organising drives, Quill had reached out to Interboro Rapid Transit’s low-paid black workers. No other attempt to organise workers had ever included black employees. Labour unions across the US have already pledged some $500,000 towards the $2 million costs of the new centre. Samuelsen’s union have pledged an additional $500,000.

He said he was looking forward to when it opened, as it would keep Connolly’s legacy alive, and stand as a constant reminder that workers standing together remained a powerful force for freedom. Harry Connolly from Belfast is pioneering the new centre development. He welcomed the commitment from labour unions. A building has now been secured close to where James Connolly lived on Falls Road, and work should start soon on the centre.

Read the full story at Irish Central.