Green, red and orange

"They were all anxious for unity, and no threat of cleavage had been made if the motion brought forward by the Limerick delegates failed. Unity was very good, but if it came to a question of principle, then let them scrap unity."
- Tipperary Delegate, Mr Mansfield, to the Irish National Teachers'
Organisation Annual Congress, Good Friday, April 25, 1919.

The Catholic clergy and the employers were quick to recriminate against the strikers. On the final Sunday of the strike - the day the full resumption of work was decided on - Father Dwane, Administrator of Saint Michael's Parish strongly criticised the conduct of the strike. Addressing the congregation at twelve o'clock Mass, he said neither the Bishop nor the clergy were consulted before the strike was declared, and they were totally opposed to its continuance.

Father Dwane said his sympathies were always with the working classes. He was a great believer in the dignity of labour, and any help he could give in raising the dignity of labour would be rendered by him on all occasions. But he had a stern warning for his listeners: "He hoped the honest workingmen of Limerick would in future duly consider any action they were about to take, and be guided only by leaders upon whom they could rely and in whom they could have full confidence, and not allow themselves to be fooled or deceived by anybody whatsoever. He was very glad the strike had ended, and it was highly creditable that during its continuance everything was so peaceable and orderly in the city."

The employers were piqued because they were not told officially of the strike's partial end on the Thursday. The Chamber of Commerce at that stage decided on a phased reopening of business starting with shops and flour mills, leaving the factories until after the weekend.

But in a later statement, they made what they termed an emphatic protest against the calling of a general strike without giving due notice to the employers. Had the positions been reversed, and the employers had closed their premises without notice, they believed the workers would have bitterly resented the action. The Chamber of Commerce argued that if the workers had consulted with them before calling the strike, they might have been able to take joint action that would have saved the city from a "disastrous" strike. As it was, the Chamber estimated the employers had lost about a quarter of a million pounds in turnover and that the workers had lost forty two thousand pounds in wages.

The disdainful attitude of the employers and other prominent citizens towards the strike was underlined some days after the permit system was withdrawn when a delegation of Irish-American politicians visited Limerick. This stop-over was part of a fact-finding tour of Ireland by

the delegation to observe the situation at first hand. At no time during the welcoming speeches of the Mayor or High Sheriff was the strike or the military occupation mentioned. None of the visitors referred to it either, an indication perhaps that it was regarded as an aberration, and not part of the true nationalist tradition.

But whatever about local criticism or opposition from employers or clergy, the Limerick Soviet attracted widespread interest and some support outside of the city during its existence. This support came, not unexpectedly, from trade union and Labour organisations, but also from public bodies and the Gaelic Athletic Association, and it came from Britain as well as other parts of Ireland.

One of the first outside bodies to protest against the military restrictions was Waterford Trades Council. On the day the strike began, they passed a resolution demanding the immediate withdrawal of military law from all the areas affected. A copy of the resolution was forwarded to MacPherson, the Chief Secretary for Ireland. Other Trades Councils sent messages of support, money and other practical help to Limerick. Galway Trades Council planned to organise a May Day concert for Limerick. Cork Trades Council set up a fund and protested against the "military dictatorship established by the army of occupation." Cork Grocers' and Allied Trades' Assistants had called for the setting up of such a fund and the gas workers there promised support. Tralee Trades Council collected forty pounds for the strikers.

Other Trades Councils, faced with local strikes of their own, found it difficult to raise money for Limerick, so there was little question of the councils banding together outside the control of the Irish TUC to produce sympathetic action. Wexford Trades Council expressed regret that because of a local foundry dispute they could not help. Similar problems arose in Dundalk, Drogheda, Boyle and other areas. In neighbouring County Clare, however, Ennis Trades Council assured Limerick of their unqualified support in whatever the Irish TUC deemed necessary to secure victory.

The National Executive of the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union voted the considerable sum of a thousand pounds towards the strike. As a first instalment, the National Executive of the Irish Clerical Workers' Union sent a hundred pounds to the Strike Committee. There was further Clerical Workers' support from the Dublin branches of that union. Another National Executive that voted a hundred pounds was the Irish Automobile Drivers' Union. A double levy of four pence was made on workers in Athlone, County Westmeath and in the same county, Mullingar branch of the ITGWU opened a subscription list and passed a resolution condemning the action of the authorities in Limerick. From Derry came a pledge of support from the city's dockers and carters for Limerick in the "fight against militarism."

The annual conference of the Drapers' Assistants' Association, representing five thousand shop assistants and clerks, unanimously condemned the action of the Government or military authorities in their treatment of the workers of Limerick, in preventing them from freely earning their Dáily bread, and they pledged them their strongest support in the struggle for freedom.

Two Limerick delegates, in their speeches, gave interesting insights into conditions there. Mr Daly said the military seemed to be friendly and the police were not. He said the strike committee's control was so complete that even Major Wood had to apply for a permit before he could attempt his flight to America, and he had acknowledged that he did so with the Committee's permission. Mr Connaughton, also from Limerick, referred to the anomalies in the way the military had mapped the boundaries. In Saint Patrick's Parish, he said, the barrier came between the priest's house and the church.

The Association's General Secretary, M J O'Lehane, who was due in Limerick later that week as a member of the Congress Executive, said they had sent two hundred pounds to their Limerick Branch Secretary. He anticipated that they would send a very substantial sum to the Strike Committee itself.
Impressive though some of these amounts may sound, they came nowhere near the seven to eight thousand pounds a week it was calculated would be needed to keep the strike going. At the end of ten days, it was estimated a thousand pounds had been received in Limerick, and some days later that figure had increased to only fifteen hundred pounds.

Throughout nationalist Ireland there was strong support among political bodies. The second biggest financial donation, five hundred pounds, came from the Mansion House Conference. At a large demonstration in Cavan, to welcome home a Sinn Féin TD, released from internment, a resolution was passed unanimously congratulating the Limerick citizens on their magnificent fight against English militarism and pledging them moral and material support. The TD, Peadar Galligan, said no attempt to create a breach between Labour and Sinn Féin would succeed.

In County Westmeath, Mullingar Rural District Council adopted a resolution congratulating the workers of Limerick on their fight against oppression. North Tipperary Sinn Féin Executive appealed to all clubs in the constituency for potatoes, oatmeal, eggs and other foodstuffs for the relief of Limerick. The Chairman of Limerick County Council wrote to the authorities protesting at the restrictions, and two members said they could not attend a Council meeting because they refused to ask for permission from anyone to discharge their duties as elected public representatives.

Cork Guardians also passed a resolution of condemnation and pledged support for Limerick. At this meeting, controversy broke out over the role of the National Union of Railwaymen. The motion had been moved by John Good, the local Secretary of the NUR. He was criticised by Mr D Williams for pretending it was a labour matter, and trying to get Sinn Féin involved, while at the same time "he took care to carry out the orders of his master in England, Mr Thomas."

Traditionally, the Annual Congress of the Gaelic Athletic Association is held at Easter. As at the trade union conferences held around that time, a Limerick delegate moved to get support for the strike. Newspaper reports differ as to whether, in this case, the speaker was an ordinary delegate or someone sent to represent the Strike Committee. Again, however, he gave an insight into how well the Soviet was coping. The workers were as well fed as at any time in their lives; they were getting milk at the right price and potatoes for nearly nothing. No distress had occurred so far, but the Strike Committee wanted to have funds in hand for any unforeseen eventualities.

Two prominent Republicans, Harry Boland and J J Walsh, proposed and seconded a resolution to grant a hundred pounds to the strike funds from the Association. A delegate from the Munster Council of the GAA pledged ten pounds, and after other delegates had pledged money, a collection on the spot realised over thirty pounds.

As a sports organisation, the GAA offered help in the most practical way it could. Four matches were arranged to raise money for the strike fund. At the Association's headquarters in Croke Park, Louth would play Dublin in Gaelic Football, and in another football game, at Roscommon, Galway were matched against Roscommon. Two hurling matches were arranged. At Cork, the home county would play Tipperary and Cork would travel to Tralee to play Kerry.

The delegates baulked at the suggestion of playing the games on May Day. Whatever about protesting at the situation in Limerick, they clearly drew the line at anything that smacked of "Socialism" or "Politics". The Gaelic Football game at Croke Park drew between three and four thousand spectators. It is difficult to judge whether this was evidence of widespread support for the strike or merely reflected the attractiveness of the fixture. Dublin, in any event, defeated Louth comprehensively, by a goal and seven points to a single point.

Further afield, in Britain, the advanced Left were in support. At the Independent Labour Party Conference, in Huddersfield, Councillor Cradford, of Edinburgh, said they ought to do something to encourage "The Limerick Soviet". He would like to see the working classes of Great Britain following the Soviet's example in offering a paper currency of their own. Cradford said they were with their Irish friends in spirit against the military regime. The future Prime Minister of Britain, Ramsay MacDonald, opposed the strike, declaring that the nearest thing to a "Soviet" in Britain was the House of Lords. Cradford retorted that the Limerick Soviet was the first working-class soviet on practical lines established in the British isles. But the conference was so divided on the issue that no vote was taken.

The "Irish Times" noted what it called the "injurious praise" of the Independent Labour Party and the British Socialist Party. The Socialist Party's Annual Conference, in Sheffield, passed a resolution wishing success to their fellow-workers of Limerick in their struggle for civil liberty. Cathal O'Shannon, a prominent official of the ITGWU and a leading light in the Socialist Party of Ireland made a fiery speech. To laughter, O'Shannon said it was bad enough having to work without having to get a permit to do so. If a general strike was called, he said, it would not end with a Limerick Soviet. To cheers, he predicted it might end with something more than the British occupation of Ireland would want to stomach.

O'Shannon said, if necessary, arrangements could be made for a general strike, including J H Thomas' railway men. He said he looked to a combination of the elements of the Left in Scotland and South Wales, Ireland and England, which would bring about an alliance of revolutionary socialists and end what he termed "the white terror" now prevailing.

The Workers' Socialist Federation dispatched a correspondent to Limerick to report at first hand for its newspaper "The Workers' Dreadnought", edited by the noted womens' rights activist Sylvia Pankhurst. The "Dreadnought" later carried a series of articles entitled "The Truth about the Limerick Soviet" and their reporter filed graphic, harrowing accounts of the conditions under which women workers, in particular, were employed in the city.

One of the first acts of the joint meeting of the Strike Committee and Congress Executive in Limerick was to send a telegram to the Scottish Trade Union Congress, then meeting in Perth. This rather combative telegram read: "Limerick workers for nine days have been on strike against the veto placed upon their movement by your military authorities. Your servants, the army of occupation here, refuse to allow the citizens to proceed to and from their Dáily work, except under military permit. Limerick workers refuse to submit to this indignity and sign of subjugation. You, Scottish workers cannot absolve yourselves from responsibility unless you take action immediately."

The following day, the Scottish TUC responded with a unanimous resolution demanding the withdrawal of the embargo on the workers of Limerick. W B MacMahon of the Railway Clerks' Association was the Irish fraternal delegate to the TUC and he reported the decision to the Irish newspapers. But Allan, Secretary of the TUC, also forwarded a telegram of protest to the Chief Secretary for Ireland in Dublin Castle.

This was not the only telegram or letter of protest from Britain to land on MacPherson's desk. The Executive Council of the United Operative Plumbers and Domestic Engineers Association had discussed the strike at their general office in Newcastle-on-Tyne. In an emphatic letter of protest from their Assistant General Secretary, Lachlan MacDonald, they said they were of the opinion that the circumstances in Limerick did not warrant such drastic curtailment of the citizens' rights and that there must be other means that could be adopted.

The Secretary of the Dennistoun Branch of the Independent Labour Party - a person with the Irish-sounding name of P Lavin - forwarded a resolution passed at a "largely-attended" meeting of the Branch. They protested "in the strongest possible way against the barbarous methods of repression resorted to by the British Government in Co. Limerick and other parts of Ireland" and they called for the immediate withdrawal from Ireland of all British troops.

Another unmistakably Irish name was on the letter of protest from the Merthyr and Dowlais Sinn Féin Club, in South Wales. Signed by J Crowley, and sent to the Home Secretary, in Whitehall, this again called for the withdrawal of troops from Ireland, and condemned "the treatment meted out to the people of Limerick by the military authorities". Ealing Labour Party and Trades Council unanimously adopted a resolution protesting strongly against "the isolation and military coercion of the inhabitants of the City of Limerick" and demanding the withdrawal of troops from the city and the ending of the proclaimed area.

But if nationalist Ireland stood firmly with Limerick, the Unionist workers of North East Ulster remained aloof and suspicious. Ninety per cent of the skilled trades unionists in Ireland were employed in Belfast's factories and shipyards. The Belfast Correspondent of the "Dáily Telegraph" reported: "A strong line against the proposed national strike of Irish unions has been taken by organised labour in Belfast...The Limerick dispute being Sinn Féin in origin, the workers in Belfast have intimated they will be no party to the strike, and if the Irish Trade Union Congress or any other body calls for a cessation of work the order will be ignored. Local district committees of British trade unions have been warned they must not use funds for the proposed Irish strike". This had happened early in 1918 during the anti-Conscription strike, when Belfast had continued working though Dublin and the South was at a standstill.

The Protestant workers of North East Ulster remained implacably opposed to Irish independence. They had long feared what they foresaw as their submersion in a society dominated by priests and peasants. They regarded the Irish Labour Party and Trade Union Congress as little more than the industrial wing of Sinn Féin, dedicated to the establishment of Bolshevism throughout Ireland. A Unionist MP, Thomas Donald, told a meeting of electors in Belfast's Victoria Division that he could not see any difference between the people they knew as Bolshevists in Russia and those who were creating the present situation in the South of Ireland.

This stance faced the trade union leadership with the impossible dilemma of trying to maintain organisational unity across the island of Ireland in the face of a diversity of economic and political interests between North and South.

Sharing a common religious outlook with their employers, in a society where many Catholics did not recognise the legitimacy or authority of the government, Protestant workers monopolised the skilled and best paid jobs and acquiesced in sectarian discrimination against Catholics.The North's major industries depended heavily on the Imperial link for their continued prosperity and Protestant workers feared for their jobs, prosperity and privileges in an independent Ireland pursuing protectionist trade policies. Thus, a combination of economic interest and sectarian differences kept the Protestant workers hostile to the independence movement.

The period from the end of the 1880s to 1914 failed to produce a trade union movement throughout Ireland that was united in its political as well as its industrial aims. That was so, despite the development during the period, in Britain and Ireland, of the more militant "new unionism" and events like Jim Larkin's union of Protestant and Catholic workers during the great Belfast Docks Strike of 1907.

Three factors combined to identify Catholic workers with Fenian nationalism. The mass mobilisation of nationalists under Parnell, and Orange resistance to Home Rule, had equated Irishness with Catholicism. The tension between the two sections of the working-class was intensified by the systematic exclusion of Catholics from skilled Ulster trades and the political radicalism of the leaders of "new unionism" was regarded with suspicion by the Ulster's Protestant craftsmen.

The trade union organisation of previously unorganised, unskilled workers - largely Catholic - at a time of increasing political tension over the link with Britain served to divide, rather than to unite, the working-class. It became impossible to construct a labour movement that was both political and industrial and which united Protestant and Catholic, Orange and Green. It might have been possible only if the existing division between craft and non-craft, skilled and unskilled did not also follow the sectarian divide between Protestant and Catholic.

A united trade union movement was possible only insofar as it did not involve itself in the question of the link with Britain, in other words, by ignoring the dominant issue in Irish politics. With the exception of James Connolly, this is what the Labour leadership did in practice. Connolly, in effect, played the Green Card. He opted for a Labour movement that appealed essentially to Southerners and Catholics. This might be justified on the basis that the majority of Irish people were Catholics and the Catholic working-class may have appeared to be more promising material for social revolution than their Protestant counterparts. But Connolly's decision finally excluded the possibility of a united, political movement of all Irish workers. It meant the equation, and ultimate subordination, of Southern Irish Labour to Irish nationalism.

In practice, after Connolly's death, trade union leaders like William O'Brien and Thomas Johnson accepted this position and they did not allow events like the Limerick Soviet to threaten trade union organisational unity throughout the island of Ireland. The syndicalist orientation of Irish Labour, with its emphasis on industrial aims and means - as opposed to politics - made it all the easier for the leadership to adopt this stance.

An extensive special debate on Limerick at the Annual Congress of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation, held in University Buildings, Dublin is worth looking at in some detail for what it reveals of Northern attitudes. The National Teachers had a wide membership in all parts of the country. Their debate was spread over two days, starting on Thursday, April 24, the day the partial resumption of work was decided on in Limerick.

George O'Callaghan, a delegate from Newcastle West, in County Limerick, moved the suspension of Standing Orders to "draw attention to the fact that several of our colleagues are unable to pursue their work at the present time." Standing Orders were raised to allow discussion of a motion pledging support to the workers of Limerick but when it became clear discussion on this was going to be heated, the matter was left over until the following day.

O'Callaghan said there was no question of politics involved, people of all shades of politics were united in Limerick. He appealed to the delegates to make some return for their alliance with Labour. A County Clare delegate warned that if the national teachers were capable of turning their backs on Labour he would leave the Organisation tomorrow.

A succession of Northern delegates opposed O'Callaghan. Mr McNallis from Dungannon, County Tyrone, said they in the North could always work on Organisation matters without having a word of friction. How was it, he asked, that it was only when they met in Congress from different parts of Ireland that a jarring note was raised. Was it not evident that matters were introduced which should be left alone? McNallis continued: "No one who had read that day's papers could have any difficulty in deciding whether this was a political matter or not. This did not begin as a Labour question. If it were purely a Labour question, there would be no difficulty about the delegates throwing in their lot with Labour, but I submit it was not purely a Labour question."

McNallis' next comments exposed how susceptible to rupture was the fragile unity of the Northern and Southern members once a "political" issue was raised. According to the "Irish Independent" report, "When it was said that this would lead to secession of branches in the North, someone said 'Small Loss!', but he would remind them there was a time when they were glad to have the men from the North to plead their cause."

Another County Tyrone delegate, Mr Ramsay, of Cookstown, said he could not yet see that the matter was dissociated from politics. The proclamation issued in Limerick stated that they were on strike as a protest against the ban on the city - not on the ban against going to work. He placed the Organisation above everything, and knowing that this matter interfered with the Organisation, he would oppose it. Ramsay said he did not think the time had arrived when the teachers of Ireland would be convinced that this was not a political problem.

The spectre of the partition of Ireland was raised in the speech of another Northern delegate, Stanage, from Banbridge in County Down. He appealed to the teachers' Congress to think very seriously before pushing the resolution. They wanted a united Ireland, but were they going to have the first partition an educational one, and were they going to give a handle to others to put them in a peculiar position ? A delegate called Judge made a similar plea not to drive a wedge between the North and the South. Had the delegates received instructions from their associations on how to vote on a question which might split the Congress and lead to the setting up of breakaway unions, he asked.

Speakers from Republican heartlands like Counties Kilkenny and Tipperary were dismissive of these arguments in their contributions. The Kilkenny delegate, Mr Frisby, appealed to the teachers to "stick to Labour and to stick to Limerick." If the Scottish Trade Union Congress were not afraid to call for the withdrawal of the military embargo, why should the teachers be afraid to, he asked. They had heard of partition on the subject of education in the North of Ireland, and that policy had found its most influential supporters in the ranks of their members in Belfast. Cries of "Wrong" greeted this remark.

Mr Mansfield, from Tipperary, was even more dismissive of the Northern anxieties and appeal for unity. "They were all anxious for unity", Mansfield said, "and no threat of cleavage had been made if the motion which had been brought forward by the Limerick delegates failed. Unity was very good, but if it came to a question of principle, then let them scrap unity." He protested against the bogey of unity being brought forward to cow the majority, who were entitled on democratic grounds to rule any organised body. Let them have unity, but let principle, right and justice prevail, he declared, even if the Organisation went bang."

In the end, a compromise resolution was carried. This referred the question of support for Limerick to the union's Central Executive Council, to await the outcome of the expected special Trade Union Congress. Thus the Northern delegates had their sensibilities respected on the day, but for the Southern delegates the resolution also committed the CEC to "act in harmony" with the decision of any Trade Union Congress.

INTO sensitivity on an issue like Limerick was understandable. As far back as 1916, in the wake of the Easter Rising, Unionist teachers had set up the Irish Protestant National Teachers' Union (IPNTU), a body that remained closely aligned to the INTO. In June 1916, the IPNTU had set up a subcommittee to "watch Protestant teachers' interests in the so-called Irish question". The decision was followed by a loyal toast and the singing of "God Save the King". Resolutions of sympathy passed by INTO branches and by the union's Central Committee in the aftermath of the Rising and the internment of its participants, led to further friction with the IPNTU. The tensions increased following the national teachers' decision, in 1917, to affiliate to what the President of the IPNTU called the "frankly Bolshevist and Sinn Féin" Irish Labour Party and Trade Union Congress. The ILPTUC's opposition to conscription, and the decision to withdraw in favour of Sinn Féin in the 1918 General Election, led to Northern Protestant resignations from the INTO. By the INTO congress of 1919, branches in Coleraine, Lisburn, Derry and Newtownards had left the union. Later that year, on July 19, the final breach was made when the Ulster National Teachers' Union was formed.

The sensitivity of Northern Loyalists in the trade unions on any question that smacked of nationalism or separatism was further underlined during the period of the Limerick strike by a controversy over a call from the Irish Trade Union Congress to suspend work on Labour Day, May 1 1919, and to celebrate it as an unpaid holiday.

The call was made in a poster, signed by the Irish TUC General Secretary, William O'Brien, and displayed in Dublin, declaring that the workers of Ireland had decided to celebrate May the First, Labour Day, as a general holiday, and that all work would be suspended that day "to demonstrate that the Irish working class joins with the international Labour movement in demanding a democratic League of Free Nations as the necessary condition of a permanent peace based upon the self- determination of all peoples, including the people of Ireland." For Ulster Unionists, the sting was in the tail of that resolution.

Once again, as in the case of Limerick, the attitude of the National Union of Railwaymen and their General Secretary J H Thomas was crucial. Irish railwaymen seemed willing to join in the stoppage. The call to stop work was supported by the Irish Railway Workers' Emergency Committee, representing the NUR, the Railway Clerks' Association, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, the ITGWU and the railway craft unions. But, on instructions from London, the Irish Secretary of the NUR, Rimmer, issued a directive to all his branches that they were not to absent themselves from work on the first of May without the Šsanction of their Executive Committee.

For the Irish TUC, William O'Brien made a typically scathing reply. He pointed out that it was Rimmer himself, on behalf of the NUR, who had proposed a resolution at the 1917 Congress calling on them to seek to establish an International Labour Day. The resolution had been seconded by two NUR members and adopted by Congress. Now, according to O'Brien, the TUC was merely acting on that resolution and therefore the attitude of Thomas, as General Secretary of the NUR, was hard to understand. He pointed out that Thomas himself had been at the International Trade Union Conference in Berne that nominated the First of May as Labour Day.

A writer to the "Irish Independent", signing himself "Trade Unionist" was less impressed by the deliberations of the Berne Conference. He preferred the idea of celebrating Labour Day on a Sunday, when no loss of pay would be involved, and in something of a non-sequitur he asked - in the name of democracy: "What is the Berne Conference doing for the Limerick workers ?"

Three branches of the NUR in Cork, representing over a thousand workers, rejected Rimmer's instructions and decided to stick by their decision to stop work on May Day. The Bray Number Two Branch of the union made a similar decision, making it clear they were following the wishes of the Irish TUC in so doing. But in Derry, Loyalist workers refused to take part in a planned demonstration, believing Sinn Féin to be behind the proposed cessation of work. The "No Surrender" band turned down an invitation from the Derry Trades and Labour Council to celebrate Labour Day. The band's reply pointed out that practically all of its members had joined the colours, while those running the Labour Day demonstration were associated in the protest against conscription. Consequently, as loyal subjects, the band declined to have anything to do with the turnout.

The Executive Committee of the Londonderry Branch of the Ulster Unionist Labour Association decided to request all their members, and all Protestant workers, male and female, not to take part in the May Day demonstration. They warned it was "of a revolutionary and Bolshevik nature and supported by Sinn Féin propagandists, as already stated at the opening of Dáil Éireann and that honest labour should repudiate such actions."

Derry Loyalists, believing there was a strong Sinn Féin influence at work, were particularly aggrieved that it was proposed to assemble at the Mall Wall, close to the Derry Apprentice Boys' Memorial Hall. A similar proposal, in the past, had led to rioting.

May Day 1919 repeated the pattern of the 1918 national strike against conscription and was a harbinger of the coming split between North and South. In nationalist Ireland, there were demonstrations of record sizes and the red flag was carried even in small towns. The resolutions adopted emphasised world peace, Šthe self-determination of nations and the call for May Day to be a public holiday. The call for a stoppage of work was responded to almost everywhere. The exceptions were Belfast and North East Ulster and the city of Limerick.

After the rigours of the fortnight long general strike, Limerick was an understandable exception. The Trades Council decided against a May Day stoppage because, they said, it would "not be fair to stop work". As work resumed in all Limerick factories on Monday, April 28, the Trades Council met to decide its attitude to the proposed May Day stoppage. Some representatives of the ITGWU urged that May Day be observed, but the majority view was against another work stoppage so soon after the sacrifices made during the Soviet.

Four days after May Day, the newspapers carried reports that the proclamation of a portion of the City of Limerick as a Special Military area, from April 9, was withdrawn. Permits were no longer necessary and there was free access to the city.