The launch of The Trade Union Pint by Martin Duffy

Last night in the Guinness Storehouse a crowd gathered to celebrate the launch of The Trade Union Pint: The Unlikely Union of Guinness and the Larkins by Martin Duffy. 

Considered the best employers in Ireland, if not the world, Guinness cared for their workers culturally and practically, with good wages and health care. The Trade Union Pint is the story of the unlikely partnership of two families and their allies: model employers renowned for their standard of care for their staff, and the sons and leaders of a trade union established by 'Big Jim' Larkin whose vision for Irish workers had brought the first open conflict between employer and employee in Ireland, a man who once declared he was on a 'divine mission of discontent'.

Jack O'Connor, General President of SIPTU, formally launched The Trade Union Pint, calling it 'a remarkable book that does justice to remarkable people, on both sides'. Jack spoke about the legacy of Guinness, also referring to the fact that they were considered one of the best employers in Ireland, if not the world. So the question begs to be asked: why did the workers insist on organising themselves into a trade union? Jack asserted that Martin's book answers that question but he also offered one himself by describing the type of people who founded trade unionism within Guinness, saying, 

Jack O'Connor with Jack Harte
'Those people who experienced the travails of the great tragedies of the Second World War who, upon returning home, insisted that the workers here in Guinness would have the right, not just to good pay, not just to the things that other people thought were good for them,  but to the right to be treated with the dignity of being heard on the issues that they considered to be important. '

Such a comment was particularly poignant given that Jack Harte, the oldest living member of the trade union movement and a WWII veteran, was in the audience. Jack finished by saying this was an important book and an ideal read on your 'staycation' this summer. He said he wholeheartedly recommends the book to anyone and felt honoured to have launched it. 

Jack then handed over to Martin who started by promising not to do any of the following, in the following order 1.) Get drunk, 2.) Throw up, 3.) Insult people or 4.) Punch up. Four things his friend in Berlin had said any self-respecting Irish author would do! Martin shared that we were meeting on the anniversary of the first meeting between management in Guinness and non-tradesman representatives, which took place on the 19th July 1946. He hoped that was a good omen, and it seems like it was. Martin concluded by reading a short statement from Jack Harte, who was seated at the back of the room surrounded by family, friends and old comrades. 

Jack had this to say:

'I just want to say how much I valued Jack Carruthers friendship; it was one of the most wonderful friendships I made in my life. I always worried about about the lack of appreciation of the full extent of Jack's ability and the work he carried out under stressful family circumstances. I want to thank Martin for the way he wrote the book and the wonderful mastery of detail he's displayed. On Jack's and my behalf, I want to thank everyone who shared in the development of trade unionism in Guinness. I want to say special thanks to Derek [Carruthers] who I've known since his childhood and in essence. When he first approached me to talk about the book I never felt so privileged and offered the fullest cooperation to make it as much a tribute as I could.'

The Storehouse was the perfect setting for the launch as the evening concluded long after the speeches had with guests chatting and reminiscing over pints of Guinness.  

Some snaps from the night:

The book!

Liberties Press MD Seán O'Keeffe welcoming the crowd

Jack O'Connor, Jack Harte, Martin and Jack Harte's wife Myra

Martin signing copies...

Jack O'Connor with Liberties Press author Annie Ryan

Martin and Derek Carruthers

Martin and Don Conroy

Martin with Eibhlin Roche, Guinnes Storehouse Archive Manager

Pat Treacy, Diageo, Jack O'Connor, Tom Donovan, and Tony Maher

The Liberties Team with a Guinness!