In January, 1919 police arrested Robert Byrne, member of post office workers' trade union over the charges of possessing the revolver and ammunition. He was convicted for 12 months of imprisonment.
In prison, Byrne becames a leader of prisoners, and began the campaign of disobedience. When it was unsuccessful, he went on the hunger strike in February, 1919. After three weeks of starvation, Byrne health deteriorated significantly, and he was transferred to hospital.
On April 6th, Limerick cell of IRA tried to rescue Robert Byrne. The attempt failed; shot were fired, leaving Byrne fatally wounded, one policeman dead and another seriously injured. Byrne died in the same day.
Fearing that this might lead to further disturbances, authorities declared most of Limerick and some of surrounding countryside 'Special Military Area' under de-facto martial law.
In response, Limerick Trade and Labour Council called for the general strike. The idea was supported by the people of the city and on April 15th all businness (up and including pubs) were closed.
Strike Committee took responsibility of feeding 38,000 Limerick inhabitants during the strike, thus earning itself the name 'Soviet' (meaning self-governing committee). It took measures of smuggling some food donated by peasants from outside Special Military Area to Limerick.
Some businesses to remain open, either to avoid spoiling of perishable goods or distribution of bread and other foodstuffs.
Prices were heavily regulated, and, facing the shortage of money, Strike Commitee had to issue its own currency.
During the strike there was not a single case of looting; it seems that Strike Committee was very successful in governing the city. However, Limerick Soviet was an uneasy alliance of forces with different interests, and by the second week of the strike these differences led to disagreements and schism.
Chamber of Commerce (representing the owners of big businesses) became worried of workers' control of their businesses. They'd rather preferred to seek compromise with British authorities.
Catholic Church, which initially was very in favor of the strike, turned against the idea.
Outside of Limerick, the strike haven't gained much support; there was no general strike in Ireland, as Strike Committee hoped, and English labour unions were strongly opposed to idea of using strike as tool of politics.
Finally, British removed police pressure on Limerick, eliminating the cause that unified all strikers.
Under these conditions, Strike Committee decided to end the strike from April 27th.
Game and Story Use
- Obviously, this is a possible divergence point for alternate history.
- If it lead to the revolution in Ireland (and possibly in the whole world), it might be a start of timeline where Socialism is dominant.
- Or, if it was bloodily suppressed, it may cause British Empire to turn into fascist dictatorship. Great Depression would be more devastating and WWII would take even more lives.
- History tends to repeat itself. What if events of Limerick Soviet will happen again, in different age and technology level?