Irish Transport and General Workers' Union
The union was founded by James Larkin in January 1909 as a general union. Initially drawing its membership from branches of the Liverpool-based National Union of Dock Labourers, from which Larkin had been expelled, it grew to include workers in a range of industries. The ITGWU logo was the Red Hand of Ulster, which is synonymous with ancient Gaelic Ulster.
After Larkin's departure for the United States in 1914 in the wake of the Lockout, James Connolly led the ITGWU until his execution in 1916 in the wake of the Easter Rising. In turn, William O'Brien became the union's leading figure, and ultimately served as general secretary for many years. Throughout World War I, the ITGWU consistently opposed Irish belligerence, and staunchly supported the advanced nationalist cause. In fact, ITGWU members, in the uniform of the Irish Citizen Army, played a leading role in the Easter Rising, while the Transport Union led a national strike that crippled an attempt to introduce conscription to Ireland in 1918.
In 1923, Larkin formed a new union, the Workers' Union of Ireland, to which many of the ITGWU's Dublin members affiliated. The ITGWU nevertheless remained the dominant force in Irish trade unionism, especially outside the capital. William O'Brien and James Larkin remained bitter personal enemies, and when Larkin and his supporters were readmitted into the Labour Party in the early 1940s, O'Brien engineered a split in the party, with the new National Labour Party claiming that the main party had been infiltrated by communists. A further split occurred in the Irish Trades Union Congress when that body accepted the WUI's membership in 1945. The ITGWU left the Congress and established the rival Congress of Irish Unions.
From the 1950s on proposals to merge the two unions were floated. Finally, in 1990, the ITGWU merged with the Workers' Union of Ireland to form SIPTU (Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union).
The ITGWU should not be confused with the British-based Transport and General Workers Union, which organised in Ireland under the name Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union (ATGWU) and is now Unite the Union.