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By John Lynch

The urban of Belfast has a tendency to be mentioned by way of its specialty from the remainder of eire, an business urban in an agricultural kingdom. in spite of the fact that, compared to one other 'British' commercial port comparable to Bristol it's the similarities instead of the diversities which are extraordinary. while those towns are in comparison with Dublin, the contrasts develop into much more painfully obtrusive. This ebook seeks to discover those contrasting city centres first and foremost of the 20th century.

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We have formed a Women's group in Bedminster, and hope that the next month or two will find it as flourishing as those in Brislington and Easton. 25 The Independent Labour Party in Bristol developed into a highly organised political machine with a full time official and permanent premises. In Belfast the party was able to organise in all the city's constituencies, under the energetic leadership of William Walker, but did not achieve the level of membership or organisation seen in Bristol. In Dublin the supporters of 'labour' proved unable to challenge the dominance of the National Party and its clerical allies and gain the support of the 'working class' as a group during these years.

Although a number of societies were established in the city, including a store set up in 1913 by students at University College Dublin there was very limited support. 2 However, Backstrom's view of conditions in Ireland ignores the fact that by the 1880s Belfast had 'a well-fed and self-conscious aristocracy oflabour, the product of a mature, industrial economy'. It is notable that when the Belfast Co-op was established in 1889 it was by skilled industrial workers of the Shankill area, a class that Dublin largely lacked.

In this chapter I will look at a range of organisations to try and assess the degree of similarity and difference within the cities. THE CO-OPERATIVE MOVEMENT It is appropriate to begin with the largest element of the 'labour movement', the Co-operative societies. In some histories of labour in Ireland and the Co-operative movement the role of such bodies is presented as minor or even negative. It was apparent almost from the start that due to the extreme poverty of the Irish people, the conditions there were absolutely minimal for the success of the co-operative store; the situation was in fact almost the exact opposite of that which existed in England: to 40 The Labour Movement: a Wider View 41 be successful, the Consumers Movement demanded a well fed and self conscious aristocracy of labour, the product of a mature, industrial economy, whereas predominantly agricultural Ireland constituted what one might today call an 'underdeveloped country', its labour force consisting of a horde of religiously divided and economically indigent peasants.

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