WATCH: Protest re-enactment and awards at Spirit of Mother Jones festival 

WATCH: Protest re-enactment and awards at Spirit of Mother Jones festival 

Kate O’Shea, and sisters Saibh and Liath McGelligott, dressed as child labourers, were all part of the March of the Mill Children pageant in the annual Spirit of Mother Jones festival at Shandon. Pictures: Larry Cummins

THE EIGHTH edition of the Shandon-based Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and Summer school kicked off this week with a unique re-enactment performed for the first time in Ireland - on the 175th anniversary of her birth.

The March of the Mill Children continues through Shandon.
The March of the Mill Children continues through Shandon.

The March of the Mill Children pageant was performed by the Cork Community Art Link. It left from the top of Roman Street and proceeded towards Shandon Bells before arriving at the Shandon Plaza where a street performance took place, attended by Lord Mayor John Sheehan.

Lord Mayor Dr John Sheehan joins the procession outside the Firkin Crane. 
Lord Mayor Dr John Sheehan joins the procession outside the Firkin Crane. 

The original march took place from Philadephia to New York in August 1903 and was led by Mother Jones as part of her campaign against the use of child labour in the mines, mills and factories. The march pageant was filmed by Frameworks Films and will soon be available to view on the festival website.

The official opening of the event was held at the Maldron Hotel on Wednesday afternoon, where sexual abuse redress campaigner Louise O’Keeffe was presented with the prestigious Spirit of Mother Jones award.

Festival PRO James Nolan presents the Spirit of Mother Jones Award for 2019 to Louise O’Keeffe, at the opening of the festival at the Maldron Hotel, Cork.
Festival PRO James Nolan presents the Spirit of Mother Jones Award for 2019 to Louise O’Keeffe, at the opening of the festival at the Maldron Hotel, Cork.

The Mother Jones Cork committee said: “Louise O’Keeffe has bravely fought a 15-year legal battle to establish that the Irish State’s failure to establish a proper child protection framework in schools made it partly responsible for abuse suffered by some of the children, who attended. She was often very alone in this fight.

“In spite of the Irish Courts curious failure to recognise this neglect and in spite of the Irish State threatening litigants for costs unless they dropped their cases, Louise fought bravely on.

“For her bravery, for her courage and for her fighting qualities, and for her continued work to help other people who suffered abuse, the Cork Mother Jones Committee is delighted to present the Spirit of Mother Jones award to Louise.

“We are extremely proud to declare that she is the very first Cork recipient of this great award, which has been presented annually for the past seven years.” 

The festival has become a local phenomenon in recent years with history buffs from around the world flocking to Shandon to learn about the origins of Mary Harris, known internationally as Mother Jones.

She was born in Cork city in July 1837 and was baptised at the North Cathedral.

After the Great Famine, the Harris family emigrated to Canada where she qualified as a teacher and a seamstress. She married a union man, George Jones, in 1861 but lost her husband and four young children in the 1867 yellow fever epidemic in Memphis.

She went on to become a labour and union activist from the 1890s onwards known particularly for her work as an organiser for the United Mine Workers of America. She also organised the March of the Mill Children in 1903 to highlight the exploitation of young children in mines and factories.

She is revered worldwide for her legacy and contribution to workers’ rights with many of the principles she helped to establish still common practice today.

The festival runs until tomorrow, with many events in the Shandon area. 

Mary O’Connor, Sheila Foster, and Rose Cassidy at Maldron Hotel.
Mary O’Connor, Sheila Foster, and Rose Cassidy at Maldron Hotel.

For a full list of events visit www.motherjonescork.com.

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