City councillors to discuss renaming Cork bridge after Mother Jones

City councillors to discuss renaming Cork bridge after Mother Jones

If party whips agree, the matter may come back to be rubber-stamped by the council before it breaks up for May’s local elections.

PARTY whips at Cork City Council will consider whether to rename the Shandon bridge after the area’s most famous export.

Councillors Fiona Ryan (Solidarity) and Kieran McCarthy (IND) both submitted motions to assign the name of Cork-born US labour rights organiser Mother Jones to the pedestrian bridge.

Tim Brosnan (FF) and Ted Tynan (Workers’ Party) have both previously called for her name to adorn a public space.

Mother Jones, born Mary Harris in Shandon, missed out on having the soon to be installed Harley Street bridge named after her to World War II aid worker Mary Elmes after a City Hall vote.

The other names on the shortlist were Irish Red Cross advocate Leslie Price de Barra; ballet dancer and teacher Joan Denise Moriarty and Civil War hero Donnchadh de Barra, who died on hunger strike in 1923.

Councillor Mick Nugent (SF) has called for all the names on the list to be commemorated in some way.

Harris became a hugely influential union and community organiser in the US in the 1800s and 1900s. She died in 1930. A festival marking her contribution to labour rights takes place in Shandon each year, organised by the Cork Mother Jones Committee.

If party whips agree, the matter may come back to be rubber-stamped by the council before it breaks up for May’s local elections.

Ms Ryan said honouring Mother Jones officially is long overdue.

“There’s an enormous wish for this and something there is a great need for. We need to recognise great Cork women. We have done it with the Mary Elmes bridge but it is something that is severely lacking.

“Given the legacy of Mother Jones, it’s almost opportunity for the city and it’s a shame. Were it not for the fantastic community work to keep her name and legacy alive we would have very little acknowledgement for one of the giants of labour rights.

“She contributed massively to benefits that we still have to this day. She was crucial to achieving the standard of the eight-hour workday.

“She was endured great losses, losing her husband and children to yellow fever and she also lost her home in the Great Fire of Chicago. What she did after that was not collapse but rise up against the conditions that contributed to the misery around her.

“When she was asked her address, she said: “It is like my shoes, it travels with me and I abide wherever there is a fight against wrong”.

“It is up to all of us to give her the real respect that she deserves. A Black Lives Matter activist Eljeer Hawkins came to Cork a few years ago. He is also a labour organiser and he asked if there was anything to do with Mother Jones. He knew that Cork was the birthplace of this great giant of history but, unfortunately, all I had was a plaque to bring him to. It felt like a missed opportunity,” she added.

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