Union chief Mick Lynch to address Dublin event celebrating author Robert Noonan

Organisers hope festival honouring author of the The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists will become annual event providing platform for political debate

British trade union leader Mick Lynch and Phil Ní Sheaghdha of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation are to give keynote addresses at the first Robert Tressell Festival, which is to be held in Dublin in May.

The event, which the organisers hope will become an annual one, will include discussions around the themes raised in the book The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Noonan, who was born in Dublin but who wrote the book under the pen name Robert Tressell while working in England.

Mr Lynch, general secretary of the RMT union representing railway workers in Britain, has come to considerable prominence over the past year, during which his organisation has been involved in a number of high-profile disputes with industry employers.

The son of two Irish parents, he has spoken previously of the influence The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists and its author on his political development.


Ms Ní Sheaghdha is general secretary of the INMO. Other speakers listed for the day include Darragh Lynch of folk group Lankum, and Labour historian John Callow.

The festival is to include seminars on subjects including the life of Noonan, trade union responses to immigration and integration, and the organisation of low-paid workers. There will also be a musical element to the day.

“We hope that this will the first of what will evolve into an annual event,” said Mary Muldowney, historian-in-residence at Dublin City Council and one of the organisers.

“We also intend to run a number of other events over the course of the year.”

A number of the country’s largest trade unions are supporting the initiative. British left-wing publication Tribune is also involved in its organisation.

“The festival is intended to promote the objectives and values of trade unionism as well as provide a space for discussion on the challenges facing working people today,” said Seamus McDonagh of the organising committee.

Celebrating the life of Noonan, whose work came to exert a considerable influence over the left in Britain and elsewhere, would also be an important element of the day, he said.

The event will take place at Liberty Hall in Dublin on May 6th. More information is available at https://tressellfestival.ie/ with ticketing details expected to be announced next week.

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times