The Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) represents over 180,000 workers from virtually every category of employment across almost every sector of the Irish economy. SIPTU provides the expertise, experience and back-up services necessary to assist workers in their dealings with employers, government and industrial relations institutions.

SIPTU is also extensively involved in training and research through SIPTU College and the IDEAS Institute, a wholly-owned subsidiary company of SIPTU.

SIPTU was established in 1990 – with the merger of the country’s two largest unions, the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union and the Federated Workers’ Union of Ireland. Both were founded by ‘Big’ Jim Larkin in the early years of the twentieth century. Until then most workers who wanted representation at work had to join a British based union.

Larkin founded the ITGWU in 1909 and it soon had branches in Dublin, Belfast, Cork and other centres with Liberty Hall as its headquarters. By the summer of 1913 the union had secured pay rises of between 20% and 25% for members. This provoked a vicious backlash from employers. In 1913 ITGWU members in Dublin were locked out along with workers in other unions who associated with them. The Lockout lasted six months but the employers failed to smash the union.

When Larkin went on a speaking tour in the US to raise funds, James Connolly became Acting General Secretary of the Union. He also took over command of the Irish Citizen Army (ICA), set up to protect strikers from police brutality during the Lockout. Larkin was unable to return to Ireland until 1923. In the meantime, union members in the ICA participated in the 1916 Easter Rising under Connolly’s command. He is credited with drafting the Proclamation of the Irish Republic with Padraic Pearse, and it was printed in Liberty Hall on the eve of Rising.

Following Connolly’s execution for his part in the Rising, the Union’s premises and records were seized by the British military authorities but ITGWU members refused to be intimidated. General President, Tom Foran and General Treasurer William O’Brien rebuilt the organisation which had 120,000 members by 1920, making it by far the largest union on this island. It played a leading role in the Anti-Conscription Campaign of 1918 that prevented young Irish workers being forced to fight for the British Empire in the First World War and also led the Motor Permits and Munitions strikes of 1920 against military occupation.  

The two founding unions of SIPTU have since been joined by other Unions including – the Irish National Painters’ and Decorators’ Trade Union (INPDTU), the Marine, Port and General Workers’ Union (MPGWU), the Irish Print Union (IPU), the Irish Writers’ Union (IWU) and the Automotive, General Engineering and Mechanical Operatives’ Union (AGEMOU), Musicians Union of Ireland (MUI), Irish Equity, MLSA.

Since its foundation SIPTU has played a leading role in a number of campaigns to improve workers rights including a quadrupling of minimum statutory redundancy payments for workers losing their jobs, the establishment of the National Employment Rights Authority and the outlawing of mass redundancies by employers trying to replace existing workers with lower paid non-union labour.

The Union remains committed to Larkin’s dictum that ‘An injury to One is the Concern of All’ and pursuing its twin objectives of Fairness at Work and Justice in Society.

Brian McGann
Project Coordinator

Brian is the Head of Organisational Development at Ireland’s largest trade Union, SIPTU. Brian is also Executive Director of the IDEAS Institute, an independent training and research company, wholly owned by SIPTU. Brian has been recently appointed interim Head of SIPTU College.

Brian has over 40 years’ experience in the Private, Commercial Semi-State and Health sectors in Ireland. Brian has extensive experience in operations management, finance and Human Resources, specialising in Organisational Development and change management.

Brian has extensive experience at board level as a Director in a number of companies over the last 20 years.

prior to joining SIPTU as Head of Organisational Development, Brian worked for 30 years across all sectors of the Irish postal service, An Post, as Director of Human Resources in the National Rehabilitation Hospital and as Director General of the Irish Postmasters’ Union.

Brian is a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development and he is also a member of the Institute of Directors. Brian’s educational achievements include a Diploma in Company Direction, a Master’s Degree in Industrial relations & Human Resources Management as well as a National Diploma in Personnel Management.

Kevin P O’Kelly
Project Researcher

Kevin P O’Kelly was an Associate Researcher with the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), Brussels, 2002-02014 He was a member of the ETUI GOODCORP group, investigating employee rights in EU company legislation; a member of the ETUI’s SEEurope Network (2001-2012); and of the Editorial Board of Transfer, the ETUI scientific journal (1996-2012). He was a member of the ETUC Reflection Group on employee involvement rights and workplace democracy within the EU (2013-2016).

He was a Research Manager with the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound), Dublin, from 1989 to 2002, with responsibility for a range of research projects on employment, work organisation, social dialogue and industrial relations and also, during the 1990s, for building relations with the social partners and ministries in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe during the periods of transition to the market economy and preparations for accession to the EU. He has been a member of the Steering Committees for the five European Commission funded projects, co-ordinated by the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB), that have studied various aspects of employee involvement and social dialogue (2010-2020).

Kevin was the Director of the Combat Poverty Agency, an Irish State-funded policy advice and social research organisation (2007-2008). Before taking over as Director, he was Head of Research and Policy with responsibility for a range of research projects into various aspects of Irish social policy (2004-2007). He also co-ordinated a number of European Commission funded projects for Combat Poverty.

He has been involved in many studies on employment policy and social rights issues for the Council of Europe, Strasbourg. He has also worked on education/training programmes related to employee involvement and EU social dialogue with the ILO Training Centre, Turin. For many years, until, 2018, he was a member of the Executive Committee of the International Association for Financial Participation (IAFP-AIPF), based in Paris and was a member of the Executive Committee of the International Industrial Relations Association (now ILERA) (1998-2003). He is a former political advisor to the Irish Minister for Labour (1977-1981).