Waterford County Museum, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, Ireland. Charity Reg: 17397
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Irish Industry & Farming

The First World War And Ireland

2. Irish Industry & Farming
However for some the war brought major improvements. One of these was Irish industries the other was the farming sector. In a report from May 1915, the radical newspaper New Ireland stated that:

….despite the unprecedented condition of affairs that has prevailed throughout Europe since last August (date of the outbreak of war) Irish industries, with certain exceptions, have not been adversely affected. Instead, many of our staple industries have experienced a period of increased activity; they have employed more than the normal number of hands; the average number of hours, per week, worked by hands has exceeded that of pre-war times, and the amount of money circulating in Ireland, in consequence, risen considerably.[29]

Indeed industries both north and south had benefited from the war. Keith Jeffery as argued that, because of the Great War some industries especially those on the north-east had it particularly good. These included the Belfast shipbuilders Harland and Wolff who employed over 20,000 workers and completed 201, 070 gross tons of merchant vessels alone in 1918.[30] But this was not the only contribution that Harland and Wolff made, another was the high numbers of heavy bombers that were build in its new aircraft works.[31] However not all industries were as lucky. One of these was the linen industry that employed 50,000 female workers out of a total of 80,000 employees. What's more following the recession in the linen industry in 1914 and the halting of flax supplies from Belgium and Russia this only added to the industry's suffering, however by war's end it too returned to profit. One of the reasons was the demand for aeroplane cloth that had grown dramatically during the war, which was also helped by contracts that were valued at £11,000,000 from the Ministry of Munitions who required some 50,000 miles of cloth.[32] Others who benefited from the war were farmers and farm labourers whose incomes rose between 60 and 70 per cent. [33] But for some the gains were out weighted by the losses. One of these was the fishing industry that suffered the loss of two Howth fishing boats and five fishermen in April 1918, while the fishing fleet in County Down suffered the loss of twelve boats the following month thankfully without the loss of any lives.[34]

Author: Dave Hennessy

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