In 1911 Richard O’Carroll was elected to the South Dublin Union of Poor Law Guardians (PLG). A shocking number of Dublin’s poor lived in abject poverty in slum conditions. It was in his role as a PLG that the harrowing effects of deprivation in his beloved Dublin came sharply into focus and impacted deeply upon O’Carroll. The exploitative practice of using child labour (typically children from the poorest families and / or reformatories). This practice enraged O’Carroll, he found it utterly untenable that contractors engaged in gross exploitative practices, would be awarded municipal contracts. Determined to expose and end this practice, he presented a Motion to the floor of Dublin Corporation.
Incredibly, the motion proposing;
(a), municipal contracts would not be awarded to contractors who engaged in the exploitative practice of using child labour and,
(b), a claw back of tax payer’s money from recently completed municipal works where child labour was used – was defeated.
Overall his experiences as a PLG deepened O’Carroll’s social justice and humanitarian convictions. Having locked horns and lost, with vested interest of the South Dublin Union (Poor Law), their resolve against him hardened. Undeterred, he went public on the matter and in a statement said:
“The South Dublin Union was seething with corruption and debauchery”.
O’Carroll continued to seek a resolution to protect Dublin’s poor children from this extreme exploitation. To this end he brought the issue to his own Trade Union. The matter was debated and the decision arrived at was:
“That no self-respecting craftsman will in any way aid or abet the use of child labour in the course of his daily work”.