James Connolly was a leading figure in both the Labour and independence movements in Ireland in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Born in Edinburgh in 1868, he was employed in the printing works by the age of 11. He first came to Ireland as a soldier with the Royal Scots Regiment of the British Army. He marrried a Dublin girl in 1890, and moved to Dublin in 1896 to become the paid organiser of the Dublin Socialist Club.
In the first decade of the twentieth century, he became a major figure in the labour movement, in Ireland and abroad, through many publications, lectures, demonstrations etc. From 1903 to 1910, he lived on the east coast of the USA, and was involved with the Socialist Labor Party. In 1908 he was appointed organizer of the Industrial Workers of the World.
He returned to Ireland in 1910, and played a part in the foundation of the Irish Labour Party in 1912, along with the other major labour figure of the time, Jim Larkin.
Passionate about socialism and the rights of labour, Connolly also believed that Irish independence was the best way of achieving these. He was involved with the groups that organised the 1916 Rising, and was one of the seven signatories to the Proclamation of the Irish Republic read out on the steps of the GPO on the first day of the rebellion.
Following the failure of the uprising, Connolly was arrested and, as one of the ringleaders, was executed by firing squad on May 12th, 1916.
Today, one of Dublin's two main train stations is named after Connolly, and his statue stands on Beresford Place, behind the Custom House on the north side of the city. Behind the statue is the symbol of the Plough and the Stars, and Connolly's most famous quotation:
"The cause of labour is the cause of Ireland, and the cause of Ireland is the cause of labour."
Source of biographical information: http://www.ucc.ie/celt/connolly.html