Born in Edinburgh in 1868 to Irish immigrant parents, Connolly joined the British Army aged 14 to escape the poverty of his upbringing. He served in Ireland but grew to resent the Army. This experience would come to shape his political views in later years.
Connolly came to Belfast in 1911 when he was invited to be the regional organiser of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. He moved his family to Dublin in 1913 to take a post with the Dublin Socialist Club. He worked closely with Jim Larkin when Dublin employers rejected the union movement and locked out thousands of employees. Connolly and Larkin founded the Irish Labour Party.
Connolly was sentenced to death by firing squad for his part in the Easter Rising when Irish Republicans launched an insurrection against the British government's control over Ireland. On 12th May 1916 he was transported by military ambulance to Kilmainham Gaol (insert hyperlink), carried to a prison courtyard on a stretcher, tied to a chair and shot. His body was put in a mass grave.
Historians have pointed to the manner of execution of Connolly and his compatriots as a factor that heightened public awareness of their aims and gathered support for the Republican movement.
For more information on James Connolly see the James Connolly Society website.