Foran, Thomas (1883–1951), trade unionist, was born 26 January 1883 at 24 Golden Lane, Dublin, son of Thomas Foran, labourer, and Johanna Foran (née Prett). Educated locally, he began working at a young age on the quays in Dublin. He took an immediate interest in trade unions, and when Jim Larkin (qv) arrived in Dublin to set up an Irish union for dock workers, Foran fully supported him. As a result he became the first general president of the ITGWU in 1909, a position he held until his retirement in 1939.
In the early years he showed great awareness and tact in guiding the union through difficult times. He was prominent in the 1913 lockout and was arrested and imprisoned with other union leaders. He was a great friend of James Connolly (qv) and urged his appointment as acting general secretary of the union when Jim Larkin went to America. After the 1916 rising he was again arrested but was released in August 1916, at which point he strove to rebuild the union, which was near collapse. He was greatly concerned with financial matters, which led him to dismiss P. T. Daly (qv) as secretary of the insurance section of the union in 1919. This ultimately caused a power struggle within the union, but he managed to maintain his position. In 1923, on the return of Larkin, he attempted to prevent the feud that had emerged between Larkin and William O'Brien (qv) from damaging the union, but failed to do so.
Although largely free of personal ambition, he was a member of the executive council of the Irish Trade Union Congress in 1916 and from 1920 to 1924, and became its president in 1921. He was also a workers’ delegate to the International Labour Office in 1924. Although after 1939 he was in retirement and his health was deteriorating, in the mid 1940s he supported the formation of the National Labour Party and the Congress of Irish Unions. With regard to his political career, he was elected to the Irish Free State senate (1923–36) and later sat in Seanad Éireann (1938–48) until 1948. In the divorce controversy in the senate in 1925, he was represented as voting for divorce on the basis of its social implications; as a result he was blacklisted but managed to be reelected. He was governor of Jervis St. hospital for some time and was co-author of the Dignan plan on the health service (see John Dignan (qv)). He was also a member of the council of state up to his death in 1951. His diplomacy was clearly recognised; it is claimed that in 1921 he was asked to meet the editor of The Times to discuss the Irish situation. It was later suggested that this meeting was at the request of an English cabinet minister.
He loved sport and spent most of his retirement playing golf and fishing. A bachelor, he lived most of his life in 66 Brighton Road, Rathgar, Co. Dublin. He died 18 March 1951 in Jervis St. hospital, where his body lay in state. On the day of his funeral the dock workers lined the streets up to the Capuchin friary, Church St., Dublin, in recognition of his work. Perhaps because he was such an unassuming character, his achievements have never been fully recognised; however, he led the ITGWU with considerable skill, and did much to keep it afloat in its early years.