Robbins, Francis (‘Frank’) (1895–1979), trade unionist, was born 5 July 1895 at 3 Upper Buckingham St., Dublin, fifth among nine children of William Robbins, sawyer, and Mary Robbins (née Whelan). Educated locally, he started work (1908) in Barrington's soap works in King's Inns St., Dublin, and later began working in the Dublin dockyard. In 1911 he joined the ITGWU. He took part in the 1913 lockout and joined the Irish Citizen Army. In the 1916 rising he was a member of the St Stephen's Green garrison, which occupied the College of Surgeons. He was arrested and interned at Knutsford detention barracks and then at Frongoch camp. After his release (August 1916) he got a job on a transatlantic cargo ship. At the union's request he went to the USA to contact James Larkin (qv) in 1917. He remained there for a year, meeting many republican figures, and became a close friend of Liam Mellows (qv) and John Devoy (qv). He remained in close contact with Devoy and in 1938, ten years after Devoy's death, returned to New York to bring back his papers to Ireland for publication. On his return to Ireland in 1918 he attempted to bring about closer cooperation between the Irish Volunteers and the Citizen Army. During the civil war he remained neutral, but was mistrusted by both sides. In 1922 he became an ITGWU official, and in 1931 became secretary of the no. 7 branch, a position he held until his retirement in 1960.
A right-wing figure within the Irish labour movement, Robbins strongly opposed Larkin in 1923 and constantly warned of the dangers of communism. A supporter of the disaffiliation of the ITGWU led by William O'Brien (qv) from the Irish Labour Party in 1943, he helped found the National Labour Party and was an unsuccessful National Labour candidate for Dublin North-East in the 1944 and 1948 general elections. He also helped found the Congress of Irish Unions in 1945 after the ITGWU disaffiliated from the Irish Trade Union Congress because of its decision to send delegates to the World Trade Union Congress (WTUC) in London; O'Brien and Robbins claimed that the WTUC was dominated by communists. As a strong nationalist he vehemently opposed the operations of British-based unions in Ireland. He became president (1956–9) of the breakaway Dublin Council of Irish Unions and represented the DCIU on the Dublin port and docks board. He chaired the inaugural meeting of the reunited Dublin Council of Trade Unions, but took no further part in its activities. In the 1950s he became a director of Mianraí Teoranta and in 1959 a director of Irish Shipping Ltd. His interest in drama and the arts led him to become a founder member and president of the Cinema and Theatre Benevolent Society of Ireland.
A controversial figure within the movement, Robbins wrote many provocative articles for the press and was known for his obstinacy at meetings. In 1977 he recorded his time in the Citizen Army in Under the starry plough. He lived at 5 Fairview Terrace, Dublin, with his wife Mary, their daughter, and their three sons. He died a widower on 31 January 1979.