History of the Irish in Britain Representation Group Part nine: 1989

Patrick Reynolds was one of the founders of IBRG and played a key role in its history. He is now writing up that history and putting it into the context of radical history in Britain and Ireland in the C20th.

Third edition of an pobal eirithe 1989

 

 

 

The IBRG Ard Choiste took place on 14th January 1989 hosted by Harrow IBRG in Middlesex. Eleven delegates and officers attended including Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Moore, Laura Sullivan, Gearoid McGearailt, Henry Harron, Dennis Casey, Caitlin Wright Nuala Eefting, Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds.

Apologies from John Martin, Maire O Shea, and Virginia Moyles.

The meeting heard that Manchester IBRG had had  had a regional meeting with the CRE in Manchester. The meeting deplored the CRE for omitting the Irish from the 1991 census proposed ethnic grouping, which meant we could not find out, where the Irish were in terms of employment, health and housing. In a press release the IBRG stated that ‘it found it disturbing that given the disadvantage and discrimination faced by the Irish community in Housing, employment and other areas that the CRE should deliberately ignore the needs of the largest minority community in Britain’.

All branches were asked to write to the CRE regarding giving recognition to the Irish community for the 1991 Census in Britain. On the year of Action Haringey Brighton and Hackney were involved with other solidarity groups with public meetings planned for Brighton and Haringey. The Ard Choise agreed to sponsor the Bloody Sunday march which was jointly organised by TOM, LCI and IBRG and urged branches to support with banners flying in the cold January wind.

The Ard Choiste agreed a Haringey motion welcoming the ILEA education document and recommendations on the Irish dimension in the Education system, and urged IBRG branches outside of ILEA to use it, and seek meetings with their local education authorities. 

A second motion from Haringey welcomes the new Construction Safety Group set up to protect the lives of men in the construction industry and to improve working conditions. All IBRG were asked to support this initiative as so many Irish men were killed every year on building sites, and no one was held accountable. They often left partners and children behind often without support.

 It was agreed that Laura Sullivan attend the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis in Dublin as IBRG observer. The meeting deplored the production of mercury soap in Ireland in a government sponsored factory. The soap used as a skin lightener caused damage to women in Africa often affecting their unborn children.

On 21st January 1989 Pat Reynolds, PRO, was the speaker on Ireland at the Socialist Conference in Hounslow in Middlesex near Heathrow Airport, and on 25th January he spoke to the students at the Middlesex Poly (now University) on Ireland and the Irish in Britain.

On 25th January 1989 the video Off Our Knees was shown in the House of Commons as a  build up to the Bloody Sunday March.

On 28th January 1989 IBRG members marched on the Bloody Sunday March from Grange Park, Kilburn to the Bridge Park Centre in Brent. It was one of the coldest and wettest days of the year, and the longest ever Bloody Sunday March, through the wilds of Harlesden and Willesden. The march got attacked by the National Front as usual and the rally was also attacked later on.  The speakers were Ken Livingstone, Francie Molloy and Emma Groves.

In January 1989 Douglas Hurd Home Secretary referred the case of the Guildford Four to the Court of Appeal in London as hope grew for their release, and light at the end of a long campaign for justice.

In January Brighton IBRG organised an Irish ceilidh and drew a large crowd.

In February 1989 IBRG produced  the third issue of an pobal eirithe  with its famous cover British Justice which included the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four, the Winchester Three and also the Gibraltar Three and three victims of British “Shoot to Kill” policy  in a photo collage The edition had articles on the Civil Rights and the Irish community in Britain, IBRG Policy on Anti-Irish Racism, No Time for Love in the Morning (PTA), Irish lesbians and Gay men in Britain, Lifers, Women of Ireland Eva Gore Booth, the Banned Community, Mental Health and the Irish Community part 2 of Dr Maire O’Shea article, the Song Speaks, Irish Youth in Britain Squatting in London, activities in Bolton and a piece of Poetry by Deasun McGearailt.

On 4th February 1989 Hackney IBRG held a Housing Advice Day in Hackney for the Irish community and that evening took part in an Irish ceilidh at Hackney Town Hall which drew over 500 people.

On 8th February 1989 London IBRG members attended the unveiling of a plaque in Lewisham to the great Irish socialism and Republican Jim Connell.

Gordon Brown spoke and unveiled the plaque but had to be prompted to say Connell was Irish. Voice from the crowd came in ’And He was Irish’ until Brown at last mentioned it.  Lewisham IBRG had their bright banner there and, in the photo, taken for the Irish Post you can see Diarmuid Breatnach, Steve Brennan, Jackie Jolly, Del Thorogood, Pat Reynolds, Seamus Campbell and others. When Brown had finished and went off Diarmuid Breatnach jumped on the fence, and addressed the audience in Jim Larkin style, where he told the audience who stayed the Irish side of Jim Connell, that Brown ignored that Connell wanted freedom for Ireland as well as freedom for the working class. The event ended with the singing of the Red Flag.

Gordon Brown running away from IBRG….

 

 

 

On 12th February 1989 IBRG members attended the Sean MacBride Memorial lecture at Hackney Town Hall. The connection here was that Gerry Lawless, a Labour Councillor in Hackney, had been defended by McBride back in the 1960’s.

On 12th February Patrick Finucane a solicitor was murdered by Loyalists at his home in front of his wife and children the murder followed comment by Home Office Minister Douglas Hurd criticising’ a number of solicitors who are unduly sympathetic to the cause of the IRA’.

On 12th February 1989 IBRG members, mainly from Midlands branches including Birmingham, attended the 60 strong picket of Wakefield Prison to commemorate the 13th anniversary of the death of  hunger striker Frank Stagg.

On 15th February 1989 Pat Reynolds PRO was interviewed by Cork radio on the Irish in Britain and on 16th February was the IBRG speaker at the ALA (All London Authorities) Conference on Irish Women in London, where he spoke on anti-Irish racism in the media and the impact of discrimination on Irish families in Britain, including the deportation  of Irish families.

On 18th February 1989 Pat Reynolds was the opening speaker at the Haringey Year of Action  meeting to bring together Irish self-determination issues with issues affecting the Irish in Britain. An Phoblacht  attended and wrote it up under the title  Injustice the Price of Britain’s Rule.  Over 50 people attended.

Other speakers were Janet Clark of Broadwater Farm Campaign , Michael McDonnacha Editor of An Phoblacht and of Sinn Fein, Errol Smalley from the Guildford Four Campaign. The Video Off Our Knees was shown alongside workshops on the Irish war and British politics, Discrimination and the Irish in Britain, Guildford Four and Construction Safety.  Janet Clark welcomed the coming together of the Black and Irish community on the issue of civil rights and justice and called for support for the joint Broadwater Farm and  IBRG Justice March the following month.

On 18th February 1989 the IBRG delegation headed for Ireland where they had meetings in Belfast, Derry, Armagh, Dublin and Cork. The members of the delegation were Gearoid McGearailt, Virginia Moyles, Bernadette Hyland, Laura Sullivan, Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds.

The IBRG got a Civic reception in Derry City Council, and met both SDLP and Sinn Fein in Derry including Mitchell McLoughlin and Dodie McGuiness. In Ireland the IBRG met with Belfast Trades Council, Falls Road Community Centre, NUPE, SDLP, IDATU, NATE, Anti-Apartheid, ICCL, ITGWU, Combat Poverty, ICPO, USI, EETTU, IMETU, Ceoltas, Labour Party, Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Women’s Groups in Dublin and Belfast.

The issues raised included the PTA, Birmingham 6, Guildford 4, Maguire 7, Judith Ward, Irish self-determination, votes for emigrants, anti-Irish racism in media, anti-Irish discrimination, housing, employment, emigration, extradition, divorce, abortion, free travel for elders, Irish language, culture, transfer of prisoners, and travellers. The IBRG met with Peter Barry and Ruari Quinn.

The delegation produced a 20-page document on issues affecting the Irish community in Britain.

The delegation was huge success and a learning experience in that it was an all-Ireland delegation  and we met all the major parties in Ireland along with all the trade unions and the pressure groups.

The delegation organised a well-attended press conference while in Dublin which got press and radio coverage.  Pat Reynolds was able to give a talk on Racism in the English Media to media students at Rathmines College of Commerce, and later gave an interview on Both Sides Now a program for emigrants in Britain on RTE on Saturday evenings.

“Mother Ireland” screenings and Gibraltar Three

On 25 January  1989 Manchester IBRG put on a showing of Mother Ireland in Manchester which drew over 150 people, Bernadette Hyland Vice National Chair of IBRG spoke alongside Granville Williams of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting freedom. Mother Ireland had been banned by Channel Four because it had interviews with Máiréad Farrell of the Gibraltar Three.

Mairead Farrell speaking in “Mother Ireland”.

 

 

On 27th February IBRG members put on a showing of Mother Ireland at the Brent Irish Centre.

On 6th March 1989 IBRG London members attended the Kilburn Square protest in memory of the Gibraltar Martyrs. Pat Reynolds spoke for IBRG at the rally along with Terry Moore of Sinn Fein. Birmingham IBRG members joined a similar vigil in Birmingham.

 

On 7th March 1989 Pat Reynolds was speaking with Jake Ecclestone General Secretary of the NUJ at a student union meeting at the University of North London and in the evening was speaking at a public meeting on Lifers at Deptford town hall.

On 16th March 1989 the RTE programme the Pat Kenny Show was at the Haringey Irish Centre and IBRG members attended and Pat Reynolds was able to send a St Patrick’s day greeting to the Birmingham Six before the show ended. Bernie Grant the local MP also took part in the show.

On 17th March Lewisham IBRG joined in with Greenwich Irish Project to put on some events at the Albany at Deptford. The Irish Post covered it under the title Putting the Green into Greenwich with the Lewisham IBRG banner displayed.

Joint March for Justice; Irish and Black community

On 18th March 1989 the IBRG led the Irish community in a Civil Rights march for Justice from Whittington Park Holloway to Duckett’s Common at Turnpike Lane North London where we were joined by a Black community march from Broadwater Farm. A joint Rally then took place  where Breda Power and Sharon Raghip met and spoke together. The march was to link up with 1968 anniversary of civil rights and the Black civil rights movement in the USA and to bring together issues affecting the Black and Irish communities in Britain including framed prisoners and hostages taken from both communities , oppressive policing from PTA to stop and search, to death in police and prison custody. Fergal O’Hara was the guest speaker from Ireland.

On 19th March 1989 Pat Reynolds was guest speaker at Seven Sisters Labour Ward in Tottenham to speak on Ireland.

On 21st March 1989 IBRG member took part in the House of Commons Press conference on the PTA with Maire O’Shea the IBRG speaker with Bobby Gilmore.

In March the London Irish News printed Dr Maire OShea’s second article on Mental Health which they had copied with permission from an Pobal Eirithe, they also covered her first article in an earlier edition.

In March Diarmuid Breatnach had the headline letter in the Irish Post calling for the Irish to be included in the 1991 Census

IBRG challenged British Telecom  over an anti-Irish advert in their phone directories. The advert to promote display adverts had Blaney & Sons Builders at Paddy Fields Avenue. BT withdrew the advert and apologised.  Credit for chasing BT is due to Majella Crehan of Haringey IBRG who chased them up with two letters until she got the withdrawal of the advert and an apology. Majella had a letter in the Irish Post urging other people to write to BT at their head office.

Donall MacAmhlaigh, the Irish building worker and  writer died and Diarmuid Breatnach expressed the sympathy of IBRG through the Irish Post. Donall was a member of IBRG and wrote some fine articles in Irelands Own on the early work of IBRG. He wrote many of his books in Irish which described the conditions for Irish building workers in Britain and capturing a history that might have been lost.

On 1st April 1989 the IBRG Ard Fheis met at Manchester Town Hall with 35 delegates and officers attending. Twelve branches were present namely Lambeth, Derby, Harrow, N.E. Lancs, South Yorkshire, Bolton, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Haringey, Hackney and Coventry.

Gearoid McGearailt stood down after three years as chair and was thanked by the meeting for his service to IBRG.

The following officers were elected Chair Bernadette Hyland Manchester, Vice Chair Laura Sullivan Hackney, President Gearoid McGearailt Lambeth, Vice President Joe Mullarkey Bolton, Runai Virginia Moyles Hackney, Midlands coordinator John Martin Derby, Education Officer Caitlin Wright Bolton, Cisteoir Maurice Moore Coventry and Pat Reynolds PRO Haringey.

IBRG Ard Feis Manchester Town Hall

 

 

 

Other delegates included, Denis Casey, Nuala Eefting, Nigel Cook, Mary Marken, David Wright, Noel Spencer, Jim McCarthy, Mary Donnelly, Pat O Sullivan, Robert Ryan, Sean Brown, Marcella Cronogue, Paul Sheehan, Deasun McGearailt, Mairin Carlin, David Kernoghan, and Jim King with apologies from Maire OShea and Eddie Caughey.

The following motions were passed

A Haringey motion calling on the Irish government to give emigrants the vote,

A motion condemning the high death rate on building sites in England and also discrimination against Irish building workers which left the majority of Irish men as labourer

A motion welcome decision of the European Court of Human rights to condemn Britain for its abuse of human rights inholding Irish people for 7 days without access to the courts,

 A motion condemning the Labour Party for colluding with the Tories in supporting racist and anti-Irish laws,

 A motion condemning Tom King British Minister intervention in the Winchester three trail over the right to silence, and also condemning the media for their treatment of the case,

A motion condemning the continued incarceration of the Birmingham Six, and Guildford Four and the failure of the Irish government to tackle the British government over the issue, the motion called on Amnesty international to treat these prisoners as prisoners of conscience, because the sole reason for their imprisonment was their racial and ethnic origin,

 A motion welcoming the stand taken by Irish teachers against discrimination in pay and conditions

A motion welcoming increased Dion funding calling for Dion to be reconstituted to represent the wider Irish community

A motion deploring the Irish government for failing to provide jobs for its young people and for failing to deal with emigration, and calling on the Irish government to take action along the line of the IBRG document on emigration

The Irish Post reported the Ard Fheis IBRG Rap for Dion Committee which gave out half a million in welfare grants each year.  The Dion committee had no women members despite Irish women being more involved in provided Irish welfare in Britain but also as the main carers for children, thus needed welfare services more. The Irish Government was still tied to Maynooth and the Catholic Church in trying to control Irish welfare in Britain. Thus, they had created a job for a priest to work with Irish prisoners, and the majority of Irish welfare centres were controlled by the church.

The London Irish News had The IBRG Makes History Irish in Britain get First Woman Leader. It went on to profile Bernadette Hyland IBRG chair and gave a list of the motions which were passed. The Irish World story ran IBRG Successful Ard Fheis and stated the 1989 Irish in Britain Representation Group had a most successful Ard Fheis at Manchester Town Hall on Saturday last.

In London Steve Brennan addressed a workshop on Ireland at the Green Party national Conference and raised the issue of the PTA, Birmingham Six and Guildford Four.

On 7th April 1989 IBRG members joined a picket in the London during the visit of Gorbachev, Russian leader to Britain. Nine people with the Birmingham Six banner were arrested while another group with Pat Reynolds and Catherina Scanlon who waited for Jeremy Corbyn MP to arrive at the station, arrived later and escaped arrest, and then went on to Snow Hill police station to seek the release of the others. They got Gareth Pierce Solicitor in to see those arrested. They were released at the end of the Gorbachev visit without charge and all successfully sued the Met police for wrongful detention

On 8th April 1989 IBRG attended the Construction Safety meeting at Kingsway’s College, Kings Cross London.

On May Day Pat Reynolds was one of the speakers for the May Day Workers Rally in Oxford which drew many car workers and public sector workers plus students.

On 6th May 1089 IBRG branches marched on the annual Hunger Strike Commemoration March in Birmingham

On 7th May 1989 Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking at the James Connolly/Bobby Sands Commemoration meeting at Conway hall which had over 500 people. His speech drew attention to the treatment of the nationalist community in N. Ireland and to the treatment given to the Black and Irish communities in Britain. Bernadette McAliskey, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Errol Smalley from Guildford Four Campaign, Niall Farrell brother of Máiréad Farrell and Francie Molloy Sinn Fein were the main speakers.

On 13th May 1989 the IBRG Ard Choiste met at Manchester Town Hall where nineteen delegates and officers attended. Among those attending were Bernadette Hyland Chair, Pat O Sullivan, Denis Casey, Mary Donnelly, Nigel Cook, Pat Reynolds, Laura Sullivan, Joe Mullarkey, Joan Brennan, Noel Spenser, Michael Murphy, David Kernoghan, Trevor O’Farrell, and Diarmuid Breatnach.

Apologies from Eddie Caughey, Virginia Moyles, John Martin, Gearoid McGearailt, and Janice McKnight.

The Ard Choise dealt with motions which were left over from the Ard Fheis.

The first motion called for an Irish unity Conference of all progressive Irish groups in Britain to pursue a common programme for the progress and wellbeing of the Irish community. Other motions were that contact be made with the GAA, Conradh na Gaeilge , Colmtas and the Federation of Irish Societies  to formulate a common programme  of priorities that we  all could work on and support each other on,  a motion condemning the British and Irish governments for censorship of Sinn Fein which had been extended to IBRG and other groups who voice any concern about justice or human rights in N. Ireland or Britain. The motion condemned the ending of the right to silence and viewed it as another Kitsonian racist device in their conveyor belt of injustice.

A motion condemning the horrific and wide scale searching of nationalist homes in the Six Counties which led to comparison with early Nazi Germany. The motion also condemned the new PTA which would institutionalise those searches and imprison whole communities for hours on end, a motion calling for the closure of mercury soap production factory in Arklow, and for the creation of alternative employment in the area. The production of this soap can only be seen as a racist and hostile action against Black countries and black people, a motion to welcome the proposed new Race Relations Act in Ireland but notes that travellers are now to be included within the remit of the Act.

The motion also welcomes the outlawing by the European Court of bigoted legislation against gay men in Ireland which was based on old colonial laws.

Further motions included -one calling on the Irish government to stop all extradition to British jurisdiction, since the British government has clearly shown that it has contempt for international standards of justice, and that Irish people charged with political offences are used as pawns in a British policy where the end always justifies the means, from Bloody Sunday to Gibraltar, a motion supporting the Lifers campaign and calling for an end of indeterminate sentencing. The motion condemned the Irish government for failing to facilitate the transfer of Irish prisoners and for their slavish obedience to the British Home Office.

Another motion condemned the murder of solicitor Patrick Finucane and noted the remarks of a junior minister which created a context and atmosphere for the killing, a motion noting the evidence given to the Gibraltar Inquest and the information withheld, and that the total picture would appear to indicate that the murders were premeditated. The motion called on the Irish government to take an interstate action against the British government for the judicial murder of three Irish citizens and for an international enquiry into the illegal death squads practices of the British government, a motion that IBRG should take part in the Time to Go march but march within the anti-imperialist contingent on the march, the meeting also decided to support an IFM march on Ireland in August.

Janice McKnight was re-elected Membership Secretary, and Stefan Hannigan was elected Youth officer.  A new branch was planned for Corby on 20th May and a new one in Peterborough on 17th June. There were currently 16 branches functioning but Derby was not running and Southwark was struggling.

The meeting had a report back from the very successful delegation to Ireland which including visits to Belfast, Derry, Cork and Dublin for meeting with political party’s trade unions and pressure groups. It put IBRG on the map in a real way where people in Ireland could put a face to the organisation they read about in the Irish papers. The meeting heard a report back on the St Patricks Day March for Justice and Civil Rights with a joint rally with Black community. The British left did not support the march yet expected  IBRG to support their marches.

Events planned for coming months included on 10th June a Justice conference in Manchester, and an Irish Language conference in Haringey on 1st July and a Sinn Fein tour of Britain in July.

Bolton IBRG put forward a motion calling on the NI Office to fulfil its obligation to education in Belfast by funding the 123 projects. The motion condemns the inflammatory statements about the project made by the British government which endangers the lives of people doing voluntary work in the area.

The Irish Post reported on the meeting with a headline IBRG Calls for Unity Conference with a major article which reported on the other motions passed.

The Irish Post reported on efforts by the Haringey Irish Liaison Unit led by Seamus Taylor to push the CRE to recognise the Irish which the IBRG had supported strongly. The Post reported that the arguments for inclusion had prompted some bitter exchanges with groups such as the Federation of Irish Societies who were opposed. Later the Irish Liaison Unit criticised the CRE for not including the Irish.  Seamus Taylor played a major role in getting the CRE later to recognise the Irish and he was also involved with Action Group for Irish Youth  and was able to bring the centre of the Irish community with him with most of the London projects supporting the demand. A detailed submission was sent to the OPCS from all Irish groups including IBRG drafted by Seamus Taylor of the Haringey Irish Liaison Unit arguing for the Irish to be included in the 1991 Census. While the Federation did not support it many of its affiliates did and Bernie Grant MP also supported it. AGIY Irish chaplaincy, BIAS, Cara, all supported it.

In May Pat Reynolds PRO had a leading article in the Troops Out Magazine entitled Racism, the Irish and Class Struggle a two-page article, which set out the issues around anti-Irish racism and the British state. The article traced the history of anti-Irish racism as being founded in the history of imperialism and colonisation and the appropriation of lands culture and language. It had a similar history with racism against Black people who had experienced slavery and the destruction of their languages and culture. The Irish struggle was part of the same struggle against all forms or racism and supremacy. ‘Anti-Irish racism has to be seen within the context of racism against all colonial people, and to fight anti-Irish racism means taking on all forms of racism. The effects of racism are there  for these communities, poorer housing, employment, health, welfare, education, political policing, racism in the media, discrimination and disadvantage, The Black and Irish struggles should be at the heart of the class struggle in Britain, as they are the communities who are in direct front line resistance against the institution of the British state’.

On 18th May 1989 Pat Reynolds was speaking at public meeting in Camden against the Poll Tax with Jeremy Corbyn MP and  Cllr. Angie Birtill

 

On 20th May 1989 Pat was in Corby for a meeting with John Martin to try and start up an IBRG branch in Corby. The house where the meeting was due to take place was fire bombed the night before along with the family car by right wing fascists. The town with its steel works had a strong Scottish Unionist community there.

In May the Irish Post had a heading Blackburn Irish an Ethnic Group which reported that Blackburn Borough Council had agreed to recognise the Irish community in ethnic monitoring. The N.E. Lancs IBRG had lobbied for this.

On 3rd June the members of the  IBRG delegation to Ireland members met in Birmingham to try and pull together a report on their journey to Ireland.

On 10th June the South London Year of Action had a Day School on Ireland at Lambeth Town Hall with speakers Mary Mason of  Troops Out on the Solidarity Struggle, Diarmuid Breatnach IBRG on Politics and Irish Culture, Geoff Bell on James Connolly The lessons for today, Pat Finnegan on Colonisation and Emigration and Bill Hamilton NALGO on Solidarity work in British trade unions.

On 10th June Manchester IBRG held their Justice for Irish People 20 Years on Conference at Manchester Town Hall. Over 80 people attended. The conference was introduced by Bernadette Hyland National chair of IBRG with Formal Opening by Graham Stringer Leader of Manchester City Council. Speakers included Michael Mansfield barrister on Irish People, British Justice, Tommy Walsh on the PTA, Virginia Moyles Secretary IBRG on Irish women in Britain, Joan O’Flynn on New emigration, Fr Des Wilson on Justice in Ireland, Fr Joe Taaffe on the Birmingham Six and Tony O’Brien on Construction Safety.

The Conference was sponsored by Andrew Bennett MP, Eddie Loyden MP, Bob Clay MP, Dawn Primarolo MP, Dennis Canavan MP, Alfred Morris MP, Christine Crawley MEP, Bob Clay MP, Dawn Newman MP, Michael Hindley MEP, Leslie Huckfield, MEP NALGO, AEU, and BETA.

The Irish Post ran a story on the conference entitled Britain to scrap trial by jury and focussed on the talk by Michael Mansfield at the conference. He stated at the meeting that the Irish in Britain were being used as ‘a testing ground for means of control that would ultimately be used against the rest of the population’. Fr Wilson was quoted as saying ‘If you find decent good people taking up arms against the government there must be a good reason for it’.

 

On 13th June IBRG hosted a Vauxhall by- election public meeting called Britain in Ireland the Irish in Britain. at the White Horse in Brixton which drew over 100 people and was chaired by Diarmuid Breatnach of Lewisham IBRG. The meeting in Brixton was at the heart of the  London Black Community and scene of the 1981 Uprising against the British state.

Sharon Atkins, a Black candidate, was pushed out by Neil Kinnock and Kate Hoey was forced upon the constituency which greatly angered the Black and Irish community. Whereas, Sharon Atkins was great on Ireland, Kate Hoey was Unionist and hostile to the Irish community even opposing Irish recognition in London.

All candidates were invited including Black preacher Rev Hewie Andrew, Henry Bewley Green Party, Kate Hoey who refused to face the community, Michael Keegan Tory Party, Don Milligan RCP, Rudy Narayan Radical Black Barrister, and Michael Tuffrey Liberal.

Dolan who was Brendan MacLua, editor of the Irish Post, called it wrong and  criticised  IBRG for not backing Kate Hoey, saying Kate Hoey had stood up for the Irish community after Bloody Sunday, and was one of those charged after Bloody Sunday. This was when she was young and was into the British left but she moved very quickly to the centre and to the right of British and Irish politics.

The Guardian stated that ‘The Irish in Britain Representation Group has also condemned Ms Hoey’s candidacy in a constituency with a large Irish community’. The original favourite to stand was Martha Osamor a Haringey Councillor and a great friend of Ireland, who often spoken on Irish platforms, but she was excluded by Kinnock. Years later her daughter became a Labour MP in North London while Corbyn put Martha into the House of Lords while Leader of the Labour Party. Rev Andrew stated ‘If the Labour Party is serious about Black people it should make its candidate stand down and let the black representative stand’.

Pat Reynolds in his letter in the Irish Post took Dolan to task stating ‘the front line is always there for Irish people no  matter where individuals retreat from it.’ Kate Hoey opposed ethnic recognition for the Irish community, Irish sections in the Labour Party, supported the Anglo-Irish agreement, and where would she stand on the PTA and the framed prisoners.  How can Dolan criticise the Federation of Irish Societies over their position on Irish recognition and then support Kate Hoey who has the same position. In London at the GLC Irish conference every single Irish organisation in London supported the Irish right to recognition of their culture history and their position in British society. The IBRG were also taking a stand with the black community at their racist treatment by the labour Party in deselecting good Black candidates in a large Black constituency. There were over 14,000 Irish people living in Lambeth where Vauxhall was situated. Later in 2020 Boris Johnson Tory Leader would send Kate Hoey to the Lords where over 90% of N. Ireland members were Unionists.

In June an IBRG delegation met with the Labour Party in Lambeth to press their demands for ethnic recognition which was supported by Fred Taggart and Linda Bellos. Lambeth had been sitting on a report on the Irish community since 1985 on Irish recognition.

In June Diarmuid Breatnach had the top letter in the Irish Post on emigration where he stated ‘We don’t pay taxes in Ireland because we pay taxes here, to which country we are effectively exiled. We have been disestablished, disinherited, and since we have been disenfranchised, they think we can also be dismissed’. Diarmuid called for emigrants to be given the vote in Ireland

On 16th June Gearoid McGearailt spoke at the Family Service Unit Conference at the Camden Irish centre on the Irish community in Britain.

On 17th June Pat Reynolds was in Peterborough to try and start an IBRG branch there and on 22nd June he was speaking at a Celtic League meeting in London.

 

On 24th June Brighton IBRG held a conference in Brighton on Irish Culture with speakers Diarmuid Breatnach, Maude Casey and Jonathan Moore with a showing of Mother Ireland and a benefit at the Pavilion Theatre with the Hairy Marys and Jacket Potatoes.

 

On 24th June 1989 the IBRG had their Ard Choiste meeting at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in Islington in North London where   only seven delegates attended probably because there were too many others events on in June. Among those attending were Maurice Moore, Bernadette Hyland, Denis Casey, Pat Sullivan, Kevin Hayes, Virginia Moyles and Trevor O’Farrell with apologies from Pat Reynolds, Diarmuid Breatnach, Joe Mullarkey and Laura Sullivan.

The meeting heard that the Manchester Justice conference had gone very well and had got good publicity.

The meeting discussed the two marches on Ireland being organised for August, and about the Sinn Fein Councillors tour in July along with Haringey IBRG Irish language conference in July.

Birmingham IBRG stated they were working on issues around the PTA.

On 1st July 1989 there was an Irish Consultative Forum held by the Association of London Authorities which was chaired by Gerry Lawless from Hackney. Cllr Angie Birthill, Fred Taggert, and Mick Brenan from Southwark attended. The meeting identified the issues which needed to be addressed; Emigration, Housing and exploitation, employment and training opportunities, position of young Irish student, ethnic classifications, equality issues and Irish community, position of Irish women education issues, travellers, along with health and safety in industry.

 

On 1st July 1989 Haringey IBRG hosted a Teanga agus Cultur Conference at the Red Rose Club in Islington, North London. Over 30 people attended. The Conference decided to campaign for recognition of the Irish language in Britain, and called on the British government to give recognition to the Irish language as being the official language of a member state of the EU. It also called for all major community languages in Britain to be given equal recognition alongside European language.

The Conference called on the Irish government to recognise its consular responsibility for the cultural needs of the Irish community in Britain, and to recognise the damage the Irish government did to its own language   by their position with the EU in having Irish not as a working language. Dr Ken McKinnon of Hatfield Poly outlined the history of Scottish Gaelic and accused the British Government of language racism, and of trying to impose English on everyone, and he noted that English was now a minority language among 300m in the EU.

Liz Saville from the Welsh Language Society detailed the struggle of the Welsh language, and stated that it was essential for parents as well as children to be involved in any language struggle.

Dodie McGuiness spoke about the struggle in the Six Counties for language and culture, where the language was seen as subversive and a weapon against British domination. She talked of the street sign campaign, the street murals, Gaelic preschools, and Irish Language paper LA in Belfast. The Irish language had been taken into the prisons, and a battle for prisoners to receive and write letters in Gaelic. The workshops held during the conferences were bilingual.

Roundwood Park Irish Festival and clash with Young Irish

On 2nd July 1989 there was a major clash between the Met Police and Irish youth at Roundwood Park Irish Festival, where the police used dogs and horses to close down the Festival. The pitched battle went on for over an hour as the police tried to take the hill over the bandstand with horses, but the youth fought back and retook the hill a number of times. The police made 55 arrests and laid serious charges against the young arrested. Pat Reynolds who was present at the event witnessed it first-hand. The festival had no beer tent for the first time but the crowd had smuggled in large crates of beer and drink. It started with a simple dispute between a young man and a police officer where the youth had sprayed a police man with beer and he tried to arrest him. Within minute the police panicked and asked for horses to be brought in which led to horrible scenes with horses flying through families with little children and Irish elders.

It was a complete overreaction and uncalled for. The police were oppressive and excessive and police and dogs should not be used as a first option in policing. The IBRG called on Brent Council to conduct an inquiry into the police action on the day. The Festival Committee had denied IBRG a stall for the fifth year running and had also denied the Birmingham Six Committee a stall. In 1988 the GAA had boycotted the festival and refused to field teams because of this. In September Pat Reynolds received a letter back from Dorman Long Leader of Brent Council where he noted that ‘the Council shares your concerns, and to this end we are currently in discussion with the local police. After the conclusions of these discussions, we hope to convene a meeting of all interested parties to discuss the matters arising from the policing o this year’s Irish festival and clearly the demand for a public enquiry would form part of such a meeting’.

The British tabloids had a field day fed by police lies about the use of alcohol at the Festival which had run for 15 years without incident and where drinking on the day was very limited to small groups because of the lack of a beer tent. The IBRG suggested that the tabloids should go to Ascot or Henley if they wanted to see real drinking.

Sinn Fein councillors visited British cities in July on a speaking tour. On 3rd July Pat Reynolds spoke with Lily Fitzsimons and Cllr Angie Birtill at the Camden Irish Centre, on 6th July he spoke with Cllr Jim McAllister at the Albany in Deptford and on 7th July he spoke with Bernie Grant at Tottenham Town Hall.

On 12th July Pat Reynolds travelled to Oxford for a meeting to set up an IBRG branch in Oxford.

 

The IBRG called on the incoming Irish government of Fianna Fail/PD to publicly call for the release of the  Birmingham Six and Guildford Four, and to call for the repeal of the PTA, give the vote to the Irish abroad, end extradition at once, end forced emigration,  and get the Irish language recognised in Europe, and transfer Irish prisoners home.

 

On 5th August 1989 IBRG took part in the Irish Freedom Movement Anti-Internment march from Islington Town Hall to Whittington Park at Archway. After the march Pat Reynolds and Diarmuid Breatnach got attacked by 30 fascists near Archway while the police stood idly by.

 

On 12th August IBRG branches took part in the Time to Go march to Finsbury Park under the Irish self-determination Banner.

 

On 19th August 1989 IBRG had a banner on the Dublin FADA march with both Bernadette Hyland and Pat Reynolds present, Speakers were Gerry Adams MP Neil Blaney, George Galloway, MP. FADA (Forum for a Democratic Alternative) was set up to organise the march on the theme For a New United Ireland for British Withdrawal.

 

On 2nd September 1098 the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Sparkhill Centre in Birmingham with eight delegates present including Virginia Moyles, Kevin Hayes, Denis Casey, Maurice Moore, Diarmuid Breatnach, Maire O Shea Padraig Mac Rannall and Mary Donnelly, with apologies form Bernadette Hyland, Laura Sullivan, and Caitlin Wright.

The meeting nominated Pat Reynolds to be the IBRG delegate on the Free Speech on Ireland committee. The meeting discussed the Winchester Three campaign and how IBRG could support it. The Ard Choiste heard a report back on the Language and Culture Conference hosted by Haringey IBRG, and Haringey IBRG were leading a campaign to have the Irish language recognised as one of the modern European language within the British education system.  Haringey had raised it with Department of Educational and Science and LACE were also taking up the issue.

The Terence MacSwiney March would be held on 28th October and the IBRG Countrywide Irish Welfare conference would be held at Lambeth Town Hall on 30 September. An IBRG member represent outlined their recent experience under the PTA where they were held for over 7 hours before they saw a solicitor who knew nothing about the PTA. Branches were asked to write to the CRE and the OPCS demanding ethnic recognition for the Irish. It was agreed to donate £50 to the PTA Research and Welfare Association in Birmingham.

 

On 30th September 1989 Lambeth IBRG held their 3rd annual Irish perspective on British Welfare at Lambeth Town Hall. Speakers were Bernadette Manning on Child abuse and the Irish community, Bobby Gilmore on the Catholic Church and Irish Welfare, Breda Gray on Alcohol use within the Irish community, Padraic Kenna on Homelessness  and the Irish community, Bronwen Walters on Irish women in British society,  Frank Harrington on the Irish and Mental health, Dave Murphy on Emigration and Irish Youth, Gearoid McGearailt on Needs of Irish elders in Britain, Nolliag O Gadhra on Europe after 1992  and Paul Cullen Irish Embassy on the role of Dion.

At first the Irish Embassy claimed they were too busy to attend the  Welfare conference of the Irish in Britain and Pat Reynolds the organiser contacted Gerry Collins office in Dublin, and the Embassy changed their minds.  The Irish Post, the Irish World, the London Irish News, the Longford Leader, and the Sunday Press in Dublin covered the conference in some details.

Gearoid McGearailt,  President of IBRG and local Lambeth IBRG member, opened the conference. The London Irish News gave heading to Nollaig O Gadhra and the expected changes in Europe who would make the Irish in Britain citizens of Europe with a number of rights. The Irish Post gave the heading to the Irish Embassy representative Paul Cullen

In a statement on high emigration from Ireland the IBRG stated that if one Irish politician had to leave with every 1,000 Irish young people leaving, then emigration would be top of the agenda. An Phoblacht covered the story in some details and the statement ended by stating ‘We want our rights not charity, we want the vote now and we want a government that is not afraid to speak out for the rights of its citizens abroad. Its abysmal failure can be seen over 15 years in its lack of response to the Birmingham Six and Guildford and the PTA. It is time for the Irish government to get off its neo-colonial knees and start acting as responsible independent government’.

 

In September the TUC at long last called for the repeal of the PTA after 15 years silence on the abuse of Irish workers in Britain which included deportations.

Starting on 2nd October 1989 Haringey IBRG put on a weekly series of videos at Haringey Irish Centre including the Irishman, Suspect Community and Irish News, British Stories.

 

On 14th October 1989 the IBRG held their Comhcomhairle in Bolton where 14 delegates attended with four other delegates could not make it because of a serious car accident on the journey. Eight branches were present namely Manchester, Lewisham, Haringey, NE Lancs, Camden, Harrow, Bolton and Birmingham.

Among the delegates attending were Bernadette Hyland, Diarmuid Breatnach, Majella Crehan, Pat Reynolds, Michael Cnaimhsi, Trevor O’ Farrell, Denis Casey, Maurice Cahill, Joe Mullarkey, Caitlin Wright, David Wright and Mary Donnelly.

With apologies from Virginia Moyles Laura Sullivan, D Stewart and Stefan Hannigan all involved in a car accident, Maire O’ Shea, Gearoid MacGearailt and Maurice Moore.

A workshop was held on the idea of having a Unity Conference for the Irish in Britain. Bolton had suggested a secretariat for the Irish in Britain, but how would it be funded. There was a discussion around IBRG relationships with other groups and if we should meet the GAA, Comhaltas and the Federation and Conradh.

There was an Irish language workshop which discussed how we could promote the Irish language in Britain from adult education to the curriculum. Discussion was had on having an Irish studies pack.

There was also a discussion on N. Ireland and how we could work on issues such as self-determination and civil rights. Discussion also on working with different groups on the left like LCI, TOM, IFM and also with single issue campaigns like strip-searching and plastic bullets.  Discussion also on the B6 and G4 campaigns, in the North West IBRG were involved in the B6 campaign while in London Tom Baron of IBRG was involved in the G4 campaign.

The Guildford Four were released on 17th October 1989 to a huge crowd outside the old Bailey where Gerry Conlon told the world I was an innocent man, my father was an innocent man, the Birmingham Six are innocent men.

The Court of Appeal held that the convictions were based on confession fabricated by the police. Sir John May was appointed to look into the convictions of the Guildford Four and the Maguire cases which were linked together and for which Gerry Conlon’s father died in prison an innocent man.

The British State knew they were innocent all along, and the Balcombe St siege men gave a detailed account of their bombings of Woolwich and Guildford, but the matter was covered up for years. All involved in the Guildford Four trial were all promoted to the highest levels of British legal and policing systems.

Gerry Conlon of Guildford 4 and his sisters.

 

On the same day the IBRG marched with their banner on the Censorship March to the Dominion Theatre in Tottenham Court Road where Roy Hattersley was shouted down in a protest which started with IBRG members, because of his attack on Sinn Fein, who were not present at the rally to defend themselves. It was a shameful performance by Hattersley when he stated in his racist way ’No decent person would vote for Sinn Fein or be associated with them’. It was a most shameful statement about the nationalist people of N. Ireland. Why did Hattersley use a Free Speech on Ireland platform and one on Ending censorship to attack Sinn Fein, and the right of the Irish people to vote for a party that represented their views.

Pat Reynolds who attended the Rally and protested against Hattersley wrote a reply to the Guardian, which was not published. In it  he  drew attention to several recent events, one where Southwark Council got the Borough Solicitor to vet every single picture in an exhibition on Ireland the Right to Know,  and Town Halls where Black and Irish speakers were banned

On 20th October Pat Reynolds went on the program Time and Place on TV to discuss the release of the Guildford Four and that evening spoke at Lambeth Town Hall with Cllr. Sean McKnight of Sinn Fein and Martha Osamor over Ireland and free speech.

On 27th October for Halloween Haringey IBRG held a children’s  Party which drew over 100 children to the Haringey Irish centre all with an Irish theme.

On 28th October 1989 IBRG branches marched with their banners on the Terence MacSwiney March from Kennington to Brixton prison with a rally at St Mathews hall near Windrush Square in Brixton. Over 500 people attended the march and rally which IBRG helped to organise mainly Lewisham IBRG and Diarmuid Bretanach.

In October IBRG challenged the Daily Express over its story Thatcher Bomb Gang Arrested the story of five innocent Irishmen arrested in Cheltenham. The IBRG also took up the story in the press of Irish labourers on the Channel Tunnel collecting funds for the IRA when they were collecting funds for an Englishman who died working on the tunnel.

On 2nd November 1989 Pat Reynolds was on Channel Four Hard News programme  on racism in the Media speaking on anti-Irish racism in the media and how the media covered PTA arrests.

On 3rd November IBRG members took part in the Regents St Picket on Plastic Bullets to coincide with Guy Fawkes night.

On 4th November Pat Reynolds was speaking at the LACE Conference at London University.

On 6th November Haringey IBRG showed the video Suspect Community on the PTA to 15 people at the Haringey Irish Centre.

On 19th November Pat Reynolds was guest speaker at Selly Oak College in Birmingham to social work students talking about the Irish community in Britain and their needs.

On 24th November IBRG members in London attended the Guildford 4 benefit at the Haringey Irish Centre to welcome the Guildford Four home again.

On 25th November the IBRG Ard Choiste took place at Lambeth Town Hall with six delegates including Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds, Laura Sullivan, Caitlin Wright and Gearoid MacGearailt with apologies from Maurice Moore, Trevor Farrell, Virginia Moyles, Joe Mullarkey, Maire O Shea and Majella Crehan.

The Ard Choiste decided to affiliate to the Winchester Three campaign,  to support it in every way and gave a donation of £25. The meeting heard back from the very successful IBRG Welfare Conference in Lambeth which got wide publicity before and after. The meeting also heard back from the Terence MacSwiney march held in Brixton. Manchester IBRG reported that they had an input into the Manchester Irish  Film Festival and held a ceremony at the Manchester Martyrs memorial.

The Ard Choiste welcomed the release of the Guildford Four and decided to give £100 to the St Patrick’s  Day March for Justice. Haringey IBRG were drafting PTA guidelines for the NUJ in how to report PTA arrests. Branches were asked to support Nick Mullen who had been arrested abroad and taken back to Britain.

In November Bernadette Hyland chaired a meeting with Bernadette MacAliskey at History Workshop Conference in Salford University. Maude Casey was also speaking at this meeting. The Irish Post had photo of the two Bernadettes and one of Maude Casey from the event at which Steve Fielding also presented a history lecture on the Irish in Manchester.

Two Bernadettes

 

 

 

On the 15th anniversary of the PTA the British government introduced permanent legislation on the PTA which IBRG condemned. Neil Kinnock asked the Labour Party to abstain rather than vote for it. The Labour Party introduced the PTA and were in power, when they took hostages from the Irish community back in 1974 the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four Judith Ward and the Maguire seven. Eighteen innocent Irish people in total taken away from their families and communities including trade unionists were  taken away, and put away for no other reason than their Irishness. Peter Barry who claimed the Winchester Three got a fair trial appears to live in cloud cuckoo land, when they were tried in a British garrison town in the middle of the Tory Party conference, and when Tom King  equating silence with guilt in the middle of their trial, given they were charged with conspiracy  to kill him, they never had a change and got savage sentences of 25 years which Barry thought were a bit long. Defence barrister Michael Mansfield called the Winchester Three trial  the most unfair trial he had ever been involved in.

The IBRG statement on the PTA stated that the cornerstones of the PTA were the cases of the Birmingham Six, Guildford Ford and Maguire Seven and Judith Ward -18 innocent Irish people taken away in the night. The PTA was based on the systematic intimidation and harassment of the Irish community on its way to and from Ireland, and had made anti Irish racism a functioning weapon of the state, in controlling and abusing our community, to silence its voice on British abuses in Ireland.

The PTA created a Berlin wall of silence around the war in Ireland. The European Court had condemned the abusive PTA laws in holding Irish people incommunicado for up to seven days without access to the courts. Kevin McNamara stated last year that Labour would continue to oppose the PTA, and the TUC had since come out against it, yet now the Labour Party stabbed the Irish community in the back by abstaining.  IBRG stated that the new PTA would enshrine anti Irish racism into British policing, and that Irish people can now be arrested even without reasonable suspicion, they can be arrested now just because they are Irish.

In November the National Union of Journalists  brought out a new code of conduct for journalists which the IBRG found to be lacking in dealing with anti-Irish racism in the media, and how the media covered PTA arrests.

IBRG responded to the new code of conduct by stating that only Royalty could defend themselves against the British media. The new code would not protect Irish people from abuse in the British media and from headlines like Thatcher Bomb Gang arrested Five IRA suspects held, all five were released without charge but had to leave England for their own security.  Another heading IRA man in Chunnel cash swoop when they were collecting for an English man killed on site.

In November Peter Brooke N. Irish Secretary admitted that the British Army could never defeat the IRA and stated that if the ‘violence’ stopped the British government would talk to Sinn Fein.

On 2nd December 1989 Pat Reynolds PRO had an interview with RTE Radio in Dublin on media coverage on Irish cases.

On 4th December Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds attended a meeting with Seamus Taylor and the CRE: the first of a long series of meetings which was to lead over time to CRE recognition of the Irish and the Report on Discrimination and the Irish Community in Britain.

On 8th December Pat Reynolds spoke on the history of the Irish community in Britain since 1945 to the Irish pensioners group in Lewisham, which led to a lively discussion afterwards as most has lived during this time.

On 9th December the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Sparkhill community centre in Birmingham with ten delegates present including Kevin Hayes, Angela McAndrews, Denis Casey, Mary Donnelly, Eddie Caughley, Pat Reynolds, Laura Sullivan, Maurice Moore, and Caitlin Wright.

Apologies from Diarmuid Breatnach, Majella Crehan, Bernadette Hyland, Virginia Moyles, and Gearoid McGearailt.

Caitlin Wright was elected Chair for the meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the IBRG position on a possible broad front movement on Ireland. There was a wide-ranging discussion on our work within Bloody Sunday, the lack of support from British left groups for our St Patricks Day march, and how all the groups wanted our support but gave nothing back. Were the IBRG using their scare resources supporting the British left, and ignoring our own community e.g. time spent around Time to Go debate at the expense of community issues.

The decision of the meeting was a) that concentration on British left organisation should not be at the expense of community organisations, b) work together on specific issues where policies coincide rather than blank cheque, and c) focus on Irish self-determination and the Irish community. Diarmuid Breatnach had drafted a detailed account of solidarity work including an analysis of the Time To  Go campaign.  There were many divisions between groups on the left with TOM blocking IFM from the Bloody Sunday organising committee, Sinn Fein opposing IRSP speakers, and SWP backing the Time to Go campaign.

On 11th December IBRG members attended a public meeting on Democratic Rights where Lily Hill, Bobby Gilmore, Pat Reynolds and Maire O’Shea spoke to over 50 people. Bobby Gilmore stated that while one of the framed prisoners was left inside, all our freedoms are diminished. Lily Hill, Paul Hill’s mother,,got a standing ovation from the crowd. She said her son paid a heavy price for being Irish and asked the British media where were they 15 years ago. Her son was moved over 50-times in prison and spent five-year in solitary confinement all for being an innocent Irish man.

In December the Irish World covered the Judith Ward story in full with information provided by IBRG, An Phoblacht also covered this. The Irish World also carried a full page IBRG Reviews 1989 which detailed all the work IBRG had carried out during the year.

In South London Lambeth councillors had been on a delegation to the Six Counties in September 1989 and when they came back, they put a report in December to Lambeth police committee and affiliated to the United Campaign against Plastic Bullets.

On 14th December IBRG members attended a Birmingham Six benefit at the Camden Irish centre.

Editor of the Irish Post, Brendan MacLua in the Dolan column, reflected on the 1980s and stated ‘the effects of the Hunger strikes were profound. Soon the IBRG emerged a new Irish community organisation in Britain. Initially it had tremendous vitality’

This is not just the case. IBRG started off in a disastrous way  set up in October 1981  it modelled itself on the SDP and took ages to get to London, them messed up London completely with a  London  Regional council, and never got going properly until 1983 and took a long time to get a policy on N. Ireland.

IBRG’s  first position being: we condemn violence on all side without any explanation of where violence came from in Ireland. It was felt in IBRG that MacLua was annoyed because IBRG failed to join the Time to Go campaign whose manifesto he had drafted, and IBRG had clashed with him over Kate Hoey as well. History on Hoey shows IBRG to have been right about her Unionist politics. However, MacLua was right about Thatcherism when he stated that the lies about Gibraltar and then the Stalker exposure ‘confirmed the extent to which our policies and our legal system have been corrupted by Mrs Thatcher’s  obstinate determination to defend the indefensible division of Ireland’.

IBRG spoke out about employment discrimination against the Irish in Britain after two cases of discrimination by employers, one against  Boots which was found to have unlawfully discriminated against an Irish woman who was awarded £1,800 and another case where an Irishman was asked at his interview with Royal Mail whether he had a drink problem.

During 1989 Sinn Fein councillors in several parts of Ireland backed the IBRG campaign to make the Dublin government accountable for mass emigration.  In Monaghan Council Caoimhglin O Caolain put the motion to his Council and warned of the major crisis which the IBRG had identified in London and called on the Irish Embassy to become more responsive to the needs of the newly arrived Irish. The motion was later circulated to all county councils and Urban District councils in Ireland during them to support the motion, to tackle emigration and to provide better services for those forced to emigrate.

Looking back on the1980s the rising of the IBRG coincided with the Brixton Black uprising of 1981 and the rising of the GLC under Ken Livingstone, where you had both the Black and Irish communities on the move along with the Women’s movement and the Gay and Lesbian movement.

With the Guildford Four release, it felt like Fainne Geal an Lae. Bright ring of the day.

Listen to my talk about the IBRG in the northwest in the Irish Collection at the WCML here

An excellent history of 200 years of Irish political activity in Mancheser – including Manchester IBRG read “The Wearing of the Green” by Michael Herbert. Buy it here

Read previous posts on IBRG history here

 

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Posted in anti-cuts, Bernadette McAliskey, education, feminism, films, human rights, Ireland, Irish second generation, labour history, Manchester, North of Ireland, political women, Salford, Socialism, trade unions, Uncategorized, women, working class history, young people | Tagged , | Leave a comment

My review of “That’s How it Was” by Maureen Duffy

 

Secondhand bookshops are treasure troves,  but sadly they are in decline. They have been  defeated by Abe books and the lack of books bought generally. But in Hamburg I came across this great  English language bookshop   run by Rob who has lived in Germany since the 1980s. The shop was crammed with books everywhere – on the shelves and on the floor – and that is where I came across this hidden gem.

Originally  published in 1962,  the wonderful Virago Press put it out as a Virago Modern Classic in 1983. Written by Maureen Duffy it documents her working class upbringing and the tremendous impact that her mother, a single parent, and TB victim, had on her life. The novel includes an introduction in which Maureen discusses her life, the novel and its publication.

 It reveals a world that looks scarily similar to today Tuberculosis was the Covid 19  of its era. As Maureen says. “In the year that my mother died, 1948, she was one among nearly 23,000 recorded deaths from TB of the respiratory system.” This only told part of the story as the disease was often concealed in the  deaths of people with lung conditions.

Maureen was brought up in the 1930s – a time of no NHS or free education:  the book shows how her mother encouraged her to pursue education as a means of freedom from poverty and the escape into an independent life.  She quotes her mother on education as   “the one thing they can’t take away from you.” That is a phrase echoing in many working class families across this country – even today.

At the core of the novel is the relationship between Paddy (the daughter) and Louey, her mother. Paddy is “illegitimate” – a word that had life changing consequences for many children of that era -but not for Paddy. It is Louey who tries to ensure that she is sheltered from the harshness of that label and,  as Paddy says,  “I grew six inches under the light touch of her hand on my head”.

Running throughout the book is Maureen’s own experience of growing up in a working class community. Her mother came from an East End background: the people who were originally sucked from the agricultural areas of outer London into the industrial suburbs of the city.

Alongside Paddy and Louey is another character, the  TB which Maureen called la belle dame sans merci.  Her mother lived with it for nearly thirty years until she haemorrhaged and died in the street at aged just   forty-two.

There are harrowing scenes throughout the book when Paddy and Louey go for check-ups and there is always the prospect that Paddy may have inherited the condition. Unlike Covid 19, having TB was seen as shameful. When Louey meets a young mother in the hospital she explains the process and says “And if he sends you for an X- ray, as he probably will, don’t you worry. It doesn’t hurt, and if there is anything, they can see it and catch it in time, and even cure it.”

For me, the strength of this book is the portrayal of a working class community that is intelligent, brave and loving towards each other, even under the worst conditions. The lives of Paddy and Louey are quite tragic and nowadays would be seen as victims of their class, social position and health but that is not how Maureen creates their characters or tells their life story.

That’s How it Was is a novel about the 1930s, written in the 1960s, but its universal themes about class and sexual politics are as relevant today.

It is not easy to get a copy of the novel today, the only place I could find one was on Amazon UK.

Find out more about Maureen’s other books here

Maureen wrote one episode in the Upstairs Downstairs series (1971).

A great story of class and sexual politics.

Watch it here “The Mistress And The Maids

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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History of the Irish in Britain Representation Group Part eight: 1988

 
 

Patrick Reynolds was one of the founders of IBRG and played a key role in its history. He is now writing up that history and putting it into the context of radical history in Britain and Ireland in the C20th.

 
 
 
an pobal eirithe 88

1988 was the 70th  anniversary of the Irish Peoples vote for a Republic and in each decade since then the Irish abroad have raised this banner high.

The IBRG policy on immediate withdrawal of British forces of occupation was not the first time that this  demand had been made.  In 1971 Senator Edward Kennedy brought a motion before both House of Congress  calling for the British to withdraw from N. Ireland and for an united Ireland as he stated  ‘The heart of the solution we offer today is to call for the immediate withdrawal of British Troops  from Nt Ireland and for the establishment of an United Ireland. Without a firm commitment to that withdrawal and unification there can be no peace in Ireland. The killings will go on and the intolerable violence will continue. Ulster is becoming Britain’s Vietnam Indeed it is fair to say that Britain’s stance towards peace in Nt Ireland today is where America was in SE Asia in the early 1960’s.’ What a tragedy that it took the British a generation to realise this.

On 13th January 1988 IBRG members Maude Casey, Diarmuid Breatnach, Brid Dooley and Pat Reynolds met with Hilda McCafferty of ILEA (Inner London Education Authority) to push for Irish recognition across the board in ILEA, ethnic monitoring of staff and students, an Irish dimension in literature, history and politics,  recognition of anti-Irish racism and steps to challenge it.

On 15th January 1988 Sean McBride dies. Both Jim King and Pat Reynolds had met him at the Irish American Unity Conference back in 1985 where Sean McBride got a standing ovation from the packed Conference.

On 20th January 1988 Pat Reynolds spoke at Cambridge College of Arts & Technology to several hundred students on Ireland and the Irish in Britain.

On 23rd January 1988 the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Trade Union Club in Blackburn with 11 delegates and officers present including Joan Brennan, Michael O Cnaimhsi Jim King, Joe Mullarkey, Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds and Virginia Moyles with apologies from Gearoid MacGearailt, Maire O Shea, Diarmuid Breatnach, Maurice Moore and Caitlin Wright.

The meeting heard that two meetings had taken place in Brent to restart Brent IBRG. It was reported that IBRG had challenged Camden Council over deporting Irish homeless families and that Laura Sullivan, Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds were working on the matter. Brent Council had agreed not to deport Irish families. Camden were being taken to court on the matter.  Islington and Manchester were looking at the situation.

It was felt that IBRG needed a housing policy, but IBRG were leading the fight against the deportation of Irish families.

IBRG had made a response to Lord Colville for his review into the PTA. In London the IBRG had acted over Christmas to protect several Derry young men who had been arrested including standing bail for one of them. The call had come from Derry to try and help them and get them a good solicitor. Pat Reynolds found hostility at Wood Green police station when he went to record the bail money, where the police tried to mislay his passport.

The meeting heard that IBRG had sold 650 copies of the first edition of an pobal eirithe and that it was on sale in community bookshops in London.

The Ard Choiste heard that an American High Court judge had described the Danny Gilbert McNamee case ‘an abomination of justice’. Branches were asked to take up the case of Martina Shanahan who was being strip searched on a regular basis.  Haringey IBRG would be holding an Education Conference in April 1988.

The meeting heard that NALGO head office had apologised for publishing in the Nalgo Insurance magazine  “Asset” –an anti-Irish article. The Manager of Nalgo Insurance based at Nalgo HQ at Kings Cross had written to Pat Reynolds PRO to say regarding  “What’s in a Wogan “an article on Terry Wogan which went on say  No potato head is he, that ‘We agree that the comments contained in this article were most unfortunate  and should not have been published. Certainly, Nalgo Insurance agree with equal opportunities and it is intended that any future issue of Asset will contain an appropriate apology’. 

Terry Wogan also made it known to the IBRG via his agent that he was disgusted with the article and disassociated himself from it, indicating that he was a proud Irish man. Manchester IBRG had taken up the issue through Manchester Nalgo who had passed a motion condemning the article as anti-Irish.

The meeting decided to send an IBRG delegation to Belfast to meet Sinn Fein and to look at cultural projects in the city. The meeting held a minutes silence for the late Sean McBride and acknowledged his fight across generations for Ireland’s  freedom.

The meeting agreed to get involved in the 20th anniversary year of action to mark 200 years of the Irish Civil Rights movement. Virginia Moyles reported back on her  attendance at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis in Dublin. The meeting agreed that all branches should write to the Home Office and to Brian Lenihan over the racist PTA laws in Britain.

Failure of Birmingham Six Appeal

On 28th January 1988 IBRG members picketed 10 Downing St over the Birmingham Six case and  their appeal being rejected. The British State knew these men to be innocent but decided to keep them in prison for longer. Lord Lane Lord Chief Justice ruled the convictions safe and satisfactory after the then longest appeal of seven weeks in British history. Lord Denning summed up the view of the British judiciary when in retirement he stated ‘if the men meaning the Birmingham Six had been hung, we would have none of this trouble’.

The next day IBRG members attended a Birmingham Six benefit at the Camden Irish centre. After a seven-week appeal hearing the Appeal Court rejected the Appeal with Lord Lane stating ‘the longer this trail has gone on the more convinced this court has been that the verdict was correct’ which says much for Lord Lane. The Labour MP Chris Mullin stated ‘it is a sad day for British justice’. The Irish Justice Minister says he is amazed and saddened by the decision, which had soured British Irish relations because the Irish government was under massive pressure at home on the issue, and the Anglo-Irish Agreement could not even deliver Irish hostages back to the community.

The IBRG in their statement on the Birmingham Six appeal being turned down restated Lord Denning 1980 verdict on the case the appalling vista view of British justice, it is so terrible to contemplate that it could not have happened, but it did happen. ‘If the six men win, it will mean that the police were guilty of perjury that they were guilty of violence and threats, that the confessions admitted were involuntary and were improperly admitted in evidence and that the convictions were erroneous.’

The Birmingham Six remain incarcerated because the British judiciary system acts totally in accord with British colonial political policy towards the Irish people.  The Birmingham Six is not a miscarriage of justice, it is the only kind of justice that the British colonial state has ever given the Irish people, and until the Irish people are free from British colonial rule, we will continue to receive the same kind of treatment. The Guildford Four, the Maguire Seven, Judith Ward, McLoughlin and McNamee cases all testify to the same political truth.

The British state strategy for policing the Irish community in Britain to render it inactive and silent, and to take political hostages from our community, to harass and intimidate the entire community under the racist PTA laws, and to use the judiciary to rubber stamp their political control. But we not be silenced or broken, we will speak out for our civil and political rights. Our sense of freedom is intertwined with the oppression of the nationalist community in Nt Ireland, and the only way forward is to fight politically for the total victory of the Irish people over British imperialism.

The IBRG will continue to fight British injustices and call for a fresh and vigorous campaign for the release of all Irish prisoners falsely convicted by the British state. While they stay in prison, we as a community are all imprisoned and our political rights shacked. We demand their release and for an end of the racist PTYA laws. The IBRG call on the Irish community to become politically active, to make their voices heard, and to resist the injustice and oppression of our people.

Bloody Sunday March January 1988

On 30th January 1988 there was a huge crowd on the Bloody Sunday March -a reaction to the decision on the Birmingham Six case. The route was from Whittington Park in Holloway to Islington Town Hall with several IBRG banners on the March. Haringey IBRG had their banner smashed outside of Islington Town Hall when the National Front attacked the march as they entered the Town Hall. Ken Livingstone was the key speaker.

The Guardian covered the march and quoted the IBRG PRO  who  stated that TOM had 1,200-members and that IBRG had 5,000 members.

Ken Livingstone stated that any politician allowing an Irish republican to be extradited to Britain would be denying every fibre of Irish nationhood. Livingstone condemned the decision of the Appeal Court on the Birmingham and sated that it was of the most shameful week in Britain history with Ireland.

Mitchell McLoughlin spoke for Sinn Fein, Jeremy Corbyn MP and Diana Abbot MP also spoke along with Emma Groves a plastic bullet survivor. The March and rally were the biggest in a decade, with between 5-7000 people taking part.

Diana Abbot stated there would be no peace in Ireland until British troops were removed. 27 members of the National Front were arrested for disorder after attacking the March.

It was noted that there was a sizable young Irish crowd on the March due to heavy immigration from Ireland in recent years. The Bloody Sunday March was again organised by TOM, LCI and IBRG with Virginia Moyles being the IBRG delegate to the committee.

In the USA the Irish People newspaper covered the IBRG statement PTA Review a Sham and covered the statement in full with the further headline of Racist and Anti Irish.

New Irish joke book disgusting was the Irish Post headline on 1st February 1988 about the IBRG challenge to the publication of racist books about the Irish.  Futura Publications owned it, and with Chair Robert Maxwell who owned the master company :MacDonald & Co. The company was based at Maxwell House in London.  In two years alone Futura had sold over 485,000 of the Official Irish joke books.

Liz Curtis and Information on Ireland joined IBRG in their protest. Futura published three anti-Irish books with the main purpose to denigrate and treat the Irish people in a very racist derogatory way. The books were the official Irish Joke Book, the Irish Perfumed Garden and the Irish Kama Sutra all vile and mocking of the Irish portraying them a stupid and ignorant.

The books contained virulent racist anti-Irish material and Pat Reynolds challenged Maxwell as to why as a well-known member of a minority  community, he should be making money out of racist abuse directed at the Irish community. Futura described their racist books as harmless fun. The books were on sale in Smiths and Menzies.

On 5th February 1988 John Stalker stated that he had been taken off the Shoot to Kill inquiry because his investigation was about to cause a political storm which would lead to resignations. He said his investigation showed that trained RUC squads had shot dead six unarmed republicans and then made up stories to cover up for their deaths.

On 6th February 1988 IBRG members attended a Conference on Emigration at the Brent Irish Centre.

IBRG Delegation meets Irish Embassy

On 12th February 1988 the IBRG sent a delegation to the Irish Embassy to meet the Irish Ambassador Andrew O ‘Rourke. The delegation members were Gearoid McGearailt Chair, Virginia Moyles Runai, Caitlin Wright Education and Pat Reynolds PRO.  Pat O’Connor Minister Plenipotentiary and Briefni O’Reilly  Third  Secretary and Ted Smith Press Officer attended for the Embassy. The meeting lasted three hours.

The IBRG statement after the visit stated ‘The IBRG express deep disappointment   with the meeting with the Irish Ambassador in that on every major issue affecting the Irish community in Britain which was raised with the Embassy, they appeared to have no clear policy for effective action.’

The issues raised include the Stalker Report on the British shoot to kill policy, Extradition, Transfer of Irish Prisoners, PTA, Emigration, Dion, Deportations of Irish families, Abortion, Anti Irish racism in the media,  and anti-Irish discrimination, free travel for Irish elders,  Manchester consulate, Irish lottery grant, and Irish nationality changes.

The Ambassador in response stated that Charlie Haughey would be making a statement to the Dail on the Stalker report, and on the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four Case the Irish government would not comment,  until after the case had been to the House of Lords, and refused to state publicly that they believed the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four were innocent. In this matter they were acting like provincial governors for the British government and lacked the bottle of an independent nation.

On the transfer of Irish prisoners, the Irish Government could give no indication as to when they would ratify the transfer agreement, probably wait until the British told them it was ok to do so.  The Irish Ambassador did state that the Irish government would soon be funding a full-time worker to deal with Irish prisoners in Britain. Again, they went to the Catholic church to do this, in an effort to head off the work the IBRG were doing in this area.  The Catholic church had a record of colluding with the British government and keeping silence over Irish  issues in prison like deaths in custody and their silence over Gerry Conlon being at a Catholic Church run hostel in Quex Road on the evening of the Guildford bombing, where they keep silent for 14 years on the matter, and then jumped on the bandwagon when the prisoners were close to release.

On the PTA the Irish Government wanted reform rather than repeal despite the fact that Haughey in opposition wanted it repealed. On Emigration the Irish government had no policy at all except to encourage it and keep it going.

The IBRG drew attention to Dion being all male and that it did not represent the wider Irish community.  On the deportations of Irish families, the Irish Embassy saw nothing illegal nor discriminatory in it, despite the clear evidence that it was anti-Irish discrimination as the Irish were singled out for deportation, and Ireland was treated as a provincial colony of Britain.

On abortion the Irish government had no comment until after the supreme court decision in Dublin. On the question of anti-Irish racism and discrimination and the various reports of the GLC and others the Irish government and Embassy had taken no action.

The Irish Embassy sems to think that the Irish in Britain were doing fine, but had no evidence to back up their fake claims.  On the question of anti-Irish racism in the media the Irish Embassy were out at sea and in a heavy fog, being clueless and ignorant.

Working towards Justice Key worker to press case of prisoners was the headline of the The London Irish News on 20th February 1988. It  covered the IBRG visit to the Irish Embassy in a large article. The Irish Post on the same day had Embassy not Doing Enough. The story was also covered by the Irish News in Belfast.

On 12th February 1988 Paul Hill of the innocent Guildford Four got married in prison, and the Sun headline read IRA pig weds in prison – despite them knowing that he was innocent.

On 14th February 1988 IBRG members attended a large conference on Strip Searching at Hackney Town Hall.

On 16th February 1988 the IBRG held a Press Conference at the House of Commons on the PTA at which Clare Short MP and Pat Reynolds PRO spoke. Afterwards Pat had interviews on the PTA with LBC and BBC radio, and later that evening he attended the debate in the House of Commons. What he found out at the debate was revealing is that the majority of Tory MPs who spoke in favour of the PTA all had financial links with companies supplying arms/equipment for use in N. Ireland, but none declared their interests.

On 20th February 1988 the IBRG Ard Choste took place at Birmingham Community Association building in Birmingham with 20 delegates and officers present including Michael Herbert,  David Wright,  Pat O Sullivan,  Mary Donnelly, Denis Casey,  Eddie  Caughey,  Liz Fenton, Trevor O Farrell, Jerry Osner, Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds, Caitlin Wright, Diarmuid Breatnach, Gearoid McGearailt, Virginia Moyles, Maire O Shea, and Maurice Moore.

The Ard Choiste agreed a Haringey IBRG motion that the IBRG organise support and sponsor a St Patrick’s Day March on 19th March for Justice for the Irish Community over the framed prisoners and the PTA.  It was agreed that Pat Reynolds coordinate the march with help from Diarmuid and Lewisham IBRG.

The Ard Choiste condemned the harassment of members of Comhaltas because of their Gaelic names and would take the issue with the British and Irish governments.  A report back on the delegation to the Embassy was given. The upcoming delegation to N. Ireland was agreed. The meeting supported the ongoing IBRG campaign against the deportation of Irish families back to Ireland. It was agreed that IBRG co-ordinate a campaign on the transfer of Irish prisoners back to Ireland and on prison conditions.

The Ard Fheis would take place at Lambeth Town Hall on 5th March 1988. The Education Conference run by Haringey IBRG would take place on 25th June in Haringey. It was agreed to proceed with plans to send a delegation to Ireland and to the European parliament.

The Year of Action to commemorate 20 years since  1968 Civil Rights campaign  was discussed, and the meeting rejected the idea of having a front of famous English people. The point was made that the oppression of Irish people in Britain was part and parcel of Britain colonisation of Ireland.  It was agreed that the aim of the year should be self-determination for the Irish people and equality for the Irish in Britain.

In Community Care social work magazine in February 1988 Angela McAndrews of Birmingham IBRG had  challenged those who denied that the Irish suffered from racism . The middle classes in Britain, whilst prepared to accept that black people suffered from racism, always wanted to deny the Irish experience of racism and to deny them access to the Race Discrimination Act in employment and housing.

On 22nd February 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking with Ken Livingstone and Mrs Hill, aunt of Paul Hill, at the Marion Centre in Brent to a huge crowd. There was nearly an incident when an ex British undercover officer spoke up at the meeting but Livingstone defused the matter.

On 22nd February 1988 the Irish Government announced its own inquiry into the shooting dead of Aiden McAnespie by machine gun fire the previous day on the border.

On 25th February 1988 the Socialist Workers Party wrote to the Bloody Sunday organisers asking to   take part in building for the 20th anniversary in 1989 of the troops going into Ireland. Their letter stated ‘This year’s Bloody Sunday demonstration was both the largest and the most representative in terms of widespread labour movement support since the demonstration in August 1979 marking the 20th anniversary of the troops going in’.

On 28th February 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO had an interview with RTE about the Star newspaper being printed in Ireland given their racial abuse of the Irish in Britain.

Following a 1968 commemoration conference at Coalisland on 7th February 1988 a 68 Committee was set up to organise events to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Civil Rights movement with Bernadette McAliskey as Chair and Tom Hartley as Organiser. The 68 committee wrote to IBRG to advise them of the committee, and to inspire people in Britain to set up their own committee to hold events in Britain.

On 5th March 1988 the IBRG held their Ard Fheis at Lambeth Town Hall in South London with 34 delegates attending from11 branches. These branches were Hackney, Lambeth, Harrow, Lewisham, Camden, Brighton, Birmingham, Manchester, Haringey Coventry and Bolton.

Among those attending were Laura Sullivan, Deasun MacGearailt, Tom Fitzsimons, Seamus O Coillean, Virginia Moyles, Denis Casey,  Nuala Eefting, Maurice Cahill, Maire O Shea, Maire Stedman, Aine bean Ni Gearailt, Seamus Clerkin, Tom Kane, Harry Bourne, Mary Donnelly, Pat O Sullivan, Eddie Caughey, Bernadette Hyland,  Joan Brennan,  Diarmuid Breatnach, Janice McKnight, Maurice Moore, Kathleen Henry, Pat Reynolds, Kathleen Horan, Margaret Coffey, Brain Millar, Caitlin Wright, David Wright, Trevor O Farrell, Frank Downing, Seamus Campbell, Marie McLoughlin,

Press attending included: Paul Griffin Irish Post Una McGrory Irish World, and Rachel Downey London Irish News.

The following officers were elected: Chair Gearoid McGearailt Lambeth, Vice Chair Bernadette Hyland Manchester, President Maire O Shea Birmingham, Vice President Joe Mullarkey Bolton, Runia Virginia Moyles Hackney, Leas runai Laura O Sullivan Hackney, Cisteoir Maurice Moore Coventry, PRO Pat Reynolds Haringey, Education officer Caitlin Wright Bolton, Regional Co-ordinator Diarmuid Breatnach Lewisham, Membership Janice McKnight Haringey.

The Chair Gearoid MacGearailt recalled a year of much activity and campaigning by the IBRG giving the cases of the Birmingham Six and Guildford a higher profile, the campaign against racism in the media and noted three successes in the past year when  Staedtler apologised for a racist anti-Irish advert, as did Nalgo Insurance and London Transport.

He highlighted IBRG’s continued opposition to the PTA and the 59,000 computer checks done on the Irish in the last year, the IBRG campaign against Irish emigration, the conferences in Manchester Lambeth and Haringey on different issues, and promised IBRG another busy year ahead in fighting for the rights of the community. Motions included, to set up a single Irish Secretariat in Britain to represent the entire community, one on trade union rights and one on conditions facing Irish prisoners in Britain.

Gibraltar executions

On 6th March 1988 three members of an IRA Active Service Unit  were executed on the orders of Margaret Thatcher the British Prime Minister contrary to the Geneva Convention. The ASU were clearly unarmed but were still executed by the British colonial state in their colonial territory of Gibraltar.

IBRG took up the matter with Charlie Haughey, Taoiseach, Neil Kinnock, Leader of the Labour Party, George Robertson Labour Foreign affairs, and the Spanish Ambassador. George Roberson congratulated British Crown forces for the executions and the Geneva Convention violations.

Haughey was asked to  seek an independent enquiry into these events, and a review of the instructions given to British soldiers in such situations.

IBRG asked Neil Kinnock  whether the Labour party felt it was acceptable for unarmed people to be shot dead, on suspicion of having committed a crime in the light of the British Parliament  consistently opposing  the reintroduction of the death penalty, and to George Robertson in view of his statement in the Commons congratulating the security forces on the shooting of three unarmed  people contrary to the Geneva Convention, whether it was now Labour Party official policy to accept that unarmed people can  be shot dead in a shoot to kill policy.

On 10th March 1988 Hammersmith Nalgo passed an emergency motion condemning the Gibraltar executions, and agreed to send a message of support and sympathy to the relatives and community in West Belfast. The Branch motion noted that it was Branch policy to campaign for Irish self-determination and for the immediate withdrawal of British troops as the only basis for peace.

Hammersmith Nalgo on 10th March 1988 wrote a letter to the Sinn Fein Centre on the Falls Road with a copy of the motion passed by the branch. The letter went on to state ‘We salute you for the fortitude you have displayed throughout the longest war ever waged against the British state, waged in such desperate circumstances against such overwhelming odds. The courage and resilience you have shown for all time to those throughout the world, who want to struggle against tyranny and oppression. We want you to know that there are trade unionists in Britain who are not prepared to remain silent in the face of the sort of state terror which Gibraltar saw this week, and which Northern Ireland sees every day. We know despite the lying hypocrisy of the British government that there is indeed a war going on in Ireland. We are committee to campaigning for the immediate withdrawal of British troops as the only basis for a peaceful end to that war. We support you in your fight for national self-determination. Your fight is our fight and our day will come’.

The Sun newspaper on 28th March 1988 went ballistic over the  Hammersmith Nalgo motion and letter and Nalgo HQ followed the Sun loyally.   John Daly, General Secretary of Nalgo, issued a letter to all branches secretaries, claiming  falsely that only one member of Hammersmith Branch had taken this action, when in fact the motion was passed by the Branch.

IBRG condemned the actions of Nalgo on being dictated to by the racist Sun and wrote to John Daly General Secretary on the matter.

The IBRG statement ran Sun dictates Nalgo Policy on Ireland. And stated ‘The IBRG condemn the pandering of Nalgo NEC to the racist Sun newspaper and Nalgo failure to condemn the shooting dead of three Irish workers and citizens in Gibraltar, and condemn the divisive tactics of moving the focus from British state terrorism back upon the Irish people. The IBRG condemns the Nalgo support for the Unionist veto in Ireland, and of hiding behind the Nt Ireland Committee  of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, which had no right to dictate to Irish or British trade unions  what to do when they themselves were part of the problem in N. Ireland, in a long history of racial and sectarian discrimination against Irish citizens and Catholics. The IBRG deplored how Nalgo NEC at the 1987 National Conference blocked the Irish workers group motion on self-determination for the Irish people, by giving their own NEC pro Unionist motion priority and forcing the Irish workers motion to be put as an amendment. Pure racism in action, afraid to let their own membership decide on a motion put from the heart of the Irish community in Britain. Nalgo NEC fear an open debate on Ireland and have always interfered with any democratic debate on Ireland trying to stifle any Irish debate.

The N. Ireland Committee’s position, which Nalgo support, is nothing but meaningless verbiage, the fact being that they have done absolutely nothing on employment discrimination in N. Ireland, and use their vote to block any debate on an United Ireland.  IBRG pointed out that in the setting up of the sectarian statelet of N. Ireland British military might had been used to put the Catholics down. Out of 93,00 Catholics in Belfast 11,00 were driven out of their jobs because of their racial and religion origins, with 23,000 Catholics burned out of their homes by Orange state sponsored mobs, over 450 dead the majority of them Catholics and over 500 catholic business shops destroyed. In 1988 Catholics were still two and a half times more likely to be unemployed and that is the system that Naglo supports in N. Ireland.

IBRG accused Nalgo of distorting the issue which was one of British state violence which was the primary source of the conflict, and accused Nalgo in a racist way of trying to blame the Nationalist community, for the violence instead of trying to educate their members on the racist nature of the Sun, claiming for its boycott and ending Nalgo policy of supporting British interference in Ireland.  Nalgo had no problem supporting the struggle in South Africa, or the struggle in Chile or Nicaragua but when it came to Ireland Nalgo supported British imperialism and the Unionist veto.

Pat Reynolds, PRO, wrote to John Daly General Secretary in protest at the Nalgo attack on British trade unionists showing solidarity with the Irish people, over a brutal shoot to kill policy in Gibraltar contrary to the Geneva Convention.  Nalgo should be calling for a full inquiry into the shooting of these Irish workers and citizens, who were unarmed in Gibraltar Does Nalgo now support a shoot to kill policy despite passing a motion on 1987 conference for a full inquiry into the Stalker affair and the publication of that report.  Nalgo should not be taking their instructions form the racist Sun newspaper, if the Sun is wrong about trade unionist how much more wrong are, they on Ireland. The Irish Post covered the IBRG statement with IBRG slams National Executive of NALGO

On 10th March 1988 Dr Noel Browne opened the London Irish Bookfair run by Green Ink at Camden Town Hall.

On 11th March 1988 Gearoid McGearailt and Pat Reynolds appeared on Thames TV show Time and Place to condemn the Gibraltar executions.

On 16th March 1988 Pat Reynolds, PRO, gave the Terence MacSwiney lecture in London on the topic of Building the Irish Community 20 years after the Civil Rights Movement. Over 100 people attended the lecture.

On 17th March three people were killed by Loyalist killer Michael Stone at the Gibraltar funerals at Milltown cemetery.

On 19th March 1988   during a republican funeral two British Intelligence officers were trapped by the people who thought they were under another loyalist attack, and the two disarmed agents were later executed by the IRA.

On 20th March 1988 the IBRG March for Justice went   from Hyde Park to Kilburn with over 1,000 marchers. The speakers at the rally were Conor Foley from the Guildford Four campaign, Paul May from the Birmingham Six campaign, Diarmuid Breatnach from the IBRG, and Teresa McCann from the Strip Search campaign. Alf Lomas sponsored the march as did TOM, LCI, IFM, Labour Party Irish sections, Irish republican POW, SWP and the Irish Women’s Group. L’asociation Irlande in Paris sent a message of solidarity.

IBRG March for Justice

The March called for the release of the Birmingham Six Guildford Four and for the repeal of the PTA, the release of Judith Ward, and the exoneration for the Maguire Seven.

Diarmuid Breatnach speaking for IBRG at the Rally opened his speech in Irish and noted the huge contribution the Irish community in Britain had made to the rebuilding of Britain after the war. Irish nurses had made a huge contribution to building the NHS in Britain, and   the Irish had built up the Trade union movement in Britain giving it much leadership, from the Chartist movement down to the present times. He spoke of how the voice of the Irish in Britain had been silenced, ignored, ridiculed and imprisoned because it challenged Britain colonial policies in Ireland and ended his speech by calling on the   labour movement to listen to the voice of the Irish community.

The IBRG called on the International Irish community to make the theme of their St Patricks day Parades all over the world, the release of the Birmingham Six and Guildford and to carry their banners on their parades. The IBRG reminded the international Irish community that in one year alone 1974 18 innocent members of our community in Britain were framed by the British judicial system as political hostages to silence the Irish community in Britain. On the PTA over 6,500 Irish people had been arrested  under the racist PTA laws for no other reason than their Irishness and the fact that they were travelling to or from Ireland, over 300 Irish people had been internally deported under these racist laws to internal exile away from their families and communities, and 4,000 women had been striped searched in Armagh and Brixton prison because they were Irish.

The message from L’Association Irlanaise in Paris read ‘The Irish Association in Paris in solidarity with the Irish in Britain Representation Group calls for freedom for the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four and Judith Ward and for exoneration for the Maguire Seven. We view with special concern the British government’s introduction of increasing repressive legislation aimed at the Irish community, in particular the introduction of the new permanent PTA laws in direct contravention of a recent ruling by the European Court of human Rights.’ IBRG branches with banners on the march were Birmingham, Camden, Hackney, Haringey and Lewisham but members marched also from Brighton, Bolton, and Lambeth. It was however the first time IBRG organised a march on his own, but as usual the British left while expecting the Irish community to support their marches did not support the community marching.

There was in addition an international outcry by the international Irish community over the British government  rejecting the appeal of the innocent Birmingham six and holding them as hostages from the community. Protests took place  in New York, Dublin London Manchester and Birmingham with vigils prayer meetings and protests.

The Irish News in Belfast quoted Pat Reynolds PRO as saying “We can no longer stay silent while members of our community spend their lives in prison based on false convictions, and daily see innocent Irish people being harassed under the racist PTA laws. As the international Irish community, we must stand up and seek the freedom of these innocent and victimised Irish people.’

In Dublin there was a picket of the British Embassy with Ulick O’Connor reading poems by Richard McIlkenny and  with relatives of the Six travelling to Dublin for the event. The Dublin based Birmingham Six  Committee was holding a meeting at the Mansion House with Chris Mullin  who had written Error of Judgement on the case, Gareth Pierce solicitor for the Birmingham Six, Alistair Logan solicitor for the Guildford Four and Michael Farrell.

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Manchester IBRG was accused by the Council of Irish Associations Officer Tom McAndrews of offering covert support for Sinn Fein in the Manchester Evening News. Joe Mullarkey replied and accused McAndrews of trying to smear IBRG for cheap publicity. Shamefully McAndrews in the Manchester Evening News article of 10th March 1988 had accused the IBRG of holding a debate on the Birmingham Six case and the role of the British Press. McAndrews stated ‘debates on the Birmingham Six and the role of the British press formed no part of the festival’ and added that IBRG gave covert support to Sinn Fein and ‘I don’t want our festival tainted’. Bernadette Hyland responded by stating that the McAndrews and his clique had tried to exclude Irish women andthe innocent Birmingham Six from the Festival.

Read more about Manchester IBRG vs the C.I.A. here

Mna 2
One of the events that really upset the C.I.A.

N.E. Lancashire IBRG in March 1988 brought out a very professional four-page newsletter giving details of Irish activities in that area. One story in it slammed Blackburn College’s  rag magazine for publishing  a number of racist anti-Irish jokes/insults, and had raised the issue with Blackburn Community Relations Council. Rag magazines in Britain were notorious each year for publishing anti-Irish material which was offensive to the community and put pressure on Irish students to be silent. It was a national virus in Britain which needed to be rooted out from the National Media to rag Magazine to children comics to army magazines. The Lancashire Irish News gave many  details of Irish culture, music ,dancing ,language and GAA plus Comhaltas news in the area.

The IBRG Internal Coordinator brought out Cogar a six-page internal Bulletin for IBRG which covered the IBRG march for Justice, and highlighting the successful Manchester Hearts and Minds conference, and how it was organised with good tips for other branches attempting similar events.

On 15th March 1988  IBRG were invited to attend the Socialist Conference meeting in Sheffield on 11/12 June 1988 to take part  in a discussion of the Irish community and the  struggle for self-determination. It was   based on a paper drawn up by Nadine Finch.  The aim  being to bring forward a comprehensive policy around the  issue of Irish self-determination and  the rights of the Irish community in Britain.

IBRG Delegation to Belfast

The IBRG sent a delegation to Belfast to meet Sinn Fein and to visits cultural and community groups there for five days from 31st March -6th April 1988.  Nine members attended including Virginia Moyles, Laura Sullivan, Sean Brown, Seamus Cronogue, Neil Duffield, Pat O Sullivan, Paul Salveson, Del Thorogood and Pat Reynolds. Delegates came from Manchester, London, Birmingham and Blackburn.

The group stayed with local families in Belfast. The delegation met with Tom Hartley, Alex Maskey, Mairtin O Muilleoir and ex IBRG member now back home Brid Keenan.

The delegation took part in the Easter Parade to Milltown cemetery, where Martin McGuinness spoke.  As this was after the Gibraltar executions, the attack on the funeral as at Milltown and then the execution of two British undercover agents, there was still an air of tension around with people on their guard against any further attacks.

The delegation visited the Davis flats, Bunscoil NaBhfal, the Falls Road Women Centre and had discussions on housing, education employment culture, prisoners and Irish self-determination.

The delegation were able to see at first hand the  effect of the British military occupation of Belfast Nationalist areas with big forts and regular armoured Lorries with guns pointed at civilians.Shocking housing and the effects of employment discrimination and poverty, but also observed the fighting spirit of an unbroken people in their fight for equality and justice.  The visit also showed how two border economies had ruined Ireland and whilst  the Irish Republic were now paying millions to support a British border in their own country, and thousands of Irish people had been driven out by these divided failed economic states.

Cllr Alex Maskey and Gerald McGuigan spoke about how Sinn Fein were engaging in political life at Belfast City Hall, where they had to overcome Unionist opposition to their presence there. Sinn Fein had a twin strategy one of support for the armed struggle, and the second one of engaging in local politics. Danny Morrison quote sums it up ’with a ballot in one hand and an armalite in the other’.

Sean Keenan spoke about housing in Belfast and how despite Planning for Poleglas  having plans for 6,000 houses only 3,000 were built as it might affect the Unionist majority in Lisburn.  Housing planning was subject to military planning and control, and was based on British military control of areas.

Tom Hartley spoke of Sinn Fein broadening their activity since the 1981 Hunger Strikes to take on political representation including going into Dail Eireann – a new departure for the republican movement which had led to a split. Martin McGuinness, in a rousing speech, rejected the rabid Fleet St venom against the people of Belfast who had been portrayed as savages in old colonial style, they were a brave people and had every reason to be proud of their identity and their resistance to British occupation and oppression.

Martin O Muilleoir spoke about cultural imperialism and the role of language in that. England had realised in their colonial oppression that they had to break the Gaelic language and culture to break the people, but they always met with Irish resistance. Anti-Irish racism was part of this to portray the Irish and their language a culture as inferior and to attempt to destroy it.  He notes that the Irish in Britain knew the value of culture for their children.

Jimmy McMullin of the Prisoner’s Department spoke of the campaign for transfer back to N. Ireland and for a repatriation transfer treaty to the Irish Republic, and about conditions suffered by Irish prisoners in Britain. The families were active in these campaigns.

Brid Keenan, ex Haringey IBRG, stated that Colleges of Further Education were always put in Unionist areas and West Belfast had 150,000 people without one college.  While 39% of children got A levels there was a 34% illiteracy rate in West Belfast. The ethos of state schools was Unionist and it would be difficult to have integrated schools because the ethos was Unionist.

The Women’s  Centre on the Falls Road was independent of Sinn Fein and they stated that the Women’s movement in N. Ireland had not bridged the  loyalist/ republican  divide, and it was still a male dominated culture across the board, including the political parties, where women were now raising their voices in Sinn Fein and in other movements.

Gearoid McGearailt had a letter in the Irish Times on 6th April challenging Irish Minister Des O Malley on his perception of the Irish in Britain. Des O Malley Leader of the Progressive Democrats argued that ‘In Britain Irish people had reached the pinnacle of success in every walk of life.’ Gearoid proceeded to demolish this claim completely by pointing out the recent research, which showed huge problems in housing, health, employment homelessness, social conditions and earlier death, and for good measure threw in the racist PTA laws and anti-Irish racism in the media.

On 23rd April 1988 the Ard Choiste met at the Telegraph Hill Centre, New Cross,Lewisham where 15 delegates and officers attended including Gearoid McGearailt,  Denis Casey, Pat O Sullivan,  Henry Barron,  Tom Kane,  Jackie Jolley, Treasa de Burch Laura Sullivan, Jodie Clark, Diarmuid Breatnach, Pat Reynolds and Caitlin Wright with apologies from Bernadette Hyland, Virginia Moyles, Eddie Caughey, Arthur Devlin and Maire O Shea.

The meeting heard a report back on the successful St Patricks Day March for Justice which was the first march in years to be organised by the Irish community itself.  There were discussions on new branches in Islington, Brent, Southwark, Bristol, Oxford, Preston and Liverpool.

Year of Action/Time to Go

The year of action regarding  1968 was discussed. The meeting heard that an undemocratic House of Commons Committee had been set up without any consultation with the Irish community and that they had drawn up a charter again without any consultation with the community, who were now supposed to become cannon fodder for their campaign. The LCI ,LWI, TOM, Irish sections and the Wolfe Tones had decided to join the Committee. The IBRG decided to draft their own position paper and circulate and called for the present undemocratic committee to be disbanded to be replaced by a democratic structure accountable to its constituents.

The IBRG statement on the Year of Action read ‘The IBRG cannot take part in a process which has no basis in democracy and no accountability to the Irish community and IBRG cannot endorse the Charter produced by the House of Commons committee. The undemocratic nature of the current working arrangements for the Year of Action was noted. The IBRG called for the House of Commons committee to be disbanded and a democratic structure set up to organise the Year of Action. If a democratic structure is not established, the IBRG will have no alternative but to withdraw from involvement in the Year of Action recognising it, as being organised by the British left with no basis in the Irish community.

The proposal for a Year of Action was first discussed on 29th November 1987 at a National Labour Committee on Ireland meeting which IBRG attended as observers. A further meeting was held on 13th January 1988 where there was discussion on how it would be set up, and what activities would carry out. On 13th February 1988 at another meeting IBRG was informed by LCI that a steering  committee had already been set up in the House of Commons, and that it included John McDonnell, Clare Short, Peter Hain Liberal MP and others, and were called the House of Commons committee.

On 7th March 1988 another meeting was held which IBRG did not attend but the meeting took no notice of any of the concerns raised by the IBRG.

At a further meeting of 21st March 1988  which IBRG attended  and at which John McDonnell MP was present, IBRG tried to reinstate democracy into the group  but were unsuccessful. John McDonnell told the group that Brendan McLua of the Irish Post had drawn up a charter for the Year of Action based on the vague title of Time to Go. John McDonnell said he had talked with Clare Short MP who agreed that equality for the Irish in Britain should be included in the charter.

At a meeting of 11th April 1988 John McDonnell informed the meeting that the Charter now included the word “equality” and had been signed by over 70 people. It was clear to the IBRG that House of Commons Committee was still operating autonomously without any accountability to the Irish community with Clare Short now Chair of the Year of Action.

On 18th April 1988 the Strip-Searching Campaign expressed similar views to the IBRG around the lack of accountability.

On 23rd April 1988 the IBRG Ard Choiste took the view that the undemocratic House of Commons Committee was trying lend Irish credibility to what was in reality a British Labour solidarity-based event. It was a failed opportunity to build a solid year of action on democratic lines.

Manchester IBRG on 18 March took part in the Manchester Irish Week and in a co-promotion with arts venue Green Room they put on a performance of “Kavanagh of Inniskeen” by Sean O’Neill and Company. It was an evening poetry, prose and songs based on the work of the poet and devised by the Company.

Hackney IBRG were to host an IBRG conference on Anti-Irish racism on 4th June at the Centreprise Bookshop in Hackney.

Haringey IBRG were hosting an IBRG Education Conference on 25th June 1988 in Haringey.

Lambeth IBRG were hosting their annual IBRG Countrywide Conference on Welfare and the Irish community on 9th July at Lambeth Town hall.

The Ard Choiste decided to affiliate to the United Campaign against Strip Searching with a £15 donation and to sponsor the Irish Hunger Strike Commemoration march in Birmingham with a £15 donation, and to affiliate to the 68 Civil Rights 20 years on committee with a donation of £25.

The Ard Choiste condemned Exeter City Council for sponsoring the William of Orange celebrations which was linked to anti-Catholic hatred and abuse. The meeting welcomed the Amnesty International response to the Gibraltar executions of three Irish volunteer soldiers who were unarmed. The IBRG agreed to support the March for Palestine on 15th May in London.

A campaign of letter writing had started in the Irish Post against IBRG in April 1988 led by Tom McAndrews and a ‘Mary Henry’ in Manchester. These letters were clearly politically motivated and encouraged by the Irish Post, and were not in the interest of the Irish community to have the right wing of the community, who were doing very little, attacking Irish people who were standing up for their rights in Britain.

On 28th April 1988 the Foreign Secretary failed in an attempt to ban a Thames TV documentary on the Gibraltar executions  “Murder on the Rock”. On 4th May Maggie Thatcher also failed to prevent BBC N. Ireland documentary on the Gibraltar inquests.

The Bobby Sands/James Connolly Commemoration took place at Conway Hall, London on 8th May 1988.

On 10th May 1988 IBRG leafletted the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith at which Bruce Anderson of the Sunday Telegraph was speaking. He was challenged in the meeting by the IBRG over his anti-Irish articles in the Telegraph including a shocking one on the death of Sean McBride entitled Death of an Evil Man when McBride had won both the Nobel Prise for peace and the Lenin Prize. Anderson represented a classic hangover from the days of the evil British Empire which they though the sun shone out from their imperial posteriors.

On 14th May 1988 IBRG branches took part in the Hunger Strike March in Birmingham. The March was organised by Birmingham IBRG and Cumann Cabrach. The March commemorated the 12 hunger strikers including Frank Stagg and Michael Gaughan.

On 19th May 1988 IBRG members joined the picket of 10 Downing St over the deadly use of Plastic bullets being used in N. Ireland which had led to the death of several children.

On 20th May 1988 IBRG members attended the Birmingham Six Benefit at the Haringey Irish centre.

On 21st May 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO had a letter on the Birmingham Six in the Irish People paper in the USA. In it he stated ‘The British state knows well that these men are innocent, but it arrogantly used the methods of colonial repression to intimidate the Irish community on Britain. The arrest beatings and incarceration of these men indicate the extent of Britain’s barbaric methods of political control used to silence the community. The British Justice system is an integral part of Britain’s war effort against the Irish people, where the ends justify the means, whatever the consequences.  The IBRG once again calls on the Irish government to get off its knees and start defending the civil rights of Irish nationals against vindictive British policing and political control. The IBRG calls on the Irish government to demand the release of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four and to publicly state their belief in the innocence of these prisoners.’

On 5th May 1988 the Irish People also covered an IBRG letter attacking an agreement between the Dublin government and the British authorities that people with Irish Gaelic names would not be harassed if they could produce a passport with their Irish names. The IBRG class this shameful and allowed the British authorities to target Irish citizens who might us their Irish names as many were bi lingual, and the Irish constitution allowed Irish people to us their own language. Later in the year the IBRG had another letter in the Irish People on Britain’s Shoot to Kill policy in Ireland.

In May Joe Mullarkey, Michael Herbert, Gearoid MacGearailt, Paul Sheehan and Bernadette Hyland all had letters in the Irish Post defending the IBRG from attacks from the right wing of the Irish community. Bernadette Hyland replied  and listed some of the things that Manchester IBRG had done, a successful Hearts and Minds Conference which drew over 150 people to Manchester, joint work with Green Room venue to put on Irish cultural events,  putting on an Irish Film Festival in Manchester,  take up civil rights issues like the Birmingham Six and PTA supporting issues around Irish travellers, speaking at  the Culture and resistance  conference on anti-Irish racism, working to set up an Irish studies course, campaigning against anti-Irish material in books and in the media  and much more.

Gearoid McGearailt, in his reply in challenging John Fahy of the Federation stated ‘John Fahy urges us to condemn violence. What he means if course is that we should join the British propaganda machine and indulge in selective condemnation of violence. He wants us to condemn republican violence regardless of the causes of that violence. He would like us to attack the symptoms instead of the cause of the problems in Ireland’. Gearoid went on to say that Manchester IBRG was a source of pride to the organisation and to the Irish community.

The IBRG Ard Choiste took place on May 28th 1988 at the Socialist Club in Bolton with twelve delegates and officers attending including Maire O Shea, Maurice Moore, Virginia Moyles, Pat Reynolds, Bernadette Hyland, Michael O Cnaimhsi, Joe Mullarkey and Laura Sullivan with apologies from Gearoid McGearailt, Caitlin Wright, Pat O Sullivan and Diarmuid Breatnach.

The meeting agreed to donate £10 to the Strip Search campaign, £15 to Cuman Cabhrach for advert in their annual magazine, £50 to the West Midlands PTA research and Welfare Project, and £15 to affiliate to the Birmingham Six Campaign in Birmingham.

The Ard Choiste heard that the Mental Health Forum in London had a successful AGM and that a new Irish Social Workers Group had been set up in London, with the aim of making local authorities more aware of the needs of the Irish community.

The meeting heard that the Bolton Irish Festival was taking place from 8-12 June with input from IBRG. Plans were discussed for a delegation to the European Parliament in the autumn with support from Christine Crawley MEP.

The meeting heard that IBRG had to withdraw from the Year of Action campaign as it was not representative of the community, but had been set up in the House of Commons who then expected the community to back it without question.

On 1st June 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO had an interview with BBC Radio in Belfast on the effects of the PTA upon the Irish community in Britain.  Over the years the PRO had to get coverage for IBRG activities in the newspapers in the Republic  and in  N. Ireland from An Phoblacht, to the Irish times Irish Press, Irish News Belfast, Andersonstown News  and in the Irish People in the USA. Also in Irish language papers, while in Britain we had the Irish Post, the Irish World, and for a number of years the  London Irish News.

Internal Conference on Anti-Irish Racism

On 4th June 1988 Hackney IBRG hosted an internal IBRG conference on anti-Irish racism to develop up a policy on the issue which could go out to branches and to the community. It was held at the Centreprise Bookshop in Hackney ,east London. It produced a powerful document in setting how Irish people are affecting by racism and set out a strategy for challenging it. Anti-Irish racism was thus part of racism against many minority and ex colonial minorities in Britain.

The document states ‘Racism is a practise which assumes innate superiority by a dominant people or nation towards a subject or formerly subject people of nation, and also assumes the innate inferiority of the subject people. Racism can be seen as system based on power relationships between the oppressor the oppressed groups’. IBRG recognises that the imperialist and colonial policies of Britain have been and continue to be the primary determinant of racism in the country. In Britain this racism is endemic and is interwoven into the culture, history and traditions of Britain. The structures arising from this ideology have been created by Britain both at home and in its colonies, to maintain its colonial domination, and have developed forces intended to divide and thereby rule those subjected to its colonial ambitions.  This racism and division are also reflected in the policies and practices of the labour and trade union movements in Britain from whom oppressed groups should be able to expect complete support in their struggle for equal rights’.

IBRG campaign against new PTA Bill

On 4th June 1988 the Irish Post front page covered the newly launched IBRG campaign against proposals in the new PTA bill which would make it permanent. The IBRG statement stated that the PTA is a direct threat to every Irish traveller going to or from Britain, because of their Irishness and their destination being Ireland. The IBRG called on the Irish government to insist that its citizens be allowed to travel unhindered between Britain and Ireland as guaranteed by the Irish passport promise. The new PTA was proposing searches of Irish home which would unleash untold level of harassment in the early morning of innocent Irish families.

The IBRG quoted Lord Ferrers a Home Office Minister who refused to introduce a random breath test despite there being over 1,000 deaths a year from drunken driving, stated ‘we must be careful not be to be seen as  carrying out a witch hunt against drivers We will be stopping delaying and infuriating ordinary law abiding citizens going about their business. What effect is that going to have on them and their attitude toward the police’.

IBRG pointed out that the Irish in Britain had not caused one single political death in Britain yet was singled out for this very treatment. The IBRG urged Lord Ferrers to inform his colleagues Douglas Hurd and Lord Colville of his sensible views on these matters. The IBRG further called on the Irish government to get off the fence, and start defending the rights of its citizens to travel unhindered to and from Britain and for its citizens abroad, to be able to live without fear of harassment under the   PTA. The IBRG statement was covered by An Phoblacht and the London Irish News.

On 8th June 1988 the IBRG held a picket of the Irish Embassy in London over the Irish government’s policy on extraditing Irish citizens to Britain.

In an IBRG press release issued it stated ‘The British judicial system has a long- and well-established history of meting out injustice to the Irish people. It cannot be right to extradite anybody to a country which allows the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four to remain in prison, with the sole purpose of hiding the corruption within its own judicial system.  That judiciary acts as hangman for the British establishment where the end always justified the means. The judiciary lacks any independence and is deeply rooted in a biased colonial racist class structure, and acts as a consistent weapon of injustice against Irish people. The Birmingham Six and Guildford Four had spent over 140 years in prison when the Britain establishment at its highest level knew that they were innocent, when the Balcombe St siege men  gave a very detailed statement of their involvement in Guildford and Woolwich, and a Catholic priest and nun knew that Gerry Conlon was at an Irish government sponsored hostel in Quex Road, on the evening of the Guildford bombing and could not have done it. The IBRG statement went on ‘Extradition to Britain is a complete betrayal of the Irish people and their history, it reduces the Irish courts to mere district courts serving the interests of British imperialism, and once against makes the Irish judiciary subservient to the British Crown.  It taints Irish justice with evils perpetrated by the British courts and colludes with the shameful cases of Human Rights abuses such at the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four, Maguire Seven and Judith Ward. As it stands the Irish government decision will be seen internationally as a vote of confidence in the British judicial system, and is rubber stamping the continued imprisonment of the Birmingham Six a Guildford Four’. TOM also supported the picket of the Embassy.

On 25th June 1988 Haringey IBRG hosted an IBRG Education conference at the Red Rose Club in N. London where Maude Casey and Michael O Riabaigh spoke. There were seminars and workshops on Language and Culture, Youth Service and the Irish Community, the Oral History and Video Project, developing local strategies on education, delivering Irish teachers’ groups, Irish equal opportunities and Catholic schools and Irish culture. The Irish Post reported on the Conference which stated that a working group had been set up from the conference to promote Irish studies in Britain.

Maude Casey from Brighton stated that the Irish in Britain must publicly declare pride in their identity and cultural background, and detailed her own childhood and how she felt the British education system denied her an Irish identity.

Micheal O’ Riabaigh, a probation officer, from Liverpool called on British schools to incorporate Irish history and traditions into the curriculum, and outlined the large number of Catholic run schools with the potential to do this.

In June the Tory government published their proposed new PTA bill which the IBRG condemned and called for a full campaign against it. The Government planned to make the temporary act permanent.

In June the IBRG again called for the release of Judith Ward who had been wrongly convicted for the M62 bombing. Her case was often neglected because she was a single person without a campaign but the IBRG raised her case at every opportunity.

In June the Letters Page of the Irish Post continued to be used by the right wing in the Irish community to attack the IBRG with John Fahy of the Federation leading the pack. Paul Sheehan and  Seamus O Coillean responded defending the IBRG. Shamefully John Fahy of the Federation and one time Labour Councillor and full trade union officer should attack IBRG again in the Irish Post, he stated  that the IBRG ‘should abandon its role  of giving the IRA credulity, it should condemn violence’ which was a shocking libel on an Irish organisation, and simply felon setting. Here Fahy is acting like the British racist media in linking anyone who speaks out on Ireland with the IRA. Fahy left himself with an appalling record on this matter and a very shameful one.

London Irish Festival refuse stalls to framed prisoners

The IBRG condemned the Organising Committee of the London Irish Festival in Brent for refusing stalls to the Birmingham Six Campaign, the Guildford Four campaign, and the IBRG. Both Paul May of the B6 and Gearoid McGearailt of IBRG had letters in the Irish Post condemning this pro-British censorship.

Paul May of the B6 campaign deplored the keep your heads down of the Festival committee, as the B6 campaign was a welfare issue, the release of six innocent men to their families. The London GAA board also expressed its concern at the ban on the B6 campaign as they supported the B6. Ironically the MC at the festival was Senator Pascal Mooney from Leitrim who had called for the release of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four and had attended much of the B6 appeal last year. The AGM of the Irish Counties Association had condemned the refusal of the B6 appeal, yet their Chair Seamus Troy was Chair of the festival committee. Fr Bobby Gilmore who was in the USA raising the case of the Birmingham Six called on Mr Troy and his Committee to reverse their decision, while the B6 campaign had written to all the Chairs of the 32 counties calling on them to reverse the decision.

On 2nd July 1988 IBRG members attended a conference on Broadwater Farm on Justice for the Black Community.

On 8th July 1988 IBRG members attended a benefit at the Haringey Irish centre against Strip Searching.

On 9th July 1988 Lambeth IBRG hosted a Countrywide Irish Welfare Conference which drew a large attendance. Speakers were Mary Connolly on Homelessness, Clare McElwee on the Abortion Trail, Sr Joan Kane on Irish Travellers, Liam Clarke on Community Care and the Elderly, Clare Doherty on Mental Health and the Irish, Nuala Kelly on the transfer of Irish Prisoners, Eamon Summers on Clause 28 and Pat Reynolds on Irish children in the care system.

Simon Hughes MP stated in his key note speech that Irish people were unjustly singled out under the PTA and stated there was no justification for this. Tom O Connor author of the Irish Youth in London was a key note speaker on the young Irish abroad.

Gearoid McGearailt in his remarks stated that social services departments in Britain did not in most cases recognise the Irish, with the result that Irish needs went unmet very often. Mary Connolly called for recognition of the Irish in housing, and Simon Hughes promised to lobby the Housing Corporation on the issue.

The Irish Government came under sustained attack from delegates at the conference,  on the lack of adequate funding for the Irish in Britain, the denial of the vote to the Irish in Britain, the extradition of Irish citizens to Britain, while the Birmingham Six and Guildford four were being held as political hostages, and the lack of any concession for Irish elders form Britain travelling in Ireland.

David Donoghue Press officer at the Embassy came under sustained fire from the audience after his speech. Diarmuid Breatnach stated that the only choice open to the vast majority of Irish people was between unemployment at home, and emigrating to make a living. Diarmuid described Ireland as an open shopping market for multi nationals, who repatriate their profits leaving Ireland poorer and emigration had deprived people of their right to live in their own country, disenfranchised emigrants of the rights to vote in their own state, and disinherited Irish children of their nationality. This in relation to the Irish government ending the automatic right of Irish children born in Britain to Irish passports.

The Irish Government was also criticised for their failure to ratify the Transfer of Prisoner’s international Agreement and Nuala Kelly of ICO stated there would be about 25 transferred in the first year with it falling to 15 per year afterwards.  There were 1,055 Irish born prisons in Britain but only a few would want to transfer home because of the shame in Ireland around imprisonment.

Liam Clarke   stated that racist attitudes in institutions compounded the problems facing many Irish elders who were afraid to ask for services, due to a mistaken impression that they might be deported like the homeless families in Camden.

Irish are singled out unjustly was the  Irish Post headline which covered the conference and focussed on the speech by Simon Hughes Liberal MP.

The Conference was also carried in the Andersonstown News in Belfast. The London Irish News gave a whole page in reporting on the Conference with Government under fire for poor response to emigrant problems.

On 16th July 1988 the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Unemployed Centre in Birmingham where 18 delegates and officers attended including Maire O Shea, Pat Reynolds, Maurice Moore, Caitlin Wright, Joe Mullarkey, Diarmuid Breatnach, Denis Casey, Pat Sullivan, David Wright, Margaret Mullarkey, Henry Herron, Eddie Caughey, Maureen Carlin, Gearoid McGearailt, Virginia Moyles and John Martin. 

Diarmuid Breatnach stood down as internal coordinator and John Marin was elected as internal coordinator for the Midlands. Discussion was had on setting up branches in Brent, Southwark, Bristol, Oxford, Preston, Liverpool and Wolverhampton.

Bolton Irish Community Association wanted to terminate Bolton IBRG membership because Bolton IBRG were selling Birmingham Six badges, which they called “collecting for the IRA”.  The meeting had a discussion on how the right wing in the Irish community were doing the work of the British colonial  service, by internally trying to police the Irish community with same weapons of oppression right wing attacks in the media, and felon setting and putting Irish people at risk by deliberately  falsely accusing them of links with the IRA.

B6 badge

While it was mainly Manchester and Bolton IBRG who were under attack it could happen to any branch as John Fahy had attacked Brighton IBRG.

It was agreed that Diarmuid Breatnach, Gearoid McGearailt and Pat Reynolds should comprise the editorial board of an pobal eirithe which had now produced a second edition.

It was agreed that IBRG support the Lifers campaign and that IBRG oppose the Poll Tax. The meeting heard of the very successful Lambeth Irish Welfare Conference.

On 17th July 1988 IBRG members marched with their banners flying high on the massive Anti-Apartheid march from Finsbury Park to Hyde Park with the IBRG bring up the rear. The front of the march was entering Hyde Park before the end of the march left Finsbury park at least half a million people spread out the length of London. The music was great and the atmosphere was electric as people felt that there would be movement on South Africa soon.

On 22nd July 1988 Hackney IBRG held an Irish night at Chat’s Palace in Hackney to raise some funds.

At the end of July IBRG members including Virginia Moyles, Laura Sullivan and Pat Reynolds went to Glencolmcille in Donegal of the Language and Culture week run by Liam Cunningham who was active in Ireland on the issue of emigration.

The Irish Post letter space continued to be used to attack IBRG. Bernadette Hyland, Chris Walsh and Paul Sheehan had replied to defend IBRG against these right-wing attacks. Steve Brennan a former GLC Irish Policy Office took John Fahy to task over the GLC and the Irish Cultural Committee which had split down the middle.

Meanwhile Pat Reynolds PRO had the leading  letter in the Irish Post relying to Maurice Barnes on the report on the Irish homeless in Camden which the IBRG described as whitewash.

IBRG were to the forefront in defending the right of Irish people to housing in Britain without discrimination. The letter stated IBRG policy ‘The IBRG takes serious issue with the report over their position on intentionally homeless, which we consider to be a whitewash. The IBRG does not accept that a person who leaves his or her country because of economic, political or social pressure can be deemed to in any way to be intentionally homeless.  We deny the right of British authorities to exercise British laws beyond Britain, after a history of transporting people to various colonies and maintaining intentionally homeless armies in these countries for centuries’ the report fails to look at the colonial relationship between Ireland, Africa, India and the Caribbean, and Britain and how  people were encouraged to come to Britain after the second world war, and are now being made scapegoats for Britain’s economic ills, and are subject to deportations. The IBRG calls for the abolition of intentionally homeless for overseas persons, and a for a move away from the traditional White British first policy to an equal opportunities policy in housing based on needs.’ We call on Camden and on all local authorities to implement an equal opportunities policy to tackle and redress the institutional racism and discrimination which has left the Irish community in Britain among the worst housed in Britain’.

It is of interest here that the IBRG were aware of institutional racism and discrimination many years before the British state recognised it even among the Metropolitan police.

The IBRG welcomed the London Housing Forum report Speaking Out which pointed out that up to 120 young Irish men arrived every day in Camden from Ireland and a similar number of young Irish women, many were living in hostels or in squats or sleeping rough or with friends. The Group called on the ALA to start implementing the report as policy that Local Authorities ensure that no one is regarded as intentionally homeless, or without local connection who has come from abroad. Irish people should not be sent to Ireland nor anybody else to any other country.

ILEA (Inner London Education authority) published their account on Working Party report on Irish Perspectives in Education in July 1988. The working party was made up of the IBRG, the Federation, Irish teachers/Parents, Irish Commission for Culture, BAIS Irish studies in Britain and Irish women In Wandsworth, and attending members were  Diarmuid Breatnach for IBRG  Dr Alan Clinton N. London Polytechnic Irish Studies and member of IBRG, Mary Hickman North London Poly Irish studies, and member of IBRG,  Brendan Mulkere,  John Fahy, Ivan Gibbons, and was chaired by Hilda McCafferty.

The report gave examples of practical work carried out in ILEA school’s on Irish issues and included various individual strategies  by teachers and schools plus people like Dipak Basu who was supportive. One example cited was Diarmuid Breatnach giving a talk on aspects of Irish music.

The Working party was set up after a report by the Education Officer of 5th December 1986 and this working report was put before the Education Committee Policy Sub Committee Equal Opportunity section. The report ended up with a wide range of recommendations to be put to various ILEA committees, Equal opportunities Committee, Staff committee, school’s subcommittee, Youth further and higher education and General Purposes. The proposals included recognising the Irish community as a minority community, for both staff and children to be included in ethnic monitoring and an Irish input into a range of subjects including history and literature. The report was a significant achievement although ILEA was due for closure. Why did it take ILEA seven years to agree what Ken Livingstone and the GLC agreed in 1981?

On 10th August 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO had an interview with RTE radio on the Irish in Britain.

On 12th August 1988 IBRG members attended a Benefit for the Guildford Four at the Haringey Irish Centre.

On 30th August 1988 the SAS killed three IRA volunteers in Co Tyrone.

In September 1988 the IBRG welcomes the Appeal Court in London to recognise that Travellers are a distinct racial group as defined by the Race Relations Act.

In response  IBRG called for the total elimination of the No Travellers signs displayed in many pubs in London and elsewhere. The IBRG called for an active community campaign to end the display of these racist signs and for such cases to be actively pursued. In many cases IBRG had taken down these signs from pubs and called for a boycott of these places and taken the matter up with the owners, and the local Community Relations Councils.

On 2nd September 1988 IBRG members picketed 10 Downing St on the 40th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights. 15 people attended the picket. The picket called for the release of the Birmingham Six, Guildford Judith Ward and the Winchester three plus the exoneration of the Maguire Seven.

On 3rd September 1988 the IBRG held their Ard Choiste with 9 members attending in Brighton. There was only one member beyond London which because of the double journey Brighton was difficult to reach.  Diarmuid Breatnach, Pat Reynolds, Pat O Sullivan, Siobhan Hier, Margaret Coffey, Maude Casey, Gearoid McGearailt, and Virginia Moyles were among those attending.

The meeting heard that there was a lot of harassment around Brighton in the lead up to the Tory Party Conference.

On 9th September 1988 IBRG members picketed 10 Downing St over the Gibraltar executions to co-inside with the opening of the Gibraltar inquiry on 6th September.

On 21st September 1988 Pat Reynolds challenged John Hume at the Brent Irish Centre about his expressed views on the British being neutral on N. Ireland, and this time he agreed that the British were not neutral in Ireland which was later picked up by the media.

In his question Pat quoted the 1949 British cabinet paper which stated ‘So far, as it can be foreseen it will never be to Great Britain’s advantage that Northern Ireland should form part of a territory outside Her  Majesty’s jurisdiction. Indeed, it seems unlikely that Britain would ever be able to agree to this, even if the majority of people in N. Ireland wanted this’.

On 30th September 1988 the results of the Gibraltar Inquiry were 9-2 for ‘lawful killing’ even though it broke the rules of the Geneva Convention.

At the end of September 1988, the IBRG slammed the Labour Party document ‘Towards a United Ireland because it enshrines the British/Unionist veto and was a rehash of their peace by consent policy. The Federation welcomed the new document. The Irish World headed the story Towards an United Ireland The IBRG slams the Labour Party’s latest Irish policy.

The IBRG stated that the new Labour policy offered nothing and this was just a rehash of their peace by consent. The IBRG noted that the Labour Party Black sections, Irish sections, Women in the Labour party, LCI, TOM, IBRG the London Labour Party and the Irish communities in the USA, Australia and worldwide supported the right of the Irish people to self-determination and Irish unity, and called for the withdrawal of British troops from Ireland.

It was a missed opportunity by Kevin McNamara and the Labour Party to put something constructive forward. Constitutional nationalism could not even get the Birmingham Six or Guildford Four released and the Labour Party document only supported the British war machinery in Ireland and the attacks upon the Irish community in Britain.

Fr. Ryan of Conway House attacked Cara Irish Housing Association over their Homelessness Report where they stated the Irish should be an ethnic group.  Fr Ryan did not believe that the Irish were an ethnic group. It was the clergy who had kept quiet for 14 years on the fact that they knew that Gerry Conlon was at Quex Road hostel on the evening of the Guildford bombing, and could not have been involved, the Church kept quiet on this for 14 years.

John Martin had a letter in the Irish Post in September calling for the promotion of the Irish language and for Irish centres to become cultural centres, and on the idea of setting up a Gaeltacht in Britain.

In October Camden IBRG felt that their grant funding had been put under threat because of their opposition to Camden’s policy of deporting Irish families which Camden IBRG had opposed vigorously.

At Camden Race Committee meeting the Chair, in ignorance, equated sending back families to Birmingham with Ireland as if Ireland was a province of Britain. She claimed that Irish people got better treatment. Councillors at the meeting called for a special meeting to examine Camden’s policy.

Ken Livingstone MP attacked Camden’s policy of deporting Irish families and said they we were turning on a group of people with no justification, and described their policies as outrageous. According to Camden they only issued nine travel warrants to send families back to Ireland but families were vulnerable in such situations without knowing their rights in law.

Later it was disclosed that Camden were seeking 20% cuts in funding to voluntary organisation and threats to IBRG the Irish centre, Conway House, Camden Irish youth Group and Camden Irish pensioners groups would all lose some or all of their funding. The inquiry into anti-Irish racism at Arlington House was also axed somehow convenient for Camden around their own racist policies towards Irish families. Both Angie Birthill and Kate Allen opposed the cuts. Lucky enough, Camden Council had recently given £15k to the Guildford Four campaign a few weeks before the cuts were announced.

On 2nd October 1988 the Evening Standard attacked Brent Nalgo for their trip to Belfast and their motion on Gibraltar. The Standard condemned Brent Nalgo for calling for the release of several convicted IRA bombers namely the Birmingham Six and Guildford which the branch had called for.

On 14th October 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking at the Haringey Irish Centre at Civil Rights meeting before 500 people on a platform with Bernie Grant MP, Michael Farrell ,and Bernadette McAliskey, Theresa Smalley, aunt of Paul Hill. The meeting was organised by the Haringey Irish working party made up of TOM, LCI and IBRG and the event was to commemorate 1968: 20 years on.

On 19th October 1988 IBRG members attended a picket of 10 Downing St re the government ban on Sinn Fein. Many attending wore gags to protest at the media ban. Douglas Hurd, Home Secretary, announced a ban on Sinn Fein and others in the House of Commons with actors now speaking the words of Adams and others. The next day Tom King announces the end of the Right to Silence.

A new IBRG branch had been set up in Derby on 15th October, and they had called on Derby City Council to recognise the Irish.

Laura Sullivan resigned as Leas Runai and Bridgit Loughran of Camden IBRG was elected as Training Officer.  Haringey IBRG proposed a motion condemning the British government gag on Sinn Fein and the ending of the Right to Silence in the Six Counties.

The Ard Choiste agreed a policy on homelessness. The anti-Irish racism policy drafted at the internal conference in June was agreed as IBRG policy, and urged that it be circulated widely. The meeting sent its condolences to the Connolly Association on the death of Desmond Greaves, father figure to their organisation, who had made a huge contribution including writing a life of James Connolly.

On 25th October 1988 the London Evening Standard attacked the IBRG exhibition on Ireland South Africa One Struggle. The rest of the English media followed in a frenzy. The exhibition was closed before the Standard found out about it, and Haringey Council had not received one single complaint about it. The exhibition was by Derry Camera Workshop and had been sent to two libraries over five weeks.

Haringey and the IBRG got attacked across the media from Daily Telegraph, Mail, Sun Evening Standard, Hornsey Journal, and the Express. Bernie Grant local MP stood up for the Irish and stated He knew it was right to treat Irish culture and traditions with dignity.

Most of the attacks by the media was about Haringey IBRG getting 27K funding each year for two workers. The IBRG hit back at the bigoted Tory Press who got their facts all wrong on the story in their rabid attack. The Hornsey Journal, in its political ignorance, stated that had the Haringey crowd been in power they would have welcomes EOKA and the Mau Mau, without seemingly knowing that the English Queen had indeed welcomed both of these to London. Mararios of Cyprus and Jomo Kenyatta were honoured by the English Queen. The storm of protest the rabid Tory press talked about was all in their own minds, as not one single complaint had been received in Haringey over the five weeks of the exhibition.

IBRG pointed out that the vast majority of comments left in the daily log were positive as it opened people’s eyes to what was happening in South Africa and in N. Ireland and the similarities between the two on funerals, censorship and on civil liberties. The exhibition sponsored by Haringey IBRG was part of their contribution to 20th anniversary of the N. Ireland Civil Rights movement, which had huge support in Haringey with over 500 people attending a public meeting on the issue in Haringey.

Contrary to Tory Press reports the exhibition had not been closed down but had finished before they found out about it. An Phoblacht Irish Post London Irish News and other Irish papers covered the IBRG response to the rabid Tory press attack, which was about censorship on Ireland. The exhibition was a major success and the IBRG stated that it should be put on in every Town Hall in Britain to educate the people about Ireland and South Africa. During the exhibition Haringey IBRG put on a range of videos including Building for Ourselves, PTA, media censorship, and the use of plastic bullets which many people stayed and watched.

On 27th October 1988 Martina Anderson, Finbarr Cullen, and John McCann are found guilty of conspiracy to kill Tom King and given 25 years each. They became known as the Winchester Three and were released on appeal.

On 27th October 1988 Brent Nalgo Irish Worker Group led a delegation from Brent Nalgo to visit N. Ireland. The Evening Standard tried to attack the visit because Brent Nalgo had passed a motion stating this AGM condemns the murder of three IRA volunteers by the SAS in Gibraltar earlier in the year. According to the Standard the Branch also called for the release of several IRA bombers meaning the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four. Brent Nalgo felt close to the Guildford Four because three of the Four had local links to Brent and were living in Brent at the time of their arrest.

On 28th October 1988 IBRG members attended the Plastic Bullets demonstration in Regents St. in London.

On 30th October 1988 IBRG members in London attended the Terence MacSwiney memorial mass at St George’s cathedral in Southwark. The Cathedral was rebuilt after the Second World and large sums of money were collected in Ireland for it. The reason Southwark was set up as separate from Westminster diocese was that in the 1800 the English Catholics of Westminster did not want the Irish in their diocese.

Diarmuid Breatnack took part in Slogadh in Dungarvan Co Waterford with a session in the Irish language on emigration.

Manchester IBRG won an apology from Manchester Equal Opportunities Commission over the use of anti-Irish material to illustrate equality for women. Bernadette Hyland had raised the complaint over the depiction of ‘two ignorant Irish labourers’ in a cartoon.  The Irish Post ran the story IBRG wins slur apology. The cartoon featured a woman seeking a job on a building site and as Bernadette pointed out, the Commission were using racism to challenge sexism. The Commission stated that the cartoon was a most regrettable instance.

Camden IBRG funding was under threat because of their criticism  of Camden Council over the racist deportations of Irish homeless families.

Lewisham IBRG organised an Oiche Shamhan for children in Lewisham with Irish dance music games and dressing up. Lambeth IBRG organised a Failte Eireann evening in West Norwood with a ceili band and folk music.

On 2nd November 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking in Brighton at  a Civil Rights meeting to over 200 people, a meeting the Tory Party wanted banned, at the Pavilion Theatre organised by the Brighton Year of Action on Ireland group. Cllr Geraldine Richie from Sinn Fein was also speaking along with the People’s  Democracy. The meeting was entitled Civil Rights in Ireland the Long March. IBRG, TOM, LCI and Women and Ireland organised the meeting to expose Thatcher propaganda about Ireland. The Irish community had as much right to speak in Brighton as did the Tory Party.

On 12th November 1988 Manchester IBRG with Cornerhouse Arts organised the first Irish Film Festival in the city. It promoted new community and commercial Irish films, invited speakers and opened a debate on Irish issues.

Films shown included Building for Ourselves a video made by Haringey IBRG about the Irish community and its new Irish Centre. Pat Reynolds PRO spoke about how the film was made and the community and people behind it. Mother Ireland was also shown with a debate on Ireland.  The film had been banned by Channel Four.

Authors of a new book on Irish women took part in the Festival. A unique history of the role of Irish women in Britain was published  in  1988: Across the Water Irish Women’s Lives in Britain.  It was produced by three women, none of whom were academics, all of them had been  born and brought up in Dublin, and came to London in the mid-70s: Mary Lennon, Marie McAdam and Joanne O’Brien. At the Festival Mary and Marie spoke about the book and the lives of Irish women in Britain. Read more here

across the water

 

On 16th November 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO was keynote speaker at the Family Service Unit Residential Conference in Swanwick in Derbyshire where he also ran a workshop on anti-Irish racism and how it impacted in social work practice.  The Conference had their own small group of Irish language speakers. Family Service Units were involved in poorer areas of Britain and often worked with Irish families.

ON 19th November 1988 Southwark Council held their own Consultative Conference on the Irish community which was later put into a report, and put before the various communities to try an improve services for the Irish community.

Steve Brennan IBRG member and ex GLC Irish officer was one of the key note speakers at the meeting. Pat Reynolds led a workshop on Irish children in the care system, and how they were not recognising in child protection or their culture recognised, and it was wrongly assumed that the Catholic church catered for all their needs.

Jodie Clarke, an IBRG member and later Labour Councillor, was also involved as was Nina Hutchinson from TOM who was also an activist in the Irish community.

The Failte Report  was published by Southwark Council Race Equality Committee. Anne Mathews, Leader of Southwark Council ,expressed her concerns that the Irish community suffers the oppression of the state which allows strip searching, loss of the right to silence, a shoot to kill policy and the PTA.  She said that the Irish community in Britain not the House of Lords should be encouraged to discuss and have an input into the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

John McDonnell Chair of the ALA Irish subcommittee spoke about the need for an independent forum for the Irish community in Southwark, with a right to input recommendation to the council. He repeated his call for the withdrawal of troops from Ireland.

The report made recommendations to the Personnel Committee to recognise the Irish, to the Housing committee, community Rights committee, Health and Community Affairs committee Women’s Committee which later called their own Irish women’s conference, Social Services Committee, leisure and Recreation committee which led to the famous Southwark Irish Festival, an the education committee plus  had recommendation from the Travellers workshop, which later led to Southwark setting up their own Travellers sites.

People at the conference were reminded that it was in Southwark in the 1880 that the Irish Literary society was set up which later led to the Gaelic revival and much more. Liam McCarthy, after which the All Ireland hurling Final cup is named, is buried in Southwark and was a leading Irish figure there during the war of independence. Terence Mac Swiney died on Hunger strike in Brixton prison and his remains passed through Southwark cathedral in 1920, and where Ho Ch Minh observed his funeral, and remarked that no people with such brave people could ever be defeated.

Southwark was one of the original Irish settlement areas after the Great Hunger in Ireland. Southwark Council had also supported the making of Now We are Talking an oral History Project of Irish elders in Southwark along with an exhibition which IBRG members Mary Hickman and Cas Breen were involved in. Ronald Reagan family settled for a few years in Southwark before leaving there for the USA around 1851.

The Irish were involved in building Southwark cathedral because the English Catholics of Westminster did not want the poor Irish south of the river to be part of their diocese. Later money raised all over Ireland after the 2nd World war helped rebuild it with its now St Patricks chapel, where every year people say the Gaelic prayers for McSweeney.

On 26th November 1988 the IBRG Comhcomhairle was held at the Four Provinces Coventry where 18 IBRG delegates and officers attended representing 11 IBRG branches namely Bolton, Coventry, Harrow, Camden, Haringey, Leeds, Manchester, Lewisham, Lambeth, NE Lancs, and Hackney.

Among those attending was Caitlin Wright, Peter Skerrett, Maurice Cahill, Denis Casey, Maire O Shea, Brian Miller, Pat Reynolds, David Kernoghan, Noirin Riordan, Bernadette Hyland, Diarmuid Breatnach, Gearoid McGearailt, Aine Fitzgerald, Michael Cnaimhsi, Joan Brennan and Virginia Moyles.

A motion from Hackney called for support for the Broadwater Farm picket of Wormwoods Scrubs Prison on 11th December, and stated the IBRG belief that the men had been framed.

A motion from Haringey called for pickets of Downing St during Gorbachev’s visit to Britain to draw attention to Britain’s’ record on Human Rights in Britain and N. Ireland.

Four workshops were held on organising the Irish community, IBRG the way forward, Education, the Irish community and class politics, and human rights which looked at the Birmingham Six Guildford Four and the PTA and strip-searching.

There was a motion from Haringey IBRG about Fr Ryan being on hunger strike for 22 days in a Belgian prison and called for his release, but as Fr Ryan had been flown to Ireland avoiding British’s airspace, the motion was noted.

The delegation to Ireland was agreed with 8 delegates going, Gearoid MacGearailt, Pat Reynolds, Laura Sullivan, Caitlin Wright, Diarmuid Breatnach, Maurice Moore, Bernadette Hyland and Virginia Moyles. The delegation would have a total of 56 meetings in Belfast Derry, Cork and Dublin.

On 29th November 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking at a meeting at The Camden Irish centre on the Irish and Housing. He stated again that no Irish family should be deported back to Ireland and that Camden should fulfil its duty to the Irish community. The Irish, he stated, had made the greatest contribution to building homes in Britain, yet because of racism were the most likely to be homeless or living in poorly rented accommodation. In health, it was the same, mainly Irish  women had made the largest contribution the NHS yet often endured the worst health conditions which was linked to their poor employment and housing conditions. It was time for Britain and Camden to recognise this Irish contribution with a real effort to provide equal opportunities to the Irish in Housing, health and employment.

On 29th November 1988 the European Court of Human Rights condemned the PTA as a violation of Human Rights as  people were detained without reason,  held incommunicado without access to legal aid  their relatives knowing where they were. The breach was for holding four suspects for four days without charging them. Britain then on 2nd December derogated from the Convention and retained their seven-day detention operations.

On 6th December 1988 Clare Short MP resigned from the Labour Party front bench over the second reading of new PTA legislation.

On 7th December 1988 Southwark IBRG was relaunched with Gearoid McGearailt,  Pat Reynolds and Diarmuid Breatnach attending.

On 7th December 1988 the CRE published their recommended ethnic classifications for the 1991 census which excluded the Irish community.

IBRG expressed their deep concern at this exclusion. The IBRG restated their 1984 demands that 1) the CRE recognise the Irish as specific ethnic group 2) that the CRE recognise the disadvantage suffered by the Irish in Britain based on existing research in employment housing and other areas 3). That they draw up a report on the Irish in Britain based on existing research  4)  that they include the Irish in any further research 5) that they investigate areas of discrimination suffered by the Irish 6) that they support the Irish community demand to be included in the 1991 census as an ethnic group and 7) that their officers take on board issues affecting the Irish community in Britain.

IBRG pointed out that the CRE was out of touch with the major authorities in Britain including the GLC, Birmingham, Manchester, ILEA, Islington, Haringey, Southwark, Lambeth, Brent, Leeds, Bolton and many more had recognised the Irish community as a distinct racial and ethnic group.

IBRG took part in a lobby protest during Gorbachev visit to Britain to highlight the cases of the Birmingham Six and Guildford and had briefed the Soviet Embassy in London on the matter and took part in the picket of Downing St on the issue.  Chris Mullin stated “I welcome the news that Gorbachev may raise with Thatcher the case of the six innocent men wrongly convicted for Birmingham and a total of 11 people wrongly convicted over the Guildford /Woolwich bombings.”

On 11th December 1988 London IBRG members attended the Broadwater Farm picket of Wormwood Scrubs prison over their framed prisoners.

On 13th December 1988 the Irish Attorney General, John Murray refused, Britain’s request for the extradition of Fr Patrick Ryan on the grounds that he would not receive a fair trial. Maggie Thatcher called the decision a great insult to the British people.

On 14th December 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking on the Kilroy ITV programme about civil liberties including the PTA.

On 15th December 1988 The British government brought in their new Fair Employment Bill for N. Ireland which made compulsory the religious monitoring of workforces in N. Ireland. Catholic Male unemployment in Nt Ireland was double that for Protestants and that Catholics were over represented in the low skilled jobs, despite 12 years of the earlier 1976 fair employment legislation. The campaign in the USA for the McBride Principles and its impact on investment in N. Ireland drove this new bill. The IBRG had also taken up the issue in Britain and were putting pressure on building societies and others over discrimination in employment.

On  21st December 1988 the IBRG condemned the conduct of a British trial where an English man had murdered an Irish woman where the defence barrister stated ‘The sense of public outrage at the loss of this particular life will be a very great deal lower down the scale than other cases, and the prosecuting barrister stated’ there might indeed have been some sympathy towards the killer and none for his victim’.

The killing was a racist killing, where the killer used the killing of two English undercover armed soldiers at funeral in Belfast as an excuse to murder an Irish woman. The murdered woman was Marie Kane (52) and the husband was also stabbed in a second murder attempt near Birmingham. The Crown accepted a plea of guilty of unlawful killing rather than going for murder which it was. Even stranger was the fact that the murderer an ex British soldier had given evidence in the Birmingham pub bombing case where six innocent Irishmen were wrongly convicted.

Around the same time a Galway man, James Connolly, was murdered on 20th March in Camberwell which the local police believed to be a racial killing linked with the death of the two British agents in Belfast the day before on 19th March. The English media which had called the people of West Belfast savages and animals, and at least two Irish people in Britain were murdered because of this media coverage. Irish lives did not matter then.

The IBRG press statement said ‘the case raises serious questions about the standards of justice given to Irish people, that an Irish life in Britain would appear to be of lessor value than an English one’. The killing was political and racist, and we find the remarks of both barristers to be offensive and racist, and remarkably similar. Such Irish deaths are invisible without any media coverage, and become silent deaths. Even in death Irish people are deemed responsible for provoking their own deaths.’ Irish trials which are deemed suitable by the British state for propaganda purposes are given the full works, while trial exposing the vulnerable position of Irish people in Britain are censored.

On 28th December 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO had a letter in the Irish Times putting the case against the PTA. In the letter the PRO challenged Brian Lenihan over his changed position on the PTA as when in opposition he stated ‘this Act is absolutely indefensible by reference to any national or international canon the Convention of Human Rights because of its discriminatory nature’.

The IBRG said Full marks to Brian Lenihan on anticipating the European Court recent decision on the Act, but why didn’t Lenihan publicly call for the repeal of the Act now. The flagships of the PTA were the arrests of the Guildford Four and Maguire Seven.

The Irish Government concern at the implementation of the Act was pure tokenism, and  IBRG asked why the Irish government had kept silence for 14 years on the abuse of its nationals abroad. The Irish community in Britain was now depending on the European Courts to protect its rights rather than the British or Irish governments and were now calling on other governments to assist the release of the Birmingham Six and Guildford. It was never too late for the Irish government to redeem itself.

In December 1988 Virginia Moyles had a letter in the Irish Post defending  Ken Livingstone who had come under attack from Annie Maguire of the Maguire Seven who came over as being anti-republican.

Listen to my talk about the IBRG in the northwest in the Irish Collection at the WCML here

An excellent history of 200 years of Irish political activity in Mancheser – including Manchester IBRG read “The Wearing of the Green” by Michael Herbert. Buy it here

Read previous posts on IBRG history here

 
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Posted in education, feminism, films, human rights, Ireland, Irish second generation, labour history, Manchester, North of Ireland, peace campaigns, political women, Socialism, trade unions, Uncategorized, women, working class history, young people | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

History of the Irish in Britain Representation Group Part seven: 1987

 

 

Patrick Reynolds was one of the founders of IBRG and played a key role in its history. He is now writing up that history and putting it into the context of radical history in Britain and Ireland in the C20th.

APR 1987-1

First edition December 1987

On 3rd  January 1987 the Unionist leaders launched a petition in Belfast against the Anglo-Irish Agreement which got over 400,000 signatures and was handed in to Buckingham Palace on 12  February.

Anti-Irish Racism and Community Care Magazine

On 7th January 1987 Gearoid McGearailt, chair of IBRG,  had a letter in Community Care the social work weekly headed Hierarchy of Oppression. He was responding to a black Social worker in Brent who  had attacked Irish travellers, and placed them in opposition to her own community.

In the same issue  (and in the previous issue)  two Irish  social workers  had letters in which they   denied that the Irish suffered from racism, arguing that that they may only be discriminated against, and that racism was  fundamentally a black and white issue, that it is  the colour of a person’s skin which is the main constituent upon which racism is built.

This limited view of racism would completely ignore the Irish and Jewish experiences, and showed total ignorance of the history of racism, imperialism and colonisation. When Pat Reynolds, also a social worker, wrote a letter in reply to Community Care, they refused to publish it.

In it he stated: ‘The history of racism is the history of imperialism colonisation and slavery and the history of Ireland is such a case. The Irish experience does not negate the Black experience nor does the Black experience negate the Irish experience, neither does it collapse the Black and Irish experience into the same thing. The liberal multi-cultural approach has moved away from the state to having individuals takes responsibility for institutionalised racism. This approach denies the role of Britain as an imperial power and offer no analysis of the economic, political; and ideological origins of racism. In this matter the rights of oppressed community to self-determination is vital, and it is for each community to define their own resistance. The struggle of the Irish community is an anti-racist and an anti-imperialist struggle which is supportive of all other communities and nations in similar struggles.

The IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Van Zult centre,  Arlington Road, Camden North London on 10th January 10987 (1) where 12 delegates and officers attended including Gearoid McGearailt Chair, Virginia Moyles, Pat Reynolds, Peter Murray, Kathleen Henry, Jacqueline Jolly, Maurice Moore, Peter Millar, Steve Brennan education officer, Trevor O’Farrell, Tom Barron,  Brian Millar and Diarmuid Breatnach. The following branches were present: Islington, Haringey, Lewisham, Coventry, Lambeth, Camden, and Hackney.

The Ard Choiste agreed that Diarmuid Breatnach (Lewisham IBRG)  would be the IBRG speaker at the Bloody Sunday rally in Sheffield. Diarmuid  was voted in as new Internal Co-ordinator for the IBRG. It was agreed to produce a quarterly IBRG internal newsletter.

lewisham mag Nua Gael

Lewisham IBRG Magazine

The Ard Choiste agreed to book a room via Clive Soley MP at the House of Commons to mobilise opposition to the PTA,  and also agreed that the Prisoners Subcommittee meet on a regional basis because of travel difficulties. It was agreed to take up the case of Danny McNamee who was held in Brixton prison.

The Ard Fheis would be held in Coventry on 21 March 1987.

The meeting noted that the first Irish Mental Health Conference organised by Camden IBRG would be held the next day in London with over 150 delegates booked in for it. (Arising from the conference  Camden IBRG were to set up an Irish Mental Health Forum)

The meeting agreed that Steve Brennan arrange a meeting with ILEA (Inner London Education Authority) to discuss education issues relating to the Irish community.

Gearoid McGearailt reported back on his policy document on Emigration which had been sent to all TDs in Dublin.

Diarmuid Breatnach proposed,  and the meeting agreed , that IBRG write to the British Home Office calling for the Irish community to be included in the 1991 ethnic census question and to lobby MPs on the issue.

It was reported to the meeting that the Bank of Ireland had investments of over 31 million invested in South Africa, but Allied Irish were not involved there.

Virginia Moyles created an action sheet of all the decisions made at the Ard Choiste something Nessan Danaher had proposed some years earlier.

Camden IBRG and first Countrywide Irish Mental Health Conference

Camden IBRG held the first ever Countrywide Irish Mental Health Conference at the Camden Irish centre on 11th January 1987. The Conference got media coverage from the Observer with an article on the day entitled A Suitable case for Treatment which stated that over 80 delegates would be attending.

The paper quotes Raymond Cochrane who stated that the Irish were more likely to suffer from mental ill-health than any other community in Britain, and that there had been little interest because the Irish are not really seen as immigrants. Indeed, the Irish community were totally unaware of the Irish mental health figures until they were discovered by the IBRG a couple of years earlier.

Another speaker Ronald Littlewood stated that:  Nobody is examining the problem because the Irish do not have the exotic appeal of other immigrants, and there is the English block about Ireland. The lack of research is a case of singular neglect.

The Observer seems to go for an explanation that lay  in the traditional Irish culture and Irish Catholicism but adds in Dr Cochrane’s  remark that English colonisation  may have played a part.  It is present day English prejudice that accounts for today’s  neglect the IBRG believe. Dr O’ Shea stated ‘we hope to campaign for more resources and encourage more specific research into the mental health problems of Irish immigrants and their children’.

On 17th  January 1987 the Irish Post had an article on Emigration and Mental Illness, a report on the IBRG conference. They quoted speaker Father  Bobby Gilmore of the Irish Chaplaincy that  ‘emigration uproots people placing them in an alien environment where they find it difficult to cope. Many do so successfully, but numerous others find the strain of forging a new life for themselves too much.’ Dr Ronald Littlewood stated ‘traditional neglect and misunderstanding of Irish people, and the widespread use of stereotypes to help cope with a large minority group, caused much of the distress and mental ill-health in the Irish community.

The Irish Press stated Irish exiles more prone to mind disorder. The Kilburn Times column   Irish Scene headed the story Break through which focussed on the Brent Irish Mental Health Group, who were active locally on the issue, and had a speaker at the conference.

Diarmuid Breatnach had a letter in the Irish Post in January setting out issues over emigration and life in Britain,  stating that  our poverty in Ireland is a direct result of centuries of colonisation with the Irish economy being stifled or moulded to British advantage. “Irish people have in this country been victims of racism and exploited for their labour, and our elderly are largely uncared for. Our children are denied access to their culture and history and constantly subjected to attempts to make them ashamed of being Irish. Now in organisations like IBRG we are standing up as a community and beginning to take some ground’. In the same issue the Frank Dolan column praised Lewisham IBRG for their Greetings from Derry London Christmas card.

On 20th  January 1987 Douglas Hurd, Home Secretary, referred   the case of the Birmingham Six back to the Court of Appeal. On the same day the Irish government of Garrett Fitzgerald fell because Labour Party  withdrew its support. A feud broke out between the Irish National Liberation Army and a breakaway group which led to 13 deaths,  including the wife of Dominic McGlinchey.

Complaint by IBRG Rejected On 24th January 1987 the Irish Post carried this  heading.  The notoriously  right-wing Press Council rejected a complaint by the IBRG against the Sun for identifying the nationality of homeless Irish family of 13 who were dependent of welfare services.

IBRG complained that the Sun improperly mentioned the family’s ethnic background in a manner likely to stir up anti-Irish feelings. The Press Council ruled that the Sun had no case to answer.

Pat Reynolds PRO in response stated ‘the Press Council’s  own annual report condemned newspapers which encourage racial prejudice by referring to the race or colour of people in news report. It is ironic that the Council has now itself condoned such behaviour towards the Irish community’.

Kenneth Donlan, second generation Irish man and Managing Editor, replied to Pat Reynolds stating that  the Sun ‘believes in the best possible relations between the Irish and the British. The best contribution to that would be an end to the Fenian activities that sickens all decent people in Britain and Ireland’. Pat wrote back to state ‘I was born a Fenian, live my life as best I can as a Fenian and hope to die an unrepentant Fenian’.

IBRG called for a boycott of the Sun for its racist reporting against Black and Irish people, and noted bias against Irish complaints from the right-wing British press council.

On Saturday 31st January 1987 the IBRG took part  in the Bloody Sunday demonstration and Rally at the City Hall in Sheffield. The March was organised by the Committee for British Withdrawal from Ireland made up of LCI,  TOM,  IBRG and the  Women and Ireland Network.

Meeting and lobby on P.T.A.

On 11th February 1987 IBRG organised a public meeting and lobby in the House of Commons to oppose the PTA with a showing of the PTA Video Suspect Community made by Haringey IBRG. Speakers were invited from NCCL, West Midlands PTA Research and Welfare Association, Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas (ICPO), Joan Maynard Labour Party NEC, Jeremy Corbyn MP, SWAPO and Sikh community representatives because of the arrest of recent delegations.

haringey video porject

Suspect Community was made by Haringey Irish Video Project

The Haringey IBRG flyer quoted Michael Holden PTA detainee ‘The police were more interested in my trade union activities and my political activities. They  knew as well as I did that it was an information gathering exercise’.

Haringey IBRG had sent a letter out to all MPs with large Irish constituents in Britain while Lewisham IBRG/Diarmuid Breatnach had also sent a letter out to IBRG branches inviting them to attend.

Irish and Education Conference ; from Irish Dimensions in British Education to Anglo Irish Education

On 14th February 1987 Nessan Danaher held his 4th National Conference on Irish Dimensions in Britain Education at Soar Valley, Leicester.  While the Conference was started off by IBRG Education Officer Nessan Danaher he had moved away in 1986 from IBRG and in 1987 held the Conference in conjunction with BAIS (British Association for Irish Studies) with its emphasis that the British bit comes before the Irish bit, and was set up  by the British and Irish government, to move away from any radical approach to the teaching of Irish culture and history in Britain.

Many IBRG people called it the new Anglo-Irish Education conference as it reflected this duality and more revisionist than addressing anti-Irish racism and discrimination in Britain, and moving away from the colonial agenda in education that the Empire was good as was the British presence in Ireland.

The central issue promoted at the conference was that all the problems between Britain and Ireland were due to unhappy misunderstandings, and a new level of understanding would sort it all out. The theme which ran through the 1986 and 1987 conferences was to  oppose the idea that British imperialism was the cause of Irelands problems and to see this as a myth, which needed to be destroyed. The power relationship between Britain and Ireland was never examined, and no challenge to the existing order.

The second lecture of the day was by Roy Foster who concluded that it would be difficult to find an acceptable form of government in Ireland, but he failed at all levels to explore the impact of British imperialism and the unequal power relations between British and Ireland.

The central theme was total revisionist but the plenary question and answer led to problems for the organisers who were challenged from the floor.  Dr Austin was told by a member of the audience, that he should call  his University “The New University of British Occupied Ireland”, which the audience seem to agree with.

The workshops were led by Sean Hutton and Jonathan Moore.  The Conference organisers were now dominated by revisionists who were in direct opposition to IBRG yet the audience rejected much of this revisionism from the floor. The revisionists had most of the power since they were all teaching in universities and well supported by the establishment, while the IBRG represented the grassroots of the community and had little resources.  There was a need for alternative Education Conferences which would more reflect IBRG and the community’s position.

On 19th February 1987 a Fianna Fail minority government led by Charlie Haughey was elected.

On 2th  February 1987 the Irish Post reported the Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP would be attending a ticket only meeting at Hornsey Town Hall on 4th  March which was jointly organised by LCI, IBRG and TOM although Haringey IBRG had booked the hall.  Adams was due to speak at the Oxford Union the following evening at the Oxford Union debate but Lady Jane Ewart Biggs had withdrawn, so much for free speech when she would not appear with a Member of her own Parliament.

Lambeth Nalgo call for British withdrawal from N. Ireland

On 14th  March 1987 the Irish Post reported that Lambeth NALGO at their AGM had passed a motion calling for British withdrawal from Northern  Ireland and the right of the Irish people to self-determination, the repeal of the PTA,  the disbanding of the Diplock Courts and the ending of super grass trials and strip searching. The resolution also called for the release of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four, and a publicity campaign by the union to highlight the true situation in Northern Ireland.

The meeting was addressed by Sean O’Murchu of Lambeth IBRG and the resolution was carried by a two to one majority. We see here, like in Brent, Irish workers beginning to organise within British  trade unions to raise issues around Northern  Ireland but also about issues affecting the Irish community in Britain.

The 5th  IBRG Ard Fheis was held on 21st March 1987 (2) At the KoCo centre,  Spoon End, Coventry. 14 branches attended from Bolton, Birmingham, Bristol, Camden, Coventry, Haringey, Harrow, NE Lancs, Manchester, Hackney, Islington, Lambeth, Leeds and Lewisham. 

Ten officers, four of them women,  were elected,  with Gearoid McGearailt elected Cathaoirleach, Leas Cathaoirleach Jackie Jolly, Uachtaran Maire O’Shea, Leas Uachtaran  Joe Mullarkey, Runai Virginia Moyles, Leas Runai, Trevor O’Farrell, Cisteoir Maurice Moore, Membership Marie Wynne, Internal Coordinator Diarmuid Breatnach, PRO Pat Reynolds.

Forty two delegates,  officers and observers attended the Ard Fheis  including Joe Mullarkey,  Tom Barron, Pat O’Sullivan, Tom Kane, Maurice Cahill, Denis Casey, Virginia Moyles, Pat Daly, Michael O’ Cnaimhsi, Trevor Farrell, Seamus O’Coileann,  Caitlin Wright, Elaine Scott, Gearoid Mac Gearailt, Maurin Higgins, Janice McKnight, Diarmuid Breatnach, Bernadette Hyland, Tom Fitzsimmons, John Martin, Eddie Caughey, David Kernoghan, Maurice Moore,  Pat Reynolds, Jackie Jolly, Michael Herbert, and Marie Wynee

Policy motions passed included regionalisation into  five areas : southern, midlands, Northern England,  Scotland and Wales, the holding of an IBRG Education conference,  and one on prisoners to highlight  issues affecting Irish prisoners,  the publication of an IBRG bulletin, a motion calling for the  Irish government to demand the repeal of the racist PTA laws, the release of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four, the ratification  of the international treaty to repatriate Irish prisoners, and that the Irish government implement a Race Relations Act to outlaw the publication of racist material in Ireland.

Policy motions passed included congratulating Manchester IBRG on their actions in contesting and opposing the use of anti-Irish materials in local schools, and instructed the Ard Choiste  as a matter of priority to activate the IBRG anti-racism subcommittee.  Congratulating Haringey IBRG in the production of their excellent education document, and request them on behalf of the whole organisation and with all branch support, to circulate this document as widely as possible throughout educational and local government authorities in Britain. This motion refers to the Haringey IBRG A4 printed document Survey into the Promotion of Irish culture within Haringey School Curriculum including Travellers’ children.

Haringey Survey into Irish Culture

It was a major document which drew on the work of  Professor Mary Hickman and Dr Philip Ullah. The document referred to Dr. Ullah’s  study of 800 British born pupils in British secondary schools where the Irish were perceived as the least liked group of all children of seven racial groups including English, West Indian, German, Indian, Jewish, Irish and Pakistani. The Irish were seen in negative terms with no positive attributes.

What was shocking was that other ethnic minority pupils had negative views of the Irish with 56.4% of West Indian pupils seeing the Irish as violent, as did 48.6% of Indian pupils, and 52% of the English group.

The report stated ‘What they are faced with therefore is an ongoing problem,  a negative portrayal of their cultural identity due to racism, which itself springs from the original denial of a culture for indigenous people in the colonial relationship. Thus, Irish children in Britain, in fearing rejection are forced to assimilate, outwardly denying their Irishness, while inwardly feeling alienated from the host culture. What often follows is that the child renounces its Irishness in public, while maintaining an Irish identity within the family circle’.

It further states in its section on Catholic schools that Catholic education has advocated the integration of Irish children into British society   at the cost of sacrificing an Irish identity.

The document placed the teaching of Ireland within the context of anti-racist policy. The report had 11 sections including; anti-Irish racism, travellers, History and politics, Literature, Language, Art, Music, Sports/games and dance /Theatre.

The report had a major section on Travellers and issues affecting Travellers’ children in schools. It had been  assumed that Catholic schools, because they educated the majority of Irish children, would have a more Irish based education, which was not true, the emphasis at these schools was on Instilling Catholicism rather than Irishness, which was left to the home and family and community.

The report of the survey and the recommendations had been approved by Haringey Education Authority on 18th June 1985 Irish studies within the Curriculum and on 19th November 1985 Educational Needs of the Irish Community.

Other motions passed at the Ard Fheis included congratulating London branches on their initiative in challenging ILEA policies towards the  Irish community and instructing  the IBRG Education officer to convene an education working group to draw up proposals for an organisation wide strategy to further the objectives of our education policy as a matter of urgency. Facilitate the implementation of IBRG education policy over the broadest possible area, and work in conjunction with the PRO for maximum publicity for and promotion of IBRG initiatives in this field.

That IBRG set up an Education Subcommittee to pursue IBRG education policy, that the Education Officer as a matter of priority organise a seminar, primarily for northern and midland branches, and to exchange information within the organisation as a whole on the following, the theory and practise of equal opportunities, definition of racism, sources of funding, extracting and using statistical information, and approaching and negotiating with statutory bodies.  That the education officer revive  the IBRG Education Conference entitled Irish Dimensions in British Education with the same format and style as our 1985 conference, and for the Education Officer to schedule the conference for January 1988 and in advance of any other conference of a similar nature, and that the conference highlight IBRG policies on Education.,

That IBRG set up an IBRG journal  to be published  four times a year, that the IBRG organise a conference to highlight issues affecting Irish prisoners in Britain, congratulated the Ard Choiste for setting up the Women’s subcommittee, and instructed the Ard Choiste to assist the Women’s subcommittee in providing material which can be used to inform women both inside and outside the organisation of the existence of the women’s subcommittee.

That IBRG build on the recent response to the PTA, by actively campaigning  throughout the year by lobbying MP’s and getting a commitment from them, to vote against the renewal of the Act, given the recent elections in Ireland  that IBRG put pressure on TD’s to raise this in the Dail,  and having it included in future negotiations with the British government, looking at future strategies to bring this Act to the attention of the public at large, and building links with other minority groups who are now suffering under the Act.

That IBRG produce a policy booklet outlining IBRG policy in various areas e.g. N. Ireland, education, PTA and that this booklet be used to promote IBRG aims and objectives throughout the  wider community.

That the term, “British Mainland,”  when used in an Irish context, is a propaganda term and in direct contradiction to the full title of the UK, and gives rise to the preposterous notion that the six counties of  Northern Ireland are not part of the Irish mainland, but somehow relegated  to an offshore British status.

The Ard Fheis recognised the right of the Scottish and Welsh people to self-determination and self-government, that IBRG recognises the close historical links between all Celtic peoples and that IBRG have discussion with the SNP and Plaid Cymru to establish common ground for future progress.

That the Irish Government draft and implement a Race Relations Act to ban the printing of racist literature in Ireland which is being distributed in Britain and Europe.

IBRG branches give full assistance to Camden IBRG to make available a digest of the IBRG Mental Health Conference held in London in January 1987.

The Ard Fheis heard reports from its officers of a year of hard work and progress and an increase in membership, clearly emerging as the leading Irish community organisation in Britain in taking up all the vital issues affecting the Irish community. IBRG had held successful conferences on N. Ireland, Education, and on Mental health and the Irish community.  The IBRG document on Emigration started a debate on emigration, and the IBRG lobby of the House of Commons over the PTA showed that on the big issues affecting the IBRG community in Britain, the IBRG had successfully represented the interest of the community.

Success of IBRG’s campaigns was how The Irish Post wrote up the Ard Fheis, stating  ‘There is a new air of confidence amongst the Irish community in Britain in social cultural and political issues, IBRG chairman Gearoid McGearailt told his organisation’s Ard Fheis at the weekend in Coventry.

He said that “Irish people are now prepared to speak out publicly on matters on which, a few years ago, they preferred to stay silent.  Furthermore, the Irish in Britain are now rightfully calling for recognition throughout the country as an ethnic group.  He attributed much of this to the IBRG’s campaigning since its formation in 1981 and he reaffirmed reorganisation’s commitment to representing Irish interests at all levels. We have recognised that the priorities of our community change rapidly , and we have developed the ability to change our priorities similarly, all of the time keeping our eyes fixed on our long term objectives, namely to have the Irish community in Britain free from oppression and discrimination, and participating as equals in a multi-cultural society’.

The article went on to give the Chair’s list of achievements by IBRG,  tackling anti-Irish racism in the media and in shops,  calling for British withdrawal and Irish unification, condemning the Anglo Irish agreement as being worthless towards sorting out a political solution in Ireland,  lobbying the Irish government on emigration, opposing the PTA, taking up issues from education to mental health, putting on Irish language classes all over the country, organising sean chairde groups,  taking up strip-searching and issues re- prisoners, the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four cases,  and being the progressive side of the Irish community in Britain.

An Phoblacht covered the Irish in Britain Ard Fheis with the IBRG logo on top of the story which was important for the nationalist community in Ireland to know that the largest Irish community organisation in Britain were taking up issues around their oppression including the repeal of the PTA, repatriation of Irish prisoners,  release of  the framed prisoners, ending of strip-searching and the call for a new Race Relations Act in Ireland.

Census and the Irish

On 31st  March 1987  Runai, Virginia Moyles, had written to Douglas Hurd MP via her MP Brian Sedgemore regarding the inclusion of the Irish in the 1991 Census as a separate ethnic group.

The letter stated:  ‘The lack of accurate, reliable and detailed statistics on the true size of the Irish community in Britain, including British born children of Irish parents and grandparents, is currently presenting the Irish community with great difficulty in identifying and meeting the needs of their members. The Irish are a sizeable part of our community. There is much evidence to indicate that the Irish community suffers disadvantage in housing, education, employment, health and social services. The extent of this disadvantage is unclear because of the lack of reliable data and disadvantage among second and third generation Irish people is virtually unrecognised.’

Irish Mental Health Forum

The first meeting the Irish Mental Health Forum took place on 4th April 1987 as a follow on to the successful IBRG Mental Health Conference held in January 1987. The meeting attracted 50 people,  mainly Irish professionals working in the fields of mental health and social welfare.

The meeting discussed some controversial points made by the speakers at the Conference about the mental health figures of the Irish in Britain. It was felt that  the research done in Britain was minimal, superficial and carried out by academics unfamiliar  with Irish history and culture, and concentrated on incidence and diagnosis, and failed to understand the cultural and historical roots of mental problem e.g. the colonial aspects of Irish life and the impact of over 800 years of oppression  and imperialist racist  domination.

It was decided to get a research student to draw up a bibliography of research undertaken in Ireland, USA and Australia, and that identification of service provision and funding needed to be sorted out.

It was agreed to set up a steering group making up of all the interested parties and individuals to take the group forward. The next meeting was planned for 9th  May 1987 at Caxton House North London.

ILEA and the Irish

On 6th  April 1987 Virginia Moyles, Runai, wrote to Councillor Hilda McCafferty at the  Inner London Education Authority  in response to a request to join in a consultative party on Irish affairs within ILEA. One of the issues flagged up was that in London IBRG had several branches and represented several different Irish communities.

IBRG set out their demands for the recognition of the Irish as distinct  ethnic/racial group, and as targets of anti-Irish racism within this society, the need for equal opportunities  monitoring of Irish employees and students, and the need to effectively counter anti-Irish racism including re-evaluating the curricula for this purpose.

She asked for details of any steps which ILEA has taken or is planning to take in the near future to put these policies issues into effective implementation. We would be interested in any ILEA documentation intended to ensure a recognition by all staff and students that anti-Irish racism is included within the terms of ILEA Equal; Opportunities policy.  The results of various conferences which the Irish community has organised over recent years to articulate its needs provide a sound foundation on which to base the work of the consultative group. The IBRG looks forward to sharing this information with ILEA and to working productively with you as part of the consultative group.

On 8th April 1987 there was a huge confrontation between police and mourners at the funeral of Larry Marley who ha been killed by the UVF and who had organised the 1983 Maze escape.

Haringey Teach In on Ireland

On 11th  April 1987 there was a one-day Haringey Teach in on Ireland organised by LCI, TOM and IBRG.   Bernie Grant chaired the morning session.

The purpose of the day school was to launch a Haringey Delegation to Northern  Ireland of Labour Councillors and community people and  to find out at first hand what it was like to live in British occupied Ireland.

Speakers from Sinn Fein and IBRG attended as the day wanted to look at issues affecting the Irish community in Britain, such as the PTA framed prisons the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four, strip searching and plastic bullets which were stock piled at Wood Green Police station and were brought to Broadwater Farm  but not used during police storming of the estate.

On 23rd  April 1987 Peter Archer, Labour spokesperson on Northern  Ireland, expressed his support for the McBride Principles which were themselves based in the Sullivan Principles based on Amerith can investment in South Africa.

On 25th  April 1987 Lord Justice Gibson, the second highest judge in N. Ireland, was killed by a IRA bomb to face a higher court based on his own controversial judgement on army killings.

On 1st  May 1987 Camden IBRG along with Camden Rights Unit and LSPU opened an exhibition on the PTA with speaker Gareth Pierce Solicitor and John McDonnell on Surveillance and the PTA and on Saturday 2nd  May showed the video Suspect Community and had a workshop on the PTA.

On 8th  May 1987 the British Colonial army in breach of the Geneva Convention executed eight IRA volunteers when they had the capacity to arrest them at Lough gall. 40 members of the SAS were involved in a pre planned execution plan. The incident was the highest IRA casualty in one single incident in the recent war.

The Ard Choiste met on 9May 1987 (3) at the Socialist Club in  Bolton with delegates and officers attending including, Diarmuid Breatnach, Gearoid McGearailt Pat Reynolds, Maire Wynne, Laura Sullivan, Arthur Delvin, Bernadette Hyland, Joe Mullarkey, Caitlin Wright, David Wright and Maurice Moore.

The Ard Choiste held a minute’s silence for the  volunteers who lost their lives at Loughgall.

The Ard Choiste heard that Haringey IBRG were holding an open Prisoners Conference in Haringey on 19th  September 1987. The Ard Choiste donated £20 to the Anti Strip Search Demo to be held in Durham on 13h June 1987. Notice was given of the James Connolly/ Bobby Sands Commemoration at Conway Hall on 16th May 1987.

The editorial committee of an Pobail Eirithe (The Risen People) was agreed, Virginia Moyles, Pat Reynolds, Diarmuid Breatnach, Del Thorogood, Kevin  Campbell, Caitlin Wright, and Peter Murray. The Ard Choiste were informed that Brighton wanted to set up an IBRG branch and that Maude Casey was helping to organise a first meeting. Pat Reynolds and Diarmuid to oversee the setting up of this new branch.

Southwark IBRG took out an advert supporting Southwark’s Council 10 days of action against Apartheid from 16-16 June 1987.  Southwark IBRG wished  to assert their whole hearted support and solidarity with the people of South Africa in their struggle for self-determination and majority rule.

Maurice Moore had a letter in the Irish Post in support of  Dave Nellist, Labour candidate in Coventry and exposed that an  Irish man Frank Devin was standing for the SDP whilst  the SDP voted for the use of the racist PTA laws against the Irish in Britain.

Festival Committee censors In June 1987 the Irish Post carried this story in relation to the London Irish Festival on 5th  July 1987 which had refused stalls to the Brent Nalgo Irish Workers Group and the IBRG. Both organisations condemned the organisers for their political discrimination which was a breach of Brent’s Equal opportunities policies.

On 11th June 1987 the Tories led by Thatcher won the British election. Bernie Grant got elected in Tottenham and in the run up to the election the IBRG were involved with other groups on organising a support rally meeting for Bernie Grant which drew in  over 300 Irish people. Bernie had given the Irish community their Centre and they would repay him with a huge vote. Bernie Grant was committed to Irish unification and supported civil rights for the Irish community in Britain.

The Irish Post also stated that the IBRG were writing to the three SDLP members of Parliament, led by John Hume, asking for their support on the PTA, strip-searching and plastic bullets. The IBRG were also contacting Labour MPs in strong Irish areas asking for their support on these issues and other issues affecting the Irish community in Britain.

The Ard Choiste met in Coventry on 20th June 1987(4) with delegates and officers attending including Tom Barron, Pat Reynolds, Caitlin Wright, Gearoid McGearailt, Brian Miller, Maurice Moore, and Kevin Campbell.

The Ard Choiste noted that Labour had lost the General election but that Bernie Grant, Jeremy Corbyn, Dianne Abbott, Clare Short and Ken Livingstone and many other had been elected who were good on Ireland.

The Ard  Choiste heard that the first issue of an Pobal Eirithe would be out by December 1987.

The meeting noted that Lambeth IBRG were hosting a National IBRG Irish Welfare Conference on 4th July at Lambeth Town Hall.

The London Irish Festival again had turned down IBRG for a stall as they were afraid of us being able to reach the Irish community.

The Labour Party Irish Sections had asked to meet IBRG which was agreed,

The Ard Choiste heard that Lord Colville was conducting another review of the PTA for the British state, and the PRO would  draft an IBRG response and all branches were  asked to write  in opposing the Act. The meeting heard  that the IBRG prisoners conference’s main focus would be on Repatriation of Irish Prisoners. The IBRG had a letter back from Brian Lenihan on the issue stating that the Department of Justice was responsible for drafting any ratification agreement on the matter. The meeting noted a large meeting had taken place in Dublin on the Birmingham Six case with Tony Benn and Chris Mullin speaking.

An Emergency Ard Choiste meeting was held at Green Ink Bookshop North London on 29th June 1987 to discuss the issue of the Mental Health Steering Group which was set up following the IBRG Mental health Conference. Delegates attending  included Laura Sullivan, Pat Sullivan, Brain Miller, Pat Reynolds, Gearoid McGearailt, Diarmuid Breatnach, Trevor O’Farrell, Tom Barron, Noreen Donoghue, and Virginia Moyles.

The issue was whether the Mental Health Forum should be independent of IBRG or whether it should have an IBRG chair. The problem being that IBRG had only five members present when 50 attended the first meeting of the Forum. The Ard Choiste could not take a decision as Camden branch had not met to discuss the situation and the matter was put off until the next London Ard Choiste on 1st August 1987.

Conference on An Irish Perspective on British Welfare

On  4th  July 1987 the IBRG held a conference on An Irish Perspective on British Welfare which was the first countrywide conference to look in-depth at the various needs and problems of the Irish living in Britain.  More than 125 people attended.

Topics covered included: Irish government welfare policy, emigration, the effects of racism, the role of the catholic Church, the needs of Irish elderly, Irish women and disadvantages, Young Irish offenders, Double disadvantage and Irish Travellers, and Welfare work and the Catholic Church.

Speakers included an  Irish Government representative from the Irish Embassy, Fr Des Wilson of West Belfast, John McDonnell ex deputy GLC, Tom Connor research worker at LSPU, Alison Norman for Policy Studies on Ageing, Mary Lennon Grainuaile Collective, Michael O Riabhaig Merseyside Probation Service, Tony Lee Outreach worker at LSPU, Liam Clarke Lecturer in Social Work and Elderly, Clare Keating of the IPA and Maire Higgins of Irish Prisoners Support Group. The conference was oversubscribed and had full workshops.

Read Gearoid’s account of the conference below.

The IBRG Ard Choiste met on 1st August 1987 (5) at Centreprise Bookshop in Hackney East London with delegates and officers attended including Gearoid McGearailt, Maire Wynne, Denis Casey, Nuala Eefting, Maurice Cahill, Tom Barron, Elaine Scott, Jackie Jolly, Virginia Moyles, Laura Sullivan, Diarmuid Breatnach,  Deasuin MacGearailt and Pete Millar.

The Ard Choiste congratulated Lambeth on the great success of their Welfare Conference. The meeting heard that the Birmingham Six appeal was coming up in November. It was noted that a new Irish Ambassador had been appointed and the meeting agreed to seek a meeting with him.

It was reported back that the IBRG, despite their ban, had taken a banner on the Roundwood Park Parade.  Carried by Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds they were very well received by the thousands of people attending.  It was agreed that the IBRG raise the ban on IBRG and the Irish Workers Group with the Chair of Leisure in Brent. The Ard Choiste heard that the Women’s Sub committee had met a few times and had held successful meetings, and had decided to create their own banner for marches and meetings.

 

IBRG on TOM Delegation to Belfast 7-10 August 1987

IBRG members joined the Troops out Delegation to Belfast from 7-10th August 1987 and took  part in the Anti-Internment march. There were 120 people from Britain on the delegation which included TOM, LCI, IBRG, AUEW, Welsh Language society, Durham miners, Broadwater Farm Youth Association, Leicester Asian Youth Project and various trade unions bodies. Laura Sullivan was quoted in the Irish Post report on 23rd August 1987 ‘We were shocked to have guns pointed at us while being questioned, but it made us all the more determined to go on. On the day itself the march was a powerful experience and with so many people on it we didn’t feel intimidated’.

Read Laura and Virginia’s report on the delegation at the bottom of this post

On 14th  August 1987 Margaret Mullarkey of Bolton IBRG received a reply from Barbara Castle MEP who wrote a supportive letter,  but stated she could not agree with IBRG policy of immediate withdrawal of British troops from Ireland.  She supported the Anglo Irish agreement, but stated that she believed in the reunification of Ireland and the withdrawal of troops as soon as possible, and had opposed the use of plastic bullets and strip searching. She  will always fight for justice for Irish people and will be happy to help the IBRG meet the needs of Bolton Irish including their cultural needs.

IBRG urges Express Boycott was the headline on 29th  August 1987 in the Irish Post story in which the IBRG called on Irish trade unionists not to print the Express newspaper in Ireland given their anti-Irish racism in Britain. They said the paper were openly racist and anti-Irish, and continually denigrate Ireland and the Irish people. The IBRG called on the Irish print workers to support their brothers and sisters in England in fighting anti Irish racism. We do not believe that they will accept 50 pieces of silver and betray their own people by printing newspapers, that call them pigs and their country a dung hole. Even when Stephen Roche won the Tour de France the Daily express printed a racist cartoon on the victory.

First meeting of Brighton IBRG

On 3rd September 1987 Gearoid McGearailt and Pat Reynolds went down to Brighton to speak to the first meeting of Brighton IBRG. The meeting was around the many issues affecting the Irish community from PTA Framed prisoners to anti Irish racism in the media. One of the new Brighton IBRG members, Maude Casey, brought out a new children’s fiction book in September called Over the Water dealing with the experience of a young second generation Irish girl growing up in Britain. It was published by the Women’s Press and was widely welcomed by the Irish community.

over the water

The IBRG Ard Choiste met on 12th September 1987 (6) in Manchester where delegates and officers including, Laura Sullivan,  Michael Cnaimhsi,  Joe Mullarkey Bolton, Caitlin Wright, David Wright, Bernadette Hyland, Majelle Barr- Kamkar, Kevin Campbell, Michael O Riabhaig, Maurice Moore, Maire O’Shea, Pat Reynolds, Gearoid McGearailt, Diarmuid Bretanach, Seamus O Coillean and Virginia Moyles.

Laura Sullivan was elected Leas Runia and Caitlin Wright was elected Education Officer. Laura and Caitlin would give the organisation greater strength.  The Ard Choiste heard that Brighton IBRG had now been set up. It was agreed that IBRG meet with TOM and LCI. It was decided to send two delegates to the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis in Dublin. It was agreed to hold the Comhcomhairle in Leeds on 24th October 1987. The Ard Choiste was interrupted for an hour and a half by a bomb hoax. Ard Choiste  agreed to support the Broadwater Farm march on 3rd  October and to make a donation of £20.

The issues to be raised with the new Irish Ambassador were agreed, extradition, repatriation of Prisoners, Birmingham Six and  Guild ford Four, PTA, trial by media, Racism in the media, Travel concession for elderly, Emigration, Dion and lack of funding, Abortion trail, 26 countries Race relations act, Schools and culture, qualification discrimination.

The Ard Choiste agreed to write to Charlie Haughey and Brian Lenihan urging them to state publicly that the Birmingham Six are innocent. The Ard Choiste agreed to sponsor and support the LCI Conference on Discrimination in Employment in N. Ireland Conference on 28 November in London.

The Ard Choiste condemned the interference of the American Ambassador to the UK for his political interference and his attack on the McBride Principles, and condemned his silence on discrimination in Northern  Ireland and for allowing himself to be used as a small pawn in a British propaganda exercise.  The Ard Choiste condemned the Irish government for their conspiracy of silence over the years on the framed innocent Irish hostages held in Britain.

The Ard Choiste further condemned the hysterical and racist manner that both the British police and media threated three Irish people alleged to have being involved in a conspiracy.

The Ard Choiste  stated that they did not believe that any Irish person charged with a political offence could receive a fair trial in Britain at the present time. Irish people arrested are publicly tried by the British media in direct contravention of the sub judice laws and noted the difference with British football supporters charged with serious offences in Belgium. The assumption of being presumed innocent until proved guilty is not extended to Irish people in Britain, it is innocent when proven Irish instead. The story referred to the three young Irish people Martina Shanahan, John McCann and Finbar Cullen, who became known as the Winchester Three. They  were arrested camping near Wiltshire and the estate of, Secretary of State for N.Ireland Tom King’s.

The Irish Post also reported that the IBRG had challenged Professor  Davies to a debate after his total failure to see the difference between racism and humour. The IBRG statement said: Racist jokes like sexist jokes are about the power relationship and domination of one group by another. Jokes on race colour and ethnic background are based on racist stereotypes that have their origins in British and European colonisation of Black and Irish people. They attack the self-identity and self-definition of a people and are a direct attempt to marginalise and render them powerless.

IBRG pointed out that  Professor Davies had also attacked Islington Council for funding an  Irish welfare project in the borough. IBRG had sent Professor  Davies a copy of Liz Curtis book “The Same Old Story; the history of anti-Irish racism” to try and educate him out of his ignorance.

US Envoy slammed by IBRG on 19th  September 1987 the Irish Post ran this story. IBRG slammed the American Ambassador for supporting the British government in opposing the McBride Principles and of ignoring the discrimination faced by Catholics in employment in N. Ireland. The argument that the McBride Principles would prohibit American investment in N. Ireland was nonsense and without evidence as American companies should not be funding racist and sectarian discrimination in employment. Americans were far more likely to invest in companies with equal opportunities programmes. The IBRG in addition were sponsoring a conference in London in November on employment discrimination in Northern  Ireland.

Haringey IBRG Conference on Repatriation of Irish Prisoners

On 19th  September 19876 Haringey IBRG put on a countrywide Conference on repatriation of Irish Prisoners in order to put pressure on both the Irish and British government on the issue. Key note speakers were Gareth Pierce and Harry Fletcher of NAPO. Over 100 people attended.

Harry Fletcher stated there were over 1000 Irish born prisoners in British jails including about 45 category A political prisoners. He stated that NAPO supported repatriating prisoners as it would improve contact between the prisoners and their families, as it costs a fortune to travel from Ireland to Britain and get accommodation and food for the trip, He also argued that Irish prisoners should be transferred to N. Ireland when  they were born there which was allowed under Home Office rules. He cited the European Repatriation of Prisoner treaty which the Home office had endorsed and only discrimination was stopping transfer of the Irish prisoners.

Gareth Pierce spoke about Frank Stagg who died in Hunger strike in 1976 for the right to serve his sentence in Ireland. At the time of the hunger strike the British government took out adverts in Belfast papers stating that Stagg could be transferred to a prison near his home and wife in Coventry,  implying that the only reason that he could not go to Ireland, was that he could not prove it was his  home at the time of his arrest.

The afternoon session was opened by four women from the Relatives Support Committee. They  spoke of their experiences of travelling to Britain for visits and the extreme hardship involved, which included the PTA and strip searching being used against them. At the end of the day, a motion was passed called on the Dublin government to ratify the convention for the repatriation of sentenced prisoners and that the British government adheres to its own prison policy and transfer Irish prisoners from N. Ireland to prisons near their homes.

The Conference was given full coverage  in An Phoblacht and in Hands off Ireland  which carried interviews with the women speakers. The London Irish News highlighted Gareth Pierce’s talk  on how Irish prisoners were often ghosted before visits, and how many relatives were held up under the PTA when trying to visit their relatives in prison in Britain.

Haringey IBRG puts case for prisoner transfers was how the Irish Post covered it and reported how Haringey IBRG had written to the Home Office Minister for prisons arguing that Irish prisoners born in N. Ireland should be transferred home. The report stated that Ken Livingstone MP had also written to the Minister who replied ‘There is no element of unfair discrimination in our policy on these transfer…Our experience has been that prisoners who retain links with paramilitary organisations are unlikely to satisfy this condition’

It was clear that Irish political prisoners were being penalised for their politics. Marie Higgins of IBRG pointed out that Britain soldiers convicted of crimes were given the automatic choice of serving their sentence in Britain. It was clear that the British government was racially discriminating against Irish prisoners because of their racial origins and their politics and the rest was lame excuses without merit.

On 1st October 1987 Haringey IBRG  presented an evening of Irish Culture at Hornsey library in North London. The Haringey IBRG Video on the Irish in Haringey  was shown which had been made by Haringey IBRG and included material on the new Irish Centre in Haringey., Taking part also was Green Ink Writers Collective, The Hairy Marys  plus traditional music with a Green ink bookstall and an exhibition on Guildford Four. The event was free and packed, and was part of Haringey multi-cultural bookfair.

hARINGEY 1987

On 2nd  October 1987 the IBRG received  a letter from TOM outlining recent discussions between TOM, LCI and IBRG and Sinn Fein which agreed that the CBWI(Committee for British Withdrawal from Ireland) would be made up of TOM, IBRG and LCI and their main responsibility would be the organisation of the annual Bloody Sunday March in Britain and other activities it decides on regarding British withdrawal from Ireland.

On 15th  October 1987 the Irish Post gave Maude Casey a full page in the Irish Post on her new book Over the Water where she was able to explain the thinking behind the novel based on second generation experience. Maude was one of the founding members of Brighton IBRG.

The Comhcomhairle was held at the Woodpecker Public House, Leeds on 24th October 1987(7). Delegates and officers attending included Kevin Campbell,  Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Cahill, Caitlin Wright, David Wright, J McCarthy, Diarmuid Breatnach, Pat Reynolds, Gearoid MacGearailt, Elaine Scott, Virginia Moyles, Maurice Moore, Deasuin McGearailt, and Sam Stewart.

It held  workshops on the Education system and the needs of Irish People led by Education officer Caitlin Wright, Internal Education/Training led by Runai Virginia Moyles, Emigration arrival in Britain led by Gearoid McGearailt. The minutes of the meeting included full reports on these workshops with a large number of recommendations.

On 26th  October 1987 the Rev Martin Smyth, Unionist MP, released a press release to Southampton Orange Lodge headed Undermining the Integrity of the Nation How public funds Finance terrorist Sympathisers. The press release would seem to libel the IBRG which is why no news agency would touch it, but a copy was forwarded to the IBRG by a journalist.

The press release stated: One of the first things I intend to do when Parliament resumes is to probe government ministers about public funds which are flowing into republican groups and left-wing organisations who act as apologists for terrorism… One of the main organisations involved is the Irish in Britain Representation group or IBRG which obtains funds from several left-wing London boroughs including Haringey, Hackney, Islington and Camden. They recently sent groups from five of their branches in London to a Bobby Sands commemoration march organised by the Booby Sands commemoration Committee… IBRG member took part in the internment commemoration in Belfast in August along with the Troops Out movement Gerry Adams and the Labour Committee on Ireland. IBRG also promotes the cause of Irish sections within the Labour Party and the teaching of Irish in schools. The organisers of an Irish Festival in Brent during the summer banned the local IBRG from taking park along with a number of Irish political prisoners’ groups. I believe this was because of the consistent apologies for republican actions. 

In fact  Islington IBRG never received one penny from Islington Council. Martin Smyth was lucky this statement was not published as he might have ended up a much poorer man as he fails to evidence any connection between IBRG and IRA military actions. Indeed, the London Evening Standard had to retract a similar false allegation. Martin Smyth does not indicate his own position as regards Loyalist Terrorism, nor does he condemn British state terrorism in Ireland like the Bloody Sunday massacre and the Ballymurphy massacre, nor the killing of children by plastic bullets. He represents a colonial mindset.

IBRG had a meeting with Sinn Fein at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis in Dublin on 31 October 1987 on the issue of Irish prisoners in Britain along with TOM, Labour Party Irish Society, IPA and London Armagh Women.

The meeting noted that much work was done in Britain on prisoners but that it needed to be better coordinated and focused to be more effective. The meeting noted the success of the recent IBRG conference on repatriation.  Groups were asked what they thought their involvement in a coordinated campaign should be how it could be organised, and what resources were required.

Groups were asked to write to Sinn Fein Prisoners Department with responses who would collate the responses into guidelines, for a possible strategy which could be put to the groups involved as a way of mounting a concerted campaign.

There was a difficulty in running political prisoners together with the framed prisoners and the ODC (ordinary decent prisoners), there were a lot of different issues like transfer to N. Ireland was already there under Home Office rules but transfer to Republic would depend on ratification on Prisoners Transfer Treaty.

There were also separate issues like the use of PTA against visitors to Britain, strip searching, the criminal justice system and  its racism and discrimination plus the racism of the media regarding  arrested persons. There were also the  separate organisation Cumann Cabrach for Republican prisoners.

Solidarity with Black Marches was the Irish Post headline on 1st  November 1987.  The paper reported that a number of Irish organisations had sponsored the Broadwater Farm March from Tottenham to Hyde Park  via Downing St – a huge distance of over 12 miles which was called under the Civil Rights banned on the second anniversary of the death of Cynthia Jarrett.

The wrongly convicted prisoners from Broadwater Farm echoed what happened the Irish community in the Birmingham Six and Guildford cases. In the police raid on Broadwater Farm, similar to N. Ireland, over 400 were arrested and over 271 homes raided. 69 people were charged but in the process many of their human rights were abused where they were kept for days without a solicitor. TOM, LCI and IBRG brought a large Irish contingent on the march with their banners. It was noted that the Labour Party Black sections had recently visited N. Ireland as guests of Sinn Fein and that Broadwater Farm Youths had visited Belfast as part of the August Delegation.

The Birmingham Six Appeal started at the Old Bailey on 2nd  November 1987 and Pat Reynolds was able to observe some of the appeal which went on for days.

On 8th  November 1987 an IRA bomb in Enniskillen killed 11 people at the annual Remembrance Day ceremony and was a disaster for the Republican movement and caused real damage in Ireland and abroad. Gordon Wilson, father of one of the dead,  nurse Marie Wilson, came out of the incident with a forgiving mind and hopes for a better future.

Manchester IBRG Hearts and Minds Conference

On 14 November 1987 Manchester IBRG held a countrywide conference entitled Hearts and Minds the Irish in Britain held at Manchester Town Hall which was opened by Cllr. Eileen Kelly Chair of Manchester City Council. The morning keynote speaker was communist and historian  Desmond Greaves and the key note afternoon speech was by Gearoid McGearailt chair of IBRG.

Manchester IBRG with Eileen Kelly, Mayor of Manchester, 1987

Manchester IBRG with Eileen Kelly Chair of Manchester City Council

The morning seminars were  on; Irish Politics in Manchester 1890-1914 by Steven Fielding, the Work of the Irish in Manchester History Group, Aspects of Irish women’s emigration by Mary Lennon, The needs of Irish Elderly by Liam Clarke, Working with Irish Travellers by Sister  Anna, and Members of Frontline Culture and Education discussed a new play No Irish Need apply. The afternoon seminars were; Fighting anti Irish racism by Pat Reynolds, Irish Dimensions in British Education by Mary Hickman, The Irish and Mental Health by Dr Maire O Shea, Growing Up Irish in Liverpool Moy McCrory and Tiochfaidh Ar La and Then What by Michael O Riabhaigh.

The Conference was sponsored by Barbara Castle MEP, Eddie Newman MEP, Christine Crawley MEP, Bob Parry MP, Eric Heffer MP, Alf Morris MP, Cllr Jim King, Cllr.Mary Kelly, Cllr Luke Kearns Irish in Britain History Centre, UCATT NW Region, MnaNhEireann,  Manchester City Council, Merseyside Irish Studies, Centerprise and Green Ink Bookshop.

The Conference received much publicity in the Irish papers in Britain with the Irish Post carrying photos and a large write up. The Post reported that 140 delegates had attended the Conference from all over Britain and particularly the North West, Midlands and Central Britain.

The Chair of Manchester City Council,  Cllr Eileen Kelly in opening the Conference stated ‘The City Council shares basic policies with the IBRG. We are seeking to defend the rights of the Irish people in Manchester and elsewhere and we are working towards redevelopment of a multi-cultural city’. She said one of her own priorities was combatting anti Irish racism in the city’s schools.  It quoted Bernadette Hyland ‘We are absolutely delighted with the way the conference went. It was a most successful day and it is bound to make a significant contribution to the development of the IBRG and the pursuance of Irish community interest in the North West.’

The London Irish News carried Gearoid McGearailt’s speech quoting it at length. He described the long term aims of IBRG was to have an Irish community which was free from repression in Britain and participating equally in this society. Britain has given us many things one of which was racism, we were one of the first people to suffer from deliberate derision of our morals and intelligence so that the British could justify the invasion of our country. Structured  integrated  racism has been one of its roots from  the time of the Anglo Normans of the 12th century. They knew what they were doing to justify invasion and expansion in Ireland. Colonial repression in the British Empire was the direct result of their invasion of Ireland. Part of the stereotyping of the Irish was that this racism was ignored. Because of the absolute belief in superiority of British intelligence this racism became part of the civilising process for the Irish people who were made out to be violent stupid and dull. The Irish in Britain were given a choice, defend your Irishness or assimilate.

Gearoid spoke of the No Irish No Blacks need Apply which faced the parents of today’s children. The oppression of the Irish community left it introverted. Today there was a new spirit around and the IBRG was a key component of this new drive for respect and recognition, and were sending out a clear message that we would no longer tolerate being second class citizens, and no longer tolerate the racism for the sake of our children and future generations. The Irish government had a problem because we told them they had a clear duty of care to the Irish in Britain as their citizens. The race relations environment in Britain had been built by the  sweat and tears of the Black community and we should ally ourselves with them against British oppression.

On 21st November 1987 the IBRG Ard Choiste met in Coventry (8) where delegates and officers included Diarmuid Breatnach,  Maurice Moore, Bernadette Hyland, Majella Barr Kamkar, Caitlin Wright, David Wright, Denis Casey, Laura Sullivan, Pat O Sullivan, Pat Reynolds, Maire O Shea, Gearoid McGearailt, Seamus O Coilean, and Eddie Caughey with apologies from Joe Mullarkey and Maire Wynne.

Bernadette Hyland was elected Leas Cathaoirleach as Jackie Jolly had stood down for health reasons. The Ard Choiste heard that the Northern region of IBRG had held a public meeting on Birmingham Six and Guildford Four and had raised over £500 for the Birmingham Six Appeal. Maria Higgins had resigned from IBRG taking the correspondence of the Irish Prisoners Support Group with her.

Lambeth IBRG had launched a leaflet on the new Nationality Act and had received over one thousand letters from Irish members of the public on the issue.  In 1981 the British government passed an Act which had an effect on every Commonwealth citizen or Irish citizen who settled in Britain before 1st January 1973 who had until the 31st December to register for British citizenship. The problem for Irish people was whether to register as British citizens or retain their Irish citizenship.

The Irish Embassy had replied over the Winchester Three stating they would only intervene or act if approached by a relative of these detained.

The meeting expressed concern and condemned Camden Council for deporting 11 homeless Irish families back to Ireland in clear cases of discrimination in that checks were made in Ireland which were not made in relation to emigrants from other countries. A motion from Haringey IBRG was agreed stating “that this meeting deplores the racism of Camden Council in deporting Irish families back to Ireland and demand that they stop immediately their racist policies against Irish people and implement their housing policies without racial bias’.

The meeting heard  of an invite from Sinn Fein for an IBRG delegation to visit Belfast on their own without the pressure of being part of a large British delegation, and being seen as a foreign delegation.

A motion from Haringey IBRG was passed which stated ‘This meeting congratulates Manchester IBRG on their successful conference Hearts and Minds held recently in Manchester. Their conference set a leading example to other branches in their organisation and presentation of important issues within our own community”.

Another motion from Haringey IBRG was passed which read’ This meeting deplores the political and media attacks on Ken Livingstone for speaking out for Irish unity and support his stand on Irish self-determination and unity and British withdrawal’.

The Ard Choiste decided to donate £200 to the Bloody Sunday March which IBRG were part of the organising committee. Laura Sullivan was nominated to be the IBRG rep on the organising committee. The meeting was told of upcoming events: picket of the  Home Office in Friday 27 November on the PTA, Sat 28 November Conference in London on Employment Discrimination in N. Ireland and on Saturday 5 December 1987 LSPU Conference at Lambeth Town Hall on Strip searching.

On 28th  November 1987 IBRG delegates attended a trade union conference “Ireland the Cause of Labouron employment discrimination in N. Ireland at the Camden Centre Camden Council Building at Kings Cross London which the IBRG had sponsored. The conference  included a full discussion of the McBride principles and have key note speakers along with workshops to look at how trade unionists in Britain could support the battle against employment discrimination in N. Ireland.

On 2nd December IBRG published the first edition of an Pobal Eirithe with over 1,000 copies published which could be sold in branches and at Irish community events.

The IBRG ARD Choiste met on 12th December 1987 (9) at the Haringey Irish Centre in North London. Delegates and officers included the following Laura Sullivan, Pat O Sullivan, Nuala Eefting, Denis Casey, Pat Reynolds, Deasun MacGearailt, Marie Wynne, Gearoid McGearailt Chair, Maurice Moore, Diarmuid Breatnach , Brian Miller, Siobhan Hier, Virginia Moyles Runai, Kevin Campbell. Apologies Maire O Shea, Bernadette Hyland and Eddie Caughey.

The Ard Choiste agreed the delegation to the Irish Embassy as Sam Steward Leeds, Caitlin Wright Bolton, Maurice Moore Coventry, Gearoid McGearailt Lambeth, Virginia Moyles Hackney and Kathleen Henry Lewisham to include three women and three men with Pat Reynolds as a fall back if needed.

The meeting noted that decision on the Birmingham Six was reserved until the New Year. The case of Danny McNamee was discussed and support offered. A motion from Hackney That IBRG work with other groups to mount a concerted campaign for the repatriation of political and non-political prisoners who wish to be repatriated to the 26 countries and for prisoners who want to be moved to the Six Counties under Home Office  rules was passed and for the abolition of strip searching.

Another motion from Hackney was passed That IBRG accepts Sinn Fein invitation to send a delegation to the 6 counties, that we learn all we can about Sinn Fein, including spending some time on cultural issues such as language and dance, and that we arrange a broader based  visit to meet other groups in 1988.

The Ard Choiste discussed the racist deportation by Camden Council of homeless Irish families and agreed to send a delegation to Camden’s  next Race Relations Committee to raise the issue, that Pat Reynolds Brian Miller and Laura Sullivan prepare a  submission to the ALA on the issue and that along with Diarmuid Breatnach they would form a London steering group on the issue, that Shelter be asked to take a test case to the European court, and that IBRG meet with Shelter on the matter.

The Ard Choiste  rejected the recommendations from Lord Colville on his review of the PTA. His main recommendation was for exclusion orders to N. Ireland be dropped as it was like South Africa with Internal exile, and his second; to make the PTA permanent rather than temporary provisions. The Government turned down his recommendation on exclusion orders.

IBRG condemned the PTA with its main aim to terrorise and intimidate the Irish community with its primary function being to politically neutralise and harass the Irish community. The IBRG calls on the Irish government to stand up for the Irish community in Britain and publicly condemn the PTA and called for its appeal.  The PTA is a totally discredited piece of legislation, a relic of vindictive colonial policing methods, based on punishing a whole community. The IBRG will continue to fight the PTA with every means available. The IBRG called the report a cosmetic smokescreen to cover up the injustice of the act. The PTA was a blatant piece of political engineering designed to silence any political views or activities around Irish unity or Britain’s role in Ireland. To make the PTA permanent is to entire anti Irish racism into British law, and as a permanent feature of British police to harass Irish citizens travelling to and from Ireland. The extension of embarkation cards was a George Orwell 1984 approach designed to target the Irish and reflect early Nazi system in Germany where they recorded minority communities. Colville exercise was a sham propaganda exercise and to increase detention times from 12 hours to 48 hours was dangerous as people were held incommunicado and without legal help.

Notes.

  1. Ard Choiste 10/01/1987
  2. Ard Fheis 21/03/1987
  3. Ard Choiste 9/05/1987
  4. Ard Choiste 20/06/1987
  5. Ard Choiste 01/08/1987
  6. Ard Choiste 12/09/1987
  7. Comhcomhairle 24/10/1987
  8. Ard Choiste 21/11/1987
  9. Ard Choiste 12/12/1987

1.

Gearoid’s speech from the “Conference on an Irish Dimension to British Welfare 1987” – note not 1984.

IBRG Welfare Conference 1987

Laura and Virginia’s report on the TOM  Delegation to Belfast 7-10 August 1987

Troops Out 1987

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Listen to my talk about the IBRG in the northwest in the Irish Collection at the WCML here

An excellent history of 200 years of Irish political activity in Mancheser – including Manchester IBRG read “The Wearing of the Green” by Michael Herbert. Buy it here

Read previous posts on IBRG history here

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Posted in education, feminism, films, human rights, Ireland, Irish second generation, labour history, Manchester, North of Ireland, political women, Socialism, Socialist Feminism, trade unions, Uncategorized, women, working class history, young people | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

My review of “Threads of Life. A History of the World Through the Eye of a Needle” Clare Hunter

threads of life

I found this book in a charity shop and it opened my eyes to a different world; the world of sewing and the important place it has in all of our memories. As a socialist I have marched behind and stood next to many banners over the years. Including those of my trade union, CND, miscarriage of justice cases …it is a long list. But I never thought about who made the banner and why banners are an important part of the political history of this country and across the world.

In “Threads of Life” Clare Hunter has brought together many examples of women and men using the language of sewing to express their lives, their hopes and dreams. Clare is a banner maker, community textile artist and textile curator. This is a fascinating history of sewing which unravels an art that has been undermined and forgotten. As Clare reminds us the process of sewing “has become separate from the object, the maker from what they have made, and with it we have lost its emotional and social potency”.

Clare traces her own love of sewing from her mother and how the whole process changed her life. She says “The absorption of needlework encouraged me to be stiller, quieter. But it also gave me another way to express myself.” Over the years she has taken that love of needlework and worked in some fascinating projects. I loved the story about Leith and working as part of a community to sew a banner to promote their community and dreams of a better life.

In this very short, but packed with history, book Clare shows how needlework was and is very important to all kinds of people from the disabled servicemen of the First World War who were taught to sew so they could make a living to the life of communist Ruth First who took up sewing in prison when she was refused the means to write.

Needlework and the production of banners has been one way that many people have used to show their anger and opposition to injustice. It is also one way  of showing comradeship and the unity of people who sometimes cannot speak the same  language. One banner I am thinking of is the one given to Mary Quaile and her comrades from the women and men of the Soviet Union in 1925.

Soviet banner given to TUC women's delegation in 1925

Mary Quaile was a working class woman who through organisations such as the Manchester and Salford Women’s TUC worked hard to help recruit some of the poorest women workers (which included Jewish tailoresses) into trade unions to improve their lives. Her life changed because of her trade union activity and by 1925 she was leading a delegation of trade union women to the Soviet Union. The aim of the delegation was to investigate the changing lives of women under socialism and over four months they travelled widely across this vast and changing political landscape.

One of the few pictures that remains of the delegation is Mary and her sisters sitting with a group of Soviet women and men. Mary looks quite different – even wearing what looks like the dress of a local woman –and with a utilitarian bob hairdo.

Mary Quaile in the Soviet Union 1925

Mary is fifth from the right on the second row from the front.

The delegation was given a beautiful banner as a present – but like many of these works of art – we do not know the story behind it – was it the  women that Mary and her comrades met who wanted to thank her for reaching to them as women and comrades?

The power of banners is very important – not just in making a statement about the life of an organisation or cause – but sometimes reflects how the sewer wants to contribute to a particular cause. In 1994 I was involved with the Kate Magee Campaign – she was an Irish women, a single parent – who was arrested Following the shooting of an Army Careers Officer in Derby. Kate was arrested and charged with offences under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

Many people were outraged with the way Kate and her children had been treated and the campaign brought in people from across the UK and the world to support her. Film maker Phil Donnellan and his wife Jill  became involved, they put up the bail for Kate, took her and her kids into their home and hearts. Jill sewed this wonderful banner which was displayed outside Sheffield Crown Court during her trial and one around supporters would gather as the trial took place and Kate was found not guilty.

Kate Magee banner

Jill is third from the left. Photo by Kevin Hayes

In this wonderful book Clare brings to life an important aspect of our history; needlework. As she says “ Sewing is a way to mark our existence on cloth; patterning our place in the world, voicing our identity, sharing something of ourselves with others and leaving the indelible evidence of our presence in stitches held fast by our touch.”

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History of the Irish in Britain Representation Group by Patrick Reynolds.Part six; 1986

 

 

Patrick Reynolds was one of the founders of IBRG and played a key role in its history. He is now writing up that history and putting it into the context of radical history in Britain and Ireland in the C20th.

IBRG Mems CARD edited-3

IBRG Membership Card 1980s

 Islington IBRG in early January 1986 wrote to all the national and local radio stations in London asking them to provide the Irish community in London with a radio programme. The Irish were then the largest minority community in London with 235,782 Irish born people living in the capital, and an estimated half million second and third generation. The IBRG stated  ‘we understand your charter includes making provision for London’s various Minority communities, and we would like to know what you are planning for London’s Irish community.’

The second campaign by Islington IBRG was on “Fair Employment in N. Ireland” where they wrote to all the major companies who were discriminating against Catholics there, in particular they targeted the Building Societies who also had branches in Britain who were guilty of discrimination.

IBRG stated:  ‘ there is an estimated five million  people Irish born or of recent Irish descent living in Britain, and we will give serious considerations to the organisation of a boycott against any British building society which continues to discriminate against Catholics in Northern Ireland, and in this matter would urge our trade unions, Black and Asian communities and labour organisation to take action in solidarity with us. As with discrimination in South Africa, it is evil and has no place in a democratic society. In considering future action we seek an urgent end to employment discrimination in Northern Ireland’.

Irish American organisations had taken up the McBride Principles:  this was the first known action in Britain on the matter.  Later Nalgo Irish worker groups would take the matter to Nalgo national conference in Bournemouth. Later too, Haringey IBRG would take it to the AGM of Abbey National Building Society, and raise the matter from the floor during the AGM with over 1000 people there. To the IBRG discrimination was also political and needed to be challenged as the statelet of Northern Ireland was created out of discrimination when it was founded.

On 9 January 1986 Islington IBRG had a speaker address the Race Relations Committee of Islington Council regarding the use of Plastic bullets in Northern Ireland and their stockpiling in Britain for use here. The meeting was told that 15 people had been killed by plastic bullets including seven children with many more blinded or  injured.

The following motion was carried: This committee calls for the complete banning of Plastic Bullets. That Brocks fireworks be banned from all council displays, all displays funded by the council, or by council funded groups, and all displays on council property. That this committee organises the showing of the video Plastic Bullets the Deadly truth made by the United Campaign against Plastic Bullets, and invite a member of the UCAPB to address a public meeting, meeting any reasonable fares and expenses. That this committee purchase copies of They Shoot Children and distribute them to all councillors.

Greater London Council  had previously asked all London local authorities to investigate the paradoxical role played by Brooks Pyrotechnics in the production of fireworks:  an essential element of plastic bullets. Again, IBRG were sending out a message both to the community in Northern  Ireland that they stood with them, but equally a message to oppressors in England that they could not get away with what they were doing in Northern Ireland.

On 11th January 1986 the Irish Post carried the headline,  ‘Building societies jobs bias in North’, which showed that seven of the nine building societies in Northern Ireland did discriminate against Catholics in employment. The seven who discriminated were Abbey National, Gateway, Halifax, Nationwide, Leeds, Progressive and the Woolwich. Ironically the President of the Building Societies in England  was the Catholic peer the Duke of Norfolk.

Other Belfast companies like Shorts employed only 3% Catholics. Aer Lingus wrongfully supported Shorts and claimed they were not discriminating, and posed a photo of the Irish Taoiseach, Gareth FitzGerald, getting out of a Shorts plane. The Irish Post carried the IBRG threat to start a boycott of building societies unless we got a plan of action from them to address discrimination in Northern  Ireland. The IBRG were also letting the Irish community in Britain know they could take up the matter with their building societies  as by their nature they were all savers and shareholders.

Maire O’Shea Case

On 13 January 1986 the Irish Times reported on ‘Petition supports O’Shea” when  a 4,000 petition was  handed in to the Home Office in London  by Clare Short MP, to coincide with public meetings on her case  in London, Liverpool, Manchester  and other cities on the eve of her trial at Manchester Crown court. Peter Lynch, Peter Jordan, Billy Grimes, and Patrick Brazil were also on trial with Maire O’Shea.

Maire O’Shea had been released on bail because of her age and health,  but  the other four had spent a year in custody. PRO Pat Reynolds was called as a character witness for Maire O’Shea, and was asked by the judge how many members were in IBRG. He talked about the number of branches and possible number of members in each branch remembering he was on oath when the helpful Judge said, “can I assume you have 4,000 members,” to which he replied “Indeed your Honour you can assume that’.

Maire’s trial lasted 17 days and she was found not guilty of both charges. Her case was a significant victory, the first time that a defendant had mounted a public, political campaign in which she was frank and open about her support for a united Ireland.

Bloody Sunday March

At the end of the month IBRG called on ‘all Irish organisations and individuals to stand together with the struggle of the Irish people by being present for the Bloody Sunday march and rally.” Kenneth Baker, Home Office  minister, replying to the committee about  the ban on Trafalgar Square, stated it would be’ both inflammatory and offensive for permission to be granted in light of continuing violence in Northern Ireland’.

Lord Gifford, addressing the Bloody Sunday rally, stated that nothing had changed in Northern  Ireland since 1972 and that ‘People are still being gunned down in Northern Ireland, not only in open demonstrations, but also by undercover tactics of the SAS’. The march went from Hyde Park to Kilburn and was attacked by National Front, who threw bottles and sticks at the marches.The  police arrested 13 people.  Francie Molley of  Sinn Fein stated at the rally that the purpose of the Anglo-Irish agreement was to smash Sinn Fein, but he reminded the crowd that their rise was inevitable.  Caitlin Wright speaking for IBRG at the rally stated that one of the main effects of the British occupation in the Six Counties was virulent anti-Irish racism in Britain. The IBRG had a large contingent on the march flying  several banners and were joined by  the Maire O’Shea campaign and their banner.

Lambeth IBRG in January 1986 advertised for two workers for their new Irish welfare project in Brixton called Curam. On 25 January 1986 Deasun McGearailt responded to John Dromey, PRO of the Federation of Irish Societies, who had attacked IBRG in a reply to a letter from Jim Murphy from Brent.  Dromey talked about ‘so-called representation groups which seek to control minds and bodies for political reasons.”  Deasun ended up by stating ‘the greatest disservice any organisation can render its people is to insist on staying on stage when their part of the play is over. History should have taught us that’.

The ongoing hostility from the Federation from the foundation of IBRG was most irrational, from John Fahy, when PRO, a Labour Councillor, plus a trade union manager in USDAW to John Dromey,  now PRO, to Father  Claude Malone to Sally Mulready and others.

Anti-Irish Racism

On 8 February 1986 the Irish Post reported ‘Books chain rejects criticism’ . WH Smith’s Managing Director stated in a reply  to IBRG that Smiths would not be withdrawing anti-Irish joke books from their stores. He had stated the same to Bernie Grant, Leader of Haringey Council, who wrote to them on behalf of Haringey IBRG. Smiths went on to state that the sales of these books indicated that there was a public demand for them, and that their role was to make books available where there was a public demand, and suggest IBRG tackled the publishers instead. IBRG accused Smiths of promoting racist material by continuing to stock anti-Irish joke books, where the community had protested again and again about them.

When Pat Reynolds asked them why they did not have for sale Liz Curtis’ book Nothing but the same Old Story the History of anti-Irish Racism, which had gone into several runs and was popular in the Irish community and beyond. Smiths stated they had no knowledge of this book. Ignorance is bliss. The PRO  challenged Smiths’ claim that they could not set themselves up as censors, and accused them of promoting racist filth and of being partial to books which denigrate Irish people, while they ignored the great classics of Irish literature and did not sell one single Gaelic book even in Irish areas. The IBRG stated they would step up their campaign, and called on the Irish community to boycott Smiths until they withdrew their anti-Irish materials.

Bolton IBRG with Raymond Halliwell, Senior Officer of  the Bolton Racial Equality Council (BREC), visited a number of book shops in Bolton selling Irish Joke books and requested the management to cease selling and stocking such racist offensive material. All the shops visited complied. He said of IBRG: “Representatives of the local Irish community have campaigned vigorously on this question and theirs has been a lone voice raised against an increasing volume of jokes that have escalated from the ridiculous fun-poking to a degree of malign denigration of the Irish race”. BREC in 1984 had launched the “Campaign on Racial Abuse in Public Places”. Halliwell commented: “The IBRG were the first local community organisation to recognise and respond to that initiative.”

“The ousting of IBRG president” On 22 February 1986 the Irish Post had a long letter from John Martin,  ex-President of the IBRG under this title.  John Martin sought to justify his role as a working miner during the miners’ strike because his pit voted to stay in, and no national ballot for the strike took place.

The letter was way off the mark,  however, as IBRG was a democratic organisation with no set privileges for any member, and the election of Dr Maire O’Shea was done because the British state had attacked the IBRG through the use of informers and touts, and the organisation took steps to protect Dr O’Shea and our other members. Every Ard Fheis elected different officers every year, that is the nature of democracy.

John Martin founded IBRG in the sense that he wrote the first letter and called the first meeting, but Michael Sheehan who wrote the second letter played a far more important role in developing IBRG. Indeed John Martin must take much of the blame on how he set up the organisation, which nearly destroyed it, by modelling  it on the right wing SDP, and failing to set up branches in London, which gave rise to the London Regional Council, which had no constitutional base in the organisation.

IBRG members were concerned about his role during the miners’ strike when a number got arrested for collecting for the miners, and were heavily involved in supporting the miners. The IBRG made its decision in that no British organisation has ever split on the question of Ireland, and no Irish organisation was going to split on the question of British unions, and why they did not hold a national ballot.

IBRG had a duty to the majority of its members who were to a person supportive of the miners, and John Martin should have understood this issue. He should also have respected Dr Maire O’Shea role as President when she spoke at over 30 meetings in one year, and gave IBRG a huge profile on a national level in taking forward the IBRG’s PTA campaign, and stepped up the role of President.

Gearoid McGearailt replied to John Martin in the Irish Post with ‘there’s still a role in the IBRG for John Martin’. He set out the position of IBRG and the close links between the Irish community and the miners and where similarities were drawn to how, the police treated the mining communities with how they treated the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland. Much education on the issue of Ireland had gone on. The NUM had a history of supporting the Bloody Sunday March each year, and had thousands of Irish born and following generations working in the English mines.

But the main issue of the day was that IBRG had been attacked by the state and sought to defend itself by standing with our people under attack, and by electing Dr Marie O’Shea gave  a clear message to the  British state, that the IBRG and the Irish community of this generation would not be intimidated. It was not a vote against John Martin but a vote of defiance against the British state who had sought to terrorise us.

Editor’s note. Judy Peddle disagreed with the way John Martin was treated and replies;

I have to take issue with the unfair downgrading of John Martin’s role in the IBRG in the 1986 report.
John did much more for the organisation then write the first letter and call the first meeting.
He contacted people from all over the UK and travelled to convene inaugural meetings when he was satisfied there were enough people interested in forming a branch.  He always kept in touch about the progress of branches afterwards.
Bear in mind also that in 1984 he was prepared to cycle round Ireland to raise funds for the IBRG.
I don’t think he had any particular branch structure in mind and he certainly did not nearly ruin the organisation; he could not have caused London members to fight among themselves and in the pre social media and mobile phone days he could not have resolved their problems, especially when he lived a good 3 hours away from London.
He was in an extremely difficult position at the time of the miners’ strike when his own NUM branch did not support it.  He even told me that some miners in his area who did strike fully appreciated his predicament.  It is easy for people to moralise but they can never be sure of how they would react in a particular situation.
John was not even thanked for all his work at the 1985 Ard Fheis, was given no position of any kind and was cruelly ignored by large sections of the attendance.  Many people in the Irish community – by no means confined to the Federation – were angry at his treatment.
 Brendan MacLua called it appalling.  Is it fair or necessary after 35 years to not alone open old wounds but to give just one side of the story?  It could simply have been mentioned in passing that there was some controversy over the issue.

Antagonistic relationship On 1 March 1986 Gearoid McGearailt had a long letter in the Irish Post in which where he took to task Father  Claude Malone of the Camden Irish Centre over his Irish Post letter of 15 February 1986. Mr Claude Malone was later to marry Orla O’Halloran from the Irish Embassy in London.

Malone had attacked the GLC Irish Unit making the claim that ‘the record of grants awarded and refused to Irish groups is evidence of the GLC  falling victim to the nasty political game of fractionising the Irish community, and thus placing in antagonistic relationship  Irish groups whose only strength lies in unity and solidarity for example  groups like the IBRG versus traditional organisations,  such as ourselves, the Council of Irish Counties and the Federation of Irish societies’.

Gearoid went on to challenge this view and stated ‘any suggestion or inference that IBRG fared better than other groups or at the expense of other groups, in their dealing with the GLC is grossly misleading. Considering the GLC now has but weeks to run before abolition, should we not be praising it and its workers for allocating upwards of £3M to the Irish community in London, instead of attacking them. What other local authority has had the much courage to match its conviction?’

Gearoid went on to list the many ways IBRG had been opposed by the Irish establishment in Britain and the Federation. Malone had failed in his letter to show how the Irish centre or any other traditional group had been overlooked in any way.

Vital that Irish attend Manchester meeting On 1 March 1986 the Irish Post carried the story which invited the Irish community to attend a meeting on 11th March at Manchester Town Hall, where Manchester City Social Services committee were setting up a working party concerning race and social services. ‘It is vital for a range of Irish representatives are present at this meeting so that we can convey the specific needs of the Irish community’  said Jim King. ‘Manchester has a high proportion of elderly Irish born and many of them are in need for various reasons not being reached. but with social services, we have to establish more effective means of communicating with them’.

Earlier in the year Manchester City Education department made a firm commitment to include an Irish dimension in the curricula of the city’s schools. That too was the result of last year’s IBRG submission. The Council has accepted that children from an Irish background have a right to know about their own culture and that the fostering of respect for Irish identity is a useful antidote to anti-Irish racism.

Two Irish projects were set up  in Manchester and Lee Hankin had been seconded for a year to work full time on the development of Irish studies. A series of seminars and workshops were to be arranged and the Education Department has set about developing links with the Irish community involving consultation on a regular basis.  Leeds, Birmingham,  Islington Haringey and Lambeth. had followed the GLC in recognising the Irish.

John Martin also had a letter in the same issue on the matter. John stated ‘The IBRG is a relevant organisation. Town hall support is an IBRG achievement. It needs to be emphasised that the IBRG did not come into existence to compete against another Irish organisations. Its purpose was and remains to stand up for the Irish community, and pursue its interests whatever they may be. I do hope that on reflection Father Malone realises he erred in attacking the IBRG. His letter of 15 February was unnecessary divisive’.

“Lambeth aid to Irish to continue”. This headline in the Irish Post in March detailed the fact that Lambeth Council had taken over GLC funding for IBRG of £38k a year for an office and two workers. Gearoid McGearailt stated that ,while they had made gains in Lambeth,  the Race Relations department were still refusing to recognise the Irish as a minority community, subject to racial abuse and harassment. A fresh report was now going to Lambeth Community Affairs committee setting out the demands of the Irish community The Council had already taken a position on the PTA and on strip-searching, but needed to go further and include  the Irish in ethnic monitoring of its workforce and of its service provision in the borough, so that it could more effectively address the needs of the Irish community, particularly Irish elders and address areas of discrimination in employment and housing

In early March 1986 Gearoid McGearailt addressed the London Labour Party Annual Conference at County Hall,  London, where he stated that Labour party official policy towards the Irish people was one of patronisation and dismissal. At the same meeting Seamus Carey of Islington IBRG addressed the meeting on a motion, calling for better provision for travellers in London which was carried. Two motions on Ireland: one calling for an end to strip searching in Brixton and Armagh jails, and another calling for a commitment to open discussion on British withdrawal from Northern Ireland, with invites to Sinn Fein, and it attacked the bipartisan approach of the Labour Party in accepting the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Both motions were deferred to the first NEC meeting on 10 March.

In mid-March for  St Patrick Day  the Irish Club put on a dinner at the Hilton where they invited Tom King as guest of honour, and the IBRG and the London Armagh Women’s’ Group called a picket of the event to protect at the strip searching of Ella and Martina in Brixton prison, and the strip searching of women in Armagh Jail.  40 demonstrators turned up with loudhailers. The event was covered in An Phoblacht and the Irish Press.

At the dinner Tom King attacked Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution and its claim to a united Ireland. He ruled out any kind of joint authority in Northern Ireland and a United Ireland ‘Neither, despite all the nonsense being put about by some in Northern Ireland is implied by the Agreement. Neither would it be tolerated by most of the people in N. Ireland’.  In saying so King gives total support to the Unionist veto, yet wanted Ireland to drop all claims to her national territory stolen by an imperial and colonial power.

On the PTA renewal debate, at the House of Commons,  IBRG in a statement called for a mass lobby of MP’s of all political parties demanding the repeal of the PTA. The IBRG urged all concerned organisations and individuals to express the strength of feelings within the Irish community against this obnoxious act, by writing to their MP, or visiting them in the House of Commons, to demand their presence to vote against the renewal of the Act. ‘The Irish community will take note of how many MPs this year vote against the Act. MPs who don’t seek its repeal are not deserving of a single Irish vote’ the statement said without mincing its words.  The Irish Post stated later: ‘The IBRG is right. The Irish community owes it to itself to note what happens in this year’s renewal debate and remember this when it comes to polling day.’

The  IBRG Ard Fheis took place on 22nd March 1986 in Leeds at the CAB office (1). The following branches sent delegates:  Birmingham, Bolton, Brent, Bristol, Camden, Coventry, Haringey, Harrow, Lambeth, Leeds, Lewisham, Manchester, N.E. Lancs, Southwark, and Wigan, 15 branches in all. The following outgoing officers attended: Jim King, Alan Wallace, Caitlin Wright, Pat Reynolds, Marie Wynee, Gearoid McGearailt, Maire O Shea and Joe Mullarkey.

The following Officers were elected;

Cathaoirleach, Gearoid McGearailt Lambeth,

Leas Cathaoirleach, Jacqueline Jolly Southwark.

Uachtaran, Maire O’Shea, Birmingham,

Leas Uachtaran,  Joe Mullarkey Bolton

Runai,  Eamonn de Faoite Lambeth.

Cisteoir,  Maurice Moore Coventry.

Internal co-ordinator,  Caitlin Wright Bolton

Runai ballraíochta,  Marie Wynee Haringey

PRO, Pat Reynolds Islington

Youth officer,  Barry O’Keefe

Nessan Danaher was thanked by the Ard Fheis for all his hard work for IBRG in the field of education.

The following policy motions were passed:

That the Ard Fheis calls on Irish Banking and insurance companies to disinvest from South Africa and make resources available for further economic development of the Irish in Britain (Haringey),

That IBRG recognises the right of the Irish people to choose for themselves the methods they see fit to resist the British occupation of the six occupied counties of north eastern Ireland.

That IBRG call a Northern Ireland Policy Conference within six months of this Ard Fheis and invite motions and delegates to attend with a view to developing and defining IBRG policy on Nt Ireland

That all IBRG press for funding to help meet the social and welfare needs of the Irish community

That this Ard Fheis agrees that the IBRG nationally should submit its Northern Ireland policy document to the Labour Party NEC by personal delegation, and to present it to any other national political party.

That the Ard Fheis agrees that all IBRG request the views of parliamentary candidates during elections as regards Ireland and take steps to publish these views.

That this Ard Fheis condemns in the strongest possible terms strip searching as used in British prisons and police stations against Irish people and reject British government statements that this is necessary for security reasons.

That IBRG should reiterate its position on strip searching in the light of the visit of Dublin Trade Unionist to Armagh prison and should encourage IBRG to take up the issue in their trade unions.

That this Ard Fheis agrees that IBRG condemns the strip searching of Martina Anderson and Ella O Dwyer in Brixton prison and calls for an immediate end  to this harassment, and to the harassment of any other women in British controlled jails, and agrees  to send a message of solidarity and support to the two women in Brixton prison, and to lend support  including financial to the campaign on behalf of these two women.

That this Ard Fheis agrees that the IBRG press ahead with its campaign against the PTA launched in January 1985.

That this Ard Fheis agrees in relation to the campaign against the PTA, the IBRG investigates the feasibility of calling a national demonstration and rally against the PTA

That this Ard Fheis rejects the Anglo-Irish agreement as a vehicle for the just ending to the war in Ireland. The IBRG condemn it as an attempt to reintroduce British rule in Ireland, to maintain the division of Ireland, to further repress the National aspirations of the Irish people, and to undermine the gains made by the Republican Movement.

That all branches take up the discussion about the Anglo-Irish agreement in order to explain to the community and people in general the reasons for rejecting the accord

That the IBRG be seen as more prominent at major demonstrations concerned with Ireland and that the IBRG should press for the 1987 Bloody Sunday demonstration to be held in Birmingham and that all future demonstrations be held in rotation through the principal cities of Britain.

That this Ard Fheis agrees that the IBRG supports the actions of the PRO in expressing deep concerns about recent research which shows that leading British building societies discriminate against the Nationalist community in their employment policies. Therefore, it is proposing that the IBRG Ard Choiste investigates the most appropriate method of campaigning for equality of opportunity among companies operating in the Six Counties.

The Irish Post covered the Ard Fheis with “IBRG gets new chairman” and reported that Gearoid McGearailt from Lambeth had replaced Jim King from Manchester who had stood down after three years as chair. Jim was now a Labour councillor in Salford and had led the early years of IBRG expansion. Dr Maire O’Shea was re-elected President as a show of support for her courage and resolve while held under the PTA. Dr O’Shea had addressed the meeting about her experiences under the PTA and called for the PTA to be attacked with new vigour. The Ard Fheis heard that new branches were being set up in Hammersmith, and Ealing in London.

On 29 March 1986 the Dolan Column in the Irish Post,  written by editor Brendan McLua, devoted his column to Ken Livingstone in which he gave the history of Livingstone’s  position on Ireland and his support for the Irish community in London. He recalled how Livingstone called together at the Irish communities in London, but the chair of the Federation dismissed the GLC Leader as Red Ted Livingstone mixing him up with Ted Knight Leader of Lambeth. The older traditional Irish organisation did not consider themselves ethnic and found the word pejorative. The IBRG understood. ‘But other Irish organisations in London fully understood and fully subscribed to Livingstone’s caring socialist philosophy. Foremost among these was the IBRG, which was then in its infancy. It represented mainly the young and largely British educated second generation. They understood the language being spoken. So did too London’s radicalised women most of them by contrast Irish born’.

IBRG would dispute that the organisation was mainly second generation, it was both. In London you had Irish born people like Seamus Carey, Pat Reynolds, Brid Keenan, Marie Wynee,  Margaret O’Keefe, Bridgit Gavin and many more and then the second generation like Gearoid McGearailt, Steve Brennan, Alex McDonnell, Virginia Moyles, Laura Sullivan, Mary Hickman, Maude Casey, and many more. It was the politics of the individuals rather than the generation or age. The IBRG were, like many Irish before them,  a radical working-class leadership born into a culture of resistance at home and in Britain, and like the Bob Marley song were ‘fighting on arrival’ for survival.

N.E. Lancs IBRG had their Ard Fheis on 30th March 1986 where they looked back on a successful year including the publication of a report entitled the Irish in Lancashire, which they had circulated widely to local authorities, MPs, libraries, councillors and community relations councils. It had a history of the Irish in the county and set out their current needs. They had been involved in the Blackburn Irish Festival and the Mayor of Blackburn, Michael Madigan, had joined the IBRG. Michael OCaimhsi stated ‘The IBRG have a very exciting program for the coming year. We plan to form a Sean chairde club for Irish elders and as well as groups for women and youth people.’

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In April 1986 Diarmuid Breatnach of Lewishham IBRG had a letter in the Irish Post, Strip Searching Principle of civil liberty involved,”  in which  he reported on Lewisham IBRG attending a march against strip searching from Kennington to Brixton Prison on 5 April 1986. Dr Maire O’Shea had spoken and stated that ‘Defending our prisoners, those who are victimised  because of their aspirations to see Ireland free, is an integral part of standing up for ourselves as a community. Diarmuid ended by calling on the Irish community to support the Saturday morning picket of the prison.

Seamus Carey of Islington IBRG had a letter in the same issue stating that IBRG was not just a second generation organisation but a broad based organisation across the generations   ‘to assert vigorously the rights and interest of the entire Irish community.

On 12 April 1986 Gearoid McGearailt had a letter in the Irish Post entitled “Unjustified Unwarranted Smear” in reply to a John Dromey’s, PRO Federation, letter on 22 March. John Dromey was looking for a small share of GLC grants for himself but Gearoid pointed out ‘No one ever was nor ever should be automatically entitled to their share of public money, because it is ratepayers’ money and should be the subject of careful and frugal management”. Gearoid went on to question the donations the Federation got without competition from Aer Lingus, Allied Irish Banks, Bord Failte, Sealink B&I, Guinness and the Dept of Foreign Affairs which were not scrutinised in any way.

On 26 April 1986 the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Haringey Irish Centre in North London. Twenty-four delegates and officers attended including Eamonn de Faoite, Gearoid McGearailt, Sean Cross, Eddie Caughey, Maurice Cahill, Nuala Effting, Fionbarra O Cuillin, Marie Wynee, Pat Reynolds, Tom Barron, Seamus Carey, Thomas McEoin, Brian Miller, Diarmuid Breatnach, Elizabeth Cassidy, Maurice Moore, Maire O’Shea, Sean Hone, Maura Cassidy, Kate Bruder, Alex McDonnell, and Pat Daly.

This Ard Choiste was mainly taken up going back over all previous motions to the Ard Fheiseanna, to see what progress had been made on each. The Trade Unionists for Irish Unity and Independence (TUIUI) had invited IBRG to their AGM in Dublin and it was agreed that Maurice Moore should attend this. An invitation to the Fianna Fail Ard Fheis had come in too late to be actioned. It was agreed to provide a speaker for the Wolfe Tone Hunger Strike Commemoration at Conway Hall on 10 May 1986. The Labour Committee on Ireland had invited an IBRG delegate to attend their meeting with a view to creating links and facilitating communication with the IBRG.

It was agreed that a review of the  Northern Ireland Policy at a Conference would take place on 20 September 1986 and that it would include discussion on the Anglo-Irish Agreement passed in 1985.

On the issue of fair Employment in Northern Ireland it was agreed that that Ard Choiste contact the Fair Employment Agency for information on the issue, that branches raise the issue within their trade unions, that branches raise the issue with their MP and MEP, and that the Ard Choiste compile a factsheet on the matter. This had been proposed by Maurice Moore and seconded by Diarmuid Breatnach.

On Strip Searching it was agreed to support the Saturday morning pickets of Brixton Prison to support republican prisoners, Ella O’Dwyer and Martina Anderson. On being informed, that Pat Reynolds PRO was attending the NCCL monthly meetings on the PTA, it was agreed that the Minutes of these meetings should  be sent on to the branches, and that Birmingham and Haringey bring back proposals re- their motion on holding a national demonstration against the PTA.  It was learned that Neil Kinnock Leader of the Labour Party had spoken out in parliament against the PTA recently.

The proposal from Lambeth on holding a Welfare conference for the Irish in Britain was referred back to Lambeth for future proposals. The proposal that IBRG resolve to organise a campaign to demand effective legislation against anti-Irish and other racist propaganda in any form including jokes and articles of merchandise, which are being widely disseminated by the media and by many commercial establishments was referred to a subcommittee for further active proposals.

The meeting heard that plans were in hand to set up an IBRG branch in Nottingham and it was decided to write to the 60 plus members who belonged to the previous branch there. Maurice Moore and Maire O’Shea were tasked with setting up the Nottingham branch. In the  early days of IBRG the Ard Choiste were held in Nottingham many times.

There was discussion about setting up a second branch of IBRG in Birmingham and Maire O’Shea was asked to come back with proposals as to how the city could be divided for this purpose. Pat Daly informed the meeting of a new campaign being set up for Peter Jordan, but it must be borne in mind that Daly was likely to be working for M15.

 “British media and the North” a story in The Irish Post in April 1986 told its readers  that Liz Curtis, the writer, was organising an evening course in Hammersmith on the British media coverage of Northern  Ireland . Her speakers would include Pat Reynolds PRO, Ken Lynam of the Irish Video project and Joanne O’Brien from Format Photography.  Liz  was the author of a new book called  Ireland the Propaganda War.

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 “IBRG list election issues”a story in The Irish Post on 1 May 1986  about how  IBRG had set out its manifesto for the local elections on 8 May  in London. It stated that the Irish vote could determine the result in nine London boroughs,

The IBRG Manifesto listed seven issues which the voters should take up with any candidates standing. These were; to recognise that Irish people Irish or British born are frequently the victims of racism in areas such as housing and employment, as well as in the development of their culture and identity;  that boroughs councils should support positive steps  at countering anti-Irish discrimination; that councils undertake research in order  to identify and analyse the needs of the local Irish community; that councils should  include the Irish in equal opportunities programs; that councils recognise the special needs of Irish elders and provide more services for them, as well as providing resources for the children of Irish parents  so that they can maintain and develop their cultural identities; that  the relevant council employees be educated in understanding the social and cultural problems and needs of the Irish community: and finally  and that councils recognise that the PTA is a racist weapon used unjustifiably and indiscriminately against the Irish in Britain, to stifle their political development.

IBRG stated that the Irish were a determining vote in Brent, Ealing, Hounslow, Waltham Forest, Richmond on Thames, Camden, Hammersmith and Fulham, Lambeth and Tower Hamlets as the Irish vote was larger than the majority of the leading party. In several other boroughs like Islington Haringey and Lewisham the Irish were a sizable community but Labour easily won these Councils.

After the London local elections and ILEA elections the IBRG issued a statement welcoming the return of Town Hall administrations which were supportive of the Irish in Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Leicester, Coventry, Haringey , Islington, Newham, Greenwich, Camden, and Lambeth Changes  in  administration in Brent, Waltham Forest, Hammersmith and Ealing offered the Irish community new opportunities to push for recognition in these area.

IBRG also took good notice of the new ILEA (Inner London Education Authority) who controlled all the schools in the Inner London boroughs. The outgoing authority had  refused to recognise the Irish and had discriminated against the community in terms of recognition, resources and curriculum.  The IBRG noted that ILEA were out of step with the London Labour Party in its policy towards the Irish community, and IBRG demanded that the new ILEA administration immediately take on board recognition of the Irish. IBRG would be putting their demands to ILEA and would await their response. ‘Recognition of our culture and identity is a right, we want them to be educated that they may be free, rather than be forcibly assimilated. The IBRG view education as a top priority for the Irish community in Britain today, and will act to demand that Britain’s multi-cultural society gives equal recognition and rights to Irish culture within Britain.’

On 6 June 1986 the Irish Post ran the story from IBRG that ILEA were refusing to recognise the Irish as an ethnic group and were making no provision for the Irish.  The IBRG accused them of having racist approach to the Irish and because the Irish did not fit into the black/white perspective, they ignored the Irish despite the Irish history of colonial oppression. ILEA  then responded to say that the Authority were concerned about the experiences of Irish children and recognised that anti-Irish prejudice existed, and that their policy documents have emphasised that discrimination affects not only black groups by also some white ethnic minority groups. In Leeds the Irish community were facing the same problem in not being recognised in any way.

On 3 May 1986 the letters page of the Irish Post was taken up with replies to Sally Mulready’s earlier letter of 12 April where she had attacked IBRG. Her principal charge against the IBRG was that ‘I get the strong impression that many of the IBRG members are young, educated people who are not here essentially for economic reasons. As one reader replied, ‘ Naturally, they are not in Britain for economic reasons. They happen to have been born here.’ Mulready attacked the Irish Unit at the GLC and falsely raised the claim that  the Irish centre did not get funding because it was led by Catholic priests. Steve Brennan as GLC Irish officer replied to Mulready stating the facts of the case which was very different. One reader replied I do wish that Father  Claude Malone, John Dromey and Sally Mulready would stop using the Irish community as a pawn in their little power games.

In the same issue of the Irish Post another story ‘Haringey committed to Irish’, showed that Haringey Council had committed £65K to fund Irish community projects which were previously funded by the GLC with Haringey IBRG getting £23k for their two-worker project.

Marie Wynee, Finbarr Cullen and Pat Reynolds represented the IBRG at the meeting while Councillor  George Meehan, Bill Aulsberry and Donal Kennedy represented Irish Community Care Project which was run by Sister Joan Kane. Earlier that year Bernie Grant, now leader of Haringey Council, had given over a surplus school  to be converted into a centre for the Irish in Haringey. In addition, the Council,  like the GLC,   had created an Irish Unit with Seamus Taylor leading it with four full time staff. The new Irish Centre was chaired by Maria Higgins of Haringey IBRG. In the same issue the Post reported that Green Ink Bookshop funding had been taken over by Greater London Arts from the GLC.

“Your Vote on the London local electionsA story in the Irish Post in the Dolan Column on 10 May 1986responded to ICRA (Irish Civil Rights Association) led by Jim Curran, who took out an advert in the Irish Post,  which stated that ‘until Irish Unity is official party policy, no Irish person should join, vote or give support to any British political party.’ In this they repeated their 1981 claims.

IBRG strongly disagreed with them on this matter, as it would mean Irish people not voting for Ken Livingstone, John McDonnell, Tony Benn, or Jeremy Corbyn who were supporters of Irish Unity and Independence.

Dolan stated ‘I put the Irish community first. We and our offspring are as numerous as the population of Ireland. We are entitled to our own perspective not just on partition, but on the welfare of our community’ Partition and Irish reunification is the supreme issue. But withholding your vote this Thursday will not solve that ingrained problem. What it may do is deny recourses to our children in growing up proudly Irish’. Dolan went on to quote John Martin ‘Town hall support is an IBRG achievement”.

He is partly correct. It was the street activism of the IBRG which consolidated the Town Hall response to our disfranchisement debate. We, Irish here, must function at two complementary levels. Ireland’s cause is one level and the other level is the sustenance and development of being Irish in Britain. If we fade away or fail to develop our potential as Irish in Britain, then we can make no contribution to Ireland. The Town Hall is materially and psychologically an important source of being proudly and effectively Irish in the country’ he went on to state that Ken Livingstone gave far more money and moral support to the Irish in London than have Irish governments since 1922. There are hints of similar developments in Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Leicester and Bradford.  Thanks to the GLC Irish activism in London culturally, politically educationally  and in caring for our aged is now an effective level of performance.

On 28 May 1986 Gearoid McGearailt sent a letter out to IBRG branches setting out the discriminatory and sectarian way the Irish Embassy/Government were acting towards IBRG. One example was the composition of the Dion Irish Welfare Committee which had two Federation members on its committee, one of whom  Seamus McGarry who had no social work experience.

Gearoid stated ‘The policy of the present Irish government is to contain IBRG as best they can and to use finances and the Federation,  the media and anything else they can to achieve this purpose. It would make sense therefore for IBRG to recognise this and to gauge each and every contact with the Government, or the Embassy, whether official or unofficial on the basis that it will be used by Dublin to undermine or curtail our development… It would be far more appropriate and sensible  for us to adopt a more long term approach to this problem, by firstly recognising that Dion was never intended to fund genuine welfare in Britain, but was instead intended to be a vehicle for transferring funds from the Irish government to the Federation, the strategy being to avoid the situation  which the Embassy in America now faces. They have become a lone government voice crying in the wilderness of an Irish community which sees them for what they are’… It is surely no coincidence that sponsorship of the Federation grew from £2750 in March 1984 to £13,480 by March 1985 and the sponsors included Aer Lingus, Bank of Ireland, B&I, Bord Faillte, Dept of Foreign Affairs, Guinness Irish Distillers and Sealink.

These were largely  the same companies which were sponsoring anti-Irish racism in the British media in the Sun and Express and other papers were now sponsoring the Federation. The IBRG would be punished for their principled stand against anti-Irish racism in Britain, while the Federation who largely stood idly by would be rewarded for their silence.

On 31 May 1986 the IBRG Ard Choiste (3) met at the Unemployed Centre in Birmingham when 24 delegates and officers attended with Gearoid McGearailt in the Chair and Eamonn de Faoite as Runai. The following attended Sean Cross, Eddie Caughey, Maurice Cahill, Joe Mullarkey, Marion O’Brien, Marie Wynee, Jean Somers, John Martin, Pat Reynolds, H McIntyre, John O’Neill, Elizabeth Cassidy, Maurice Moore, Maire O’Shea, M Cassidy, Sean Hone, Gearoid Elliot, Steve Brennan, Antoine MacLean, Joe Murphy,  Mark O ‘Sullivan and Celia McGarron.

The Ard Choiste heard that Steve Brennan had spoken at the Hunger Strike Commemoration meeting at Caxton House London, and that Maurice Moore had attended the AGM of TUIUI in Dublin. It was agreed that Maire O’Shea attend the Labour and Ireland committee meeting as an  IBRG delegate.

The Ard Choiste agreed to complain to the Daily Mail over an article by Mary Kenny which had been extremely detrimental in its comments on Northern Irish people. The Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas had been in touch requesting information and possible support in helping relatives out when coming to Britain.

The Ard Choiste elected Steve Brenan as Education Officer and agreed to hold an Education day in Haringey where Steve could present his plan and strategy.  The Swan Report needs to be included in our strategy. On the issue of South Africa Maurice Moore reported back from the TUIUI conference, and stated that Irish Anti-Apartheid movement had information around Irish banks being involved in St Africa but no information was available on insurance companies.

The Ard Choiste heard that the IBRG picket of Brixton Prison on Saturday 24 May for Ella and Martina drew over 50 people with a number of branches present. Islington IBRG reported back that it would be better to organise a National lobby around PTA renewal than any national demonstration.

The Ard Choiste met on 5 July 1986 (4) at St Finbarr’s Club in Coventry at which 19 delegates and officers attended including Gearoid McGearailt, Eamonn de Foite Runai, Sean Cross, Pat O’Sullivan, Denis Case, Marion O’Brien, Marie Wynee, Pat Daly,  Mick Cole, Brian Millar, Mary Donnelly, Dave Kernaghan, Maurice Moore, Maire O’Shea,  Nora Doyle, Aine bean Ni Gearailt and Antoine MacLean.

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The Ard Choiste agreed to affiliate to the Guildford Four Campaign and to send a representative  to their meetings, to buy packs to send them out to branches and send to  other parties and groups.  Tom Barron from Islington IBRG was already involved in the campaign which used the Islington Irish centre which the IBRG had set up as their base.

Birmingham Six Group Campaign in North West. On 16 July 1986 Arthur Devlin of Bolton IBRG wrote a long letter to Pat Reynolds of Haringey IBRG setting out what the newly formed Birmingham Six Campaign Group were doing in his area, while London IBRG were planning to set up a London campaign on the case. The Bolton Group had written to over 120 MPs and had only got eight replies so far: from Kevin McNamara, Seamus Mallon, Neil Kinnock, Harry Cohen, Ron Brown and others. There was also a Birmingham Six Group within NCCL in Manchester.  The letter is an indication of how different IBRG branches were working on differing issues and supporting each other.

IBRG Policy  Document on Emigration A Positive Action Plan was launched In July 1986.

Gearoid McGearailt, Chair of IBRG ,said the document   addressed the  mass immigration from Ireland to Britain and other countries in the 1980’s while the Dublin Government as usual stood idly by.

The policy document set out the IBRG strategy for tacking mass emigration from Ireland, and stated that the action around emigration must be directed into two areas.  One: measures  and policies  aimed at reducing unemployment in Ireland, and two: adequate information and support for those  forced to emigrate by economic necessity to adjust to British society,  as well as support and encouragement to return home.

IBRG stated that the appalling economic and social situation in Ireland was as much the result of continuing neo colonial domination by Britain of Ireland as well as years of Dublin’s mismanagement. The accepted use of Emigration as safety release valve for the declining social /economic situation in Ireland has been proved by past example to be short sighted and damaging to the long-term development of the Irish nation. Britain benefits by millions of pounds from the training and education given to Irish young people, before they emigrate to the British State without paying one penny has the total benefits for educated workers for their system. Ireland loses that financial investment by accepting the re-emergence of emigration but also loses the skills and intelligence of its young and life blood, putting in jeopardy its own potential economic an industrial development.

The Dublin Government should see emigration as a social and moral embarrassment and monies saved by emigration, should be put into schemes aimed at helping young emigrants abroad, and at alleviating socio economic condition in Ireland. The Dublin Government should prioritise the welfare and needs of the people above that, of maintaining a security role in Britain’s intervention policies in N. Ireland.

The Irish people did not want the war in Ireland, the Irish people did not cause the war in Ireland, and the Irish people should not have to pay for the war in Ireland. The Dublin Government should stop subsidising foreign multi nationals, who show no allegiance or commitment to the Irish people, and  who take all their profits out of Ireland

IBRG stated that the Irish Government should not abrogate its responsibilities toward Irish people, who have been forced to leave and should consider every instance of emigration, as a failure to support its own people.  In that context the Irish Government should maintain the right of Irish emigrants to participate, in all elections and referenda taking place in Ireland This would be a clear acknowledgement that Irish emigrants are still considered to be an important and integral part of the Irish nation.

IBRG called on the Irish government to redirect the massive financial outlay incurred because of ‘’border security’, be redirected back into the infrastructure of the Irish state, and providing support for Irish industry. The Irish Government should at all times give priority to schemes, aimed at overcoming the root cause of emigration unemployment, aimed at negating the popular myth of success through emigration and be aimed at encouraging Irish people abroad, to return home with their skills to assist in rebuilding a successful, caring and enterprising Irish Nation..

The IBRG policy document was sent to the Irish Government and to all political parties, trade unions and social and cultural bodies in Ireland and to the Irish media, where it received much attention and received much support from trade unions and ordinary Irish people. It received much media attention in the Irish press in Britain and at home and in America.

‘IBRG call for action on exodus Irish Post  headline on 15 August 1986, which detailed the  Emigration policy document drawn up by IBRG Chair Gearoid Mc Gearailt, and listed the ten proposals put forward by IBRG, a campaign to discourage emigration,  the provision of financial assistance  whereby first time emigrants can return home within a year,  The Irish Embassy in London to take responsibility  for the provision of advice guidance and assistance to those wishing to return home, with the Embassy required to keep statistical records  of all such request for assistance,  Irish  people who leave  as part of the present wave of emigration, to retain the right to vote by postal ballot in all elections in the Irish Republic, the production of an information kit for those  who insist on coming to Britain. This would include a briefing as to their rights as EEC citizens, a list of all Irish community organisations in Britain in the field of welfare and information on various aspects of life in Britain including advise on accommodation and employment.

The IBRG Ard Choiste met on 16th August 1986 at Pinner Road, Harrow, West London where nine branches sent delegates, namely, Lambeth, Lewisham, Camden, Islington, Haringey, Harrow, Southwark, Birmingham and Coventry.  The minutes of this Ard Choiste are missing so  the list of officers attending is not known.

The Ard Choiste decided  to investigate the feasibility of the IBRG of producing an IBRG journal to reflect the work of the organisation, set out the terms of the Women’s subcommittee, to ensure all women play a full part in all IBRG activity, at all levels of the organisation, terms for the prisoners subcommittee to coordinate all IBRG activity on behalf of the welfare legal  and civil rights of all Irish prisoner in Britain, and to campaign on issues such as Irish political prisoners, framed prisoners, Strip searching,  and for the repatriation of Irish prisoners. The Ard Choiste called  all Irish political parties to respond to the IBRG  Emigration policy document and to seriously tackle the issues  raised by the document.

The Ard Choiste  agreed to send the following motion on the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four to the All Party  delegation which recently visited Britain on the issue, and Fianna Fail  urging them to put the motion before Dail Eireann after the recess  “That the Irish government demand the release of the innocent Irish citizens jailed for the Birmingham and Guildford bombings, and for a public acknowledgement  of their  innocence along with that of the Maguire family.  That Peter Barry make a detailed and public statement on the kind of representation that he and his government has made to the British government, on their behalf and the British responses to them.”

The Ard Choiste urged all IBRG branches and members to take up the issue of the Birmingham 6 and Guildford 4 by writing to their MP,  TD Peter Barry,  the Home Office, and the Irish Embassy.

Manchester  IBRG In August 1986 wrote a letter of protest to the Equal Opportunities Commission over an EOC booklet entitled Do Girls Give Themselves a Fair Chance? It included a cartoon in which a young woman bricklayer on a building site is shown as being smarter and more hardworking than two male operatives who are, of course, Irish and are shown speaking in “Oirish”. In reply, the EOC’s Ann Godwin said that she very much regretted it had caused offence and that it would be revised in a new edition.

IBRG held their first IBRG Education Policy Conference on 30 August 1986 at the Haringey Irish Centre in North London in order to set out IBRG demands around the Irish and education in Britain. This would differ from the open IBRG Education conferences which were held by Nessan Danaher at Soar Valley Leicester who had key note speakers and raised several issues, but did not create any policy document or framework.

The Conference in Haringey set out an IBRG Policy document on education. The preamble stated IBRG recognises that the imperialist and colonial policies of Britain have been and continue to be the primary determinant of racism in this country, and that racism is not and never has been based exclusively on perceived differences between racial groups. Racism is a practice which assumes innate superiority by a dominant people or nation towards a subject people or nation, and which also assumes the innate inferiority of the subject people. In Britain this racism is endemic and is interwoven into the culture, history and traditions of Britain. The structures and institutions arising from this ideology have been created by Britain both at home and in its colonies to maintain its colonial domination, and have developed forces intended to divide and thereby rule, those subjected to its colonial ambition. IBRG therefore recognises that the colonial domination by Britain of Ireland has underscored and dictated the educational policies and practices in Britain towards the teaching of language, history, and culture in British schools. This has led to the suppression of Irish culture within the educational system and has reinforced anti-Irish racism.

The IBRG therefore callsed for; the recognition of ethnic/colonial minority status for the Irish community in total, equal opportunities monitoring of all Irish staff at all levels within the education service, monitoring of the numbers, performance and achievement of Irish students in schools, the monitoring of texts and other teaching materials and the revaluation of curriculum to eradicate anti-Irish racism, the adoption of a policy and effective procedures to deal with anti-Irish racism in language and behaviour of staff and pupils, the provision of an Irish prospective throughout all subject areas, especially British Irish history and the introduction of Irish language, music and dance as optional subjects in schools with a significant  number of Irish pupils, the provision of Irish studies courses in schools with a significant number of Irish students,  the introduction of training to acquaint staff with the needs of the Irish. This to include day schools and courses to raise the awareness of anti-Irish racism and to include appropriate staff secondment for these courses.  This to include Irish studies courses up to degree level and courses for Irish games, dance, music and language teachers with staff secondment as appropriate. The commissioning of teaching packs, videos and exhibitions, that could be developed and used in schools to help combat anti-Irish racism. The promotion of existing resources and their distribution or availability to all teaching staff. The provision of funding for adult and community education initiatives by Irish community groups, and for all education authorities to appoint an education Officer with responsibility for Irish curriculum and Irish students, and who will be accountable to the Irish community with responsibility for implementing these policies within the local education service.

On 19 September 1986 the Universe newspaper  covered the IBRG demand Put Irish in the time table which was important given the Catholic Church ran most of the schools in Britain that Irish children attended.  The report was based on the demands which came out of the IBRG Education Conference which was held at the Haringey Irish Centre and hosted by Haringey IBRG. The Conference produced an Irish Education policy document setting out  all the demands  calling on local and church education authorities to provide Irish studies course in schools, where there are significant number of Irish children, that an Irish perspective be taught in such school on Irish/British history that the performance of Irish children be monitored  in school, and that school curricula be examined to ensure that anti-Irish racism, was removed and the each local authority in Irish areas have a specific office, who could liaise with the Irish community on these issues. The report also called for degree courses in Irish studies and demanded that Irish children have equal access to their own heritage and culture. ILEA (Inner London education Authority) stated they were given the policy document very serious consideration.

IBRG’s Northern Ireland Policy was discussed at a National Conference on 20 September 1986. Its aim to update its earlier Policy  which was agreed in 1983 at Brent Town Hall. The Policy with a preamble which stated that ‘the lives of Irish people living in Britain are underscored and structured by Britain’s relationship to Ireland, and further recognises that this relationship has historically been one of intervention on the part of Britain. It is this intervention which has resulted in the situation in Ireland and the disadvantaged position of the Irish community in Britain…. The IBRG recognises that the statelet of N. Ireland was deliberately created by the 1920 Government of Ireland Act and maintained against the wishes of the majority of the Irish people.  The IBRG recognises that the war in Ireland is a direct result of British colonial policy and therefore maintain that any just and lasting solution must include the recognition of the island of Ireland as a single independent and sovereign political unit. The IBRG recognises that this continuing war has led to attacks on the civil liberties and political rights of Irish people living in Britain and see the ending of the war in the Six Counties and a political solution as apriority for all Irish people living in Britain.

The new  policy  was updated by adding that the IBRG ‘condemn the Anglo-Irish agreement which has led to increasing attacks on the Nationalist community and the reinforcement of Partition, undermining the principle of self-determination enshrined in the Irish Constitution. IBRG call on all democratic people to oppose this agreement and continue to assert the right of the Irish people to a United Ireland.  IBRG demanded the immediate release  of this Irish prisoners wrongly convicted as a result of the war in Ireland and called on all government on Britain’s withdrawal from Ireland  to release immediately and grant an amnesty to all Irish political prisoners, and demanded that adequate compensation be paid by Britain  for the damage and hardships caused by its interference in Ireland.

In September 1986 the Irish Post covered  the story Committee elected to run Haringey Irish centre where Maria Higgins of IBRG was elected chair over Federation member and Labour Councillor George Meehan, which showed that the IBRG had the support of the Irish community in the strongest Federation area in Britain, as Meehan had previously been the Leader of Haringey Council.  The Irish community had not forgotten that Meehan failed to deliver an Irish Centre to the Irish community but Bernie Grant did when he became Leader.

Eight Sinn Fein councillors toured Britain In October 1986 and visited a number of local authorities including Manchester. Sinn Fein councillors Caoimghin o’Caolain  from Monaghan and Lily Fitzsimmons from West Belfast visited Manchester.  The visit was organised by the Labour Committee on Ireland and supported by the leftwing Manchester Labour Council. Manchester IBRG organised a meeting for the Irish community in the Town Hall for Irish people to meet the councillors and hear their views on the current situation in Ireland.

The Economist on 11 October 1986 ran the story “Two dimensions of History” which reported that Britain now had an Irish studies unit staffed by two “Brits Out supporters” in reporting on the new Irish studies unit at the Polytechnic of North London. The Economist reported that the newly formed British Association of Irish Studies which had been set up in Oxford the year before with the education secretaries from London and Dublin present, and who were hoping to get a grant of £30k from the Irish government. The IBRG at the time felt that this was set up to counteract the success of the IBRG Education Conference which had been set up by Nessan Danaher of the IBRG.

The Economist stated that over 400 academics were interested  in Irish Studies,  On the North London initiative which was seen as rival to BAIS the paper stated  ‘These studies are unlikely to  fit the mould revisionist to it republican critics, open minded  inquiry  to those who work within it, that British or Irish officialdom might prefer.  The research fellowship advertised in the Irish Post the voice of the Irish in Britain, attracted more than 80 applicants. The winner was Alan Clinton a research officer at the Institute of Housing, labour historian and in public life deputy leader of the local far left Islington borough council. Mr Clinton earned some local fame for his support for a meeting due to be addressed by Sinn Fein leaders in the Town Hall. Time may have greyed his views, but has not essentially altered them. His research assistant Mary Hickman is a sociologist active in Irish in Britain causes, the history group, notably but also the Irish in Britain Representation group which demands total withdrawal from Northern Ireland’.

On 18 October 1986 Trevor O’Farrell of Haringey IBRG sent a letter signed by over 25 IBRG members to Douglas Hurd at the Home Office regarding  the cases of Birmingham Six and Guildford Four. It  complained about the delays in reopening the case. On 24 July 1986 Hansard revealed that Hurd was considering points raised in the recently published  book on the Birmingham Six by Chris Mullin, and Hansard also showed that Clare Short MP in the same day asked Hurd,  whether it is true that the Home Office repeated the forensic tests, and found that the tests that were used were totally unreliable, which Hurd refused to answer. Mr Duffy M.P. on the same day noted that it was a year since the Home Secretary ordered an investigation following the Granada Reports  programme on the Birmingham Six. He  ended by asking ‘how long must these wrongly convicted wait before you reach the decision which will give them the chance to be vindicated and compensated’.

The Home Office responded back on 24 November 1986 to Trevor O’Farrell  saying that the Home Secretary was still looking at fresh evidence which had come in on the Birmingham Six including the World on Action programme , and the fact that Chris Mullen had identified four other men whom he alleged were part of the bombing team.

In terms of the Guildford and Woolwich case the Home Office stated they were also looking at fresh evidence from Yorkshire TV First Tuesday programme of 1 July and a feature in the Observer of 29 June plus Robert Kee’s new book which came out on 13th October which were all being looked at. The letter ended,  ‘The Home Secretary is fully aware of concern which has been expressed in various quarters about these cases and is anxious to reach a decision as quickly as possible, as to whether there may be any action he should properly take with regard to the convictions.  The Home Secretary at the time had powers under Section 17 of the Criminal Appeal Act 1968 to refer a case where there was fresh evidence to the Court of Appeal.

The letter shows how local IBRG branches were taking on the British establishment and pushing them towards reaching decisions on outstanding matters affecting the Irish community.

On 2 November 1986 the IBRG PRO Pat Reynolds put in their submission on the Prevention of Terrorism Act to Lord Colville at the British Home Office,  listing 20 different objections to the PTA;

 The Act is racist in concept and in practise, the fact that it now extends to other minority groups as well as the Irish does not make it any the less racist.

 6,155 people had been detained under the Act since 1974 and a mere 173 had been charged with any offence under the Act mainly minor charges.

 In 1985 55,328 Irish people were stopped, searched and questioned use the PTA at ports in England and Wales a 16% increase on 1984, about 150 Irish people a day were being stopped searched and examined.

 The European Commission on Human Rights on 12 July 1986 judged that Britain had a case to answer in respect of s12 of the PTA contravening the European Convention on Human Rights Art 5, which states that no person should be arrested or deprived of their liberty, except for the purpose of bringing them before a court. Contrary to the European Convention the vast majority over 97% were detained solely for the purpose on interrogation are not brought before any court, and are not able to challenge the lawfulness of their detention, are denied a right to compensation and have no effective remedy in respect of their complaints.

 The European Parliament voted to investigate the harassment and infringement of human rights of Irish nationals’ resident in or travelling to Britain in January 1985.

 Dail Eireann passed a motion expressing its concern at possible abuses of the act and its application in a discriminatory manner to Irish citizens, and deplored the regular practise of denying legal advice to detainees and information to relatives for up to 48 hours and beyond.

 Fianna Fail the largest political party in Ireland condemned the Act in it provisions and implementation as clearly discriminatory against Irish citizens and being in violation of the European Convention in human rights and called for its abolition.

The British Labour Party, which introduced the Act in 1974, now wants it repealed. Roy Hattersley Deputy Leader noted that law abiding Irish visitors feel threatened and harassed at ports, and the Irish community in Britain feels that it is under constant suspicion.

 The NCCL states that by giving the Home Secretary and police powers that cannot be challenged in court, the PTA has destroyed at a glance the edifice of safeguards,  built  up in this country’s legal system to protect the citizen against wrongful arrest, detention and that all the people  detained under the Act,   and later charged with criminal offences could have been arrested  questioned and charges without using the powers of the act

The victims of the PTA have been the entire Irish community and in particular those arrested for no good reason.  The Act gives the police an open season to harass the Irish community and deprive many of their liberty and civil rights. The Guildford Four and the Maguire Family are clear examples where the PTA was instrumental in the arrest interrogation and conviction of totally innocent Irish people.

The IBRG regards the PTA as a racist and discriminatory weapon of repression used almost exclusively against the Irish community to stifle lawful and legitimate political activity, and which has institutionalised anti-Irish racism into policing policy and the legal system in Britain.

 The PTA includes the power of exclusion and internal exile. The individual has no right to know or cross examine the evidence on which the Home Secretary   had made that decision, or to appeal against it in any court or tribunal. The Home Secretary is not even responsible of accountable to parliament for his decision.

The power of exclusion violates article  8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and art 12(1) of the International Covenant in Civil and Political Rights.

 The Greater London Council study of PTA victims showed that all these arrested were denied access to a solicitor, and effectively disappeared because neither family nor friends were informed of their detention. Detainees complained of physical ill-treatment threatening behaviour on the part of police and sever mental pressure. The after effect of their arrest on neighbour’s employment and personal security were enormous. 

 The PTA has attempted to criminalise an entire community with the label of terrorism. Christine Crawley MEP stated that it creates an invisible line over which Irish people dare not cross. The IBRG view its apolitical breathalyser which view any Irish person holding genuine political beliefs as being over the limit defined by the British police.

Detainees were denied access to legal advice contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights and relatives are denied knowledge of their arrest or where they are being held’ This practise of holding detainees incommunicado is the most serious threat to lawful questioning by the police.  The practise was linked with ill-treatment /torture by the European Court of Human Rights in 1974 after British agents used this method of detention in N. Ireland. In the  early 1970’s. the holding of detainee’s incommunicado has been linked with beatings, ill treatment, torture false confessions, and wrongful convictions.

 The PTA prevents the detainee or their  legal advisors from applying for Habeas Corpus, or the opportunity to challenge their detention of ill treatment. The treatment of Irish citizens held in police custody for up to seven days has meant a complete denial of basic human rights, such as access to food, sleep and washing facilities.

The Irish Press editorial of 2/01/1985 stated that the incidence of detention under this particularly oppressive law would indicate that the British police seem to think all Irish people a terrorist or a political terrorist.

The Irish Post in its editorial of 12/01/1985 stated “Our community is beyond reproach.  It has acted responsibly in a law-abiding fashion throughout the last 15 years of violence emanating from N. Ireland. But it has suffered by way of intimidation and at times harassment”.

The PTA has not prevented IRA military action in Britain but has been used to politically police the Irish community, and to control any expression of legitimate political activity around the question of Ireland and the ending of British interference in Ireland.

IBRG calling  for the repeal of the PTA clearly views the PTA as a racist weapon, geared toward the intimidation of innocent Irish citizens in Britain, which had led to a 97% victimisation rate against innocent Irish citizens, and the remining less than 3% could have been arrested under the normal law in Britain.

The abolition of legal safeguards and normal policing and administration of justice for the Irish community is extremely dangerous for other minorities in Britain. The lessons of Hitlers’ Germany should not be forgotten. Where the defence of minority rights is abused, democracy ceases to be, and we are left with a sham of democracy

The IBRG urge you to call for the repeal of this despicable piece of legislation whose main purpose and practise has been to terrorise the innocent and alienate an entire community.

IBRG’s  press release called on the Irish government to make public  their submission on the PTA It called on Foreign Minster, Peter Barry  who  shortly before in Vienna  took a very strong line on  abuses of human rights in Russia contrary to the Helsinki Final Act, yet  his own Government in Dublin supported the British government in their abuse and 97% victimisation rate against their own citizens in Britain. The IBRG called on Barry to condemn the racist PTA and demand its abolition, as it was contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights which the Irish government had signed up to. The IBRG condemned the collusion of the Irish government in the abuse of Irish citizens in Britain and called on Barry to demand the release of the innocent Birmingham Six and Guildford Four. The IBRG reminded Barry that justice like charity begins at home.

The Irish Post covered the press release with Repeal PTA IBRG Demand. The Sunday Press also carried the story with Barry is attacked over Act on 30 November 1986 and went over the main point as the Irish Post did over Barry’s public statement over Human Rights abuses in Russia compared with his stance over abuse of Irish human rights in Britain.

On 29 November 1986 the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Old Co-op in Bristol (5) where 17 delegates and officers attended from NE Lancs, Harrow, Lambeth, Lewisham, Coventry, Haringey, Birmingham, Camden, Hackney and Bristol. Among those attending was Gearoid McGearailt Chair, Michael O Cnaimhsi, Maurice Cahill and Dennis Casey, Steve Brenan Education Officer, Diarmuid Breatnach, Del Thorogood, Pat Reynolds, Maurice Moore, Maire O’Shea, Virginia Moyles, Pat Daly and Seamus O Coillean. The meeting heard there were 15 registered branches with 9 attending.

The Comhcomhairle had been cancelled because the branches had dealt with two conferences on Education and one on Northern Ireland in quick succession.

The Ard Choiste heard that the next Bloody Sunday March would be in Sheffield on 31 January 1987 and IBRG were part of the organising group. The meeting agreed to donate £100 for the event and ask branches to try and contribute too. Virginia Moyles agreed to be the IBRG representative on the organising committee.

The Runai was standing down as he was leaving Britain, and Caitlin Wright also stood down for family reasons. Tom Jones from  Camden took over as Runai with Virginia Moyles as Leas Runai.

On the PTA the Ard Choiste heard that the PRO had put in a submission to Lord Colville who was reviewing the Act and the submission had been sent to all branches. The IBRG agreed to support an anti PTA lobby of the House of  Commons on 28 January 1987. The IBRG agreed to affiliate with Irish anti-apartheid movement and support their actions re South Africa. The Education Officer had produced a 20-page Document on Education and the Irish which he was sending to all the branches. It was noted that the Chair, Runia and Cisteoir of the Guildford Four campaign were all IBRG members.

The Ard Choiste heard a report back on the successful Education and Northern Ireland Policy conferences which were held by IBRG and also of a successful Sinn Fein tour of Britain where IBRG had worked with TOM and LCI. The IBRG decided to affiliate to the West Midlands PTA campaign.

On 2 November 1986 Sinn Fein voted by two thirds majority to take their seats in Dail Eireann.  Ruari O Bradaigh and Daithi O’Connell and about 100 delegates walked out of the meeting and  set up Republican Sinn Fein.

On 15 November 1986 up to 200,000 Unionists attended a rally at Belfast City hall to protect on the first anniversary of the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

In November 1986 on the first anniversary of the Anglo Irish Agreement IBRG called for it to be scrapped, and noted that nothing of any substance  had been delivered to the Nationalist people during the last year, and the agreement had been exposed as a dangerous cul de sac for the Irish people. The Anglo-Irish Governmental Conference had been a complete sham and the failure of Barry and Fitzgerald to be able to get anywhere showed them to be obedient servants of Thatcher.   IBRG drew people’s  attention to  the cover up over Britain’s policy of shoot to kill, the silencing of John Stalker on the matter,  the  killing of Sean Downes by Plastic bullets, the strip searching of women prisoners,  the continued harassment of the Irish community in Britain under the racist PTA laws and the continued detention of the Irish political hostages the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four. The IBRG deplores the Irish government ceding to British pressure on the Unionist veto, and the British attacks on Articles 2 &3 of the Irish Constitution.  The IBRG condemned the use of Irish taxpayers’ money to police the border and British war in Ireland, while thousands of Irish young people are forced to emigrate.

‘Opposition by IBRG to Accord’,was the headline in The Irish Post about the Northern  Ireland conference which,  whilst  reaffirming  the new policy also included fresh demands on  equal opportunities in employment, and an end to discrimination in Northern Ireland. IBRG held their Northern Ireland policy Conference in Birmingham. The conference also called for the release of the innocent prisoners, the  Birmingham Six and Guildford Four

Accord of little or no value. The Irish Post covered the IBRG and LCI response to the Agreement anniversary . The Irish People in the USA covered the full IBRG statement. In November the Irish Post reported on a Leeds exhibition which Leeds IBRG had helped put together with the Councils’ libraries on the history of the Irish in Leeds. It traced their history back to An Gorta Mor around 1850, when over 10,000 Irish came to Leeds. Enda McCarthy had helped to put the exhibition together to show not just the Irish but the general public the contribution the Irish had made to Leeds.

In early December 1986 PRO Pat Reynolds sent a letter to a number of newspapers in Ireland and abroad on the cases of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four pointing out that they had served over 120 years between for something they had nothing to do with.  The IBRG pointed out that the evidence used to convict was uncorroborated, unconvincing and flimsy, with over 100 discrepancies in the police evidence.  They were convicted because they were Irish in Britain, and for that crime they remain in prison., and while they remain in prisoner, we the Irish community in Britain remain unfree. The IBRG asked readers, as they prepared to enjoy Christmas with their families and friends to remember these innocent people, and that they join the campaign for the release of these 10-innocent people.  The letter was carried in An Phoblacht, the Sunday Press and the Irish People in America.

On 7 December 1986 IBRG were quoted on the front page of the Sunday World where Mrs FitzGerald, partner of the Taoiseach, had gone shopping in London at a time the Irish government, were telling the Irish people to Buy Irish and thousands were forced to emigrate. IBRG were named as the biggest Irish community organisation in Britain and the IBRG pointed out when the Irish went abroad to shop the Irish economy lost out over £25M a year.

In November and December 1986, the row over the ending of BBC Manchester’s Irish Line went on with a flurry of letters in the Irish Post . Tom McAndrew, the presenter, of the new toned-down entertainment programme “Come Into the Parlour”   had a go at Michael Herbert (Manchester Irish History Group) for his letter. The letters appear orchestrated with three letters in one week attacking the IBRG Irish Line radio programme as having been too political. Read more about it here

Notes

  1. Ard Fheis 22/3/1986
  2. Ard Choiste 26/04/1986
  3. Ard Choiste 31/05/1986
  4. Ard Choiste 5/07/1986
  5. Ard Choiste 29/11/1986

Listen to my talk about the IBRG in the northwest in the Irish Collection at the WCML here

Read Part 1, 2 and 3 of IBRG history here

An excellent history of 200 years of Irish political activity in Mancheser – including Manchester IBRG read “The Wearing of the Green” by Michael Herbert. Buy it here

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Posted in education, human rights, Ireland, Irish second generation, labour history, Manchester, North of Ireland, political women, trade unions, Uncategorized, women, working class history, young people | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My review of “Breaking Ground: the story of the London Irish Women’s Centre” ( Michelle Deignan 2013)

 

 

LIWCOn 26 November 1989, as the first woman chair of national Irish  organisation, IBRG, I spoke at the 5th London Irish Women’s Conference. Other speakers represented organisations as diverse as pensioners, adult education, Troops Out Movement, Open Line Counselling, and the  Falls Road Women’s Centre.

LIWC report 5

The London Irish Women’s Centre (LIWC) was unique across the country. The Centre in Stoke Newington was opened in 1986 at the tail end of Greater London Council funding as  any committment by local and national government to funding such centres was fading away.  In this documentary the story of the centre and the women who made it possible is told. An important story  – of radicalism and  feminism – with at its heart the determination to create a place  for generations of Irish women to find a safe space (it was women only) and to enjoy companionship, comradeship and craic.

London  in the 1980s had the biggest Irish community in the country, and within that a sizeable number of them were women of all generations.  Irish women left Ireland  for many reasons: just to live a different life from small town Ireland, to come out as gay, to find a job, to have an abortion and maybe stay… Over the years more Irish women than men came to this country.  At the same time second generation Irish women were exploring what being Irish meant to them and were looking for organisations in which to express that identity.

Irish women have over the centuries been activists in all kinds of organisations : trade unions,  suffrage, republican organisations and so on. In the 1980s there were plenty of organisations that had women involved in radical politics. In the history of IBRG   women were at the meetings nationally and locally from the early days, following in the footsteps of earlier activists in organisations such as the Connolly Association and Sinn Fein.

The LIWC was set up originally as a cooperative that paid all workers the same rate for the job. At a time when many Irish women felt unwelcome at the traditional Irish centres it welcomed in women and provided the services they needed. When groups like the Travelling community were not using the Centre but obviously needed their services they went out to them. They made the Centre open to all different groups of women from pensioners to groups taking up issues including strip searching, abortion and sexuality.

Unlike many other radical groups of the era the LIWC recorded and photographed many of the events that took place.  In the film Joanne O’Brien, who photographed many of the events in the Irish Community which included the LIWC,  talks about her work. Angie Birtill, one of the key members of the LIWC, reflects on her own experience as a second generation Irish woman and the contradictions involved. Brid Boland, Rita Dowds and Ann Rossitor, founding members recount their stories of setting up and running the Centre.

The Centre continued until 2012 but during the 90s the radical edge was blunted  by the changing political environment. They were lucky, they owned the building, but funding was now more difficult to get and the idea of it being a community centre retreated as it became more of an agency for women to access who had specific needs.

This film records not just an important chapter in the history of Irish women in London, it allows the women themselves to tell their story. It will  hopefully encourage other women to hope and believe that they too can make history.

You can buy the DVD here

Read about women in IBRG here

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History of the Irish in Britain Representation Group by Patrick Reynolds.Part 5; 1985

Patrick Reynolds was one of the founders of IBRG and played a key role in its history. He is now writing up that history and putting it into the context of radical history in Britain and Ireland in the C20th.

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Maire O’Shea Defence Campaign Leaflet

This year started early for the IBRG when Peter Jordan was arrested in Liverpool on Christmas Eve 1984, while IBRG member Peter Lynch was  arrested on New Year’s Day 1985,  along with others following  joint Gardai raids in Dublin.

On New Year’s Day an Irish Press editorial in Dublin covered the case. It reported a Dublin man had been arrested in Liverpool on Christmas Eve at the same time as the Gardai had raided the family home in Dublin the same evening, without informing the family where the missing man was.

The Editorial stated: ‘this is not the first time that the Prevention of Terrorism Act has been used in Britain to humiliate and degrade innocent Irish visitors. Indeed, so common has it become that Irish people feel justifiably nervous when arriving at British ports or airports. There seems to be an attitude among the British Special Branch to Irish people visiting Britain, which owes more to the old caricatures of the dangerous Paddy in Punch than to any real information. The incidence of detention under this particularly oppressive law would indicate that the British police seem to think of all Irish people as terrorists or potential terrorists…. The whole Liverpool episode highlights the almost racist nature of the way in which the Prevention of Terrorism Act is implemented’.

On 5 January 1985 the Irish Times covered a major IBRG statement condemning the recent arrests of six people including three IBRG members under the PTA under the heading ‘Group Condemns Arrests’.

The  Birmingham home of IBRG member, Dr Maire O’Shea, who was Ireland at the time,  had been searched on Christmas Eve. The IBRG noted that the arrests followed a week after the IBRG announced the start of a public campaign in Britain and Ireland against the racist PTA laws, which had created a suspect community of the Irish in Britain.

After Maire O’Shea was arrested Joe Mullarkey of Bolton IBRG remembers: “ Following Maire O’Shea detention in Liverpool,  myself, Jim King, Arthur Devlin, Kathleen and David Wright went to Liverpool and picketed the police station. Cannot remember the date only it was a Sunday night. Arthur Devlin visited Peter Lynch on a few occasions when he was moved to Manchester. I also visited Peter.”

The Irish Times covered in full our long and detailed statement setting out our demands in relation to the PTA. IBRG called on the Irish government to end their subservient role they had with Britain over the PTA, and stand up and defend their citizens abroad and their citizens travelling to and from Britain. They reiterated  our call to the Irish government to publicly condemn the PTA and call for its repeal, to monitor each and every arrest under the PTA and to provide a solicitor in Britain to assist those arrested under the Act.

During the week, while Pat Reynolds was working on the case with Maire O’Shea’s daughter who lived in St Albans, and Irish journalists, his phone was cut off by the Special Branch and he had to leave his house to go to a safe place to continue his work. Ten hours later the phone was restored after the house in St Albans had been raided.

On 8 January 1985 the Guardian covered the arrests. Pat Reynolds was quoted: ‘the PTA is a political breathalyser. If an Irish person expresses political views, he is considered above the limit’.

Clive Soley, Shadow Home Office spokesperson, stated: ‘I regard it as one of the most serious infringements of the democratic rights of British people’. The Guardian article was headed “Opponents of anti-terrorist act renew campaign”.

In a letter to the paper Christine Crawley MEP wrote: ‘It is particularly used to intimidate those people who are active in voicing their anger and frustration at the troubles in Northern Ireland, and it creates an invisible line over which Irish people dare not step in the articulation of their concern. The problem for Irish people is that the position of the invisible line continually changes…The Act should be torn to shreds.’

On 10 January 1985  Gearoid McGearailt  and Pat Reynolds met with the Irish Ambassador in London. They  expressed  IBRG concerns over the arrests and the fact that the Embassy  would not provide any kind of legal support for those arrested under the Act, and  would not even ask that the British government to  inform them of every arrest under the Act.

Watch two films about the Maire O’Shea campaign here

and here

After the meeting they put out a statement  expressing the concern of the IBRG  at the inability of the Irish government ‘to recognise the PTA as a racist weapon of repression used unjustly and indiscriminately against Irish citizens living in or visiting Britain’.  The IBRG called on the Irish Government  to demand that international practice be adhered to, and that the Irish Embassy be informed every time an Irish citizen is arrested under the Act. The IBRG asked Ambassador Dorr to attend a public meeting in the Irish community to hear the views of the Irish community on the use of the Act against them.

On 12 January 1985 the Irish Post ran an Editorial entitled “PTA Victims”. It started by stating that ‘The PTA is a despicable piece of legislation.” It ended by stating ‘Irish community organisation should in no way curtail their activities. Indeed, they should accelerate them.  When this business has passed, the IBRG will emerge strengthened by recent events and from its mature and effective reaction to them’. Our community is beyond reproach, and in a law-abiding fashion throughout the past 15 years of violence emanating from N.Ireland, but it has suffered, both by ways of intimidation and at times harassment.’

On 12 January 1985, PRO Pat Reynolds went to the BBC studio in London to do an interview with RTE over the PTA. When he found that Seamus McGarry, of the Federation of Irish Societies,  was on directly after him, hewaited in the studio to have a chat with McGarry after his interview. Pat was shocked to hear the interviewer from Dublin state over the line before the interview  that the Irish Ambassador had asked RTE to put on Mr McGarry. Seamus went on to do the interview but sadly took the Irish Government line on the PTA, that they were faults with it and how it was used, but failed to call for its abolition.

Just as during the Hunger strikes, the Federation had again let down the Irish community, and betrayed them when a show of unity was required against the PTA. It also showed how the Irish Embassy was interfering with the lawful rights of the Irish community in Britain and supporting British oppression of the Irish community

On 13 January 1985 the Sunday Tribune in Dublin carried a full-page story on the operations of the PTA with headline “London Embassy is attacked for inaction over PTA arrests.” The Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin had been forced for the first time to brief Irish journalists on the role of the Irish Embassy in London. The response was very defensive and did not address any of the concerns raised by  IBRG.

The Embassy stated that their primary function was to safeguard the welfare of Irish citizens abroad, but failed to mention that the highest welfare is for a person wrongly arrested under racist laws. The paper reported that three of the arrested people were IBRG members: Peter Jordan, Peter Lynch and Dr Maire O’Shea, who were all member of the IBRG Prisoner Subcommittee, who had recently announced that they were setting up a public inquiry into the Birmingham Six case. The Ambassador stated that the recent PTA bill was better than the previous one. This was a most shocking statement for the Ambassador to make of such a racist piece of legislation which targeted the Irish community in Britain.

On 13 January 1985 (1)   the IBRG Ard Choiste met at St Finbarr’s Club, Coventry where 20 members attended, as delegates or officers. This included: Jim King Chair, Judy Peddle Runai,  John Martin,  Joe Mullarkey, Alan Wallace,  Pat Reynolds,  Gearoid McGearailt, Fionbarra Cuillin, Nessan Danaher, Caitlin Wright, John Stanley, Seamus O Coileain,  Denis Casey, Vincent Johnson, Pat Keane, Sean Cross, Martin Collins, Arthur Devlin and JP McCabe, Maurice Moore and Mick Burke from Coventry were observers and  Mary Ann and Angela Lynch, daughters of the arrested man, Peter Lynch, attended part of the meeting.

The first part of the meeting was held as an emergency Ard Choiste on the PTA and  the arrests with the main Ard Choiste held after lunch. The PRO outlined the situation to the meeting, with six arrests on Christmas Eve, of these two men were from Dublin, and Peter Jordan from Bristol were charged.

Peter Lynch and Pat Daly (Bristol) (later identified  in the press as an  MI5 agent) were arrested on New Year’s Eve with Peter Lynch charged and Pat Daly released.  Maire O’Shea’s house was   searched.  She returned from Ireland on 9 January and was later arrested and charged. There were problems with the situation as it involved Christmas and the New Year.

Pat Reynolds, PRO,  had completed a number of interviews with the Irish Times, Irish Independent, Irish Press, BBC World Service and a Radio station in New York where he had argued against the PTA and called for its repeal. The meeting heard back from the meeting on  the previous day where the Ambassador would only say the Irish government were concerned.

 

The Ard Choiste heard of IBRG plans to launch the campaign  against the PTA at the Commons with Clare Short MP and Christine Crawley MEP on 22 January 1985. Caitlin Wright and her partner Rev David Wright had been to see Peter Lynch on remand.  A defence campaign had been set up for Dr Maire O’Shea in Birmingham made up of IBRG, Troops Out, Trades Council and ASTMS, and there had been a picket of Birmingham police station. Pat Daly had been questioned over a firearms offense but had been released on police bail.

Gearoid  brought a new PTA leaflet to the meeting which could be circulated widely and be used as a campaign leaflet.  The meeting heard from the two daughters of Peter Lynch about the arrest and house search that went on.  A fund was set up to help out the families of those arrested.

The Ard Choise agreed to arrange a delegation to Dublin within the month to raise the issue in Ireland. The Chair, PRO, Leas Runai, Caitlin and David Wright would go on the delegation.

The Ard Choiste main meeting heard from Nessan Danaher, Education Officer, who told the meeting he was planning a bigger and better Education Conference in February this year and that he had printed over 700 copies of the Conference report from last year which had all gone out.  He had an article in the Times Educational Supplement last Friday on the conference.

The PRO informed the meeting that the new branch in Camden looked very promising and that new branches were planned for Hackney, Stratford and Brent. He informed the meeting that the CRE believed John Junor’s article in the Sunday Express to be a possible breach of the Race Relations Act, but they had no power to prosecute, and that the police or Attorney General would have to consider that.

He informed the meeting that a broad-based Irish community organisation had been set up in London to combat racism in the media and that branches should work with it. He had prepared a Media Monitoring leaflet which was going out to branches outlining actions to take over any offending article.

The Ard Choiste decided to hold at the Ard Fheis on 30th March 1985 in London.

On 14 January 1985 Maurice Hearne in the Irish Independent wrote a piece defending the Irish Ambassador who had been forced on the defensive. The piece was extremely one sided and unbalanced. It included a paragraph which stated ‘while the Act may have been operated unfairly in some cases against members of legitimate Irish organisations in Britain, it is fair to point out that the supporters of violence have been able to infiltrate those organisations and shelter behind their legitimacy’. It was very clear that the IBRG had the Irish Embassy and the Irish Government rattled and had put them on the defensive. The IBRG would challenge the Irish Ambassador on this dangerous false story.

Christine Crawley MEP, and IBRG member, took the PTA Campaign into the European Parliament with her motion which stated that ‘the European Parliament condemns the continued use of the PTA by the UK, expresses its deep concern at the erosion of civil liberties under the arbitrary use of the powers of the PTA, calls on the British Government to stop the renewal of the Act, and instructs its President to forward this resolution to the British Government, the Council of Ministers, the European Commission and the Secretary General of the United Nations”.

The preamble stated ‘having regard to the abuse of the UK PTA during the months of December 1984 and January 1985 in which several people have detained in Britain without access to any of the rights afforded to detainees under normal criminal law. The motion lost by only 11 votes. Mary Bonetti of Fine Gael representing the ruling class in Ireland presented her counter motion which stated “The European Parliament  calls for an investigation of the recent assertions of harassment and infringement of human rights of Irish nationals resident in Great Britain under the PTA, and instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission and to the governments of the Members sates.” This was passed.

Here you get the Dublin government coming to the rescue of their colonial masters and acting like a provincial government of a colony. Shame on them, and their support for the racist targeting of their own citizens by a colonial government.

The Labour and Ireland magazine in January 1985 covered the story with “New Terror Act Row Government uses law against Irish”. It stated:  ‘The IBRG is active in supporting Irish prisoners in British jails, campaigning against anti-Irish racism in the media and in defence of the democratic rights of Irish people. The promotion of national pride by the IBRG runs directly against the silencing of the community engendered by the use of repressive legislation like the PTA, so it is no wonder that the use of the Act should come to be directed against organisations like the IBRG’. It quoted Roy Hattersley  ‘Irish visitors feel threatened and harassed at the ports, and the whole community feels under constant suspicion’.  Niall Andrews, Irish politician, stated ‘Nothing surprises me about the British police and Special branch and the paranoia they have about Irish people. They have the general feeling that every Irish person is a terrorist’.

City Limits in London stated: ‘this recent spate of arrest was targeted at the IBRG. This was formed four years ago and had attracted over 2,000 members. It aims to act as a social, cultural and welfare organisation for Irish people living here, but its members are not averse to speaking out and campaigning on political issues’.

On 19 January 1985 the Irish Post ran a headline “IBRG Campaign to Repeal PTA” which set out our planned House of Commons launch of the Campaign planned for 22 January 1985.  On 19 January IBRG took part in an Irish day in Hackney east London which drew a huge crowd.

On 21 January 1985 the IBRG attended a meeting at Conway Hall on the case of Giuseppe Conlon’s case,  one of the framed Irish prisoners.

On 21 January 1985 Manchester IBRG held a joint meeting with Labour and Ireland at Manchester Town Hall on the PTA at which Christine Crawley spoke.

On 23 January 1985 the Irish Times ran its headline “Terrorism Act repeal campaign launched” which reported on the launch of the campaign at the House of Commons. Jim King, Chair of  IBRG, spoke and described the PTA as an iniquitous piece of legislation, and said the Irish community in Britain was overshadowed by fear because of it. Christine Crawley MEP said the campaign would be a disciplined nationally co-ordinated campaign in Britain designed to tear the Act to shreds. She mentioned her Resolution to the European Parliament had only failed by 11 votes but the Parliament had still voted for an inquiry into the PTA with a second Resolution by Mary Banotti of Fine Gael:  Ms Crawley hoped the investigation by the European Parliament would be a very hard hitting one.

Clare Short MP stated that the PTA is seen as a measure ‘used to harass and intimidate Irish people and in a particular any Irish person who has the gall to become politically active”. Joan Maynard MP stated that the PTA had nothing absolutely to do with terrorism and everything to do with collecting information and intimidating the Irish community in Britain.

In January 1985 Richard Greenwood, English Rugby coach, had come out with a racist comment about the Irish rugby team needing a brain transplant. The Irish Press stated that the ‘remark betrays a state of mind which lies at the root of the anti-Irish joke, so offensive to our emigrants in Britain. That attitude is a throwback to the old days when Irishmen were depicted  in Punch cartoons as ape like  creatures, treats all Irish people a being of less intelligence than those of other races’, and  ‘Anti Irish jokes  are a  different matter  for the Irish living in post Brighton Britain, where the PTA and scribes like John Junor combine to create a hostile environment’, and   ‘the prospects of Irish youngsters chasing scarce jobs in Britain are unlikely to be enhanced  by this continued portrayal of the race of being less than bright, and Irish children at school in Britain face a similar ordeal’.

On 4 February 1985 Pat Reynolds gave a talk on the Irish community in Britain to sociology students at Goldsmiths College in south east London.

On 5 February 1985 a public meeting was held at County Hall London on strip searching where Ken Livingstone spoke and  focussed on the cases of Martina Anderson and Ella O’ Dwyer in Brixton Prison. IBRG also had   a speaker on the platform which was organised by Irish Prisoners Appeal who used the Lambeth IBRG office as their mailing address.

The debate on the PTA in Dail Eireann took place on 6 February 1985 with Fianna Fail putting a motion which  condemned the  PTA as a racist piece of legislation.  Fianna Fail had spoken about the work of the IBRG during the debate. The motion was defeated by only 7 votes, as Fine Gael and shamefully Labour, brought forward their motion criticising some of the uses of the PTA, same as in the European parliament.

Within   a month the IBRG had forced both the European Parliament and the Dail to consider the racist PTA and how it was being used to abuse the rights of Irish citizens living in or visiting Britain. It was a remarkable performance by an Irish community organisation in Britain to stand up and call out the PTA for what it was.  It was the beginning of serious fight back by the community which would in the end force the British government to release the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four, and the Maguire Seven.

Without this PTA fight none of this would have happened. It was the cutting sword of the IBRG that paved the way for future progress in the community by creating a safer environment for Irish people to come out and speak about these injustices.

On 8 February 1985 IBRG attended a Greater London Council  meeting on Penal Institutions to ensure material on the rights of Irish prisoners was included e.g. strip searching and transfer of prisoners.

On 13 February 1985 the first meeting of Hackney IBRG took place at Centreprise Bookshop, it followed on from the successful one-day event which 80 people attended.

On 14 February 1985 an IBRG delegation went to Dublin to launch their PTA campaign directly to the Irish people.  On the delegation were Jim King Chair, Gearoid  McGearailt Leas Runai, Pat Reynolds PRO, along with David and Caitlin Wright.

Charlie Haughey was very impressed when he found what he thought was a Catholic priest on our delegation, but when Rev David Wright mentioned “my wife Caitlin here”,  Haughey eyes rolled up to heaven. Haughey seemed to think that the IBRG were ahead of their time with a married catholic priest, but Martin Manseragh, his advisor, realised that David Wright was an Anglican priest.

The meeting with Haughey raised the question of the PTA and anti-Irish racism in Britain and the fact that semi-state bodies were still sponsoring these racist papers with advertising. Haughey agreed with us and promised help, apparently, he would be playing a round of golf with the top Aer Lingus man, and would raise the issue with him.

When Pat Reynolds raised with Haughey the cases of the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four and Maguire Seven, Haughey asked if IBRG thought they were all innocent, meaning all the republican prisoners, as well. The framed prisoners were not volunteers but innocent members of the Irish community who had been taken hostage by the British government as a warning to the Irish community.

The IBRG stated there was a difference between the framed prisoners and political prisoners who were volunteers, who got huge sentences and were not allowed to transfer nearer to home. Haughey promised to continue his opposition to the PTA should he get back into power. This did not fact happen as Fianna Fail failed to oppose the PTA when they came to power. The IBRG met Matt Merrigan , President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Tom Hartley Sinn Fein, and many others.

IBRG held a Press Conference at Buswells Hotel opposite the Dail which was well attended and got two interviews with RTE, and  one with Caitlin Wright on Women’s Hour.  The IBRG also met the National Union of Journalists  in Dublin who were supportive on both the PTA  and anti-Irish racism in the media.

In Manchester the IBRG announced that the Irish Line radio programme  would be going weekly from 1 March 1985. It had started as a monthly show.  The programme  had recently interviewed Tony Lloyd M.P. who was also an IBRG member. The show had over 25,000 listeners each time and had being broadcast since December 1983.

On 15 February 1985 the Irish Times headline said  ‘Emigrant group to meet Haughey on PTA’, and on 16  February a follow up “Fianna Fail  talks to Group over Terror Act”.

On 16  February 1985 Nessan Danaher held his Second National Conference on Irish Dimensions in British Education at Soar Valley Leicester  which over 200 people attended from all over Britain. This included  Coventry, Liverpool, Hounslow, Northampton, Milton Keynes, Birmingham, Manchester, Stafford, Humberside, Nottingham, Burton On Trent, Loughborough, Leeds, Worchester,  Sheffield, Bolton, Bradford, Rugby, York, London and  many more places, from Universities, adult education, convents, colleges, secondary and primary schools, community organisations, cultural and youth groups.

Among the Universities  present were Leicester, Nottingham, Manchester, London, Sheffield, Birmingham and other institutes and Polytechnics. Among the speakers were Dr Philip Ullah , Dr Ita O’Donovan from Birmingham,  Brid Keenan IBRG, Mary Hickman IBRG and Nessan Danaher IBRG. It was a huge success, and probably the largest gathering on Irish Education in Britain since the days of St Columba.

Mary Hickman  looked at issues around identity and racism in education, Dr Philip Ullah talked of the psychological aspects of identity among second generation Irish, Brid Keenan on the areas of cultural production and reproduction in terms of the multi-cultural and anti-racist debate and the relevance of  culture to the Irish in Britain and in Ireland. Dr Ita O’Donovan spoke  of the concepts of ethnic identity and patterns of adjustments that immigrants will adopt in the host society, with reference to the first and second generation Irish, while Nessan Danaher  looked at why the Irish community only lately  sought official recognition within the education system and  looked at some of these in Local Education Authorities and the Catholic Church system.

The Irish Post in writing up the conference with two double spreads of photos over two weeks stated ‘our community is moving onto a new level of discernment and professionalism.  There is a cutting edge to it and much of it is being provided by the second generation.  Five or ten years hence, we are going to be a very effective community.’ The paper also included a big spread on Nessan Danahers’s ten-week Irish studies course which had just finished in Leicester over 60 people attending.

On 21 February 1985 both the Irish Times and  the Irish Independent carried a report of the IBRG press conference in Dublin listing our demands and included a list of the people we had met in Dublin.

On 22nd February 1985 Gearoid McGearailt and Pat Reynolds met with Peter Barry at the Irish Embassy over the issue of the PTA.  The IBRG rejected Barry’s stated position that the Irish government had a  ‘a gentleman’s agreement’ with the British government over  an acceptable level of PTA arrests, and informed him that the Irish government had an international duty to protect their own citizens abroad  and those visiting British,  and to protect them from the racist and discriminatory PTA harassment. Seamus McGarry and John Fahey of the Federation of Irish Societies met Barry also at the Embassy and never even mentioned the PTA during their discussions with Barry.  Barry in his Dail speech referred to 600,000 Irish citizens living in Britain,  thus ignoring those from Northern  Ireland who claimed the right to Irish citizenship, and the second generation Irish in Britain who also had the same rights.

On 23  February 1985 the Irish Post ran a major story entitled “Phantom interview with Ambassador” after the IBRG had raised their concerns about the story which stated that Irish organisations in Britain had been infiltrated by supporters of violence. The Irish Ambassador had denied ever giving Maurice Hearne of the Irish Independent any interview, after Hearne had stated in his article that the Ambassador ‘had assured him’ clearly giving the impression that he had talked directly with the Ambassador in the article of 14 January 1985.

While the IBRG after writing to the Ambassador for clarification on the matter, noted his response, it further noted that the Ambassador did not ask Mr Hearne son of a former Ambassador,  or the Independent to withdraw the remarks, or indeed even write to the Irish Independent to correct the falsehood. It was the second time Dorr had come under fire over his alleged remarks. Earlier he was quoted as stating that ‘there will always be a British dimension in Ireland’ which Charlie Haughey took up in the Dail when he asked Dr Fitzgerald if this was now government policy. The Department of Foreign Affairs then claimed Dorr had been misquoted.

The IBRG drew attention in this case that the Ambassador was not asking the Irish Independent to withdraw their dangerous allegation about Irish community organisations in Britain. The Department of Foreign Affairs failed to act in this matter and Hearne never withdrew the remarks. The community was left with a view that he could have been briefed by the Embassy on the matter before he wrote the article, given the failure of Foreign Affairs to challenge him.

In the same issue of the Irish Post in the Letters page there were letters from the USA and Ireland saluting the Irish community in Britain for standing up to the racism of the British media and particularly to  John Junor. From the USA ‘I applaud the  young Irish in Britain standing up so proudly, not alone against invective but in articulating the shortcomings of eth Irish government and its agencies’ and ‘we here  will stand and respond to the brave Irish in Britain on this issue and any other issue of its kind which may come up’. From Dublin the top letter stated ‘To the Irish in Britain, I say keep right on. An extraordinary number of people here are following with interest and pride your stand against the John Junior insult’ and so hold firm. The rapidly wising up Irish in Ireland are with you too’.

In an Irish Post Editorial of the same day under reassurance. It stated that: ‘The Irish in Britain are not for misinterpreting by the Donnybrook set’ and ‘Meanwhile it would seem essential that Irish organisations in Britain with the assistance of the Department of Foreign Affairs insist on Maurice Hearne withdrawing his scandalous allegation of 14th January 1985.

On 23 February 1985 the Irish Post headline “IBRG and Haughey in fruitful talks” gave a report of the successful IBRG delegation to Dublin. Haughey had promised IBRG that when returned to office Fianna Fail will take whatever steps can be considered reasonable in support of the Irish community in Britain, and also promised that when back in government they would maintain their opposition to the PTA

On 23 February 1985(2) The IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Irish Club in Liverpool  when 18 officers and branch delegates attended including Jim King Chair, Judy Peddle Runai, John Martin, Joe Mullarkey, Pat Reynolds, Caitlin Wright, Gearoid McGearailt, Finonbarra O Cuillin, Michael O Cnaimhsi, Seamus O Coileain, Maurice Moore, Arthur Devlin,  and Maire O’Shea.

Two daughters of Peter Lynch attended part of the meeting to talk about their father in prison. Dr Maire O’Shea, who was  now out on bail, attended the meeting and talked about the campaign, and spoke about a national meeting in Birmingham on the cases on 16 March 1985.

The meeting heard a report back on the launch of the PTA campaign in the House of Commons which had been successful, and had been covered in the Irish and British national press along with Irish weeklies like the Irish Post.

It was agreed to hold a one-day conference on the PTA in the autumn of 1985. It was noted  that the Federation were now contrary to their own policy going along with Fine Gael and the Irish government, by claiming the PTA was not that bad and splitting the community voice.

IBRG agreed to lobby the House of Commons before the PTA renewal debate on 6 March 1985.

The meeting got  feedback from the meeting the day before with Peter Barry at the Irish Embassy by Gearoid McGearailt and Pat Reynolds.  All Barry would say on the PTA was that the Irish government had “a gentleman’s agreement” with the British government over the PTA, while  the IBRG made it very clear to him that this was worthless and not acceptable. The meeting heard that members of the Irish Campaign against Racism in the Media (ICARM) had visited John Junor at his home address on a Sunday morning to protest at his violent racism towards the Irish, and it seemed to shake up him up a bit.

The meeting heard of the huge success of Nessan Danaher’s  Education Conference in Leicester from members who attended. The meeting congratulated Nessan for both his hard work and his successful conference.

The Ard Choiste set the 23 March 1985 for the Ard Fheis in London.

The meeting heard of the delegation to Dublin which had met Charlie Haughey, Brian Lenihan, Michael D Higgins (future President), Tomas MacGiolla, Fine Gael TD’s, Enda Kenny (future Taoiseach) Sinn Fein, Ruari Quinn, Neil Blaney, Tony Gregory, Dean Griffin, the Bishops Commission, Sean Redmond, Mary Harney and others.  They had 17 meetings and held a press conference.

On 26 February 1985 IBRG members attended a large meeting at the Camden Irish Centre on the PTA where Gareth Pierce spoke. Pat Daly spoke to the meeting from the floor  about his recent experiences under the PTA. (Daly was later to be found out as a MI5 agent within the IBRG and later the IRSP/INLA.) It was noted that Daly left the meeting early on his own.

On 26 February 1985 the Irish Press covered the IBRG condemnation of British MP Joe Ashton in ‘Condom remarks Racist”. Writing in the Daily Star the Labour Party MP made great a fun of the Irish whom he called “thick Micks and Paddies” in the article.

IBRG PRO Pat Reynolds stated: ‘The time has come for this type of stereotyping and propaganda and abuse to stop. Instead of these stupid and ignorant insults Mr Aston should be trying to help his constituents understand what Britain is doing in N. Ireland. The offending articlewas  entitled “French Letters They’re all Greek to Paddy” in response to a Family Planning bill in Dail Eireann.

Liz Curtis from the Campaign for Free Speech on Ireland described the right-wing MP as “horrible macho imperialist pig, his remarks were nasty unpleasant and supercilious This piece of work illustrates the ignorance and condescending attitude of right-wing Labour MP’s. They can’t do anything positive about the situation in Ireland’.

 On 2 March 1985 the Irish Post headline “IBRG strengthens Fianna Fail links” which described the meeting with Fianna Fail and other political parties in Dublin. The article quoted the IBRG statement issued after the IBRG London meeting with Peter Barry ‘We registered a strong protest on the Irish government’s stance of the PTA and its unwillingness to condemn and call for the repeal of this un reformable piece of legislation. We expressed our disapproval of the inference of an acceptable level of PTA arrests in Peter Barry’s recent Dail statement on the act, and we criticised the restrictive parameters placed by the Irish government, on the Irish Embassy’s ability to represent adequately the needs of PTA detainees. It was conveyed to the Minister that the IBRG considers as inadequate the Dublin’s reliance on the goodwill of the British government or a gentleman’s agreement on the PTA and we urged that, according to international practise the Irish Embassy should be informed every time an Irish citizen is arrested under the act. Our organisation is gravely concerned that the vast majority of these arrested under the Act receive no help because the Embassy is never informed of their arrest, and that they are prevented from contacting their Embassy. Peter Barry was asked that the Department of Foreign Affairs issues a statement on the dangerous allegations made by the Irish Independent writer Hearne on Irish community organisations in Britain.”

On 15 March Pat Reynolds was one of the main organisers of a very successful Irish Bookfair held at the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank with the help of the GLC. Neil Kinnock turned up at the Bookfair as Leader of the Labour Party. The Fair sold over £10k worth of Irish books and Green Ink got a further order from Haringey libraries for £3k..

On 16 March 1985 Lambeth IBRG held a successful St Patrick’s night event in Norwood, South London. Lambeth IBRG also announced the opening of an IBRG welfare project with two workers in Brixton following funding from the GLC.

On 16 March 1985 the Irish  Post headline was “Islington IBRG put pressure on.” The story was about a meeting of Islington Social Services on 19 March 1985 which was due to hear a commissioned report on the Irish community in Islington. The report showed that the  Irish were seriously under represented among social services staff.

IBRG wanted the needs of Irish elders in the borough taken on and wanted a drop-in centre and a luncheon club for them. It was wrongly assumed that the Catholic Church looked after the Irish when in fact the Catholic Church did nothing for the Irish, and in any case many Irish people had moved away from the church or were not members.

On 23 March 1985(3) the IBRG held their Ard Fheis at Brent Town Hall, Wembley. With the following officers present Jim King, Seamus Carey, John Martin, Pat Reynolds, Judy Peddle, Gearoid MacGearailt, Caitlin Wright, Fionbarra O Cuillin Nessan Danaher, Alan Wallace and Michael Cnaimhsi.  Delegates were present from Coventry, Cardiff, Leeds, Bolton, Haringey, Islington, Harrow, Lambeth, Waltham Forest, Southwark, NE Lancs, Wigan, Birmingham Brent and Lewisham some 16 branches.

The following Officers were elected

Chair Jim King Manchester

Vice Chair Geraroid  MacGearailt Lambeth

President Maire O Shea Birmingham

Vice Presidents Joe Mullarkey Bolton and Peter Lynch Birmingham

Runai Judy Peddle Cardiff

Leas runai  Colm O Floinn Lambeth

PRO Pat Reynolds Islington

Internal Co-ordinal Caitlin Wright Bolton

Cisteoir Alan Wallace Leeds

Education officer Nessan Danaher Leicester

Membership Marie Wynee Haringey

Youth Officer John Doyle Haringey.

The following motions were passed by the Ard Fheis.

To set up a Women’s Committee

To elect a Trade Union liaison officer

To create a PTA bust card

An end to strip searching in Armagh and affiliate to the Stop the Strip Search campaign

Condemn Section 31 and called  for its Repeal.

That the RUC and UDR be disbanded as a part of a prerequisite to withdrawal and add to Northern  Ireland Policy

That the Prisoner’s Sub-Committee Campaign for the release of the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four, and Maguire Seven

That  IBRG work with other groups to oppose the new British police bill

Condemned the recent arrest of IBRG members and called for the charges to be dropped and for an inquiry into their arrest.

Condemn David Owen for rescinding the SDP conference decision to ban plastic bullets.

To congratulate workers at Dunnes Stores in Dublin for their actions against selling South African produce.

Calls for a sustained campaign against the PTA in all branches, including holding public meetings collecting petitions, leaflets, posters, conferences etc

Support the creation of preschool language nurseries

Jim King, elected as Chair for his third term, criticised Irish Foreign Minister Peter Barry for ignoring that part of Ireland which was occupied against the wishes of the majority of the Irish people. He said there was a renewed sense of national pride among the Irish in Britain and that the IBRG had contributed greatly to this.  He deplored the recent arrests under the PTA and the attitude of the Dublin government and said that our work on the PTA and for a united sovereign Ireland must continue unabated.

On 30 March 1985 the Irish Post reported that IBRG acted as catalyst in its report of the IBRG Ard  Fheis at Brent Town Hall.  Jim King was reported saying: ’There is a new mood of assertiveness and the IBRG has acted as a catalyst demonstrating that the heads down approach is unproductive and unnecessary. The IBRG has made an immense contribution to the renaissance of all things Irish in Britain which we are now enjoying’

In 28 March 1985 Pat Reynolds spoke with Jo Richardson MP at a public meeting on Strip Searching in Newham.

A conference in Newham entitled Racism and the Irish Community was organised by the Stratford Irish Community Association in East London in early April at which Gearoid McGearailt  IBRG and Brid Ni Chainin  IBRG spoke at.

The Conference passed a resolution condemning Bord Failte and Aer Lingus for refusing to give assurances that they would discontinue advertising in the Express newspapers including the Evening Standard, because of these paper’s anti- Irishness. The GLC exhibition the Invisible Irish was on show at the Conference.

On 20 April 1985 the Irish Post reported on “Significant victory in Wigan” where the chair of the Wigan  IBRG branch, Michael Gallagher, standing as a Labour candidate,  had beaten the Tories in a Council by election. In the campaign the Tory leaflet suggested that voters should ask Michael Gallagher if he were a supporter of the IRA. He immediately issued a writ for libel claiming damages and was granted an injunction in the High Court in Manchester restraining the Tories from such slanders. The Tories were also required to publish and distribute to every household an apology to Michael Gallagher and withdraw the inferences made against him.

On 13  April 1985 IBRG along with ICARM (Irish Campaign against Racism in the Media) picketed the offices of Bord Failte and Aer Lingus in central London.

On 20 April 1985 IBRG members attended a GLC Conference on the PTA at the Camden Centre. Over 100 people attended the Conference.

Dr Maire O’Shea, IBRG, spoke on her arrest and detention and on the other prisoners arrested. Dr O’Shea stated:  ‘The PTA is a kind of terrorism in itself, it hasn’t stopped terrorism in this country. It has separated families and friends and has caused anguish to people closest to those arrested’.

Gearoid MacGearailt gave a wide-ranging speech setting out the background to the Irish community in Britain in housing, health and employment, and stated:  ‘the PTA is institutional racism. Its purpose is to intimidate and to stifle lawful and legitimate political activity. He also led one of the workshops.

Both of these detailed speeches and others are available in the GLC document Consultative Conference on the effect of the workings of the PTA upon London’s Irish community published later in 1986.

On 21  April 1985(4) the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Crown Pub in Bristol at which the following attended Gearoid MacGearailt Chair for the day, Maire O’Shea, Judy Peddle, Colm O Floinn, Marie Wynne, John Doyle, Denis Casey, Pat Keane, Seamus O’Colileain, Enda McCarthy,  Mairin Higgins and Jim McCarthy.

The Ard Choiste heard that Haringey IBRG had set up a Prisoners support group to work with non-political prisoners and had recently a meeting with Sister Sarah Clarke who worked with Irish prisoners in Britain.

On 24 April 1985 Pat Reynolds was the speaker on the PTA motion at Brent Nalgo AGM at Brent Town Hall which carried the motion condemning the PTA.

On 25 April 1985 Pat Reynolds was speaking at an Irish Awareness day for staff in Islington Council.

A support group for Maire O’Shea was set up in Manchester and on 27 April a meeting was held in the Town Hall basement to launch the campaign.

In May 1985 the Press council ruled against John Junor and the  Sunday Express over his anti-Irish racist remarks. The complaint was brought by Luke Kearns of Bradford IBRG and Damien Price of Green Ink with Pat Reynolds assisting him.  The Irish Post would claim that this was its greatest victory in some 15 years history while ignoring the role IBRG had played in it.

On 11 May 1985 the Irish Post reported that Michael O’Cnaimhsi and IBRG in Blackburn  had got a local store not to sell Punch magazine as it had contained anti Irish material. John Stanley, from Leeds IBRG,  in the same issue drew attention to  W.H. Smith’s who  were selling the Official Irish Joke Book which was full of racist jokes and stereotypes.

The complaint was sent to Smiths in London who replied; ‘Were we to withdraw the Irish joke book the effect would be to draw a lot more attention to them with the result that more would be bought’.

One IBRG member in London also protested by filling a trolley full of books, which after they had put them through the till, just happened to come across this Irish joke book, and was so offended, that he cancelled his entire large order and walked out.

Donal Kennedy in the same issue remarked on Joe Ashton’s claim that it was an Irishman’s ability to take a joke that stopped  the English from automatically thinking him connected with the IRA. Amazingly Ashton seemed never to have heard of Brendan Behan, Frank O’Connor and Sean O Faoilean.

bernard manning

On 12 May 1985 Jim King, Gearoid MacGearailt and Pat Reynolds met Jim Delaney of the Irish American Unity Conference at London airport to discuss join community interests. IBRG got invited to come to America late that year for their conference in Washington DC.

On 14 May 1985 IBRG members picketed the George Robey Pub  in Finsbury Park North London over Frank Carson’s  appearance there. Ironically the Gaelic football team South and O’Hanlon’s used to use that pub as their HQ in the 1970’s.

On 15 May 1985 IBRG met with Alf Lomas MEP and  Father Bobby Gilmore,  head of the Irish Chaplaincy,  over anti Irish racism and Sean Sexton’s amazing media campaign which called for more Irish representation in the media.

In May 1985 Green Ink were awarded £33,000 to set up an Irish bookshop in North London including  subsidising  the difference between sales and salaries.

In May the Federation withdrew from the NCCL research on the PTA which led to a huge storm. The Federation wanted total control of the project while the NCCL wanted to keep the research independent. The Federation were caught out over their position on the PTA where they sided with Fine Gael  against their own community in Britain to their great shame, following on from their eternal shame of their stance during the Hunger Strikes.

On 23 May 1985 Clare Short and  IBRG were honoured by the Massachusetts House of Representatives for her works on Irish self-determination for the Irish in Britain. The citation mentioned the work of the IBRG to quote:  “Whereas the committed Ms Short has participated in meetings and conferences  with members of the Labour Party , which would put forth a platform for British withdrawal and unity and independence, and has discussed with  the Irish in Britain Representation Group, which works on behalf of Irish people living in England, who are subjected to continuous detention and imprisonment, and denial of human and civil rights by the British government’.

Here we see IBRG making an impact from the European parliament to the Dail to the USA and to the British House of Commons within a few months, raising the question of the civil liberties of the Irish community in Britain. The document was signed by Marie Howe and signed by the Speaker in Boston where Clare Short MP was given a special reception along with a Press conference to highlight her visit her campaign on Ireland and the Irish in Britain.

On May 1985 the radical Dublin Magazine Phoenix outlined the growth of the IBRG and the Embassy attempts to curb the new militancy of the IBRG and the Irish in Britain. It  praised Brendan MacLua, editor of the Irish Post, who refused to play ball with the Embassy.   It seemed that  being on the Embassy guest list meant nothing to IBRG who boycotted these events, given the failure of the Embassy to protect Irish citizens in Britain. The Irish in Britain were no longer for sale for the sake for cheap wine at the Irish Embassy.

In 18 May 1985 the Irish Post covered the story where the London Irish Festival at Roundwood Park had refused IBRG a stall at the park because the IBRG would display political materials.

Pat Reynolds IBRG stated: ‘the conditions they wish to place upon us having stand would require us to deny our nationality, and betray those who are being killed by plastic bullets, humiliated by strip-searching and harassed under the PTA.  The organisers blamed the GLA and Brent Council for their stance. IBRG finds it incredible that either body would indulge in such political censorship as a prerequisite to allowing a charity day’.

The organisers tried to blame the GLC and Brent Council for this imaginary ban, yet could produce no evidence of any such condition. Ironically Pat Reynolds worked for Brent Council and knew this claim by the organiser to be nonsense as his colleagues at the Council provided the facilities for the festival.  Later they would even ban the Birmingham Six from having a stall,  clearly not even recognising welfare issues and supporting British extreme censorship on their own community.

On 1 June 1985 IBRG members in London attended the GLC conference on Policing the Black and Irish Communities.

On 9 June 1985 (5) the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Unemployed Centre in Birmingham with 19 officers and  delegates attended including Jim King Chair, Judy Peddle Runai, Maire O‘Shea, Gearoid MacGearailt, Joe Mullarkey, Pat Reynolds, Alan Wallace, Marie Wynee, Caitlin Wright, Nessan Danagher, Maurice Moore,  Seamus O Coileain, Mairin Higgins Arthur Delvin and David Wright.

The meeting heard that a new IBRG branch had been set up in Strathclyde. Gearoid McGearailt was working on  setting up a new branch in Lewisham. The meeting agreed to give £150 towards Nessan Danaher producing 1,000 copies of his 1985 Education Conference report.

On 15 June 1985 the Irish Post covered Islington IBRG story “No to Islington deplorable” where the Department  of the Environment had turned down Islington council application to fund a local Irish centre.

The Department  stated; ‘It is considered that there is no justification for treating the Irish as an ethnic minority, and therefore no reason why they should not use facilities provided for the population generally’. The IBRG stated that this decision was discriminatory, political, and racist as the Irish were clearly  a racial group under the terms of the Race Relations Act, and the House of Lords judgement on this matter.

The decision would effectively block the Irish community from any central government funding. Brent Irish Advisory Service had also been refused funding and John Ryan, Labour councillor in Brent, stated: ‘the Tories are opposed to the funding of any Irish project. I would go further and say that they are opposed to the very concept of there being an organised Irish community in Britain which endeavours to promote its own culture and sense of identity’.

On 22 June 1985 IBRG members in London attended a GLC Homelessness Conference to ensure an Irish dimension was included as the Irish suffered much from being homeless.

On 26th June 1985 Dr Maire O’Shea spoke at the Red Rose club Islington at a public meeting with Jeremy Corbyn MP and Chris Smith MP.

There was a row in June 1985 when the letters pages of the Irish Post were filled with criticism of the Federation and their manner of withdrawing from the NCCL research into the PTA, because the Federation wanted total control of the project despite their own confused position on the PTA, which was aligned to the Fine Gael position on the PTA.  The GLC responded in the Post to say they had every faith in the NCCL,  despite the criticism of John Fahy, PRO of the Federation, who had attacked both the GLC and the IBRG for no reason.

On 28 June 1985 Pat Reynolds PRO issued a press release in response to several arrest of Irish workers in seaside towns in Britain. It stated: ‘The IBRG condemns the continuing harassment of the Irish community under the racist PTA laws, and the abuse of the civil and legal rights of Irish citizens in Britain. A coach and horses has been driven through the sub judice laws in Britain by the police media and politicians on the last week, what chance has any Irish person getting a fair trial in Britain with the current whipped up hysteria, if you are Irish, it sems  you are guilty once you are arrested, and that you have no rights under the law, to be afforded ordinary civil liberties, and the right to a fair hearing. The IBRG condemn the racist selective targeting of Irish workers in sea side towns, and demand that this racist witch-hunt is called off, and condemn the use of conspiracy charges against member of our community. The PTA main objective is the political policing of the legitimate political activity of the Irish community in Britain’.

On 1 July 1985 Dr. Maire O’Shea addressed a large public meeting at the Cricklewood Hotel in West London along with Ken Livingstone on the PTA.

On 6 July 1985 PRO Pat Reynolds had a letter in the Irish Post ‘Independent research vital in bid to repeal PTA’ in which he took John Fahy PRO of the Federation to task for his attack on the IBRG, NCCL and the GLC over the PTA research project, from which they had withdrawn.

He stated: ‘the position of the IBRG in this matter is quite clear. We had urged the GLC to provide funding for such a project and when the NCCL began their research we offered them our full support. Last year we met with the NCCl to convey our particular concerns about the PTA, and how it affects the Irish community. As an independent organisation ourselves, we respect the independence of the NCCL and regard independent research to be vital to accompany any campaign seeking the repeat of the PTA We have no reason to change our support for the NCCL’s research, nor have we found any sustainable evidence to indicate that this research is not in the interest of our community.  For John Fahy to refer cynically to ‘platforms’ is insulting to any organisation which campaign on the PTA issue. It is also insulting to the thousands of Irish people held under that vile legislation. The Irish in Britain are a politically aware people and from its founding, the IBRG has been open and honest in its work in education, research, politics, culture, media and welfare. We urge the Irish community throughout Britain and especially the young to join with the IBRG in its fight to have the PTA abolished, and also to participate with us in our various activities which give expression to Irish life in Britain’.

The Federation were closely aligned with the Irish Embassy, being used as their mouth piece in the PTA debate, and were closely aligned with the Fine Gael government’s stance on the PTA, and failed to call for its abolition.

On 14 July 1985 (6) the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Unemployed Centre in Birmingham. 16 officers and delegates attended with Doris Daly from Islington attending part of the meeting. The following were present Jim King Chair, Judy Peddle Runai, Maire O’Shea, Gearoid McGearailit, Joe Mullarkey, Colm O’Floinn, Marie Wynee, Nessan Danagher, Caitlin Wright, John Doyle, Sean Cross, Maurice Moore, Eddie Whyte, Michael O Cnaimhsi and David Wright along with Elizabeth and Maura Cassidy from Coventry.

The Ard Choiste decided that the Comhcomhairle should be held in Birmingham on 26 October 1985. Haringey IBRG were planning a local public meeting on the PTA in September. The meeting had a long discussion on the PTA campaign.

On 23 July 1985 a meeting was held at Peckham Town Hall to restart Southwark IBRG and on 24 July a similar meeting took place in Brent to restart Brent IBRG. On 28 July 1985 there was a GLC Race Awareness day where Pat Reynolds chaired the Irish workshop.

In Leeds over 100 people turned up to launch the Anti PTA campaign which Alan Wallace chaired. Dr Maire O’Shea was unable to make it as her car broke down. Councillor  Sheena Clarke gave the meeting a graphic description of her recent detention under the PTA at Manchester Airport on her return from a housing conference in Belfast where she was questioned for 55 minutes.  She stated ‘I got the impression that if you favour a united Ireland, you risk being labelled a terrorist subversive and somebody, whom they are entitled to pick up and harass.’ She describes it as being one of the most terrifying experiences I have ever had. And ‘what happened to me happens to thousands of people travelling backwards and forwards between Britain and Ireland’.

In July 1985 Manchester City Council recognised the Irish community, the first local authority outside of the GLC and Islington to do so. The IBRG had made a major submission to Manchester City Council and lobbied for the recognition. The report had dealt with housing, social services, culture and education. The report also dealt with anti-Irish racism, the effects of the PTA and N. Ireland upon the local Irish community.

1984 report

Jim King IBRG chair welcomed  this development as fit and proper, and stated ‘The IBRG in Manchester has put a lot of work into winning this recognition and the results should be of considerable long-term benefits to the local Irish community’. Two Irish representatives could now sit on Manchester City Council’s Race Committee. The same weekend Manchester Labour Party held a Conference on Ireland at the Town hall.

Ruari Quinn, the Irish Minister for Labour, had a letter in the Irish Post defending giving votes to British citizens in Ireland that nobody had asked for, nor was there any lobby for this. Yet, Irish citizens in Britain were denied a vote in Ireland despite strong voices that they be given the vote.

Quinn talk of the enfranchisement of EEC citizens in a reciprocal basis was nonsense as he ignored the fact that British citizens living abroad, like the vast majority of other European citizens living abroad, retain the vote in their country, this was denied to the Irish abroad in a very discriminatory way. There was no evidence whatsoever that British citizens living in Ireland suffered any discrimination whatsoever, unlike the Irish in Britain,  who were daily subjected to anti Irish vile in the British media, and had the racist PTA laws to deal with, and were disadvantaged in housing health and employment.

Gearoid McGearailt took Ruari Quin to task in a detailed response in the Irish Post, and showed how the Irish government had ignored the needs of its own citizens abroad on the PTA on travel conditions, Northern Ireland, transfer of prisoners, on the framed prisoners such as the Birmingham Six, Guildford and Maguire Seven. He pointed out that the amount given to Irish welfare in Britain by the Dublin government amounted to the cost of running one ministerial car in the government. The policy of the Irish government had always been that once you leave Ireland, you are no longer the responsibility of the Irish government who will do as little for you as they can get away with.

On 30 July 1985 the BBC, after pressure from Leon Brittan, the Home Secretary, banned the television programme  At the Edge of the Union because it included a speech by Martin McGuiness. Two weeks later Thatcher stated that that the Republican movement should be starved of the oxygen of publicity. (Make your own mind up about the programme here) 

At the beginning of August 1985, the IBRG took on the Daily Star  over a ‘pig in the kitchen’ article in reference to Ireland. On 2  August 1985 the Evening Press Dublin front page story headline was ‘Star brings Irish pigs’ line into the parlour’.  The headline in the Daily Star article was ‘bejasus, your clever swine’ telling some fake story about an English tourist in Ireland taking tea in a remote cottage in the West of Ireland, being surprised when a pig wanders into the kitchen.

Earlier in the same paper Joe Ashton, the racist anti Irish labour  MP,  had another racist article denigrating the Irish. The Irish Independent ran the story ‘Another of Fleet Street’s rasher pieces.  Pat Reynolds told the newspaper ‘It is part of an insidious campaign of anti-Irish bigotry with the article stating ‘In Ireland the kitchen is often shared by all sorts of friendly livestock’.

Within days the Daily Star was running another anti Irish story with a story entitled ‘the Blarney Clone’ in which it referred  to the Irish ‘using a shocking new system  to improve the pedigree of their stock.  The genetic characteristics of both partners are fed into the computer, mating takes place and hey presto a new Irish master breed is born.’ Only in the last sentence of the article does it indicate that this is for Irish livestock on the farm.

On 3 August 1985 the Irish Post had the headline ‘Press Council No to IBRG complaint’.  The story stated that the British Press Council –  which had a notorious reputation of protecting newspapers rather than the public –  had rejected an IBRG complaint about the racist anti Irish MP Joe Ashton article in the Daily Star on 25th February 1985.

The Press Council letter stated: ‘the complaints committee of the Press Council; sitting under the chair Sir Zelman Cowen has carefully considered your complaint against the Daily Star. After taking full account of your comments the committee decided that you had failed to establish a case warranting adjudication by the Council’. The wording of the complaint was that the Star had ‘published an article which was racist and insulting to Irish people portraying them as ignorant and backward, and neither the editor nor the author was willing to acknowledge their distortion’. The PRO stated in reply ‘recently Fleet Street newspapers have driven a coach and horses through the subjudice  laws and acted as judge and jury over Irish people arrested under the PTA. What Standards is the Press Council defending. Its failure to take up this complaint shows it to be as much part of the problem as some Fleet St newspapers. We call for an end to the Press Council’s collusion with Fleet st in abusing the Irish community.’

The Evening Herald in Dublin on 2 August 1985 covered this story with ‘Insult claim is lost’ which covered the IBRG statement in full.

On 3 August 1985 the Irish Post ran the story ‘Breakthrough by IBRG in Lambeth’. The article stated that ‘The Lambeth branch of IBRG in south London has achieved a major breakthrough in having the local Borough Council accept its seven-point plan for assisting the Irish community. The detailed plan covers a wide range of services and extends to the local Irish community special treatment in areas of welfare, housing and cultural needs as well as a recognition that the Irish have been victims of racism and discrimination.

Ted Knight leader of Lambeth Council and the majority Labour group had met IBRG and agreed to progress the proposals. Lambeth now had an Irish welfare project with two workers funded by the GLC the deal also included Lambeth declaring itself an PTA free zone and recognising the PTA as racist. Here Lambeth was following the GLC, Islington and Manchester City Council in recognising the Irish.

On 8 August Pat Reynolds and other IBRG members joined the Troops Out delegation to Belfast where for the first time the IBRG took part in the Anti Internment March in Belfast where the crowd gave us a huge reception, as the Anderstown News regularly were covering IBRG activity in Britain. It was important to the community in Belfast that the Irish in Britain were standing with them, and sending out a clear message they were not alone.

On 10 August 1985 the Irish Post headline had ‘Storm over ‘pigs in kitchen’ story.  IBRG PRO Pat Reynolds responded by stating ‘The Press Council’s unwillingness to reprimand racist newspapers gives publications like the Star a licence to print such vile material. The Star the Sun and the Daily Express seem to have a fixation with pigs and piggeries. Its time they came out to breathe the fresh air of truth and reality. Their anti-Irish propaganda stinks and speaks volumes about their colonial mentality towards the Irish. We reject their racist definitions and rejoice in our Irishness’.

On 10 August 1985 Manchester IBRG had a letter in the Irish Post setting out  their differences with BBC Radio  Manchester  over their Irish line programme. In it Eileen Murphy, Declan O’Neill, Tony Farrell and Peter Ledwith gave a full history of the programme, and how they had been thrown off the programme by the BBC management  in Manchester. The programme  was targeted after the arrests of Dr Maire O’Shea and others when they had interviewed over time Peter Barry, Ken Livingstone, Jim King, and Father Raymond Murray over the Birmingham Six.

The BBC started to cut out any reference to the IBRG being associated with the programme  and then started  to censor interviews. The final straw was when the BBC cut an interview with Bernadette Hyland of IBRG who had been a recent delegate on the International Woman’s day delegation to Armagh with the interview focusing on strip searching.  The delegation also included Women Against Pit Closures, Labour Women and Ireland, Women Trade unionists. (Read full story here)

Women's delegation to Ireland

IWD Delegation to N.Ireland March 1989.

It was another example of the BBC censoring anything to do with Ireland or the conflict or even innocent Irish prisoners in Britain. Later the BBC were to ban Shane McGowan’s song about the Birmingham Six.

On 17 August 1985 the Irish Post reported that ‘Haringey showing of banned BBC programme ’ called “At the Edge of the Union” which Haringey council put on a public showing on 19th August 1985 with speaker on censorship on Ireland.

Steve King, Deputy Leader of Haringey,  stated ‘We believe that the people of Haringey are quite capable of making up their own minds about the situation in Ireland. We don’t need the government to decide what views we are to hear. This council is committed to defend the right of local people against all attempt by government to take on the role of Big Brother’.

The Irish Post further reported than over 70 people including Jeremy Corbyn MP attended the IBRG picket of the BBC HQ in London at Portland Place to protest over their banning of the programme  on Northern Ireland. Pat Reynolds had helped to organise the picket.

The IBRG stated: ‘We condemn years of silence and self-censorship ion Ireland by the BBC and the British media. This media had never been impartial on Ireland. It supports and promotes British interference in Ireland without question, and suppress and censors any challenge to that position. The IBRG especially condemn the cancelation of the program at the Edge of the Union and deplores the hypocrisy of this governments talk of democracy, while it suppresses the views of democratically elected representative of the Irish people’.

Haringey Council was led by Bernie Grant,  the first Black leader of a Local Authority in modern times. (Many forget that that John Archer who was Black and Irish was the Mayor of Battersea back in 1913.) The film, “Edge of the Union” was shown at Haringey Civic Centre.

 

On 7 August a national one day strike was  called by the  NUJ following the decision by the BBC Board of Governors to ban the Real Lives documentary on Northern Ireland “At the Edge of the Union”.  In Manchester  at UMIST the  Manchester Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom and the local NUJ branch organised a meeting about  the censorship of the documentary. Bernadette Hyland of Bolton IBRG spoke from the floor about censorship and the Irish community relating to the BBC’s closure of their radio programme “Irish Line”.

On 21 August 1985 Pat Reynolds IBRG was the speaker at Brent Nalgo Irish Workers Group, the first of its kind in the country. Pat was working with Brent council at the time running their Community Home with Education (CHE), and was also a founding member of the group.

Later John Tymon, a member of the group, would become Brent Branch secretary, and later the group became part of the National Nalgo Irish Workers Groups with a view, to get motions to National conference and supporting the Irish community locally.

In 1986 ten of the group took St Patricks Day off work to organise a St Patrick’s day celebration in Brent for the Irish community at the Brent Irish centre. The council who threatened to dock the pay of the 10 workers backed down, and the following year Brent Council took over the running of the festival which had continued to run to this day.

On 24 August 1985 the Irish Post reported on ‘Leeds Irish centre and IBRG clash’ where Leeds IBRG accused the Leeds Irish Centre of discriminating against it, and refusing to allow the IBRG to put on Irish language classes at the centre. Leeds IBRG had also asked the centre to hold a cultural evening with Donall  MacAmhlaigh the Irish writer to speak but were refused. The local Polish Centre then had to help out  IBRG. It was a shocking story on ongoing discrimination against both the IBRG and members of their own community by the Centre and the suppression of Irish culture in Leeds.

On 24 August 1985 the Irish Post covered a story ‘Bolton Irish join the Festival’. It highlighted the Bolton Irish Festival  24-31 August 1985 which included a concert, an Irish traditional music workshop and an Irish crafts display including stalls with Irish goods for sale plus Irish dancing on the streets.

On 31 August 1985 the Irish Post covered the story ’Too few Irish council officers’ in reference to Islington Council in North London. The Irish community make up some 11% of the local population yet only 5.2% of the non-manual workforce. The study had been carried out by the Council’s own Personnel department. Of the 181 employed at officer level only two were senior managers out of 83 such senior positions. The council came up with various excuses as to why the Irish figure was low, claiming that some Irish may not identify as being Irish, despite there being no evidence of this. For example, if only two senior officers identified as Irish, they would know if there was more of them

IBRG stated: ‘the truth of the matter is that Irish ability is being overlooked by Islington council. There is no positive policy of recruiting Irish people to ensure that they are proportionate to their number in the borough, represented among the council’s officer workforce.’

The Irish were often kept in the low paid manual type jobs, in 1970 over 50% of Irish males worked in construction whereas the figure in Ireland was about 15%. Irish women worked in the local hospitals but in local authorities tended to have manual type jobs as dinner women or home helps which paid poorly.

On 3 September 1985 Tom King became Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Maire O’Shea had been a member of the Connolly Association and its newspaper the “Irish Democrat”  covered the campaign.

Maire 4

On 6 September 1985 a new IBRG branch was set up in Wigan.

The IBRG Ard Choiste took place on 7th September 1985 (7) at St Lawrence Hall, Manchester.  14 officers and delegates attended including Jim King chair, Judy Peddle Runai, Michael O’Cnaimhsi Pat Reynolds Marie Wynee, Eddie Whyte, Gearoid MacGearailt, Caitlin Wright Joe Mullarkey, Alan Wallace, Maurice Moore, Sean Cross, Anthony McFarrell, Maire O’Shea and Paul O’Brien.

The meeting agreed to send delegates to the American Irish Unity Conference   from 31 October -2 November 1985 in Washington DC, and that Jim King Chair and Pat Reynolds PRO should go to represent IBRG. The meeting heard that Southwark and Newham IBRG had been set up in London, and that Haringey IBRG had received GLC funding for two workers for a welfare project of £26K. John Doyle has resigned as Youth officer. Nessan Danaher had been speaking at an Education Conference in Oxford.  Haringey IBRG had referred an article in the Mail on Sunday to the Press Council over its attack on Sr Sarah Clarke who worked with Irish prisoners.

The Comhcomhairle would have workshops on the Media by PRO, Education by Nessan Danaher, Welfare by Caitlin Wright,  Northern Ireland  by Alan Wallace,  PTA/Civil Liberties by Gearoid McGearalit, Political Prisoners by Prisoner’s Subcommittee and IBRG Image by Michael O’ Cnaimhsi.

It was agreed to set up new branches in Lewisham and Leamington Spa. The Ard Choiste agreed to set up a working party to identify ways of convening a conference on withdrawal from Ireland and that Joe Mullarkey, Michael O’Cnaimhsi and Paul O’Brien be part of this group.

Islington IBRG proposed that the Ard Choiste endorse the demonstration called to support Maire O’Shea and the repeal of the PTA which was agreed and that Gearoid speak. The meeting agreed to donate £40 to the Maire O’Shea Defence Fund. Pat Reynolds had secured £100 from Brent Nalgo for the PTA Campaign.

There were 20 active registered IBRG branches. Judy Peddle Runai resigned after the Ard Choiste meeting in Manchester because of ‘a clash of personalities between herself and a number of London based members of the executive.’ She had been Runai for three years and a member of the NEC for over four years. She was thanked for all her work on behalf of IBRG. The Irish Post ran the story on 21st September 1985 ‘IBRG secretary quits after row.’

On 10 September 1985 the Irish Press covered the story ‘Tories challenged on emigrant claim’ when they claimed that Irish emigrants were a crippling burden on the welfare state and that over 20,000 Irish were coming to Britain each year. The Tories had based their false claim on a  report by Action Group for Irish Youth that had prepared a special report on emigration for the Dublin government.

Pat Reynolds, PRO, responded ‘Irish people coming to Britain do not cause unemployment. In fact, Irish born people are more economically active than the British born population.  More people leave Britain every year than enter it, and we regard this as an attempt to make the Irish a scapegoat for the Thatcher’s government’s failure to tackle high unemployment’.

On 18 September 1985 John Stalker submitted his report of his inquiry into a cover up of a shoot to kill policy by members of the RUC.

On 21 September 1985 the Irish presenters of Manchester IBRG Irish line had a letter in the Irish Post with heading ‘BBC dodging the Irish line issue.’ It notes the Sunday Press of 11th August 1985 stated that most of the production team of the regular Irish show have been fired because they attempted to transmit political interviews and features.

They stated that John McManus the Radio Manchester programme  controller was more honest.” He admitted to us that the BBC had been pressurised by people outside the corporation over its content and approach. In the light of recent revelations about political and M15 interference on the running of the BBC, we suppose that it is hardly surprising’.

The IBRG Ard Choiste took place at the Battersea Arts Centre on 5 October 1985 (8) with 20 officers and delegates present  including Jim King chair,  Marie Wynee, Sean Cross, Colm O Floinn, Denis Casey, Gearoid MacGearailt, Pat Reynolds, Paul O’Brien, Steve Morris, Joe Mullarkey, David Wright, Caitlin Wright, Maura Cassidy, Elizabeth Cassidy, Eddie Whyte, Michael O Cnaimhsi and Maire O’Shea with observers Peter Murray Islington, Steve Brennan and Alex McDonnell both from Lambeth.

The meeting heard reports from the various officers.  The Ard Choiste gave £40 to Leeds branch to support Peter Lynch and donated £25 to the Committee for British Withdrawal. Brent Nalgo Irish Group wanted to affiliate with IBRG but the rules did not allow it. The Ard Choiste called for an ending of strip-searching of Ella and Martina in Brixton prison

On 12 October 1985 the Irish Post carried the story ‘IBRG slams Labour Policy’ in which the IBRG stated ‘Trade Unions and  the Labour Party continue to support repression in Ireland while they hypocritically shout about similar suppression in South Africa.  The IBRG must ask if the Irish community is willing to continue to support the party which maintains its colonial position on Ireland. The IBRG will continue to endorse candidates who publicly state their support for a United Ireland and an end to the British presence there’.

The report also stated that Haringey IBRG expressed concern that plastic bullets had been made available for use at the weekend disturbances at Broadwater Farm, but not used, as the Home Office  feared using them in Britain, while still prepared to use them in their last colony of occupied Ireland.

On 12 October 1985 the Irish Post covered the founding of an Irish Workers Group within Brent NALGO, which had been recognised at Brent Nalgo AGM at Brent Town Hall. They  gave the group £250 for its activities to support Irish workers within  the council and activities in the Irish community.

Pat Reynolds seconded the motion for recognition, while Mike Trant the Branch secretary proposed it. Pat Reynolds stated this is a significant development within our union. It is also an acknowledgement of a new awareness of the Irish community in Brent and of the need for Irish workers to organise themselves within trade unions to work on issues affecting the Irish community in Britain and with issues affecting N. Ireland such as the PTA, the use of Plastic bullets and strip searching.

On 19 October 1985 the Irish Post carried the story ‘IBRG irate at Star acquittal’, which stated that the Press Council had rejected two complaints from the IBRG regarding items which had appeared in the Star newspaper on 2 and 8  August 1985.

The first one on 2 August was entitled ‘Bejasus your clever swine’ a Victorian pig in the kitchen story. The IBRG had agreed with the Press Council ‘That the newspaper published a racist and offensive diary item which was insulting to Ireland and the Irish people, tending to reinforce negative stereotypes about the Irish’.

The second one published on 8 August entitled The Blarney clone which claimed the Irish were using a shocking new system to improve the pedigree of their stock so a new Irish master breed is born. Generic engineering at its worst.  When PRO Pat Reynolds complained to the editor, he replied treating the matter as some kind of joke and stated I hope you can accept my assurances that there are no anti Irish feelings here at the Star. I do not feel that a little bit of fun hurts anyone’.

In reply to the Press Council rejection of the IBRG complaints the IBRG stated ‘the refusal of the Press Council to condemn the racism of the Star for the second time confirms that it condones and by silence supports this racism. The denigration of Ireland and its people are an essential part of the British media propaganda war on Ireland. There are close links with Britain’s role in Ireland. The Press Council is acting as an apologist for the anti Irish racism of Fleet St, as witnessed by its failing to uphold complaints regarding the infamous JAK cartoon, and the column by racist labour MP Joe Ashtons which was s also in the Star. The IBRG for its part will continue to campaign against anti Irish racism in the media and will broaden its campaign to Ireland and the USA.

On 6 November 1985 the Guardian reported ‘Sun’s report on fire not racist’ in which they reported the Press Council findings on the IBRG complaint by PRO Pat Reynolds.  The Press Council created new history and a new departure in order to rule against the IBRG complaint. Previously newspapers could not refer to the race of a person unless it had a relevance to the story. Indeed, they had ruled so earlier that year in another case involving a Black person.

The IBRG complaint against the Sun regarded a 36-year-old man who had been jailed for five years for manslaughter. In May 1985 the Press Council censored four daily newspaper for mentioning the colour of a 17-year youth who was convicted of murder and five rapes. The Press Council has consistently held that a person’s race or colour should only be introduced into a newspaper report, where it is relevant to the story being told. In that case the Press Council pronounced that the youth’s colour was irrelevant and should not have been mentioned by the four newspaper, the Sun, the Daily Express the Star and the Standard. Of interest these were also the papers the Irish community were battling with.

In this case the Press Council changed its own regulations and rules to rule out the Irish case and now in a major departure from its previous judgements stated that newspaper could now mention a person race or colour  as long as it was not pejorative or prejudicial to describe a defendant in court case as Irish.  Of interest, the Sun even use the word “Swine” in their heading on the case. How could any complainant now have a case where he could prove that the mention of the person’s race or colour was pejorative or prejudicial as this was extremely subjective with no examples given in either case. This case showed the extremes the racist Press Council were prepared to go to deny Irish people any access to redress in Britain from the vile racist of that media.

The IBRG Ard Choiste met In Birmingham on 26 October 1985 with 13 branches represented and where the workshops took place as planned on the various issues identified at the last Ard Choiste. The Comhcomhairle did not take place as it required two thirds of branches to be present, and there was not clarity as to how many branches were fully functioning at this stage.

At the end of October 1985 Jim King and Pat Reynolds headed off to Washington DC for the American Irish Unity conference where Jim King got a standing ovation for his speech on the Irish in Britain which included our work on the PTA, anti Irish racism in the media and the cases of the Birmingham Six, Guildford and Maguire Seven. Pat Reynolds also brought in material to the USA on Dr Marie O’Shea case which was subjudice in Britain but not in the USA. The only other person to receive a standing ovation that weekend was Sean McBride.

The IBRG met Sean McManus of Irish Caucus Group in America based in Washington DC, where they made a trip to his office where he ran a very powerful Irish American lobby. IBRG also met Paul Dwyer, Michael Flannery, Sean MacBride, Thomas Gallagher the writer, Rona Fields the writer who wrote on children in Northern Ireland, whose book was banned,  and Des Wilson from Belfast, and met with all the Irish American groups with whom we exchanged details for further cooperation AOH, Irish Unity, Noraid,  along with trade unions and cultural groups.

In New York City IBRG joined the picket of the British Consulate. On 7  November the PRO  got a number of interviews on the Birmingham Six case and that of Dr Maire O Shea where he could say more than he could in the UK. The PRO got an immediate piece in the Irish People in the USA on Press Bigotry in England which they lifted mostly from the Irish Post. The IBRG delegates paid their own way and got put up by delegates they met at the Conference. They  were invited to a Christy Moore concert in Washington DC where the audience went totally silent for the song The City of Chicago.

The Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed by the British and Irish Government on 15 November 1985 by Maggie Thatcher and Gareth Fitzgerald. Despite pressure from the Irish Embassy and Orla O’Halloran to give it a fair wind the IBRG rejected it.

The IBRG statement stated that ‘The IBRG condemn it as an attempt by the Irish government to deny the nationalist communities any political expression of nationhood, other than thorough those political parties considered acceptable or alternately through a Dublin representative over whom they had no control. The IBRG condemn it as a vehicle whose primary function is to allow Dublin to concede to Britain’s consistent demands for closer co-operation insecurity with all the political economic and security implications that such joint activity holds. The IBRG condemn the Irish government for implicating itself in the criminalisation policy of Britain with regard to the security and  judicial machinery of the statelet, and for not addressing  itself directly to the problems of harassment under the racist PTA, the humiliation of strip searching, the injustice of the Diplock Courts and of supergrasses and the dreadful hardships suffered by the Nationalist people since the 1922 treaty. The IBRG accuse both government of deliberately creating a framework for treating the symptoms of the struggle in Ireland and not the cause, and of intending to draw public attention away from the real situation, and towards controlled but false media type break through and solutions. The IBRG accuse Dublin of sell out of the sufferings and hardship of the Nationalist people over the last 60 years by  participating in such a shambles and note  that the only gains the Nationalist communities,  are to  have  is Dublin putting forward  views and proposals over which they have no control; and the possible attainment of the normal civil and cultural rights which are a minimum  expectation in any civilised county. The IBRG support the continue demand for and United Ireland and a British withdrawal as the only formula for lasting peace. This agreement only postpones any settlement of the   real problem of the British presence in Ireland. the agreement falls far short of the minimum expectations of the Forum report and seeks an internal solution within a British defined context, thus denying an All-Ireland prospective on peace and unity.

The IBRG reject the proposed facile changes in security and justice, in its ignoring of the history of British security and justice in Ireland, and its evasion of the fact that the central issue in N. Ireland is political and not criminal. The IBRG notes that this agreement gives credence to the view that the British government stands to gain more from the Irish government’s terms of cross border security, extradition and border maintenance, then the corresponding Irish views and proposals on the internal structures of N. Ireland. Indirectly this agreement gives the British government an influence upon the Irish government and Ireland through cross border security and extradition. This agreement is not the way forward, it is a stumbling block to any aspiration of Irish Unity’.

Prior to the debate on 27 November in the  debate on the Agreement in the House of Commons Joan Maynard of the Labour Committee on Ireland called the agreement an attempt to head off the rising support for Sinn Fein, and the Labour Committe on Ireland described it as another attempt at an internal settlement within the Six Counties.  As such, it would founder against the rock of partition, and will suffer the same fate as previous attempts to reform the Northern state.  Tony Benn MP stated there can be no peace while Britain denies the Irish people their right to unity and independence, the real problem was partition.

On 18 November 1985 Senator Mary Robinson, future President of Ireland, resigned from the Labour party in protest at the Anglo-Irish Agreement because it is unacceptable to all sections of Unionist opinion. And ‘I do not believe it can achieve its objectives of securing peace and stability within Ireland or on the island as whole’.

The Agreement under Article 1 reiterates the British guarantee to the Unionists, but at the same for the first time ever, added a rider to say if eventually the majority wanted Irish Unity the British government would not stand in its way. It was in its way the first time in an  international treaty,  that the objective of Irish Unity had been put on the table, and that Britain had declared  that they had no ulterior motive, strategic or otherwise  for remaining in Ireland, and the Irish government were claiming to  advocate  the views of the minority community at the highest level. To many republicans and Nationalists there was still a Unionist veto on progress. When Fitzgerald went to Thatcher after the signing of the Treaty to seek her backing for the International Fund for Ireland from the EEC Thatcher’s reply said it all. ‘More money for these people. Why should they have more money’.

On 21 November 1985 the Dail approved the Anglo-Irish Agreement by 88 votes to 75.

On 23 November 1985 over 100,000 unionists marched against the Agreement.

At the end of November 1985, the IBRG condemned the arrest of several Irish people under the notorious racist PTA law,  including Conor Foley and Brendan O Rourke. The IBRG called it a propaganda exercise to give the impression the police were doing a job. The Labour Committee on Ireland protested at the arrest of their National Student Organiser Conor Foley. The LCI stated ‘this is a dangerous and insidious undermining of civil liberties and cannot be tolerated by a democratic society The PTA is a piece of legislation blatantly designed to intimidate Irish people and organisations campaigning on Ireland into silence The LCI demand its repeal’. Read Conor’s own story here

The Irish Press covered the story with ‘Irish angry at arrest in Britain’. The IBRG ‘condemned the arrest under the notorious PTA laws during a police trawling exercise. Brendan O’Rourke was a member of Lambeth IBRG one of the arrested.  These arrests were an attack upon the democratic political work of the Irish community in Britain. The IBRG called for an end to state organised terrorism against the community and called for freedom of speech for the Irish in Britain. In this case the Irish Embassy did help out over the arrested persons.

In November Marie O’Shea and Caitlin Wright spoke at a public meeting in Leeds along with the Black community and called for joint Black and Irish solidarity against the PTA and the conspiracy laws.  Caitlin Wright welcomed  the recent Granada World in Action programme  on the Birmingham Six which should open up the case to the British and Irish public.

world in action 1

On 9 November in Birmingham a national demonstration took place to promote Maire’s case. This highly policed demo showed the support for her from across the labour movement and the Irish community locally and nationally. ( Watch a video of the demo here )

On 26 November 1985 in the Commons debate on the Anglo-Irish Agreement John Hume stated ’The unionist parties have consistently sought to protect the integrity of  their heritage in Ireland-the Protestant heritage-and no one should quarrel with that. A society is richer for its diversity. My quarrel with the Unionist parties has been that they have sought to protect their heritage by holding all the power in their hands, and by basing that that on a sectarian solidarity. This is an exclusive use of power which is inherently violent because it permanently excludes a substantial section of the community from any say it its affairs’.

On 1st December 1985 IBRG members in London attended the GLC Youth Conference to have an Irish input into the meeting.

On 3 December 1985 Tom King speaking in Brussels stated ‘We have signed an agreement in which the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic has in fact accepted for all practical purposes and into perpetuity that there will never be a United Ireland.’ The Irish Minister for Justice, Michael Noonan, stated ‘In effect we have been given a major and substantial role in the day to day running of N. Ireland’.

In December 1985 the Green Ink Bookshop founded by Pat Reynolds and the Green ink Writers opened their doors in Archway, North London.  It sold books in Irish and in English, music and supplied  libraries,  schools and colleges and the Irish community with Irish literature and poetry.

Notes

1.Ard Choiste minutes 13/01/1985

2.Ard Choiste minutes 23/02/1985

3 .Ard Fheis minutes 23/03/198

4. Ard Choiste minutes 21/04/1985

5.  Ard Choiste 9/06/1985

6. Ard Choiste minutes 14/07/1985

7. Ard Choiste minutes 7/09/1985

8. Ard Choiste minutes 5/10/1985

Listen to my talk about the IBRG in the northwest in the Irish Collection at the WCML here

Read Part 1, 2 and 3 of IBRG history here

An excellent history of 200 years of Irish political activity in Mancheser – including Manchester IBRG read “The Wearing of the Green” by Michael Herbert. Buy it here

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Posted in education, human rights, Ireland, Irish second generation, labour history, Manchester, North of Ireland, political women, Salford, Socialist Feminism, trade unions, Uncategorized, women, working class history, young people | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

History of the Irish in Britain Representation Group by Patrick Reynolds. Part 4: 1984. Regrouping and Rebuilding.

Patrick Reynolds was one of the founders of IBRG and played a key role in its history. He is now writing up that history and putting it into the context of radical history in Britain and Ireland in the C20th.

sean downes march

Jeremy Corbyn (left) with (second left to right) Cllr Jim King, Kent miner Malcolm Pitt, MEPs Christine Crawley and Richard Balfe and Young Liberal chairman Janice Turner, the organisers of a ‘British Out of Ireland’ march walking down Downing Street carrying a black wreath in memory of Sean Downes, killed in Belfast in 1984.

 

The NEC met at the Olympus Hotel, Cardiff on 21st January 1984 (1). Nine NEC members were present including Jim King Chair, Runai Judy Peddle, along with Pat Delaney, Caitlin Wright, Mike Forde, Maire O’ Shea and Joe Mullarkey.

Joe Mullarkey wanted more action taken on the Daily Express Crossword anti-Irish racism, while Judy Peddle raised an offensive anti-Irish poem published in the Observer.

The Chair reported that new branches would be opening soon in Glasgow, Newcastle, Coventry, Blackburn, Gloucester and Doncaster.

Jim King reported that Manchester IBRG had been given a weekly radio programme on Manchester BBC and that he had been selected by Labour to stand in Salford in the local elections.

The Chair stated that at a meeting in Birmingham there had been some confusion over the IBRG position re- violence, but IBRG recognised that the British government’s actions in Ireland were the root cause of the violence there. The IBRG believes that the voice of the Irish in Britain should be heard on the problems of Northern Ireland. We will work in a peaceful law abiding and democratic way for a political solution to the problem. It was reaffirmed that we as an organisation would act accordingly.

Judy Peddle reported that she had sent the Northern Ireland policy statement to the leaders of the three main British parties and to their spokesperson on Northern Ireland. She had also sent our material on the Birmingham Six to sympathetic MPs.

An Runai read letters from Haringey and Islington IBRG which expressed their dismay at the London Regional Council meeting which the NEC Chair had attended, where they were not allowed to speak and were asked to leave. They claimed that the LRC was not representative or accountable to anyone as it only represents Brent and no one from South London, East London or North London. The PRO reported that at the recent LRC meeting two members himself and Juliette O Shea had been selected as workers for the new project in Brent. Members present felt that this was a breach of Equal opportunities as the jobs should have been advertised, shortlisted and interviews arranged.

The Internal co-ordinator Caitlin Wright and the Prisoners Sub-committee had written to Neil Kinnock and Peter Archer about the Birmingham Six. Caitlin had produced an Internal newsletter for IBRG.

On 11 February 1984 (2) the 1st IBRG National Education Conference was held at Soar Valley, Leicester organised by IBRG Education officer Nessan Danaher. Ninety five people had registered for the conference which was a major success in raising issues affecting the Irish community in Education.

Speakers at the Conference included Nessan Danaher, IBRG Education officer, Barry Dufour of Leicester University and Tim Ottevanager of Leicester Council. Barry Dufour stressed the need to look at the social and economic background and structure of the Irish community in Britain and the problem of racism which the community had been encountering. Ivan Gibbons from London criticised the ILEA (Inner London Education Authority) for not giving the Polytechnic of North London £6k to set up an Irish Studies course. He also criticised the Irish middle classes for failing to identify positively and publicly in an Irish ethnic sense thus depriving the second generation of support and example.

Among the attendance were Steve Brennan GLC Irish Policy officer, Justin Harmon from the Irish Embassy, Jim King Chair IBRG, Maurice Moore Coventry IBRG, Father Joe Taaffe Birmingham, Maire O’ Shea Birmingham, the Gaelic League, Luton libraries, Manchester Education Irish Video Project along with various education authorities school heads and teachers.

The IBRG NEC met on Saturday 25 February 1984 at the Camden Irish Centre in London (3) Nine members of the NEC attended included Jim King chair, Judy Peddle Runai, Pat Delaney PRO, Jim Curran, Nessan Danaher Education officer, Caithlin Wright and Joe Mullarkey from Bolton.

The Chair reported back from opening an IBRG branch in Glasgow and that Joe Mullarkey would be opening a new branch in Blackburn on 27 February 1984. New branches were planned for Salford, and Manchester Polytechnic plus one in Newcastle. The Education Officer was congratulated for the success and his pioneering work in hosting the 1st Irish national conference on Education in Britain.

Pat Delaney and Jim Curran reported back on the Greater London Council Conference held at Camden Irish Centre on 12 February 1984. The Federation and Irish Counties Association tried to carve up and control the three different GLC commissions which had been set up. They were content to leave the Political Commission to the IBRG since there was no money in it, but wanted the Welfare Commission to be controlled by the Federation with Gearoid O Meachair in control, and the Irish Cultural Commission with Brendan Mulkere in control.

The problem was that IBRG were strong in both of these areas and were as much involved in the welfare of the Irish community, as were the Federation likewise with Irish Culture as IBRG were active in the GAA, in Green Ink, and in Comhaltas.

In the end the Political Commission never functioned at all, the Welfare Commission died a death, while the Cultural Commission did function for several years and got funding from the GLC for two workers. Education came under Culture and the IBRG were most active on Education and were putting on Irish language and history classes plus members such as Nessan Danaher, Mary Hickman, Cass Breen, Brid Keenan, and many others.

Branches had been opened in Stafford, Manchester Polytechnic, with one opening in Newcastle in March. Donall MacAmhlaigh, the Irish language writer, had written from Northampton to give details of the work of the branch there. Joe Mullarkey reported on the opening of a new IBRG branch in Blackburn.

Judy Peddle had also written to the CRE over an anti-Irish article in the Observer, and had written to a student magazine in Scotland after Glasgow IBRG had complained of anti-Irish material.

Lambeth, Haringey and Islington branches had written to the NEC complaining about the London Regional Council and the November 1983 AGM. Both Jim Curran, Chair of the LRC, and Pat Delaney left the meeting after some angry exchanges over the issues which were left unresolved.

There was concern expressed that Pat Delaney, PRO, had endorsed an article in the Daily Telegraph which referred to the Irish economy in a very disparaging way and had used anti-Irish stereotypes. Pat Delaney quotes had appeared in the Irish Press and appeared to endorse the Daily Telegraph article. Members felt the Telegraph article was extremely offensive and had factual material wrong. The PRO stated that the Irish Press had edited his comments.

The meeting agreed that the PRO should write to the Irish Press to indicate he was expressing his own views rather than IBRG, as the organisation had never discussed the Irish economy. Jim Curran and Pat Delaney claimed that the three branches, Haringey Islington and Lambeth, were trouble makers, and both falsely claimed that Lambeth branch were only the local Troops Out branch.

The meeting agreed to write to all London members asking them for their views of the situation, but Pat Delaney and Jim Curran refused to accept this and stated they would declare UDI in London and left the meeting. Concern had also been raised about the Fleet St branch which London branches felt was a bogus branch. The matter was then left to the Ard Fheis in March.

There were a number of separate issues here. The PRO being out of control and doing his own thing, and also being out of his depth in dealing with the media, and also having no experience of how to counteract anti-Irish racism in the media, and not challenging the editor or using the Press Council. Islington IBRG had far greater experience of dealing with the media and anti-Irish racism and of taking direct action such as twice picketing the Sun newspaper plus using local papers to good effect.

In March 1984 Waltham Forest IBRG had accused the Daily Telegraph of racism over an article which stated that the Irish in Britain were quietly despised, and that many people in the British government considered the Irish to be too volatile, too scatterbrain, too disorganised and a lot of “paddywhack clowns’. The article envisaged an United Ireland as a centralised single party dictatorship rather like Nicaragua. Waltham Forest IBRG had referred the matter to the GLC Working group on racism for action.

Waltham Forest IBRG were granted funding by the GLC to set up an Irish Advice and Resource Centre in Waltham Forest. They also got funding to create a mobile exhibition on history of anti-Irish racism which could go around Britain later, part of the GLC anti-racist year.

The third IBRG Ard Fheis took place on 24/25 March 1984 (4) at the Carousel Club, Manchester. Twenty branches sent delegates from Bolton, Blackburn, Birmingham, Cardiff, Manchester, Manchester South, Ealing, Kensington, Southwark, Paddington, Lambeth, Glasgow, West Hampstead, Leeds, Islington, Harrow, Haringey, Leicester, Merseyside and Burton- on- Trent.

carousel club

The outgoing officers Jim King, John Martin, Judy Peddle, Pat Browne, Pat Delaney, Nessan Danaher, Mike Forde, Kathleen Wright, Joe Mullarkey, Maire O Shea, Mary Duckett and Gerry Gallagher were present.

Jim King, Chair, in his opening address to the Ard Fheis spoke of a year of great progress, of many new branches, and the active promotion of Irish culture in many areas. The highlight of the year had been the very successful IBRG National Education Conference organised by Nessan Danaher in Leicester in February which was a real flag ship for IBRG. The Chair expressed concern over the continuous flow of anti-Irish racism in the British press, and the injustice of British rule in Northern Ireland continued.

Nessan Danaher, Education Officer, got a great reception from the Ard Fheis for his hard work in putting on the first IBRG National education Conference that ninety five people attended with every major Irish community organisation in Britain represented.

It had raised the banner high of Irish issues in education and had put the issue on the map, while making using contacts across the board. He was concerned that some teachers were racist or held patronising attitudes towards the Irish and that the Northern Ireland conflict was impacting on Irish children, because of the racism in the media and the lack of recognition of Irish history or culture in the curriculum. He called for the question of Irish ethnicity to be sorted out and for the Irish to be recognised as an ethnic minority in Britain. He recommended Irish Studies in Britain as an excellent magazine highlighting Irish issues in the curriculum.

The verification of branches then took place as members wanted to clarify the situation in London. After it was found that the few members of Fleet St branch were members of existing branches Pat Reynolds moved that for the purpose of the Ard Fheis that Fleet St be ruled out as a branch which the meeting voted on and agreed. Pat and Freda Delaney were then asked to join the meeting as observers since Brent already had two observers.

Pat Delaney, PRO, then gave his report and talked of the success of Islington IBRG in getting Woolworths nationally to withdraw their anti-Irish materials from all its stores after picketing of their Holloway stores

Judy Peddle, Runai, then presented her report the Ard Fheis and concluded by raising concerns about the situation in London she had received in writing from London branches. During the discussion which followed Pat Delaney outgoing PRO, Freda Delaney, Maureen Ferns, Kay Coughlin and Juliette O Shea walked out of the meeting.

Gearoid MacGearailt from Lambeth stated that the lack of a good constitution had been the main cause of the problems which had beset London, and he had brought a new constitution to the meeting so that IBRG could have a solid constitution. Manchester proposed the abolition of Regional Councils such as the LRC which was voted on and agreed. The new constitution was voted on and agreed by the meeting.

The elections of Officers then took place with the new Constitution using Gaelic terms for the various positions.

Cathhaoireach/Chair Jim King (Manchester)

Leas Cathaoireach/Vice Chair Seamus Carey (Islington)

Uachtaran/President John Martin (Burton)

Leas Uachtaran Joe Mullarkey (Bolton)

Runai Secretary Judy Peddle (Cardiff)

Leas Runai Gearoid McGearailt (Lambeth)

Internal Co-ordinator Kathleen Wright (Bolton)

PRO Pat Reynolds (Islington)

Education Officer Nessan Danaher (Leicester)

Youth officer Mike Forde announced he was standing down so left open

Cisteoir/treasurer Alan Wallace (Leeds)

An Runai Ballraoichta/Membership Finbarr Cullen (Haringey)

Although the Officers represented an even spread of branches across Britain only 2 women were elected out of 11 Officers. This was concerning given that there were many able women within IBRG.

The following motions were passed by the Ard Fheis.

The abolition of the no jury system in Northern Ireland, an end to the use of uncollaborated testimony by witnesses bribed to perjure themselves with offer of immunity and money, a searching investigation into the cases of all those convicted under this blatantly unjust system (Haringey),

The transfer of all Irish political prisoners to prisoners nearer their homes and relatives (Birmingham)

The ending of strip searching in Armagh Jail and the organisation of a campaign in Britain against strip-searching (Manchester)

Condemn the removal of the Irish language and Irish studies from Irish political prisoners in Northern Ireland.

That IBRG support the Stop the Show trials committee and the Relatives for Justice (Paddington)

That IBRG campaign in support of Irish neutrality (Cardiff)

That IBRG campaign against nuclear waste being dumped by Britain in the Irish Sea.

That IBRG urge the Irish government to take its statutory obligation to the Irish language seriously (Cardiff)

That the IBRG recognise the undermining effect of a racist campaign organised against the Irish in Britain by such media instruments as the Sun newspaper and therefore resolves to monitor such media at both local and national level. We further resolve to bring the anti-Irish policies of those media groups to the attention of the Irish community and the public at large and to mount a concerted campaign to end that (Lambeth)

That IBRG recognises that the intimidation of the nationalist communities in Northern Ireland extends far beyond military repression and includes social injustice and educational control. The IBRG notes with concern the withholding of grant aid to Bunscoil Ghaelach Belfast and recognises that this has ceased grave financial difficulties for the survival of the school. (Lambeth)

In keeping with its policy on Northern Ireland the IBRG recognises that any lasting solution to the war must include payments of adequate reparations to the Irish people of the damage and hardships caused by British policies in Ireland (Lambeth)

That IBRG initiate an open committee of enquiry (encompassing impartial groups of MPs councillors NCCL etc). to examine the trial documents and all other material in relation to the cases of the Birmingham Six, Guildford and Woolwich public house bombings and the Maguire family and Friends (Lambeth)

That IBRG recognise the support for our language must be practical as well as theoretical and in keeping with this resolve to adopt Irish titles where possible e.g. Ard Fheis, Runia, Cisteoir and that this policy should be reflected in internal communications as well as with other Irish organisations and to use their Gaelic names whenever possible (Lambeth).

The walk out of five people from the Ard Fheis had no impact on the IBRG as Pat Delaney faded completely from the Irish community scene, and the IBRG emerged stronger and more determined to get on with its work in the Irish community.

The Irish Post had a front-page story on 31 March 1984 entitled Shake Out by IBRG Annual conference’s London Purge. The story told of the disbandment of the London Regional Council and the fact that the IBRG had strengthened by electing some of the more successful branch officers.

Gone from the NEC are Jim Curran and Pat Delaney who were the dominant figures in the now disbanded London Regional Council and onto it come Seamus Carey and Pat Reynolds of Islington, Gearoid McGearailt of Lambeth and Alan Wallace from Leeds. The anticipated confrontation between the NEC and the London Regional council was surprisingly mild with the NEC receiving the overwhelming support of conference.

At the end of March 1984 ITV ran a Minder episode with offensive racist stereotypes of Irish people in a pub scene where the Irish were portrayed as being into mindless violence. The IBRG protested at this blatant display of anti-Irish racism in a popular culture programme.

Islington IBRG complained that members giving out leaflets on the no jury trials in Northern Ireland were subjected to abuse by a small minority of people on the annual St Patricks day Parade, which had assembled at the British Army HQ, which in itself was an insult to the people of Northern Ireland who were occupied by the British military.

In Islington the IBRG had addressed the Police Committee of Islington Council as Islington Council earlier had come out against the PTA.

Islington IBRG also addressed the local Gillespie Ward near the Arsenal on issues affecting the local Irish community and on issues relating to Northern Ireland.

Pat Reynolds spoke at Goldsmiths College in South London on issues affecting the Irish community in Britain.

Green Ink Writers and Pat Reynolds, their chair, was given an Irish Post Community Award for their work with young Irish writers in London and the production of an anthology of Irish writing which was highly praised by Neil Jordan in the Sunday Tribute.

Green Ink Books advert

After accepting the award from Noel Dorr, Irish Ambassador, Pat told the audience that Green Ink had been awarded a grant from the GLC to set up an Irish community Bookshop in London with two workers. He explained that the aim of the bookshop would be two fold; to challenge anti-Irish racism by promoting Irish literature and culture into school colleges and universities, and to give Irish children born in Britain access to Irish culture language music and video, as they would target libraries and specialise in books in both languages for children.

The Bookshop would aim to be the cultural wing of IBRG and link in with the work of the Education officer in Leicester by providing much needed Irish resources for students at all levels for teachers and school universities and communities. They would be taking books across Britain to community events in Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and to community festivals, taking books back to the people and their children.

Green Ink also planned to hold an annual Irish bookfair which would highlight Irish literature and culture in Britain, including the Gaelic language and would put on the best writers in public readings, which would also include political writing and issues affecting Northern Ireland, plus also equal rights for women and the gay community. In years to come they would sell over one million books and bring Irish books and music to a whole generation of Irish people.

On 22nd March 1984 a new Prevention of Terrorism Act became law following on from the Lord Jellicoe report. Arrested persons could now be held for 48 hours or up to seven days with the permission of theSecretary of State.

The Ard Choiste (NEC) met at St Patrick’s Club, Leicester on Saturday 28 April 1984 (5) with seventeen people attending, including Jim King Cathaoirleach, Judy Peddle Runai, Seamus Carey, John Martin, Joe Mullarkey, Gearoid McGearailt, Alan Wallace, Fionbarra O Cuillin, Caitlin Wright and Nessan Danaher.

Branches could now send a delegate to each Ard Choiste meeting and six branches did. In addition the officers were also there from different branches and could be the branch delegate, but being an officer did not in itself give you a vote.

The meeting was informed that Clare Short MP had joined the Lambeth branch. The meeting was pleased to hear that Derry City council had dropped the London-imposed colonial part of their name, and would write to congratulate the new council for their actions. The Chair stated that IBRG needed to make a contribution to 1984 being an Anti-Racism Year. It was felt that IBRG should hold an IBRG anti-racist day which would highlight all forms of racism, including anti-Irish racism. Branches were encouraged to take part in any local authority events on the matter.

The meeting decided to set up a Media Subcommittee. It was agreed to write to the Labour Party NEC and the other parties plus the General Secretary of the TUC informing them of the work of the IBRG and to seek a meeting. Concern was express that the Carousel in Manchester had charged the IBRG £337 for the two-day conference which was outrageous given we could have got a venue free or much cheaper elsewhere.

Pat Reynolds, PRO, reported that Pat Delaney had given a false report to the Kilburn Times on the Ard Fheis to which he had replied in writing refuting Delaney’s falsehoods. The meeting congratulated him on the quality of his reply, which had been published and which was important given the largest Irish community in Britain lived in that area. Pat Delaney had since led a 14-person delegation to the GLC trying to retain the grants offered to the Brent IBRG project. Mike Forde and Gerry Gallagher had travelled from Manchester to the GLC meeting. The matter was extremely serious that Delaney was trying to claim money for an organisation where he had no authority to do so, and was giving false information to an outside body.

The meeting decided to expel Pat Delaney from IBRG for his behaviour and ask Mike Forde and Gerry Gallagher for an explanation as to why they had supported Delaney in this matter. Pat Delaney had already received £4k of the grant by mistake but Steve Brennan GLC Irish Officer was fully aware of the situation and the money identified for Brent had got back into the grant kitty. It was later found out that Pat Delaney went across to Washington DC in April 1984 to attend Irish American Unity Conference purporting to represent the IBRG. The IBRG meeting decided to support the 18 August demonstration on British Withdrawal from Ireland.

The Education Officer proposed that we should not just agree things but action them, and should have a standing list of outstanding issues to be actioned.

IBRG members Seamus Carey and Pat Reynolds from Islington had a major two-page article in Labour and Ireland which features the IBRG position on Northern Ireland and the Irish community in Britain. It raised the question of the PTA and anti-Irish racism.

IBRG members in London attended the GLC Irish Anti-Racist evening at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the South Bank where Christy Moore was the lead artist.

On 2 May 1984 the New Ireland Forum Report was published. It restated the traditional nationalist position ‘that Ireland is one nation that Britain is ultimately responsible for partition by refusing to accept the democratically expressed wishes of the Irish people, and by establishing an artificial political majority in the North’. It goes on. “The desire of the nationalist is for a united Ireland in the form of a sovereign independent Irish state’

In May 1984 Gearoid McGearailt went on Channel Four’s Right to Reply programme over its Passages to Britain programme to correct some of the false impression made on the program by Dr Anthony Clare claiming there was no anti-Irish racism or discrimination in Britain.

Pat Reynolds, PRO, also used the Channel Four’s Voice Box to record his views on the programme. Gearoid was given extensive time to debate the issue with the programme makers and won the debate well.

On 29 May 1984 Councillor George Seawright at a Belfast Education and Library Board meeting stated ‘taxpayers’ money would be better spent on an incinerator and burning the whole lot of them. The priests should be thrown in and burned as well’.

On 1 June 1984 President Reagan visited Ireland for four days.

On 5 June 1984 Lord Justice Gibson acquitted three RUC officers of murdering an unarmed IRA man stating that the RUC men should be commended ‘for their courage and determination in bringing the three deceased men to justice, in this case to the final courts of Justice. ‘

The Ard Choiste meeting was held on 10 June 1984 at the Leeds Trade Club Leeds where nineteen members attended, including Jim King, Seamus Carey, Joe Mullarkey, Judy Peddle, Gearoid McGearailt, Caitlin Wright, Nessan Danaher Maire O Shea and Pat Reynolds

Twenty four branches had registered so far, including Manchester (who now had one branch), Marylebone, Cardiff, Bolton, Middleborough, Ealing, Leeds, Bradford, Kensington, Shepherds Bush, Glasgow, Haringey, Lambeth, Harrow, Newcastle, Leicester, Hammersmith, Birmingham, Islington, Southwark, Merseyside, Waltham Forest, N.E. Lancs, and Paddington. Jim King stated he was going to Bristol and Coventry to open new branches soon. Gearoid MacGearlailt was congratulated for his recent Right of Reply programme performance.

The meeting was told that the London Irish Festival had refused IBRG a stall at Roundwood Park.

Judy Peddle had recently spoke at a Labour on Ireland public meeting recently.

The meeting heard that the Irish government had recently appointed two Federation members to their new Dion Irish government committee but had ignored the IBRG. There was also a clear conflict of interest as the Committee were making decisions on funding their own groups.

Nessan Danaher reported that he had recently spoken at a Leicester Education in-service training course which recognised the Irish as an ethnic group and Irish Studies in Britain had covered the IBRG Education conference with an article. Birmingham and Haringey were holding in-service training which included an Irish dimension plus having an Irish speaker on the courses. Bolton IBRG were involved in anti-racist work while Manchester had produced a document

Pat Reynolds reported on the Conference held in London on “British Imperialism and the Media” which included an Irish dimension.
Pat Delaney, Gerry Gallagher and Mike Forde were expelled from IBRG for attending a lobby of the GLC over the LRC grant pretending to be IBRG.

The agenda for the meeting with the Irish Ambassador Noel Dorr was drawn up. It included : the Six Counties including extradition, use of paid perjurers, the lack of Irish government funding for Comhaltas, welfare of the Irish in Britain including the question of consulates in Scotland, Wales and Manchester, travel to Ireland, language and culture, the PTA , racism in the media, pensioner’s rights and government encouragement of Irish emigration.

The meeting discussed the New Ireland Forum and opted for the first option ie a unitary state but criticised the exclusion of Sinn Fein.

The Prisoner’s Sub Committee proposed that the IBRG support the demands of the Irish political prisoners, repatriation, release of framed prisoners, end to solitary confinement, and special control units, the release of Patrick Hackett on medical grounds, and the abolition of the PTA. This was agreed by the Ard Choiste.

On 28 June 1984 the IBRG had their first meeting with Commission for Racial Equality. Islington members and both NEC officers Seamus Carey and Pat Reynolds met them at CRE HQ at Victoria, London. Michael Maguire of Islington IBRG also attended. The IBRG learned that Michael Kennedy, the former Irish Foreign Minister, had been detained under the PTA at Birmingham Airport. His claim to know Maggie Thatcher and half the British cabinet did him no good, but it should be noted Kennedy and Fianna Fail supported the use of the racist PTA against the Irish community.

Lambeth IBRG had got in touch with their library services to discuss the provision of Irish newspapers and books in local libraries. Southwark IBRG want to do a history of the Irish in Southwark. Islington IBRG want to set up a cross community constituency committees to lobby prospective MPs on Irish issues. Haringey IBRG wants to campaign for an Irish radio programme in London and have taken up the poor reception of RTE radio in Britain.

An IBRG delegation met with Noel Dorr the Irish Ambassador on 5 July 1984 (6) at the Irish Embassy in London. Seamus Carey (Islington), Gearoid McGearailt (Lambeth), Caitlin Wright (Bolton), Dr Maire O Shea (Birmingham), Peter Lynch (Birmingham), Pat Reynolds PRO, John Martin (Derby) and Judy Peddle (Cardiff) attended.

Dr Maire OShea and Peter Lynch gave the Ambassador details of IBRG concerns over the recent extradition of Dominic McGlinchey to the Six Counties and the collaboration of the Dublin government with the British colonial system in Northern Ireland. The Ambassador was made aware of the paid perjurer’s system there, and the recent remarks of Judge Gibson who practically congratulated the RUC for shooting three IRA volunteers. Concern was expressed over conditions for Irish prisoners in Britain and the impact upon their children and parents, and complained that the Irish government had yet to sign the International Treaty on the Transfer of Prisoners.

The Irish Ambassador replied that Peter Barry had raised concerns over Judge Gibson’s remarks. There were 1143 Irish prisoners in British jails – the highest figure for any community – and that prisoners from the Six Counties were the responsibility of the UK. It was noted that the Embassy did not have anyone directly working with prisoners at the Embassy despite the high number and their needs, nor apart from Cumman Cabrach for republican prisoners, nothing in the Irish community either.

Gearoid McGearailt raised the lack of funding for Comhaltas in Britain when they were showcasing Irish culture in Britain and transferring Irish culture down the generations. The IBRG stated that the Irish government had a clear duty to support Irish culture in Britain.

On the issue of support for Irish Welfare in Britain, the funding via Dion had been doubled to £68K, which was still a tiny sum. The IBRG made clear that the Dion committee, with two Federation members, were not representative of the Irish community in Britain. The Embassy claimed it was because these organisations had social workers in them, but the IBRG had far more social workers and the IBRG delegation had two social workers on it along with a psychiatrist.

IBRG called on the Embassy to include one IBRG member on the committee, recognise the needs of the Irish community in the Midlands, north of England and Scotland/Wales, and that the decisions of the Dion committee be made public.

IBRG raised the matter of Irish citizens abroad to have the right to access their language and culture in another EEC country, the matter of having consulates in other parts of Britain were raised again. Dublin would be asked to look into this matter. Concern over the high cost of travel was brought up and the Ambassador agreed to confer with Dublin as to whether Irish citizens, particularly elders, were entitled to free or cheap travel with CIE.

The delegation expressed their concern that Irish state organisations were still advertising with newspapers which were clearly anti-Irish like the Evening Standard, the Sun, the Express and the Mail and called for such advertising by semi -state bodies to be stopped.

On the PTA, IBRG called on the Embassy/Irish government to issue a statement stating that the PTA was racist with 99.8% of those arrested being Irish and less than 1% of these arrested had ever been convicted. It was just a racist trawling expedition against our community. The Ambassador would check with Dublin to whether he could issue any statement on the matter. The Embassy should have a solicitor present who could support Irish persons arrested under the Act. Again, he would defer to Dublin. That a detailed investigation be carried out by the Embassy into how the PTA was used against the Irish community and its impact upon the community, and that Irish people arrested under the Act could ring the Embassy, and for this special number to be made public.

The Irish Post covered the story with headline Embassy Solicitor for PTA Victims. It reported the demand the demands made by the delegation including calling on the Irish government to condemn the PTA as a racist weapon which was used indiscriminately against the Irish community in Britain.

On 7 July 1984 London IBRG members attended a Conference on Education Racism and the Irish held in Camden. In Haringey IBRG attended public meetings at Haringey Civil centre to defend the right of travellers to have proper sites in Haringey, despite a strong local right-wing campaign against Irish travellers led by the Tories.

The IBRG Ard Choiste met on Saturday 21 July 1984 (7) at the County Hall in London on the South Bank. Joe Mullarkey chaired the meeting with Judy Peddle as Runai. Also present were Gearoid McGearailt, Fionbarra O Cuillin, Marie Wynee, Rita Lewis, Arthur Delvin, Marie O’Shea, Peter Lynch, Pat Reynolds PRO, Caitlin Wright, Maire Duckett, Len Lewis, Seamus O Coieain and Martin Joyce.

The meeting decided to affiliate to the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom. The meeting decided to set up a Media Subcommittee which would monitor all instances of anti-Irish racism and maintain records of this, to respond to instances of anti-Irish racism and issues relating to Ireland, to contact broadcasting authorities, to initiate activity which will generate programs relating to the Irish community, and produce material leaflets etc for IBRG use. Pat Reynolds PRO would be the main link for this group.

The meeting heard that Sean Sexton from Waltham Forest had contacted every MP regarding the lack of Irish material on Channel Four. The local MEP Alf Lomas had agreed to raise the issue at the European Parliament. Marie Wynee from Haringey stated that they had contacted the local media, and had contacted all London radio stations on the same issue.

Marie Wynee raised the issue of supporting Irish travellers in Haringey where the IBRG were supporting the setting up of proper sites, despite a very racist Tory party campaign against travellers. It was agreed to set up a working party to work out an IBRG strategy on Welfare with Caitlin Wright being the main link.

The meeting decided to write to the Irish Ambassador to remind him of the time limits regarding the IBRG demands on the PTA which were put to him on 5 July 1984 at the Irish Embassy. If no suitable response came, IBRG should produce a petition and an information sheet to go to the Irish Government calling on them to meet our reasonable demands. That the petition be circulated to all organisations in Ireland such as Trade Unions, student bodies, and welfare groups and for IBRG to use their relatives in Ireland to promote the petition. A second petition would be prepared aimed at the British government calling for the repeal of the racist PTA and the withdrawal of the Prevention of Terrorism Bill and for it to be circulated to the Trade Unions.

The meeting to write to the NCCL, offering support for their research into the working of the PTA. A further motion called on branches to raise the issue of the PTA with their local Police Committee and also their local Race Relations Committee. The meeting also agreed to contact the Haldane Society, CAB offices and Law Centres to find out which have emergency numbers which could be used to help people arrested under the PTA

The meeting agreed to set up a working party on problems relating to travel between Britain and Ireland, to include harassment under the PTA at ports and airports, the high cost of airlines and ferries and the lack of facilities at ports, where the Irish were herded like cattle into pens before travel. Marie Wynee to act as link for this group.

The meeting agreed to ask Mary Hickman, Cass Breen and Brid Ni Ceanain to join with other interested individuals in IBRG to produce a strategy document on the issue of anti-Irish racism, and which would include involvement within general anti-racist initiatives. The meeting further agreed that Haringey be asked to join with other interested individuals to produce a portable exhibition on anti-Irish racism which could be taken around the country. The meeting also asked the Education Officer to produce a strategy document on Irish input into education in Britain for consideration by the Ard Choiste.

The meeting heard that new branches were being set up in Camden and Hackney in September 1984.

On 12th August 1984 Sean Downes was killed by a plastic bullet at the anti-internment rally in Belfast when the RUC tried to arrest Martin Galvin.

On 11/12 August 1984 Bolton IBRG put on a Bolton Irish Festival with other Irish groups, a two-day event which had Irish music dancing and Gaelic games. Joe Mullarkey had also written up an article on the history of the Irish in Bolton for the Bolton Friendship Festival.

On 15 August 1984 London IBRG members picked 10 Downing St over the killing of Sean Downes by a RUC man using a point-blank plastic bullet.

Bolton IBRG, on the Thursday 16 August following the murder of Sean Downes, held an open meeting in the Socialist club and the  invited speakers were two striking miners who were observers at the protest in Belfast where  Sean Downes was murdered. Eileen Murphy, who chaired the meeting, “I do remember the two miners coming to a well attended meeting. They were from Agecroft Colliery and of course in the thick of their own strike. Both had been over on the anti-internment march and were shocked at the levels of violence shown to demonstrators in the 6 counties. They’d experienced nothing like it over here.”
The chair of the meeting had to appeal for calm when two reporters from the “Bolton Evening News” identified themselves from the body of  the meeting.

On 17 August 1984 Clive Soley, Labour Party spokesperson on Ireland, called for the harmonisation of Northern Ireland with the Republic as a prelude to reunification. In October 1984 Clive Soley would hold talks with Sinn Fein but Labour Party policy remained “unity by consent” with Labour leader, Neil Kinnock, stating that Irish unity would take many many decades.

On 18 August 1984 IBRG marched with their banners on the anti-internment march from Hyde Park corner to Jubilee Gardens at the GLC.

The IBRG issued a statement before the march calling ‘on all Irish organisations and individuals to give full support to the Rally. We (IBRG) call on Irish people to stand up for their rights in Britain and join us on the march to show clearly that the PTA will not intimidate us or silence our voice. We ask them to remember the previous generations of the Irish in Britain who stood up and marched for Irish unity and freedom, and we ask them to march in that proud tradition. Let us all march together to show that we stand with the Irish people against British oppression and colonial rule in Ireland’.

The IBRG also condemned the British government’s ban on Irish marches and rallies from Trafalgar Square which was censorship. A letter of protest on this matter would be handed in to Margaret Thatcher at 10 Downing St by the march leaders which included Jim King Chair IBRG, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Christine Crawley MEP, Richard Balfe MEP, Janice Turner – Chair Young Liberals, and Malcolm Pitt – Kent NUM Leader. A wreath in memory of Sean Downes was also handed in at 10 Downing Street.

On 25 August 1984 the Irish Post stated that 4,000 Irish people had marched that day one of the biggest in several years. Speakers included Jeremy Corbyn MP, Christine Crawley MEP, and Richard Balfe MEP. The march stopped at Trafalgar Square in protest before being moved on by police.

In September 1984 the GLC launched its Policy Report on the Irish Community. The Irish Post gave it the front page with ‘A Charter of Rights. GLC calls for New deal for Irish in Britain. It stated ‘The most wide ranging and important official document ever produced on the Irish in Britain has just been issues by the Greater London council. It amounts to a Bill of Rights for the Irish community and calls for the vigorous preservation in Britain of Irish culture and identity. It calls on the Inner London Education authority and other education bodies to include courses and degrees in in-service training for teachers, to establish links between academic institutions in Ireland and their counterparts in London, to introduce Gaelic games and the Irish language to school which have a significant number of second and third generation Irish children’. The report itself stated that ‘In times of hostility between the two countries the Irish community is looked upon with distrust and resentment. The Irish community has found itself under attack whenever Ireland’s interests were seen to be in conflict with the host country as seen during the Malvinas dispute’.

The Ard Choiste met on 9 September 1984(8) at Solihull Road, Birmingham. Present were Jim King Chair, Judy Peddle Runai, Maire O Shea, Arthur Devlin, Seamus Carey, Caitlin Wright, Gearod McGearailt, John Martin, Joe Mullarkey, Michael O Cnaimhsi, Alan Wallace and Seamus O Coileain

The meeting heard that a new branch had been set up in Wigan. Coventry branch would be reactivated at a public meeting. The PRO had issued a statement on the killing of Sean Downes by a point blank plastic bullet in Belfast.

The Ard Choiste voted to picket Aer Lingus unless they withdrew advertising from the Standard. The Comhchomhairle was set for 27 October in Birmingham at Digbeth Civic Centre. The Ard Choiste agreed the following London branches to be disbanded as they had not met, and there had been no response from any of them; Brent, Westminster, Shepherds Bush, Kensington, Marylebone and Ealing.

The meeting agreed to support the case of Muhammad Idrish who was facing deportation, and which Nalgo were supporting. The IBRG agreed to write to the Home Office expressing concern over the treatment of Jonathan Block, a South African, who had written a book on the Secret Services in Britain. The IBRG agreed to attend the Terence MacSwiney mass at Southwark cathedral at the end of October.

In September IBRG Prisoners Subcommittee announced that a public inquiry would be held into the Birmingham, Guildford and Woolwich public house bombings for which innocent Irish people were serving long sentences. The inquiry would examine the transcript of the trials and take new evidence from various sources. Lord Gifford had offered to help with the inquiry who would also look at the forensic evidence used and the prosecution witnesses.

Birmingham IBRG were campaigning against the closure of a local psychiatric centre where Dr Maire O’Shea used to work before her retirement. The centre had been founded by Dr O’Shea. Local MEP Christine Crawley was supporting the campaign.

On 20 September 1984 Ken Livingstone and John McDonnell got re-elected to the GLC. Jim King, National chair of IBRG, had written a letter to the Irish Post calling for full support for Ken Livingstone. IBRG PRO had earlier put out an IBRG statement calling ‘for maximum support for the four Labour candidates. It is in our interest and the interests of our children to vote, for the first local government in Britain which has responded to the needs of our community, and given the Irish a voice in public affairs’.

The background to the by-elections was the Tory threat to abolish the GLC so to challenge the Tories directly four Labour members stood down in constituencies with similar boundaries as general elections to challenge the Tories.

The Irish Post Dolan column on 15 September 1984 entitled Our Duty included both the PRO statement on the elections and referred to Jim King’s letter which was on the Letters Page.

Jim King’s letter Our Chance to Respond on 15 September 1984 stated ’the relationship between Ken Livingstone and the Irish community is unique in the history of the Irish in Britain. Never before have the Irish had such a principled friend in political office- a friend who has the courage of his convictions and who backs up his words with positive action. Ken Livingstone stand on Ireland is well known. He has for over a decade been an eloquent public advocate of the only possible solution to the Anglo-Irish problem, namely British withdrawal and the reunification of Ireland.’ It was a very clear statement of what Livingstone had done for the Irish community, much more than the Irish government had over the previous 60 years.

Nessan Danaher in Leicester was putting on an Irish Studies course at Soar Valley with speakers Michael Maguire IBRG, Mary Lennon, Donal MacAmhlaigh, Tom Paulin with a showing of Hang Out Your Brightest Colours on the life of Michael Collins.

On 6 October 1984 the Irish Post carried the headline IBRG sets up Travel Monitor which detailed the working party the IBRG were setting up to monitor fares conditions and PTA harassment at British ports and airports.

On 12 October 1984 (9) Islington IBRG with Pat Reynolds, Dr Michael Maguire, and Catherine Kelly met with four members of the Commission for Racial Equality at their HQ at Victoria.

The delegation demanded that the CRE recognise the Irish an ethnic group, produce a briefing paper on the needs of the Irish in Britain and include anti-Irish racism, that they include the Irish in any relevant research, and appoint an officer for Irish affairs.

Sadly, it was to be another 11 years in 1995, before the CRE would act on this matter and recognise the Irish and include them in their ethnic categories. This matter should have been made an Ard Choiste matter to be pursued at that level of the organisation. The Irish Post covered the meeting ‘We(IBRG) discussed with Commission officials the position of the Irish community with regard to Education, Employment, Health, Media and Culture and we stressed the need for the Commission to recognise the Irish in Britain as an ethnic group whose members are subject to racial discrimination’.

On 10 October 1984 the Irish Post headline ran Islington Irish win formal recognition. It was the first Council outside the GLC to do so and set a new precedent for other local authorities in Britain with Irish communities.

Islington Council’s Race Relations Committee adopted a resolution formally to recognise the Irish as an ethnic minority and to resolve that in all areas of its concern and activities, that it shall recognise the fact and therefore make clear on all occasions, when the council uses the term ethnic minorities or similar that this includes the Irish, adopt the following definition of Irish for such purposes, persons who come from or whose forebearers originated in Ireland, and who consider themselves Irish, instruct the controller of personnel to report on the introduction of Irish as an ethnic category, give full recognition to Irish arts and cultural activities in Islington as being the product of a distinct culture to be dealt with as a priority by the Recreation Committee, request that Housing and Social Services Committee recognise the Irish as an ethnic group and that officers of both committees ensure that the requirements of the Irish community are adequately researched, monitored and met.

Margaret O’Keefe, Co-opted IBRG member of the Race Relations Committee, moved the motion and a delegation led by Seamus Carey of Islington IBRG addressed the meeting on the needs of the Irish community.

In its submission to Islington IBRG, aided by Dr Michael Maguire, who worked at the Irish in Islington project, the IBRG listed a range of social issues affecting the Irish community in Islington including; poor housing, low house ownership, high rented sector, poor health including mental health, with 20% pensioners. They lived in the poorer northern wards of the borough away from where Tony Blair and his kind who lived in Canonbury.

The Irish had built the roads, railways, hospitals and houses in the borough while the Whittington and Royal Northern hospitals had large numbers of Irish nurses. The Irish ran many of the public houses in the borough, while many Irish players had won honours with Arsenal from Pat Jennings to David O Leary. Bronterre O’Brien Irish Chartist leader had lived in the borough, and Patrick Kavanagh had written those immortal words ‘In Islington Green the happiest I have ever been’ . Others including Anne Scher, famous drama teacher, and singer Johnny Rotten had all lived in the borough.

The Irish were the largest minority ethnic community in Islington. The Green Ink Bookshop had also set itself up at Archway in Islington. The Holloway Road had two large Irish ballrooms of Romance the Gresham and the Round Tower where most Irish couples met.

On 12 October 1984 the IRA bombed the Tory Party Conference in Brighton with five dead. The IRA stated ‘Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once-you have to be lucky always’.

On 13 October 1984 the Irish Times had a major article entitled Emigrants urge Political Solution which quoted PRO Pat Reynolds at length.

The PRO stated that ‘The British media and Government often used incidents like the Brighton bombing as an excuse to pour out anti Irish racism. The British people were given no political analysis in the reporting of such incidents. The reasons behind such attacks were not be explained They were portrayed as irrational the media did not go into the frustrations which lay behind such attacks. They were presented as being done by the mad violent Irish. It is very difficult for us to protect ourselves against the media. The Irish in Britain were vulnerable particularly because of the prevention of Terrorism act. They were asked if they supported the IRA which was the wrong question. They think that we have to take responsibility that somehow it is our fault. They come to us to condemn the IRA. The conflict in the N. Ireland was not seen as the British problem it was. The Irish in Britain were in a sense hostage, they were considered to blame rather than British political interference in Ireland. I do not think the Irish community should have to answer for such violent action. The problem lay at the door of the British government.’

Fr Bobby Gilmore gave a good response ‘A vacuum existed and violence would continue within it unless the source of violence was addressed and recognised. Security is no solution to the socio political and economic problems that exits. A new political initiative and courage are needed’. Fr Claude Malone at the Camden Irish centre came out with his usual abhorrence at the total disregard for life and Jim McGrath of the Federation said the bombing was the route to nowhere.

On 13 October 1984 the Irish Post covered a letter from Pat Reynolds entitled Help needed in monitoring anti Irishness in media. Based in Islington, IBRG, is seeking the help of the Irish community in combatting the daily abuse of Irish people in the British media.

The letter stated ‘When Islington Council at our request passed a resolution calling for troops out and self-determination for the Irish people, and condemning the media for their constant misrepresentation of Irish affairs. The Sun newspaper distorted the story. We promptly organised a picket on the newspaper’s headquarters which resulted in the Sun agreeing to publish a letter of reply.’. The letter stated boldly ‘It is our experience that picketing usually gets results’. The letter called for a sustained campaign against this ongoing abuse and for constant monitoring plus increasing demands for both TV and radio shows for the Irish.

On 18 October 1984 the IBRG picketed the London Evening Standard, with Jeremy Corby MP for Islington North and IBRG members, over its anti-Irish racism. Previously Islington IBRG had twice picketed the Sun and had used the flying picket to hit Woolworths and other shops selling anti-Irish materials.

On this occasion the other London branches supported Islington on the picket. The Irish Post ran the story IBRG to picket the Standard. The story told how the Standard and all the British tabloids had attacked the Irish in Islington Project because it had got funding from the GLC a year earlier, but got their facts all wrong. It was the GLC who funded the project not Islington Council. The Standard dismissed the Project as a group that campaign against Irish jokes and racism in the media, whereas the project was set up to support Irish elders and the Irish community welfare needs, and to counter anti-Irish racism. This was the second attack by the Standard against the Project as they had targeted the Project back in September 1983 when they first got funding.

On 18 October 1984 Lambeth IBRG made a major intervention in a local by election which Labour needed to retain control of the council. The Irish Post ran the story under Labour face Irish anger in Lambeth.

Lambeth IBRG had accused the Labour run council of being dismissive of the problems of the Irish and of refusing to adopt the policies of the GLC towards the Irish community. The IBRG stated ‘It is sad that the enlightened policies of Ken Livingstone’s GLC in relation to the London Irish do not appear to be reflected in the position of Ted Knight’s council towards the Irish in Lambeth.

IBRG wanted the Irish to be recognised by Lambeth Council as an ethnic group and included in monitoring and services. Irish elders were of particular concern. One Lambeth official had told IBRG ‘It is true that the common experience of the Irish and Black people is colonisation. However, the options open to the former are not usually open to black, Asians and Afro Caribbean’s’ and the ‘the Council provided special support for those who are discriminated against primarily on the basic of their skin colour’. The remarks were considered offensive by the IBRG who felt the officials were saying that the Irish could just assimilate and become British, and forget about their own history religion and culture. The statistics from Britain did not justify this distinction as the figures on the Irish from mental health, housing, employment and so on, were on a par with the figures for the Afro Caribbean community.

The IBRG argument was that, if it was found from research that the Irish were suffering from discrimination and disadvantage, then the Council had a clear duty to address the needs of each community.

Gearoid McGearailt stated ‘having suffered centuries of political and cultural persecution the Irish were now been presented by Lambeth council with the ultimate solution to discard their cultural identity and vanish without trace among the indigenous population’.

IBRG made a seven point program for adoption by the council; to recognise that racism and its associated disadvantages is practised against the Irish community in Lambeth both Irish and British born and that this racism had led to discrimination in housing and employment and has had a serious effect on the ability of Irish people to transmit their culture and language to their children, as well as diminishing the ability of Irish children to absorb and feel proud of their heritage and culture.

The programme called on the Council to include the Irish among the ethnic groups to which support is given and especially it wants the Council to recognise the needs of the elderly Irish in the borough by supporting Irish voluntary groups who are endeavouring to cater for them. IBRG wanted Lambeth to recognise that the PTA was a racist weapon used indiscriminatory against the Irish community. Lambeth Police Monitoring committee should address this issue.

Here we find the battle ground which was seen across several Councils in Britain with large Irish communities and the fight the Irish community had to get recognition.

Thus, Livingstone had set out a very clear policy in recognising the Irish and their needs, and both Islington and Haringey were following this lead in response to their local Irish communities. In Lambeth they played the colonial divide and rule even among colonial groups trying to divide them against each other’s and play them off. Thus, the Black community felt that recognition of the Irish could lead to less resources for their community instead of fighting for more resources across the board.

The Irish Post in October 1984 ran a story just headed Lambeth which ran through the arguments around colour, culture and discrimination and argued that Black people would gain more from the culture argument than just a colour argument. The dismissal of Irish culture, as a thing to be forgotten, and for the Irish to assimilate, had also consequences for Black culture in Britain which needed to be preserved for that community and their children. The article went on to praise the GLC Irish Policy Report on the Irish Community document which had set out the history and argument of the Irish case for inclusion.

This battle for ethnic recognition and for the needs of the Irish community to be met would be fought across Britain for several years in all the London boroughs Islington, Haringey, Lambeth, Southwark, Lewisham, Camden, Greenwich, Brent, Ealing, Harrow, Waltham Forest, Hackney, and others and outside London every English city, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Leicester, Bolton, Blackburn, Coventry, Bristol, Leeds, and Sheffield,

On 27 October 1984 the Irish Post carried the story Lambeth IBRG claims victory when the support of the Irish community had clinched the Lambeth by election and the IBRG had leafletted every Irish family in the ward. The Labour candidate John O’Malley had agreed to support the IBRG demands of the council. Lambeth council was a marginal one with only one single seat giving it to Labour.

On 24 October 1984 the Guardian had a feature on the Irish community in Britain entitled Time to cut out the blarney which featured Pat Reynolds PRO, Gearoid McGearailt, Leas Runia, and Miriam James from the GLC Irish office, who all took a stand against anti-Irish racism in Britain and the treatment of the Irish community as a colonial minority with Britain. The same evening Pat Reynolds spoke for IBRG at a public meeting on Ireland at Conway Hall in Central London.

In October 1984 the Irish Post had a story entitled BBC apologises for Irish joke which detailed how the BBC had for the first time apologised for racial jokes. In a letter to the IBRG PRO, John Howard Davies Head of BBC Light Entertainment, stated ‘You might be interested to know that we have attempted to eradicate racial jokes on television. I admit it is a slow process, but we are aware that they can be offensive and destructive’.

On 27th October 1984 (10) the IBRG Comhcomhaire met at the Digbeth Civic Centre in Birmingham. Delegates attended from Cardiff, NE Lancs, Bristol, Haringey, Bolton, Islington, Harrow, Leicester, Birmingham, Wigan, Manchester, Waltham Forest, and Merseyside – some 13 branches. Officers attending including Jim King Chair, Judy Peddle Runai, Pat Reynolds PRO, John Martin, Joe Mullarkey, Gearoid McGearailt, Caitlin Wright and Nessan Danaher.

Christine Crawley, the first Irish woman in Britain to be elected a MEP, opened the meeting and stated her commitment to help IBRG locally and nationally. She reported that the European parliament had voted to ban plastic bullets and she urged the Irish government to use their year as President of the EEC to push for a political solution to Northern Ireland.

Dr Maire O’Shea gave details of the campaign for a public inquiry into the Birmingham, Woolwich and Guildford bombings which Cardinal O Fiaich and Jeremy Corbyn MP were supporting. The Chair called on IBRG to work towards holding a national Conference on British withdrawal from Ireland.

The following motions were passed;

A Lambeth motion calling on the Ard Choiste to get British MEPs to support funding for Irish language initiatives, repeal of the racist PTA, the introduction of an Irish dimension into the British education system, and support for the fostering of Irish culture among younger Irish children.

A Lambeth motion congratulating Ken Livingstone on his re-election to the GLC and welcomed his support for the Irish community including the GLC policy report on the needs of the Irish community along with GLC grant support for Irish welfare and cultural projects.

Wigan and Bolton put forward a motion calling on Ard Choiste to organise a campaign to demand effective legislation against anti Irish and other racist propaganda including jokes and shop items and to seek trade union support for the campaign.

Lambeth IBRG put forward a motion calling on Ard Choiste to hold a national conference on Irish welfare in Britain. Another Lambeth motion condemned the shipping lines for exploiting the Irish community by both high fares and by expensive goods on their ships.

A Bolton motion called on the Ard Choiste to organise a national conference for trade unions, labour movement and pressure groups on British withdrawal from Ireland.

A Lambeth motion called on the Ard Choiste to produce a fact sheet on the PTA and a petition against the PTA and a delegation to Ireland to push for these demands to end the PTA. A motion from Cardiff and Haringey noted the similarities between the tactics used in the current miners’ strike and those used in N. Ireland such as riot control, the terrorising of whole villages, and offered the miners support and solidarity.

A motion from Wigan condemned the shooting dead by point blank range plastic bullets of Sean Downes.

A Lambeth motion condemned the Irish Government for collaboration with Britain and NATO over early warning systems and called for extending of such cooperation.

A N.E. Lancs motion deplored the collaboration between the Irish government and Britain over extradition and cross border cooperation

On Sunday 28 October 1984 Sir John Junor, honoured by the British Queen and editor of the Sunday Express, stated in that newspaper ‘wouldn’t you rather admit to being a pig than to being Irish’. The IBRG acted immediately by complaining to the Press Council and called for an immediate boycott of the paper and a boycott of all advertising with the Express by Irish Companies.

The IBRG Ard Choiste met on Saturday 10 November 1984 (11) at the Socialist Club in Bolton. Present were Jim King Chair, Judy Peddle Runai, Alan Wallace Cisteoir, Caitlin Wright Internal Coordinator, Michael O Cnaimshi Youth officer, Bill Washe (Merseyside), Maire O’Shea (Birmingham), Arthur Devlin (Bolton) and Enda McCarthy (Leeds).

The meeting was informed that Sinn Fein had disbanded in Britain. The IBRG had received an invitation to the INC meetings in London but it had come too late. The meeting heard that the London Evening Standard had refused to meet with IBRG in London.

A letter from Conor McGrath, General Manager of Aer Lingus in Britain, was read to the meeting who implied that any picket of Aer Lingus would harm their relationship with IBRG. The situation had since changed in that John Junor’s racist article had appeared in the Sunday Express just above a big advert for Aer Lingus, this matter should be raised with Aer Lingus immediately.

Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six had written to the IBRG asking for support.

The Youth Officer stated he was producing a factsheet for young Irish people urging them not to emigrate because of the high unemployment in Britain, and another one with information for the young Irish who did come over. He was also involved in helping to organise the Irish community games in Britain.

Birmingham IBRG raised their concerns about John Martin being a working miner given the IBRG support for the NUM strike. John Martin’s position was due to the NUM not holding a national ballot on the strike and each pit voting separately around earlier action.

On 19 November 1984 Maggie Thatcher gave her response to the New Ireland Forum with her Out, Out, Out. Gareth FitzGerald later described her behaviour as ‘gratuitously offensive’.

On 18 November 1984(12) Pat Reynolds spoke at a conference on Anti-Irish Racism held at the Brent Irish centre and organised by the Irish Interest group.

The Conference was addressed by John McDonnell, GLC Deputy Leader, and Ken Livingstone, Leader of the GLC, also spoke and stated ‘No one is in any doubt that the systematic denigration of the Irish community in Britain and of Ireland is seen as essential to retain control of the northeast of Ireland. There is nothing new about this. Anti-Irish racism has always been part of British colonial policy on Ireland’. Other speakers included Brian Parsons, Mary Hickman, Councillor Ivan Gibbons (Hammersmith) and Councillor Russell Proffitt (Southwark).

Pat Reynolds called for greater activism to challenge media distortion including pickets and boycotts. The meeting passed a resolution condemning John Junor for his recent racist ‘Pigs’ article in the Sunday Express and called on him to apologise. If he did not make an apology the Group would mount a protest campaign against the Express. The meeting stated that anti Irish racism could never be effectively countered without cooperating with other ethnic minorities in Britain since the issue of racism was common to all these communities.

On 18 November 1984, ten years after the Birmingham pub bombings, the Sunday Tribune in Dublin carried a major article on the injustice of the six men wrongly jailed by the British justice system. The article had a personal profile of each of the six, of their families and children. It was the first time that their story had been brought to the Irish public in Ireland.

On 21 November 1984 the IBRG had a meeting with NCCL to discuss the PTA and other repressive legislation used against the Irish.

In 27 November 1984 IBRG set up a new branch in Camden at a public meeting where Pat Reynolds spoke for the Ard Choiste. Coventry had earlier set up a new branch with Maurice Moore as chair.

On 27th November 1984 Dr Michael Maguire, IBRG member and lead worker at the new Irish in Islington project, was arrested under the PTA and held for thirteen hours in relation to an article he had written for the Sunday Tribune. The IBRG acted immediately to help secure his release, as usual the police refused to inform his employers which police station he had been taken to, a common practice under the PTA where Irish people just disappear and the police refuse to confirm their arrest or whereabouts. On 8 December 1984 the Irish Post covered this with a protest over the PTA arrest.

On 28 November 1984 Islington IBRG organised a picket of the Express newspapers over the racism of the editor Sir John Junor. Over one hundred people attended from across other IBRG branches and other Irish communities’ groups. Jeremy Corbyn MP and Steve Bundred, later Chief Executive of Camden Council, attended the picket.

In Haringey the Borough Librarian had apologised to the Irish community over stocking a book entitled Are you Irish or Normal? which had now been removed as it was racist and offensive.

On 7 December 1984 Donall MacAmhlaigh had a full page article in Ireland’s Own on the IBRG as an effective group. He covered all the main areas of IBRG including the framed prisoner’s, PTA, welfare and travel to Ireland.

Donall

Donall MacAmhlaigh

Early on 7 December the Sunday Press covered the IBRG demand for boycotting the Express but was attacked by Edna Brophy as it being odd that we should be asking Irish state companies not to advertise in those papers.

The following week the Sunday Press covered two long IBRG letters one from PRO Pat Reynolds and one from Michael Sheehan which set out the record on the matter about anti Irish racism in British newspapers as the PRO stated ‘It does not make any economic sense to advertise Ireland in newspapers which calls Irish people pigs and Ireland a dung heap. We should not have to ask an Irish company to uphold its own dignity and that of Ireland and its people’. Irish taxpayers’ money should not be used to subsidize the slander of Ireland and its people. Michael Sheehan put it well when he stated ‘To the Irish in Britain it is more than just a little odd that Irish taxpayers should subsidise racist abuse directed at their own people-it is a national disgrace’.

On 8 December 1984 the Irish Post front page story was headed Downright Disgrace Anger growing at Slur on Irish. The paper reported that twenty six Irish organisations have threatened to picket the offices of Aer Lingus, Bord Failte and B&I and to organise a boycott of their services, if these state-owned Irish companies again advertised in any newspaper owned by the Express group. The action is threatened as the result of Sir John Junor, editor of the Sunday Express, having declined to apologise for the remark in his column of October 28th ‘wouldn’t you rather admit to being a pig than to being Irish’.

This coming together of twenty six Irish community organisations came from the Conference on Anti-Irish racism held at the Brent Irish centre on 18 November 1984 which both Ken Livingstone and John McDonnell addressed, who passed a motion to this effect and wrote to the Sunday Express. Islington IBRG had since placed a picket on the Express building with over one hundred people turning up. Pat Reynolds PRO stated It is a downright disgrace that Irish taxpayer’s money should be used to subsidize the slandering of Ireland and the Irish people. The groups called for a boycott of the Express and Standard and for public bodies to cease advertising with them. John Junor stated after President Reagan visit to Ireland ‘Ah well every man to his own taste. For my own part I would infinitely prefer to spend three days looking for worms in a dung heap’.

After the siege of the Iranian Embassy Junor stated about one of the groups inside who tried to hide from the SAS after the siege ‘Isn’t that instinct for preservation uncanny reminiscent of another and more familiar group of contemporary terrorists. Could it just be possible that Mr Nejad’s mother came from Ireland’. During the Malvinas war Junor started on the Irish in Britain calling for us to lose the vote ‘if they are so keen on Argentine why don’t they go and stick their snouts into the Argentinian trough instead of ours’. Clearly some fixation with pigs and dung heaps.

On 15 December 1984 the Irish Post front page headlined Row hots up. Growing pressure on Aer Lingus and Bord Failte. The article indicated that Aer Lingus had refused to pay for the advert which was just below the Pig comments but refused to stop advertising in the Express as did Bord Failte.

Meanwhile Councillor Luke Kearns and twenty two of his councillors from Bradford had written to the Council for Racial Equality on the matter. The CRE responded:’the article which you mention may indeed contravene those provisions of the Race Relations Act which refers to racial hatred. The enforcement of this part of the Act is down to the police and the Attorney General.

On 9 December 1984 the Ard Choiste met in Leicester where Jim King, Caitlin Wright, Nessan Danaher, Judy Peddle, Gearoid McGearailt and Pat Reynolds attended. The Minutes of this meeting are missing from the National Minutes Book so no record is available of what took place.

The Irish Post gave the Express story its front page and ran it in the Frank Dolan column on 10 December 1984 and pointed out that the Evening Standard and the Express were owned by the same company. Dolan supported the position of the IBRG on the matter and compared the position of the GLC who had banned advertising in the Standard with that of the Irish companies Aer Lingus Board Failte and B&I who still continued to advertise in the Standard.

On 13 December 1984 Pat Reynolds PRO did an interview with RTE Radio in Dublin on the John Junor abusive article in the Express.

On 15 December 1984 Lambeth IBRG advertised for two workers for their new IBRG Welfare Project in Lambeth funded by the GLC

On 18 December 1984 Lord Lowry, Lord Chief Justice, threw out the case where police informer Raymond Gilmour had put thirty five defendants in jail for over two years. All are acquitted and on 24 December fourteen Loyalists were also acquitted over another police informer’s evidence.

On 22 December 1984 (13) the Irish Post covered the IBRG response to the failure of the Irish Embassy to respond to our demands on the PTA. The story PTA No Help from Embassy and went on to state The IBRG has expressed grave concern at the Irish government having turned down its request for support for the Irish community in Britain in contending with the effect of the PTA.

In July 1984 the IBRG had met Noel Dorr, the Irish Ambassador, and had made the following demands: that the Embassy put out a public statement condemning the use of the PTA against the Irish community, that the Embassy monitor every arrest under the PTA, and that the Embassy retain a solicitor to help those arrested under the Act. Peter Barry had come back to state that a public condemnation of the PTA would not be helpful in impractical terms, that it would not be proper for the Embassy to disclose information on any PTA case it dealt with, and that it would not be appropriate for the embassy to retain solicitor to help those arrested under the PTA.

The IBRG statement in response stated ‘the silence of the Embassy and the behind the scenes talking is totally inadequate while our community is daily harassed in Britain. The IBRG realises that the Irish community is on its own and must now take positive action to protect itself in the absence of adequate consular protection. We say to Peter Barry that they are not giving us the service we need and expect from them. The IBRG now plan to take a delegation to Dublin to push the matter with all Irish political parties, trade unions and other public bodies in Ireland.

The Sunday World on 30 December 1984 also covered the story and stated that the Gaelic League and Irish Women’s Group supported the IBRG position and all had called on GLC to boycott the Express. Aer Lingus stated they had received strong representation on the matter and would bear this in mind regarding future advertising decisions, while Board Failte stated that they found Junor’s remarks to be disturbing, that they monitored the papers and what was said about Ireland, and would have to take a serious look at its policy if such remarks continued.

On 31 December 1984 IBRG held a picket over Irish prisoners outside the Home Office.

In 1984 Liz Curtis and Information on Ireland published Nothing but the Same Old Story The Roots of Anti Irish Racism which ran into several editions over many years and which became a useful tool in fighting anti-Irish racism.

nothing but

The IBRG had a meeting with Liz Curtis before publication and the IBRG view was that, while the publication was extremely useful, it failed to make the link between racism and discrimination leading to poor health housing and employment. It was still extremely useful because of its historical images and the sharing of common origins with anti-Black racism and the history of colonisation.

  1. Ard Choiste Mins 21/01/1984
  2. Irish Post 25/02/1984
  3. Ard Choiste Mins 25/02/1984
  4. Ard Fheis 24/25/03/1984
  5. Ard Choiste 28/04/1984
  6. Embassy Visit Doc. 5/07/1984
  7. Ard Choiste 21/07/1984
  8. Ard Choiste 9/09/1984
  9. CRE Doc 12/10/1984
  10. Comhcomhair 27/10/1984
  11. Ard Choiste 10/11/1984
  12. Irish Post 24/11/1984
  13. Irish Post 22/12/1984

Listen to my talk about the IBRG in the northwest in the Irish Collection at the WCML here

Read Part 1, 2 and 3 of IBRG history here and here

and here

An excellent history of 200 years of Irish political activity in Mancheser – including Manchester IBRG read “The Wearing of the Green” by Michael Herbert. Buy it here

 

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My review of “Never Counted Out! The story of Len Johnson Manchester’s Black Boxing Hero and Communist” by Michael Herbert

len jWhen my parents moved to Clayton, a working class suburb of Manchester in 1963, it was a large sprawling council estate surrounded by engineering and manufacturing factories and dominated by two busy main roads, Ashton New and Ashton Old Roads. The population was very white working class with a small Irish community that had lived there for many years.

It had a radical edge due to some of the people who lived there including Harry Pollitt General Secretary of the Communist party and   communist activist and co-founder of the WCML: Eddie Frow.  It was Eddie who encouraged my partner, Michael Herbert to write about another less-known Claytonian, communist and boxer Len Johnson (1902-1974).

Eddie and Ruth had known Len through the CP and were keen that his life should be written up.  By this time, Len was dead, but some of his family, boxing pals, and comrades were still alive so it was an opportune moment to record the life of a much loved and important member of the Manchester radical family.

Over ten years, whilst he was also working full-time in Manchester City Council, Michael dug deep into the archive that the Frows had produced on Len as well as newspaper archives and most importantly interviewing Len’s friends and family. Unlike many working class activists Len did not write his own biography but Michael was able to access a document that Len wrote about his life for the “Boxing News.”

Michael really did not like boxing but his research put it into context; it was one way that working class men could make some money and get out of the poverty many of Len’s generation experienced.

len and boxers

Len was from a mixed race family. His father was , William  “Billy” Benker Johnson, a ship’s engineer who originally came from Sierra Leone. Billy took up boxing to earn a living and through this he met Len’s mother, Margaret Maher. Len described her as “Irish and proud of it” but she was going to need that tenacity as throughout her life she would experience racism and predujice for marrying a black man.

Margaret would have to find lodgings, by herself, and then bring Billy along, hoping that they would not be chucked out by the landlord. She was attacked by other women and her face was permanently disfigured by it. The family found lodgings in 12 Barnabus  Street, Clayton and made  good friends there  a bricklayer called Sal Connell and his wife.  They became Margaret and Len’s family.

Len had two brothers, Albert and Billy and one sister called Doris. The family moved to Leeds for Billy’s work in the boxing booths. By 1914 the family were back in Clayton and living with the Connells.

Len left school and got a job as a moulder in a foundry carrying two hundred weight shanks of white-hot metal.   At this time, Len and his brother Albert, were taken by their father Billy  to the boxing show at the Alhambra on Ashton Old Road which led to Len taking up boxing as a career which he pursued for the next twenty years.

Len’s career in boxing, as Michael shows, was blighted from the first time he set foot in a boxing ring. “The official racism directed at Len Johnson and other black boxers was intimately linked to Britain’s role as an imperialist world power in the nineteenth and twentieth century’s.”

His career involved beating opponents up and down this country and defeating the European middleweight champion. But because, he was black,  he was denied proper title fights and  he became disillusioned as well as suffering ill health.  He gave up boxing in 1933.

Len became a local hero in East Manchester. One of his neighbours,  Mr.Green, remembered: “We would gather around the door awaiting his emergence to enter the waiting vehicle and his appearance never failed to bring a tumultuous welcome. He was so gentle and friendly and never failed to acknowledge the adulation so bestowed upon him.”

len-johnson-at-new-cross-greyhound-stadium_490x695

After the Second World War Len became a driver of buses and lorries. He was now married to Maria Reid and her three children. And when Maria’s sister died she and Len adopted her three children. One of them, Brenda, forty years later remembered Len. “When I think back, it took a black man to take three children that our own father didn’t want to know and he was a white man. …I loved that black man, I really did. He was one hell of a guy. I can’t put my feelings into words.”

The family now lived at 10 Bold Street, Moss Side. Len joined the Communist Party of Great Britain towards the end of the war and remained a member to his death.

Like many working class people of that era, Len probably turned to the CP, because of his own experiences,  as a black man, as a person who could see the way in which society discriminated against working class people including poverty, unemployment and of course the bigger political picture of the Spanish Civil War and  the rise of Nazism. The CPGB was very active on all these issues and was very attractive to people like Len. He also found like-minded comrades in Syd Booth who had fought in the Spanish Civil War and Wilf Charles another CP activist.

Len became friends with Paul Robeson, actor, singer and communist.  “I was at another of my “fed-up” phases when I was introduced to him one day in Manchester….Paul Robeson put new life in me with a few words. He drew me a picture of his fight for recognition. He pointed out that my job was fighting, and that I could fight in the ring I ought to be able to fight outside it.”

He was active in the CP until the late 50s – over ten years. Through the Pan African Congress in Manchester he made contact with black radicals from Britain and across the world.

Len stood for the Council six times in the Moss Side area of Manchester 1947-1962. He was never elected but at that time it was a Conservative seat.

Len election

With his friends, Syd Booth and Wilf Charles he set up the New International Society, of which Len was the Secretary. The Club was at 28 Ducie Street, Moss Side. Not just a social club it took up campaigns including challenging racial discrimination – one was a separate queue for black men at the local  Labour Exchange. Social events included a successful Irish Easter Rising social. Links were also made with international campaigns and lectures and educational meetings were an important part of the Club’s activities.

When Michael went out and discussed his research with Len’s family, friends, boxing and political comrades many of them commented on what a gentleman and gentle man he was.  Len did not have an easy life but he was and still is an inspiration to people today.

Michael’s biography of Len is; “Never Counted Out! The story of Len Johnson, Manchester’s Black Boxing Hero and Communist”.  Buy it for £4.95 here

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