History of Irish in Britain Representation Group, part nineteen 1999

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 Manchester leaflet 1990s.

On 18th January IBRG members attended a public meeting at the Camden Irish Centre with   The Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition to welcome their delegation to London. The delegation  had earlier in the day met Tony Blair at Downing Street.

The Robert Hamill murder was also discussed at the meeting.

Dogs more important than lives of Irish

In January the IBRG noted that two police officers,  who were found guilty of cruelty to the dogs, were sacked from the Essex Police force. Meanwhile two Scots Guards found guilty of murdering 18-year-old Peter McBride in North Belfast were allowed back into the British army. The decision was taken by the Army Board which included Armed Forces Minister Doug Henderson. The board stated that they had taken into account the soldiers’ ‘unblemished record’.

In the Brave New World of the Good Friday Agreement the value of an Irish person life is now less than that of an injured English dog. Who fears to speak for justice now? This matter goes back to the heart of British colonial policy in Ireland where it was no crime to kill an Irish person, which they later transferred to the plantations in the USA and the Caribbean, that it was no crime to kill a Black person.

On 30th January IBRG members with their banners marched in the Bloody Sunday March in London under an Irish self-determination banner.

On 3rd February four republicans, including Pearse McAuley,  pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Garda Gerry McCabe in Limerick.

Rough Sleepers Report excludes Irish

On 3rd February Pat Reynolds joined others in a meeting with Government’s Social Exclusion Unit in London to discuss Irish homelessness.  The Social Exclusion Unit was a 20 person Think Tank that reported directly to Tony Blair on issues of social exclusion in Britain. The Unit had produced their book on Rough Sleepers, which did not even mention the Irish community, despite high numbers of Irish living rough on the streets.

 

On 4th February Nick Mullen is released in Britain, after he is cleared by the Court of Appeal His conviction was ruled unsafe because of the manner of his forced extradition from Zimbabwe.

 

10th anniversary of  the murder of Pat Finucane

On 12th February, on the 10th anniversary of the murder of Pat Finucane, a petition signed by more than a thousand legal figures, and supported by Amnesty International,  call for an Independent inquiry into his murder by pro-British death squads.

Public meeting on Irish language and National Curriculum

On 14th February Máiréad Holt and Pat Reynolds helda  public meeting at the Irish Bookshop at Archway north London on a way forward on getting the Irish language into the curriculum.

On 18th February IBRG members attended the Irish Equalities Group at the CRE which Herman Ouseley attended.

On 20th February the IBRG Ard Choiste met at Caxton House north London. Among the delegates were Diarmuid Breatnach, Pat Reynolds, Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Moore and Liz Benson.

Issues discussed included the Irish language in the curriculum, the Robert Hamill case, report on the visit to Social Exclusion Unit, reportback on Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group (IBPG), agreed that the Great Hunger should be seen as Genocide of the Irish people, donation agreed for the St Patricks Day festival in Belfast, report back on Bloody Sunday march, the Ard Fheis, and a welcome to the inclusion of the Irish language onto the curriculum, and the release of Danny McNamee.

The meeting noted that IBRG had persuaded the IBPG to send a delegation to the Home Office on the question of the Irish inclusion in the 2001 Census to see the Minister Mike O’Brien. The issue had now been won in England and Wales, but Scotland had yet to be won as they made their own decision. The IBRG agreed to fight on in Scotland on the same principle of getting the majority of local authorities there to recognise the Irish, and then telling the Government that they should listen to the voice of the democratically elected majority, and what they wanted.

The Macpherson Report into the case of Stephen Lawrence was published on 24th February. The IBRG welcomed the report and most of the proposals,  except the one to repeal the double jeopardy rule, which would be used more against minority communities.

On 4th March a BBC poll showed that only 41% of Unionists in favour of the Good Friday Agreement,  a drop of 14% from the referendum result.

Irish to be included in 2001 Census

On 5th March it was made public that the British government would include the Irish as a separate category in the 2001 census on the 200th  anniversary of the Act of Union, although this time the Irish were claiming their heritage and not territory. The IBRG were aware of the decision for some weeks beforehand. The White Paper on the 2001 census had been published and the IBRG responded to the White paper, which was covered by Ireland on Sunday and the Irish Post.

On 14th March Ireland on Sunday reported: ‘The Irish in Britain Representation Group (IBRG) has secured a new protocol for the 2001 Census whereby the Irish can now claim their Irishness as a recognised community. This new data will lead to a more reliable picture of the overall state of our community and its position within British society and industry’.

On 5th March a former UDA leader told the BBC that he was getting so many intelligence reports from the RUC and the Army that he had difficulty in finding space to store them.

On 11th March Lee Clegg was acquitted of the murder of teenage Karen Reilly,  but guilty of attempting to wound Martin Peake, the judge describes Clegg’s evidence as ‘untruthful and incapable of belief’.

Murder of Rosemary Nelson

On 15th March Rosemary Nelson, a Belfast solicitor,  was murdered by Loyalists in the heart of Belfast in the middle of the day, the second solicitor to be murdered in N. Ireland. The use of commercial explosives suggested British intelligence involvement. She had been threatened many times by members of the RUC

On 18th March Ronnie Flanagan asked the deputy Commissioner of the Met John Stevens to conduct an inquiry over claims of collusion by the security forces in the murder of Pat Finucane.

On 23rd March Jack Straw fails in his attempt in a judicial review on the case of Patrick Magee to stop his release.

On 23rd March IBRG members attended a large public meeting at Conway Hall in Central London on Rosemary Nelson at which her friend Gareth Pierce spoke.

On 24th March IBRG members attended the IBPG meeting at the House of Commons to hear Mary Hickman present her Report on Discrimination and  the Irish Community in Britain.

On 24th March the Independent Commission on Police Complaints listed a number of serious concerns about the RUC investigation of alleged threats made against Rosemary Nelson, by members of the RUC. Calls were made for the RUC to be removed completely from the murder investigation.

On 27th March Tony Blair Chief of staff stated that Tony Blair holds the Orange Order in high esteem, which shocked Catholics given their long history of anti-Catholic murders and bigotry.

On 29th March the Chief Constable of Norfolk is put in charge of the murder investigation of Rosemary Nelson.

On 30th March the Hanratty case is referred back to the Court of Appeal. Hanratty was an innocent Irishman, hanged for a crime he did not commit.

IBRG success on Ethnic Monitoring 

The IBRG had great success recently  on ethnic monitoring with Barking and Dagenham in London coming on board, as well as Walsall and Stockport Metropolitan boroughs, Middleborough, Peterborough, Nottingham, City of York, Milton Keynes, Winsor and Maidenhead, Kingston and Hull, Northumberland, Herefordshire, Cheshire, Kent, Leicestershire, Falkirk, West Lothian, South Ayrshire, City of Glasgow, Pembrokeshire, Neath Port Talbot, Torfaen, Epping Forest, Cheltenham, Tewkesbury, Burnley, Northampton, Hastings, Barrow in Furness, Wycombe, Brentwood and Stafford.

Over 175 local authorities in Britain now recognise the Irish. A number of Scottish and Welsh local authorities had also come on board as well several county councils and many cities in Britain.

On 13th March the Irish Post carried Bernadette Hyland’s  Obituary for Phillip Donnellan entitled Philip told the People’s story, with a photo of the Kate Magee Banner Justice for Irish People Support Kate Magee. The photo included Philip Donnellan, Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Moore, Michael Herbert and six other supporters. Phillip and his partner Jill   had supported the Kate Magee campaign.

Philiph and Jill are second and third from the left.

 

On 24th March the British, along with NATO,  started the war on Serbia including bombing their television station,  killing the journalists producing the news.

Criticism of RUC Chief over harassment of defence solicitors by RUC

On 12th April a report from United Nations special rapporteur criticises Ronnie Flanagan RUC Chief for allowing the situation to deteriorate after a number of defence solicitors alleged harassment by the RUC. He further claimed there was evidence of collusion by the security forces in  the murder of Pat Finucane, and called for an independent inquiry into the murder.

On 17th April Ronnie Flanagan announced that John Stevens will conduct a fresh inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane. On 20th April the US Congress called for an independent inquiry into allegations of harassment of defence lawyers by members of the security forces

By 13th April 257 political prisoners had been released under the Good Friday Agreement, 131 Republican and 118 Loyalists. The British media in their one-sided propaganda war will ever only talk about their being Republican prisoners, and never about the Loyalist and their sectarian violence and targeting of Catholics.

On 17th April it was announced that John Stevens would conduct a fresh inquiry into the murder of Patrick Finucane.

On 19th April Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG had a head-to-head debate on BBC Radio N. Ireland on the issue of decommissioning.

On 22nd April David Trimble member of the anti-Catholic Orange Order met the Pope. On many issues they would share the same views on abortion, divorce, gay rights, and male authority.

On 24th April the IBRG Ard Fheis was held in Coventry at St Osburg’s Club. Delegates attended from Coventry, Manchester, Lewisham and Nt London.

Among those attending were Maurice Moore, Bernadette Hyland, Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds.  Among those sending apologies were Joe Mullarkey, Thomas MacStiofan, Tim Logan and Liz Benson.

Registered branches included NE Lancs, Manchester, Bolton, Coventry, North London and Lewisham with Hemel Hempstead set up later in the year.

The Chair in his address welcomed the inclusion of the Irish language in the national curriculum in Britain, which the IBRG along with Conradh had fought for. He further welcomed the inclusion of the Irish within the 2001 National census in England and Wales, but stated that the fight for inclusion in Scotland had to be won yet. He praised IBRG for their campaign for ethnic recognition across Britain which was the winning strategy for winning the 2001 census, as the majority of local authorities in Britain now supported Irish inclusion. He notes that the IBRG had won over 200 local authorities in Britain to recognise the Irish.

This had huge implications for Irish employment and for service delivery to the Irish community. 26 of the 32 London boroughs now recognised the Irish, 22 of the 36 Metropolitan borough council now recognise the Irish, 18 of the 34 County Councils, 29 of the 46 Unitary Councils, 16 of the Scottish councils, 8 of the Welsh and 90 District councils all recognise the Irish.  Half of the Scottish local authorities now recognise the Irish. This was very important in the fight for inclusion in the 2001 census in Scotland that we now had 50% of Irish recognition in Scotland and growing.

He noted the acquittal of Danny McNamee and Nick Mullen, He welcomed the Macpherson Report on Stephen Laurence racist murder, and called for full support for action to address racism against Black communities in Britain. We must stand shoulder to shoulder with them against all forms of racism in Britain.

Bernadette Hyland PRO stated that the last year had been difficult because of the IRA bombing in Manchester. There had been attempts, with the new realignment of politics in Britain and Ireland, to marginalise IBRG which was  seen in the Irish Post, the IBPG, the Peace Process and even the Bloody Sunday March.  The IBRG had got coverage in the Irish Post, Irish World and a range of other papers from articles to letters, to campaign work. Manchester IBRG were hoping to start an IBRG website in the coming year.

The following officers were elected;

Chair Pat Reynolds North London.

PRO/Membership Bernadette Hyland Manchester

Vice Chair Diarmuid Breatnach Lewisham

Cisteoir Maurice Moore Coventry

Prisoners Tim Logan Coventry.

The following eight motions all from North London were passed;

A motion welcoming the inclusion of the Irish in the 2010 Census and calling on the IBRG to campaign for Scottish inclusion, plus a campaign for full participation of the Irish community in the census,

A motion welcoming the inclusion of the Irish language in the national curriculum and calling on IBRG to start a community campaign to have the decision implemented at local level,

A motion condemning the Loyalist murder of Rosemary Nelson, called for a public inquiry into the murder and also into the murder of Patrick Finucane.

A motion deploring the continued siege of Garvaghy road residents the sectarian Orange Order, and calling for all Orange marches to rerouted away from areas where residents objected to their presence,

A motion welcoming the Macpherson Report into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, and calling on all the recommendations to be implemented, and calling on IBRG to continue their anti-racist work in the Irish community, and to work with other communities in joint action in tackling all forms racism in Britain,

A motion noting the setting up of the IBPG, and calling on IBRG to lobby the group on issues of concern to the Irish community,

A motion noting the release of Danny McNamee and Nick Mullen, calling for action of Frank Johnson, Mary Druhan, Michael O’Brien and Martin O’Halloran. The motion also called on IBRG to continue action for justice for Diarmuid O’Neill, Leo Reilly, Richard O’Brien and the Hanratty family all Irishmen who were either executed by the state or died in police custody, in the Richard O’Brien case an unlawful killing at police hands.

On 5th May Mo Mowlam met the family of Patrick Finucane who asked for a public inquiry and that that material in a confidential Irish government file claimed that there is compelling evidence of collusion between the security forces and the loyalist killers.

1999 Good Friday Agreement Discussion Meeting

On 8th May Pat Reynolds was speaking at Connolly Association and Tower Hamlets Trades Union Council Conference entitled 1999 Good Friday Agreement Discussion meeting along with John McDonnell MP, Brendan MacCionnaith,  Angie Birthill and  Peter Beresford Ellis.

Pat was the only speaker on the platform who was critical of the Agreement. Over 100 people attended. The flier for the event had Black shirts at Cable Street 1936 and the Orange Order at Garvaghy Road Portadown 1999,   parallel examples of supremacist marches.

On 19th May IBRG members attended a House of Commons meeting called by the Friends of Ireland where Gerry Adams and Martin Ferris spoke along with PUP, Alliance, SDLP and the Women’s Coalition.

Making the links; history of  fascist groups and Irish community

Ireland on Sunday featured the IBRG in an article on the fascist bombing of Soho gay bar which left three dead on 30th April. Pat Reynolds drew attention to the fact that fascists had been attacking the Irish community for years attacking Irish pubs and the Bloody Sunday march each year, and also attacking Black and minority communities with earlier bombs in Brixton and Brick Lane. Across the country Irish people’s homes, schools and Irish Centres had over the years been attacked with little publicity given to it by the media or left wing groups.

The links between fascists in Britain and Loyalists paramilitaries have been played down by British intelligence.

The Biddy Mulligans Pub in Kilburn had been attacked in the past by Loyalists, as had the Black Lion in Kilburn because England lost a match against Ireland. The three bombings in London had left two people dead and over 130 injured but the press played down the attacks, and did not point to the right in Britain. If it was an IRA attack the Irish community would be asked to condemn it, but here there was silence about the enemy within in Britain.

Reports on Irish in Britain and USA

There were two further reports on Ireland on Sunday on the Irish in Britain,-one Irish in Britain still fare badly, which stated that there were over 1,000 Irish born prisoners in Britain. It quoted from a report from the Irish Episcopal Commission on Emigration, and said that the Irish were more likely to be imprisoned than any other group in Britain, that they were the only community whose life expectancy got worse on emigration, and said that the Irish community ‘suffered ongoing discrimination and unwarranted harassment” and it painted a disturbing picture of a divided community experiencing chronic housing health and unemployment, and said figures for mental ill-health and alcoholism were very high in the community.

It also pointed out that 4,000 Irish were living as illegals in the USA.  The report stated that successive government have ignored the fact that many are as vulnerable as they were in the past. 60% were between 18-24 many of them poorly qualified and marginalised before leaving Ireland. Because this report was backed by the Irish bishops it could not be ignored, but it confirmed what IBRG had been saying for years while the Embassy and the Federation were peddling the idea that all the Irish were very successful in Britain.

In another article headed Irish emigrant’s need more resources which showed on the back of the above report that the Celtic Tiger was rather shy about leaving Ireland, and did not travel abroad with its emigrants who often struggled abroad. The report also debunked the idea that emigration was slowing down put out by the government More than 20,000 left the Republic every year and a further 10,000 left N. Ireland. The Celtic Tiger had bypassed the modern Irish emigrant. The young became invisible once they went abroad and were forgotten.

Jill Dando was killed the same week probably by a Serbian hitman because of the British bombing of Serbia TV station which killed a number of Serbian journalists.

The Scottish and Welsh Assembly election was held on 6th May. The IBRG would be lobbying the MSPs on the Census question in Scotland.

On 2nd June Martin O’Halloran’s case was featured on BBC TV.

IBRG Campaign on ethnic recognition in London

On 4th June the Irish World had 88% of London Boroughs treat Irish as minority which covered the Irish campaign for ethnic recognition in London. Twenty-eight of the 32 London boroughs now recognised the Irish. Lewisham City of Westminster, Havering, Greenwich, Harrow, Croydon Richmond, Barkling and Dagenham Kingston, Bexley and Hillingdon had all now signed up.  Kensington and Chelsea had no ethnic monitoring at all, along with Bromley while Wandsworth had refused to recognise the Irish and Ealing were sitting on it.

The IBRG pointed out that too often the Irish community were content with a small welfare project with two jobs, while hundreds of jobs were there at the Town Hall, which needed to open up to Irish recruitment. The same went with service delivery which needed to reach out to the Irish community to provide decent services.

On 16th June IBRG attended the Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group meeting at the House of Commons where the issue was housing and the Irish presented by Cara and Innisfree. Christine Crawley, now in the Lords attended, as did Margaret Moran.

On 17th June Cardinal Hume died, no friend of the Irish, he served the British colonial government well during the Hunger Strikes. His employees at Quex Road had kept quiet on Gerry Conlon being there on the night of the Guildford bombing for 15 years, and then had the audacity to claim that Hume and the Church had helped to get him released, when they were largely responsible for covering up this criminality for 15 years.

On 23rd June IBRG PRO Bernadette Hyland had a letter in the Guardian taking Ruth Dudley Edwards to task over her misty eyed one-sided distorted views on the Orange Order.

The letter stated: ‘It is disingenuous of Ruth Dudley Edwards to try and portray the Orange Order as a misunderstood and much maligned minority of harmless eccentrics…  the idea that republicans have a superior propaganda machine which has somehow coned the world is nonsense. It is not the absence of a Peter Mandelson that has led to their negative public image, but the fact that their behaviour is now seen for what it is, a manifestation of bigotry and intolerance, which closely resembles that seen in Alabama in the 60s and South Africa in the 70s.’

On 26th June the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Friends Meeting House in Manchester.  Among those attending was Diarmuid Breatnach, Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds Maurice Moore and Joe Mullarkey.

The meeting heard that the second inquest into the death of Leo O’ Reilly in police custody was an open verdict. A Donegal man called Boyle had died in Wormwood Scrubs prison recently. Three police officers were going on trial for the killing of Richard O’Brien in south London. Frank Johnson’s case was going to the CCRC soon.  The IBRG had written to Tony Blair over the two Scots Guards getting their jobs back, despite their murder of young McBride.

Other issues discussed were the 2001 census, ethnic monitoring, Irish equality group, IBPG, and an IBRG website. The IBRG programme  for the year was identified as; having quarterly regional meetings, winning ethnic category in Scottish census, continue local authority ethnic monitoring campaign, lobby schools over inclusion of Irish language in curriculum, challenge Irish representation in the media, work on such cases Leo Reilly, Frank Johnson, Martin O Halloran, Mary Druhan and Richard O’Brien.

Launch of Stop and Search Report: Irish most likely targets.

On 6th July the IBRG attended the IBPG meeting the House of Commons where Professor Jock Young presented his report on “Stop and Search in North Islington” which showed that the Irish the most likely of any group to be stopped and searched.

The report on Ethnic Minorities and Stop and Search in north London, showed that the Irish had the highest rate of stop and search at 14.3% followed by Afro Caribbean at 12.8%, Cypriots 8.2%, African 5.9%, British 5.8%, and Asians 4.5%.

The Irish were also had the highest rate as victims of street crime at 11.2%, followed by Africans at 10.5%, British at 7% and Afro Caribbean at 3.3%.

The report was interesting in that the Irish had been left out completely out of the recommendations of the Stephen Lawrence Report despite the above figures. There was a clear policy in Britain across both liberal society and the government to suppress data on the Irish community in Britain. Similarly, a report in Southwark which showed the Irish and African getting the worse housing and the British and Afro Caribbean getting the best housing was suppressed. In the 1980’s a similar report on the criminal justice system showing the Irish on a par with the Afro Caribbean community in terms of discrimination by the judicial system was suppressed.

Irish Women’s Centre Survey on the Trade Unions and recognition of Irish

On 15th July the CRE launched the Irish Women’s Centre Survey on the Trade Unions which showed that only two trade unions out of 73 affiliated to the TUC recognised the Irish which was shocking, and showed the bias even in the working-class movement in Britain against Irish people, where they were more against the Irish than even the general public instead of setting a lead.

On 16th July Mary Druhan was acquitted and released. The IBRG had backed her campaign since 1993, had produced a leaflet on her case which was circulated, including getting it on the front page of the Sunday World and also into the Irish World. On 20th July Pat Reynolds who led on Mary Druhan’s case had an interview with Clare FM on her case. The Irish Post never covered her case until 1998. North London IBRG led on this case.

On 21st July Frank Johnson’s case was referred back to the Court of Appeal.

Pat Reynolds had chaired Frank’s campaign for years, ably assisted by Englishman Andy Parr, and had visited Frank in prison on a regular basis. The News of the World again covered his story. Frank had now served 24 years in prison.

Pat Reynolds had set up this campaign in 1991 with Andy Parr and Billy Power who knew Frank Johnson in prison. In the 1980’s Maurin Higgins of Haringey IBRG had done some work on Frank’s case.

The story this week was in the Irish Post, front page of the Irish World, News of the World, Ireland on Sunday, the Nationalist, and the Herald Evening Herald in Dublin. Five members of North London IBRG were involved in his campaign over many years carrying his banner and putting out his leaflets and doing public meetings, and pickets.

On 23rd July Pat Reynolds had an interview with Radio Foyle in Derry on the Irish language in the curriculum.

Acquittal of police officers in Richard O’Brien Case

On 29th July the three police officers charged with the manslaughter of Richard O’Brien were acquitted. The jury verdict in this case was unlawful killing at the inquest, but the jury here could not be told that.

Richard O’Brien was minding his own business, and waiting for a taxi to take him his wife and children home from a Catholic Social club in south London, was attacked by the police, and suffered death at their hands with some 30 injuries to his body and broken ribs, as he told the police as he was dying, that he could not breathe again and again.

Both Jodie Clark and Pat Reynolds supported the family fight for justice with Jodie supporting Mrs O Brien in her case.

The case highlighted the high number of Irish deaths in custody, and how the system dealt with such cases.  A number of other cases had come to light like Leo O’ Reilly in Coventry which Maurice Moore had supported. The IBRG were determined to stop these Irish deaths in custody and to get justice for these families. The biggest issue was to get the truth of what happened in each case as the police blocked any information coming out.

In July the IBRG observed that the siege of the siege of the Garvaghy Road had now gone on longer that the siege of Derry.

In terms of the demand for decommissioning in N. Ireland the IBRG observed that Sinn Fein had a TD in Dail Eireann for years and he never decommissioned a single button to get in there.

In July a young Irishwoman in Lewisham had challenged Lewisham Council regarding their new trainee solicitor scheme which had excluded the Irish without any reason. When challenged they said they had no data on Irish representation in the legal profession. The matter was taken up  with the CRE and with local MP Bridget Prentice.

Clearly if the Irish were well represented in the legal profession, they would be no need to include the Irish, but there was clear evidence in Britain that the Irish were poorly represented among officer groups in Town Halls and other employment in Britain and were concentrated in nursing, construction pubs, home helps, dinner ladies and manual type jobs.

Shock horror “Irish have fewer rights”

Bernadette Hyland in the Letters page of the Big Issue in the North (9/8/99 ) challenged the reaction of the right wing Irish community regarding the disclosure by  investigative reporter Duncan Campbell that in 1989 the Ministry of Defence built a £20m listening tower in Capenhurst, Cheshire to intercept all dialogue between England and the Irish Republic.

The Big Issue had only canvassed the right wing of the Irish community. Michael Forde of the Irish World Heritage Centre said he was  “sad that the Security Forces feel they have to do this”.  Colin Colmquinn of the Irish Community Project in Liverpool was more assertive saying: “It’s no big surprise to anybody in our community.” Although it was not clear who he was, or what if any work was going on regarding the surveillance of the Liverpool Irish.

Bernadette responded in a letter the following week reminding readers that IBRG had over the last twenty years  challenged the censorship and surveillance of the Irish community. And that this censorship had “seriously undermined the rights of English people to know what is happening in their name for 30 years and only a 45 minute plane flight away.”

Death of Irish World Editor Damien Gafffney

On 15th August the young Editor of the Irish World Damien Gaffney died while on holiday in Ireland. The IBRG paid tribute to the award-winning journalist and noted that he had supported the Frank Johnson Campaign and other cases. His early death was a very sad loss for his family and the Irish community.

On 3rd September the Irish Post ran a page of tributes to Damien’s life with contribution from the Irish Ambassador, IBRG, Federation, Irish Counties association, Mo Mowlam, Brian Behan and Frank Johnson from prison.

IBRG challenges racist tirade against Padraig Pearse

In August Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG challenged an article in the Guardian by Kevin Toolis on Padraig Pearse. Pat was then attacked by the revisionists in the Irish Post over his letter on Pearce but was defended by the writer Morgan Lllewelyn.

Padraig Pearce was in Kevin Toolis article ‘a bloodthirsty fanatic who espoused violence, death and destruction, no matter how futile, in the pursuit of a United Ireland.’ Given that Ireland was one unit under Britain rule and historically had always been one unit, Toolis is distorting the picture to fit into today’s world, where people want a United Ireland.

The IBRG pointed out that Pearse called a halt to the fighting in Dublin to spare the lives of Dublin civilians. The bloodthirsty part of 1916 was in the British state executions of the 1916 leaders and the later Bloody attacks by the Black and Tans mobs in Ireland later, the sectarian pogroms against Catholics in Northern Ireland led by the Orange Order, and the Unionist leadership backed by the British government.

The IBRG stated: ‘Political revisionists and political distortionists have tried for years to distort the life and vision of Padraig Pearse for their political masters. What they are attacking is the distinct idea of a separate Irish nation. Kevin Toolis article is an example of racist propaganda. Would Toolis label Nelson Mandela as being a bloodthirsty fanatic. Toolis talks of ambiguity in Ireland over IRA resistance yet is silent over the ambiguity in Britain and Ireland over Bloody Sunday and the Dublin Monaghan bombings. No American or Irish President visited the scene of these killings, no English champions went to play for these victims, no music record was ever made for their sorrow, no Late Late show special event for these families, and no generous donations by public institutions for the victims. Contracting the media treatment of the Omagh, Warrington, the Dublin bombings show up the real political ambiguity in these islands, a subject too hot for Toolis to handle for his political masters, that Irish lives do not matter.

The IBRG called on the Guardian and Toolis to withdraw their vile and distorted claims on Padraig Pearse which has no basis in Pearse’s actions of writings. If Toolis wants to look at bloodthirsty fanatics in Ireland he might want to at English brutal rule in Ireland over 800 years, Cromwell’s campaign, the Great hunger Genocide, or Gilbert’s honoured by the English Queen for his bloody thirsty mass beheading of civilians in the Munster rebellion. The IBRG statement was covered as a letter in the Irish Post on 28th August.

On 30th August the Repatriation Committee in Ireland wrote to IBRG re three young Irish prisoners Tony Hyland, Liam Grogan and Darren Mulholland who wanted to return to Ireland. The letter was from Louise Hyland,  a sister of one of the prisoners. The IBRG supported their campaign to return to Ireland as all three had been given over 20-year sentences. In a letter from Full Sutton Darren Mulholland raised the issue of the high number of Irish prisoners in British jails as an issue that the IBRG had raised in the Irish community.

On 3rd September the Irish World had Council slated for Irish policy where IBRG had accused Ealing Council of discriminating against the Irish by failing to implement the CRE recommended categories on ethnic recognition which included the Irish.

There were 16,374 Irish born residents in Ealing some 6% of the total population of the borough Ealing has the largest Irish community in London after Brent for four years talking had been dragging their feet on this matter. Years earlier Irish women in Ealing had brought out their own report on Irish women in Ealing.

On 9th September London IBRG members met at the Irish bookshop at Archway North London.

In September the IBRG rejected the rebranding of the sectarian Protestant colonial force in N. Ireland and called for their disbandment. The RUC were a paramilitary colonial police force whose duty was to uphold British rule in Ireland and keep the nationalists in their place. They had many links with the Unionist and Loyalist community and the Orange Order.

On 10th September the IBRG issued a statement on Rebranding the RUC noting the recommendation of the Commission into Policing in N. Ireland.  The IBRG noted that the recommendations only tampered with the rough edges of the RUC and left the main RUC body intact.

Patten ex Colonial Hong Kong Governor had adopted a minimalist approach towards change in the RUC. A change of name, badge and symbols will not change much. The RUC have been the paramilitary wing of the British forces occupation on the Six Counties since it was set up and maintained though violence for over 75 years.

The IBRG condemned the Commission for allowing the continued use of Plastic bullets. The RUC had within its ranks thousands of sectarian Orange lodge members which Patten did not address.  As in Cyprus the British government has used the Protestant RUC to fight British dirty colonial war in Ireland putting the RUC into the front line just as in Cyprus, they put the Turks into the front line against the Greek community. The RUC had been involved in a dirty war against the Nationalist community and had no credibility in the community. Even with the proposals we would have to wait 30 years before 30% of the force would be Catholic.

In inner London despite recession the number of Black workers in these Councils had been increased from 5% to 35% in a few years despite downsizing and recession. It was time to stand down the RUC for good and create a totally new civilian police force pending the reunification of Ireland. A police force made up of large number of the supremacist Orange Order will not work as they are an anti-Catholic sectarian force.

On 11th September the IBRG Ard Choiste met at Caxton House Archway North London.  Among the delegates attending were Maurice Moore, Bernadette Hyland, Diarmuid Breatnach, Liz Benson and Pat Reynolds.

The meeting heard that new IBRG branch had been set up in Hemel Hempstead led by Michael Holden. The meeting decided to support three republican prisoners who were anti agreement and were held in Britain. The IBRG would support their right to transfer. The issue discussed were: IBPG, Irish Equalities Group, 2001 census, ethnic monitoring campaign, Peace Process, and Prisoners. The meeting agreed to start lobby SMPs over the census in Scotland.

On 17th September the Irish World had a front-page story on Susan May case in which Paddy Hill called for her release and question her conviction. The IBRG had long supported Susan’s case. John McDonnell also supported her case.

On 22nd September Harry Stanley a Scotsman was shot dead on the street by the police because they though he was an Irishman.  The IBRG condemned the killing. The Evening Standard reported the man as being Irish.

On 1st October the Irish World had Unarmed Irishman shot dead by police on death of Harry Stanley in Hackney. Stanley was in fact Scottish but the early reports on his death was that he was Irish, and the police shot him dead because they thought he was Irish.

On 11th October Peter Mandelson was appointed Secretary to the colonial statelet of N. Ireland.

On 19TH October Tomas MacStiofan wrote to Paul Boating his MP calling for an independent public inquiry into the execution of Diarmuid O’Neill on 23rd September 1996 in Hammersmith, noting that the Hammersmith Coroner had also called for one to establish the facts of the case.

On 23rd October the IBRG Ard Choiste was held at St Osburg’s Club in Coventry. Among the delegates were Diarmuid Breatnach, Kevin Armstrong and Maurice Moore. Apologies from Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds, Michael Holden, Sean Hone and Tim Logan.

The IBRG had raised an issue about another Irish death in custody that of Kevin McLoughlin from Derry. The inquest gave a verdict of accidental death but with a rider of ‘aggravated neglect ‘by the police.”  An Phoblacht featured an article on deaths in custody based on IBRG work in that area in Britain. Susan May had written to thank the IBRG for our support. In the case of Diarmuid O’Neill the Hammersmith coroner said that there should be a public inquiry into his death.

Bernadette Hyland PRO had written to the Scottish parties on including the Irish in the 2001 census in Scotland, only the Greens and the Tories had replied. However, Donald Dewar stated that they would be reviewing the issue soon. 18 of the 32 local authorities in Scotland now recognised the Irish and over 200 local authorities in Britain now did so.

Over 250 local authorities in Britain now recognised the Irish. Salford had come on board as had Cardiff the capital of Wales which had a large Irish population with the University and head of Government there. In Hemel Hempstead the local IBRG had defended Irish Travellers against attacks from a Tory councillor in the local Press where he was scapegoating Travellers for everything.

On 24th October IBRG members attended the Terence MacSwiney Commemoration at Southwark cathedral.

The IBRG had a feature article in the Irish World on travel to Ireland after putting out a statement condemning the high fares of travel to Ireland by air and by boat.

On 29th October the Guardian had a major story and photo of a 49-year-old homeless Irishman who had been living in the doorway of Harvey Nichols shop for four years, after the store had taken the case into the criminal courts.  The store was berated for using the criminal courts rather than the civil courts for the case, which was now going to the Crown Court. Harvey Nichols had made 13.6M in profits in the last year.

On 30th October the Irish Post had a story Labour Ignores Irish Community where it was shown that Labour did not have one single Irish candidate standing the Greater London Area for election which made nonsense of the Labour Party claim for diversity the Labour Party, claimed they that it wanted its Assembly candidates to reflect the ethnic diversity of London.

The Irish made up some 10% of London population and yet were the only significant minority without a candidate in the election. The Labour Party had added names from minority communities to their top up list but discriminated against the Irish by excluding them. Kevin McNamara MP Chair of the IBPG condemned the Labour Party as did the IBRG.

The fact that over 60,000 Labour members in London did not choose a single Irish candidate showed the discrimination within Labour Party. The Party Director for London came out with some sectarian statement to say ‘In our opinion the Irish are not an obvious ethnic minority in the same way that the Black and Asian communities are ethnic minorities’. This despite every single report over the past 30 years showing the Irish to be in the same position as these communities in terms of employment, health, housing, stop and search and deaths in custody.

In October Diarmuid Breatnach wrote an Open Letter to the BBC over their exclusion of the Irish in terms of their debates on race and ethnic origins.

Diarmuid Breatnach

The Irish World covered the letter in full on 5th November. Diarmuid pointed out that the Irish  had been objects of governmental and societal racism in Britain for generations.   The Irish suffered the No Irish No Blacks No Dogs signs in Britain in the 1950s and 60s,  that the British state had oppressed the nationalist people in N. Ireland in a racist and sectarian manner and supported supremacist organisation there. The British government had brought in the PTA  one of the most racist pieces of legislation  against a minority community, who could be arrested without even suspicion based on their Irishness, and held for up to seven days, they could be examined and recorded in records because of their  Irishness. All research over the last 30 years has shown the Irish to suffered from racism, discrimination and disadvantage in Britain.

On 4th November London IBRG members met at the Irish Bookshop at Archway north London.  Issues discussed were Irish language in curriculum, Bloody Sunday march, London Mayor election, Diarmuid O’Neill campaign, transfer of prisoners, Irish equality group IBPG, census 2001, and Irish Travellers.

The meeting decided to support Ken Livingstone for Mayor of London and to call on the Irish community to support Livingstone in this election we should give no votes to Labour Dobson who opposed Sinn Fein having an office in Camden.  The meeting decided to march under the banner of Irish self-determination on Bloody Sunday as it was the British occupation that led to Bloody Sunday, the British response to peaceful protest. The meeting supported the demand for a public inquiry into the killing of Diarmuid O’Neill outside the Geneva Convention rules which state you cannot kill prisoners in cold blood.

On 5th November the Guardian had a feature story about an Irish Jordanian child of 13 who had died of a drugs overdose after falling into a world of drugs and prostitution, and who had been shuttled among assorted carers some 68 times. More than 230 professionals had worked with the child but she was failed by 10 different state agencies at the time of her young death. Harrow Social services had responsibility for the child. The inquiry into her sad death listed 18 recommendations for improvement in the care of young people. The case illustrated the underbelly of British society where often young Irish people drifted to because of discrimination and disadvantage.

In Scotland 19 of the 32 local authorities now recognised the Irish. In London the IBRG decided to back Ken Livingstone for Mayor of London rather than the Labour candidate because he had stood with the Irish community and had stood for Irish unity. Frank Dobson had opposed Sinn Fein having an office in London and few Irish would vote for such an oppressive politician obstructing the peace Process in Ireland.

In Lambeth an Irishman had won an Industrial Tribunal case against Lambeth Council on grounds of discrimination of race, and sex along with constructive dismissal.

233 Councils now recognise Irish as ethnic minority

At the end of November 28 of the 32 London boroughs now recognised the Irish, 25 of the 36 Metropolitan Boroughs councils, 36 of the 46 Unitary councils, 20 of the 34 county councils, and 19 of the Scottish 32 councils, 11 of the Welsh councils and 95 of the District councils making it a grand total of 233 now recognising the Irish.

At the end of November, the CRE launched a scathing attack on the proposed Government Race Bill. Earlier the Government had promised that the Race Amendment Bill would make it unlawful for any public body to racially discriminate, as recommended by the Macpherson report into the Stephen Lawrence murder. Now the government had backtracked and the Bill would only outlaw discrimination and the victim had to prove that the public body had intended to discriminate in individual cases.

Herman Ouseley Chair of the CRE described the Bill as woefully inadequate and an insult. The Government had failed to implement the key decision of the Macpherson Report the IBRG stated that the new laws only applies to direct acts of racism, but left out institutional racism.

Pat Reynolds IBRG stated Individual cases and case law have so far failed to root out institutional racism e.g., where local authorities fail to reflect their communities in Town Hall staffing. The IBRG stated that the new Bill  fails miserably to address this issue. The Irish World on 26th November carried the CRE and IBRG views on the new laws.

In Manchester IBRG PRO Bernadette Hyland challenged the slogan behind a conference on N. Ireland entitled Ireland beyond the sectarian Divide to be held at Manchester Town Hall on 13th November as lacking as analysis of the how N. Ireland was a British colony.

In Hemel Hempstead the local IBRG branch had taken up the side of Irish Travellers being targeted in the local press and by local Tories, with a number of letters in the local press and the Irish World in November. The IBRG pointed out that the proposal by Tory Councillor Coxage that local residents not employ Travellers was discriminatory and against the British Race Relations Act to deliberately deprive any section of the community of their livelihoods.

On 5th November the Irish World had a letter from Hemel Hempstead IBRG slamming the views of the Tory councillor and defending the rights of Travellers to earn their living the same way as the next person.

Irish Post and “abolition of PTA”

IBRG campaign badge.

During November the Irish Post carried a banner headline entitled Dreaded PTA to be abolished and a major feature PTA now history. The IBRG wondered what planet the Irish Post were living on as the PTA was alive and well and had been expanded far beyond the 1974 legislation.

On 20th November under Dreaded PTA to be Abolished the Post stated that Labour had continually voted against the PTA while in opposition which was false. The PTA was not being abolished at all but was being strengthened to include other activities incudes those protesting against climate change and environmentalists.

On 27th November the Irish Post had PTA Now History which looked back on the history of the PTA using Paddy Hillyard’s  Book Suspect Community but never been mentioned any fightback by the Irish community. Of course, the Act was not abolished it was incorporated into the new Terrorism Bill. The only change was the ending of exclusion orders against Irish people sending them into  internal exile. Just amazing how Roan McGreevy could write a feature article on the PTA without mentioning the prolonged fight against it within the Irish community. The Irish Post was in effect writing out the history of the Irish community.

On 11th November IBRG Chair Pat Reynolds challenged John Grieve of Scotland Yard over the exclusion of the Irish from the Policing Diversity strategy at the Haringey Civic Centre particularly when you looked at the operation of the racist PTA laws which targeted the Irish simply because they were Irish. He also raised with him in a contribution as a member of Haringey EMJCC about Irish police stop and Search based on Jock Young report in North London, and the high numbers of Irish deaths in custody. The Irish could not be excluded or ignored in policing diversity   in Britain both in terms of employment and in terms of service to that community. The meeting was attended by over a hundred people.

John Grieve promised that he would sort out the fact that the Met did not include the Irish in ethnic monitoring as advised by the CRE, and that they would soon include the Irish.

Strange because the Met have been monitoring the Irish since the time of the Fenians as indeed the Met definition by the police at the time of the Fenians was adopted by the Irish community in the 1980’s: the definition of an Irish person was defined by the Met as Anyone who was born in Ireland, or whose recent forbearers came from Ireland. They would include anyone with an Irish grandparent.  The definition was often used to exclude Irish born and those of Irish descent from many Britain defence jobs. Grieve said the Irish were close to his heart, that he was aware of the Jock Young study on stop and search and that he had spoken at a meeting in Cork.

Challenged further by the IBRG that he had avoided the question on monitoring the Irish he got angry, and stated that he never avoids anything, and would take the matter away and deal with it. It was important that the Irish be included in diversity programmes  both in terms of policing and within the judicial system. After all the police spied enough on the Irish community and had used the PTA against the Irish community so had targeted the Irish community in an unfair way.

On 29th November Martin McGuinness was appointed the Education Minister for the Six Counties and Barbara de Bruin was appointed Minister of Health for the Occupied Territories.

On 2nd December Michael O’Halloran, ex Labour MP for North Islington before Corbyn was elected in 1983, had died in Ireland. He was from Co. Clare and was hopeless on Ireland and the Irish. He stood an Irish independent against Corbyn but the Irish would not vote for him anymore.

On 2nd December the Irish Government gave up Article 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution. Ireland no longer, despite the 1918 vote for a Republic, had any claim on Nt Ireland.  It was the only time in history that a sovereign nation had given up part of its territory without a war or a defeat.

On 3rd December the Irish World had IBRG winning ethnic battle which detailed IBRG in winning further successes in ethnic monitoring.  Bristol, Leicester, Brighton, Derby, Nottingham, Reading and Luton had come on board and all had sizeable Irish communities.

On 8th December the IBRG attended the IBPG at the House of Commons to hear a report on the health of the Irish in Britain. The IBRG had made a major contribution to the debate in the past, with Camden IBRG holding the first Irish mental health conference, more recently IBRG were involved in a Health Conference on the Irish in South London, and Lambeth IBRG for years ran Irish Welfare Conferences which always included aspects of Irish health. The IBRG had also lobbied local Health authorities in Britain to recognise the Irish, and to improve their service delivery to the Irish community. Dr Maire O’Shea had pioneered psychiatric services in Birmingham and thousands of Irish nurses and doctors had made an enormous contribution to the NHS in Britain, while Irishmen largely built most of the NHS hospitals after the war

As the IBRG pointed out at the meeting, the enormous contribution has never been acknowledged in Britain, that the community with the largest contribution should in return receive the worst health service , similar to what has happened in housing in Britain where the Irish have made by far the largest contribution, yet are the most likely to be homeless or in poor housing. The IBRG claim good health for Irish workers and all working-class communities and good housing for the Irish and all working-class communities.

On 11th December Liverpool Born Irishman Kevin Armstrong was wrongly accused in several Sunday newspapers including the News of the World, Sunday People and the Sunday Mirror of leaping at a car and banging on the side windows of a car in which Cherie Blair wife of the Prime Minister was being driven in. Kevin was reported by the papers as having shouted pro IRA slogans at Mrs Blair who according to the papers was shocked and shaken by the incident.

The problem was that that none of this happened and it was all made up. Kevin had witnessed Mrs Blair being driven out of Downing St. The papers reported that he was overpowered by Diplomatic protection Groups officers on duty and taken to Charring Cross police station where he was released without charge. Again, none of this happened and the police confirmed this in writing, that he had not been arrested for any incident outside of Downing St.  the papers still claimed that the article was factually correct. Kevin Armstrong solicitor stated ‘We are satisfied that the police have admitted this incident did not take place. The attitude of the papers is that it does not matter if it is the truth or not’.

On 11th December the Irish Post had a photo of President Mary McAleese at the Camden Irish Centre meeting IBRG member and Irish language teacher Sr. Maire Ni Chuinn

IBRG and Coventry meeting on Irish deaths in police custody

On 15th December  Pat Reynolds and Maurice Moore  were both speaking at a public meeting in Coventry on Irish deaths in police custody and many local cases were discussed including Leo Reilly and Kevin McLoughlin and others. The Irish World on 19th November had Event to highlight deaths in custody.

On 17th December the Cardiff Three including Michael O’Brien were released and cleared. Kevin Hayes and others in IBRG had worked on the case and IBRG had produced a  leaflet for the campaign.

The end of December Pat Reynolds had drafted a pamphlet on Irish Deaths in  Police Custody.

On 25th December Kevin McNamara MP and Chair of the IBPG had an article in the Irish Post entitled Draconian Law where he argued that the new Terrorist legislation was an offence to democratic standards and that the new law was draconian. McNamara,who still used the offensive term British mainland, surely if he ever learned any geography at school would know that no part of Ireland is part of Britain, makes no apology for Labour introducing and maintaining the PTA laws in 1974.

McNamara stated that key elements of the Bill appear to be incompatible with the European Human Rights law, but so was the PTA, Kevin. At the end of the day Kevin McNamara was a faithful servant of the Labour Party to the detriment of the Irish community, he was Labour Party first and Irish a poor second.

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

For Aa excellent history of 200 years of Irish political activity in Manchester – 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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History of Irish in Britain Representation Group part eighteen 1998

 

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.

Coventry IBRG and Leo O’Reilly picket

IBRG Reject British Flawed Proposals. 

On 12th January the British and Irish Governments produced the Heads of Agreement document. The IBRG rejected this as being deeply flawed, since it was based on an internal settlement subject to the British/Unionist veto. The IBRG rejected their definition of consent which was based on Unionist/British consent rather than self-determination for the Irish people as a whole. The Orange statelet would continue with some window dressing, for the SDLP and Sinn Fein to police the nationalist community on behalf of the British Unionist statement.

On 16th January the IBRG issued a statement entitled IBRG Reject British Flawed Proposals.  The IBRG stated that the proposals failed to address the central issues of the conflict, the British colonial presence in Ireland, and the economic apartheid associated with it.

The IBRG drew attention that these proposals were being brought forward on the backs of the murder of three Catholics, and noted that 15 of the 20 political killings in N. Ireland last year, were Catholics killed because of their religion. The IBRG noted the silence of both the British and Irish government to these killings similar to the silence of both Government in 1921-22, when over 500 people were murdered in setting up the N. Ireland statelet. Thus, British murder gangs have always been part of the system in N. Ireland, and they operate for the purpose of forcing Catholics to accept the status quo and to block democratic development.

The British Government claim to Ireland is a colonial one, and Britain must start a decolonisation programme at once. The new proposals contain no plans to address employment discrimination or sectarian policing in N. Ireland.

The Irish in Britain could be used as a model of how a British community in Ireland could keep their citizenship, culture and take a full part in the life of that country. The Irish in Britain are a bigger community within the UK than the Unionist community and although living abroad are a bigger group within the Irish nation. The British government had had 75 years to bring democracy to N. Ireland and had failed. It is now up to the Irish people to create their own democracy. The English government have nothing to offer the Irish only disengagement and decolonisation, and should pay reparation for all their crime committed in Ireland. The Unionist/British veto needs to be removed from Irish politics; it was artificially placed there in 1921 against the wishes of the Irish people.

New public inquiry into Bloody Sunday

On 24th January IBRG members marched with their banners on the Bloody Sunday March in London from Highbury Fields to Caxton House at Archway. IBRG members from Coventry, Birmingham, Lewisham, Brent and North London were present.

At the end of the month, the IBRG gave a cautious welcome to the new public inquiry into Bloody Sunday. The IBRG maintained that Bloody Sunday was a pre-planned massacre on orders from Downing St to break nationalist resistance. It killed off large scale civil rights protests and street demonstration and led to a full-scale military conflict.

On 30th January the IBRG issued a statement entitled Cautious Welcome for New inquiry into Bloody Sunday.  It stated the IBRG do not share Tony Blair’s admiration for the conduct of Crown forces over the past 26 years. The IBRG have called for a full Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which would show up many war crimes committed by Crown forces in Ireland ranging, from Plastic bullets deaths to the shooting of prisoners in Gibraltar contrary to the Geneva Convention. Crown forces have acted as an army of colonial occupation backing the supremacy community, and have been responsible for the deaths of over 150 unarmed civilians during that time, and only a handful of soldiers shave ever been taken to Court.

The IBRG are aware that the judiciary in Britain lack independence from the government and senior judges depend on government for their appointments which makes them, more likely to carry out government wishes, if they want to remain in favour and want promotion. Those involved in framing up Irish prisoners have all reached the highest level of the law and policing in Britain. Senior Judges are appointed by the Prime Minister on the advice of the Lord Chancellor, who is also a member of the British cabinet, and then the Senior Judicial members of the House of Lords are the Highest Court in Britain. Thus, the cover up of what happened on Bloody Sunday was arranged from the Prime Minister’s Office in Britain, Edward Heath who still does not want to know the truth.

The IBRG salutes the relatives of the victims of Bloody Sunday in their long and courageous battle for truth and justice. The Irish community in Britain has always stood shoulder to shoulder with this demand from the first march in 1972 after the Massacre, until the Irish community were driven off the streets by the racist PTA laws. But our community did rise up again after the Hunger Strikes and every year have supported the Bloody Sunday march in Britain. The only movement to those who died on Bloody Sunday is a free and united Ireland, free form forces of occupation and foreign interference.

In February the Irish World had Bloody Sunday investigation is met with some guarded praise. The Irish Post on 7th February had A very cautious welcome. The report quoted the IBRG and TOM response to the inquiry. All the shameful Labour MP Harry Barnes of New Consensus wanted was an apology but no justice.

The IBRG noted that 15 of the 20 ‘political killings’ in N. Ireland last year were Catholics killed because of their religion. Since Billy Wright’s death a further eight Catholics were killed because of their religion. Thus, the Peace Process is driven by British death squads which want nationalists to accept anything for peace.

Mary Druhan Case referral to Court of Appeal

The IBRG welcomed the referral back to the Court of Appeal of Mary Druhan’s case, which the IBRG had highlighted in the Sunday World and the Irish World. In February the Irish World had Clare woman wins an appeal. Mary has been in jail since 1989.  Trial and Error on Channel Four had raised her case. The IBRG had got her case onto the front page of the Sunday World. The IBRG started campaigning for Mary Druhan in 1992. In the original IBRG leaflet on Mary we had Justice Delayed is Justice Denied.

 

Police charged with “unlawful killing” of Richard O’Brien

Richard O’Brien

On 11th February the CPS announced that three Metropolitan police officers are to be charged with manslaughter over the ‘unlawful killing’ of Richard O’Brien in South London. This was a real breakthrough and the first time ever in Britain, that police officers were being held accountable for the unlawful killing of an Irishman. For over 200 years they had got away with it because Irish lives in Britain were deemed to be cheap, and did not matter.

 

On 14th February the IBRG Ard Choiste met at St Osburg’s Club in Coventry. Six delegates attended including Bernadette Hyland, Tim Logan, Maurice Moore, Kevin Hayes, Liz Benson and Diarmuid Breatnach. Apologies Pat Reynolds and Tomas MacStiofan

Kevin Hayes had produced a new leaflet on the PTA along with the Repeal the PTA ,a London based campaign, and the West Midlands PTA group.

The IBRG had got publicity in the Wexford Echo on the case of Michael O’Brien as his family were from there.  Maurice Moore raised the case of the Dalton Brothers from Granard, Co Longford who had received rough treatment from the policing and judicial systems, and Maurice had got a front-page story plus an editorial in the Longford Leader on the case. The meeting welcomed the referral of Mary Druhan’s case to the Court of Appeal, and the news that three Met officers were to be charged with the unlawful killing of Richard O’Brien. Roisin McAliskey’s case was with Jack Straw, the new Home Secretary, for a decision.

Peter Moloney collection.

There was a discussion on whether IBRG should engage in civil disobedience over the 2001 census if the Irish were excluded. Branches were encouraged to join the new Equalities Group working with the CRE over the report Discrimination and the Irish community. Both Manchester and Lewisham IBRG were organising 1798 commemoration events this year. On the Bloody Sunday March this year the Irish self-determination demand had been dropped against IBRG wishes and without consultation with IBRG. The Leo O Reilly case had gone to the Police Complaints Authority.

 

On 20th February Pat Reynolds was speaking at a meeting at Kings Cross groups opposed to the basics of the Peace talks.

In London Sutton Council in South London, controlled by the Liberals, had agreed to recognise the Irish.

On 4th March John McDonnell MP brought a report to the House of Commons on the position of the Irish community in Britain the first recorded debate on the Irish in Britain in modern times. The IBRG were mentioned in the report.

On 8th March Gerry Adams writing in Ireland on Sunday stated that the talks would not lead directly to a United Ireland but his bottom line included the disbandment of the RUC and the keeping of Article Two and Three.

On 9th March Jack Straw announced that Roisin McAliskey will not be extradited to Germany because of poor health. Later she was released in April and allowed to return to her family. There was no evidence against her which was their main problem.

PTA was renewed on 21st March.

The IBRG condemned the Labour Party for this. The Irish World on 6th March had PTA extension criticised. It quoted Pat Reynolds ‘It does not go far enough. The Labour Party promised to abolish the PTA when they were in opposition. Now they delaying it for another year, despite the fact that it is discriminatory legislation used against the Irish community in Britain’.

Kevin Hayes of West Midlands PTA echoed those views and said ’in essence all the government is offering is minor reforms of the PTA the Labour Party voted against the PTA renewal from 1983 to 1995 during the time of paramilitary activity which constituted an emergency. Now that emergency seems to be over, the Labour party is supporting it. It is a betrayal of the Irish community by the government.

On 24th March Coventry City Council had a conference entitled The Irish in Britain at which Mary Hickman was the keynote speaker which local IBRG members attended.

Diarmuid Breatnach had a letter in the Irish World on 28th March criticising British soaps for stereotyping the Irish in a negative way including a critique of Fr Ted. He ended by saying ‘I am quite prepared to have aspects of society satirised, but not in front of a wide British audience. Their prejudices need challenging not feeding’.

On 1st April a United Nations investigator report concluded that the RUC had engaged in ’activities which constitute intimidation, harassment and hinderance of defence solicitors’. The report called for an independent inquiry into the murder of Patrick Finucane.

 

On 3rd April Lewisham IBRG held their 1916 Commemoration event with a Sinn Fein speaker Michelle Gildernew. The Irish Post had a photo of Michelle Gildernew speaking headed by Music Song and Passion.

On 7th April Tony Blair states ‘he feels the hand of history up on our shoulders.

On 10th April the Good Friday Agreement was signed off by all parties except the DUP Jeffrey Donaldson. The IBRG rejected the Agreement as a charter for the preservation of British colonial statelet into the 21st century. The IBRG condemned the Irish government for giving away article Two and Three and accepting partition in Ireland, and accepting the British and unionist veto in Ireland. The IBRG rejected the central tenet of the agreement in its so-called principle of consent, which was based exclusively on the British/Unionist veto in Ireland.

On 13th April the IBRG issued a statement entitled Agreement an Attempt to Booster British Rule in Ireland. The IBRG rejects the new British Irish agreement as fundamentally flawed which offers no way forward in solving Britain’s Irish problem. The IBRG regard the central purpose of the new agreement as an attempt to booster British rule and prolong it into the 21st century. The agreement is a charter for the preservation of the British colonial statelet in Ireland, and a further attempt to block Irish unity.

The IBRG condemns the shameful actions of the Irish government in proposing to amend and destroy the purpose an intention of article 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution, and for the first time proposing to accept Partition and the right of the British government to rule part of the national territory.

IBRG calls on the Irish people to reject any changes to article 2 and 3 and condemn the Irish government attempt to blackmail its own people, by linking the destruction of these articles with the sham peace process. What nation would give up its birth right for such a mess of pottage. The British their now wants the Irish people to pay for the upkeep of the treasure it had stolen from the Irish people.

The Andersonstown News had Irish in Britain denounce settlement. The Sunday Press had How the Irish in Britain view with Peace deal and quote the IBRG as stating British rule in Ireland has been strengthened, and for the first time in history legitimised. The IBRG regard this attempt by the Irish government to recognise British rule in Ireland as a betrayal of the Irish nation, and of the men and women from 1916 onwards who fought for and founded the Irish nation.

The Irish World on 24th April carried reaction from IBRG, Republican Sinn Fein, IRSP and the Federation. It quoted IBRG” The Unionist community are a minority in Ireland and as such have rights, but they do not have the right to block Irish unity. Nowhere in the world would a national minority be allowed to block the will of the people. The socially constructed Unionist community is the Six Counties is less than 2% of the UK population, and is smaller than the Irish community in Britain. The Unionist community could learn much from the Irish community in Britain, in terms of preserving their culture and nationality. The construction of a specially chosen sectarian majority is a created tool of British imperial interests, and is not a principle in British law or in practise. Northern Ireland was set up by the brutal putting down of the Catholic community with over 500 murders over 10,000 driven out of their jobs because of their religion, and thousands of Catholic businesses burned out in the worst pogroms in Europe in 1921-22. Thus, the unionist statelet was set up by pogroms against Catholics and has no legitimacy. It is a colonial backwater with nothing to offer its people.

In April the notorious Norman Tebbit came out with another anti Irish rant in the Mail on Sunday where he described Bertie Ahern the Irish Taoiseach as ‘a puffed-up nonentity and the leader of a country which lives on European handout from countries like ours and Germany’. He suggested that feeding the egos of Irish politicians like the Taoiseach was similar to coseying up to republican terrorists. Clearly time Tebbit got a new bicycle.

On 23rd April five republican prisoners were transferred back home including the Balcombe St group. The Irish government released nine republican prisoners on 14th April.

On 30th April the IRA stated that the Agreement falls short of a basis for a lasting agreement and that the IRA will not decommission any weapons.

The DUP the UK Unionists, republican Sinn Fein, the IRSP, IBRG, the 32 Counties group, Martin Galvin of Noraid, and the newspaper Ireland on Sunday all reject the Good Friday agreement.

On 10th May 96% of the 350 delegates at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis agreed to change their constitution to accept partition and allow its elected members to join the British statelet at Stormont

On 2nd May 71% of the voting electorate in N. Ireland voted for the Belfast Agreement. A Sunday Times survey found 96% of voting Catholics supported the Agreement, while only 55% of Protestants did so. N. Antrim constituency voted 55% against the Agreement while only 52% supported it in the Lagan Valley.

In the Irish Republic 94% vote to remove Article Two and Three in a poor turnout of 56%, while in N. Ireland 81% of the people voted the highest turnout since Partition. Only 53% of the total electorate in the Republic voted for the removal of Article 2 and 3 despite it being backed by all parties and the media.

On 16th May the IBRG Ard Fheis was held at Caxton House in N. London. Branches represented were N. London, Manchester, Lewisham, Coventry and Birmingham.

Among those present were Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds, Maurice Moore, Diarmuid Breatnach, Liz Beson, Clare Hedderman, Daithi from Lewisham, Tomas MacStiofan, and Kevin Hayes. Branches had delegates from North London, Manchester, Coventry, Lewisham, Birmingham and Brent.

The following officers were elected.

Chair Pat Reynolds North London

Runai Liz Benson Lewisham

Cisteoir/Welfare officer Maurice Moore Coventry.

PRO/membership Bernadette Hyland Manchester

Education officer Tomas MacStiofan Brent

Prisoners Officer Kevin Hayes Birmingham and Tim Logan Coventry

Internal coordinator Diarmuid Bretanach Lewisham.

The following motions were passed;

A motion supporting the setting up supporting of an IBRG website,

A motion calling on IBRG to publish a range of pamphlets on issues such as ethnic monitoring, PTA, Prisoners, history of Irish in Britain, health of the Irish, Housing of the Irish, employment the Irish identity and the Irish and the history of the IBRG.

On 17th May the IBRG issued a statement IBRG Hold Successful 17th Ard Fheis. It stated due to the hard work of IBRG over 150 local authorities in Britain now recognised the Irish community in terms of monitoring their employment and their service delivery, which is a real advance for the community.

The Ard Fheis welcomed the release of Roisn McAliskey, the fresh inquiry into Bloody Sunday, the publication of the report of Discrimination and the Irish Community, and transfer of many Irish prisoners, all issues the IBRG had campaigned hard on over many years.

The Ard Fheis agreed that IBRG continue its campaigning work for the Irish to be included in the 2001 Census, the inclusion of the Irish language in the national curriculum in Britain, the repeal of the racist PTA laws, and to continue to campaign for Irish unity and Irish self-determination without any Unionist /British veto.

Pat Reynolds, Chair, in his address noted that this was the first IBRG Ard Fheis to be held outside of Tory rule in Britain, the IBRG had survived Thatcherism and would survive Blairism.  The community did not expect Labour to automatically deliver the Irish agenda, we had to fight for our rights and to assert our rights in Britain in a planned strategic way, and not to be afraid of the issues facing our community.

There was, he stated, no evidence whatsoever to back up the recent claim that the Irish community were outperforming their British counterparts in employment, or that the Celtic Tiger had reached Archway, Kilburn, Birmingham Liverpool, Coventry, Bolton or anywhere else.

IBRG had rejected the Irish welfare model put forward by the Catholic Church and the Irish government as a way forward for the community, likewise the IBRG had rejected we are on the pigs back now model of the Irish establishment. It was only by a strategy geared to action that the Irish community could succeed.

The IBRG role has been one of strategic intervention such as the campaign for ethnic recognition to get the British state at local level, to recognise the Irish right to employment, and to a service delivery to meet the need of the community, likewise the campaign to have the Irish language history and culture  included in the National curriculum in Britain, to have our framed prisoners released, to stop Irish deaths in custody , and work with other Irish progressive organisation to improve the conditions for Irish people in Britain.

Thus, the IBRG had worked with the CRE in pursuing them to carry our research into the Irish community, and to put into practice strategies for challenging anti Irish discrimination and anti-Irish racism, such as in the media and in the workplace. Our community had grown in confidence and will continue to grow.

The Irish Post caried a letter on 2nd May attacking the Federation and IBRG and a suitable reply was published on 16th May entitled ‘Don’t Knock Pat and Gearoid’ with photos of Pat Reynolds and Gearoid O Meachair respective Chairs of IBRG and the Federation. It looked like a bogus letter with just W1 as the address by a writer no one had heard of. It was mainly an attack on IBRG. The reply to her from a person in the community was well argued, and suggested that the writer read the report on Discrimination and the Irish community before deciding whether the Irish should be monitored.

The Federation of Irish Societies were holding their 17th Annual Congress in Limerick from 18-20 the May with sponsorship from B&I Aer Lingus, AIB, Bank of Ireland, Bus Eireann, Guinness and Bord Failte. There was a Golf Tournament sponsored by Aer Lingus and a very special offer for the wives a coach trip to Limerick and Killaloe to take in some scenery, and buy some souvenirs and some shopping, no doubt while the men caried out the important work of the Congress. The sexist proposal caused uproar in the Irish community who found this sexism to be outdated, and it reflected poorly on an organisation that claimed to represent the Irish community in Britain. It was felt that they need to adopt an equal opportunities policy and put it into practise. The women who went on the shopping trip would miss the entire all-day Congress.

On 21st May Pat Reynolds had an interview with Greater London Radio Irish hour over the IBRG argument that Irish emigrants should be voting on the Belfast Agreement and on Article 2 & 3.

On 7th June Pat Reynolds was speaking at the Camden Irish Forum AGM at the Camden Irish centre.

On 10th June the Commons cross party approach to N. Ireland was broken when the Unionists and Tories voted against bill for the release of prisoners, so much for Labour’s bipartisan approach over the years, when the Tories on the very first opportunity put the boot in.

On 13th June the Justice for Leo O Reilly Support group held a national conference calling for Justice for all those who have died in police or prison custody in Coventry with speakers Ges O’Reilly, Maurice Moore, Fiona Murphy and others.

On 20th June Manchester IBRG held a 1798 Commemoration event at the Friends Meeting place in Manchester. Speakers were Ruan O Donnell on the 1798 Rising, Ruth Taillon on Women and 1798, Michael Herbert on the Irish in Manchester, Ruth Frow on the Unite Englishmen and Women, Maurice Moore and Chrissie Meleady on Irish Community issues, Pat Reynolds on Irish struggles in Britain, and Tony Doherty on the Bloody Sunday Justice campaign about the struggle for truth and justice over the Bloody Sunday massacre. The Irish Post on 20th June had details of the Conference and speakers.

1798 Conference leaflet

On 25th June the N. Ireland Assembly election took place with Sinn Fein winning 17.7% of the vote and 18 seats. Sinn Fein won 143,000 votes within 2,000 votes of the DUP. The SDLP emerged as the largest party with 22% of the vote and 24 seats. The SDLP won 55% of the nationalist vote with Sinn Fein winning 44%. David Irvine and Billy Hutchinson won two seats for the PUP.

On 2nd July the Loyalist Volunteer Force attacked ten Catholic churches in Nt Ireland.

On 4th July the Irish Post had Irish in Britain peace plea on the results of the Assembly elections. It quoted IBRG as saying ‘If Orangemen call themselves British, they should obey the British rule of law and not march down the Garvaghy road’.  Mary Mason of TOM stated the Orange Order as an organisation of Protestant supremacy must learn that it will never be acceptable again to march in Catholic areas.

On 5th there was a 1798 Commemoration and Parade in Liverpool which IBRG members attended.

 

On 11th July the IBRG Ard Choiste meets at St Osburg’s Club in Coventry. Delegates attending included Diarmuid Bretanach, Maurice Moore, Tim Logan, Kevin Hayes and Liz Benson.

Apologies Pat Reynolds and Bernadette Hyland. Kevin Hayes agreed to write a PTA booklet, Lis Benson to write on ethnic monitoring, and Diarmuid to write a booklet on anti-Irish racism. Issues discussed included the Good Friday Agreement, Prisoners, PTA, 2001 census, ethnic monitoring, 1798 events, and Ard Fheis motions.

On 12th July during the Drumcree standoff three Quinn children aged 9,10, and 11 are burned to death in a Loyalist arson attack. These will not be remembered like Warrington because they were Irish Catholics, and Catholic lives did not matter. On 13th July Maurice Moore had a letter in the Coventry Evening Telegraph calling on the British government to uphold the ban on the Orange Order marching through Nationalist areas in provocation. The marches Maurice pointed out were not about celebrating British culture, but about domination and triumphalism over the Catholic communities. He pointed out that 11 Catholic churches had been fire bombed recently while the Orange Order remain silence on what was happening.

On 17th July Coventry and Birmingham IBRG and others picketed West Midlands Police HQ over the death in custody of Leo O’Reilly and the failure of the police to produce the documentation on the case.

First Local Health Authority Conference on needs of Irish

On 22nd July IBRG members in South London attended the first ever local Health authority Irish Health Conference when Lambeth, Southwark, and Lewisham Health Authority put on an Irish Health conference. Pat Reynolds was one of the keynote speakers. Jodie Clark helped to organise the Conference and IBRG played a key role in the various workshops with Diarmuid Breatnach running one of them. The Irish World on 8th May in a preview had London hosts first Irish health study.

Sheffield Health Authority  had contacted IBRG to say they were working with the Irish community in Sheffield in considering Irish health needs and how they might be met, and were asking IBRG about any good practice in terms of Irish health initiatives.  In responding the IBRG showed that they could reach areas of Britain where they had no branches. Previously Pat Reynolds had put on an Irish training day for community workers in Sheffield and had worked with Chrissy Meleady on issues there affecting the Irish community.

Lewisham IBRG brought out a four-page newsletter entitled Gael Force with article on peace Process, 1798, ethnic monitoring and 1916.

Pat Reynolds had a four-day Industrial Tribunal hearing against Southwark Council on 10-13th August which he lost. The case from moved to Ashford in Kent where the chair acting a racist way, did not recognise the Irish as being a racial group, and mocked the Irish being one.

Maire Holt had lost a case here some years earlier against Kent County Council. The case arose where new Labour just like Tory Brent sacked all their workers in the Equalities Unit. The case showed Russell Profit, despite being the Director of Personnel in Southwark, not knowing how to conduct an interview under equal opportunities.

Pat Reynolds had to represent himself the four-day hearing because his union Unison were racist in approach, and even told the Tribunal that Pat had returned to Ireland. The case exposed how Unions often work with Labour to close down cases.

The Irish Post toned down its reporting on the case after Southwark Council placed a half page of advertising that week with the Irish Post the last time ever, they advertised with the Irish Post. It showed how Town Hall openly tried to buy good publicity in minority papers. The Local government Chronicle carried the case with Irish social worker with Southwark claims discrimination.

Pat had been offered a later a job with Hackney Council but Southwark had given a bad reference so the job was withdrawn. Despite Southwark being short of social workers they never offered Pat even an interview during redeployment. The case went to Appeal in London later in the year. Southwark blocked his race discrimination by deliberately going outside procedures and placing another Irish person in the job in superfast time. The jobs had been boycotted by the Union because of the behaviour of Management.

On 15th August a real IRA bomb in Omagh killed 29 people after the RUC failed to clear the town centre despite being given three warning of a bomb in the High St.  Not one single RUC officer was injured in the bombing. The bomb was used to kill off not just any just military action but also any political opposition to the Good Friday agreement.

On 2nd September two Scots Guards who were convicted of the murder of Peter McBride in Belfast were released.

On 19th September the Ard Choiste met at the Friends Meeting Place in Manchester. Delegates included Diarmuid Breatnach, Maurice Moore, Steve Joyce, Pat Reynolds, Bernadette Hyland, and Liz Benson. Apologies Kevin Hayes.

The meeting heard that both the Irish and British governments had rushed in extra new PTA laws after the Omagh bombings. Issues discussed included Michael O’Brien, Frank Johnson, Irish equality group, 2001 census, Travellers, 1798 events, Health Conference in south London, IBRG web site, Robert Hamill, Great Hunger as Genocide, Town hall employment and publications. The meeting discussed the report from the New York Committee to recognise the Irish Great Hunger as Genocide which was Sent out to branches for discussion.

On 16th October John Hume and David Trimble both receive the Nobel Prize for peace.

On 31st October Lewisham IBRG organised an Irish children’s Halloween party in Lewisham Irish centre as part of the Lewisham Irish Festival from 24th October -14th November. On 26th October IBRG put on a children’s Irish art and history workshop.

 

At the end of October, the IBRG welcomed the inclusion of the Irish language into the list of languages to be used in the National curriculum. It made the front page of the Catholic Times. The IBRG along with Conradh had led a big campaign on the issue with both making a submission to the British Government on the matter. The IBRG had sought the support of both the Irish government and the European Parliament for the campaign, and was supported by the European Bureau for Lesser languages. The EU Treaty of Rome also provided for member states to support the culture and language of minority communities living in large numbers in host countries. It was a significant victory for the IBRG and the Irish community.

 

On 14th November the Ard Choise met at the Lewisham Irish Centre in south London. The delegates included Diarmuid Bretnach, Maurice Moore, Pat Reynolds and Tomas MacStiofan. Apologies Bernadette Hyland and Liz Benson.

The meeting head that the Bloody Sunday March would now be under the banner for March for Justice, Time for Truth. The IBRG had held Marches for Justice back in the 1980’s under Justice for the Irish Community. IBRG had been excluded from the decision-making process of the march.

Michael O’Brien’s case had been referred to the Court of Appeal. Danny McNamee case will be heard in late November.  Agreed to support Eddie Guilfoyle’s case in Liverpool with a donation of £20. The meeting condemned the British government for allowing two Scots guards convicted of the murder of young McBride back into the British army. The meeting heard that a new Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group had been set up in the House of Commons. The meeting welcomed the inclusion of the Irish language onto the list of community languages on the National curriculum in Britain.

The meeting passed the following motion ‘This Ard Choiste notes with concern the basis on which talks have been held, and states its view based on history, that whatever the short-term gains of talks and /or cessation of war, real long-term peace is only achievable through self-determination and equality for the Irish peoples a whole’.

The meeting notes that the European Convention on Human Rights had now been incorporated into British law and would come into effect in 1999. There was also a new law on Protection from Harassment on which the IBRG had input some years ago in its report to Hansard on Racial Harassment.

On the evening of 14th November after the Ard Choiste Lewisham IBRG put on their wonderful pageant on 1798 a mixture of song, poetry music, narrative and actors.

First Meeting of Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group

On 2nd December the IBRG attended the first meeting of the Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group at the House of Commons. Kevin McNamara was elected chair, with John McDonnell as secretary, Simon Hughes for the  Liberals and Margaret Moran were elected as vice Chairs.

Pat Reynolds proposed four areas of work that the new group should consider working on, Inclusion of the Irish in the 2001 Census, economic exclusion, the judicial system, and wrongly convicted prisoners. He informed the meeting that over 150 Local authorities in Britain now recognised the Irish community, and it was urgent that the wishes of those democratically elected representatives of the people, be listened to and that the Irish now be included in the 2001 census. Simon Hughes and Eddie O’Hara spoke to back up this proposal of inclusion in the Census.

It was then agreed that the Group would formally ask for a meeting with new Home Office Minister on the issue, Michael O’Brien was himself of Irish descent. The Group appeared to want to work closely with the Irish Embassy and had invited Seamus McGarry to speak to the meeting. McGarry stated that the main issues were the 2001 Census and the lack of access to Local Authority resources, yet there was no evidence whatsoever of the Federation doing anything towards getting recognition from local authorities for the Irish community, all 150 local authorities who did recognise the Irish were won by the IBRG. In terms of the Census the Federation were the last group to come on board.

The IBRG had been excluded from the reception and launch of the group on 3rd November where the special guest was the Irish Ambassador Barrington. At the end of the meeting on 2nd December the Group again they showed extreme bias by asking the Federation to give a presentation at the next meeting on their response to the CRE report, instead of either inviting Mary Hickman to present her report, or by asking both the Federation and IBRG to make submissions to the Group.

It was clear that this new group was just another colonial type Irish establishment group meant to contain the natives and those with attitude who wanted change.

On 17th December Danny McNamee wins his appeal against conviction. That evening IBRG members attended his victory celebration at the Camden Irish centre.

55 people died in the Troubles during 1998, 29 of them in the Omagh bombing.

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 Manchester – 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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History of Irish in Britain Representation Group part seventeen 1997

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.

1997 IBRG Election leaflet.

1997 IBRG Election leaflet.

 

On 16th January the trial of the six men who escaped from Whitemoor Prison was stopped for state security reasons rather than the reasons given in the British media.

On 17th January Channel Four showed, that contrary to Lord Widgery,   three of the civil rights demonstrators murdered on Bloody Sunday were killed by the Royal Anglian Regiment. Along with the recent publication of Don Mullen’s book Eyewitness Bloody Sunday there is a renewed strong campaign for a fresh inquiry to go behind the  Widgery cover up inquiry.

The Green Ink Bookshop closed in January.

 

The Bloody Sunday March

Was held on 25th January from Highbury Fields to Caxton House in North London for an indoor rally. This was the first year that the march and rally was held a week earlier to try and boost the march in Derry in terms of the media and build up. It got good publicity in several papers and magazines, and Pat Reynolds put in a letter of correction to the Irish Times on their report on the march. Declan Bree’s remarks condemning only republican violence were heckled on the day, and the IBRG wrote to him over the issue, because that day was about British violence in Ireland.

IBRG members attended from Birmingham, Coventry, Harrow, Brent, North London and Lewisham with a couple of IBRG banners. Martin McGuinness was the main speaker along with Gerry Duddy for the families. The focus of the rally was the new evidence in the case.

The rally later in Derry had over 40,000 people. In February Diane Abbott MP wrote to the IBRG to say that she supported a full independent inquiry into Bloody Sunday. David Alton MP from Liverpool stated in his reply ‘I have never been happy with the Widgery Report and I fully support the calls which have been made for an independent public inquiry to be heard’.  IBRG had started to lobby/write to MPs on this issue to demand a public inquiry. There were over 2,000 people on the march and two IBRG banners one from Haringey IBRG, and the old Islington IBRG banner rescued from the Roger Casement Centre.

Pat Reynolds was Publicity Officer for the Bloody Sunday March and Rally in London and had interviews with three different radio stations including Greater London Radio and Heart Radio plus a five-minute TV spot with NBC in America, and chaired the Press Conference that morning with Martin McGuiness and Declan Bree.

Pat Reynolds got banned from the Dimbleby  BBC show on 26th January at which Martin McGuiness was the guest.

Bolton IBRG meet with prospective Labour Candidates

In Bolton three prospective Labour candidates including Ruth Kelly met with the IBRG, all three backed all-party talks in Ireland.

The Irish World on 17th January had Labour meets Bolton IBRG. It quoted Joe Mullarkey ‘The trio backed calls for all-party talks to be held in N. Ireland to include Sinn Fein with only condition an IRA ceasefire. They saw a United Ireland as a long-term objective as part of a European community without internal borders. My only concern is with the leadership of the Labour Party once in government. We expect any incoming Labour government to engage in all party talks with no preconditions. I call on individuals and groups in the Irish community to challenge all parliamentary candidates on Irish issues during the election in any open meeting on the doorstep and in the media.’

In Manchester IBRG condemned the remarks of a Tory candidate who called for the Manchester Martyrs plaque to be removed.

Manchester Martyrs plaque.

In Haringey the IBRG expressed its concern that Haringey Council only employed 8% Irish staff when the figure should be 13%. The Irish World on 10th January had Haringey council under employment attack over Irish.  Only 4% of teachers in Haringey were Irish and only 2% of new teachers were. Only 6.5% of new starters were Irish despite young Irish people having double the qualifications of their British counterparts. Haringey Council were missing out on recruiting talented Irish staff. Haringey blamed the lack of recruitment on cutbacks in the Council.

 

The IBRG Ard Choiste took place on 1st February at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in North London. Eight delegates attended including Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds, Diarmuid Breatnach, Pat Cullinane, Tony from Lewisham, Maurice Moore, Tim Logan and Tomas MacStiofan.

Apologies from Joe Mullarkey, Kevin Hayes, Jodie Clark and Pat McAndrews.

Concerns were expressed at the collapse of the Whitemoor escapees trial  because of state interest. Two individual warders had died since in mysterious circumstances and part of the tapes had gone missing. The question was why did Max Hastings editor of the London Evening Standard and the Malvinas war correspondent blew the case out of the water.

 

Roisin McAliskey case

IBRG members had attended ten pickets for Roisin McAliskey since she had been taken as a prisoner to Britain. The IBRG had organised the German Embassy picket and the one of Holloway prison plus the one of Downing St on Christmas day. There was concern over her unborn child because of the stress and prison conditions. It was pointed out that Germany did not extradite their own citizens: so why are they asking for Roisin. Letters had been written to the German Embassy on this matter.

 

Maurice Moore, Coventry IBRG, reported that a second inquest was due to be held on 18th February on Leo O’Reilly who died in police custody. Fiona Murphy has taken over his case as his solicitor. Sean Farry had been in touch with IBRG over his case.

110 local authorities in Britain now recognised the Irish. The IBRG had a good turnout at the Bloody Sunday march and rally. Pat Reynolds had been one of the organisers and was Press Officer on the day. The march got extensive coverage on TV and Radio in Britain Ireland the USA along with the quality press. It was agreed that Diarmuid Breatnach would write to Declan Bree over his offensive remarks at the rally.

The election strategy was discussed and the five demands agreed. On Richard O’Brien, Panorama were investigating the case, and Alison O’Brien, his widow, had been speaking at the AGM of Inquest. The CRE had delayed the report on the Irish until after the General Elections as Labour might be more supportive than the Tories. The indication was that the Irish would be left out of the 2001 census, but again as Labour was likely to get in, they might be more supportive. In any case it was one of our five General elections demands.

On 2nd February IBRG members joined the picket of Downing St. over Roisin McAliskey.

On 7th February Pat Reynolds was speaking at the Pathfinder Bookshop in Waterloo London at a public meeting following a racist attack on the bookshop after the  Bloody Sunday March.

On 12th February a British occupying soldier Stephen Restorick was shot dead on the border, the last British soldier to die in that phase of the Irish struggle.

On 13th February IBRG members attended a picket of Bow St Court over Roisin McAliskey, and that evening attended a public meeting at the House of Commons on the case where her mother Bernadette and Gareth Pierce were speaking along with Eamon OCuiv and Kevin McNamara. Over 200 people attended the meeting.

 

London meeting on election strategy

On 15th February London IBRG members met at the Roger Casement Irish centre in Islington. The issues discussed were a London strategy for the general Election, All Party Talks, the PTA, Census 2001, Ard Fheis, Prisoners, and Bloody Sunday. Brent and North London attended with apologies from Lewisham, Harrow and Southwark. In London IBRG were supporting Corbyn, Livingstone, Bernie Grant, Diane Abbott and John McDonnell.

On 19th February the Irish Foreign Minister Dick Spring warned the British Ambassador that the continued detention of Roisin McAliskey could damage the Peace Process.

On 20th February Southwark IBRG had a meeting to try and revive the local branch. The meeting was called by Jodie Clark and Pat Reynolds attended.

On 21st February IBRG members were outside the High Court Royal Courts of Justice to welcome the release of the Bridgewater Three. Patrick Molloy an innocent Irish man had died in prison.

On 26Th February IBRG members attended a meeting in Haringey for Arthur Scargill  with over 200 people attending. Members  raised the question of Ireland at the meeting, where Arthur gave his full support for Irish Unity and Irish self-determination.

North London IBRG mailed all London MPs with a copy of our Election manifesto.

Jodie Clark from Southwark IBRG had written to Tony Blair over the failure of Labour to recognise the Irish in terms of ethnic monitoring of their own membership. She received standard reply from Blair’s Office about the party’s position in Nt Ireland.

On 27th February the N. Ireland Arms Decommissioning Act is passed.

On 1st March Bernadette Hyland had a letter in the Irish Post on the Irish and the British General Election. The letter was headed What Irish people should expect from politicians. In it, Bernadette put the IBRG demands: the total repeal of the PTA, inclusion of Irish in 2001 Census, immediate inclusion of Sinn Fein in all-party talks, the transfer of Irish republican prisoners to Ireland and self-determination for the Irish people without British interference. It is an ideal opportunity to challenge all candidates and their party’s policy on Ireland. We should make our views known and not allow any party to take our votes for granted.

On 2nd March IBRG members picketed Downing St over Roisin McAliskey.

P.T.A. debate in House of Commons

IBRG members attend the PTA debate in the Commons on the PTA where only 12 Labour MPs voted against it. The IBRG condemned the Labour Party on its position. The Irish Post distorted the issue with its headline PTA renewal Forced Through which was a lie as Labour did not oppose it. Both the Irish Post and An Phoblacht refused to publish letters from Pat Reynolds, Chair of  IBRG, to present the correct picture. Both the Irish Post and Sinn Fein were covering up for Labour in the run up to the General Election and the Irish community were on their own again.

IBRG had lobbied over 150 MPs of all parties on the PTA. The Irish World did publish the IBRG response to the debate. On 28th March the Irish World published the IBRG letter from its Chair Pat Reynolds that the Irish Post and An Phoblacht refused to publish, as both were courting Labour coming into the General election. Pat stated ‘Jack Straw the Shadow Home secretary opened for Labour, saying It was of course the Labour Government who introduced the PTA in 1974 and who ensured its renewal every year they were in power. Last year we helped to ensure that the renewed order went through, we shall do so again this year. He ended by saying they have our support’.

‘A vote for a pro PTA MP is a vote of approval of over 22 years of PTA abuse on human rights, along with those PTA flagships the miscarriages of justice. It is also a vote for continuation of this abuse, and the silencing of any political debate on Northern Ireland’. Pat Reynolds who attended the debate in the House of Commons was shocked at the position of the Labour Party who were more interested in campaigning for the General Election than turning up to vote.

On 6th March the IBRG issued a statement Labour Party Desert Irish Community in Greed for Power. The vote for the PTA on the night was 304 to 13 against. Seamus Mallon on the night made by far the best speech of the evening distinguishing between the need and the means used to achieve an objective, he also spoke out on the Roisin McAliskey case, and called for her and he unborn child to be treated with dignity. The Tory MP Robert Allison made an offensive quip about Roisin, which was clearly against the subjudice laws and had shades of Tom King and the case of the Winchester 3, about it. Kevin McNamara challenged him on his remarks. It was sad to watch the childish games of Jack Straw and Michael Howard trying to be both hard little men, at the expense of the civil rights of the Irish community.

On the night only Ken Livingstone, Kevin McNamara and Jeremy Corbyn stayed for the full debate. It was no wonder that the level of street protest from the Irish community in Britain was at its highest since the early 1970’s, and that the Irish community in Britain had been left out of the democratic process, in terms of representation of their rights. All of the main political parties in Britain were pro Unionist

On 8th March IBRG joined a picket of Holloway prison over Roisin McAliskey which drew a huge crowd for International Women’s Day mainly from Women’s groups.

On 12th March IBRG joined a picket of Bow St Court over Roisin and on 14th March the High Court overturned  her case.

On 17th March St Patricks Day, the British General Election is announced for May Day which Labour are expected to win well. The Sun backs Labour and Tony Blair.

On 21st March Pat Reynolds speaks at the 1916 Commemoration event at the Lewisham Irish centre.

On 27th March Diarmuid Breatnach gave a good lecture on the Great Starvation at the Roger Casement Irish Centre which was well attended.

Leo O’Reilly Case

The O’Reilly family in Coventry won a new verdict on the death of their father in police custody in Coventry. The IBRG were supporting the family and their campaign to get answers and justice. The Irish World covered it with Call for Police monitoring. Maurice Moore was quoted ‘We cannot bring Leo O Reilly back but we can do something to see that this happens to no one else’. 

IBRG had called on the Irish Government and Embassy to monitor all Irish deaths in custody in Britain, in seven out of 15 cases in London recently the men involved were Irish. On 4th April the Coventry Herald had a photo of Maurice Moore, Gess Reilly, son of Leo Reilly and the family of Kevin McLoughlin. The latter was  another Irishman who died in police custody with the heading People with tragedy in common. The story told of the tragedy of death in custody for both Irish families.

On 3rd April the IRA closed the M1, M5, and M6 with bombs near Birmingham.

 

On 5th April the IRA force the postponement of Aintree for two days.

 

The 16th IBRG Ard Fheis took place at the Koko centre in Coventry on 5th April. Twelve delegates attended with seven branches represented namely Manchester, Birmingham, Coventry Brent, Harrow, Lewisham and N. London.

Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG in his address to the Ard Fheis called for Irish self determination to be put back in the centre of British politics. There was he stated no constitutional practise of history in Britain of a territorial minority such as the Unionist community in N. Ireland having the power to challenge the will of the majority of British people. The unionist population made up only 2% of the UK population which was about the same size as the Irish community in Britain.

The Greater London Council, a far Greater area of population, was abolished by Margaret Thatcher against the wishes of the vast majority of people living in London and without any democratic vote. This showed that British government can make decisions on territorial areas. Being a majority is not a principle of British politics unless it comes to the oppression of the Irish people, when their majority achieved in the 1918 all Ireland election for a Republic was denied by Britain. No Irish emigrant in Britain Australia or the USA had ever voted any Irish Dublin or Stormont governments, we have no voice and there was an urgent need for the Irish abroad to set up their own Dail in exile to campaign for their interests, and to have a voice on Irish self-determination.

He called on the IBRG to activate the Irish community for the upcoming general election with our five demands, and to make an impact in areas of high Irish population in Britain. He notes that IBRG had campaigned and won over 100 local authorities in Britain to recognise the Irish, and stated that the 2001 census inclusion was within our reach, but only if we caried on our hard work in that area. There was a likelihood of a Labour Victory in the upcoming General election which provides opportunities, but we have many bitter memories of betrayal by Labour in the past, in bringing in the PTA, in the framing up of innocent Irish people, in their continued support for the PTA, but there are margins to be won in the areas of equal opportunities.

The biggest question is over the future of N. Ireland  is the Irish right to self-determination. The war is over and the majority of prisoners will be released, but from past history we learn of betrayal at the final post. This must not happen again so we need to stay resolute and determined in our stand for Irish self-determination, as being in the best interests of all Irish people at home and abroad. Equally we must stand resolute for equal rights for the Irish in Britain.

The following Officers were elected

Chair Pat Reynolds North London.

Vice Chair Diarmuid Breatnach Lewisham

PRO/Membership Bernadette Hyland Manchester.

Cisteoir & Welfare Officer Maurice Moore Coventry

Education officer Tomas  MacStiofan Brent

Prisoners Officer Kevin Hayes Birmingham and Tim Logan Coventry.

The following motions were passed;

A motion from North London condemning the cost of Irish passports and calling for a £20 passport,

A motion from N. London calling for all emigrants from N. Ireland living in Britain to be given the vote in all N. Ireland elections, The IBRG noted that not one single Irish emigrant had ever cast a vote for any Dublin or Stormont government ever in their histories.

A motion from N. London calling for an end to SSU in prisons in Britain and calling on the Irish government and the European Parliament to take upon the issue,

A motion from N. London calling for the setting up of a Dail for Irish emigrants in Britain since the Irish government continue to deny emigrants the vote,

A motion from N. London calling for the repeal of the racist PTA and condemning the Labour Party for supporting it,

A motion from N. London calling for an international inquiry into Bloody Sunday and noting the important new evidence recently made available,

A motion from Lewisham calling on the British government to stop the persecution of Roisin McAliskey,

A motion from N. London calling for the cases of Frank Johnson, Michael O’Brien, Sean Farry, Danny McNamee, James Hanratty and Mary Druhan to be referred back to the Court of Appeal.

A motion noting the verdict of unlawful killing in the Richard O Brien case and the open verdict on the Leo O’Reilly case, and expressed its concern over the high number of Black and Irish deaths in custody,

A motion from N. London condemning the ONS for leaving the Irish out of the final testing programme for the 2001 census, and calling for a full community campaign to win inclusion for the Irish,

A motion from N. London condemning the British racist ban of Irish workers in certain civil service jobs,

A motion from N. London condemning the Orange Order marching through nationalist area where they are not wanted, The IBRG pointed out that the Irish community in Britain which was about the same size as the Unionist population of N. Ireland had one march each year apart from the St Patricks day parades, yet the Orange/Unionist community in N. Ireland had over 2,600 marches each year.

A motion for N. London nothing the current talks in Ireland are based on the Downing St Declaration and the Framework Documents both of which were rejected by the IBRG. The Ard Fheis calls for a United Ireland to be placed on the political agenda for the talks and called for an all-Ireland constitutional conference to decide the future of Ireland.

The Irish World on 11th April had devolution for Britain’s Irish community which covered the IBRG Ard Fheis and the motion on setting up a Dail abroad for Irish emigrants.

On 6th April the IBRG joined a picket of Downing St over Roisin McAliskey.

On 7th April the IBRG attended the Camden Irish Forum General Election meeting at the Camden Irish Centre which drew 60 people. Local MP’s  Frank Dobson and Glenda Jackson did not  turn up.

On 18th April IBRG members picketed Paddington Green Interrogation Centre in London, with both Pat Reynolds and Diarmuid Breatnach IBRG officers attending.

On 2nd April Pat Reynolds was speaking General Election meeting in Nottingham with Alan Simpson Labour at which the UKIP candidate walked out when the issue of Ireland came up.

In April the IBRG condemned the Daily Mail over an article by Ian Woolridge who called for the Irish to be banned from the Cheltenham Festival on 23rd April St George’s day. The IBRG suggested he might have been over celebrating on the day.

On 24th April the IBRG issued a statement Daily Mail Writer loses the Head on St George’s Day. The IBRG suggested that the Daily Mail writer could learn from the Irish how to celebrate the day without losing his head. It was suggested that he wanted to ban Irish horses from Cheltenham, to give the English horses a change of winning the odd race now and then.

IBRG suggested the Daily Mail leave the horses alone, and begin to tackle the root problems of N. Ireland of a Unionist Supremacist apartheid government based on discrimination against Catholics. If smoke from Irish fires is getting in his eyes he should try and put out the fires.

IBRG was surprised the writer did not advocate a ban of Irish advertising in the Mail, a ban on sales of the Mail in Ireland and a ban on the Irish reading the Mail. The Mail heading was Let’s ban every Irish horse, Irish jockey and Irish trainer form the Cheltenham festival.

 

Manchester IBRG election meeting cancelled

1997 Irish Rights Conference leaflet.

On 19th April a public meeting organisesd by Manchester IBRG, which would have seen Mary Nellis of Sinn Fein and IBRG Chair Pat Reynolds speaking, had to be cancelled because of right wing threats following the Manchester Evening News (owned by the Guardian) attack on the meeting.

IBRG made a formal complaint to the Press Complaints Commission which got nowhere. On 11th April the IBRG released a statement entitled Outbreak of McCarthyism in Manchester denies Irish Freedom of Speech. IBRG condemned the Manchester Evening News owned by the liberal Guardian, and the Tory candidate for Manchester, and the Labour Leader of Manchester Council working together to force the cancellation of a public meeting, because of an invitation to an Irish grandmother Sinn Fein Councillor Mary Nellis.

It was a sad day for democracy in Manchester. Nobody wanted to listen to the Tory candidate in Manchester yet hundreds would turn up for Mary Nellis, which is why they got the meeting banned.

It was censorship pure and simple engineered for cheap publicity by the Manchester Evening News, the right wing Labour Council  and the Tories. The Right of the Irish community in Manchester to assembly without fear, and to be able to express their political views have been denied. The IBRG can invite who they like to their meetings, and reject that we should condemn IRA action. The British community in Ireland have never ben asked to condemn Bloody Sunday or any other reactions of the British army in Ireland.

On 14th April the Irish News had Irish group blast at press. The report stated that IBRG were informed by the owners of the Friends Meeting Place,  that they had been told that the safety of people attending the meeting could not be guaranteed. The Tory candidate in his ignorance stated that IBRG were a front for Sinn Fein. The Irish World had Meetings sparks bomb city rage. The claim by the Tory candidate that the basis of any visit to Manchester by Sinn Fein should be to apologise. The Irish would prefer   if the British only practised what they preached, and began to apologise for 800 years of brutal repression and brutal violence in Ireland, the brutality of Cromwell to the genocide, when they starved the Irish people, while ships laden with food and cattle left Ireland.

Manchester IBRG brought out a leaflet headed Freedom of Expression Freedom of Debate Freedom of Assembly No Irish Need Apply, and distributed it in the Irish community and labour movement calling on people to protest to the Manchester Evening News and to the leader of Manchester City Council and to boycott the Manchester  Evening News.

1997 Leaflet for picket of Manchester Evening News.

On 10th May the Irish Post had SF coverage is referred Manchester claims to be investigated and covered the IBRG referral to the Press Complaints Commission over the Manchester Evening News article.

IBRG members and supporters picketed the MEN offices and challenged the writer of the offensive article, Andrew Grimes. His colleagues, faced with the picket, said that they only worked for the paper.

Bernadette Hyland called for the City Council to organise a conference to address the issues arising from the bombing of the city, and to deal with the issue, like Warrington had, by creating dialogue and reconciliation.

On 6tH April IBRG put in a complaint to the Press Complaints’ Commission about the two-day story in the Manchester Evening News.

The British General Election took place on 1st May with a landslide of 179 seat majority for Labour. Mo Mowlan is appointed Secretary for N. Ireland. Sinn Fein win two seats with Adams and McGuinness elected. Sinn Fein wins 16% of the vote in N. Ireland. John Mayor resigns and Hague takes over Tory Party.

On 4th May IBRG members picket Downing St over Roisin McAliskey.

On 5th May the IBRG issued a statement Irish Community seeks action from new Labour Government. The statement called on Labour  to immediately  call all party talks without preconditions, called for the transfer of Irish political prisoners,  the release of Roisin McAliskey, and the framed Irish prisoners, Frank Johnson, Mary Druhan, Danny McNamee, John Kinsella, Sean Farry, Michael O’Brien, the inclusion of the Irish language in the national curriculum, a fresh inquiry into Bloody Sunday, the inclusion of the Irish in the 2001 Census and  direct action on employment discrimination in N. Ireland.

IBRG noted that  the IBRG had lived under Tory rule since its birth in 1981 for 16 years, but also noted that the Labour administration from  1974 -1981 was the most brutal oppressive and anti-Irish administration since the Black and Tans in Ireland with Roy Mason and his gang, In Britain Labour brought in the racist PTA and used it with relish against the Irish community, took 19 political hostages from the  Irish community in 1974, and colluded with the Tories in their continued oppression during the Hunger strikes and afterwards. It was noted that Ken Livingstone had more Irish votes in his constituency than any Irish TD in Dail Eireann and was better on Ireland than most of them.

On 8th May Robert Hamill died from injuries received on 27th April in Portadown while the RUC stood idly by and allowed him to be killed by Loyalists.

 

On 10th May the Choiste met in Manchester at the Friends Meeting Place. Eleven delegates attended including Bernadette Hyland, Charles Hegarty, Steve Joyce, Celia Ecceleston, Dave Kernohan, Rose McManon, John Gallagher, Pat Reynolds, Kevin Hayes, Maurice Moore, and Joe Mullarkey.

Apologies Diarmuid Breatnach  and  Michael Kneafsey  from Blackburn

The IBRG agreed to pay for a leaflet for the Cardiff Three campaign including Michael O’Brien.See below.

The meeting heard that IBRG had written to over 150 MPs during the General Election, spoke with Alan Simpson MP in Nottingham, had meeting with candidates in Bolton, had a meeting in Blackburn, had a meeting cancelled in Manchester, because of media witch-hunt, and in Coventry had leafleted the community.  IBRG had produced several thousand leaflets setting out the IBRG five demands which were copied by the Connolly Association and the Wolfe Tones. The leaflets were sent out to all the key Irish community organisations.

The IBRG called on the new Labour Government to release Roisin  McAliskey, repeal the racist PTA, start all-party talks, transfer Irish political prisoners, release the framed prisoners including Danny McNamee, Mary Druhan, Frank Johnson, Sean Farry, Michael O’Brien and John Kinsella, put the Irish language in the curriculum,  call a  fresh inquiry into Bloody Sunday, include the Irish in the 2001 census, and take direct action on employment discrimination in N. Ireland. All of these were included in an IBRG Press statement of 5th May.

Several Irish MPs were elected including Clare Short, Kevin McNamara, Mike O’Brien, Tony McNulty Margaret Moran, Siobhan McDonagh, Chris Runae, Jim Dowd, and Ruth Kelly whilst, Kate Hoey and Brian Mawhinney were elected Unionists. It was agreed to write to the British Government to ask for an independent Inquiry into Bloody Sunday and to write them re inclusion in the 2001 census.

Nick Ainger MP from Wales had written to Mo Mowlam on behalf of IBRG re Bloody Sunday and stated ‘I would be grateful if you could consider this request for a public inquiry bearing in mind new evidence which has come to light in recent months.”

 

On 14th May Adams and McGuiness are denied access to the House of Commons facilities by the Brits.

On 16th May in Belfast Tony Blair says that his agenda does not include a United Ireland.

On 18th May IBRG Chair Pat Reynolds was presented with a Haringey council Community Award for his community relations work over the last ten years on the EMJCC representing the Irish community. The Award was an anti-racist award as part of the European Community anti-racist year of 1997.

On 20th May John Hume tabled a motion in the Commons calling on the Government to reopen the inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday.

On 21st May Sinn Fein take 17% of the vote in N. Ireland and win 74 local council seats.

On 29th June President Clinton on a visit to London says that Sinn Fein should participate in multi-party talks but calls for an IRA ceasefire first.

On 1st June Pat Reynolds opened the Irish Bookshop at Archway on the site of Green Ink but without any funding apart from Family Credit to top up his wages.

On 1st June a Loyalist mob kicks an  RUC man to death in Ballymoney.

On 2nd June Alban Maginnes is elected the first Nationalist mayor of Belfast.

On 6th June there is a General Election in the 26 Counties with Fianna Fail and Progressive Democrats  forming a Coalition led by Bertie Ahern. Sinn Fein win their first seat in Monaghan.

On 19th June Coventry IBRG with other groups  organised a public meeting in Coventry for new Garvaghy councillor Brendan MacCionnaith to speak as Guest of Coventry Trades Unions Council.

The meeting was covered in the Coventry paper with Ulster visitor seeks union help. Maurice Moore was quoted People can hear from communities suffering Orangemen trampling over their rights. IBRG and Tom had organised the tour of Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester, Bristol, and Cardiff. Brendan stated It is like the BNP regularly marching through Brixton. Enough is enough these marches have to be rerouted. The international Human Rights body Helsinki Rights watch strongly condemned the role and attitude of the RUC on the marches.

Ken Livingstone backs the IBRG campaign to have the Irish included in the 2001 Census and it makes the front page of the new London Irish Press. Ken stated It is a terrible situation. There are over a million people of Irish extraction in England, I will be contacting the appropriate Minister to try and get the situation sorted.

In June Irish Taoiseach John Bruton of Fine Gael met with the Bloody Sunday families and showed them copies of the Irish government review of the Widgery Report, which he said had severe deficiencies.

He stated ‘It is a priority that the problems of Northern Ireland be resolved on the basis of respect for both communities. As long as respect had not been shown to the memory of the victims of Bloody Sunday, and the truth is not told about what was done to them, there isn’t the possibility of beginning a healing process’. Don Mullen author of the new book on Bloody Sunday stated,  ’We are very hopeful that this will lead to a resolution of the very painful issues of Bloody Sunday, and we also see it as a step towards the confidence building, which is necessary for the Peace Process in the future, because in resolving Bloody Sunday, I think we are making a major step towards finding the healing that is necessary for a peaceful Ireland in the future’.

On 25th June the CRE Report on Discrimination and the Irish Community was launched at the University of North London and Bernadette Hyland and Pat Reynolds attended. Pat was part of the Media Panel which Mary Holland chaired.

1997 CRE Report on Discrimination and Irish.

 

On 28th June Pat Reynolds IBRG Chair was speaking with Francie Molloy of Sinn Fein and John McDonnell MP at the Bobby Sand /James Connolly event at Conway hall. Kevin Hayes ran a workshop on the PTA earlier in the afternoon.

On 3rd July Danny McNamee’s case is referred back to the Court of Appeal.

On 4th July IBRG and Conradh member and Irish language activist Padraig OConchonor died in London, he was a constant part of every picket held in London over years. He was a frequent letter writer in both English and Gaelic in a variety of papers and was on every picket for Roisin.

 

On 5th July the IBRG Ard Choiste meets at the Irish bookshop at Archway. Seven delegates attend including Diarmuid Breatnach, Pat Reynolds, Bob McCartney, Laoise De Paor, Danny Burke Pat Cullinane, and Kevin Hayes.

The meeting heard that Roisin McAliskey was out on bail and that she had had her baby. Sean Farry had been released. Danny McNamee’s case had been referred to the Court of Appeal. New evidence had been discovered in the Frank Johnson case, a statement from Jack Sheridan then victim, which had been withheld from the defence for 22 years. John Kinsella’s case had been referred back. Patrick Kelly had died from cancer after returning to Ireland where he was released before his death.  The meeting donated £20 to Diarmuid O’Neill campaign.

The CRE report of Discrimination and the Irish community had been published and IBRG Chair Pat Reynolds had spoken at their launch conference at the University of North London. The National census testing day was soon on 15th June. It was decided to write to the British government over getting the Irish language onto the curriculum since they had promised this while in opposition. The growing hostility in Ireland to refugees was discussed while the meeting gave £10 to an individual campaign in Britain.  Censorship and the Irish Post was discussed with a view that local papers which had a far greater Irish audience should be tried.

On 6th July New Labour forced the Orange march down the Garvaghy Road leading to rioting in nationalist areas, and showed Labour to be spineless in confronting Orange supremacy in N. Ireland.

Maurice Moore, of Coventry IBRG, had  a letter published in the Coventry Evening Telegraph condemning Labour for pushing the Orange march through a Catholic area. His letter stated How can Mo Mowlam equate the Orangeman’s bigotry and despotism with the nationalist community’s wishes not to be continually insulted by Orange triumphalism. Why is the new Labour government authorising and supporting these sectarian marches?

On 19th July the IRA restore their 1994 ceasefire with a complete cessation of military operations. Sinn Fein join the peace talks two days later.

 

Launch of campaign on Diarmuid O’Neill

On 23rd July Pat Reynolds spoke with John McDonnell MP in the House of Commons to launch a campaign on Diarmuid O Neill. On 2nd August the Irish Post had Demand for inquiry into O’Neill killing with a photo of John McDonnell MP.  The report showed that the Transport and General Workers Union General Executive Council supported the call for a public inquiry, as did Hammersmith Councillor Gerald Johnson who stated ‘it seems the police can do anything to the Irish, I feel so ashamed it could happen in our borough’.

 

In August Joe and Margaret Mullarkey were featured in an article in the Irish World entitled Mullarkeys enhance Bolton’s Irish culture with a photo of the couple, and details of all the work carried out by the family on Irish culture.

 

Diarmuid Breatnach, of Lewisham IBRG,  had a letter in the Irish Post on 23rd August on the need for Irish inclusion in the 2001 Census.

Princess Diane was killed in car crash in Paris on 31st August, with many theories as to how she was killed.

On 5th September the Irish News had Fury over writers invite to Peter’s dinner about where a Daily Mail journalist who called for Irish to be banned from Cheltenham was invited as a speaking guest to a Belfast dinner to honour Mary Peters.

On 9th September Sinn Fein sign the Mitchell Principles to be allowed into all Party talks.

 

On 13th September the Irish Post had a feature on Blackburn IBRG Start of a long road towards an Irish club in Blackburn with four photos from a social one with the IBRG Chair Steve McManamon and IBRG secretary Caroline Forkin.

On 13th September the IBRG Ard Choiste meets in Manchester at the Friend Meeting Place. Delegates present included Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds, Diarmuid Breatnach, and Kevin Hayes.

Issues discussed included Prisoners, CRE report, census 2001, PTA, and Bloody Sunday march. Sean McNulty had been transferred to Ireland.

On 15th September All-party talks begin under George Mitchell.

On 17th September the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) went down to Swaleside Prison on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent to visit Frank Johnson.

On 18th September Pat Reynolds had an interview with BBC West Midlands on the 2001 census and the Irish.

On 21st September Pat Reynolds got a two-page spread in the News of the World for Frank Johnson and his case and Mr Sheridan’s hidden statement of 22 years. It was a major breakthrough for the campaign. The paper had 5million readers. The South London Press and the East London Advertiser took up the story too.

On 29th September IBRG members picketed the German Embassy over Roisin McAliskey.

In September the IBRG took Birmingham City Council to task over their non-recognition of the Irish. On 20th September the Irish Post had Birmingham City Council condemned Pat Reynolds accused Birmingham City council of having a No Irish need apply mentality.

Pat pointed out that only last week the Leader of Birmingham City council had called for the Irish to be included in the 2001 Census along with Christine Crawley MEP for Birmingham, and two local MPs Steve McCabe and Gisela Stuart were also supporting this. Birmingham City council had refused to include the Irish in their monitoring or employment.

Over 120 local authorities in Britain had now responded to the IBRG campaign and recognised the Irish community. The IBRG had lobbied over 350 local authorities in early September on the issue.

On 1st October Pat Reynolds had an interview with RTE on the PTA and on 2nd October had a similar interview with East Coast radio in Dundalk which showed the IBRG keeping the PTA in the news back in Ireland.

The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture were visiting Britain in the light of the cases of Richard O’Brien, Shiti Lapite, and Derek Treadway.

On 11th October Diarmuid Breatnach ,the tireless IBRG letter writer, had a letter in the Irish Post on the 2001 Census entitled We need monitoring to address inequality.

On 24th October the Haringey Irish Centre celebrated its 10th anniversary, Maureen Higgins of IBRG was its first Chair and IBRG were involved with other groups in setting it up.

On 26th October IBRG members attended the MacSwiney commemoration at Southwark cathedral.

Maurice Moore, of Coventry IBRG,  got a story into the Longford Leader including an editorial on the case of a Longford man in the Midlands. On 10th October the Longford Leader ran a front-page story Prisoner on hunger strike in protest at UK court sentence about two Longford brothers, one escaped from court and the other went on hunger strike to protest over their treatment. The Leader had an editorial The Irish in Britain these Old Story about the Irish in Britain.

On 31st October Mary McAleese is elected President of Ireland.

On 3rd November IBRG members attended the CRE Conference in Birmingham City Hall to discuss the report Discrimination and the Irish community. Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG was one of the speakers and ran a workshop on ethnic monitoring, while Diarmuid Breatnach ran a workshop on education.

Over 50 people attended including Maurice Moore and Jodie Clark. It was decided to set up an Irish equalities group to progress the report through the CRE. One of the interesting features of the day was the fact that IBRG turned out as many people as the Federation of Irish societies on the day, and the only difference was that all the federation people were funded people while the IBRG were unpaid. Old IBRG members Mary Hickman one of the authors of the report and Nessan Danagher were also speakers on the day.

On 15th November the Irish Post had Another monitoring landmark which stated that Bedfordshire County Council had now recognised the Irish as had Norfolk County Council

The IBRG Ard Choiste took place on 22nd November at the Irish bookshop at Archway North London Nine delegates attended including Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds, Pat Cullinane, Máiréad Holt, Laoise de Paor, Danny Burke, Liz Benson, Maurice Moore, and Kevin Hayes.

Apologies form Diarmuid Breatnach, Thomas MacStiofan and Blackburn IBRG.

Kevin had brought the new leaflet on Michael O’Brien’s case to the meeting for distribution. Pat Reynolds informed the meeting  that as a result of IBRG lobby some 150 local authorities in Britain now recognised the Irish, 25 of the  32 London boroughs did so, 15 of the 36 Metropolitan boroughs did, 12 of the 35 county council did, 14 of the Unitary council did, 10 of the 32 Scottish council did 4 of the Welsh councils did and  69 of the Shire councils did so. It was agreed to sponsor the Bloody Sunday march with £100. The meeting expressed alarm at the treatment of Black people travelling to Ireland who were subjected to racialised  treatment at ports and airports. Other issues discussed were the PTA, prisoners, Roisin McAliskey, 2010 census, and the new Irish equalities group.

Some 50 MPs had now signed an Early Day Motion (EDM) on Frank Johnson. A hidden statement by his employer Mr Sheridan which had been hidden by the police for 21 years had now come to light. Chris Mullen had written to Jack Straw on the case.

On 27th November Kevin Hayes, of Birmingham IBRG, was speaking at a meeting on the PTA at the Central Library in Islington which drew over 50 people.

On 2nd December IBRG Chair Pat Reynolds, John Brennan Director of Cara, and Jodie Clark Southwark IBRG met with Neil Duffy, Leader of Southwark Council, over the needs of the Irish community. Issues raised included the 2010 census, the CRE report, Housing Social services, employment, policing and equal opportunities and the Irish. Southwark Council, agreed to send a letter to the ONS recommending that the Irish be included in the 2001 census.

Anger of Leo O’Reilly family in response to PCA report

On 6th December the IBRG put out a statement Unanswered questions remain over death of Irishman in Coventry after the publication of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) into the death of Newry born Leo O Reilly following his detention in police custody. The family and relatives were angered at the report which was released without informing the family of its content.

The PCA report was a whitewash, which answered none of the questions about the man’s death in custody. Log sheets went missing and so-called visits to the cell were never recorded. One female police officer claimed she spoke to Leo at 1.15am but the neurosurgeon, in his evidence, stated that given the nature of Leo’s brain injuries this was a near physical impossibility.

The question the family were asking, why did the police arrest Mr Reilly for being drunk and disorderly for having fallen down a stair and suffered serious brain injuries, and not call and allow an ambulance to take him to hospital,

Why did the police surgeon not do a proper medical examination following his detention the doctor said he just looked at him in the dark light and he looked ok?

What role did racial stereotyping of Irish men play in this case that a badly injured man is deemed to be drunk when injured. It took the police 13 hours to notice Mr Reilly’s condition.

 

On 7th December the 32 county Sovereignty Movement (CSM) was set up in Dublin with Bobby Sand’s sister Bernadette Sands-McKevitt as it’s vice chair.

On 27th December Billy Wright, Loyalist, is shot dead in Long Kesh by the Irish National Liberation Army.

22 people were killed in the Troubles in 1997

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 Manchester – 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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History of Irish in Britain Representation Group Part sixteen 1996

 

 

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.

Manchester IBRG Irish Heartbeats Conference 1996

On 10th January Sinn Fein responded to the International Arms Body by saying the IRA might dispose of their weapons with independent verification, but only after a political settlement had been negotiated, and only in the context of overall demilitarisation.

The Ard Choiste took place on 13th January at Caxton House Archway North London. Delegates attending included Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds, and Thomas MacStiofan.

 Issues discussed included the Peace Process, Irish Prisoners, Ethnic recognition, Census 2001, Bloody Sunday and plans for the Ard Fheis.

On 19th January Pat Reynolds chaired a stormy meeting at Aras naGael in Brent of over 100 people over the threatened closure of the centre with two rival factions on involved on a right/ left split.

 

Bloody Sunday March Leicester

On 27th January Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG was speaking at the Bloody Sunday rally in Leicester along with Lucilita Breatnach of Sinn Fein. Huge falls of snow made the march smaller than usual. Maurice Moore, Kevin Hayes, and Laura Sullivan were among IBRG officers present. Both the IBRG banner and the Frank Johnson banners were displayed at the rally.

 

Harrow Council recognises the Irish as an ethnic community

In January Harrow became the 19th borough Council in London to recognise the Irish after IBRG lobbying. Despite this, Harrow had refused to give the IBRG office space to provide for Irish people in the borough.  The Irish World on 5th January had Storm over anti Irish behaviour in Harrow where Cllr Tony McNulty later an MP accused the Liberal and Tories of anti-Irish behaviour in refusing the Irish accommodation.

Labour had proposed at the Council meeting that the IBRG be given office space to offer advice to the Irish community, but the Liberal and Tories opposed the motion. The Irish had put forward the original idea that all major community groups be given office space, yet they were the only community now denied a space.

Cllr McNulty accused the Liberals and Tories of using the No Irish need apply rule. On 13th January the Irish Post had Harrow to recognise the Irish. The Irish Post quoted the Irish Trade Board figures for Harrow which were quite different from IBRG but the Irish Trade board figures were based on postal codes which are different. In a letter to the Irish Post on 27th January Pat Reynolds clarified that the IBRG figures were right for Harrow and gave further figure for those living in Irish headed households, which would miss many Irish where an Irish woman had an English partner.

 

The London Irish Women’s Centre launched their report on Travellers Rights in London. Angie Birthill had done most of the work on the document.

IBRG condemns Government over Mitchell Commission

In January the IBRG deplored the British government response to the Mitchell Commission on N. Ireland. The IBRG again called for talks without preconditions.

On 28th January the IBRG issued a statement IBRG deplores British provocation and deplore the British government response to the Mitchell Commission as an act of provocation against the nationalist community. The IBRG called for immediate talks between all parties without preconditions and rejected the British demand for decommissioning of Irish arms.

IBRG condemned the Labour Party bipartisan approach to Ireland, where they too like the Tories hide behind the Unionist veto in Ireland. The British had no mandate ever in Ireland over the last 800 years, and had no mandate of dividing Ireland in 1921. What need to be decommissioned in Ireland was British rule, British discrimination and oppression, the British military war machine, and the decommissioning of its 100% Unionist police force.

Camden Council block on allowing Sinn Fein accommodation

In January IBRG condemned Camden Council for its refusal to allow Sinn Fein take up rented space offices in Camden. The IBRG further condemned Glenda Jackson MP and Frank Dobson MP for blocking Sinn Fein’s right to Office space. The IBRG statement read Dobson will soon be coming begging for Irish votes, and he will get his come uppance. In 2000 in the election for Mayor of London the Irish voters refused to vote for him paying him back in kind and in good measure.

On 14th January the IBRG issued a statement stating Block on Sinn Fein Undemocratic. In it the IBRG drew attention to the fact that Sinn Fein speakers could draw hundreds to their meetings, while the two local MPs could only draw handful of people. The IBRG also noted that neither MP had asked the British government to renounce violence, and to apologise for over 800 years of colonial rule and repression and violence against the Irish people. The argument put out by British politicians over the years was that republicans should use the democratic process, and yet when they attempt to do this, the same politicians block them at every stage.

IBRG also drew attention to how few staff Camden council employed at their Town Hall.  Sinn Fein had over 40% of the nationalist vote in N. Ireland. The IBRG challenged Dobson and Jackson as to where they stood on the Peace Process. An Phoblacht covered the story with SF to open London Office. The Irish Post had Camden say No to SF Headquarters.

 

On 24th January Pat Reynolds and Diarmuid Breatnach carried the Lewisham IBRG banner on the Asylum March where it was later featured on BBC TV news, and on the next day on Around Westminster.

On 9th February the IRA called off their ceasefire and bombed Canary Wharf in East London killing two people.

On 18th February an IRA bomb goes off on a London bus killing volunteer Edward O’Brien. IBRG in a statement blamed John Major for the Ceasefire breakdown and for wasting months in doing nothing to further the Peace Process.

On 11th February the IBRG had  issued a statement entitled Major’s Policy on Ireland a failure. It stated The IBRG holds John Major responsible for the breakdown of the IRA ceasefire, in his failure to act as a responsible leader in progressing talks for a political settlement in Ireland. The IBRG calls for all-party talks without any preconditions.

The Irish Post on 17th February had Bid for peace talks must go on, and quoted the IBRG where it contrasted N. Ireland with South Africa and Bosnia where talks had taken place.

On 11th February IBRG members joined the picket of Belmarsh Prison on Frank Stagg’s anniversary at which Pat Reynolds spoke.

 

Death of Bolton IBRG member Caitlin Wright

Caitlin Wright

On 26th February IBRG members including Virginia Moyles, Joe Mullarkey and Pat Reynolds attended Caitlin Wright’s funeral in Bolton. Caitlin and her family had given a lifetime’s work to the cause of Ireland, the Irish in Bolton and Irish prisoners. Caitlin was 68 at the time of her death. The last song at her funeral was I will wear no convict’s uniform.

The IBRG issued a statement on her death in which they drew attention to her lifelong work for the Irish community, and for a United Ireland. Along with her husband the Reverend  David Wright she had been on a number of delegations to Ireland to raise issues affecting the Irish community in Britain with the Irish political parties. She was leading member of Bolton IBRG, and was national leader in IBRG for many years, having been the Education Officer and the National Coordinator.

She was a lifelong socialist and republican and carried Irish banners in Dublin, London Belfast and Bolton. She spent many years trying to get Irish culture into the National curriculum in Britain. She strongly supported Irish prisoners and their rights around strip searching, and transfer.

She was a member of the National Union of Teachers and was involved in many working classes struggles in Britain including the Miners’ strike, supporting the NHS, the Dr Maire OShea campaign, the Birmingham Six campaign and many more. She had a great love of Ireland although her family had come to Britain after the Great Hunger.  Her early death at the age of 68 deprived the community of a great activist and leader. Her life’s work and struggle are an inspiration of those of us carrying on that struggle for a free and united Ireland and for a just society in Britain.

 

In February the IBRG condemned Coronation Street for its wife beating character who was Irish. The issue of domestic violence was an issue in the Irish community, but every Irish character in British soaps were either mad or bad and most time both. The Irish News carried the story with Irish group critical of Streets’ wife beating. The IBRG condemns the characterisation of Irish people in British TV where the only representation of one of violence, if they were represented at all. The Irish in Britain were rarely represented in soaps or in drama in Britain, as if they did not exist.

Southwark Irish Family win case against Southwark Council

In February the IBRG welcomed the story of an Irish woman victory over Southwark Council who were found guilty on two charges of maladministration and ordered to pay the woman compensation of £1,850 for the stress. On 18th February the IBRG issued a statement entitled Southwark Irish family win Ombudsman’s case against Southwark council. Southwark had been found guilty of a six-month delay in issuing an  S64 notice, and were guilty of a delay in offering the Irish woman a suitable property.

IBRG expressed disappointment that the Ombudsman had not supported the central complaint of racial harassment because of its political sensitivity. Southwark council had failed for many years to recognise Irish cases of racial harassment, which led to several Irish families having to put up with racial abuse and attacks for many years.  There was a failure to implement their obligations under the Race Relations Act, and where the Chief Officer dealing with racial harassment excluded the Irish, and held the erroneous view that only Black families could be racially harassed. There were only eight cases proved against Southwark Council last year which showed how difficult it was to succeed in these cases.

It was notable victory and showed that Irish families did not have to put up with racial harassment and with unfair treatment by any local authority. In this case Cllr Jody Clark had supported the family rather than the Council Racial Harassment Unit. The IBRG called on the Dion committee to set up a national office which could deal with anti-Irish discrimination in employment, housing and in welfare in Britain.

In February IBRG condemned Jack Straw and Tony Blair over their support for the racist PTA laws.

The Times Literary Supplement attacked the Green Ink Bookshop by trying to link it in with the Dockland bombing but Green Ink responded to that outrageous attack by the Times. It was interesting that Green Ink should be publicly attacked and then in the same year have their funding stopped.

Leo McKinstry attacked the IBRG in the Sun on 24th February after the IBRG had a feature on the Peace process in the Islington Express.

The IBRG got a sympathetic piece in the Sunday Telegraph on 18th February on Irish inclusion in the 2001 Census by Jenny McCartney daughter of Bob McCartney UK Unionist. It quoted at length Pat Reynolds IBRG Chair on the reasons why the Irish should be included in the 2001 census ‘There is statistical evidence that Irish people are disadvantaged in terms of health, employment and early mortality rates’.  It also quoted the CRE in support of Irish inclusion.

In Haringey the Ethnic Minorities Joint Consultative Committee got the Haringey CEO to write to John Major calling on him to increase efforts to find a peaceful solution in Ireland after the Docklands bombings. On 28th February Haringey CEO wrote to John Major to state ‘The EMJCC is a body composed of representatives of all the major ethnic minorities within Haringey and of Members of the Council. At their meeting of 13th February 1996 concern was expressed at the resumption of violence. and the recent docklands bombing. The hope was expressed that all the parties involved in the conflict, would not abandon their efforts to find a peaceful solution to the problems in Nt Ireland, and would continue to persevere with the Peace Process’.

Irish Community call on Solihull Council Leader to resign

In February IBRG called on Ken Meeson Leader of Solihull Council near Birmingham to stand down after he sent a ranting letter to IBRG accusing the Irish in Britain of bombing English civilians. The issue was given good coverage by the Birmingham Post. He lost the next election.

On 18th February the IBRG released a statement entitled Irish Community calls on Tory Leader to resign. It stated the IBRG deplores the statement by Cllr Meeson, Tory Leader of Solihull Council, in the West Midlands blaming the Irish community for the recent Docklands bombing.” We call for his resignation, and for the retraction of, and apology for his statement.” It went on ’ despite the severest provocation and the abuse of our civil and human rights by the racist PTA over the past 20 years, we have remained a law-abiding community. Indeed, our community is made up of many of the victims of the British lack of democracy in Nt Ireland over the past 75 years when thousands of Nationalists were forced to emigrate because of employment and sectarian discrimination in Nt Ireland. It is Britain’s responsibility, they created and maintained a sectarian apartheid statelet, of which the IRA are but a symptom.  The Irish people have never blamed the British people for what happened in Nt Ireland but have blamed the government for failing to exercise democracy in Nt Ireland.

The ironic thing is that the IBRG received Cllr Meeson’s letter on the very day that Irish born head teacher Philip Lawrence was being buried in London. He too was creating democracy in the inner city and defending it too. Yet not one single English newspaper could bring themselves to describe Philip Lawrence as being Irish. The Birmingham Post had Irish group calls for council leader to resign over bomb remarks. Meeson had wrote to Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG who had sent him a letter calling on Solihull to recognise the local Irish community ‘It is ironic that your letter should have reached me on the very date that Irish people in Britain once again took up arms against democracy and attempted to murder innocent civilians adults and children who were going about their peaceful busines’.

In February the IBRG called for Irish elders to be allowed to return to residential care in Ireland rather than having to stay in Britain, based on the free movement of workers in Europe which should apply to retired workers.

The Irish Post on 24th February had battle for Camden to set a precedent, where an elderly Irish woman was seeking court order to force Camden Council to place her in a residential retirement home in Ireland, rather than in London. A High Court Judge granted her permission to apply for a declaration that the Council must comply with her request, even though it would be contrary to British rules. Irish councillor Dave Horan a supporter of the Frank Johnson campaign stated that Camden should be privileged to set a precedent in this matter.

Morally it should facilitate such an arrangement. The Judge stated it concerned the rights of EU workers and the case should be heard as should possible because of its wide implications. The IBRG had argued this for years. A placement in Ireland would be a cost saving to Camden and the quality of life of the Irish elder would be much improved, so it was a win/win situation. Cllr Joe Callanan from Lambeth Council had been lobbying as well as the IBRG, politicians in Britain and Ireland to take up the issue and had approached the British Irish Inter Parliamentary body on the issue.

Tory flagship recognises Irish

In February Westminster City Council and Havering Council in East London both agreed to recognise the Irish bringing the number of London boroughs recognising the Irish to 24.

On 10th February the Irish Post had Westminster recognition. This was the Tory flagship Local Authority and in the heart of Westminster the City and of British power. It was the first Tory local authority in Britain to do so. Westminster had 9,334 Irish born residents. The previous week on 3rd February the Irish Post had Now Havering moves on Irish ethnicity. The Irish World on 9th February had Tories flagship borough accepts Irish ethnic status.

On 20th February Pat Reynolds had an interview with RTE Radio Marion Finucane Hour on the Irish and the 2001 census.

On 2nd March IBRG attended the Camden Irish Consultative Conference at Camden Town hall, despite having the Camden Irish Centre, the borough was one of the last to take on board the need of the Irish community.

On 10th March Pat Reynolds had an interview with Radio Berkshire Irish hour on Irish theme pubs.

On 10-12th March Green Ink held their annual London Irish Bookfair at the Camden Irish Centre in London.

PTA Debate and Labour Party

 

On 14th March the annual PTA renewal debate took place in the Commons, with only 25 MPs voting against, which was the Labour  left group of MPs.

The Irish Post on 2nd March had Labour drops opposition to the PTA. 3 SDLPs also voted against with John Hume missing as usual. Martin Kettle writing in the Guardian on 3rd April stated about the Labour Party ‘Even if it had proposed the precautionary culling of the first born of all Irish families Labour would accept Howard’s bogus new bill’.

It showed up Labour’s absolute craving for power at all costs in their support for the draconian PTA, it laid bare Labour’s unscrupulous and unprincipled pursuit of power as they ditched their opposition to the racist PTA laws. The placards on the Irish picket outside the Labour Part HQ said it all, Innocent until proven Irish.

Manchester IBRG Conference Irish Heartbeats

On 16th March Manchester IBRG held a one-day Conference entitled Irish Heartbeats at the Friends Meeting House in Manchester. See headline image.It was their contribution to the Manchester Irish Week and 70 people attended.

Speakers  on social policy and ethnic recognition included  Liam Greenslade social researcher, Pat Reynolds National IBRG Chair and Eric Seward  of CRE.

On the first session in the afternoon the subject was the PTA and its effect on the Irish Community. Speakers were Kevin Hayes West Midlands PTA and Research Association, Tommy Walsh (Federation Liverpool), and Dorothy McNulty spoke about the McNulty Family Campaign for justice.

The last session looked at the Peace Process from different perspectives.   Ruth Moore speaking from the Protestant N.Irish background,  Sue Ramsey of Sinn Fein and Bernadette Hyland  who criticised the Labour Party for abstaining in the renewal debate on the PTA.

Manchester IBRG produced a red leaflet with a Claddagh ring in the middle with ‘A conference for all those concerned with the future development of the Irish community” The Irish Post had a preview of the Conference on 27th January with IBRG plan Manchester Conference giving the list of speakers and topics. On 9th March the Irish Post had Conference in Manchester. The Irish World also carried a preview with IBRG Conference on future of Irish.

Discussion after conference L-R Martin Connolly (Mcr IBRG) Ruth Moore and David Kernohan of Leeds IBRG

On the same day Green Ink put on an Irish Bookfair in Bristol.

 

On 19th March Pat Reynolds had an interview with BBC Radio Belfast on the Irish ban in the Civil Service.

 

On 23rd March the IBRG Ard Fheis took place at the Friends Institute in Birmingham. Six branches were represented namely Merseyside, Manchester, Birmingham, Coventry, Lewisham, and N. London.

Eleven delegates attended. Delegates attending were Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds, Patrick Prescott, Neil Doolin, Patrick Doolin, Marie Byrne-McCann, Eddie Caughey, Kevin Hayes, Eileen Ferris, Patrick Cullinane, and Collette Hartnett. Apologies Maurice Moore.

Pat Reynolds Chair spoke of the achievement of IBRG during the past year which had ranged from the Irish Festival in Liverpool to a Conference in Manchester, work on the PTA and ethnic monitoring. He paid tribute to the work of Caitlin Wright Bolton IBRG who had recently passed away at early age of 68. She had given a lifetime of dedication to the Irish and working-class communities, and will be greatly missed.

Pat looked at the strength of the IBRG at branch and national level. They were 11 active branches and a wealth of campaigning experience there. However, we had no full-time workers or no national office. However, IBRG had shown it could win victories for the Irish community, one such being the campaign for recognition of the Irish community by local authorities in Britain. The battle for the Peace Process had yet to be won, and the for the community the battle for inclusion in the 2001 census must be won. The IBRG looked forward to the publication of the CRE report on Discrimination and the Irish community which we need to build on.

Bernadette Hyland reported on her work as PRO in the last year which a number of press releases and good coverage in a range of newspapers and a number of radio interviews by herself and the chair. She had also put on a major Conference on Manchester on Irish issues. Bernadette also reported on the National newsletter plus a new recruitment leaflet and on IBRG membership

Kevin Hayes gave a report on the PTA noting the failure of the Labour Party to vote against the PTA. The use of language he stated was important. The PTA was not about the prevention of terrorism, but about restrictions on the civil liberties of the Irish community, when in transit to and from Ireland, or when they became politically active. IBRG needed to continue combating the PTA and supporting individuals arrested under the act.

Eddie Caughey gave a report on the position of Irish political prisoners in Britain and drew attention to the case of Patrick Kelly who was dying in prison from cancer, and who should be released on humanitarian grounds.  It was important for IBRG to continue its work on both political and framed prisoners and to work with other groups in this area.

The following officers were elected;

Pat Reynolds Chair North London

Neil Doolin Runai Merseyside

PRO/Membership Bernadette Hyland Manchester

Prisoners Kevin Hayes Birmingham

Cisteoir Maurice Moore Coventry.

The following motions were passed;

A motion from Merseyside condemned  the Tory government for intransigence leading to the breakdown of the ceasefire, and calls for immediate all-party talks without preconditions,

A motion for Merseyside condemning the Labour party for abstaining on the PTA vote in The Commons,

 

The key issues for IBRG work in 1996 were agreed as Recruitment, ethnic recognition, PTA and Employment discrimination in N. Ireland.

On 27th March IBRG members joined Saoirse to picket the Labour Party HQ in Walworth Road St London. The Labour NEC were meeting and  people were able to talk with Clare Short MP and others.

Recognition of Irish and Local Authorities

In March the IBRG announced that Hillingdon Council, where John McDonnell was MP had recognised the Irish, as had the metropolitan boroughs of Manchester and Bolton who had for some years agreed to recognise the Irish, while Suffolk Country Council became the first County Council to do so.

On 9th March the Irish Post had Another Four councils move on monitoring and listed Liverpool City council, Trafford Council in Greater Manchester, Newcastle on Tyne City Council and Barnsley Metro Borough Council all important Irish areas.

The Irish World on 8th March had More boroughs recognise Irish. On 16th March the Irish Post had Cambridge Council confirms monitoring of Irish. This was the first English city outside the Metropolitan areas to recognise the Irish, and was the site of Cambridge University. There were 1,671 Irish born persons living in Cambridge.

On 20th March the front-page photo in the Irish Post was of the Lewisham St Patrick’s Day parade which was organised by the Lewisham Irish centre with IBRG input. The photo had Irish councillor John OShea heading the march with a banner for the Irish Centre, on page two was Hampshire the latest to monitor Irish in a banner headline. Hampshire had 18,829 Irish born residents with Southampton having a large Irish population.

On 30th March the Irish Post had more monitoring success reporting that Rugby, Chesterfield and Basingstoke had agreed to recognise the Irish.

IBRG condemns Derbyshire Council over racist and anti-Irish leaflet

At the end of March, the IBRG condemned Derbyshire Constabulary over the racist and anti-Irish leaflet targeting the Irish community as suspects with their Not all Irish are criminals. After IBRG protests and a lot of negative publicity the leaflet was withdrawn. The leaflet to Neighbourhoods Watch schemes stated ‘persons with Irish access, they are not all criminals.

On 30th March the IBRG issued a statement IBRG calls for Racist Leaflet to be withdrawn. The leaflet talked of ‘persons tendering large quantities of high denomination banknotes, which would be a trademark of any Irish building worker or any Irish person buying a car. The IBRG regard the leaflet as an incitement to anti-Irish racism and likely to stir up anti-Irish feelings.  The watch your Irish neighbours under the guise of anti IRA alertness was simply targeting the Irish community and people with Irish accents. The attempt to criminalise the Irish community will not work we are a law-abiding community.

IBRG referred the leaflet to the CRE and later raised in a meeting with Herman Ouseley. Coming on the back of the failure of Merseyside Police to ensure a peaceful St Patrick’s day Parade took place, allowing Orange and Fascist thugs to stop a peaceful celebration, it shows a complete lack of impartiality among British police forces. Policing by consent will be not be improved by targeting innocent communities. The Sunday Tribune in Dublin covered the story with the heading Not all Irish are criminal-UK police and covered the IBRG response to the outrage.

IBRG member Collette Hartnett was fighting a battle against losing her house to the A40 in West London. Her story made the front page of the Irish World on 8th March with Hands off my House with a photo of Collette.

Liverpool’s  first  St.Pat’s Day Parade attacked by Orange Order and Fascists

Liverpool’s first St Patricks day Parade in   25 years was blocked by the Orange Order and fascists. The Irish Embassy who had a representative on the parade stated ‘I am very disappointed that this parade wasn’t allowed to go ahead as planned’.

On 30th March the Irish Post covered it with Aftermath of Liverpool’s march fiasco. There was uproar in Liverpool over what the Orange and fascist bully boys had done to a celebration of a community national day. One Councillor put it’ It is diabolical that women with young children dressing in dancing costumes were abused and prevented from celebrating their national day. Hundreds of people had travelled to the city to see the parade, but it never appeared because the highway was blocked by a crowd of bully boys.  The Orange mob were singing anti-Catholic songs during the protest. The Irish World on 29th March had Protesters drum up wave of support for Merseyside Irish

Local MPs Bob Parry and David Alton supported the Irish community, and their right to hold their parade without hindrance. The Irish Post on 23rd March had A Right to celebrate which covered the Parade being blocked by 200 Orangemen and Fascists. Bob Parry MP had blasted the police for their handling of the parade where the Orange Order and the National Front had combined to prevent the Irish community celebrating their national day. Bob Parry was raising the matter with Michael Howard the Home Secretary. Sheila Coleman, Chair of the Liverpool Irish Centre, stated that the Irish community had as much right to march as any other group.  Neil Doolin of  IBRG, who was organising Irish Parade as part of Liverpool Irish festival in June, stated he would be meeting the police to guarantee this did not happen again.

On monitoring the IBRG reported that Hampshire Country Council had agreed to monitor the Irish along with Cambridge City Council.

On 2nd April the British government introduced the PTA additional Powers Bill giving the police extra powers to search individuals and premises. Labour shamefully abstains on the vote.

On 7th April IBRG members attended the unveiling of a new monument to Liam McCarthy in Camberwell New cemetery in South London. McCarthy after whom the All-Ireland Hurling final cup is named was a Southwark Councillor and a supporter of Padraig Pearce and the Irish Revolution of 1916-1921.

 

On 12th April the Irish World reported that Derby Cops say sorry to Irish.

Pat McAndrews of Derby IBRG said the apology was welcome, but that the original remarks were very offensive to the Irish community. The Derby Police stated ‘we apologise for any offence which has been caused’. The CRE stated ‘We are investigating a complaint made to us in relation to Derbyshire Police. We will be getting in touch with the force about this’ and the Irish Embassy stated “This is something we would not dismiss. It is a very sensitive time for the Irish in Britain and we don’t need this sort of thing’.

On 17th April Pat Reynolds had an interview with BBC Radio Scotland the first time they ever discussed anti-Irish racism on radio in Scotland. Liam Greenslade was also on the same programme.

On 20th April Bernadette Hyland PRO IBRG had a letter in the Irish Post Stand up and be counted publicly about the fight for Irish civil liberties in Britain and the effects of the PTA on the community.

On 24th April the IRA bomb decommissioned Hammersmith  bridge.

 

In April Manchester IBRG produced the 5th IBRG Members newsletter which included an IBRG month by month review of IBRG activities, with news of campaigns with a front-page statement on IBRG position on the Peace Process and the PTA.

 

Bolton IBRG Oppose Apprentice Boys marching in town

Bolton Orange March. Irish Post article.

Joe Mullarkey was quoted in the Guardian on 13th April opposing the Apprentice Boys marching in Bolton. The Irish Post on 20th April had Bolton march halted with help from the Irish. The Apprentice boys of Derry were due to march in Bolton, but there was evident that Combat 18 and other fascists were supporting the march, which was opposed by the IBRG and by the local multi-racial community.

In the end the march never happened given the local opposition of the community. Joe Mullarkey said Support from Socialist club  members and trades council members ensured the march was unable to move off and the arrival of young Asian men convinced police to take them down a back street. I can still remember explaining combat 18 to the Bolton Evening News and Balmoral Hotel.

The Irish World had Bolton Apprentice Boys march curtailed by police. Joe Mullarkey, Margaret Mullarkey, Arthur Delvin and Cllr Pauline Spencer all IBRG members were standing in a proud tradition of the Irish community in opposing the Fascist and Combat 18 Hitler supporters going back to Cable Street and Bermondsey in the East of London in the 1930’s.

Looking back in 2020 Joe Mullarkey reflects:

That Salford apprentice boys march in Bolton was very strange. I got a phone call from Searchlight a couple of weeks prior to the event and was very dubious. I checked with Noel Spenser, local councillor and IBRG member, he confirmed police had no objection to the march but  the person organising it was a convicted football hooligan. Why not have the march in Salford why Bolton. Was it done to get some of those BNP out in the open?

Around that time a house was raided in Little Hulton a number of men arrested (BNP) suspected  and put on trail. Police claimed they found a shotgun pick axe handles etc. I made the phone calls to the Bolton Evening News and the hotel the Balmoral which was the starting place for the march and where some including  Gregory Campbell stayed overnight. The proposed route was blocked by bodies but police in the afternoon took them (fascists) down a back street, let them march a hundred yards then dispersed them. Very strange still puzzled”

In April the IBRG tackled the Association of County Secretaries and Solicitors over their failure to include the Irish in the ethnic monitoring.

On 6th April the Irish Post had Irish ethnic monitoring is extended even further. The report showed that Ipswich had recognised the Irish. The leader of Harrogate Council stated ‘I have no problem with your suggestion, particularly as my mother comes from Donegal in Ireland and I am a frequent visitor to the Republic of Ireland’. Another Michael Walsh namesake of Diarmuid North Yorkshire Chief Executive was himself of Irish origin. The Leader of Kirklees Council talked about his close connection with local Irish community. Malcom Doherty, a good Irish name leader of Blackburn council, who confirmed that they already recognised the Irish. Blackburn had 1,965 Irish born residents and Blackpool had 2,311 Irish born residents.

On 20th April the Irish Post had campaign by IBRG switching and stated that the IBRG campaign was switching to the district councils in England. The IBRG stated that there were very few local districts in England that had less than 500 Irish born residents.

On 9th May Bernadette Hyland IBRG PRO had a letter in the Irish World entitled Labour Blow to Irish Community where she attacked the Labour Party for betraying the Irish community on both the PTA the Peace Process and warned them that they would struggle with getting Irish votes in areas where the Labour MP abstained on the PTA.

 

On 11th May the Ard Choiste took place at the Liverpool Irish Centre. Among those attending were Kevin Hayes, Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Moore, Pat Reynolds and Neil Doolin representing Birmingham, Coventry, N. London, Manchester and Merseyside.

The meeting decided to affiliate to the new group Fuaslcailt with a donation of £20-. Saoirse had been folded up after one year’s work. The meeting agreed on a new membership/recruitment leaflet. Liverpool IBRG gave details of their summer Irish Festival coming up.

An update on monitoring the IBRG announced that 60 local authorities in Britain now recognised the Irish in a drive organised by the IBRG. On 4th May the Irish Post had “Four more Councils recognise the Irish.”  The report stated that Cornwall, a Celtic nation, Northamptonshire, Gloucestershire, and East Sussex had all agreed recognise the Irish.

In another area it reported that the Association of Council Secretaries and Solicitors had apologised to IBRG for omitting the Irish as an ethnic category in its race equality questionaries of British local authorities.

In a letter to IBRG Chair Pat Reynolds Robin King the Secretary stated ‘I am sorry that we have indeed misquoted the CRE recommended categories of ethnic origins. You may be a little reassured that some of the respondents to the questionnaire also pointed out the omission’.

On 11th May the Irish Post had New Progress on monitoring with a photo of IBRG Chair Pat Reynolds, who announced that the campaign would now be extended to Wales and Scotland, and that he was hoping to build on recent Labour and liberal success at the local election in Britain.

He reported that the reply rate from the English local authorities was 40% with a success rate of recognition at 20%. Cumbria and Devon county councils had agreed to monitor the Irish.

The report stated that Southwark had launched a Federation of Irish Groups to increase their lobbying power and which had the support of the Council leader. The groups included the IBRG, the Irish Staff Group Cara, Irish Pensioners, The O’Brien family campaign, the McSwiney Society, Irish Forum Innisfree and others.

On 18th May the Irish Post had Wandsworth hedges on Irish ethnic status. Wandsworth was a Tory flagship borough based on its cheap council tax.  The Chief executive claimed that over 150 languages were spoken in the borough, and he argued the Polish community wanted to be included in ethnic monitoring. However, the Irish community was 30 times larger than the Polish community, and the Chief executive was being evasive on the real issue.

Heather Rabbatts, Chief executive in Lambeth, who used to come on Irish pickets at one time stated that the Irish response to the boroughs first equal opportunities survey showed that the number of Irish staff at the Council, far exceeded the estimated Irish born population. The IBRG described her claim as absolute rubbish and unfounded as she had an exact figure for the Irish born from the 1991 census, and the Irish were very poorly represented at the Town Hall.  The IBRG knew this from their own information from the Irish Workers group in Lambeth.

On 21st April the IBRG corresponded with St Mungo over their Equal Opportunities policies and the Irish. They replied back on 3rd May with a very defensive letter claiming they did recognise the Irish, and which did not address the issues, IBRG had raised, that their staff training did not take on board the Irish dimension.

The same month the IBRG corresponded with Pauline Green MEP over why the Irish were excluded from ethnic monitoring in the European Social Fund. Pauline Green  replied on 26th May to say she would raise the matter with Research International to find out why the Irish were excluded.

Diarmuid Breatnach had a letter in the Irish Post defending the right of the Irish in Merseyside to have their St Patrick’s day Parade on 4th May entitled A Right we must Defend.

3rd Irish Festival in Liverpool

The Liverpool Irish Festival took place form 28th May to 2nd June and was opened by Ted Barrington Irish Ambassador. It was the third Irish Festival in Liverpool organised by Neil Doolin and the IBRG. On 4th May the Irish Post had Greening of Liverpool and again on 11th May had Community Spirit on Merseyside and on 25th May and had Festive Spirit on Merseyside in  Irish World on 17th May had Merry on the Mersey for Third Irish festival.

On 7th June the Irish World had  a page full of photos of the Festival with photos of the Irish Ambassador Ted Barrington  and the Mayors of both Dublin and Liverpool. On 14th June the Irish World had another page of photos one of the Parade with the Festival banner with six photos of the Parade.

In May the IBRG attacked Des McHale of Cork University over his support for racist anti-Irish jokes.

The IBRG pointed out that the ignorant McHale that McAuley and Bryans were two Industrial tribunal winners who  didn’t get money because they were Irish, but because they were racially abused and racially harassed because they were Irish, with the result that both men lost their jobs, suffered ill health and lost financially.

On 11th May the IBRG put out a statement headed Gombeen Humour Condemned which stated the IBRG deplores the remarks of Professor MacHale of Cork University over his apparent support for the racial abuse of Irish people in the workplace in Britain. Employment laws in Britain right protect women in the workplace from sexist abuse and harassment and also protects Black Jewish Asian and Irish people form racial abuse and harassment in the workplace. MacHale attempt to justify such abuse is obscene and sick, when you read the case histories of abuse in the workplace. Most employers in Britain now include codes of good practice on the elimination of sexist and racist abuse in the workplace.

IBRG suggested that Professor MacHale should study the work of Dr Elinor Kelly of Manchester university, on the racialisation of Irish children in British schools and continue to tell us that the anti-Irish jokes is just good fun. There is clearly link between racial stereotyping and the subsequent abuse and harassment. That MacHale finds it funny that Irish people can be driven out of the workplace in Britain, and that they should have no redress against racial abuse is staggering. Machale would accuse the IBRG of being PC politically correct. Unlike him we are not PB politically backward.

The IBRG pointed out how British people living in Australia got anti-British jokes banned on Australian TV, and while British tabloids think anti-Irish jokes funny, while at the same time applauding English cricketers who walked out on a small comedy sketch about the English Queen. The IBRG salute Irish humour of which our literature is full of from Oscar Wilde and Brendan Behan to Maeve Binchley.

The Irish Post on 18th May covered this story and remarked how JAK of the Evening Standard seemed to agree with MacHale and stated ‘The IBRG enjoy Irish humour and wit and have great time at work, but it is not at the expense of women Black, Jewish or Irish people. We laugh with people rather than at them, and have learned much to appreciate in other cultures, rather than the narrow world of MacHale that ridicules and makes fun of others.’

 

The IBRG along with other Irish groups met with Herman Ouseley and the CRE on 23rd May. The meeting heard that the report on discrimination on the Irish would go before the CRE commissioners on July 23rd for approval and then on to publication. Herman Ousley remarked on the high success rate achieved by the IBRG in their ethnic monitoring campaign, The CRE received 30-60 complaints year on No Travellers signs in pubs. This was also an issue that IBRG campaigned on tearing down the signs from pubs in Irish areas.

The CRE had written to all relevant organisations in Britain regarding recognition of the Irish and their inclusion in ethnic monitoring.  The IBRG also raised with the CRE the issue of anti-Irish racism in the media, and the total failure of the Press Council to deal with this issue.  The CRE wanted copies of all these examples to take back to Lord Wakeham who was Chair of the PCC. The CRE would also write to all local health authorities on recognising the Irish. The IBRG also raised with the CRE the Derby Police leaflet which was racist against Irish people.

In terms of ethnic monitoring the IBRG announced that 23 of the 33 London boroughs now recognised the Irish, that 5 Metropolitan Boroughs did, four County Councils, three City Councils, 19 boroughs council outside of London, and 13 District councils overall 73 local authorities in Britain now recognise the Irish. Coventry had now recognised the Irish, and the Coventry paper reported it Irish join ethnic minorities Move could help target services. Cllr Cairns chair of Coventry’s Irish community advisory group stated ‘We are part of Coventry but nonetheless we are different. In many ways we are an invisible community because of this we are ignored. Being classed as an ethnic group means we will ensure that services will be earmarked to meet the needs of the community’.

On 1st June Bernadette Hyland and Pat Reynolds were speaking with Liam Greenslade at the Liverpool Irish Festival.

On 7th June the IRA shot dead Garda Gerry McCabe in Limerick which caused a huge anti-Republican backlash in the Irish Republic.

On 14th June the IBRG had a letter from the Department for Education and Employment stating they would look at whether to include the Irish in their ethnic monitoring in Employment  and Training programs.

 

On 15th June an IRA bomb in Manchester injured 200 people and caused over £300M of damages. Attitudes harden in Britain against Sinn Fein. The Irish Post on 22nd June had Manchester subdued in bomb aftermath.

Both Gearoid O Meachair National Chair of the Federation and Mike Forde vice Chair condemned the bombing yet neither were on record of ever having condemned a single British army killing of civilians in N. Ireland, and no sign of them ever on a Bloody Sunday march. They are one sided apologists for the British occupation of Ireland. Bernadette Hyland stated ‘the fact is that the only future is for there to be political talks with all parties sin N. Ireland including Sinn Fein’. The Liverpool Irish Centre was attacked the same evening and the bar smashed up.

 

Bobby Sands/James Connolly Event

On 16th June Pat Reynolds was speaking with Pat McKeown of Sinn Fein at the Booby Sands/James Connolly event at Conway hall in central London. Diarmuid Breatnach sang the Irish National anthem at the end of the meeting.

This was covered by An Phoblacht on 27th June. It states the main platform included speakers from the Irish community in Britain Pat Reynolds IBRG and Angie Birthill of the Camden Irish Forum. Both speakers talked about the need for the Irish community whose numbers over three million in Britain to be involved in the current political process to bring freedom peace and justice in all of Ireland. They asked that more pressure be put on the British political parties so that everybody is represented at all-party talks and that the Irish community in Britain bring pressure to bear on the Labour Tory and liberal parties before the next General Election.

 

On 29th June the IBRG Ard Choiste took place at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in Islington north London. Six delegates attended including Bernadette Hyland, Diarmuid Breatnach, Tomas MacStiofan, Neil Doolin Past Cullinane, and Maurice Moore.

It was agreed that Kevin Hayes and Pat Reynolds work on a General election leaflet for IBRG with four main issues for the Irish community, PTA, ending, all-party talks without preconditions, transfer and release of Irish prisoners, and the 2001 Census. The response from Scotland on ethnic monitoring was good with seven councils our of 32 now recognising the Irish.

The IBRG challenged Islington council over their failure to include the Irish in their Town Hall heard count report to Committee thus covering up on the Irish. On 1st June the Irish Post had Another five Councils to monitor Irish which showed the Braintree in Essex, Colchester an army town, Harlow and Epping Forest were going to monitor the Irish. Steve Cawley council leader in Colchester stated he was of Tipperary origin.

On 29th June the Irish Post had Ethnicity campaign moves to Scotland which showed IBRG were in correspondence with local authorities in Scotland. The same article detailed that IBRG had contacted the Department of Education and Employment asking them to include the Irish, and showed that the IBRG had challenged the Department in its stance against the Irish.

The Bolton Irish Festival was held from 14-16th June organised by Joe and Margaret Mullarkey and included two exhibitions.

The Festival had ben previewed in the Irish Post as early as 9th February with Bolton Irish festival for June., again on 26th April with Bolton all set for IBRG Irish Festival on 31st May it had Bolton stages two Irish exhibitions one on the Irish in Britain 1801-1821, alongside photographic history of the Irish in Bolton compiled by Bolton IBRG. Margaret Mullarkey stated that this would include a section of local Irish writer Bill Naughton author of Alfie, Neither use nor ornament, and on the Pigs back.

On 1st June the Irish Post had Irish emigrant exhibitions in Bolton, on 21st June Mayor gives Bolton Irish seal of approval. The report noted that the Festival was kicking off at the same time as the IRA bomb exploded in Manchester, but they made a decision to carry on with the music. Joe Mullarkey stated the Irish in Britain are here to stay and won’t be going away. We should be proud of our heritage and culture and don’t be afraid to show it. The Mayor and Mayoress of Bolton had turned up twice on the day and Margaret Mullarkey noted  ‘That was a nice gesture and a real bonus for us’. On 29th June the Irish Post covered several photos of the Festival; including the top one of Margaret Mullarkey with the Mayor and Mayoress of Bolton, Joe Mullarkey made the second photo with the Irish radio DJ. On 5th July the Irish World had four photos and a write up of the festival again with photo of main Festival organiser Margaret Mullarkey.

On 7th July the RUC banned an Orange March from going down the Garvaghy Road but on 11th July after the murder of a taxi driver in Portadown the Orange Order marched down the road. John Bruton accused the British government of giving in to force. David Trimble met with Billy Wright on 10th July during the standoff. Paisley and Trimble dance a victory jig   marching down the road on their imperial walk.

On 9th July IBRG members met with the CRE along with other Irish groups. They met again on 26th July,

Irish community protest Orange March being allowed down Garvaghy Road

On 12th July IBRG members along with other groups picketed 10 Downing St over the Orange March being allowed down the Garvaghy Road.  On 27th July the Irish Post ran a large photo from Birmingham of a protest on the issue and stated TOM and IBRG were involved in similar protest in London. The reroute the Sectarian orange Marches banner was displayed at both Lewisham people’s festival and the Southwark Irish festival, and received much support from the Irish community, who were shocked at how Orange marches were allowed to march through Catholic areas.

On 19th July IBRG members attended the launch of the Irish community’s experience of discrimination within the Criminal justice system with speakers Harry Fletcher NAPO and Fr Gerry McFlynn ICPO

On 22nd July Pat Reynolds had an interview with Waterford Radio on the Frank Johnson case.

Frank Johnson campaign sticker.

Bernadette Hyland had a letter in the British Independent on 3rd July entitled Anti Irish racism is still rife. It stated ‘the reality for the Irish in this city is that they are largely working class, working in the service industry, if at all, and facing discrimination and deprivation on a day to day basis Irish people walk the line every day in the city between acceptance and rejection. Anti-Irish racism is rife, although in recent years many people have refused to accept it and have mounted campaigns locally and nationally against discrimination …it is only when the political situation in Ireland is resolved in a just and peaceful way, that our community will be accepted’.

In London John Deegan won his case against the Metropolitan  Police after IBRG took up his case. He had been subjected to a terrifying ordeal when arrested at his home, and taken naked into a police van. He was kept in custody for three days, his house was wrecked, and his children threatened with being taken into care, He was cleared in court of any wrongdoing. The Irish Post on 10th August reported it Donegal man claims police overreacted.

In July IBRG drew attention to the high number of Irish in Britain prisoners with 621 prisoners from the Irish Republic 604 of these were male. The Irish Post reported this on 27th July with More Irish in British jails. The Post credited IBRG with eth disclosure of the figures.

The IBRG accused the BBC in Liverpool of censoring debate when they only asked the Orange Order representatives onto their programme  panel in Liverpool, despite the Irish community St Patricks day Parade being blocked by the Orange Order.  The BBC showed shocking bias towards the Irish community and towards democracy in Liverpool in its biased one-sided approach to the issue giving the Orange Order propaganda, and stacking the programme  against the Irish community.

The IBRG pointed out that seven local authorities in Wales now recognised the Irish. Coventry and Sheffield two important cities had now agreed to recognise the Irish. On13th July the Irish Post had Seven Welsh councils to monitor the Irish which showed the IBRG had won over seven councils in Wales including Swansea and Newport.

On 6th July the Irish Post had Redbridge’s lame excuse with a photo of IBRG Pat Reynolds. Redbridge is East London were arguing that they could not follow the CRE advice since the Irish were not in the National census. The IBRG described the Redbridge position as backward and negative and failing its Irish community. In the same article the IBRG had deplored the low number of Irish staff employed at Hammersmith Council  which was a very Irish area of London.

On 3rd August IBRG members joined others in a ceremony outside Pentonville Prison to commemorate Roger Casement the great Irish patriot.

On 9th August the Department of Education and Employment had written to Pauline Green MEP on why the Irish were excluded from their ethnic monitoring programs.  They came back with the lame excuse that the Irish were not in the 1991 census nor in the labour force surveys. Basically, they were arguing that they follow the National census.

 

On 16th August the IBRG issued a statement entitled Irish community concerned over Islington’s Council employment monitoring policies, where they had excluded the Irish community.

Pat Reynolds founder of the Irish in Islington project had written to Council Leader Alan Clinton who was a member of IBRG, asking for an explanation, as to why Islington were now backtracking after being the first local authority in Britain to recognise the Irish.  The Irish were the largest minority community in the borough, and Islington council were by far the largest local employer apart from the NHS with the Whittington and Royal Northern Hospitals. On 24th August the Irish Post had Islington has taken backward step.

IBRG stated that, in year in which the CRE had called publicly for the Irish to be included in ethnic monitoring, it was shocking that Islington Council should now be moving in the opposite direction. Dubliner Alan Clinton was leader of Islington Council and a member of IBRG. It was likely that council officials had decided on excluding the Irish rather than councillors. There were over 11,000 Irish born residents in Islington.

On 21st August Pat Reynolds Chair of the Frank Johnson campaign had an important interview with RTE radio. It was recognised that when RTE gave an interview on a case, it meant that the Irish government were ok with it.

On 30th August Ronnie Flanagan took over running of the paramilitary RUC.

The IBRG called on all members of the Irish community to register for votes before the expected 1997 General election and the IBRG call got covered on teletex, which was a first, and on the front page of the Kilburn Times for the Irish Youth Festival in Kilburn.

On 10th September Pat Reynolds had an interview with Talkback on BBC Radio Belfast on ‘Irish jokes.

On 12th September Pat Reynolds was in Sheffield to put on a one-day training course for community workers in Sheffield on Irish issues.

On 13th September the Irish World had Tipp Nurse wins case in which an Irish nurse had won her Industrial Tribunal case which the IBRG had supported.

 

On 14th September the IBRG Ard Choiste met at St Osburg’s in Coventry. Six delegates attended including Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Moore, Tim Logan, Kevin Hayes, Diarmuid Breatnach, and Pat Reynolds.  

The meeting heard that Eamonn O’Cuiv had been to visit Frank Johnson in prison. The  first TD to visit Frank in 21 years and him an innocent man.  His case had recently been covered by the Nursing Times, to find doctors or nurses who could remember Mr Sheridan in hospital and his employee Frank Johnson visiting him there. The South London Press also covered this story.

The Home Office were now conducting   a fresh inquiry into his case.  The Bridgewater Case had been referred back to the court of appeal. Kevin Hayes was working on a joint PTA card with Fuascaillt.  Only one Irish prisoner had been transferred back to the Republic. It takes the Irish government too long to pick up on innocent Irish cases, it took them over 13 years to become aware of the Birmingham Six.

The CRE were to produce a four-page flyer along with their report of the Irish and discrimination. The report was being kept secret because of the fear of the right-wing press trying to rubbish it, before it was even published. Pat Reynolds reported to the meeting that 78 local authorities now recognise the Irish.

Shooting by police of Diarmuid O’Neill in West London

On 23rd September young IRA volunteer Diarmuid O’Neill was executing by British agents in West London contrary to the Geneva Convention to shoot dead an unarmed prisoner. The IBRG called for a public inquiry into the shooting of Diarmuid O Neill in that his death was unnecessary and preventative, as the police knew he was unarmed. His shooting was an extension of the British shoot to kill via Gibraltar to London.

IBRG condemned the media including the quality press for running with police stories on the shooting. The Observer mentioned the IBRG in their article on the killing on 29th September.

On 29th September the IBRG issued a statement calling for a public inquiry into the shooting dead of unarmed Volunteer contrary to the Geneva Convention and British law that you should not kill captured prisoners.

The IBRG described his death as unnecessary and preventative with the room already bugged, and knowledge that he was not armed. The IBRG condemned the police misinformation and disinformation put out by the police similar to what happened in Gibraltar, where truth became the first casualty. The IBRG views the killing of O’Neill as an extension of British shoot to kill policy to Britain from N. Ireland via Gibraltar. The British media including the quality press acted like judge and jury on the case, and accepted without question whatever the police gave them. without asking any questions on human rights. The IBRG condemned the police dragging of O’Neill’s body across the pavement as an abuse of a badly wounded prisoner.

On 12th October the Irish Post had a photo of large picket of 10 Downing Street over the execution of Diarmuid O’Neill. Many of the placards had Stop Shoot to kill Now and No More shoot to kill. On 5th October the Irish Post had Executed without a trial and quoted the IBRG and others condemning the execution of an unarmed man.

On 3rd October An Phoblacht stated that Amnesty International had called for an independent judicial inquiry into the killing. The Amnesty statement drew attention to how O’Neill was dragged down the steps of the house to the pavement instead of being treated where he was shot. An Phoblacht quoted IBRG as saying the death was unnecessary and preventable and comparing the disinformation by the police as similar to how they operated in Gibraltar. The Irish World on 4th October covered the IBRG statement on the killing.

Closure of Green Ink Books

The Green Ink bookshop, which Pat Reynolds founded, lost its £32k grant and was  due to be closed  A great loss to the community, as it had sold over one-million-pound worth of Irish books and music over 15 years.

 

The IBRG took the Guardian to task for describing the GAA as an excuse for a punch up. The Irish News in Belfast on 23rd September had GAA punch up label racist says Irish group.  The Guardian stated that Gaelic football was a thinly disguised excuse for a punch up, when discussing Camogie which it described as a fast furious and downright frightening game not for the faint hearted.

The IBRG pointed out that Gaelic games were family friendly, and attracted large crows without any trouble whereas in Britain, there was a male dominated racist violent culture with a huge police presence with horses around soccer. Rugby also was a physical game but that game was British and therefore manly violence.

Southend and racist killing

The IBRG expressed their concern at the racist killing of an Irish man in Southend on Sea. The media mentioned he was killed for kicks by a gang of teenagers. The IBRG condemned the murder of a man who died from five stab wounds, from a group of teenagers, who killed him for kicks. Southend had 2,000 Irish residents and was also popular day trip for the London Irish.

The IBRG expressed concern at the high homicide rate against the Irish community particularly Irish males, and believe that anti-Irish racism was often a factor, but one which was never considered by the police. The long history of hunting lone Irishmen hunting the barney later turned into hunting Pakistani young men was often racially driven. Anti-Irish racism in the media along with anti-Republicanism led to some of these attacks and hostility towards Irish people in certain English towns.  There had been because of the recession in Britain a turning in of communities upon one another, and there had been a rise in racial attacks on Irish people in housing, which was reported in different London boroughs. In recent years the IBRG had made a submission to the British Home Office on this matter the report was placed in the Hansard records.

Bolton IBRG had persuaded their local Social Services to provide an Irish Sean chairde club in Bolton where Irish elders could meet for lunch and socialising. The Irish World on 27th September had Tonic for Elderly Irish which Margaret Mullarkey and Ruth Kneafsey had organised. On 28th September the Irish Post had Bolton Club for Irish Elders.

Haringey support Irish Census

 

On 13th September the Irish World had Council supports Irish census bid which stated that Haringey Council were supported the infusion of the Irish in the 2001 census after a debate at their EMJCC and their CEO was writing to the ONS on the issue. Haringey had over 10,000 Irish born residents.

On 28th September the Irish Post had Hereford and Worcester opts for ethnic monitoring. IBRG now had six county councils in England recognising the Irish. Luton and Leicester indicated that they already included the Irish in their monitoring. The Irish Post indicated that the ONS were shortly to make a decision on whether to include the Irish in the 2001 census.

On 24th September IBRG members along with other regroups picketed Paddington Green Interrogation centre over PTA arrests.

On 30 September Pat Reynolds had an interview with Vincent Browne on RTE Radio over the Diarmuid O’Neill killing.

On 6th October IBRG members along with other groups picketed 10 Downing St over the unlawful execution of Diarmuid O Neill contrary to the Geneva Convention.

On 13th October Pat Reynolds had an interview with Thames Valley Irish Hour over votes for emigrants.

 The IBRG expressed its alarm over the failure of the CPS to prosecute Officers  involved in the unlawful killing of Richard O Brien.

Richard O’Brien

O’Brien had 31 separate injuries to his body after his death in custody, when he repeatedly told his oppressor, that he could not breathe again and again. On 5th October the IBRG issued a statement Nothing done over Unlawful killing on the case of Richard O’Brien where the Inquest verdict was unlawful killing. The IBRG condemned the CPS for their ‘insufficient evidence’ excuse. A British jury finds that an Irishman is unlawfully killed and no one is held accountable in Britain. The slogan British Justice -No justice comes to mind.

The CPS decision in the same week and the PCA (Police Complaints Authority) decided to take no action in the case of Brian Douglas, an Afro-Caribbean man, who died in police custody shows that in Britain there is no justice for Black or Irish people. Are the police beyond the law and not accountable to the law, which they are meant to serve and uphold. O’Brien had 31 injuries to his body because he was waiting peacefully to get a lift home with his wife and family from an Irish social club.

IBRG called on the Irish Government to take up this case, and for the two local MPs Harriet Harman and Tessa Jowell to take it up with the Home Office. The question the Irish community in Britain are now asking what kind of justice exactly is available to Irish citizens in the UK, when young Diarmuid O’Neill is executed in his bedroom, an Irishman is murdered in Southend, and the CPS refused to prosecute even on an unlawful killing jury inquest verdict.

The IBRG welcomed the Government climb down over ID cards which the IBRG had opposed. The IBRG were the only Irish group to put in a submission on the issue. In a statement on 14th October the IBRG noted the climbdown by the British government over ID and saw it as a victory for common sense. The IBRG had strongly opposed the introduction of any ID in Britain and Nt Ireland as it had major implications for the Irish community, having to operate under British border pass laws under the PTA. The Irish Post on 19th October had Plans for identity cards scrapped with the IBRG lead on the story. The IBRG had put in a strong submission to the Home Office opposing any introduction of ID cards in Britain.

Irish Community not allowed to have heroes

The IBRG drew attention that the British media deemed Diarmuid O Neill be to be Irish although born and reared in England, but regarded Philip Lawrence who was born and reared in Ireland to be British because he was seen as a hero and the British claim all Irish heroes. The murder trial for the  Philip Lawrence the Head teacher coincided with the execution of Diarmuid O Neill.

In a statement of 21st October, the IBRG stated the Irish community not allowed to have Heroes, and asked the question, when is an Irishman not an Irishman, answer when the British media decide he is British because he is a hero. Thus, Philip Lawrence could be an Irish hero a role model for the 21st October, second generation, and an example of the dedication to duty of thousands of Irish people in Britain.

The Irish community are not allowed heroes or an image of a peaceful Irish man who gave up his life for the safety of his pupils. The British media had no problem describing Diarmuid O Neill as Irish despite the fact that he was born and reared in Britain. The IBRG reject the British media, and regard both men as being Irish. In Britain a person cannot be Irish and a Hero at the same time.

The IBRG condemned the increase in the price of Irish passports in October to £47 compared with £18 for a similar British one. The impact on second generation Irish and people from N. Ireland was obvious. In an IBRG statement on 17th October Outrage over price of Irish passports the IBRG deplored the increase from 1st October 1996 and its impact upon the Irish community in Britain and the second generation. The Irish government were fond of talking about parity of esteem in relation to Nt Ireland but the Irish abroad wanted parity of economics. The impact in N. Ireland could also be worse. What young person could afford £47 for something they can get for £18. The IBRG does not accept comparison with other European states which have different economics.

The Irish Government need to look at the needs of its Irish community in Britain, which is mainly working class and particularly its second generation. Having denied Irish citizens abroad the vote the Irish government now want to rip off its emigrants with overpriced passports. They have now abandoned the colour green for the Irish passports, and ignore that we live in a Common Travel area and where people living in N. Ireland, and the second generation in Britain will now be forced to make choices on which passport to use for travel.

The Irish Post on 26th October had IBRG slam rise in price of passports. Why should the Irish passport be two and a half times more expensive than a British one when wages in Britain are lower than Ireland.

The IBRG announced that over 100 local authorities in Britain now recognise the Irish with 23 of the 33 London boroughs now recognising the Irish, 12 of the Metropolitan boroughs, 7 of the 35 County Councils, 8 of the City Councils, 25 local boroughs, 15 district councils, 7 Scottish and 3 Welsh local authorities now recognising the Irish.

In an IBRG statement of 11th October the IBRG showed that the Irish community were winning the battle in Britain for ethnic recognition which augured well for the 2001 Census battle. The IBRG’s plan was to get the majority of democratically elected councils in Britain backing us, then the government would have to give in on the debate. It was a strategic tactical battle which the IBRG knew they could win, and snooker the British government into accepting our case. The IBRG had won 72% of the London boroughs to our side and with 100 of the leading councils in Britain backing us, our case had strength and energy and the IBRG were determined to continue this battle.

On12th October the Irish Post had Rochdale and Bury opt for monitoring. Bothe of these were Metropolitan boroughs in the greater Manchester area. Cllr John Byrne was the leader in Bury. Pat Reynolds was quoted as stating ‘How can the ONS not now recognise the Irish and the case for inclusion the 2010 census when over 100 local authorities in Britain with the highest concentration of the Irish do so. There is a huge demand for the Irish to be now included.

On 18th October the Irish World had Irish support on the rise in councils which detailed that over 100 local authorities in Britain now recognise the Irish.

On 26th October the Irish Post had Now Irish in Trafford win recognition. It had the highest number of Irish outside of Manchester city in the area. Sunderland City Council and the Wirral in Liverpool had also come on broad. Frank Prendergast leader of Liverpool City Council said they would look at the issue. Bradford city council were also looking at it. In the Metropolitan Borough of Sefton Brian Reynolds deputy leader stated I certainly agree with you that the Irish community are subject to discrimination in much the same way as other ethnic groups. He suggested bringing an Irish community representative onto their Race Committee.

The Irish Government had turned down the three Senate seats for Irish emigrants which the IBRG opposed. Pat Reynolds had a letter in the Irish Times on the issue.

 

The IBRG Ard Choiste took place on 2nd November at the Friends Meeting Place in Manchester. Five delegates attended namely Bernadette Hyland, Diarmuid Breatnach, Maurice Moore, Kevin Hayes and Joe Mullarkey.

The meeting heard that Patrick Kelly who was suffering from cancer and was close to death had been released from Portlaoise Jail. Frank Johnson had been 21 years in prison an innocent man. The newly named ONS (Office for National Statistics) had responded to the IBRG demand for inclusion in the Census. Pat Reynolds had informed them that over 100 local authorities in Britain now recognised the Irish. The meeting heard that 106 local authorities now recognise the Irish. The IBRG had given £100 to the Bloody Sunday march and Pat Reynolds was on the organising committee.

On 3rd November the IBRG picketed 10 Downing St over Irish prisoners.

On 21st November Pat Reynolds was speaking with Billy Power of the Birmingham Six, Maurice Quinlivan later a TD in Dublin, Pegeen O Sullivan and Shelagh O’Connor at the launch of the PTA card at the Camden Irish centre and later had an interview with Heart Radio on the issue. An Phoblacht on 28th November   covered the launch with “Fuascailt launches PTA card 22,000 arrested during cessation” with a photograph of all the speakers. The Irish Post on 30th November covered it with a photo of Billy Power and Shelagh O’Connor. The Irish World had Advice card to end rough justice on 15th November.

 

 

The IBRG condemned the Daily Mail over its anti-Irish rantings in November.

On 1st November Bruce Anderson was again having a go at the West of Ireland. Anderson wrote ‘Death of an Evil Man’ after the death of Sean MacBride winner of the Nobel peace prize some years earlier. On 3rd November the IBRG put out a statement Outbreak of Xenophobia at Daily Mail condemning Anderson for his attack on the Gaeltacht in Ireland. Anderson betrays a sense of siege about Ireland and things Irish whether it be the Michael Collins film, Irish economic success or successful Irish people abroad like Sean McBride. Anderson has a typical 19th century colonial mindset who lives in the past who can only see Ireland in terms of pigs and potatoes, and he belongs to the past.

A year after the Irish government had ratified the European Convention on the Transfer of Prisoners only two Irish prisoners had been transferred to the Irish Republic.

The IBRG were mentioned in the Sunday Telegraph on 19th November in an article on Irish theme pubs. The story Phoney Irish pubs leave a bitter taste by Andrew Gilligan. The IBRG called for more sensitivity in naming such pubs. Scruffy Murphy’s was more a colonial stereotype which could impact on Irish kids. They were selling fake Irishness which was plastic. and often replacing genuine Irish pubs and staff which often provided Irish music and culture.  It was Walt Disney meeting Fr Ted. The Irish theme pub was now universal and in over 100 cities in the world. There was more to Irish culture than plastic leprechauns and prefabricated Irishness and expensive beer.

On 25th November the German Government requested the extradition of Roisin McAliskey to face trial in Germany.

On 2nd November the Irish Post had Warrington opts for monitoring of Irish. This was significant in that Warrington had sought to find way forward for the Peace Process following an IRA bomb in the town. The move by Warrington was seen as a gesture of goodwill towards the Irish people. Brighton Council also confirmed that they recognised the Irish as did Bedford as did Basildon and Southend.

On 11th November the Irish Post had Call to include emigrants in census rejected, this time it was the Irish government rejected the IBRG bid to have a question on emigration included in the Irish census, to find out the level of recent emigration from Ireland.

On 16th November the Irish Post had Another four weigh in.  The report showed that four more English city councils had recognise the Irish in Portsmouth, Lincoln, Gloucester and Worcester. Both Portsmouth and Gloucester had sizable Irish communities. On 23rd November the Irish Post had Five More agree on monitoring. This included Leicester.

The IBRG now had 108 local authorises on board  in Britain on ethnic monitoring of the Irish. In a story alongside the Irish Post had Nottingham call to Irish which the IBRG had given the Post.  Nottingham City Council wanted to make contact with local Irish organisations and individuals to consult with them about the needs of the Irish community. There was a big Irish community in Nottingham which used to have an IBRG branch.

On 30th November the Irish Post had More ethnic monitoring in Scotland with two more local Councils on board. The IBRG stated that they had been encouraged by the response from Scotland the Scottish would make a separate decision on the ethnic groups for the census in Scotland as it was important for IBRG to get the majority of councils in Scotland behind recognition of the Irish in order to win the census debate there.

On 4th December IBRG member joined the picket of Bow St Court over Roisin MacAliskey and again on 13th, 20th and 27th December.

 

On 7th December IBRG London members met at the Roger Casement Irish centre with nine delegates present including Diarmuid Breatnach, Tim McNamara, Laoise de Paor, Danny Burke, Michael O Maolain, Jack Vance, Thomas MacStiofan, Pat Reynolds and Jody Clark.

The meeting discussed reports from Lewisham, Brent, Southwark and North London, recruitment, Bloody Sunday march, Prisoners, General election, census 2001, ethnic recognition, CRE, PTA and employment discrimination. North London, Brent, Southwark and Lewisham attended.

The meeting was a success with a full debate on many issue and full reports on branch activities, from pickets to prisoners where Danny and Laoise were always involved and Pat and Thomas were involved in the Roisin McAliskey campaign, while Pat chaired the Frank Johnson campaign. The branches had use of two Irish centres one in Lewisham and one at the Roger Casement, and IBRG had been instrumental in setting both up. Green Ink another local IBRG resource was losing its funding, but would alter continue until 2001.

 

IBRG members attacked on bus by plain clothes police

On 13th December the Irish World had Growing concern after bus attack which detailed two IBRG members were waylaid on a late evening bus by two plain clothes police officers. Danny Burke and Laoise de Paor both members of Islington IBRG were coming back from an Irish language class. The police tried to bundle Danny off the bus and began asking him questions about IRA bombings in London.

When at first, Laoise asked the bus driver to call the police, the driver responded they are the police. Other passengers intervened and stopped the police in their tracks. An Englishman on the bus stood up and intervened and defended the Irish couple, demanding to know why they were arresting an innocent man. Several middle-aged Black women on the bus also spoke up loudly and told the police to back off. Eventually the police took notice of the other angry passengers and got off the bus at Kings Cross.

The IBRG in a statement on 9th December condemned the targeting of innocent Irish people travelling on a bus. Both were elderly and retired.

The couple clearly got targeted because they had Irish accents and were speaking some Gaelic. The incident had one strange moment when the police eventually flashed their warrant cards, but Danny Burke flashed back his new PTA bust card. He was frightened that they would take him off the bus and beat him up around the corner. The IBRG put the couple in touch with a solicitor and with Liberty and advised him to inform the Irish Embassy of the incident.

Coventry IBRG had an open meeting with Coventry’s Irish community on 16th December. The Irish Post on 7th December had IBRG meet in Coventry. Maurice Moore was the leading IBRG figure in Coventry.

Maurice Moore

 

On 14th December the Irish Post had photos of a Colmtas night in Bolton with Margaret and Joe Mullarkey in the top photo. The paper described Joe Mullarkey as Bolton’s best known Irishman and a former GAA player with Shannon Rangers. Margaret Mullarkey was of course Bolton’s best-known Irish woman, and a prime organiser of festival Ceili exhibitions and much more.

Pickets for Prisoners

On 14th December IBRG members joined the picket of Belmarsh prison where Pat Reynolds spoke, and joined a picket of 10 Downing St on Christmas Day, plus a picket of the Home Office over Frank Johnson on 17th December.

On 24th December the IBRG organised a picket of Holloway Prison over Roisin McAliskey. On 27th December Roisin McAliskey was placed in the all-male Belmarsh Prison.

IBRG organised  the picket of the German Embassy on 30th December again over Roisin. Both Thomas MacStiofan and Pat Reynolds were active in this campaign to get justice for Roisin along with other IBRG members and people from the community.

At the end of the year 110 local authorities in Britain recognised the Irish.

15 people had died in the Trouble in 1996.

 

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 Manchester – 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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Killed in El Salvador 3 December 1980; the Murder of Maura Clarke and her Sisters.

Jean Donovan, Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel and Maura Clarke

Guest post by Geoff Cobb.

I am a high school history teacher and author of books on Brooklyn history I also write for Irish American magazine, The Irish Echo newspaper and the New York  Irish History round table journal. My research on Irish painter John Mulvany was featured in the NY Times

 Why did I write about Sr. Maura I had to stop and think because it was an unconscious choice. Those murders horrified the New York Irish Catholic community because we had such reverence for nuns and for the first time many people wondered aloud about our role in Central America if we were supporting people capable of such barbarity and cruelness.  The victims were our own people and beloved in the community.

 

Forty years ago, on December 3, 1980, the world was shocked to learn of the brutal rape and murder of three Maryknoll nuns and a lay missionary. Their bodies were found in a shallow grave near the town of Santiago Nonualco, El Salvador. They had been beaten, raped and their bodies mutilated. One of the murdered nuns was  Sr. Maura Clarke of Belle Harbor Queens. The others were Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel, and lay missionary Jean Donovan.

Americans learned in horror that  Clarke and the other women had been assassinated at the orders of the Salvadoran government. In El Salvador at this time, the Catholic Church was “the object of governmental wrath and Clarke and the other women were seen as dangerous, subversives.

Ita and Maura.

Sr.  Maura Clarke, a widely loved figure in Salvador, died serving the poor and oppressed people of Central America and her murder caused raised many troubling questions about American foreign policy in Central America.

Clarke was the daughter of Irish immigrants raised in “ The Irish Riviera,” The Rockaways. Her mother Mary, originally from County Antrim, while studying nursing in Dublin, met her future husband  John  from Sligo who was fighting for the IRA. In 1922, John brought a wounded comrade to a convalescent home where Mary was the nurse. They fell in love and  left for New York. They  married in 1930 and had  three children, Maura, Buddy and Judy. In 1934, the Clarkes moved to Rockaway, where Maura attended St. Camillus, St. Frances de Sales (SFDS) and Stella Maris High School.

Clarke decided to become a Maryknoll nun, stimulated  by a deep desire “to become closer to God and to serve him.” She joined the sisters in 1950, making her first vows in 1953 with the intention of becoming a teacher.

When Sr. Maura entered the order, novices lived by a strict code of individual and corporate prayer. Full habits were worn and visits from family were severely limited. When she had completed her two and a half years as a novice, Clarke was sent to teach school in a poor neighborhood in the Bronx and soon was loved for her warmth and deep empathy with the schoolchildren.

In 1959, Clarke was assigned abroad to Nicaragua. Her first assignment was in a booming, but impoverished gold mining town in the jungle called Siuna,  where her attitude towards the role of the Church slowly began to evolve.

Sr. Maura was profoundly affected by the changes brought about by the Second Vatican Council.  Clarke changed from seeing herself as ministering to people’s souls to tending to their social and economic concerns, believing  that when the fathers of families “were digging gold and their children were starving,” the solution was not for them to attend church more often.

Sr. Maura at work.

Clarke became one of the earliest examples of lived liberation theology, believing, “the Catholic Church ought not only to be concerned with souls, but also with engaging ordinary Catholics in building a world of justice and fairness … to bring specifically Catholic answers to social problems.” Clarke and the other nuns now did not seek to be figures of authority as much as facilitators who entered people’s homes, talked with them, and helped them deal with the struggles of their personal lives.

After the huge  earthquake in  Nicaragua in December 1972, Sr. Maura chose to live with victims of the earthquake in refugee camps, sharing hardships with the people. She saw that the poverty in which most Nicaraguans lived resulted from the unequal distribution of wealth to a few closely connected to the regime of Anastasio Somoza.

She also learned that the aid coming from the U.S. never reached those in real need. The center of Managua, left flattened after the quake, was not rebuilt because American aid was used instead to buy weapons for the government  to fight the leftist rebellion. Sr. Clarke helped the people to rebuild their homes, but also to establish truly Christian communities.

In 1977, Maura returned to the Center to serve on a Maryknoll Sisters World Awareness Team, working primarily along the East Coast of the United States. She explained her view of this work to a fellow nun, “I see in this work a channel for awakening real concern for the victims of injustice in today’s world.”

When her term with the World Awareness Team ended early in 1980, Maura made a period of spiritual renewal and mission updating. It was not easy for her to make up her mind to return to Central America, but Nicaragua needed her, so she went freely, gladly. She wrote, “My dream is that, with each of you, in Jesus our source of hope and joy, we may continue to give ourselves to bring about the new Kingdom of love, justice, and peace.”

She decided to take the place of a Maryknoll sister in El Salvador of a nun who had drowned in an accident. Clarke knew it was a dangerous posting.  By the time of her assassination  Sr. Maura was fully living the ideas of service and ministering that she had begun to develop in Nicaragua, which hearkened back to her Irish Catholic roots, where having a Catholic identity meant opposition to the  British state.

Eventually, Sr. Maura and the others she worked with were actively helping guerilla fighters and others targeted by the Salvadoran government. She had moved out of institutions into ever more authentic encounters with people striving for social, political and economic equity. In the end, despite the danger, she chose to help the oppressed and ultimately lost her life.

 

Stained glass window in St. Francis de Sales church Bronx New York.

Today  Maura Clarke is still a hero in Nicaragua and El Salvador. In Brooklyn, she and a fellow Maryknoll nun are memorialized by  the Maura Clarke-Ita Ford Center, a social/educational institution for immigrant women. Writer Eileen Markey recently published a book about Sr. Maura (A Radical Faith: The Assassination of Sister Maura Clarke) which has led to calls for her canonization.

Mass for four women  in San Salvador Cathedral 2005

Read more about the case here “Killed in El Salvador:An American Story”. Retro Report “The New York Times” here

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History of Irish in Britain Representation Group Part fifteen 1995

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 Officers before meeting with Mo Mowlam of Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 1995.

On 3rd January the IBRG put out a statement Growing Concern at treatment of Irish Prisoners in Britain.

The statement expressed concern at the growing pattern of harassment and discrimination against Irish political prisoners in Britain. This included  locking them up for 23 hours  a day in Full Sutton prison, the banning of the use of their native language on the phone to their families, the refusal to continue the transfer programme, the ill-treatment of the Whitemoor escapees, and a range of other petty harassment of prisons and their families.

The IBRG supported the fight of Feilim O hAdhmaill to be able to speak his native language and to teach it within the prison.It condemned the 19th century colonial schooling methods employed by the Britain on the Irish language, where they punished Irish children for speaking their home language.

IBRG considers the ban on Irish to be racist and discriminatory. IBRG supported the Christmas Day picket of Downing St which was called by Conrad na Gaeilge over the ban on the Irish language. The IBRG also supported the picket of Belmarsh prison over the treatment of the Whitemoor escapees who were moved to Belmarsh prison. The pickets reflected the growing anger in the Irish community over the political victimisation of Irish political prisoners, and the attempts by the British government to use the prisoners as peace barter.

IBRG condemned the use of Special Secure Units and supported the prisoner’s action in refusing to cooperate with this system and their protest which started on 15th December which led to the 23 hours day lock up at Full Sutton. IBRG stated that Michael Howard was abusing international Law on the rights  of prisoners. IBRG called on the Labour Party  and the Irish government to stand up for basic human rights of Irish prisoners.

In January Bernadette Hyland highlighted the case of Feilim O hAdhmaill who was prevented from speaking Irish to his family. She called for Irish prisoners to be transferred to Ireland. The IBRG in a statement condemned the use of SS (Special Secure Units) for Irish prisoners as provocative. The Irish World in an article IBRG slam Strategy of tension quoted Bernadette Hyland accusing the Home Office actions as being a dangerous strategy of tension, where they forced Irish native speakers to speak in a foreign English language, and stopped their family phone calls in mid-flight. Bernadette went on’ The IBRG sees the issue of Irish prisons in British prisons as crucial test of the British government good faith in pursuing the Irish peace process. By imposing fresh restrictions on republican prisoners and refusing demands for a speedy transfer to Ireland d the Home Secretary Michael Howard is creating a politically dangerous situation.’

 

On 6th January IBRG picketed Ashford Industrial Tribunal in Kent in support of Máiréad Hold a Kent trainee social worker who stated that she had been discriminated against by Kent County Council. It was an all Irish language picket as Máiréad was a leading Irish language activist.  IBRG members attending were Diarmuid Breatnach, Padraig O Conhconcur, Seamus O Coileann, Padraig Mac Rannall and Máiréad Holt.

 

On 14th January the Ard Choiste was held at Caxton House in North London. Six delegates attended in including Laura Sullivan, Padaigin Ni Nuallain, Terry Corbin, Bernadette Hyland, Diarmuid Breatnach, and Pat Reynolds. Apologies  Neil Doolin.

The meeting heard that Sinn Fein had not responded to the IBRG request for a meeting to discuss the Peace Process. It was noted that the Wolfe Tone Society had organised a meeting with Francie Molloy from Sinn Fein at the same time as a picket of Belmarsh Prison on 18th December.

Lewisham and N. London had met earlier in the day and had identified   five areas of work for IBRG to prioritise, the transfer of prisoners, the repeal of the PTA, the Irish language, anti-Irish racism, and framed prisoners. The meeting heard that Saoirse, a new campaign group, had been set to campaign for the transfer of Irish prisoners, which had already been agreed by the British Government, and for an amnesty for political prisoners which would only come with a political settlement.

The meeting felt that Sinn Fein had failed to address the Irish community in Britain and their concerns on the peace Process in any meaningful way.  Branches were asked to push for Irish ethnic recognition given that the CRE had made public their support of Irish recognition.

  1. London IBRG (made up of Haringey, Hackney and Camden) submitted three motions which were passed. The first rejected the proposal by Fine Gael/Labour Coalition government for three Senate seats for the Irish abroad, and called for full voting rights to be given to the Irish abroad. The second motion condemned the appointment of Sean Donlon former Irish Ambassador in America to the post of special advisor on N. Ireland to the Irish government. While in America Sean Donlon on behalf of the Irish government had tried to block the case of the Birmingham Six being put forward in the USA. The third motion condemned the withdrawal of funding to Meanschoil Firste and called for full Irish language rights in N. Ireland.

On 15th January the IBRG put out a statement Vote demanded instead of Token Senate Seats which rejected the plan by the Labour/Fine Gael Coalition to give three Senate seats to the Irish abroad. The IBRG wanted the vote for the Irish abroad and nothing less and called for all Senate seats to be elected by the Irish people. The IBRG drew attention to the situation where under British colonial rule in N. Ireland Irish people maintain their voting rights for 12 years after leaving Nt Ireland, and yet the Irish Republic deny their citizens abroad thew vote. The IBRG called for equal voting rights all over Ireland for its people.

On 25th January Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking with Billy Power at a Public Meeting at the Camden Irish Centre attended by over 70 people. It was a joint meeting between the Malcolm Kennedy and the Frank Johnson campaigns.

On 26th January Pat Reynolds was speaking on the Kilroy Show on the case of Lee Clegg. Ken McGuiness was also on the show. The show was later attacked by the Sunday Express which showed we won the debate on the day.

That evening Martin McGuiness, Clive Soley MP, Peter Bottomley MP and Gareth Pierce were all speaking at a Public meeting at Friends Meeting place at Euston London. Gareth Pierce made by far the best speech of the night on the issue of justice. Clive Soley and Peter Bottomley were both awful while McGuinness made some useful points on the Peace Process, but many remarked at the meeting that there was no speaker from the Irish community in Britain. IBRG members asked a number of questions from the floor on the PTA, Article 2&3, and on the Felim O hAdhmail case. IBRG members in Birmingham attended a similar meeting where Martin McGuiness spoke.

On 27th January Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking on BBC Radio Belfast Talkback programme on the Lee Clegg case.

Bloody Sunday March Manchester

Leaflet for Blody Sunday march Manchester 1995

On 28th January IBRG members marched with banners on the Bloody Sunday March in Manchester at which Pat Reynolds was speaking with Martin McGuiness. Pat  raised the question of Irish deaths in custody and the framed prisoners such as  Frank Johnson. Hackney and Haringey had their banners on the march and IBRG members also attended from Manchester, Coventry, Liverpool, Bolton, Harrow and North London. The police presence was small compared with London and because of the peace process and the crowd was quite large.

In January the IBRG condemned the London Evening Standard for an article on the Great Hunger entitled ‘attack of the killer Potato’ but praised another article on the same topic by Melanie McDonagh entitled ‘A year long guilt trip for the nation’.

IBRG condemned the first article for its racism and stated ‘The views expressed by Mr Pepys are the same old racist views which created the Great Hunger. The Irish community in Britain and throughout the world will be remembering the Great Starvation and the contribution made by those fleeing from Hunger in Ireland to world history. Their contribution was one IBRG slam of hard work, equality and justice along with a strong desire to support other people in similar distress whether in Somalia or Bosnia. We celebrate the courageous legacy left by our brace ancestors, a noble dignity, a spirit of struggle and a consideration for others. Something Mr Pepys will never understand’.

The second article by the Irish writer Melanie McDonagh was well argued. She quoted Sinead O’Connor on about the Great Hunger that “God didn’t sent the Great Starvation to Ireland, He sent the English”. The writer states’ the potato blight was an act of nature, one that devastated many European countries besides Ireland. But the fatal response to it, and the dreadful vulnerability of the people, was a result of the way the Irish had been viewed and treated. A million people died in the famine, not because of nature, but because of England’s politics. She ends by stating ‘remembering the sins of colonisation isn’t comfortable, but it may turn out to be redemptive’.

In a statement on 6th January the IBRG stated  ‘ Pepys is a stable mate of the racist anti-Irish cartoonist JAK and we say to them both, haven’t they got enough problems without carrying the Whiteman’s burden, had nobody told them the days of Empire are over and that this racism U Like journalism, belongs to the colonial mentality of the past, long past its sell by date’.

 

On 5th February IBRG members joined the Frank Johnson picket of Leman St police station in East London where the original investigation took place from. It was the 20th anniversary of the death of Irish shopkeeper Mr Sheridan for which Frank, his employee, was framed.

 

Meeting with CRE and research on discrimination and Irish Community

On 7th February the IBRG joined other Irish groups to meet with Herman Ouseley Chair of the CRE to discuss progress on the University of N. London research on discrimination and the Irish community which would be finished by August with publication date of Spring 1996.

The CRE were going to use the Trevor McAuley case as an example in the Racial Harassment at Work booklet. The CRE were shocked at the level of anti-Irish abuse in the English media over the Trevor McAuley case, which included five editorials calling for the CRE to be abolished. Thus, any organisation supporting the Irish community in Britain would be attacked by the English racist media.

The CRE would support the inclusion of the Irish community as a separate category within the 2001 Census in Britain and would raise the matter in meetings with the OPCS. Irish groups criticised the CRE because they failed to make public their recognition of the Irish, or to put any pressure of local authorities to implement their recommendation with the result, that not a single local authority in Britain had taken any notice of the CRE circular. The CRE agreed to send out a public notice to this effect which eventually went out in August 1995.

The IBRG raised the issue of Regional Health Authorities which were bringing in ethnic monitoring in April 1995 but were excluding the Irish, and asked the CRE to make representations on this given the hidden health needs of the Irish community in mental health and other areas.

On 7th February the Irish Government lifted the State of Emergency which was in place since 1976.

 

19th  Anniversary of death of Frank Stagg

On 12th February IBRG took part in a picket of Belmarsh prison in South east London for the 19th anniversary of Frank Stagg’s death.  Pat Reynolds PRO was one of the speakers at the picket calling for the transfer of Irish prisoners and for the repeal of the PTA. The picket was covered in An Phoblacht.

In February the IBRG expressed disappointment that the British Government had restricted the Mortgage Incentive Scheme to the UK which mean Irish Council tenants could not buy a house in the 26  Counties. On 12th February the IBRG put out a statement on the British government re Mortgage Incentive scheme which was to encourage Council tenants to move out by giving them a deposit or cash incentive to buy a house around £10K. The Government scheme was limited to properties in the UK so people from N. Ireland could accept the cash and put it down against a house in N. Ireland, but the scheme did not extend to the Irish Republic.

The IBRG stated that given that the Republic was within a Common travel area, and given that both British and Irish people enjoyed full rights in each other’s countries, the scheme should have been extended to the Republic. Common homelessness went across borders and Irish returnees made up 18% of the Homeless in the Republic while the Irish in Britain also made up a high number of the homeless here. Both Governments needed to look at schemes like Mutual transfer and other schemes to address this problem. In the past families from the Republic could take part in the Mortgage incentive scheme. The IBRG called for a Mutual transfer scheme to be   set up between Britain and Ireland.

On 15th February an IBRG delegation met with Mo Mowlam  (see headline photo) at Westminster and discussed the PTA, Irish prisoners, Frank Johnson, the police treatment of Sr. Sarah Clark, the case of Feilim O hAdhmaill the Peace Process.

The delegation was led by IBRG Chair Diarmuid Breatnach, along with Pat Reynolds PRO, Virginia Moyles and Laura Sullivan. It was the first ever meeting between the Labour Party and the IBRG and Mo Mowlam was the Labour Party Spokesperson on N. Ireland. She wanted reform of the PTA and the days reduced from 7 to 4 and an end to exclusion orders.

Later that day Mo Mowlam wrote to Pat Reynolds PRO to say ‘I am writing to thank you and your colleagues for coming in to meet Nigel and myself today. We found it a very useful and constructive meeting. If there is anything you would like us to do with regard to the cases of particular prisoners, please let us have a contact name and we will examine what appropriate action cane be taken. Look forward to seeing you again soon, Your sincerely Marjorie Mowlam.

The IBRG issued a statement on 16th February with details of the discussion.  The Irish World covered the story with Westminster meeting urges abolition of PTA. The Irish Post covered did with a photo of Mo Mowlam in conversation with Virginia Moyles and Pat Reynolds

On the same day the Ireland V England match in Dublin was abandoned because rioting by English fans including right wing groups after Ireland took the lead.

 

On 16th February Pat Reynolds was speaking at Kent University in Canterbury where students supported the case of Frank Johnson, who the students adopted as a prisoner. The film In the Name of the Father was then shown. The Irish Post covered it with Students rally behind Frank Johnson.

On 18th February IBRG members attended a moving celebration of the life of Nina Hutchinson who died of cancer. Pat Reynolds praised the Nina’s commitment not just for the people of the Six Counties but also for the local Irish community, where she had helped set up the Southwark Irish Forum, The Irish Teachers Group and helped organise the Ireland the Right to Know Exhibition at the South London Gallery. She had been stopped from going into the USA because of her work around Ireland.

In February the IBRG condemned the treatment of Sr. Sarah Clark an elderly blind Irish nun who worked with Irish prisoners in Britain. She had been visited at her home by the Special Branch who took her fingerprints at her house. The IBRG condemned the cowardly Special branch for their attack on the civil liberties of 76-year-old blind nun.

 

On 15th February IBRG put out a statement Anger in Irish community over police treatment of Irish Elder, whose only crime was supporting human rights in Britain and Ireland and the rights of prisoners. It was seen as a calculated insult in post ceasefire Britain to target a blind Irish nun of 76 without allowing her statutory rights, and fingerprinting her at her home.

Sr. Sarah Clark was revered among Irish prisoners both political and framed, and within the Irish community who for many dark years carried the torch of freedom for the Birmingham Six and other prisoners. Even after the ceasefire the British government can’t keep its grubby hands off our community.

IBRG raised the issue with Mo Mowlam in their meeting on 15th February and handed in a formal letter of protest at the British Home Office. The IBRG also complained to the Irish Government over her house arrest and finger printing,  and that  she  had been given no rights to legal advice and support. It was an act of state intimidation for all her work on Human Rights. The Irish Press covered it with British police fingerprint elderly nun and quoted the IBRG in the story. Sr. Sarah Clark was not cautioned before the police interview nor allowed to contact her solicitor Gareth Pierce. The IBRG called on the Irish government to stand up for its citizens abroad. The Irish World ran the IBRG statement as a letter.

British Government documents on future of Ireland

On 22nd February the British Government published two documents entitled Framework for the Future and a Framework for Accountable Government in N. Ireland. These included the Irish Government giving up its territorial claim to N. Ireland and a recognition of the Unionist veto in Ireland. John Mayor spoke of the Triple Lock. N. Ireland will stay British until the majority of political parties in N. Ireland want to change it, until the people of N. Ireland vote to change it and until the British government vote to change it.

On 25th February the IBRG issued a statement entitled Framework Document Rejigs Failed solutions. The IBRG stated ‘The Framework lacks any concept of self-determination for the Irish peoples a whole, and is totally lacking in putting forward any structures for a United Ireland. There is no acknowledgement of Britain’s role and responsibility for the creation of N. Ireland, the problem is now referred to patronisingly as parity of esteem, two traditions, thus letting Britain off the hook.’.

On 25th February IBRG officers met at the Lewisham Irish Centre to plan the Ard Fheis.

On 1st March IBRG members joined a midday picket of Belmarsh Prison and in the evening picket of Downing St over the arrest in Derry of Sinn Fein activists including Mary Nellis. The picket was called by the Colin Roach Centre in Hackney.

In March the IBRG made public the case of Norah Waugh sister of Jimmy Doyle, her husband and her son who had been cleared after wrongful arrest.

On 1st March the IBRG issued a statement where a wronged arrested Irish family were cleared by the court. The IBRG had complained publicly over the treatment of the family and the Southwark Irish Forum had written to Chief Supt at Peckham station over the incidents.

On Boxing day in 1994 Michael Waugh was leaving his parents’ home when he was mugged on the street. One of assailants went into the public house, and when he went in, he was attacked by youths from the pub.  When his father went in to investigate, he too was beaten. The mother frightened at what was happening to her husband and son being badly injured, dialled 999. But when the police arrived, they arrested the Irish father and son and took them to Peckham police station. At 3am the mother went to the police station to find out what was happening and was herself arrested. Because of a medical condition brought on by her arrest she had to be rushed to hospital where they put her arm in a sling the father and mother were charged with being drunk and the son with criminal damage. The father and son spent 14 hours in custody and the mother spend 11 hours in custody before appearing in court the next day. All charges were cleared at court. The father and son both worked with the Probation Service and were highly respected in the neighbourhood. The father could not even drink because of a medical condition. The IBRG expressed its alarm that an innocent Irish family could be    falsely arrested and charged, and an Irish mother racially abused, and as victims they did not get any protection from the law.

 

On 5th March Pat Reynolds attended a meeting in Brent with IBRG members in Brent to try and restart Brent branch with John Tymon and Tomas McStiofan. John Tymon was Branch Secretary of Brent Unison while Thomas MacStiofan was a leading Irish language teacher.

British Government renews attack on Irish Community

On 5th March IBRG released a statement headed British Government renews attacks on Irish community on the British government renewing the racist PTA laws, despite the IRA ceasefire and the lifting of the State of Emergency in Ireland. It was set for renewal on 8th March in the Commons.

IBRG stated the renewal exposes the real intention and purpose of the PTA at last, to politically silence the Irish community and to stifle debate in Britain on the Government’s failure to negotiate with all the political representatives of the Irish people. The British Government told us for over twenty years that the only reason for the PTA was the IRA, now the real reason is exposed to abuse the human and civil rights of Irish citizens in Britain.

IBRG deplored the feeble effort of the British Labour Party in opposing the PTA, when they would support the PTA minus exclusions orders and a reduction of 7 days to 4. Why does the British Labour party want to keep any section of the PTA, and why support the two new clauses in the Criminal Justice bill, which further target the Irish community and abuse their civil liberties. Rather than preventing terrorism the PTA has been used to terrorise the whole community, and was instrumental in keeping the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four in prison. More recently it was used to racially abuse a blind Irish elderly nun Sr Sarah Clark.

Death of Maire O’Shea

On 8th March Dr Maire O Shea former president of IBRG died in Dublin. The Guardian carried an Obituary as did the Sunday Tribune by Bernadette McAliskey. Maire had been attempting to set up a public inquiry into the framing of the Birmingham Six, when she herself became the victim of state terrorism.

She had spent a lifetime fighting for better rights for people in mental health. She was IBRG President for three years and had been a member of the IBRG NEC for many years. She was a founding member of the West Midlands PTA Campaign, had been in in the Anti-Partition League, the anti-Internment League, Troops Out and IBRG. Pat Daly, MI5 agent, had been involved in infiltrating IBRG and in setting up what was a state conspiracy to damage the IBRG.

Maire’s campaign gave rise to the campaign for the release of the Birmingham Six, she gave the community the inspiration to rise up against repressive laws and false imprisonments in Britain. As the IBRG stated ‘the burden of oppression is a bit lighter today on the Irish community because of brave women like Dr Maire OShea, and we owe it to her to continue our campaign and her vision of a free and united Ireland, and a free Irish community in Britain’.

In March Green Ink held the London Irish Bookfair which drew thousands of people including a capacity crowd on the final evening to hear Bernadette MacAliskey. Sr Sarah Clark  opened the Bookfair and spoke highly of Dr Maire O Shea and the struggle of Irish prisoners in Britain.

On 9th March Bill Clinton grants Gerry Adams, a visa to visit America and raise funds.

On 17th March Manchester IBRG organised the launch of the book “The Cause of Ireland” with Liz Curtis at Frontline Books in Manchester.

 

 

On 18th March IBRG members attended a lecture given by Gareth Pierce on The State of Criminal Justice at the Halkevi Kurdish Centre in Hackney in memory of all those people who have suffered and died in police custody.

On 23rd March IBRG members in London attended the launch of the  Service Needs of the Irish Community report at the ALA (All London Authorities). Herman Ouseley head of the CRE attended as did Bernie Grant MP and over 90 local authority staff. The main issue and purpose of the meeting was to push for Irish ethnic recognition among local authorities and in the 2001 National Census.

 

On 25th March the IBRG Ard Fheis was held at the KOKO Centre in Coventry. Eleven delegates attended from six branches including Neil Doolin, Marie Byrne McCann, Jonathan Richards, Peter Skerrett, Sean Hone, Tim McNamara, Bernadette Hyland, Kevin Hayes, Maurice Moore, Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds.

The following officers were elected;

Chair Pat Reynolds North London

Cisteoir Maurice Moore Coventry

PRO/Membership Bernadette Hyland Manchester.

Prisoners Officer Laura Sullivan North London.

Neil Doolin was thanked for his hard work as Runai over the previous three years and for his work on the Liverpool Irish Festival. Maurice Moore paid a moving tribute to Dr Maire OShea who had died earlier in March. Outgoing Chair Diarmuid Breatnach outlined the positives and negatives of the IRA ceasefire upon the Irish community in Britain, but highlighted the fact that the racist PTA laws were still in place, and that the conditions for Irish prisoners had not changed. He welcomed the decision of the CRE to recognise the Irish community, but the vote for emigrants in N. Ireland had yet to be won. Kevin Hayes gave an update on the PTA and highlighted the success of the Kate Magee campaign and also the work undertaken by IBRG in the McNulty family campaign.

The PRO had spoken at seven public meetings on behalf of the IBRG along with seven pickets on prisoners’ issues. He had been able to make a five-minute program on anti-Irish racism after the Trevor Mcauley case with the help of Channel Four, and had been speaking on the Kilroy show re Lee Clegg, and had two meeting with the BBC to assist their First Sight program on racial harassment on the Irish.

The PRO had spoken 10-times on Radio four-time on Mutual exchanges in Housing, and spoke on the Pat Kenny Show, Cork radio, Sligo radio, and Dundalk radio. He spoke also on Greater London radio about the Lambeth head count, and to Radio Eireann and Radio Ulster re the Trevor McAuley case and had a 30-minute debate with Ruth Dudley Edwards on greater London radio on ethnic status for the Irish, spoke with Radio Foyle re the vote in Ireland and on Radio Belfast re Lee Clegg.

IBRG stories were carried in the Irish Post, Irish World,  An Phoblacht, Irish Independent, Irish Press, Evening Press, Evening Herald, Irish Times, Irish News, South London Press, Cork Examiner, Sligo Radio, Radio Eireann, Dundalk Radio, Asian Times, Greater London radio, Channel Four TV, Radio Ulster, BBC TV, Sunday times, Independent, Yorkshire Post, Coventry Irish Hour, Radio Foyle, Central TV, London Tonight, London News Agency, Kilburn Times, Brent Chronicle, Guardian Saoirse and other Irish language outlets.

Motions passed included;

A motion calling for Irish emigrants to be given the vote in Ireland, and rejecting the offer of three senate seats,

A motion rejecting the framework documents as seeking an internal solution to Nt Ireland

A motion calling for outright opposition to MP who supported the PTA

A motion calling for inclusion of the Irish in the 2001 Census in Britain,

The Ard Fheis heard reports of IBRG work on the Kate Magee Campaign, the Frank Johnson Campaign, The McNulty Family campaign, work against the PTA, prisoners work on transfer and amnesty, along with language and cultural work.

Felim O hAdhmaill Case

In a letter to Manchester IBRG Mo Mowlam stated that she would visit Felim O hAdhmaill in Full Sutton Prison. This was covered in the Irish Post who quoted Bernadette Hyland that the proposed visit by Mo Mowlam was a breakthrough and showed that the resolution of Irish prisoners’ issues in British jails was an integral part of the peace process. Meanwhile Eamon O’Cuiv grandson of Fianna Fáil founder, Taoiseach and President of Ireland, Éamon de Valera,was coming to Britain to meet Irish prisoners and would meet Feilim.  O’Cuiv was a native Irish speaker and would speak with Feilim in Irish at the prison.

Manchester IBRG produced the 4th IBRG National Newsletter (see below) with an article on the Irish community and the peace Process, a review of 1994, news of various campaigns and news from branches. The front cover had a photo of Kate Magee.

On 6th April Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG took part in an hour-long debate on the Irish being an ethnic minority community on BBC Greater London Radio, Kent Radio, Oxford Radio, and Radio Bedfordshire along with Deirdre Robinson of the Camden Irish Centre and Irish Tory Councillor Tony Hennessy from Hammersmith, with members of the public ringing in with questions to the panel of three. It was a fascinating debate.

The same evening BBC TV carried a program The Irish A Race Apart which Pat Reynolds had two sessions with the producers on, giving them cases to interview. The programme  featured the Waugh family from Southwark and their treatment by the police. So, despite increasing censorship from the moving right Irish Post the IBRG were receiving excellent coverage on BBC TV, several radio stations in the south East and several Irish national papers. The IBRG were leading the national debate on issues like ethnic status, the PTA and Irish miscarriages of justice.

Joe Benson MP of Liverpool had put in an EDM (Early Day Motion) in the Commons on Frank Johnson which had received the support of 25 MPs with more to come.

On 19th April Brent IBRG held their first meeting.

In April the IBRG took up the issue of including the Irish in ethnic monitoring of European Funding programs. Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG wrote to Pauline Green MEP on 30th April on the fact that the ethnic monitoring for the European social funding did not include the Irish, so there was no way of knowing whether the Irish were getting any funding or not. The IBRG argued that given the CRE were recommending the inclusion of the Irish, and the fact of the 1976 Race relations act recognising the Irish, the European social Funding program should include the Irish.

In April Diarmuid Breatnach was called in to an Old Bailey trial to provide language translation for a man from the Gaeltacht, the first time since Fenian times that an Irish language translator was used at the Old Bailey. The Irish World reported this on 28th April with Irish Interpreter makes court history.

Lewisham IBRG marked Easter 1916 with a lecture by Liz Curtis author of the newly published book The Cause of Ireland. The Irish Post covered it with a photo of Liz Curtis.

 

On 29th April the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Working-Class movement Library in Salford Manchester. Nine delegates attended including Diarmuid Breatnach, Tim McNamara, Denis McGovern, Martin Connolly, Stobhart Matuieveicz, Pat Reynolds, Maurice Moore, Bernadette Hyland and Joe Mullarkey.

Apologies Neil Doolin, and Laura Sullivan.

The meeting heard that Saoirse had been launched in London in March and that Laura Sullivan was attending their meetings. A letter from Feilim O hAdhmaill was read to the meeting, he had won the right to communicate in Irish with his family. Pat Reynolds was collating information on ethnic recognition of the Irish across Britain. Bolton IBRG had organised a series of Irish programmes for Bolton Radio. Other issues discussed were, Frank Johnson, CRE meeting and recognition for the Irish, the Great Hunger anniversary, votes for emigrants, 2001 Census and the history of IBRG.

Haringey Council support inclusion of Irish in 2001 Census

On 25th April Haringey Ethnic Minorities JCC discussed the Service Needs of the Irish community in Britain with Pat Reynolds winning Haringey Council’s support for the inclusion of the Irish within the 2001 Census, the first Local authority in Britain to do so. Haringey CEO would write to the OPCS on the matter, and also write to Virginia Bottomley Health Minister about the getting the NHS to recognise the Irish. Former IBRG Vice Chair Seamus Carey now a Haringey councillor was there to support the Irish motion, along with Cllr George Meehan many times Leader of Haringey Council and from Donegal.

On 30th April the IBRG issued a statement entitled Haringey Council support for Irish Needs Report which stated that Haringey EMJCC had on 25th April heard a report on Developing a community response the Service needs of eth Irish community. Bill Aulsbury Vice Chair of the Federation addressed the meeting. Bill was also Chair of the Haringey Irish Centre. George Meehan, several times leader of Haringey Council and then Chair of Housing attended the meeting to give his support. Pat Reynolds IBRG Chair and member of the EMJCC proposed on the back of the report acceptance, that Haringey Council CEO write to the OPCS calling on them to include the Irish community as a separate category in the 2001 census, and further to write to Virginia Bottomley Minister for Health calling on the government to include the Irish in ethnic monitoring within the NHS. Cllr Toby Harris Leader of Haringey council and Chair of the ALA in London responded from the Council side supporting these two proposals, and called for reports to come back to the various committee like Housing and social Services, on ways to address the needs of the Irish community locally.

The Report was drafted by Action Group for Irish Youth and the Federation. Haringey had only two Irish councillors George Meehan and Seamus Carey former Vice chair of IBRG.

On 5th May the Irish World covered this with Haringey pledges support for Irish, the paper also covered the battle for ethnic status in London fought by the IBRG, and noted that nearly half of the 32 London boroughs now recognised the Irish with North London leading the way.

IBRG announced their results of their ethnic monitoring campaign in London with some 15 London boroughs out of 32 now recognising the Irish about half.

Merseyside IBRG Meeting on Peace Process

On 4th May Pat Reynolds was speaking with Una Gillespie of Sinn Fein at the Liverpool Irish Centre, the first time Sinn Fein had spoken at public meeting in Liverpool since the War of Independence. Over 200 people attended the meeting to talk about the Peace Process. The speakers included a speaker from the Connolly Association, but the Federation of Irish Societies failed to turn up.

The meeting was organised as part of the Liverpool Irish Festival organised by Merseyside IBRG. Nell McCafferty and Mary Dorcey also spoke on different evenings during the festival plus a Festival Parade was held.

The Festival got a two-page Photo spread in the Irish Post on 20th May with a large photo of the parade with its banner Liverpool Irish cultural community festival, and a photo of Neil Doolin and others, the Irish World on 19th May again had a whole page photo spread with eight photos including Neil Doolin outside the Irish centre with Marie Byrne McCann.

The Irish Post covered the political meeting with Irish in Britain have key role in talks process. Pat Reynolds stated that there were over two million people in Britain who identified as being Irish and that it was time to decommission Britain’s role in Ireland which was a colonial and repressive one.

In May the British government published its consultation paper on identity Cards which the IBRG opposed.

On 4th June IBRG members joined the first Saoirse picket in Britain of 10 Downing St before then it was just Cuman Cabrach and the IBRG who had kept the pickets going on Irish prisoners from 1981 to 1995 some 15 years.

On 11th June IBRG members attended the Bronterre O’Brien commemoration at Abney Cemetery in Hackney.See below. O’Brien was one of the leaders of the Chartist movement and was born in Granard Co Longford.

 

 

On 12th June IBRG members attended the Unison Irish fringe meeting in Brighton with Diarmuid Breatnach speaking for the Irish workers Group, Frank O’ Neill speaking for Saoirse and Joan O’Connor for Sinn Fein. The meeting drew over 70 people.

On 17th June the IBRG Ard Choiste met at Caxton House at Archway north London. Six delegates attended including Laura Sullivan, Pat Reynolds, Diarmuid Breatnach, Bernadette Hyland, and Maurice Moore.

It was agreed to affiliate to Saoirse for £25, and to the Bridgewater Four campaign for £10. Diarmuid Breatnach was elected Vice chair. A motion from North London condemned the proposed identity cards introduction by the British Government. The priorities for the year were identified, Great Hunger events, Prisoners issues, ethnic recognition, 2001 census and votes for emigrants. A meeting had been arranged with Mo Mowlam to discuss the PTA, prisoners and Nt Ireland policy.

On 20th June Martin McGuiness stated ‘in reality there is not a snowball’s chance in hell of any weapons being decommissioned this side of a negotiated settlement’.

In June the IBRG condemned the remark by Paddy Ashdown Leader of the Liberals about not giving ‘an Irishman’s answer’ to a question. The Irish World had the story on the front-page quoting Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG that his remark was racist and betrayed a colonial mentality, and reflected on the British establishment entrenched attitude towards Irish people.

Laoise de Paor of Nt London IBRG had painted a banner for the Frank Johnson Campaign which  was put on display at the London Irish Fleadh in Finsbury park.

Merseyside IBRG and rejected plans for Dublin/Liverpool Ferry

On 1st July the Irish Post ran a story Liverpool City Council’s blow to ferry Link about the rejected plan to restart a Dublin Liverpool ferry. Neil Doolin of Merseyside  IBRG was quoted as saying’ We are disappointed with the Liverpool City council’s decision not to go ahead with the ferry proposal, and see it as missed opportunity to strengthen economic cultural and social links with Ireland. Let’s not forget that Dublin is the nearest EU capital to Liverpool, and it seems ludicrous that links between the two are not being forged, especially now that millions of pounds of EU Objective One cash is available’.

On 3rd July Lee Clegg a British soldier convicted of murder was released after four years. This led to rioting in nationalist areas in the occupied territories. In London IBRG members joined with other human rights supporters in picketing the Home Office and then Parliament and getting on TV. This was  during John Major’s re-election as Tory Leader on 4th July. John Bruton stated that he  expects the British authority to apply the same rules to all other similar prisoner cases.’

On 3rd July Pat Reynolds was a key note speaker at a Haringey Education Conference on Racial Equality in schools.

On 9th July the Orange march was blocked from marching down the Garvaghy Road in Lurgan but the next day the Tory Government gave in to the right-wing marchers and allowed them to go through. The Irish government accused the RUC of bias in favour of the marches.

On 14th July after a meeting of John Bruton, John Hume, Gerry Adams and Dick Spring a joint statement called for all-party talks as soon possible.

By the end of July, the Irish government had released 33 republican prisoners while the British Government had transferred some 21 republican prisoners.

 On 15th July Coventry IBRG issued a statement condemning Coventry’s Lord Major Joe Clifford for refusing to meet with elected public Sinn Fein figure Joe Austin, who was in Britain to build up support for the peace process.

Joe Austin was met by representatives of the Christian churches in Coventry, leaders of the Irish community, trade unions and other city councillors, yet last spring Coventry had feted Cllr Hugh Smith PUP in their City, and the refusal to meet a Sinn Fein Councillor smacked of colonial racist attitudes.

Maurice Moore, Chair of Coventry IBRG, stated ‘by his actions the Lord Major has insulted Coventry’s Irish community and owes us an apology. We demand that Coventry City Council make clear their role and contribution, if any, to the Peace Process’.

The Irish Post on 5th August had Refusal still rankles which covered letters in the  Coventry Evening Telegraph on the issue. The Mayor, in taking office, stated that Peace was to be the theme of his year in office, yet as Maurice Moore pointed out, he refused to take part in a Peace Process meeting in Coventry  and showed bias by openly inviting Loyalist PUP to Coventry.

 

On 17th July Bernadette Hyland, PRO IBRG, issued a statement IBRG Condemns British government’s year zero policy on Irish prisoners in British jails. New prison regimes were imposing closed visits on Irish prisoners and going back on agreements such as Feilim O hAdhamill’s right to speak and write to his family in Irish Bernadette Hyland stated ‘these prisoners are part of our community over here, and we utterly condemn this new regime as vicious and repressive. Eleven months into the ceasefire we have yet to see a positive response from the British government on the treatment of Irish prisoners in British jails, republican prisoners are clearly being used as political pawns  in the peace process We call on the British government to transfer all Irish prisoners immediately and move quickly to all-party talks in which the early release of prisoners would be3 a crucial part of any settlement’.

Lewisham and recognition of Irish

On 22nd July the Irish Post story Breakthrough on monitoring in Lewisham covered Lewisham council moving to recognise the Irish in the autumn and were preparing a report for committee. The IBRG had made several representations to the Council on the matter.

The article also reported that Lambeth Southwark and Lewisham Health commission we relooking at the issue. The article reported that seminar on the issue was being held at Southwark Town Hall on 21st July at which IBRG Chair and Southwark Irish Policy Officer was one of the keynote speakers, and he would be recommending recognition of the Irish, and was working with the Health Commission to develop policies to address health issues in the Irish community.

IBRG oppose Identity Cards

On 30th July the IBRG issued a statement IBRG oppose use of Identity cards in Britain. The statement noted the publication of the British Government paper by Michael Howard Home Secretary. The IBRG at their Ard Choiste meeting of 17th June passed  a motion opposing the introduction of these cards in Britain.

IBRG pointed out that in  Dr Jock Young’s Study on Police stops in North London which showed that Black and Irish people were stopped many more times than English people, and that ID cards would make all Irish people more vulnerable given the existence of the racist PTA laws. Indeed, the Irish community had been subject to pass laws and identity checks for over 20 years going to and from Ireland, solely based on their racial background. It was noted that the four countries in Europe which had ID cards were all former dictatorships. The IBRG however welcomed the description of the UK as our island geography and hopes that the Home Office now believed in a United Ireland. The Irish World covered this on 4th August with Irish lobby group calls for opposition to identity cards.

IBRG Meeting with Mo Mowlam

On 3rd August an IBRG Delegation led by IBRG Chair Pat Reynolds along with Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Moore and Kevin Hayes met with Mo Mowlam at Westminster.

The IBRG argued for the total repeal of the PTA but Mo Mowlam stated, that Labour wanted to hold on to the PTA to deal with drugs fraud and international terrorism. The IBRG argued for all Irish prisoners to be transferred and released, Mo Mowlam agreed with transfer and would look at 30-50% remission. The IBRG wanted to know what percentage rule was used for Lee Clegg, there was no answer.

Mo Mowlam supported a Bill of Rights and wanted the Peace Process moved on, but would not reveal their position prior to the General election. The IBRG raised the question of Irish inclusion in the 2001 census which Mo stated Labour would look at, and Mo would raise it with Jack Straw Shadow Home Secretary.

The Irish Post on 12th August had a photo of the meeting with Mo Mowlam Maurice Moore and Kevin Hayes. See below. The Irish World on 12th August had Labour challenged on peace process stance IBRG delegation describes meeting with Mowlam as useful.

 

 

 

 

On 31st August IBRG members took part in vigil/picket of Trafalgar Square on the 1st anniversary of the IRA ceasefire to protest at the lack of progress on the Peace Process.

 

The IBRG condemned the Sun over its attack on an Industrial Tribunal award to Alan Bryan for discrimination at work where he was called Gerry Adams. The IBRG condemned an article in the Sun by Islington and ex Harriet Harman advisor’s Leo McKinstry who attacked the concept of anti-Irish racism.

The article entitled Taking the Mick was the usual stuff that Ruth Dudley Edwards peddles. He talked of the ‘absurdly politically correct campaign against so called anti-Irish racism in Britain’, attacked the Roger Casement Irish centre and the Irish women’s centre, and the Industrial Tribunal award to Alan Bryans. He attacked the CRE, Irish Lesbians and AGIY. He does not respect the law of law and its judgement when it come to the Irish. When you think that this right winger was an advisor to Harriet Harman, one wonders about the Labour Party and its attitude towards the Irish.

On 6th August the IBRG issued a press release defending Alan Bryan’s victory in the Industrial Tribunal. And condemned the politically correct Sun for its sour grapes. The Sun was spreading a very dangerous line in supporting such racial abuse of Irish people in the workplace, even after a legal victory over racial harassment and abuse. The Sun’s brand of political correctness won’t respect the work of Roger Casement after 80 years, his fight for equal rights for many oppressed peoples. A nobler name for an Irish Centre in Britain can hardy exist, than that that of Roger Casement, and it is fitting that it should follow in his footsteps and demand equality for the Irish in Britain.

Leo McKinstry and his like use their Irishness to attack the Irish community, but he is part of an old colonial history of Uncle Toms, gombeen men, quislings who always have pandered to reactionary forces in Britain and are in effect small minded whingers and begrudges. The term politically correct is now used by the right in Britain to describe anything, they do not agree with and is only used against those who stand up for social justice and equal rights. The white man’s burden rests heavily on the Sun. The PC represent by the Sun is the old WASP culture which supported slavery, genocide, the starvation of Ireland, dispossession of the people, violence and oppression. Women Gays, Irish Blacks are no all politically correct because they are winning through to a brighter future. It hurts the Sun and them irk to see the Irish community winning, and standing up for their rights.

McKinstry argues that the Irish in Britain have the same rights as their British neighbours, it is strange then that he does not extend then their rights to act like their British neighbours, and defend their right to take any case of discrimination to an Industrial Tribunal. It is quite clear that neither he nor the Sun accept that the Irish have equal rights in Britain. The Irish World covered the IBRG press release in full under The Sun’s commentary slammed as sour grapes on 11th August

Labour Party exclude Irish from ethnic monitoring

The IBRG deplored the Labour party for excluding the Irish from their ethnic monitoring in their document Active Labour Towards 2000 which listed eight different ethnic groups. Here Labour was not taking any notice of the Government Race body the CRE, who recommended the inclusion of the Irish.

On 9th August the IBRG issued a statement noting the publication of the Labour Party’s document Active Labour Towards 2000 the Regeneration project a 66-page booklet, on how to build the party in the community. Corbyn could have done this for them in no time, but this was the Blair method which was a slow burning one. The Labour party left the Irish completely out of their document despite including the other major communities in Britain.

Unless the Labour Party begin to take seriously the issues affecting the Irish community including the peace Process, Irish prisoners, the PTA along with equal rights, they can hardly expect the full support of the Irish community. The Irish community wants policies from the Labour party on Irish self-determination and on the needs of the Irish community in Britain. The Labour party, without specific Irish policies, would miss out on the Irish votes and Corbyn and Livingstone had shown how to mobilise the Irish vote.  The Irish World covered this on 18th August with Lobby group slams Labour for ignoring Irish ethnic status.

On 18th August Diarmuid Breatnach had an excellent letter   in the Irish World stating Prisoners transfer was not the only issue in the peace process, and that the first and main issue was the decommissioning of the British in N. Ireland. He argued that we should not forget why these prisoners took up the struggle that was to free Ireland of British rule. The letter was also in the Irish Post on 19th August under let’s not overlook the basic issues.

Coventry IBRG put a on a short film season from 21st-23rd August which included  films by Philip Donnellan including the Irishmen, one on Irish Travellers, and Passage West about emigration from Ireland. Maurice Moore led the group behind the Festival.

On 25th August the Irish World had Groups rally round to save Liverpool festival which reported efforts by Neil Doolin to secure the future of Liverpool Irish Festival. They were to set up a new formal committee with charity status to secure funding from the Council and Art bodies. 5,000 people had taken  part in that year’s festival.

Bolton IBRG  had a festival from 25th August to 2nd September which Bolton IBRG were involved din the Irish Post on 19th August had Bolton Irish making waves about its radio programme, and earlier on 12th August it had Keeping Irish on air in Bolton.

On 8th September David Trimble took over as Leader of the UUP.

Camden Council challenged over low representation of Irish in workforce

In September the IBRG took Camden Council to task over their low representation of Irish staff at their Town Hall. This was part of an ongoing IBRG campaign to ensure fair representation of Irish staff within Town halls in Britain.

On 8th September the Irish World covered an IBRG statement re Irish missing out on Council jobs about Camden council, where only 381 Irish staff worked making up 5.8% of the council’s workforce. Pat Reynolds pointed out that this figure did not even make up the 6.5% of the borough population who were born in Ireland, let alone the second generation. Haringey which had only 5.2% born in Ireland had some 10% of staff who were Irish.

There was for some reason a bias against employing Irish staff in Camden despite the Camden Irish Centre being in the borough. However, the Camden Irish Centre made no effort to represent the Irish community in the borough and stayed within a narrow catholic parochial mindset.

On 15th September the Irish World had Blair blasted for Sinn Fein snub where the IBRG slammed Blair for refusing to meet with Sinn Fein in Ireland on recent visit there.

On 16th September the IBRG Ard Choiste met in Coventry with six delegates attending including Diarmuid Breatnach, Bernadette Hyland, Laura Sullivan, Pat Reynolds Kevin Hayes and Maurice Moore.

The meeting agreed that IBRG should seek a position on the Saoirse national committee. It noted that Sinn Fein did not consult with other groups in Britain before setting up Saoirse. Other issues discussed included Prisoners transfer, PTA, CRE, ethnic monitoring and local authorities, Census 2001, Irish census 1996, the Peace Process, the Great Starvation, and votes for emigrants.

Manchester IBRG had written to the leader of Manchester City Council on the 2001 census, while North London IBRG would explore an EDM on the issue. Pat Reynolds had written to the 17 boroughs who did not recognise the Irish. The CRE had made it public in August by means of a notice to public bodies that they recognise the Irish. There was no response to the notice from any public body nor did the CRE seek any response.

That evening the IBRG Members attended a celebration of the life of Dr Maire O Shea in Birmingham at which Pat Reynolds spoke for the IBRG, and spoke of Maire’s contribution to opening up the way for the release of the framed prisoner sin Britain, by building a huge campaign on her own case.

On 26th September Pat Reynolds had an interview with BBC West Midlands over Irish elders being allowed to use residential care in Ireland.

On 27th September European court of Human Rights ruled the execution of three unarmed IRA volunteers in Gibraltar had breached the Human Rights Convention and ordered Britain to pay the families legal costs in the case.

In September the IBRG raised the question of Irish emigration in the 1996 census. Pat Reynolds, Chair of  IBRG had written to the Director General of the Irish census asking them to consider a specific question on emigration, e.g. does any member of your family live abroad, if so where and what year did they emigrate.

On 25th September the IBRG made a three-page submission making 14 separate objections to the British government over the proposed introduction of identity cards in Britain. One of the main objections of the IBRG, was the impact upon the Irish community given the existence of the racist PTA laws, which targeted the Irish just because they were Irish, and the ID cards could lead to an extension of PTA type stops within communities. Mass carding and computer indexing of the Irish had gone on in Britain over the past 25 years. In one case in1991 a Derby college gave the names and addresses of all Irish pupils attending their college after an incident in Derby. This does not happen with white English students. Ireland and Britain were Common Travel areas with no requirement for passports or other identification.

In early September the IBRG announced that Croydon council in South London had agreed to recognise the Irish community, while a meeting in Lewisham attended by the IBRG to discuss Irish recognition was inquorate. The Irish Post on 9th September had Monitoring breakthrough in Croydon. However, the Post added at the end Britain’s Irish community remains divided over whether or not expatriates should be classified as an ethnic minority. This was a clear false statement without any evidence.

The GLC and other conferences of all the Irish community groups 100% supported the inclusion of the Irish as a minority community and supported recognition. This was clear evidence of a right wing move by the Irish Post from its former editor Brendan MacLus who always supported the community. The Irish Post in particular had made millions form ethnic advertising form the GLC and mainly London Local Authorities yet here they go with one or two right wingers who represent nobody.

In September the Department of Health confirmed to IBRG that they would allow ageing N. Irish born elders to go back into residential care in N. Ireland, one reason was that it was cheaper there, but it held many positive things for Irish elders to be among their own people.

The Irish World on 15th September had Elderly Irish in victory over residential places and indicate that the IBRG would now campaign to allow Irish people to apply to go into care homes in the Irish Republic, as costs were lower, and there were other benefits of Irish elders being able to return home near their relatives.   The Irish Post on 16th September reported Breakthrough for the elderly covering the IBRG story.

On 23th September the Irish Post had Harrow Council accused of snubbing Irish Labour councillor which said that Harrow had slapped the Irish community in the face by failing to provide them with office space to work with the Irish community and the 30 Liberal councillors refused to support the Irish.

 

In September the IBRG took Hackney Council to task over its failure to employ a fair representation of Irish people. On 23rd September the Irish Post had Hackney’s failure on jobs for Irish. Pat Reynolds chair of IBRG had exposed a second borough after Camden, of failure on providing equality of employment for Irish people in the borough.  Hackney had only 4.9% of its workforce as Irish whereas the Irish made up 9% of the borough’s population. The report also found that Irish staff were concentrated in low manual type jobs with low wages. Pat stated the first principle of good local government is that they should reflect the communities they serve. 294 Irish staff worked for Hackney with 129 listed as officers.

In September the IBRG welcomed the victory of Alan Bryans in an Industrial tribunal in Newcastle on racial discrimination against him because he was Irish. He had been called Irish prat and Gerry Adams. His victory was attacked by Ruth Dudley Edwards, the Sun and the tabloids.

The Daily Mirror (Labour supporting) had £30K for being called an Irish Prat,

the Daily Star had Irish prat taunt wins sir £30K, Today had the £30K Prat,

the Daily Express had £30K for being branded Irish prat,

the Sun had the law gone mad £30K for being called Gerry Adams,

and the Daily Mail had An Insult to Common Sense.

All of these papers including the Daily Mirror, Labour supporting, all share the same anti-Irish racism with their readers, would they have done the same to a Black, Muslim or Jewish person. The issue here was about Irish people getting access to the law to challenge anti-Irish racism.

On 29th September the Irish World had College lecturer labelled an Irish prat receives £30k in damages. Some Tory Councillor had attacked the award for racial discrimination as being ‘stupidly high, thus showing his own stupidity. The Irish Post had College give deadline on racial abuse. Both papers covered the IBRG condemnation of the British media on racism, in how they covered the award. The British media across the board apart from the quality press were anti-Irish and extremely racist towards any rights of Irish people under the law

On 1st October the IBRG took part in a picket of Downing St over prisoners organised by Saoirse. These would now take place on the first Sunday of each month.

On 1st October the IBRG issues a statement ID cards Threat to civil Liberties based on the IBRG submission to the Home Office on the subject. On 6th October the Irish Post gave the story half a page entitled ID cards warning by IBRG. The Post covered the IBRG submission in detail and noted that the proposals would change the status of the Irish in Britain under the Common Travel area and also under the Ireland 1949 Act, whereby Irish citizens enjoyed equal rights in Britain in terms of voting and standing for political office in Britain. British people in Ireland now enjoyed the same rights since the mid 1980’s. The Irish World on 6th October had ID cards plan pose threat to Irish IBRG and again covered the IBRG submission.

In October and November, the IBRG highlighted the high number of Irish murders in London and called for action to address these attacks on our community.

On 6th October there was a letter in the Irish World entitled tackling violent crime against Irish community, which supported the IBRG call for more action to be taken against a high number of violent murders committed against member of the Irish community which required a public response. It seemed in Britain, in terms of policing and judicial decisions, that Irish lives were deemed of lesser value. There was a high homicide rate against the Irish community often because they lived in poorer areas, and had a late-night culture which made them easy targets for violent crimes. The homicide rate against the Irish was double that for British people. Despite being one of the most policed communities in Britain the Irish remained the most vulnerable and the least protected.

On 19th October Pat Reynolds spoke to the Hammersmith Irish Forum at Hammersmith Town Hall on the case of Frank Johnson.

On 20th October the Irish World covered on their front page Hounded to death by Hooligans a shocking story of a crippled wheelchair bound Irishman who had been racially targeted in in Camden Pat Reynolds IBRG stated that his death could have been prevented had the police and local authority attended to several pleas for help from the man

On 22nd October IBRG members attended the Terence MacSwiney commemoration at Southwark cathedral on the 75 the anniversary of his death. The issue then was around Irish prisoners as it was today.

On 25th October Mary Robinson President of Ireland met the English Queen at Buckingham palace, lucky she was not detained or beheaded.

On 26th October Pat Reynolds was speaking at the Camden Irish Forum AGM with Mo Mowlam and Jeremy Corbyn MP. Mo hoped that since she was speaking in the McNamara Hall that they would also name a room after her. Here she was advised wrongly as the hall was not called after Kevin McNamara and after Fr McNamara the priest who set up the Irish centre. Pat Reynolds knew Fr McNamara well as he was parish priest of St Gabriel’s and spent a lot of time at the Gresham Ballroom across the road. Over 100 people attended the meeting where Mo Mowlam got a roasting over the Labour Party’s position on N. Ireland.

 

In October Bernadette Hyland PRO had a letter in the Irish Post on 7th October headed Labour risks losing the Irish Vote taking Mo Mowlam to task over her piece in the same paper on Labour New policy on N. Ireland which was just the same as their own one. Bernadette called for the removal of all guns in N. Ireland including state guns, and noted that the British had not raised the issue of decommissioning of weapons during secret talks with republicans. Bernadette condemned Blair for not meeting with Adams and accused Labour of still backing a Unionist veto. A letter next to the IBRG letter was from Brian Behan brother of Brendan Behan who stated ‘how dare Herr Blair refuse to meet Adams. Clinton can meet him. Mandela can meet him’. He called the Labour Party the poor man’s Tory Party.

In October IBRG announced that Greenwich Council in south London would now recognise the Irish. On 21st October the Irish Post had Now Greenwich Irish to get recognition The large piece in the Post covered a letter from the leader of Greenwich Council to Pat Reynolds Chair of IBRG which stated ‘In line with the provisions of the Race Relations Act 1976 the London Borough of Greenwich has taken a policy decision which recognises the Irish as an ethnic minority group who make a valuable contribution to the life of the borough, but are disadvantaged and discriminate against both in employment and in provision of services’.

This statement was important coming from the Leader of a British Council. The leader stated that Unison in Greenwich had opposed the move which showed how trade unions in Britain often hindered rather than helped the Irish. Pat was reminded by a Greenwich Irish resident that the last Irish person to get any concession and recognition of rights in Greenwich was Grainne O Maile when she met Queen Elisabeth 1 there.

In October Harrow IBRG and Tony McNulty, later an MP, took Harrow Council to task over their neglect of Irish needs.

 

In October Joe Mullarkey of Bolton IBRG highlighted a chance for the Irish community to lobby local Town Halls over including the Irish in the 2001 census. Local Authorities were now being consulted by the OPCS over the ethnic categories for the 2001 census, and now was the time for the Irish to put pressure on their Town hall on this matter.

On 30th October Bill Clinton President of the USA visited Belfast and Derry the first serving President to do so.

On 2nd November Lewisham Council recognised the Irish community after lobbying from IBRG. On 4th November the Irish Post had A Lewisham breakthrough on monitoring reported on the IBRG London campaign for recognition. The IBRG reported that 18 London boroughs now recognised the Irish with about 11 holding out and three considering it. It had been a remarkable year in pushing the battle for recognition on in London.

In another article in the Irish Post on 18th November reported Chance for Irish category in next census and quoted Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG that getting more local authorities to include the Irish in ethnic monitoring would increase the chance of the Irish being included in the 2001 census.

The article also quoted at length Joe Mullarkey of Bolton IBRG who has started the process in Bolton by asking Bolton Council to write to the OPCS on the question. Now on the back of the request from Bolton, the OPCS had written to all local authorities in Britain asking for any proposed revisions to the census forms. Joe quoted a number of figures from the 1991 census which gave only those living in Irish headed households, with the result that many Irish were lost including the second generation. Bolton, Manchester and Haringey seem to be the only three areas who were pushing the census question.

On 4th November the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Working-class Movement Library in Salford Manchester. Four delegates attended namely Joe Mullarkey, Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds and Maurice Moore. Apologies from Diarmuid Breatnach and Laura Sullivan.

The meeting heard that the Irish Government had passed legislation to allow the transfer of Irish prisoners and that the British government had increased remission time from 30% to 55% so that political prisoners could be released earlier.

Joe Mullarkey reported that Bolton Council had following the Haringey example and had written to the OPCS supporting the inclusion of the Irish in the 2001 census. The Peace Process was discussed and the meeting felt that talks should continue with emphasis on self-determination, the keeping of article two and three, an end to employment discrimination, an amnesty for prisoners, and all emergency legislation to be repealed.  The meeting heard that both Lewisham and Greenwich councils in South London had now agreed to recognise the Irish after IBRG lobbying.

In November the IBRG made a submission to the OPCS calling in them to include the Irish in the 2001 Census as a separate ethnic category.

On 10th November Pat Reynolds had an interview with GLR radio on the 1986 Irish census and the IBRG call for a question on emigration.

Richard O’ Brien Case

On 10th November a jury delivered a verdict of unlawful killing in the case of Richard O’Brien who had been killed in police custody in front of his family. Richard repeatedly told the police officer that he could not breathe and that they won, you win you win I can’t breathe, let me up, but he was held down forcibly until life passed slowly from him in South London.

Both Pat Reynolds and Irish Policy Officer in Southwark and Cllr Jodie Clark provided the initial support for the family to get further support from Birnbergs and from Inquest. In November the CPS announced that it was considering criminal charges against the police officers involved in the killing of Richard O ‘Brien in South London. It was the first time that the Irish community had challenged the police as for over two centuries Irish lives in Britain had been cheap and at the end of heavy policing and many deaths.

 

On 17th November Pat Reynolds was speaking at a benefit for Frank Johnson at the Camden Irish centre which raised over £450 for the campaign.

In November AGIY launched their 1991 census figures on the London boroughs. The IBRG had already given these figures months earlier, but AGIY gave a much more detailed picture on the Irish in London in terms of housing and other areas.

In November the CSO in Ireland rejected the IBRG demand to have question on emigration in the 1996 census to spare the Irish Government shame.

on 18 November Maurice Moore of Coventry IBRG spoke at an MSF (Manufacturing, Science and Finance Trade Union) organised  Day School in Birmingham on The Irish Peace Process and the British Labour Movement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On 30th November The European Court of Justice ruled that the operation of the PTA contravenes European Union Law by breaching the freedom of movement guaranteed by the Treaty of Rome.

Censorship of TOM Meeting in Manchester

In November Bernadette McAliskey was invited by Manchester Troops Out Movement to speak in the city about the Peace Process. The venue was the Mechanics Institute, run by Manchester TUC and the building was owned by Manchester City Council. TOM were informed that the venue hire was withdrawn.

They rang Bernadette Hyland of Manchester IBRG who contacted the Manager, Josie White, who explained that the Police had visited them and told them that they would lose their licence if the meeting went ahead. Bernadette discussed this with Josie and one of the Trustees,an NUT officer, but they would not challenge or publicise why they were withdrawing the venue. Bolton Socialist Club stepped in and the meeting went ahead there with Bernadette.

In Manchester IBRG had got the support of Tony Lloyd MP for inclusion in the 2001 Census of the Irish.

On 2nd December Bernadotte Hyland IBRG PRO had a letter in the Irish Post welcoming the release of some Irish prisoners for Christmas and calling for support for Paul Magee a prisoner at Belmarsh.

On 6th December Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG wrote to the American Embassy in London on the occasion of Bill Clinton Visit to Ireland and Britain setting out the position of the Irish community in Britain both in terms of the Peace Process and Irish self-determination, and also about the social conditions of the Irish in Britain including the PTA.

Southwark Council and needs of  Irish

On 16th December the Irish Post had Southwark Irish worse off than native population based on a report passed by Southwark Council, which was put before the Council by Pat Reynolds the Irish Policy Officer. It showed that unemployment for the Irish was 22% compared with 16 for white British, 57% of the Irish working in manual jobs compared with 37% for the white English, 57% of the Irish lived in council hosing compared with 49% for white British, home ownership for the Irish was 19% compared with 29% for the white British. The figures for Irish mental health and disability were much higher than other groups. The Southwark Irish Staff Group expected the Council to now follow up on the report, and write to the OPCS for the inclusion of the Irish in the 2001 census.

Nine people died in the troubles in N. Ireland during 1995, the lowest  number because of the Ceasefire.

On Christmas day the IBRG held a picket of 10 Downing St over Irish prisoners both political and framed ones.

NE Lancs IBRG put on a free Irish pensioners dinner before Christmas.  The Irish Post on 25th November had a boost to pensioners and noted that this was the 10th annual free Christmas event. The Southwark Irish Forum did the same each year and also on St Patricks day with Town Hall support and funding. On 5th January 1996 the Irish World had four photos of the event entitled All smiles at NE Lancs IBRG Christmas Party Night

 

 

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 Manchester – 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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History of Irish in Britain Representation Group Part fourteen 1994

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.

Kate Magee Support Group – one of many successful campaigns. Photo by Kevin Hayes.

The IBRG Ard Choiste took place on 22nd January at the Sparkhill Cultural Centre, Birmingham. Eight delegates attended including Kevin Hayes, Pat Reynolds, Maurice Moore, Maire Kennedy, Terry Corbin, Neil Doolin,  Diarmuid Breatnach and Virginia Moyles.

The meeting discussed the upcoming Bloody Sunday march in London, the Ard Fheis in London on 26th March, the Downing St Declaration, the McBride Principles, the PTA, Prisoners and Travellers. The meeting heard that the IBRG had responded to the Downing St Declaration which had been covered in the Irish Post, Irish World and An Phoblacht.

The meeting heard that Southwark Irish Staff Group, which had a number of IBRG members, had taken up the case of Securicor discriminating against a young Catholic woman in Belfast where they had been fined £25,000.  IBRG wanted Southwark Council, to take action against Securicor under their equal opportunities policy, which allows them to take action against employers who have been found guilty of discrimination. However, it later turned out that because of a legal loophole, a public body in Britain cannot take action against a firm discriminating in Nt Ireland, as the law governing action only applies to Britain.

The meeting gave £100 to the Bloody Sunday March, £25 to the McNulty campaign and Merseyside IBRG gave a further £10, and £50 to the West Midlands PTA campaign. The meeting discussed the new Criminal Justice bill which would affect Travellers and the Irish community. The meeting condemned the racist attack on the Chair of the Bristol Irish Society. It was reported that some 200 people attended a lecture by the historian JJ Lee from Cork University in Hammersmith on 12th December on the Great Hunger in Ireland.

 

IBRG branches took part in the Bloody Sunday March in London with their banners from Hyde Park to Kilburn on 29th January. Haringey and Lewisham IBRG had their banners on the march. With members attending from Coventry, Hackney, Leeds and Brighton. Ken Livingstone was the main speaker along with Sinn Fein and Jeremy Corbyn MP.

Tim Smith Tory MP was appointed Minister of State for N. Ireland in January. The IBRG condemned the appointment given his opposition to Irish people in Britain having the vote. The IBRG put out a statement on 10th January objecting to his appointment. Following Tim Smith statement that votes for the Irish in Britain were unjustified, John Major was forced in Parliament to state, that his government had no plans to change the arrangements where Irish citizens can vote in Britain. British people living in the Republic were also allowed to vote there.

The Irish government lifted its Section 31 ban on Sinn Fein in January.

In Southwark Pat Reynolds Irish Policy Officer had drafted a report to the Education Committe with a series of recommendations including putting Irish culture onto the national curriculum including history and literature. Southwark Council should also recognise the Southwark Irish Forum as the main consultative body for the Irish community in Southwark.

 

Carlton TV in a letter to IBRG in January admitted that the Frank Carson jibe about the Great Starvation in Ireland was offensive and promised to be ‘more sensitive with our choice of material in the future’.

In a statement by the IBRG on 22nd January the IBRG objected to Carlton TV position where they stated that ‘Most communities enjoy a joke at their own expense and it would be a sad day in a difficult world if we cannot laugh at ourselves’. IBRG pointed out that Irish literature was full of humour and wit, but there was a huge difference between racism and humour. The racist anti Irish joke has been the main tool in the racialisation and abuse of Irish children within British schools, and had no place in fostering understanding between different people.

Again,  IBRG quoted the English critic Victor Lewis Smith from the London Evening Standard writing on comedians like Carson and Manning who appeared on the Royal variety show ‘After two and a half hours of frilly shirted comedians saying there was an Englishman, and Irishman and a Scotsman. The Dominion seemed to be not so much a theatre but as an zoo, a last refuge which for species which you thought had long ago become extinct, and which clearly could no longer survive in the wild’.

However, the Broadcasting Standards Council in a reply to Pat Reynolds PRO on 11th January found nothing wrong with Carson’s jibe about the  Great Hunger, and nothing wrong about a racist jibe about the death from forced starvation of over a million Irish people, after its Complaints Committee meeting of 6th December.

 

Gerry Adams was allowed into America in February despite opposition from Britain.

Dominic McGlinchey was shot dead in Drogheda on 10th February.

 

On 10th February over 70 people attended a Frank Johnson public meeting at the Camden Irish centre with Gareth Pierce speaking along with the McNulty family.

On 11th February the film In the Name of the Father opened in London based on the story of Gerry Conlon. The IBRG condemned the remarks of BBC 1 DJ Nicky Campbell who stated ‘who will be the biggest fundraiser for the IRA, that film or Gerry Adams.’

On 14th February Pat Reynolds was speaking on Anti-Irish Racism in the Workplace at Lambeth Town Hall organised by the Lambeth Unison Irish Workers Group. The second event was on 14th March with Mary Hickman speaking on Irish People and Emigration, and on 11th April Peter Moloney on Irish Outdoor Political Art on his collection. Irish workers in Lambeth had paid time off to attend these day time lectures. The Irish Workers group got an annual small grant from Lambeth Unison to spend on community events similar to Brent.

On 17th February the Home Affairs Committee of the House of Commons wrote to Pat Reynolds PRO with a Final Draft of the IBRG Memorandum on Racial Attacks and Harassment as it affected the Irish Community.

On 19th February Lambeth IBRG held their 6th annual Irish Welfare Conference at Lambeth Town Hall entitled Irish Perspectives on British Welfare- Caring for Our Community with speakers Gearoid McGearailt on Irish Elders, Phil MacGiollabhain on Mental health, Padraig Kenna on Housing and Homelessness, Marie Steadman on Women’s as carers, Alex McDonnell on Irish Travellers and an Irish language workshop on Community Care.

The guest speaker was Fr Des Wilson from West Belfast speaking on communities. The Welfare conference got much publicity with Caring for our Community Irish Welfare Conference in Irish World, and Irish Welfare Conference in south London and a week later London Irish Welfare Conference in the Irish Post with an advert for the event.

Merseyside IBRG put on Liverpool’s first ever Irish cultural festival from 22nd-27th February. The festival was given a message of support from Mary Robinson Irish President. The festival included a Cultural Parade on 26th February, Eamon McCann on 23rd February, Liam Greenslade on 25th February along with a range of Irish music and other events.

The Festival got considerable media coverage. The Irish Echo had Merry on the Mersey Hopes high for Liverpool’s first Irish Festival, on 29th January the Irish Post had Countdown to Liverpool Irish festival, on 5th February Liverpool set for feast of Irish culture, on 12th February Merseyside Irish in festive mood, on 19th February  it had Liverpool readiness with a photo of Neil Doolin, on March 5th with Another Liverpool Success  with two photos of the event, on 12th March  a large spread of photos of the event including the big parade with seven photos. The Liverpool Irish Cultural and Community festival produced thousands of their Green White and Orange programme  of events.

The CRE announced that Mary Hickman and Bronwen Walters had won the £50,000 research project on Discrimination and the Irish community. The Sun lost its racist temper and published a whole page of anti-Irish gutter racist jokes based on century old of colonial stereotypes when the British thought there were masters of Black and Irish people.

On 27th February the IBRG put in a detailed submission to the British Government over their Habitual Residence Test and how it would impact upon the Irish community. A number of IBRG branches also put in submissions. The British were later to exclude the Irish from this test, because it would have been impossible to implement it.

IBRG’s four page submission, drafted by the PRO, gave a background legal position of the Irish community in Britain based on the 1949 Ireland Act, the Immigration Act 1971, the British Nationality Act 1981 and the  Race Relations Act 1976. It  showed  that the position of the Irish community in Britain  with the British state,  was very different from that of citizens from the EU, in that  Irish rights in the UK predated  the EU and gave the Irish in Britain similar status in law as that of British subjects.  There was also a Common Travel Area under the 1971 Immigration Act between Britain and the Irish mainland. Leaving aside the racist PTA laws and discrimination the Irish had established rights in Britain. The Rights of EU citizens came from the European Communities Act 1972(Treaty of Rome).

Under the heading No Taxation without Benefits the IBRG argued that the Irish benefitted the British economy enormously as each Irish citizen entering Britain with an education saved the British state up to £100,000 which the Irish taxpayer had paid for.  The IBRG argued there could be no taxation of the Irish community without having access to benefits for those in need or in sickness within our community. The Irish were far more economically active than the British born population with very few students. The IBRG challenged the British government on their Sun/Daily Mail xenophobia around abuse of benefits, and there was no evidence of any extra Irish involvement in fraud than the British born population. The Irish were not benefit tourists but came to Britain to work. The real benefit tourist was the uninvited British army of occupation in the Six Counties.

The IBRG expressed it concerns over the provisions in the Criminal Justice Bill which would include new PTA clauses enabling police to set up roadblocks and arrests people for having a range of household materials. It also included the repeal of the 1968 Caravan Sites Act which was to have a huge impact on Travellers in Britain. It also proposed removing the right to silence which it did later.

On 5th March Pat Reynolds visited Frank Johnson in Swaleside Prison on Isle of Sheppey in Kent.

On 9th March the IRA mortar bombed Heathrow Airport and closed it down, and repeated the exercise on both the 11th and 13th March making idiots of British intelligence.

On 11th March Pat Reynolds gave a lecture on Reality versus Stereotypes Irish Images in the media  to over 100 people at the Museum of London at the Barbican as part of their Irish focus week, which also included Angie Birthill talking on Irish women in London, Now We Talking an Oral History and Exhibition on the Elderly Irish in Southwark completed by Morley College, Philip Donnellan  The Irishman an impression of exile, and the Green Ink Writers Group presenting their own short stories and poetry.

On 12th March there was a benefit at the Camden Irish centre for Frank Johnson.  It was reported that his solicitor was due to put in a submission to the Home Office to have his case reopened.

On 15th March the IBRG put in a five-page submission drafted by the PRO on Access to Local authority and housing Association tenancies. The new Government proposals would exclude the majority of Irish homeless people either arriving or already in Britain, and would institutionalise anti Irish discrimination within housing provision in Britain

IBRG called for the 1985 Housing Act to be retained and called on the Government to put forward genuine proposals to end homelessness in Britain. The IBRG pointed out that the Irish in Britain were the  least likely of any community, except the Bangladeshi, to own their own houses in Britain. Only the Bangladeshi and the Afro Caribbean communities were more dependent on public housing than the Irish. The Irish had the highest figures for private rented accommodation and live in accommodation with high rents, overcrowding, low security and high evictions rates with many having to share facilities like bathrooms and kitchens. The Irish were over represented in single homeless figures both on the street and in short term hostels, with alarming high rate of mental ill-health, and more likely to be in low paid low skilled work.

IBRG went on to make ten proposals to improve the housing position of the Irish community in Britain, and noted that the Irish community had made an enormous contribution to house building in Britain and in housing the British public. The mobility of Irish workers in construction work and of nurses in the NHS should be noted as many nurses were hospital based during training.

 

On 18th March Hugh Callaghan and Niamh Cusack opened the London Irish Bookfair at the Camden Irish centre. Pat Reynolds, as Chair of Green Ink, welcomed the large attendance who came for the opening of the bookfair, and welcomed Hugh Callaghan to the event.  Among the speakers at the Bookfair were Bernadette MacAliskey, Tim Pat Coogan and Robert Kee all drawing huge crowds with Bernadette drawing several hundred and standing room only. It was the largest Irish Literary event in the world with over 4,000 attending over three days.

On 19th March Neil Doolin and Maire Kennedy of Merseyside IBRG  got married.

On 21st March Southwark Council agreed in Committee a Mutual Transfer Policy with Local Authorities in Ireland.

 The policy was  drafted by their Irish policy Officer Pat Reynolds. It was a first of a kind whereby an Irish family in Southwark could swap their house with a family in Dublin or Cork.  It got huge media coverage in both Irish and British press – some hostile from the right-wing press. Tory Councillors in Southwark opposed the move with their usual rant. There were 8,203 Irish Republic born living in Southwark with 57% of them living in council housing. Southwark had one of the highest council housing density in Britain.

On 24th March Pat Reynolds gave a Presentation on the Irish Community to Lambeth Social Services Committee.

On 26th March Diarmuid Breatnach had the star letter in the Irish Post on celebrating 1916 entitled Rising worth Celebrating

 

The IBRG Ard Fheis took place on 26th March at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in Islington North London. Seven branches attended namely Manchester, Lewisham, Haringey, Birmingham, Harrow, Merseyside and Hackney/Camden. Fourteen delegates attended.

Those attending include the elected officers apart from Neil Doolin who was on his honeymoon in Donegal, and the following Padraigin Ni Nuallain, Siobhan ODwyer, Kevin Hayes, Nula Eefting, Val Deegan, Pat Cullinane, Maurice Cahill, Terry Corbin, and Maire Byrne-McCann attended.

Apologies from Neil Doolin and Maire, Maurice Moore. Apologies from branches in Coventry, Bolton and Blackburn.

The meeting took an emergency motion from Lewisham IBRG on the death of Brian McNulty who had died waiting to clear his good name after his arrest under the racist PTA laws, the motion condemned his treatment in prison.

 

The following officers were elected

Chair Diarmuid Breatnach Lewisham

Vice Chair Virginia Moyles Hackney/Camden

Runai Neil Doolin Merseyside

Cisteoir Maurice Moore Coventry

PRO Pat Reynolds Haringey

Membership Bernadette Hyland Manchester

Prisoners. Laura Sullivan Haringey.

 

Diarmuid Breatnach took over as Chair from Virginia Moyles who had completed a three-year term. The meeting thanked her for her long work both as IBRG Runai and then National Chair. Virginia spoke  about the proud history of IBRG in standing up for the rights of the Irish community and of IBRG being the cutting edge of the community against government attacks and censorship from Warrington the Warrington Downing St Declaration, the IBRG continued work for Irish prisoners, and that the IBRG had made that bit more safer to be Irish in Britain, and to be able to reflect pride in Irish culture.

The following motions were passed

A motion congratulating Merseyside IBRG on their pioneering work on behalf of the Irish community in Liverpool including organising the 1st ever Liverpool Irish Festival

A motion recognising that Frank Johnson was wrongfully convicted and calling for his case to be referred back to the Court of Appeal, and for his release and for his good name to be cleared,

A motion calling on the British government to close the legal loophole whereby firms e.g. Securicor in N. Ireland could discriminate against Catholics and yet apply for contracts in Britain with immunity,

A motion noting that the Downing St Declaration upheld the Unionist/British veto in Ireland, and rejecting the gerrymandering self-determination proposals of the declaration, and calling for the right of all Irish people to decide on their future without outside interference. The motion called on the IBRG to continue working for Irish self-determination, a motion condemning Peter Lilley’s proposal to cut Income benefit, Housing benefit, and Council tax benefits to the Irish community Irish with less than three years residence in Britain. The Motion called on IBRG to campaign against these proposals which attack the basic legal and civil rights of the community,

A motion deploring the proposals of George Young Housing Minister to attack the rights of Irish homeless people in Britain. The motion called on IBRG to campaign against the proposals which would deny Irish homeless people access to public housing,

A motion opposing the repeal of the Caravan Sites Act 1968 which removed the duty on local authorities to provide site for Travellers. The motion urges branches to fight for Travellers Rights to maintain their culture and lifestyle along with their right to proper sites and living conditions.

A motion condemning new clauses in the PTA which gave police more powers to stop and search vehicles and pedestrians, and new offenses of possession of any article or any information. The motion noted that these new powers in the Criminal Justice bill would lead to more innocent Irish people being arrested. The motion called on IBRG to intensify its campaign against the PTA including pursuing each individual arrest.

 

Bolton IBRG hosted Mary Nellis from Derry for their 5th March part of International Women’s Week.

The first meeting of Derby IBRG took place on 12th March.

Coventry IBRG held an Irish concert on St Patricks Eve.

Lewisham IBRG took part in the Lewisham Irish Festival from 11th -19th March.

Harrow IBRG held their Ard Fheis in March.

 

PTA Annual Debate

The PTA annual debate and renewal in the Commons took place on 9th March and the IBRG lobbied several MPs on the issue drawing attention to the film In the Name of the Father as one of the first cases under the PTA. The IBRG put out a statement on 5th March calling for total opposition to the PTA and condemned the new proposed measures  on the PTA under the Criminal Justice and Public Order act, which would give the police powers to use PTA laws inland in stopping cars and stopping pedestrians in the street, and criminalise  being in possession of ‘any article’ or ‘any information’ with the onus on the innocent person to prove their innocence.

 

On 31st March the IBRG took part in a picket of the Home Office over the case of Frank Johnson. On 9th April the Irish Post covered the event with a photo which included Billy Power of the Birmingham Six founder of the campaign, Pat Reynolds Chair of the campaign, Andy Parr, Laoise de Paor and many more.

The report stated that Gareth Pierce Frank’s solicitor had now submitted a request to the Home Office for full disclosure of the prosecution evidence in the 1975 case. She said that the Home Office should have great anxiety about the manner in which Frank Johnson was convicted, but warned that the journey to free him was a tortuously slow process. Frank was to spend 27 years in prison a record he shares with Nelson Mandela.

In March the IBRG put in a detailed submission to the Department of the Environment on their Consultation paper on Access to Local Authority and Housing Associations Tenancies arguing that the proposals were moving towards an English first policy on access to public housing, which did not take into account emigration and the mobility of Irish labour in Britain. The submission noted that the Irish had made an enormous contribution to building house for all communities in Britain and they should not exclude from the benefits of their labours.

On 3rd April Pat Reynolds was the key speaker the Home at the 1916 event organised by Lewisham IBRG at the Irish centre in Lewisham.

Richard O’Brien Case

On Easter Sunday 3rd April Richard O’Brien an Irishman was killed during an arrest by police outside the English Martyrs Catholic Club in Walworth south London. On 6th April Pat Reynolds Irish policy Officer at Southwark Council and Cllr Jodie Clark met with Alison O’Brien widow of Richard O’Brien to offer her support and advice and to put her in touch with Inquest, Birnberg solicitors and the Irish Embassy.

On 9th April over 100 demonstrators picketed Walworth Road police station over the killing of Richard O’Brien while in police custody. IBRG members attended the picket and provided a loudhailer for the demo which included many Travellers from London. It was the first occasion where the Irish community took up a death in custody in a big way and challenged the unlawful death.

On 21st April Paul Hill had his conviction of murdering a British soldier in Belfast in 1974 quashed in the Court of Appeal. The Lord Chief Justice for N. Ireland states that the inhuman treatment Hill suffered at Guildford Police station may have led him to confess to the murder.

On 21st April the IBRG met along with other Irish groups Herman Ouseley of the CRE.

On 23rd April Pat Reynolds was speaking at the Irish Consultative Conference in Sheffield at the University .Other speakers were Liam Greenslade, Patrick Buckland, Seamus Taylor, Bronwen Walters, and Brendan O Caollai of the Irish Embassy. It was the first national conference on Irish issues with two aims, to raise the national profile of Irish issues and culture in Britain, and to bring together professionals capable of having some impact on national initiatives to benefit the expatriate community.

Haringey Council and bad employment policies

In April the IBRG deployed Haringey’s council’s use of the Irish family name Brophy as an example of bad employment policies in their Equal opportunities policy paper Ensuring Equalities in Tendering Procedures presenting the Irish business as being stupid and anti-equal opportunities. On 4th April IBRG put out a statement deploring Haringey Council’s Equal Opportunities Policies for using a racist stereotype which was anti-Irish to demonstrate their policies.

IBRG called for an apology from the Council and asked, how many Irish companies had Haringey on their list of contractors used by the council, and what kind of contracts were offered to Irish companies. Pat Reynolds who was an Irish Community representative on Haringey’s Ethnic Minorities Consultative Committee raised the matter at a council meeting, and called for the council to address these staff prejudices against the Irish.

In April the IBRG welcomes Harriet Harman’s challenge to the government over their proposed cuts to Income Benefits to Irish people. Harman came out with her challenge after the Southwark Irish Forum raised the issue with her. Harman was the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury. On 20th April the IBRG put out a statement welcomes Harriet Harman’s intervention.

It marked one of the rare occasions in Britain when a front bench person of any party, raised an issue in the Commons on behalf of the Irish community. It also showed that the IBRG could move the Labour Party behind the Irish community on social issues affecting the community in Britain. Again, the IBRG pointed out that the Irish were more economically active than the British population and therefore contributed more to these benefits per head of population than the British.

In April the IBRG condemned the rantings of Paul Johnson in the Daily Mail about the Irish teaching the Caribbean how to fiddle the dole, who in turn taught the Nigerians. The IBRG remarked that perhaps the Irish had also taught the West Indies how to play cricket which was covered in the Irish papers. At that time the Irish community in London were supported the great West Indies team who were hammering the British in cricket, with Irish hurling fans admiring the great skills of the West Indian batsmen.

On 25th April the IBRG put out a statement condemning the xenophobia of the Daily Mail. The IBRG stated that Mr Johnson should stick to fantasy fiction writing. The opposite was the case in the Irish community where there was massive underclaiming by Irish elders and others, and Irish people came from a culture where reliance on state aid was frowned on, and Irish elders often went in want because of this cultural pride.

An Phoblacht covered the story along with several Irish papers and stated  ‘The IBRG rubbished this cheap attack on minority communities with some well-chosen arguments, but their most telling response and one that will cut the heart of Johnson and his ilk, will be the tongue in check point that ‘next Mr Johnson will be telling us that the Irish taught the West Indians how to play cricket’. Howzatt, umpire.’

 

 

Kate Magee hearing Sheffield

In April IBRG members joined others including Philip Donnellan in picketing Sheffield Crown Court for the Kate Magee hearing which set the trial date for 18th July. The Irish Post covered the event with a photo of the banner Justice for Irish People Support Kate Magee with over 10 supporters in front including Phillip Donnellan, Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Moore, Michael Herbert, Kathleen Wright and others.  The piece quoted Kevin Hayes stating ‘we remain firmly convinced of Kate’s innocence and we seriously concerned that it has been now over two years since she was arrested. Throughout this period Kate and her family have suffered considerate hardships and we now believe she should be allowed to rebuild her life with her children’.

During the trial the Kate Magee  Support Group ensured that  representatives from the Irish Embassy, trade unions and solidarity groups took part. The Sheffield Women and Ireland Group (see photo) were part of the  campaign group and looked after Kate and her children before and  during the trial.

 

Belmarsh Prison and access to Irish Language

In April the IBRG took up the ban on the Irish language being taught in Belmarsh prison in South east London where Sean McNulty and Hugh Jacks were denied access to the language.  Sean McNulty stated that the Governor told them they could not have Irish classes, but they could have classes in any other language they wanted.

In a letter to IBRG the University lecturer and prisoner  Feilim O hAdmaill stated that ‘this policy against the Irish language is vindictive, immoral and an example of racial discrimination’. His letters were being stopped because they were written in Irish and he had been banned from speaking in Irish to his family. Neil Doolin stated that the Irish language was seen as subversive both inside and outside the prison. Pat Reynolds PRO called   for a Charter of Rights and called on the Irish government to clarify the situation on the language with the British government, and also for the European Parliament to act against the discrimination against a community language. The Irish Post covered the story on 23rd April with the heading Irish language ban vindictive.

On 4th May Pat Reynolds had interviews with Sligo North West radio on Southwark Council’s Mutual transfer agreement with Irish local authorities. Later the same day Pat had a prime RTE radio interview with Pat Kenny show on the same issue and later on an interview with Cork radio.

On 3rd May the Daily Mail had an editorial with heading Cuckoo Council with ‘Southwark is a case in point. Despite massive debts, it has appointed a £25,000 a year Irish Liaison Officer and is now encouraging families from the Irish Republic to apply for council flats in the borough.’ This was a total lie by the Mail who also ran an article entitled Luck of Irish opens door to a home deal.

On 8th May the Irish Sunday Press ran the story Irishman at the centre of London swop row written by Rachel Downey who knew Pat Reynolds and had worked in London with Irish weeklies here. The article was balanced and fair and explained the background to the story. On 18th May Pat had an interview with Dundalk radio again on Mutual transfers. The report on Mutual transfers was covered in all the Irish daily papers and the Irish weeklies and made the front page of the Star in Ireland.

Local elections were held in London on 5th May and elsewhere in parts of Britain.

On 8th May Pat Reynolds was speaking at the Sands /Connolly rally at Conway Hall in central London to a capacity crowd.

On 11th May Coventry IBRG Coventry, Trades Council and the Socialist Alliance organised a public meeting at which Barry McElduff of Sinn Fein was the main speaker along with Fr Joe Taffe and chaired by Mary Pearson of TOM. An Phoblacht gave the meeting a big write up with photo with heading British obstacles preventing peace.

 

On 12th May the Labour Leader John Smith died suddenly and Tony Blair took over as Labour Leader.

 

On 14th May Pat Reynolds and Sean Sexton of IBRG attended the Opening of the Great Hunger Museum in Strokestown in Co Roscommon which the Irish President opened without mentioning the English, or the fact that Ireland was overflowing with food at the time with loaded ships leaving Irish ports daily loaded with cattle, pigs, butter, wheat barley, beer and whiskeys. Sean Sexton had donated a number of photos to the Museum.

On 16th May the IBRG were involved in the Unison Conference fringe meeting in Bournemouth at which Oliver Kearney of the Fair Employment Trust was speaking on the McBride Principles. Kevin Hayes was speaking on the effects of the PTA on the Irish community. A motion on the McBride principles from Southwark Unison had been blocked from Conference along with three motions on Irish self-determination. There was a high level of anti-Irish racism within Unison who operated a Unionist veto against progressive Irish motions even on framed prisoners and Human Right. Unison tried to bill the Unison Irish Workers with a huge bill of over one thousand pounds for using the main hall for the meeting after the days conference, but the bill was never paid. When Irish members put up our Unison Irish workers banner the Conference organisers called the fire brigade on us claiming that the banner was a fire risk. Many IBRG members were involved in the meeting.

Manchester IBRG welcomed Hugh Callaghan of the Birmingham 6 to launch his autobiography Cruel Fate and meet up with comrades who supported his case. The meeting took place at the  radical bookshop Frontline Books.

Bernadette Hyland (IBRG) and Hugh Callaghan

 

On 19th May the Northern Irish Office issued a 21-page commentary on 20 questions raised by Sinn Fein on the Downing St Declaration. The commentary again stated that any change to the constitutional position of Nr Ireland within the UK would be subject to the will of the majority there. But  Sinn Fein the had begun to swallow the bait already, and to sacrifice Irish self-determination in principle and in practice, and to adopt the Fianna Fail position on Irish unity.

On 21st May the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Working-Class Movement Library in Manchester with nine delegates present including Laura Sullivan, Denis McGovern, Tony Cantwell, Maire Doolin, Pat Reynolds, Bernadette Hyland, Neil Doolin, Joe Mullarkey and Maurice Moore.

Apologies from Diarmuid Breatnach, Virginia Moyles, Kevin Hayes, Terry Corbin and Pat MacAndrews.

It was reported that the CRE had given full recognition to the Irish and would publicise this decision soon. It took them over a year to do so in August 1995, and it had no effect whatsoever as they never asked anybody to do anything, with result that not one single local authority in Britain changed their ethnic categories, until the IBRG started their own campaign on the issue and forced the changes. The CRE research into discrimination and the Irish community was in full swing with interviews taking place in London Manchester and Glasgow. The issue of the 2001 census was raised with the CRE with Irish groups calling for including as a specific ethnic category.

The Federation had agreed to support  the Frank Johnson case which was a first for them. The meeting called for the release of Malcolm Kennedy wrongly convicted of killing another Irishman in Hammersmith police station. Malcolm Kennedy argued that Patrick Quinn was killed in the station by a police officer and that they framed him up for the murder.  The meeting also noted the statement of Patrick Hayes regarding Patrick Kelly’s innocence and called for Kelly’s release and an inquiry into his arrest and conviction. The statement was reminiscent of the statement of the Balcombe St IRA Unit and the IBRG called for no 14-year delay in this case, and called for immediate action. The Irish World covered the IBRG call with Inquiry demand into Irish convictions.  The meeting heard about the killing while in police custody of Richard O Brien in South London and agreed to support the case in any way they could.

Liverpool Irish Festival made a donation of £120 to the Irish Community Care Project in Liverpool.

Manchester IBRG began organising drama workshops in Manchester as part of the city Drama festival. The Irish Post covered this with IBRG drama workshops in Manchester

On 2nd June a Military helicopter carrying 25 senior British intelligence officers went down on the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland killing all on board. With them went most of the secrets of Britain’s dirty war in Ireland.

On 5th June IBRG members took part in the 20th anniversary of Michael Gaughan’s  death with a picket of Whitemoor Prison. Caitlin Wright, Pat Reynolds and Kevin Hayes were among the IBRG members attending. An Phoblacht covered this with a photo and a report entitled Tribute to Vol Michael Gaughan at English prison on the 20th anniversary of his death.

Over 120 people attended the event including three Pipe Band. Kathleen Wright recited Michael Gaughan’s words, Pat Reynolds spoke on the long struggle for freedom and justice in Ireland while Jackie Kay long-time activist for Irish prisoners spoke on prisoners why Michael died. The bands played a series of rousing Republican airs and marched around the prison so that the Republican prisoners inside could hear the music, and ended the event with Amhrain na bhFiann.

On 6th June Pat Reynolds PRO had an interview with Greater London radio about Lambeth Council recognising the Irish.

On 6th June Irishman Trevor McAuley won his Industrial Tribunal hearing at Nottingham tribunal after he was abused at work on a daily basis with taunts like ‘typical thick Paddy’. The Tribunal found that he had been dismissed from his job because he would not take anti-Irish jokes lying down. The case set a precedent on abuse of Irish people at work, that it was unlawful, and that the individual Irish person could take action against such abuse.

The case made banner headlines in the tabloids and quality press in Britain and Ireland. Pat Reynolds PRO went on RTE Radio and Radio Ulster on the issue and made a five-minute Channel Four TV slot on anti-Irish racism along with Smiley an Irish comedian. Channel Four helped Pat with the production which went out on 8th June at 8PM. The signs that Irish people were beginning to fight back against anti-Irish racism in the media and at work were showing.

The tabloids in Britain put out a lot of vile anti-Irish material because of the judgement including the Sun with anti-Irish cartoons and derogatory remarks in their leader columns on the case.

The IBRG pointed out the difference in what the British tabloids published in Britain compared with the same papers in Ireland. and accused them of speaking with forked tongues and using anti-Irish racism to whip up anti-Irish feelings in Britain. The Daily Mail had an anti-Irish cartoon which the IBRG condemned. Even the Guardian came out with poor material but John Little in the British Independent had a brilliant article on the issue.  David Frost also made racist comments on TV on the issue.

On 18th June the UVF murdered six men watching the World Cup match of Ireland beating Italy 1-0 on TV at Loughlinisland which was carried out by the Glenane gang and covered up by the British state.

On 24th June John Major British Prime Minister demands that Ireland remove its territorial claim to N. Ireland and recognise the legitimacy of N. Ireland. It was never legitimate as it was set up by pogroms against Catholics and against the will of the Irish people.

On 26th June the Irish Post had a story entitled Kate Magee faces July trial which detailed Michael Mansfield’s efforts to stay the proceedings. The report stated that the local Sheffield MEP Roger Barton had attended the picket of the court with the campaign group.

In June the IBRG welcomed the Home Affairs committee response to their inquiry into racially motivated attacks with a recommendation of a new offense of racially motivate violence. There were 38 new recommendations including monitoring of racial attacks which begun to take place. The IBRG had argued that the Irish be included in these statistics.

On 26th July the IBRG put out a statement on the publication of the Home Affairs Committee report on racial attacks and harassment on 22nd June. Both AGIY and IBRG had been included in over 30 selected memoranda published in the report.

The IBRG welcomed the Committee support for a new specific offense of racially motivated violence and the general 30 recommendation to tackle the increasing number of racial attacks in Britain. The IBRG pointed out that the Committee failed to address several central issues affecting the Irish community, such as the government institutionalised anti-Irish racism in its so called Prevention Of Terrorism Act, the lack of work contracts for many Irish building workers, the government unlawful banning of Irish workers from a wide range of jobs in Britain on ground of security, and the failure to deal  with anti-Irish racism in the British media, the repeal of the 1968 Caravan Sites act, the exclusion of the Irish language culture and history form British curriculum, and the failure to address the apartheid statelet of Nt Ireland which was built on supposed racial differences  by the British government.

Most of the anti-Irish racism in British society was fuelled by the government and the British media. The IBRG called for the Irish to be included in the monitoring of all statistics on racial attacks in Britain. The Irish World covered thus with Racial Report not addressing Irish issues and the Irish Post had Failure on Irish racism where both AGIY and the IBRG claiming the report although including the Irish submission failed to mention the Irish in the main body of the report.

On 30th June the British government announced that they will transfer over 40 Irish political prisoners to Ireland which showed that their detention in Britain was one of discrimination and punishment.

In June the IBRG condemned the attacks on the Battersea Arts Centre over their showing of Gerry Adams short story developed as a play. Local Tory MP John Bowis and the Tory leader of Wandsworth Council tried to withdraw funding because of the play. On 7th June the IBRG put out a statement headed Irish community rejects censorship of Irish writers. The Tories tried to attack the London Irish Bookfair in March on the same issue but the Irish community turned out in their thousands to the bookfair with over 4,000 attending. Green Ink never received one singe complaint about the performance of Adam’s play, which showed the Tory action was all about suppressing any alternative views on Ireland apart from state propaganda. Next the Tories will be calling for the   Mountains of Mourne to be banned because it promotes the beauty of Ireland. The IBRG would continue to support Irish literature and culture in Britain

On 13th July the IBRG put out a statement welcoming an Irish victory on Welfare Benefits in Britain, where Peter Lilley the Social Security Secretary had climbed down on the right of Irish people to claim benefits in Britain. This victory was due to a determined campaign on the issue within the Irish community led by the IBRG.

The IBRG also welcomed that refugees had also been left out from this discrimination on benefits on the Habitual Residency test proposed by the British government. Merseyside and Coventry IBRG had put in submissions along with the National IBRG on the issue. 42 of the 79-submissions came from the Irish community in Britain as the IBRG were able to get several other Irish groups to put in submission and supplied them with background facts on the matter. AGIY coordinate much of the work in this area. The Daily Star attacked the Irish exemption claiming that Tory MPs were furious because the Irish were getting special treatment, and the right-wing Terry Dicks called the exemption crazy, and he was writing to the Minister on the matter

Anti –Irish articles by Ruth Dudley Edwards

On the 5th June Ruth Dudley Edwards had an anti-Irish propaganda piece in the Irish edition of the Sunday Times headed Why become a minority when the majority treat you so well, one of the most ignorant pieces written on the subject. It was totally short of any facts or any research and ignored the mountain of evidence in Britain going back to the 19th century of anti-Irish discrimination and racism in Britain, and the mountain of further evidence  which had  come out if the 1980’s from researchers on Mental health, mortality ratios, GLC research, and even the evidence of the London metropolitan police on Irish disadvantage.

Her description of IBRG as ‘extreme left wing, anti-British republican sympathisers showed her true propaganda colours. Her claim that IBRG was funded by the Inner London Education authority was another made up lie, but why let facts disturb your propaganda rantings. According to Ruth the Irish were exceptionally well off in Britain which was a shocking claim given the well-researched position of the Irish community in Britain. Edwards attacked the University of N. London Irish Studies Unit as a notorious Irish grievance dissemination place without producing a single fact that the University had produced anything in this area.

What Edwards was opposing was research into discrimination against the Irish in Britain, which would not suit her propaganda stories.  Edwards was in total denial of the reality of life for Irish people in Britain, and in denial of several cases going through British employment tribunals of discrimination against Irish men and women in Britain. Edwards was unable to provide a single fact to support any of her assertions about the Irish in Britain, or to rely on one single report to support her cloud cuckoo land beliefs.

The IBRG put out a statement in July entitled Revisionist whinges to Sunday Times which noted Edwards attacked the IBRG The Commission for Racial Equality, the University of North London Irish Studies Unit, the Irish in Greenwich Project and the liberal wing of the Federation, with her main attack on the concept of the Irish being classified as a Minority community, and whether they suffered from Discrimination.

Edwards who was well known for her anti-Irish and anti-republican views and for her pro right wing Unionist views, offered not a single fact to support her bogus theory that the Irish were doing extremely well in Britain, were very well liked despite research shown  that the Irish were the most disliked in Britain among all communities. Edwards even attacked the forthcoming research on the Irish community in Britain commissioned by the CRE even before it has come out which is alarming, she represented the Militant tendency of Murdock press who earned he living by attacking any concept of Irish self-determination.

The IBRG noted that her right-wing views would go down well with the gin and tonic brigade. In a letter to the Irish Post Pat Reynolds the PRO demolished Edwards shallow arguments on the Irish in Britain. “Her story on based on anecdotes of a neighbour, of a right-wing councillor in Greenwich, and offered not one single piece of research or fact to support he arguments. Her main argument that the Irish do not suffer from discrimination or disadvantage in Britain was absolute nonsense and just a propaganda claim on her part. Edwards is unable to name a single Irish group or individual in Britain who supports her position, indeed at the Greater London Conference in the 1980’s every single Irish group in London agreed that the Irish were a minority community, that they should be recognised and monitored. and that they suffered from discrimination and racism in British society.  Pat Reynold quoted from the Metropolitan police Fair treatment for all document where they stated, Irish people have often been the recipient of racist behaviour based on ignorance and prejudice breeding false stereotypes. Would Edwards now describe the Metropolitan Police as an extreme left-wing group. On her views that the Irish were doing very well in Britain Edward could not produce one single piece of research. The former Chair of the British Association of Irish Studies showed herself to be bereft of any reason on the subject, preferring to revert to propaganda to puts her anti-Irish pro Unionist viewpoints.”

On 24th July Gerry Adams at a Sinn Fein Ard Fheis in Letterkenny states that the Downing St Declaration suggest a potentially significant change in the approach of the government to resolving the conflict in Ireland. Sinn Fein had swallowed the bait.

In July the IBRG welcomed the climbdown by British minister Peter Lilley over Irish people’s entitlement to benefits in Britain. The IBRG had put in its submission in February and took the battle to the community. The Irish and refugees were excluded from the government Habitual residency tests of three years. The Daily Star attacked the Irish community on the issue but the IBRG responded.

In Lambeth the IBRG along with Unison Irish members defeated a Tory/Liberal attempt to derecognise the Irish in Lambeth. The IBRG lobbied Lambeth council and got the decision reversed. The Irish Post refused to cover Lambeth Council employment figures but the Irish World, An Phoblacht the South London Press and the Greater London Radio covered the figures for the Irish working with Lambeth which were small compared with their size in the borough.

Sean McNulty’s trial started at the Old Bailey in London on 4th July with IBRG members attending as observers.

 

Case of John Leo O’Reilly

John Leo O’Reilly leaflet

 

In July the IBRG took up the case of John Leo O’Reilly an Irishman who died from neglect and discrimination in a Coventry police station, and called for an inquiry into all aspects of the case. Maurice Moore offered the family the support of Coventry IBRG in their demand for justice and the truth. This was a case where an Irishman was suffered from a head fracture but the police treated it as if the person was drunk which was not the case, and left the man to die without medical help in a police station overnight.

 

On 6th August Pat Reynolds had an hour-long debate with Ruth Dudley Edwards on Greater London Radio Irish hour where she became abusive after losing the debate. Edwards was hopeless in offering any evidence to her wild views on the Irish, and was a hopeless debater probably as she was not used to having her propaganda challenged in any way.

On 12th August Pat Reynolds PRO had a letter in the British Independent which challenged an article ‘mad Ireland should get real’ by Bryan Appleyard. The article was based on the Whiteman’s burden and had all the old colonial with statements like ‘the English still retain a startling level of affection for the Irish’.

Pat Reynolds stated ‘The article portrayed all the worst colonial stereotypes about Ireland and the Irish, and marks a rather sad repetition of the Whiteman’s burden. The article offers no real analysis of the past 25 years, and included every colonial cliché about the Irish, mad, violent, bloody, irrational, illogical, ignorant, drunken, can’t be trusted, while the English are tolerant, neutral, well meaning, peaceful, torn between two unruly children, and of course always knowing what is best for the Irish’….. Ireland is neither mad nor illogical but a reality for Irish and British people. The issue is not about teaching tolerance to the Irish, but of English understanding how they have contributed to the creation of what Nt Ireland is, and that history now demands a different and imaginative response in working out a political solution. Sadly, the 25th anniversary has so far ignored the British dimension and British politicians have been left off the hook. For the sake of the future, leave the White Man’s burden outside, while we seek a political solution based on equality and justice, and let the Irish people decide on their own future, without any outside interferences, as well as bringing all the British people into the debate as to the purpose of the British presence in Nt Ireland.’

On 13th August the IBRG marched with their banners on the 25th anniversary of the troops going into N. Ireland from the Imperial war Museum to Hyde Park where Tony Benn was the main speaker.

20 August  Laura O’Sullivan and Bernadette Hyland attended the Sinn Fein ArdFeis in Dublin as IBRG representatives.

On 21st August, on a Sunday, Sean McNulty was found guilty and the new mobile phones made its appearance to get news from the Old Bailey to the Southwark Irish Festival. Only the British would find a man guilty on a Sunday.

On 31st August 1994 the IRA announced a ceasefire after a 25-year war against the British forces of occupation in N. Ireland.

Kate Magee was found not guilty in  early August. Her campaign stated ‘this was persecution not prosecution’. On 6th August David Granville had a page long article in the Irish Post entitled The Nightmare she thought would never end on the experiences of Kate Magee and an interview with her. She went through a shocking experience during her arrest with her six-year-old son, being separated from her son and her long tortuous time in prison before the jury acquitted her in two hours.

Gareth Pierce her solicitor stated ‘The prosecutions desire to press ahead, knowing what they did, can only be described as deliberate, conscious and ultimately sadistic’. The case illustrated the shocking use of the PTA and the clause of withholding information, a catch 22 situation where the person had to prove their innocence of knowledge of possible future events of other people.

The first prisoner transfer to Ireland took place in August with Ella O’Dwyer and Martina Anderson along with the husband Paul Kavanagh and Patrick Mcloughlin all went home.

Neil Doolin  of Merseyside IBRG had an excellent article on the health of the Irish in Britain entitled ‘The luck of the Irish’ in the Nursing Standard in August. It had a huge impact among health professionals, in raising concerns about the health needs of the Irish in Britain. The Irish contribution to health in Britain had always been taken for granted, from the building of hospitals to the contribution of large numbers of Irish nurses and doctors plus hospital workers, who had made such a large contribution to building the NHS in Britain. It was a serious article well researched with references given on issues like mental health. It was a clear argument that the Irish should be included in all ethnic monitoring within the NHS both in staffing, and for health needs so that the specific needs of the Irish could be better addressed.

The IBRG produced a national newsletter in August which was circulated via the branches. It highlighted the McNulty case, the Danny McNamee case, Kate Magee victory, Frank Johnson and the transfer of Irish prisoners, which showed the enormous amount of work the IBRG were doing around Irish prisoners in Britain. It also highted the case of Leo O’Reilly in Coventry and Irish deaths in custody.

IBRG Newsletter 1994

 

 

IBRG Statement on Ceasefire

On 4th September the IBRG released a statement urging a British positive response to the ceasefire by ending all repressive legislation such as the PTA, EPA, the Broadcasting ban, and to remove Crown forces of occupation from Nationalist areas. The IBRG called for an All-Ireland Constitutional conference to decide on the way forward for all Irish people The IBRG noted that 70 years of constitutional British Unionist with its armed violence and 20 years of Direct Rule had failed to bring any form of democracy or equality to Nt Ireland.

The IBRG supported an All Ireland referendum on the issue and all Britain referendum on the matter to stop the Unionist veto where 2% of the population of the UK had determined lives on these islands for the past 70 years. The IBRG saluted the Nationalist community in Nt Ireland for having resisted British violent repression for the past 20 years. 99% of guns in Ireland were in the hands of British and Loyalists and these needed to be taken out of Irish politics. The IBRG calls for an amnesty for all Irish political prisoners, fair employment an end to all repressive legislation and for the Irish people to have self-determination without outside interference.

on 9th September The Irish World covered this with Irish Groups in Britain respond to Ceasefire which covered the IBRG response and the Irish Post on 10th September had Thoughts on the Ceasefire which included IBRG, Robert Kee, Bernie Grant and Roy Foster. An Phoblacht on 8th September had Irish exile groups welcome ceasefire which included the IBRG response.

On 16th September the IBRG in a statement called for a British referendum on N. Ireland and rejected a six-county limited referendum. 70 years of British and Unionist repression had not produced one single democratic structure in Nt Ireland. A referendum in Nt Ireland would ensure that the Unionist veto where only 2% of eth UK population decide the future of these islands. It was based on white Protestant supremacy and was set up with violent pogroms against the nationalist community with over 500 dead, over 500 Catholics business burst out and thousands of Catholic workers driven from their jobs in the shipyards and the Mills. The IBRG repeated its call that the vote on any referendum in Nt Ireland be extended to those driven out by violence and discrimination and that any referendum in the republic be opened up to emigrants.

On 10th September five IRA prisoners including Danny McNamee attempted to escape from Whittmoor Prison.

On 16th September the British Broadcasting ban on Sinn Fein was lifted.

On 17th September the IBRG Ard Choiste took place in Derby. Ten delegates attended including Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds, Neil Doolin, Maire Doolin, Terry Corbin, Pat McAndrews, Maurice Moore, Virginia Moyles Kevin Hayes along with Kate Magee recently acquitted. The meeting was addressed by the O’Reilly family whose father had died from neglect in a Coventry police station.

Apologies from Diarmuid Breatnach, Laura O Sullivan, Joe Mullarkey and Peter Skerrit.

The Ard Choiste noted the British government climbdown on Social Security legislation. The August 25th anniversary Troops Out march only attracted 1,500 people. The meeting thanked all those who worked on the Kate Magee campaign and those who worked on Sean McNulty’s case. The Richard O’Brien case was being investigated by the Police Complaints Authority. There had been an increase of Irish deaths in police custody over the years which the IBRG were challenging. The IBRG had highlighted four such cases, Patrick Quinn in Hammersmith, Leo O’Reilly in Coventry, Con Sexton Coventry and Richard O’Brien in South London.

Afterwards IBRG members attended celebration party for Kate Magee.

On 29th September Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking with Mary Mason of Troops out on the ceasefire a at a public meeting at the Green Ink bookshop in N. London.

On 30th September IBRG attended a Frank Johnson benefit at the Camden Irish centre.

In September the IBRG called for all Irish emigrants to be allowed to vote in the referenda in the Republic and in the Six Counties on any changes to the constitution.

In September Ruth Dudley Edwards attacked the IBRG call for the Irish abroad to be given the vote. The IBRG responded defending their position on the vote for emigrants. Her article in the Irish Sunday Times filling in for the right wing rabid anti Republican and anti-liberal Eoghan Harris, Dangerous nonsense of votes for emigrants. Her argument that ‘it does not take a genius to work out how emigrants with votes might unwittingly but dramatically destabilise the Irish republic. Yet Dublin seems committed to letting it happen’. Here Edwards is totally out of touch as Dublin never supported an emigrant vote in any way, Edwards fails to notice that emigrants from Nt Ireland retains the vote just like British people. On 17th October the IBRG issued a statement defending its position on votes for Irish emigrants. Over a quarter of a million Catholics were forced out of Nt Ireland by repression and employment discrimination from 1921-1968 and these were entitled to vote on any Nt Ireland referendum.

On 15th October Edwards had a letter in the Irish Post supposed to be a reply to the IBRG but was a Beal Bocht letter trying to portray her Irish origins.  It was a very weird letter which had nothing to do with the original article or the IBRG response. Her individual grievance fakery created cottage industry could not hide her cheap propaganda.

On 13th October the Combined Loyalist Military Command announced a ceasefire after receiving assurances and guarantees that the constitutional position of Nt Ireland within the UK would stay unchanged.

On 20th October Mo Mowlam replaced Kevin McNamara as Shadow spokesperson on N. Ireland which was a big improvement.

On 9th October the IBRG banner was on the Criminal Justice march from the Embankment to Hyde park where a large-scale riot took place between the police and marches. On this occasion the police lost the fight badly. Over 100,000 people were on the march with Paddy Joe Hill, Billy Power and Judith Ward leading the march.

On 19th October the IBRG took part in the evening lobby of Parliament over the Criminal Justice Bill, this time the police were seeking a rerun match fight with different numbers and were attempting to kettle the crowd.

On 30 October IBRG members attended the Terence McSwiney commemoration at Southwark cathedral.

In early October the IBRG drew attention to the denial of language rights to Feilim O hAdhmaill, an Irish language speaking political prisoner, at Belmarsh Prison in south London. On 3rd October the IBRG issued a statement calling for the rights of the prisoners and his family be protected and for them to be able to communicate in their own community language. The IBRG called on Michael Howard Home Secretary to immediately restore basic human rights to this family, to be able to communicate in their family language by letter and in person during visits.

Lewisham IBRG put on an Irish historical drama entitled Irish ways on 29th October with over 30 children involved in the production.The Irish Post covered it with Lewisham holds second festival.

In October the IBRG demanded an inquiry into the death in police custody of Leo O’Reilly in Coventry.

In October the Mayor of Clonmel Seamus Healy visited Frank Johnson in Swalesside Prison in Kent.

On 17th November Taoiseach Albert Reynolds is forced to resign and the Fianna Fail/Labour Coalition falls. Bertie Ahern is elected Leader of Fianna Fail and Labour join with Fine Gael and John Bruton anti republican in a new Coalition government.

On 14th November the McNulty family are all acquitted. See photo below of Dorothy and Kevin.

Dorothy McNulty and Kevin Hayes of West Midlands PTA Association.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On 17th November Nina Hutchinson, a great friend of the Irish in Southwark and of Ireland,  died early from cancer. She was an active member of Troops Out Movement.

On 18th November Gerry Adams addressed a capacity meeting the Camden Irish Centre.

 

The IBRG Ard Choiste took place on place on 19th November in Liverpool. Fourteen delegates attended including Bernadette Hyland, Maire Doolin, Terry Corbin, Barrie Wood, Michael Naughton, Denis Ashe, Marie Byrne-McCann, Pat Reynolds, Neil Doolin, Maurice Moore, Virginia Moyles, Diarmuid Breatnach, Laura Sullivan and Joe Mullarkey.

Apologies Virginia Moyles and Denis McGovern.

The meeting discussed the peace process and noted that Sinn Fein made no attempt to involve the Irish community in Britain in the process preferring British left groups. The meeting decides to request a meeting with Sinn Fein to discuss its lack of understanding of the Irish community in Britain, and to make a submission to the Forum for Peace and reconciliation in Dublin. The meeting decided to sponsor the Bloody Sunday march with £50 and to provide a speaker.

On 19th November the Irish Post had four photos of an IBRG Ceili in Harrow.

On 23rd November Pat Reynolds was the key speaker at the Chairde na nGael AGM in Newham in East London.

On 23rd November IBRG members picketed the Home Office over the transfer of Irish prisoners. The Irish Post on 1st December had a photo of the Picket with Laoise De Paor, Sr Maire, Eddie Caughey, Laura Sullivan, Pat Reynolds, young Quinlivan later a TD in Dublin. On 1st December An Phoblacht covered this with Repatriation decision welcomed with large photo. Albert Reynolds, Taoiseach, announced that legislation imminent to ratify the European Convention on the transfer of Sentenced prisoners after they had made the decision on 29th November.

ON 24th November IBRG members in South London attended the funeral of Nina Hutchinson in South London which Mary Nellis attended.

In November the IBRG protested against Bernard Manning and Frank Carson appearing at Millwall Football ground given that the club had signed up to the anti-racist football charter.

 Harrow IBRG condemned a Liberal councillor who told a Council meeting that the Irish should go home in a debate on services to the Irish community. On 26th November the Irish Post covered this with Irish Outburst ‘Harmless Fun’. John Knight, Liberal councillor, stated that the Irish should ‘go home’ during a debate on meeting Irish needs in Harrow which had an Irish population of 10,00. He was strongly condemned by Harrow IBRG and by the Council Race Racial Equality group.

Harrow IBRG had made representation to Harrow’s Community Liaison Consultative Committee while Harrow Social Services had indicated that Irish people were over represented in mental health services and underrepresented in elderly referrals. Only 2% of elder referral were Irish, whereas mental health had 6.8% of all referrals   4.9% of children and families, disabilities 4.7%. The Irish community were seeking a community centre where their elders could meet and where community advise could be given.

In November the IBRG condemned remarks by soccer manager Ron Atkinson when he stated after a player being stretchered off was sent in two directions by the bearers,  that the scene was like something you would see in Ireland. The Irish Press on 25th November covered the IBRG response.

On 1st December IBRG members joined a picket in Trafalgar Square over the peace Process. The Irish Post on 10th December had a large photo of the Demo with the banner Self-determination for the Irish people as a Whole

On 14th December Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking at the NUS anti-racist conference at the University of London.

On 15th December John Bruton was elected Taoiseach. There were 62 deaths from the troubles in 1994 despite the August ceasefire.

On 16th December IBRG picketed the Home Office over Frank Johnson. Christy Moore was supporting his campaign and Joe Benton Liverpool MP had put down an early day motion on Frank’s case.  Gareth Pierce was due to file case with the Home Office within days. The Mayor of Clonmel Seamus Healy later a TD went to visit Frank in prison. The Irish Post on 24th December had a photo of the Picket with John McDonnell MP, Billy Power, Andy Par, Sr Marie, Pat Reynolds and others.

On 18th December over 100 people were picketing Belmarsh Prison in south east London where Pat Reynolds was one of the speakers.

On 24th December Bernadette Hyland had a  letter in the Irish Post headed Making a significant contribution which detailed the work of IBRG around seeking a political solution in N. Ireland.

On Christmas Day IBRG members picketed 10 Downing St over Irish prisoners both political and innocent ones.

 

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 Manchester – 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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History of Irish in Britain Representation Group part thirteen 1993

 

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.

 

Leaflet was part of campaign to defend Irish community against PTA.

 

 

 

On New Year’s Day  IBRG held a public protest in Kilburn Square to draw attention to the British imposed border in Ireland at a time when borders were coming down all over Europe. The event was run to coincide with similar events in Ireland run by the Irish National Congress.

The IBRG statement read ‘IBRG calls for the dismantling of the British war machine in Ireland, which was protecting a sectarian statelet maintained by wholesale discrimination, violence, censorship, propaganda, and wholesale abuse of Human Rights and Civil Liberties. The responsibility for the war in Ireland should be placed at the door of the British government, and not on the Irish people. Britain’s purpose in continuing control in N. Ireland is the subverting of the whole island to follow British policy. Thus, we see campaigns in Ireland to drop Article 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution, massive censorship and the subverting of the Dublin government to jump at every British command like some junior colonial province’ and ‘the IBRG calls for peace talks without preconditions, and believe Nelson Mandela was right in calling for talks.’

On 16th January 1993 the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Working-Class Movement Library in Salford Manchester. Five delegates attended including Bernadette Hyland, Linda Ryan, Joe Mullarkey, Neil Doolin and Pat Reynolds.
Apologies from Kevin Hayes, Maurice Moore, Diarmuid Breatnach, Virginia Moyles and Majella Crehan.

The meeting discussed An Pobal Eirithe, Nalgo Irish Workers Group, the Ard Fheis, Travellers, Review of IBRG, CRE, PTA, Bloody Sunday march, Prisoners, Initiative ’92, and the Irish General Election. An Pobal Eirithe had not been published for over two years now. The Ard Fheis would be at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in Islington North London on 27th March.
Pat Reynolds PRO had put in a detailed submission on the Department Of Enviroment’s consultation exercise on Travellers urging the government to retain the 1968 Caravan Sites Act. Pat had also completed a Review of 1992 and had sent it out to the branches and to the Press. IBRG would be attending a CRE meeting in Derby on 23rd January, Virginia Moyles of Hackney IBRG would be chairing this year’s Bloody Sunday rally with Ken Livingstone as the main speaker. Frank Johnson’s case has been featured in the Guardian. Virginia Moyles had drafted a leaflet on anti-Irish racism.

On 21st January Pat Reynolds PRO attended a meeting at the CRE on Health and the Irish community.
On 21st January John Major stated that ‘those who were killed on Bloody Sunday should be regarded as innocent of any allegation that they were shot whilst handling firearms or explosives.

On 23rd January over 150 Irish women, including many IBRG women, attended an Irish Women’s conference organised by the Southwark Irish Forum and Southwark Council. Cllr Jodie Clark and an IBRG member was one of the key speakers.

The Kate Magee Campaign had a meeting in Derby on 23rd January.

On 25th January Pat Reynolds was speaking at a public meeting at Carlton Vale School in Brent on the issue of the Brent Irish Centre. There were huge concerns over the Brent Irish centre which had run into financial trouble which had reached the High Court.

Bloody Sunday Marches – London and Derry

IBRG branches with their banners attended the Bloody Sunday March from Hyde Park London to Kilburn with Virginia Moyles chairing the Rally. The march was held up for two hours because Combat 18 had mobilised to attack the march and the police arrested over 300 of them in a mapping exercise. It was one of the biggest mobilisation of fascists on the street for some time.
In March 1992 John Mayor British Prime Minister stated that his Government ‘does not think it would be right to review or reopen the Widgery Tribunal’ into the Bloody Sunday massacre”. The Bloody Sunday March Committee wanted the Government to acknowledge the innocence of those killed and injured on Bloody Sunday, to apologise to the people of Derry for the events of that day, to renounce the sham Widgery inquiry which followed it, and to bring those responsible for Bloody Sunday to justice.
The army officer in charge on Bloody Sunday Colonel Derek Wilford conceded that the Bloody Sunday victims were innocent and stated ‘I think we need to make a positive decision about ending the war in Ireland… British withdrawal would be a victory for common sense’. Shamefully the New Consensus had a tiny protest in Kilburn, strange that they should join Combat 18 in their objection to a march for Justice for the victims of Bloody Sunday.
Ken Livingstone called Bloody Sunday killings a slaughter and that there would be no peace in Ireland until Britain left. He said John Major’s recent announcement that the civil rights marchers were innocent, exposed the lies and whitewash of the Widgery inquiry. Gerry Duddy whose brother was the first shot on Bloody Sunday stated that the Widgery Tribunal set the precedent of judicial corruption that led directly to Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four the Maguire seven, Judith Ward, the Tottenham and Cardiff three, and Patrick McLoughlin.
In Derry on their Bloody Sunday March Paddy Joe Hill (Birmingham 6) was speaking and stated that the only way to send British troops back was in boxes, while another of the Six, Johnny Walker ,stated that Michael Mates the N. Ireland Minister should resign for his comments that ‘there would have been no murder of anybody if there had not been a bloody riot organised by those very Nationalists’.

In January IBRG made a submission to Initiative ’92 a commission of Inquiry into N Ireland. The IBRG submission called for British withdrawal, Irish reunification, disbandment of the RUC, financial compensation from the British for war and starvation damage caused to Ireland, and voting rights for the Irish abroad. Over 500 submissions were received and over 90 chosen to give further verbal evidence under Professor Opsahl from Norway a human rights lawyer. The report which came out later was called the Opsahl report. The Irish Post covered it with Submission by IBRG on North.

Response of Nalgo NEC to motions on Ireland

NALGO National Executive Council  reported back on three motions remitted from conference in 1992.

Motion 82 on the transfer of Irish prisoners and a call for the release of innocent prisoners.
They turned down a motion on Irish prisoners, despite the fact that Judith Ward, Dessie Ellis, and the Kilburn defence people had been acquitted and released, and the British Government had agreed on the transfer of Irish prisoners. Nalgo talked of crimes yet was silent  over 800 years of criminality by Britain against the Irish people.

Motion 116 on the Irish community
NALGO refused to recognise the disadvantage suffered by the Irish community in Britain where even the Metropolitan police had done so in their recent policy document. NALGO had refused to recognise the NALGO Irish workers group or the right of Irish workers to organise within the union. They would prepare a report before the next conference on the issue.

Motion 117 Irish language
They promised a report on the Irish language in due course, and would produce a report on whether they would recognise Irish workers with NALGO.

It was revealing that NALGO were on these Irish issues more right wing than the Metropolitan Police, more right wing than the British government, and more right wing than the British courts on their opposition to these three motions. It showed how much the Trade Unions in Britain’s were extremely right-wing and racist when it came to the Irish community in Britain.

IBRG took up the case of Patrick Murphy. He had been charged with bombing Downing St and was innocent he had been at an AA meeting the night of the bombing. Patrick, was later released without charge, and became famous for his innocent replies to M15 who came to interview him. When they asked him had he been seen by the intelligence people, meaning the Special Branch, Patrick replied in all honesty “No no they had no fucking intelligence at all, if they had any I would not be here”. His solicitor Gareth Pierce did her best to keep a straight legal face.

Conradh na Gaeilge was 100 years old and IBRG branches were asked to mark the occasion this year.

IBRG took up a case in Manchester where an Irishman was refused a government job because of his Irish background. The IBRG story was taken up by the Irish Post, the Irish World, the Cork Examiner, and GLR Irish hour.
Conor Hartnet was prevented from applying for a GCHQ job because his parents were Irish. In a statement on 31st January IBRG condemned the institutional discrimination practised by the British government, in refusing entry to a wide range of government jobs to people of Irish origin. These cases raised alarming concerns about equal rights for Irish people in Britain in that only Protestant British people from N. Ireland could get jobs in these occupations within a European single market. It was a clear racist policy which created the concept of suspicious community, and where public sectors led the private sector followed.
IBRG called on the British Government to take down its colonial No Irish need apply from its state corridors. It was evidence at the heart of the British government of racist practises, and an institutional unwillingness to accept that Irish people as having equal rights in Britain to employment.

Petition on lack of Irish access to Media.

Sean Sexton from the Irish Media Group and IBRG had a Petition accepted by the European Parliament on the issue of the lack of Irish access to the media.

The Petition 569/92 letter stated ‘I would like to inform you that the Committee on Petitions considered your petition at its meeting of 1st and 2nd of December 1992, and having decided the issues which you raise fall within the sphere of activities of the European Commission, declared it admissible. The Committee began its examination of your petition and decided to ask the Commission of the European communities to state its views on the various aspects of the problem. The committee will continue its examination of your petition as soon as it is receipt of the necessary information. Moreover, in order to enable your comments to be taken into consideration in any future deliberation of the European parliament on this matter, they committee decided to forward your petition for information to the Committee on Culture, Youth, education and the media’.
This was the only IBRG Petition ever to be put to the EU, and it was surprising that the IBRG never visited the European Parliament, or put in further Petitions on different issues affecting the Irish community in Britain.
IBRG did get Christine Crawley MEP to raise a question on having the Irish language included in the National Curriculum in Britain and got a huge supportive reply on the duty of European nations to address cultural issues affecting minority communities from other European states. All the more surprising that this avenue was not explored more as in the PTA debate in 1985 the European Parliament voted for an inquiry into the workings of the PTA, and the European Court had condemned the 7-day detention under the PTA as a violation of Human Rights.

On 23rd January Bernadette Hyland had a letter in the Irish Post headed War in the Last Colony which stated ‘the IBRG has never felt the need to apologise for the results of British colonial policy in the Six Counties. Our policy is quite clear. Instead of dealing with the politics of the last atrocity, we have always called for a British withdrawal and a negotiated settlement leading to a United Ireland. The continuing violence in Nt Ireland is a direct result of the refusal of the British government to resolve the war in Britain’s first and hopefully last colony. History teaches us that in previous colonial wars, such as Palestine, Cyprus, Aden Kenya, and Zimbabwe, the British government has eventually recognised the political reality of negotiating and withdrawal’.

On 24th February Patrick Murphy was released after being held for over a month and all changes of bombing Downing St dropped. The IBRG who took up his case stated that it was better to prevent people getting framed up than trying to get them released after trial.

First Irish victory under the new Press Commission.

On 27th February the IBRG won a Press Commission decision against the Evening Standard who had to publish the judgment. IBRG had previously won a Press Council victory over the News of the World when they claimed that the IRA had killed over 3,000 in N. Ireland. The Sunday Press on its front page, the Irish News in Belfast along with Irish weeklies covered the IBRG story The IBRG had also been involved in the Press Council victory over John Juror’s pig’s comment.
On 4th March the London Evening Standard carried the story Complaint against Standard upheld. The Standard article was originally headed ‘How World extremists set up havens in London’. The Standard were forced to include the Press Council judgment in their report that the Press Commission considered that the inclusion of IBRG in an article on organisations labelled extremist were not justified given the evidence provided by the newspaper. The Irish Post covered it with Rebuke for Standard over IBRG and the Irish World covered it with IBRG wins Press complaint.
The IBRG also challenged a racist piece in the Guardian on 18th February by Frank Keating who had four paragraphs of bigoted anti-Irish racism pieces like ‘that pale jug-eared leprechaun John Tracy’. John Tracy was World Champion cross country runner. Keating in the mid 1980’s had been challenged by IBRG when he came out with ‘their hale and purply faces, their big Kerrymans ears and feet’ talking about Irish rugby supporters.

Liverpool IBRG took up a case of a young Irish couple arrested under the PTA in Liverpool amid banner headlines in the media.

On 28th February IBRG members sponsored and attended a Kurdish and Miners benefit in Hackney at the Halkevi Community Centre. Diarmuid Breatnach (Lewisham IBRG) sang and the group Jacket Potatoes were also playing in an evening of International Solidarity with the Miners.

In February Harrow IBRG had five photos in the Irish Post from their Ceili in Harrow.

GMB research into Irish Unemployment in Britain

In February the GMB union released research which showed Irish unemployment in Britain with a 57% differential in the West Midlands, 46% in the East Midlands, 32% in Yorkshire and Humberside, 32% in the South West, 30% in London, 29% in Britain as whole, 22% in East Anglia, 19% in the South East, 17% in the North West, and 15% in Wales. However, in Scotland (7%) and the Northern (6%) the Irish were more likely to be employed than the natives.
This was the first time a British Trade Union had undertaken research into the Irish community and into discrimination suffered by the community. This showed that trade unions had power and money including the TUC to tackle issues affecting Irish workers in Britain.

Labour Party and PTA

In February the IBRG condemned Kevin McNamara for trying to barter with the Tories over the PTA. The rights of the Irish community were non-negotiable the IBRG said. Some 10 years earlier in 1983 Kevin McNamara in opposing the PTA in the House of Commons debate stated ‘Ordinary decent coppers using ordinary decent police methods apprehended those responsible for the Birmingham outrage.’ A shocking statement by McNamara who showed his ignorance of the Birmingham Six and seemed to condone torture, forgery and perjury as decent police methods used in Britain.

In an IBRG statement on 28th February we stated The Irish community in Britain must not be punished for Britain’s war in Ireland. Our demands are for travel without harassment, free speech without censorship, and the right to exercise our political and civil rights in Britain. The PTA is a vehicle for railroading innocent Irish people into false imprisonment. It can never be justified. There can be no consensus between the Tory and Labour party at the expense of our community based on racist legislation and the suppression of our rights in Britain. The Irish Post covered it with IBRG slams betrayal and the Irish World with Labour’s love of Irish called into question.
On 10th March the British Labour Party voted against the PTA while in the run up to the General Election in 1992 they abstained. This year they tried to do a deal with the Tories but the Tories refused them a deal.

IBRG officers met at the Roger Casement Centre in North London on 13th February to finalise plans for the Ard Fheis in March.

Nalgo and motions on Ireland

Both Greenwich and Lambeth Nalgo had passed motions on Irish self-determination and recognition for Irish workers but Metropolitan NALGO turned down the motion on recognition believing wrongly that it had been debated at last year’s conference.

Lambeth Irish Forum

On 19th February IBRG and NALGO Irish workers attended a Lambeth Irish Forum meeting at Lambeth Town Hall. The Irish Post had a photo of the Mayor of Lambeth Joe Callinan along with Gearoid McGearailt of IBRG speaking at the meeting. Over 80 people attended. Gearoid had a long letter in the Irish Post on 20th February setting out the long battle for recognition in Lambeth, who had refused to recognise the Irish. Linda Bellos a Black Councillor had always supported the Irish but the Council refused to recognise the Irish because they were a white minority community. The meeting decided to set up an Irish Forum to represent the interests of the Irish in Lambeth.

18th February IBRG condemned the London Evening Standard for an article on entitled Donkey Riddle with its usual anti Irish slant. The IBRG response was covered by the Cork Examiner, Irish Post and Irish World.

Pat Reynolds had a letter in the Irish World which read ‘The IBRG notes the Editorial of the London Evening Standard entitled ‘Donkey Riddle’. This referred to the missing racing donkey from Antrim which stated ‘There’s concern that the chestnut coloured star will end up in Dublin home of the Irish Parliament. Obviously, identification might then be tricky’ The Editorial is par for the course from the Standard who are obviously experts in donkey recognition. Given the English media’s habit of claiming Irish winners, we are surprised that the Standard didn’t recommend the said donkey for the House of Lords, or call for extradition proceedings against the cross-border escapee. To paraphrase an old Irish saying. It takes one donkey to know another, and the Standard stories and editorials these days have about the same value as a donkey derby. Another piece from the Standard last June was referred to the CRE when the writer talking about two visiting peregrine falcons to Dublin, diving for food stated,’ No doubt the odd fey Irishman disappears in this way too, and no great a loss there.
The Standard lost over one million pounds in the early 1980’s when the Greater London Council and a number of London Boroughs banned advertising with them, over their racist JAK cartoons. Even donkeys know the difference between carrot and a stick, but some take longer to learn the difference.

On 2nd March Patrick Mayhew N. Ireland Secretary stated the position of N. Ireland within the United Kingdom would only be changed by the will of a majority of the people after stating in December 1992 that Britain was neutral on N. Ireland.

Warrington bomb and major British propaganda exercise.

On 20th March an IRA bomb in Warrington killed a three year plus 12-year-old Tim Parry who died later on 25th from his injuries. The same day the UFF murdered four Catholics in Co Derry injuring four more, while in Belfast the UFF murdered a Catholic teenager.

Warrington began a major British propaganda exercise where Tim Parry became a household name yet no one in Britain can remember the name of a single one of the dozens of Irish children killed in N. Ireland by plastic bullets and others ways.

A screening of the Ken Loach film Hidden Agenda was cancelled by Channel Four over the Warrington bombing on 21st March. There were over 100 protests to the station and Channel Four had a Right of Reply on the issue. The Irish World ran the IBRG press release of 22nd March as a letter in their paper. The IBRG questioned as to when any British bishop or media had taken up the death on any Irish child in the Troubles, or the death of Iraqi children in the war.
On 26th March Pat Reynolds PRO was one of the key speakers on a Central TV programme in Birmingham, on the Warrington Bombing with Tim Pat Coogan who stated there would be a blood bath if the troops were pulled out, Harry Barnes the anti-republican, and Annie Maguire’s son Michael who defended British interests in Ireland. Pat was able to hold his own in the debate and put across the neglect of Irish child victims of the Troubles, with a plea to remember all the children of the conflict, where over 120 children had been killed, and called for all-party talks and a political settlement to end the war.

The 12th IBRG Ard Fheis took place on Saturday 27th March at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in Islington, North London. Nine branches were represented including Lewisham, Bolton, Merseyside, Haringey, Manchester, Camden/Hackney, Harrow, Coventry and Birmingham. 16 delegates attended.
Among those attending were Dermot Sadlier, Padraigin Ni Nuallain, Jack Jordan, Diarmuid Breatnach, Paddy Prescot, John Patterson, Maire Kennedy, Terry O Coirbin, Siobhan O Dwyer, Pat Reynolds, Bernadette Hyland, Neil Doolin, Virginia Moyles, Val Deegan, Maurice Moore and Kevin Hayes. Reports were taken from the Chair, Runia, PRO, Editor, Membership secretary, Prisoners Officer, and the Cisteoir.

The meeting heard reports from members on the opening of the new Irish Centre in Lewisham, Irish Festivals in Bolton and Blackburn, a film Festival in Manchester, the Bloody Sunday march, submission to Initiative 92 and to the DOE on Travellers, tackling anti Irish racism in the media including a victory over the London Evening Standard, work on the PTA arrest and on campaigns for prisoner including Kate Magee and Frank Johnson, organising seminars and public meetings, Irish language and dance class along with cultural evenings and socials.
Other work included addressing public meetings on a range of issues affecting the Irish community, putting the position of the Irish community across to the British and Irish media, and working with other Irish organisation across the community. It was noted that the Irish In Britain News had folded up during the years which left the Irish Post and the Irish World. The Irish News in Belfast and the Cork Examiner covered a lot of IBRG material as did the Andersonstown News along with An Phoblacht and the Irish language papers.

The following officers were elected;
Chair Virginia Moyles Hackney.
Runai Neil Doolin Liverpool
Cisteoir Maurice Moore Coventry,
Membership Bernadette Hyland Manchester
PRO Pat Reynolds Haringey
Prisoners Siobhan O’Dwyer Haringey
Editor An Pobal Eirithe Diarmuid Breatnach.
There were two nominations for the position of Chair with both Virginia Moyles and Diarmuid Breatnach receiving equal number of votes, in the circumstances Diarmuid withdrew his nomination and Virginia was duly elected Chair.
The following motions were passed;
That the Irish version of IBRG be adopted Cumann Ionadaiochta na nGael sa Bheatain
A motion defending Article Two and Three of the Irish constitution
A motion supporting the PTA telephone tree
A motion supporting Kate Magee.

On 27th March Bernadette Hyland was profiled in the Manchester Evening News, it was an in-depth article about her Manchester Irish upbringing, about Irish history, culture and politics, which set out the urgent need for an informed debate on Ireland and the Irish community in Britain. Bernadette spoke of the need for recognition for both Irish cultural and welfare needs and the important of tackling anti Irish racism including racist jokes.

On 31 March Pat Reynolds gave a talk on anti-Irish racism at the University of N. London.

Politics of Warrington leaflet

On 4th April IBRG gave out leaflets at the so-called Peace Rally which was in reality an Anti-Republican Rally with no interest in peace in Ireland which only drew 2,000 people. Cardinal Hume turned up, and many wondered why if he was interested in peace, why he never turned up for any Bloody Sunday March to protect at the murder of 13 innocent Civil rights marchers. Young Kevin Reynolds gave Cardinal Hume a copy of They Shoot children on the deaths of children in N. Ireland by Plastic bullets. Over 120 children had been killed by Britain’s war in Ireland, yet Tim Parry was being presented as the first child death of the war, because the death of Irish children did not matter to these people.

The IBRG PRO produced a leaflet entitled the Politics of Warrington for distribution to branches and in the community. Virginia Moyles of IBRG wrote to the Irish Post putting the whole matter in perspective. Her long letter headed Selective in Sympathy exposed the very selective manner of media reporting in Britain and Ireland, with its political agenda to demonise the Irish struggle. Siobhan Dwyer had a letter alongside Virginia’s from the Irish Freedom Movement putting the blame back onto the British government for events in Britain and Ireland, and drawing attention to Loyalist deaths squads operating with British support in Ireland. The Irish media and its politicians went on the angle ‘we are ashamed to be Irish’.
On 4th April the IBRG put out a statement saying that the peace this media campaign wanted was a Pax Britannia and was not a genuine peace movement like the peace movement in America to bring the troops home from Vietnam. This was a media attempt to shift the blame for N. Ireland onto the Nationalist community, and shift blame away from the British state and their loyalist’s followers, which in over 25 years had not produced one single job for the Catholic community.
The Politics of Warrington was based on British state propaganda with its message that Irish lives did not matter, and that English lives were everything. In Ireland 91% of killings by Loyalists were of innocent Catholics with no link to any group, 55% of all deaths by the British forces of occupation were civilians while the IRA civilian deaths were at 37%. There was as usual a complete lack of any analysis by the British media including the BBC which carried on a propaganda campaign. Mary Robinson Irish President attended the memorial service in Warrington, yet never attended the funeral of a single child victim in N. Ireland. Why did Mary Robinson miss the deaths of over 120 children in N. Ireland as did the 20,000-peace crowd who turned out in Dublin on the issue. Another speaker at the rally in London was Liam McNally Chair of the Federation of Irish Societies, so called non-political, who never once attended a Bloody Sunday Commemoration, or again spoke out on the death of any Irish child in the troubles.

On 11th April Lewisham IBRG held their 1916 event with Diarmuid Breathnach as the main speaker, Lewisham also organised an Irish children’s day themed around Irish myths and legends and an arts project, with a photo of the children in the Irish Post. In March Diarmuid Breatnach had a long letter in the Irish Post on the lessons to be learned from the from the attendance of 400-500 fascist to attack the Bloody Sunday March, and the failure of the British Left and the anti-fascist and anti-racist movement to mobilise against the known threat.
In the past the Irish community had stood shoulder to shoulder with communities under threat from Cable St to Bermondsey to Red Lion Square, where the young Kevin Gately a second-generation Irish student lost his life in the 1970’s, to action across the board.
Diarmuid called for solidarity from the left and and increased mobilisation from the Irish community so that any community did not have to rely on the police to keep the peace on the streets.

On 2nd April IBRG members attended the launch of Paddy Hillyard’s book Suspect Community on the PTA which exposed the workings of the PTA and its effect on the Irish community at the Camden Irish centre. Gareth Pierce also spoke at the launch detailing the experiences of Irish people arrested under the Act.

On 24th April an IRA bomb at the Nat West Tower caused 1 Billion of damage.
On 25th April IBRG members took part in the anti-fascist demo at Victoria.

In Liverpool IBRG were demanding recognition and resources to meet the needs of the Irish community. Neil Doolin had written to the Leader of Liverpool City Council with a submission on the Irish community asking for a Consultative Conference with the Irish community.
The Irish Post on 3rd April covered it with Liverpool pressure builds up detailing the battle in Liverpool to have the Irish recognised. Liverpool IBRG sent Liverpool City Council a copy of the Haringey document Agenda for Change which set out proposals for change, in recognising the Irish and addressing the needs of the community.

Department of Health refuses to recognise Irish as ethnic minority

The IBRG had received a letter from Virginia Bottomley who stated that the Department of Health would not recognise the Irish community despite the contribution the Irish had made to the NHS from building the hospitals to nurses. Merseyside IBRG had written to every Regional Health Authority in England asking them to recognise the Irish. The Irish Post covered this on 17th April with Losing out in health monitoring. The Department of Health told the Irish Post ‘We don’t consider the Irish as an ethnic community’.

IBRG took up the case of Mary Druhan, a Co Clare woman, who had been wrongly convicted of a double murder in a London squat. The IBRG were also involved in the Kate Magee campaign, the Casement Accused and the Frank Johnson Campaign.

On 4th May a Black Barrister and journalist Rudy Narayan had an article in the Caribbean Times which stated there will be no peace until you leave the Irish alone. He stated the IRA will never be terrorists as the Mau Mau in Kenya and EOKA in Cyprus never were. The IRA is comprised of Irish men and women who would give their lives and sometimes do for the liberation of their country. The second lesson that should be committed to memory is that the freedom fighters walk long that glorious trail of freedom and liberation that Gandhi, Martin Luther King and the Irish Martyrs died for, and this has to be recognised publicly by the Army of Occupation, guns and tanks will never subjugate the Irish and there will never be peace in Britain while the occupation of Britain’s last colony continues’.

On 5th May the IBRG along with AGIY met with the Department of Health about recognition for the Irish community.

The Ard Choiste met at the Roger Casement Irish centre in Islington North London on 8th May with nine delegates including Neil Doolin, Maire Kennedy, Val Deegan, Diarmuid Breatnach, Siobhan O’Dwyer, Kevin Hayes, Bernadette Hyland, Virginia Moyles and Pat Reynolds.
The meeting agreed a motion from Haringey IBRG condemning the racist killing of Black teenager Stephen Lawrence and offering IBRG condolences to his family and community. The Stephen Lawrence case was later to become a catalyst for change in race relations in Britain. The meeting passed another motion from Haringey calling on the British government to recognise the Irish community within the NHS. The meeting heard that John Matthews had been changed with a taxi bombing. The IBRG believed him to be innocent and had taken up his case with the Irish government. Kevin Hayes had recently spoken at a meeting in Kirby on the PTA. The Ard Choiste agreed to take up the case of Mary Druhan as wrongly convicted Irish prisoner. A motion from Lewisham IBRG called on the IBRG to be represented on the James Connolly March in Edinburgh on 5th June with a banner. Pat Reynolds ran a media workshop on how to deal with the media in Britain.

Southwark Council and employment targets for Irish

In Southwark the Council at its Central Services Committee on 11th May had agreed an employment target figure for the Irish of 10% being the first local authority in Britain to do so. Pat Reynolds was interviewed as Irish Policy Officer by BBC Radio Belfast and Radio Foyle in Derry on the issue.
There was an estimated 22,000 Irish living in Southwark with 9,792 of them born in Ireland. The last head count of staff in Southwark showed that 348 Irish staff worked with the council, or 4.9% of the total staff. Irish staff were twice as likely to work at manual type jobs as other council staff. Only one of the 32 senior staff at the Council was Irish. The unemployment rate for the Irish in Southwark was 20% compared with 13% for local English people. Source (1991 Census).
The Irish Staff group and the Southwark Irish Forum welcomed the move by the Council while the Irish staff group were to meet with the Director of Social Services in Southwark, to look at ways of improving services for the Irish community in areas such as recruiting Irish foster carers, Irish elders, mental health and other issues.

On 9th May IBRG members attended the Sands /Connolly Commemoration at Conway Hall in London.

On 12th May the IBRG put out a statement in response the Daily Star not only attacking An Phoblacht on 10th May but also naming its outlets in Britain thus putting community bookshops at risk of right-wing attack. The IBRG stated that the paper represented the view of Sinn Fein who had the support of 40% of the Nationalist community in N. Ireland and that the Star attack was one of free speech, and trying to supress any alternative view on the British occupation of N. Ireland.

On 18th May Virginia Moyles was speaking with Fred Holroyd a former British agent at the University of North London.

IBRG picket at National over Manning show

On 19th May IBRG members in London picketed a Bernard Manning appearance at the National in Kilburn. The Irish Post refused to cover the picket yet took advertising for the event. The IBRG condemned Irish venues for booking anti Irish racist comedians. The picket was organised by IBRG and the Irish Campaign against Racism in the Media. Members were able to verbally challenge Manning before he entered the National about his racism, while it was noted his audience was 100 % white and 99% male and mainly young males between 17-25. The picket got a lot of support from passing members of the Black and Irish communities who lived locally, and from women.
IBRG condemned the National for putting on racist comedians, when they were such a rich diversity of Irish and other artists around, and spoke out about the harm done to Irish children by this racial abuse of their heritage and culture. Manning represents the dregs of the British Empire in his views on Black and Irish people and pandered to white supremacy, and had no place in a multi-racial society. At a time of racial murders in Britain, it was offensive and wrong. The Irish World covered it with Protest as racist Comedians play Irish venues.

On 19th May three former detectives are cleared of the charge of conspiracy to pervert the cause of justice by manufacturing the interviews notes of one of the Guildford Four.

On 21st May Pat Reynolds chaired an Irish Evening for Justice meeting at the Camden Irish Centre at which Judith Ward, Kenneth Griffiths, and George Silcott spoke along with Laura Sullivan on the Casement Accused campaign and Siobhan O Dwyer on Kate Magee campaign and Frank O Neill on the Danny McNamee campaign. Over 100 people attended the meeting.

On 23rd May Pat Reynolds was speaking in Woolwich in South East London at a packed public meeting to protest at four racist killings including Stephen Lawrence in the Greenwich area. Gareth Pierce was also speaking on Irish cases at the meeting. The meeting was held under the banner of Racism, Law and Miscarriages of Justice Enough is enough Four Racist murders in Greenwich.

On 25th May the IBRG and other Irish groups met with the Commission for Racial Equality to put pressure on them to have the Irish included within NHS ethnic monitoring. The CRE was more positive which was due the IBRG believed to the new Chair Herman Ouseley former head of the GLC Ethnic Minorities unit.

In Liverpool the City Council said they recognised the Irish. The Chinese and the Irish were the two largest minority communities in Liverpool. On 29th May the Irish Post ran an article Liverpool’s commitment not enough. The Council had affirmed its recognition of the Irish but the IBRG wanted a consultative conference with the community to address issues affecting the community rather than a token recognition which did nothing to change things. In practise the recognition meant nothing without the Council spelling out how they would address Irish needs in the city.

On 27th May Mary Robinson President of All Ireland met the Queen of England the first Irish leader to meet the English Queen since the great Grainne O Malley who met the First Elisabeth In Greenwich in 1593 and refused to bow to her.

IBRG submission to Home Office Inquiry into Racially Motivated attacks.

In June the IBRG put in a very detailed submission to the Home Office Inquiry into Racially Motivated attacks and harassment which later appeared in a House of Commons Hansard report. Action Group for Irish Youth put in a bigger report using IBRG material and published their booklet on it which got large media and academic attention.

The Irish World on 18th June covered it with Better recognition for Irish Plea to Home Office.
The IBRG submission was later published along with other submissions by the Home Office and put before Parliament. The six-page submission called for tougher anti-racist laws and for racial harassment to be made specific offense, the tightening of press laws to prevent the racial abuse of minority communities in the media, and for more positive action in the media on addressing Irish issues. The British Press had been part and parcel of the frame up of Irish innocent people and went along with the state cover up of these frame ups. The IBRG also called for the repeal of the racist PTA laws which targeted the Irish community, the official recognition of the Irish community, the inclusion of the Irish language history and culture into the national curriculum to provide British and Irish children, with a better awareness of British involvement in Ireland and of their own colonial history. The IBRG quoted the Metropolitan Police document fair treatment for all which stated ‘Irish people have often been the recipients of racist behaviour based on ignorance and prejudice breeding false stereotypes.
IBRG also pointed out that the British Government were themselves the main discriminators against the Irish community with its racist PTA laws and racist deportations to internal exile, by failing to recognise the Irish within the National Health Service, despite the huge contribution Irish nurses had made to Britain and Irish builders had made to building hospitals in Britain. Those who contributed the most were the most discriminated against in housing and in health by the Government and Local Authorities. The only recognition the Irish got in Britain was police surveillance and racist jokes and stereotyping.
On 9th June the Opsahl Report on N. Ireland was published. The Report came out of Initiative ’92 to which the IBRG had made a submission.

On 10th June the IBRG had a meeting for Kate Magee at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in N. London.

On 16th June IBRG members went to Brighton for a NALGO Conference Fringe meeting on Irish issues with a social afterwards with the group  Jacket Potatoes. Pat Reynolds spoken on the Frank Johnson campaign, Siobhan O’Dwyer on Kate Magee, Patricia Campbell on the Irish Women’s defence campaign and Steve Sexton for the NALGO Irish workers Group. The event was to highlight motions going to Conference on Irish self-determination.

On 17th June Manchester IBRG organised the launch of Paddy Hillyard’s book Suspect Community People’s experiences of the Prevention of Terrorism Act in Britain on the PTA.

Arrest of McNulty Family in Tyneside.

Following explosions on 28 April and 8 and 9 June 1993 in the north east of England, which were later claimed by the I.R.A. there was a series of arrests amongst  both the Irish community and their many friends and relatives amongst the local English community in the North East. Between 24 and 26 June seven members of the McNulty family were detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Immediately the West Midlands P.T.A. Research and Welfare Association contacted the family and a support group was set up to ensure that the McNulty family did not join the long and sorry list of “miscarriages of justice”. See leaflet below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In June the CRE claimed that too few Irish people were complaining to them about discrimination. This was the fault of the CRE because few in the Irish community knew about the CRE or its work which generally excluded the Irish.

On 1st July the IBRG issues a statement deploring recent PTA attacks on the Irish community with raids in Tyneside. Unknown numbers of Irish people disappeared for up to seven days without anyone knowing what was happening to them, or they being allowed any access to legal aid and to contact their Embassy. It was a police state rather than a democratic one where Irish people arrested under the PTA had no legal or judicial rights. Section 18 of the PTA ,so called withholding of information, was now being use to intimidate Irish people being held and to threaten them, tell us everything you know or we will charge you, and then using this information to charge them. Yet the BBC, who the Attorney General in the House of Commons stated had breached s18 at Carrickmore, were not prosecuted as they were the Panorama team. The PTA had become a legalised system for the political and racial abuse of the Irish community in transit to and from Ireland, and had led to the creation of a community with second class legal rights under the policing and judicial system in Britain, with no redress for the abuse of Irish citizens only because of their racial origins.

On 3rd July Manchester IBRG held a Conference entitled ‘We are a River Flowing’ at St Brendan’s Irish Centre with speakers; Michael Herbert on Origins of the Irish community 1780-1880, Steve Fielding on researching the History of the Irish, Pat Reynolds on the Irish in the Post war era, Virginia Moyles on Second generation Irish women, Ann Rossiter on the Irish and the Feminist movement and Mary Nellis on Women in the Six Counties.
The Conference was reported with some details in the Irish Post with a photo of Ann Rossiter, Pat Reynolds, Virginia Moyles, Mary Nellis and Eileen Carroll. (see below) And previews with IBRG hosts day of Irish History and A proud Irish heritage and Question Time IBRG stage a day of Discussion and debate with the IBRG logo and Manchester celebration.

 

 

On 4th July Gerry Adams stated that Republicans might be prepared to accept joint authority as part of the process towards an end of partition.

On 6th July John Mathews was released without charges, the IBRG had earlier made representation to Dick Spring Irish Tánaiste on the case.

On 8th July AGIY launched their reports on Racial attacks and Harassment of Irish People and a leaflet Racial discrimination and Irish people and how to make a complaint against racial discrimination. The launch at the Camden Irish centre included speakers Marc Wadsworth secretary of the Anti Racist Alliance, Chris Boothman Director Legal Division CRE and Alison Stanley Director Racial Discrimination Legal Defence Fund.

On 15th July the UVF statement admitted responsibility for the bombings in Dublin and Monaghan in May 1974 in which 34 people died.

On 17th July the Ard Choiste was held at the Four Provinces Club in Coventry. Neil Doolin, Pat Reynolds and Maurice Moore attended.
The meeting heard that Initiative ’92 was one sided as expected, given the makeup of the inquiry body. Neil Doolin had written to all Regional Health Authorities in Britain to get them to recognise the Irish. Three regional Health Authorities in London had agreed to recognise the Irish, while the Mersey region stated they would include those from the Irish republic. Pat Reynolds reported on meetings with the CRE who were going to carry out research into discrimination and the Irish community and spend £34k on its research.
It was reported that the McNulty family had been arrested on Tyneside under the PTA with the women being held in Durham prison. Pat Reynolds PRO had made a submission on behalf of IBRG to the Home Office Inquiry into Racially Motivated attacks and Harassment. AGIY had produced a booklet on their submission and the IBRG had supplied them with many of the media case histories. Neil Doolin was working on a Merseyside Irish Festival for 1994.

In July John Mayor British prime Minister did a deal with the Unionists giving them a N. Ireland Commons Select Committee to get them to support him on the Maastricht vote, while Gerry Adams stated that Sinn Fein might accept ‘joint authority’ as a step to Irish Unity.

In July the IBRG had stalls at the London Fleadh in Finsbury Park on 12th June, at the Southwark Irish Festival on 9th July and at the Irish Youth Festival in Kilburn on 18th July. Members attended the London Irish Festival on 4th July where Green Ink, the cultural wing of IBRG, had a stall selling books music and videos, and getting the political message across to the community along with promoting Irish literature history music song and dance.

 

Coventry IBRG along with Coventry Socialist Alliance put on a public meeting on 25th August in Coventry at which Maurice Moore spoke on the work of the West Midlands PTA campaign, Pat Reynolds spoke on the effect of the PTA on the Irish community, and Laura Sullivan spoke on the Kate Magee campaign. Over 30 people attended.

In early August the Dublin Sunday Tribune gave Frank Johnson’s case the front page which was a breakthrough while the Sunday Press covered the Mary Druhan’s case with a full-page story.

Irish Language Project in London

The Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference announced that the Irish government were to fund a two-year Irish language project in three schools in South East London, two in Southwark and one in Lambeth.
Pat Reynolds who, along with Cllr Jodie Clark , had been involved with the Irish Embassy and Southwark education on the issue welcomed the new project. Pat Reynolds had an interview with BBC Belfast and Waterford radio on the matter. The Irish Press ran the story Irish to be taught in London schools, and quoted Pat Reynolds, Irish Policy Officer in Southwark, who welcomed the development on the 100 anniversary of the founding of Conrad na Gaeilge, and the fact that the Irish Literary Society had ben founded in Southwark over a 100 years ago, which had given rise to the Irish revival in Ireland. The Irish Post had Irish language pilot scheme. 36% of the pupils at Notre Dame were Irish, while at St Michaels 28% were Irish, while at Bishop Thomas Grant school the Chair of governors Canon Devane’s own father had been a Timire /organiser with Conradh na Gaeilge in Co Kerry.

In August the South London Press covered a Southwark Irish Staff Group statement over finding Irish foster parents for Irish children, where Southwark Council had advertised in the Black Press for foster carers for Irish children and yet did not advertise in the Irish Post. In Southwark the council did not have a single Irish foster family’s out of 368 approved foster carers in the borough, yet Irish children in need of foster placement made up about 10% of these children.

In August the IBRG welcomes the awards of £18,000 to three Irish people arrested assaulted strip searched, and detained for 15 hours under the racist PTA laws. The Metropolitan Police paid out before the case reached court. The IBRG attacked the PTA and called for the release of four members of the McNulty family.The IBRG put out a statement on 18th August to welcome the award paid out to innocent Irish people who were strip searched, assaulted, and detained for over 15 hours simply for being Irish. There were another seven thousand innocent Irish people who were similarly arrested for being Irish under these racist pass laws, where you were stopped and had to prove your innocence every time.
Political opposition to Britain’s role in Ireland was a perfectly legitimate activity but the British state again and again tried to criminalise the Irish community as a suspect community. The Irish government had totally colluded with the oppression of its citizens, and acted like junior provincial management team acting on behalf of the British government, and had a most shameful record of silence over the Irish political hostages all 18 of them taken into captivity in Britain in 1974, to silence the Irish community about Britain’s was in Ireland. It was to keep the Irish in their place and was a relic of Britain’s colonial history and should be confined to the dustbin of history.

The IBRG welcomed the Trades Union Councils AGM motion condemning the abuse of human rights in N. Ireland.
The motion stated ‘In the same manner that Trade Unionists have long condemned human rights abuse in South Africa, Palestine, China and El Salvador, we condemn the same denial of basic human rights by Britain in the six counties of the North of Ireland. Britain has been found guilty of more violations of the European Convention on Human Rights than any other remember state, and other measures such as the PTA have been found to violate Human Rights by the European Court, condemned by Amnesty and by the United Nations Committee against Torture, do not accept that such violations are done with the consent of the British people. We call on the TUC to publicly expose Britain record on human rights particularly on the issue of strip searching, plastic bullets, the PTA an the Diplock Courts’.
The motion came from Lancashire and was carried by 108 votes for with only two against at the 68th annual conference of Trade Union Councils in Birmingham. An Phoblacht covered the story with the IBRG logo
15th August the IBRG issued a statement “welcoming the actions of the Trade Union Councils’ in supporting the motion and in setting the standard for other trade union bodies, who were starting their conference season in September.
It was noted that many Trade councils in Britain had supported Dr Maire O’Shea, the Birmingham Six and other Irish and Black framed prisoners’ cases. The policy motion indicated that 98% of or British Trade Union Councils did not support the British government position and the Labour Party and the big Trade union positions on Ireland. It was a mandate for other trade unions to take up the fight in Britain, and support the Irish community in its fight against the PTA. The figure against of less than two per cent reflects that the Unionist population make up only 2% of the population of the UK. There were now Unison Irish worker groups in Lambeth, Southwark, Lewisham, Brent. Hackney, Birmingham, Bolton, and Hammersmith with trade union contacts in 20 other areas of Britain.

Bolton IBRG
On the 14th August the Irish Post had Busy Irish calendar in Bolton where Margaret Mullarkey along with IBRG and Ceoltas had organised a wide range of summer events and that Stockton’s Wing would be playing at the Bolton Festival on 29th August.

In August IBRG got Mary Druhan’s case onto the front page of the Irish Sunday World a popular Irish Sunday paper, linking it with the Taylor sisters, who had been released from jail calling for Mary’s release. The paper quoted Pat Reynolds as welcoming the campaign by the Taylor sister’s for Mary’s release. The two sisters were themselves wrongly convicted of killing an Irish woman in London. Mary’s case had been referred back to the British home secretary for a referral back to the Court of Appeal.

The Ard Choiste was held at the Irish Centre in Liverpool on 11th September. Nine delegates attended including Virginia Moyles, Neil Doolin, Maire Kennedy, Maurice Moore, Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds, Joe Mullarkey, Diarmuid Breatnach and Kevin Hayes.
Neil Doolin reported back on replies he had received from regional NHS authorities. Bernadette Hyland reported back on the McNulty family who wanted a campaign. Gareth Pierce had become their solicitor. The Meeting gave £25 towards the campaign. Pat Reynolds reported that the Sunday World front page, the Sunday Tribune, and the Irish World had covered Mary Druhan’s story for the IBRG. The Irish Post refused to carry her story. The Mayor of Clonmel Seamus Healy was now supporting Frank Johnson. The meeting gave £100 towards the 1994 Bloody Sunday march.
Pat Daly, ex Bristol IBRG, had now been exposed as an M15 agent in the McGonagle and Heffernan case. Pat Daly had been involved in the Peter Jordan/Billy Grimes case along with the Dr Maire O’Shea case back in 1985.

IBRG took up the case of a young Irish student son of a Donegal TD McDaid who was jailed for three months over a bomb hoax while an English man who caused a gun hoax on an Irish family got away free, evidence of a two-tier racist judicial system.
On 9th September IBRG issued a statement calling into question the arrest, detention and conviction of McDaid, his remand for three weeks and his three month sentence. It contrasted that with an Englishman who made a similar hoax call on the same day in the same area of Southwark by dialling 999, and falsely claiming that his Irish neighbour had a gun as part of an ongoing racial harassment campaign. Car loads of police surrounded the Irish house with at least 12 officer presents. The police did not even arrest the English man who was known to the police.
The emotional damage done to that Irish family was enormous. McDaid, an Irish student on his 19th birthday while intoxicated, made a hoax call from a phone box and is given the full force of the two-tier racist justice system. The recent published report Crime Policing and the Irish community raised serious questions about Irish confidence in the police force. The chair of the Tory Party advocated the bombing of Dublin in public and no action was taken. The Irish Press covered the story with London Irish groups angry over racist hoax call. The Irish World covered the story with Dial R for Racist fury among London Groups. The Southwark Irish Forum had taken up the case, and had made representations to Southwark Council and the Police Consultative Committee on the issue.

IBRG welcomed the extension of Section 11 funding to the Irish community.
The Tory Government, by amending the 1966 Local Government Act, had extended the funding to include the Irish community, but it remained to be seen how far local authorities would prioritise Irish bids and how the Home Office would look at them. The Irish community paid income tax, council tax and business rates and were entitled to have community needs met, where they existed in the same way as any other community. The research was now there to show Irish disadvantage across all area of British life from employment housing health to welfare.
On 10th September the IBRG issued a statement welcomed the proposal but with no great hopes that it would achieve much given the resistance to Irish need at local and national level.
Diarmuid Breatnach had a letter in the Irish Post in September outlining the work IBRG had done on the Irish language. The Irish Post had covered the Irish Government scheme to put the Irish language into Southwark schools but did not even mention IBRG in the article nor the Irish Policy Officer at Southwark, Pat Reynolds. Diarmuid listed the amount of work IBRG had carried out on the Irish language from putting on local classes to campaigning to have Irish as part of the language’s curriculum in Britain. Increasingly the Irish Post, which had moved to the right, were excluding IBRG even where the story was around IBRG work.

On 25th September IBRG members attended the Unison Irish Workers Group (NALGO, NUPE, and COHSE had become one Union) in July 1993 AGM at the Roger Casement Irish centre in Islington. The group changed their name from NALGO Irish workers Group to UNISON Irish Workers Group. Siobhan O’Dwyer was elected women’s officer and Pat Reynolds PRO for the group. The meeting decided to push for the McBride Principles this year at branch meetings in Southwark and Lambeth.

On 30th September some 20 Irish groups including Pat Reynolds of IBRG met with Herman Ouseley Head of the CRE. Herman agreed to take the case for full recognition of the Irish community to the Commissioners and that himself would be supporting recognition of the Irish. The tender for the Irish research would be decided in October.
On 1st October Pat Reynolds PRO joined a smaller number of Irish groups at a meeting with the Irish Embassy with Brendan O’ Caollain and Melanie Pine to get their support for ethnic recognition of the Irish. The Embassy line was that they could not be seen to be interfering in the domestic arrangement of other countries, but Pat Reynolds pointed out to them that the matter under discussion was not any proposed change, since the British government already recognised the Irish as a racial grouping under the terms of The Race Relations Act, and you could almost see the penny dropping at the Embassy. The Embassy would in effect be supporting the British government position and not in any way interfering.

On 3rd October Pat Reynolds PRO was the speaker on Ireland at the Kashmiri Freedom Day in Birmingham where the cause of Ireland got a standing ovation from the packed audience of several hundred.

On 7th October the trail of three former policemen accused of perjury and conspiracy to pervert the cause of justice in the case of the Birmingham Six is terminated, because of what the judge describes as the saturation publicity surrounding the trail. Again, another clear example of the two-tier racist justice available in Britain, when time and again Irish arrested were tried in advance by the British media, the judges stayed silent.

On 16th October Neil Doolin of IBRG had a letter in the Irish Post on the health needs of the Irish community, and stated that from April 1994 the NHS would introduce ethnic monitoring in all their services but excluded the Irish community. Thus, the Department Of Health marginalised the Irish community in Britain and their health needs. Neil urged all Irish community organisations and individuals to write to the DOH on the matter and to raise the issue with their MPs.
Trevor O’ Farrell had a letter in the same issue followed on from Diarmuid Breatnack letter re censoring IBRG. Trevor drew attention to an article on health and the Irish community, where the paper claimed the first conference on Irish mental health in Britain was last year, which was clearly wrong as the IBRG held the first Irish mental health conference back in in 1987 when over 200 people attended the conference in Camden. Trevor again detailed the main findings of that conference which had been forgotten by the Irish Post.

On 23rd October an IRA bomb exploded in a fish shop on the Shankill Road killing ten people including the IRA volunteer bringing in the bomb.

On 29th October the IBRG received a reply from Labour’s Anne Taylor Shadow Secretary of State for Education who stated that ‘the government’s failure to recognise the importance of the Irish language was discriminatory’. Her letter indicated that a Labour Government would not exclude the Irish language.

The IBRG Comhcomhairle was held at the Working-Class Movement Library in Salford on 30th October with ten delegates attending from seven branches namely Manchester, Birmingham, NE Lancs, Haringey, Bolton, Coventry and Merseyside.
There was a policy discussion on the N. Ireland document. Those present included Bernadette Hyland, Kevin Hayes, Lisa O’Brien, Sean Kirkley, Michael O Cnaimshi, Pat Reynolds, Joe Mullarkey, Maurice Moore, Maire Kennedy, and Neil Doolin.
Apologies Kevin Bean and Virginia Moyles, also Diarmuid Breatnach who was on a student placement at Limerick University for three months.

On 24th October IBRG members attended a Sinn Fein meeting at the Roger Casement Irish centre in Islington London where Sinn Fein Councillors Mitchell McLoughlin, Francie Molloy and Una Gillespie discussed the Adams/ Hume talks and proposals for peace.
John Hume and Gerry Adams had sent their peace proposals to the Irish government. Dick Spring responded in October with his six democratic principles for peace while Albert Reynolds later exchanged these with John Mayor. The IBRG took issue with the principles which were a betrayal of Article Two and Three of the Irish Constitution without Britain having to withdraw their territorial claim on Ireland.
27 people were killed in October in the troubles in N. Ireland the worst month since October 1976, the British push for peace by Kitson style squeezing the catholic population had started by supporting Loyalist murder gangs.
Heavy censorship by the Irish Post of IBRG activities had become concern to the organisation.
Mary Hickman and Bronwen Walters had won the contract from the CRE to carry out research into discrimination and the Irish community in Britain.

On 30th October the IBRG issued a statement on Albert Reynolds/Dick Spring Six Principles and rejected them. The IBRG noted that the Irish government had signed the 1985 Anglo Irish Agreement which promised much for Nationalist but delivered nothing. After 70 years of British rule and 20 years of Direct Rule Catholics were still twice as likely to be unemployed as Protestants. The statelet was an apartheid statelet with 93% of the police force being Protestant. In America the British government had spent millions trying to block the McBride Principles to bring equality in employment to N. Ireland. Here we had 2% of the population of the UK dictating both the British and Irish people what to do based on Britain’s colonial position on Ireland and the supremacy of one group over another.

On 7th November IBRG members in Southwark joined the celebrations to open the new Traveller’s site in Southwark a second official site in the borough the other two sites in the borough were given temporary status. However, in Islington Margaret Hodge Leader of Islington Council was writing to the Home Secretary Douglas Hurd back in 1987 to urge ‘a strengthening of the law to make it easier to move on Travellers’ which she put out in a Press release. Yet Hodge portrays herself as an anti-racist yet was prepared to urge stronger racist laws against Irish Travellers. (Source |Policing the Irish Community LSPU).

In November IBRG took Frank Carson to task over his anti-Irish great Starvation jibe. In an IBRG statement of 15th November the IBRG condemned Carson for his racist offensive remarks on Carlton TV London To-night as sheer gutter buffoonery. Would he have been allowed to say similar things about the Holocaust or the Famine in Africa. To Carson the forced starvation of millions of Irish people was funny and his British audience would also find it very funny to laugh at the death over a million people, when the land was overflowing with food and ships were leaving Ireland daily loaded with food. It was in extreme poor taste coming up to the 150 anniversaries of the Great Starvation of the Irish people. Carson reflects the dregs of the British Empire who now want to conveniently forget their role in the forced starvation of the Irish when within years they could spend millions fighting a war in Crimea.

On 15th November John Major stated ‘if the IRA end violence for good then and after a sufficient interval to ensure the permanence of their intent, Sinn Fein can enter the political arena as a democratic party and join the dialogue on the way ahead’.

Later in November the Sun newspaper cartoon Striker of 24/25th November engaged with racist stereotypes of the Irish, perhaps it was the fact that England had failed to qualify for the World Cup while Ireland had qualified that led to these sour grapes and stale stereotypes.

On 27th November the IBRG with their banner led a march of over 100 young Irish from the Cock Tavern in Holloway road to Hornsey Road police station in protest over the police storming the pub after an Ireland football match.
The Irish Post covered the march with a photo showing Laura Sullivan and Pat Reynolds leading the march with the Haringey IBRG banner followed by the banner of the University of North London Students. Placards on the march read Stop Police harassment of the Irish community.

On 28th November Patrick Mayhew stated that the British had received message from the IRA on 22nd February 1993 stating ‘the conflict is over but we need your advice on how to bring it to a close. We wish to have an unannounced ceasefire in order to hold dialogue leading to peace’. Gerry Adams denied this but the British Government published a track of ongoing messages between the IRA and the British over several months. Martin McGuinness stated that the message of 22nd February was a fake, and the Brits were counterfeiting their own documenst to meet their current demands, and Mayhew admitted that there were 22 inaccuracies in the British version of the contacts between the IRA and the Brits.

On 29th November Pat Reynolds PRO was a key note figure on the Kilroy Television programme and managed to get the Rev Willie McCrae MP to lose his temper over employment discrimination in N. Ireland. The Irish World covered the story with a picture of Pat Reynolds who challenged McCrea as to why the Unionist community had never afforded democratic rights to their Catholic neighbours but had discriminated against them in employment and in housing. McCrea lost his temper and exploded ‘I don’t know about your accent but you are not from the streets of N. Ireland.

On 1st November in a reply to Dennis Skinner MP John Mayor sated that it ‘would turn my stomach’ to talk to Sinn Fein.
At the end of November, it was leaked that the British government the IRA had been having secret talks through a go between for some time.

The Ard Choiste took place on 4th December at the Roger Casement Irish centre in Islington. Four delegates attended including Bernadette Hyland, Val Deegan, Tomas O Conlan and Pat Reynolds.
Apologies from Maurice Moore, Kevin Hayes, Siobhan ODwyer, and Neil Doolin.

The meeting discussed prisoners including the McNulty family, Kate Magee, Frank Johnson, and the transfer of Irish prisoners, the Peace talks, the PTA and the CRE research. The Kate Magee trial had been postponed until the new year, there had been a House of Commons meeting on Frank Johnson and a benefit at the Red Rose club which the IBRG had helped organise. There was a picket of the Home Office over the transfer of Irish prisoners to N. Ireland and a meeting at the House of Commons on Strip searching which Tony Benn had spoken at. The issue of the Peace talks was discussed with the Irish government putting article 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution on the table without any acknowledge of the British Government of Ireland Act 1920, which divided Ireland against the will of the majority of its people.

The IBRG led protest over the Camden Irish Centre booking of Bernard Manning for their Christmas show on 22nd December which resulted in the show being cancelled.

On 4th December the IBRG issued a statement entitled Camden Irish centre promotes anti Irish racism the final Insult when the Camden Irish centre now run by Saxon Inns were put on anti-Irish comedians Bernard Manning and Jimmy Jones. Both of whom make use of anti-Irish material to ridicule the Irish people and its culture.
Fr McNamara the founder of the Irish centre would turn in his grave if he saw what the centre was now being used for to mock their own people. Other halls in the centre were called after President Kennedy and Douglas Hyde whose lives reflected on the Irish at home and abroad. The Irish centre was funded by the Irish government and Camden Council both of whom are committed to the promotion of the welfare of Irish people in Camden. Manning was both racist and sexist and had no place there with is exclusive audience of white British males.
The English critic Victor Lewis Smith wrote in the Evening Standard  after such comedians appeared on the Royal Variety Show ‘after two and a half hours of frilly shirted comedians saying ‘there was an Englishman and an Irishman and a Scotsman..,the Dominion seemed to be not so much as a theatre but as an zoo, a last refuse which for species which you though had long ago become extinct, and which clearly could no longer survive in the wild. The London Zoo on the far side of Camden could do with a few new acts, but the welfare of the animals might prohibit it.

In December Bernadette Hyland spoke at TOM meeting in Manchester with Tony Doherty  from the Patrick Finucane Centre in Derry.See below.

On 1st December Pat Reynolds organised an Irish Education Conference in Southwark.
On 3rd December the Hackney Irish workers Group organised an Irish cultural evening in Hackney which drew over 400 people.
On 9th December Pat Reynolds was guest speaker at Southwark Unison AGM at a packed meeting where later he proposed a motion on the McBride Principles which was passed to go to on to annual conference.

In December the IBRG condemned the acquittal, of two British soldiers from the Royal Marines, over the murder of Fergal Caraher in Cullyhanna,
On 15th December the IBRG issued a statement over the verdict on the killing of Fergal Caraher. The verdict had raided fundamental questions about Britain’s shoot to kill policy in Ireland. Without justice there can be no peace. Despite the Reynolds /Mayor Downing St Declaration the real message of the British government remained the same. Within 24 hours of John Mayor’s talk of the gauntlet of peace the British colonial administration in occupied Ireland had delivered its own chilling gauntlet to the nationalist community. The acquittal of British soldiers involved in killing Irish civilians was nothing new. Compare this with savage sentences handed down to Martin McGonagle and Liam Heffernan, at the Old Bailey last week in London where they were enticed over from Ireland by M15 agent Pat Daly for a state commissioned crime for which Daly was handsomely rewarded with a new life.
IBRG notes that the Book Shoot to Kill had detailed that British forces of occupation had killed by 1985 over 155 innocent Irish civilians in the occupied territory. The present shoot to kill policy in N. Ireland appears to be sanctioned at the highest level of the British government, where those who carry out these killings can do so without fear of prosecution.

On 17th December IBRG issued a statement condemning the conviction of Martin Mc Monagle and Liam Heffernan who were enticed over from Ireland by M15 agent Pat Daly in a state-controlled exercise. IBRG called on the Irish government to take action against Britain for sending its spies into a friendly nation to entrap its citizens into fake actions abroad. Daly had previously been involved in the Liverpool Five where Peter Jordan got 14 years in prison and where Daly instructed by his pay masters tried to discredit IBRG and Dr Maire OShea. The IBRG had warned the Irish community of future frame up after Daly was named as Romeo in the Sunday Observer his role questioned in the case.

On 16th December Pat Reynolds, Virginia Moyles and Siobhan O’Dwyer took part in the Kilroy show over the Reynolds/Mayor Peace declaration. David Trimble was a guest. Pat Reynolds was able to contribute to the show.

Joint Declaration on N.Ireland
On 15th December in London Albert Reynolds and John Mayor issued a joint Declaration on N. Ireland which was largely based on the Hume/Adams talks. For the first time the Irish government publicly accepted the Unionist veto ‘the democratic right of the Irish people to self-determination as a whole must be achieved and exercised subject to the agreement and consent of the majority of people in N. Ireland’, thus breaking from the 1918 vote by the Irish people for a republic.
IBRG rejected the Declaration as forming the basis for a long-term solution to the British presence in Ireland. Dick Spring led the demand for guns to be given up even though there was no mention of guns in the declaration. He failed to mention the need to take British guns out of Ireland.
In the new Agreement Ireland would be subject to the Unionist veto, and the British would agree to a United Ireland only if the Unionist majority in N. Ireland wanted it. The British government stated it has no selfish strategic or economic interest in Nt Ireland. Its primary interest is to see peace, stability and reconciliation established by agreement among all the people of Ireland and they will work together with the Irish government to achieve such an agreement and will embrace the totality of relationships. The British Government agreed that it is for the people of Ireland alone by agreement between the two parts to exercise their right of self-determination, on the basic of consent freely and concurrently given, north and South to bring about a United Ireland, if that is their wish.
The Irish Government agreed that the democratic right of self-determination by the people of Ireland as a whole must be achieved and exercised with and subject to the agreement and consent of the majority of people in N. Ireland.
1993 thus marked the beginning of the road to peace in N. Ireland starting with the Downing St Declaration.

On 28th December over 400 republicans met in Tyrone, no one present supported the Downing St Declaration.
The IBRG never accepted the Hume/Adams agreement because we never saw them to debate them. It is clear that some of the Hume/Adams agreement were taken on board by the Irish government and amended to become part of the Downing St Declaration.

Des Wilson and action against stopping of funding to community projects in N.Ireland.
During the year Fr Des Wilson from the Springhill Community Centre in Belfast wrote to Pat Reynolds for advice on the possibility of standing against Douglas Hurd in the General Election who was the Minister responsible for stopping the funding to community projects in N. Ireland. The idea was to force Hurd to face up to what he had done to ordinary working people in Ireland.
Des Wilson expressed his thanks to IBRG for taking up human rights issues in Ireland and supporting the communities there as well as defending Irish rights in Britain. Hurd, according to journalist John Pilger, had condoned the arming of the Kymer Rouge, and yet could accuse innocent community groups in N. Ireland of being fronts for the armed struggle. Hurd was really attacking Irish culture and the Irish heart of the community in targeting these projects such as Glor na nGael. The idea was not followed up due to the difficulties in the voting system in England and first past the post. The Civil Rights Party stood in Irish community seats in the 1970’s against Labour and only got a few hundred votes.
There was at this time solid links between the IBRG and various community groups in Ireland like the Bloody Sunday March in Derry where the London march was often linked in with in terms of publicity, but also Glor na nGael and various campaigns like Plastic bullets, strip searching, Irish National Congress, ICPO in Dublin, Initiative ’92 Trade unions links.
IBRG materials were covered in An Phoblacht and the Andersonstown News plus the Irish language paper La, as well as IBRG getting interviews on BBC Radio Belfast and Radio Foyle. Employment discrimination was another huge link up where useful information was shared and action taken in Britain. The Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four cases had many links with N. Ireland, while the PTA was used in both Britain and N. Ireland and affected both communities when in transit. The IBRG marched in the anti-internment march in Belfast for several years and IBRG made two delegation visits to Nt Ireland during the 1980’s.

On 28th December Pat Reynolds was interviewed by RTE TV re Irish emigration and on 29th December by BBC Radio Belfast on the same issue.

 

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 Manchester – 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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My review of “The People’s Republic of Neverland The Child versus the State” by Robb Johnson

Books should be written by activists. Not by academics. Not by political commentators. Robb is a political songwriter whose day job is as a teacher. In this brilliant and inspiring book he reflects on his life on the frontline of the education system and the right-wing revolution that has taken place in our schools since the 1980s. He asserts ; “The state’s strategies of competition, outcomes and selection support the existence of a system of social privilege that not only serves the particular interests of the ruling elite but also creates a culture of stress and anxiety.”

 

Giving working class children the right to a free education was not altruistic in the 1870s. It was driven by the demands of the Industrial Revolution – the economy needed workers with some reading and writing skills. Over the years Governments have tried to shape children and  the education system according to their political ideology.

Robb became a teacher in 1980 and throughout his time in the job he has seen at first hand the way in which the education system has become the target of the right wing from Thatcher to Blair to Cameron to Johnson.  He says that the post war period and the role of educationalists meant that the underprivileged child benefitted from an agenda of libertarianism, of a child centred approach and of the concept of equality.

That has now  been  destroyed… “This “Prague Spring” of education, state education with  a human face has since been subjected to a ruthless attack by the right, and the future of education looks pretty much like Orwell’s vision of the future in 1984 – “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face –forever.”

But this is not a depressing book. Robb reminds us of how education has always been a minefield of debate and argument – even well before the 1980s.

In the 1970s teacher Chris Searle was sacked from his job at a teacher at a  Church of England  School because he published a book of poems by his working class students.  Supported by his students  who went on strike ((as well as  parents and the N.U.T.), Searle got his job back, and continued his work to “attempt to develop, through imaginative writing, the generous, empathetic and fraternal instincts of these children.”

Robb was lucky to be in education when educating the teacher, in its broadest sense, was seen as an important part of the job. In 1987 he went to East Berlin as part of a formal delegation of teachers. He chose to visit a kindergarten and it was a wake up call to him. “If you want to improve “our children”, improve the start they get to their learning by making it more like the experience of those children who go to children’s gardens till they are six or seven in “those countries” where “children do better”.

One of the inspiring aspects to this book is the way that Robb has learnt from other teachers or educationalists, as well as children,  and applied  that in his own practice. He has worked mainly  in schools where there are children who are deprived. In one school he used his song writing skills to write a song about them which would stop the kids punching each other. (The song is in the book. “6B go swimming”. )

Throughout the book Robb shows that  he is a good teacher because he respects his children. “Good practise consists of finding opportunities and ways in which the children you work with can like themselves. Good practise consists of giving children opportunities and reasons to smile.”

His motivation for writing the book is to bring back some sense to the educational debate. “To contribute a voice that has been increasingly sidelined to a debate that has been increasingly shut down by the state’s assumption of the inviolability of the agenda of “reform  ”. His aim is to put children back at the heart of schools and promote meaningful education.

He makes his case through using poetry, song and philosophy to sit alongside his own story and that of this country’s education system. The text is littered with my heroes/heroines Emma Goldman, Adrian Mitchell, Roger McGough and Billy (William)  Blake. Also I love his songs which are an important part of the story.

It is an intense, often depressing, often heartbreaking, often very funny hike through the history of this country over the last century. It is a great book for anyone who cares about the path that this country is now undertaking. It is an inspiring  book for anyone who wants to be a teacher or  work in any of the support services in schools. It will remind you of that great teacher that you still remember who always took time to listen to you or just give you a smile first thing on a Monday morning. It is a reminder of how important education is to social progress and to the future of this country. Over to Robb….

“In their exam factories, they try to stop up the ears and the eyes and the mouths of learning and questioning with “Right Answers”, like they would hold back the very hands of time.

And it hasn’t worked. It doesn’t work.

Our task is to let the clocks run forward again”.

 

The book finishes with a playlist of Robb’s Greatest Works, he also regularly tours, find out more here. 

Buy the book here

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The History of the Irish in Britain Representation Group part twelve 1992

 

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.

 

Kate Magee arrested in 1992. Photo Kevin Hayes.

 

On 18th January 1992 the IBRG Ard Choiste was held at the Sparkhill Cultural Centre in Birmingham. Seven delegates attended including Diarmuid Breatnach, Pat Reynolds, Siobhan O’Dwyer, Mary Donnelly, Kevin Hayes, and Virginia Moyles.

Apologies from Bernadette Hyland, Majella Crehan and Maurice Moore.

 Employment Discrimination in N. Ireland and Britain, the vote for emigrants, the Bloody Sunday March, the Lambeth IBRG Irish Welfare Conference, the General Election in Britain, the Ard Fheis, An Pobal Eirithe, and prisoners were discussed.

On 25th January IBRG branches with their banners took part in the Bloody Sunday March from Hyde Park to Kilburn. IBRG were part of the organising committee with TOM and LCI.

Peter Brooke was in fine voice on the Late Late Show singing My Darling Clementine in a week where IRA action killed eight Protestant building workers in Tyrone, he offered to resign after much protest.

 

In January the IBRG welcomed the award of £18k to two Irish students at Wood Green County Court in London over their wrongful arrest, assault, false detention, and malicious prosecution. It created a marker; Irish people were beginning to fight back against an unjust racist criminal justice system.

 

Haringey Council and Irish Workers

In January the IBRG expressed concern at job figures from Haringey Council Social Services Department which showed that 68% of Irish staff employed by Haringey Council worked in manual jobs compared with an average of 46% for all council staff.

Only 18% officials staff worked in officer posts compared with 38% for UK staff. The Irish within Social Services were largely confined to social care as Home Helps and part time, but got few of the quality full time officer jobs.

While the Irish made up a reasonable number of employees at 13%, they were confirmed to the lower jobs of home helps and clerical staff.  Only 12 Irishmen were employed by Haringey Council in Social services out of a workforce of 1677. Clearly Irish men were not getting a look in from Haringey Council while Irishwomen were twice as likely to be in a poor job as White English, Caribbean or Asian women.

It showed clearly that Haringey Council had not extended their Equal Opportunities Policy beyond token recognition to the Irish community, despite having an Irish Liaison Unit and the Irish being on the Ethnic Minorities committee.

Yet Haringey Council had launched, in the House of Commons before Christmas, a positive report on the Irish with a good practice guide on EOP the Irish community, and had prided themselves on being the leading authority in Britain in addressing the needs of the Irish community.

 Overall Haringey employed 729 Irish employees making up 10% of Haringey councils workforce, with some 62% of all Irish staff working with Haringey being in manual grades compared with a Council average of 43% for all employees.

The Irish in Britain were often confined to jobs in the construction industry, in hospitals and in pubs, with poor access to quality jobs with pensions. Irish women empolyees in Town Halls  were likely to be confined to home helps and dinners workers and the men in manual type jobs. This had implications for service delivery to the Irish community in social services and in other areas, as it was important for minority communities to see their community reflected in the Town Hall across the board.

The Irish Post covered the story with Haringey fails Equality test. The Irish World had London councils face Irish discrimination probe.

The Irish in Britain News had a story about Emigrants Aid Crisis on the Dion funding for Irish groups in Britain. Pat Reynolds pointed out that then Irish government spent the same amount on funding the Irish community in Britain, as the amount Dublin Zoo spend on feeding  animals which was a half million.

 

In January three IBRG members were involved in producing the first edition of Irish Ways a Literary magazine funding by the London Arts Board with Pat Reynolds Steve Brennan and John Carty all IBRG members involved. They were to produce three issues of the magazine for a difficult market in Britain.

 

Irish Exam performance in Islington Secondary Schools

In January the IBRG expressed concern over Irish exam performance in Islington secondary schools.  Despite the two catholic schools in the borough producing the best results, the overall results for Irish pupils were poor. The results showed Irish girls performing poorly and the IBRG stated that the Irish community needed an explanation as to why Islington schools were failing Irish girls, and why overall they were performing below the National average, and below the figures for ILEA.

IBRG called on all Irish community groups in Britain to demand performance figures from their local authority as the 1980 Education Reform Act required all school to publish their results. While the Irish were excluded from the 1991 ethnic census of schools, there was a provision within the Act for schools to monitor other groups, where there were more than 20 pupils from that group attending the school.

On 28th January Pat Reynolds went with Jodie Clark to visit an Irish prisoner in Maidstone prison. Painful to think while visiting that they had hung a catholic Priest there in 1798 who was on his way to France and who was linked with the Irish rebellion.

 

In January Lambeth IBRG project dealt with several request and visits from students wanting help with research. In just one month the project had, a London student re -mental health,  a Loughborough student on anti-Irish racism, a Wandsworth student on Irish and education, one Enfield student re-education, one Margate student re Irish and discrimination, one North  London Poly student re- Irish groups, and one Belfast student on anti-Irish racism in the media, plus a request re an Irish student conference in Britain.

At the same time the Project had requests from other Irish projects in London,  from Irish in Islington re-education,  from Innisfree, Battersea & Wandsworth Irish society, BIAS, WMPTA, Green Ink, Glor an Deorai, and calls from both Fulham and Lambeth Social services,  plus the usual community cases on welfare and housing and employment plus running a  pensioner group every week. Thus, the project had a London wide if not country wide reach in terms of supporting the Irish community.

On 4th February an RUC officer entered the Sinn Fein Centre in Belfast and murdered three people and the next day Loyalists murdered five Catholics at Sean Graham’s bookie shop in Belfast.

Prevention of Terrorism Act  Arrests and press coverage

Pat Reynolds PRO wrote a letter to the Irish in Britain News to complain about their coverage of recent PTA arrests which had a headline IRA Trial Hears Hit List with a publication of two IRA bomb damage photos.

The letter argued that the press coverage was deeply prejudicial to the defendants and against the subjudice laws. In the public eye these photographs would attempt to link the defendants with similar actions, and would weaken the public presumption of innocence until proven guilty, and the changes of a fair trial. Given the history of Irish cases in Britain it was unhelpful to have the Irish media carrying out the rush to judgement of the British judicial system. 

The letter urged extreme caution in reporting such cases, and urged the need to defend the right to a fair hearing in a system which had vetted juries, high security, trial by media and trials often held in military towns, and where only the prosecution case was given to the British public. There were simply political shows trials.

Smash the PTA badge designed by Diarmuid Breatnach Lewisham IBRG.

 

 

On 6th February Albert Reynolds was elected Leader of Fianna Fail and Irish Taoiseach.

On 12th February Pat Reynolds PRO had an interview on Radio 4.

 

Judith Ward and release of William McKane

On 13th February IBRG members took part in a candle lit picket of Holloway Prison for Judith Ward. William McKane was released the same day and had a celebration at the Red Lion in Kilburn.

On 14th February the IBRG issued a Press release to state English Jury supports Justice for Irish people and stated ‘English juries are no longer prepared to believe circumstantial evidence used in Irish trials to convict innocent Irish people, or to go along with trial by media, and state propaganda surrounding such trials.’

 William McKane had spent 15 months in jail awaiting the hearing while his wife had spent 5 months in prison, and six Irish people arrested with McKane on Kilburn High Road were served with exclusion orders. A copy of An Phoblacht was used in evidence against McKane.

Again, the IBRG condemned the use of conspiracy laws against innocent Irish people and called for them to be abolished.

 

The Ard Choiste met at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in Islington North London on 15th February. Seven delegates attended including Diarmuid Breatnach, Pat Reynolds, Siobhan O’Dwyer, Robert Ryan, Tom Fitzsimons, Kevin Hayes, and Virginia Moyles. 

Apologies Bernadette Hyland, Neil Doolin and Majella Crehan.

The Lambeth Irish Welfare Conference, an Easter Rally, Bloody Sunday report back, the General election, the Ard Fheis, an Pobal Eirithe, Irish Prisoners and the review of IBRG were all discussed.  The Lambeth Irish Welfare conference was on 2nd February at Lambeth Town Hall, the Easter Event organised by Haringey IBRG was on 10th April, the Ard Fheis was planned for 28th March in Manchester. William McKane had been released. The review of IBRG recommended that officers meet at least four times a year, that IBRG set out two or three key objectives each year, and that each officer set out an action plan for their work and area of activity e.g. prisoners, women’s, education youth etc.

On 16th February Kevin Barry O’Donnell was executed by Crown forces along with three other volunteers in Co Tyrone.

 

1990 Exam results  of Irish Children in Inner London

On 20th February the IBRG issued a Press release on a published analysis of the 1990 exam results within the six LEAs in Inner London, which showed Irish children who were lumped in together with English Welsh and Scottish pupils doing very poorly in their results, with only Caribbean pupils doing worse.  All the other pupils African, Asian, Turkish, Pakistani and Bangladeshi were all doing better.

IBRG called for the separation of Irish pupils from English pupils in the survey  so that their true results and performance could be seen. The Irish were the only large minority community who were not monitored separately in London. The report was at odds with the community belief and expectations that Irish children do well at school with many attending catholic schools, and the report was at odd with a previous ILEA report before they were disbanded by the Tories, which showed Irish children doing better.

IBRG called for further research and noted a lack of Irish teachers outside the Catholic schools, and a wholesale denial of Irish culture even by the English Catholic church who were openly hostile to Irish culture. The recent example of anti-Irish material circulating at the leading Catholic Training college St Marys at Strawberry Hill had raised concerns. There was a need for Irish parents to become involved in the education process as school governors, and there was a need for Irish community organisation to ensure their local educational authority took on board the concerns of the Irish community. Seamus Carey used the example as to why Catholic schools did not put on an Irish evening, like they did with African, Caribbean and Asian evenings for parents. When they did at St Thomas More School in Wood Green it was extremely successful.

 

5th Irish Welfare Conference

On 22nd February Lambeth IBRG held their 5th annual Irish Welfare Conference at Lambeth Town Hall. Speakers included Angie Birthill from the London Irish Women’s Centre, Padraic Kenna from Innisfree Irish Housing Association, Siobhan O’Dwyer on Social Services, Pat Reynolds on researching the Irish, Liam Greenslade from the Institute of Irish Studies in Liverpool on mental health, Seamus Taylor on equal opportunism, and Noirin Ni Reardain on Disabilities and the Irish community.

Joe Callinan, the Irish born deputy Mayor of Lambeth, attended the Conference which in its plenary session called on local and national bodies to take on board the expressed needs of the Irish community in areas of welfare, health, housing and employment.

The Conference got wide publicity in the Irish weeklies in Britain with London Conference on Improving Welfare, Irish issues faced in Seminar, and IBRG hold 5th Annual Irish Welfare Conference, and Conference call for action on Welfare.

The IBRG condemned Gay Mitchell, Fine Gael TD, over his comments on Nessan Quinlivan and Pierce McAuley and called on him to uphold the right of any person, to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty by the courts. Pat Reynolds PRO wrote to the Irish papers including the Sunday Press condemning the remarks of Guy Mitchell TD. The letter stated ‘I find it particularly sad when elected members of Dail Eireann fail to maintain the public perception of innocence in relation to unconvicted Irish nationals. Long may the demand for justice and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and the demand for framed prisoners to be released be supported by Irish people at home and abroad.”

 

On 29th February the Irish Post had Bolton IBRG plans week of events which included an event for International Women’s Day and with a Ceili later in the month of March.

On 9th March figures from N. Ireland show that 93% of the RUC were Protestant.

On 13th March the Irish World had a feature entitled Exiled in the Media Changing Times in which it detailed the fight by the Irish community in Britain to be treated fairly by the British media. It showed  how  Sean Sexton of IBRG and the Irish Media Organisation had made  their bid for more Irish TV and Radio space in Britain.

Sean Sexton stated ‘given what we contribute  to this country in taxes and licence fees, and coupled with the number of Irish people who have made it in British’s society, both in professional and entertainment circles, the amount of airtime and treatment meted out in the media in general is a disgrace’. The article also detailed the work of IBRG in challenging the media over its fake made-up stories and its racism.

 

The Irish in Britain News carried a story IBRG face Eviction over Provo Storm where in Haringey a right-wing Tory councillor with links to hard-line Unionists, Ron Aitkin, claimed that IBRG had consistently supported the provisional IRA  and called for IBRG to be evicted from their offices in Hornsey library. He claimed IBRG had quite consistently apologised for Gerry Adams and defended thew IRA at every opportunity.

These remarks were clearly libellous and without any foundation. This was just before the General Election and Labour ran for the hills and later evicted IBRG even though IBRG were paying rent for a small office. Cllr Ron Aiken was the former researcher for the Reverend Martin Smyth who was head of the notorious sectarian Orange Order responsible over decades for most the racist sectarian violence in N. Ireland including the shocking programme  against Catholics in 1921.

His paranoid rantings about IBRG was not the first, but there were so libellous that no papers would carry his remarks. When challenged to provide any evidence, Ron Aiken despite his so-called research work,  could not come up with single piece of evidence to support his rantings.

Haringey IBRG pointed out that Pat Reynolds had been elected by the Irish community to serve on Haringey Ethnic Minorities consultative council, and was as entitled as Ron Aiken to use an office at the library for consultation with members of the Irish community and for Irish clients who wanted support with housing or employment.

On 21st March the Irish Post covered a story IBRG stalwart says it’s time to Go which was about Bernadette Hyland standing down as IBRG Chair after three years of service. Bernadette was the first woman to lead an Irish national organisation in Britain although Dr Maire O’Shea had earlier been President of IBRG. In the article Bernadette gave her background growing up in a working-class Irish family and paid tribute to Joe and Margaret Mullarkey for their work for the Irish community in Bolton where she joined IBRG. She talked of the position of the Irish community in Britain and of the situation in Ireland, and why IBRG had to speak out on these issues.

On 22nd March Irish community organisations met with the Commission for Racial Equality to persuade them to undertake research into the Position of the Irish community in Britain. Those attended were Seamus Taylor Chair, Pat Reynolds IBRG, Tom O’Connor, Brendan O Rourke, Dave Murphy, Mary Hickman, Paraic Kenna, Mary Connolly, Donal McGrath and Joan Flynn.

 

On 28th March the IBRG Ard Fheis was held at the Working-Class Movement Library in Salford Manchester. The following ten branches were represented Haringey, Merseyside, Manchester, Bolton, Lewisham, Camden/Hackney, Harrow, Coventry and NE Lancs. 20 delegates in total attended.

Among those attending was Siobhan O’Dwyer, Neil Doolin, Joe Mullarkey, Paddy Prescott, Bernadette Hyland, Linda Sever, Diarmuid Breatnach, Virginia Moyles, Pat Reynolds, Kevin Hayes, Denis Casey, Maurice Moore, Michael Murphy, Nigel Cook, Kevin Bean, Pauline Hughes and Jill Moroney.

Apologies from Caitriona Scanlan and Majella Crehan. A vote was thanks was given to Margaret Mullarkey for the wonderful food provided on the day.

The meeting adopted the Irish version of IBRG Cumann Ionadaiochta na nEireannach sa Bhreatain.

The following officers were elected

Chair Virginia Moyles Hackney/Camden

Runai Neil Doolin Liverpool

PRO Pat Reynolds Haringey.

Cisteoir Maurice Moore Coventry

 Membership/Internal coordinator Bernadette Hyland Manchester

 Regional coordinator Joe Mullarkey Bolton

Women’s Officer Majella Crehan Haringey

Education Officer Kevin Bean NE. Lancs

Prisoners officer Siobhan O’Dwyer Haringey.

 Welfare Office Michael Murphy Manchester.

 Editor an Pobal Eirithe Diarmuid Breatnach Lewisham.

The following motions were carried;

A motion calling on the Ard Fheis to examine whether the present structure of the Ard Choiste was the best way forward rather than an elected executive,

A motion calling on the officers to meet outside the Ard Choiste to progress issues in IBRG,

 A motion calling on the incoming Ard Choiste to allocate specific areas of responsibility to each officer and if necessary, to coop individuals for some issues.

A motion setting out the following priorities for the coming year, recruitment, finance raising, branch development, and publications.

A motion calling on the IBRG to seek full recognition by the CRE of the Irish community,

A motion condemning the price of Irish passports,

A motion condemning moves to delete Article Two and Three from the Irish Constitution,

A motion supporting the Declaration for Peace in Ireland which reaffirmed that there should be no change to the Irish constitution over Article Two and Three.

A motion supporting the Manchester Martyrs commemoration,

 A motion condemning the harassment of Irish students in Britain under the PTA and the media,

A motion urging IBRG to monitor discrimination against Travellers in access to state benefits in Britain,

A motion condemning the legal status of the UDA despite their involvement in several murders, (Of interest the British Government would ban the UDA later in the year).

A motion condemning the delay by the Irish government in granting justice and compensation to Nicky Kelly, Oscar Breatnach and another,

A motion welcoming the move towards independence in Scotland,

A motion condemning the Labour Party for moving from a position of repeat the PTA to one of reform,

An emergency motion welcoming the return of funding to Glor na nGael in Belfast

An emergency motion calling on the Irish government to conduct basic research on the results of the 1991 census on the Irish in Britain and to make that information available to the community.

A vote of thanks was given to Bernadette Hyland who was standing down as Chair and to Caitlin Wright a long-term officer who had stood down after many years of service.

 

IBRG Election Manifesto for Irish Community

At the end of March the IBRG published their election manifesto  for the upcoming British General Election calling for the ending of British rule in Ireland, and self-determination for the Irish people, the end of all human rights abuses and repressive legislation, the ending of the racist PTA laws,  the ending of censorship and propaganda on Ireland, the ending of employment discrimination,  the transfer of Irish prisoners, the ending of strip searching, the banning of plastic bullets, the ending of Diplock Courts, and a return to jury courts, and the ending of the British shoot to kill policy.

For the Irish community in Britain the IBRG demanded  an end to anti-Irish racism and discrimination in Britain, recognition as an ethnic minority community with full access to equal opportunities in housing, employment, education health and welfare, the provision of resources to meet the expressed needs of the Irish community, a fair share of media time including a radio station and access to TV programmes, along with work contracts and safety measures in the construction industry.

 

Green Ink held their annual London Irish Book fair in March  at the Camden Irish Centre and the Irish writer Jack O’Brien in a letter to the papers wrote about the wall of silence around Irish affairs, and he stated ‘The contribution which I found most interesting among a series of excellent contributions, was from Nadine Finch from the Irish in Britain Representation Group concerning the erosion of civil liberties in Britain. Much of what I heard at Camden came as shock to me. I was alarmed that the police state was so well established in Britain. Tom Paine must be turning in his grave’.

The British General Election was held on 9th April with Neil Kinnock snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Gerry Adams lost his West Belfast seat. The Tories won a minority government of 21 seats, which made them dependent on unionist votes to survive after anti-European Tories turned on Mayor. Patrick Mayhew took over as colonial master in the occupied territory.

On 10th April the day after the General election the IRA bombed the Baltic exchange in London killing two people and causing £800M of damage compared with £615 damage for the whole N. Ireland war damage since 1969. It sent tremors thought the city of London who told Mayor to sort it out or they would be off to Europe.

 

On 13th April N.E. Lancs IBRG held their AGM in Blackburn and spoke of a very successful year with increased membership They were now holding bi-weekly session of Irish traditional music song and dance in Blackburn.

 

Kate Magee Campaign

On 13th April the INLA killed a British soldier in Derby: an event which later led to the arrest of  Irish woman Kate Magee on the following day.

Kate was a single parent with two children living in Derby.  The West Midland PTA Research and Welfare Association was informed of Kate’s arrest by a local Irish builder, Pat McAndrew, who later went onto form the Derby IBRG branch. Kate’s son was taken away from her and it was only after 16 days and much lobbying by Irish groups that the Derby police revealed she was in Durham’s high security prison for women. After 66 days in prison the prosecution dropped the major criminal charge, leaving the lesser PTA charge of witholding information.

The documents of the  campaign to free Kate are held in the IBRG archive at the WCML.

 

On 18th April the IBRG released a Press statement condemning police raids against the Irish community in Britain. John Major condemned the London IRA target bombing but was responsible for the mass bombing of Baghdad which killed thousands of innocent men women and children when the Iraqi army were on the Kuwait border.

IBRG noted the contract in the British media between the three dead from the IRA bombing in London and the deaths at the Sinn Fein office by an RUC man and the deaths by Loyalists at a bookie office in West Belfast.Irish lives were hardy worth a mention in the British media whereas an English death was a huge propaganda issue.

IBRG again called for a political solution in N. Ireland based on justice and real peace, and one that tackles the cause of the war and not the symptoms. The British agenda was one based on war and oppression of the nationalist community, and IBRG wanted one based on equality and an ending of British imposed partition in Ireland.

On 19th April Pat Reynolds was speaking at the Sparkhill Cultural Centre in Birmingham along with a Sinn Fein speaker for their Easter Commemoration rally. The event was organised by the Republican Coordinating Committee along with Birmingham IBRG.

On 25th April the IBRG marched with their banner on the Kurdish march in London to the Ministry of Defence.

The IBRG in Haringey were to lose their office space later in the year after losing their funding and their two workers over a year ago. Lambeth IBRG remained the last of the three IBRG projects in London but lost their funding in March 1992.

On 6th May Neil Doolin, Runai Merseyside IBRG,  had a powerful letter in the Liverpool Echo  newpaper entitled An attack on basic civil liberties which stated ‘the remarks of James Sharpes Chief Constable of Merseyside that a tougher Prevention of Terrorism Act be proposed, so people can be detained at random, even if ether is no reasonable suspicion on which to hold them, are utterly condemned by the Merseyside branch of the Irish in Britain Representation Group. We find his proposal for new powers for police and customs and the introduction of national identity cards as particularly abhorrent and an attack on civil liberties’. Neil’s letter went on to give the history of the abuse of Irish people under the racist PTA laws.

Neil Doolin Merseyside IBRG

Neil Doolin Merseyside IBRG

 

Pat Reynolds in Haringey had a letter from his MP Barbara Roche which stated ‘The Labour Party is pledged to work towards a United Ireland achieved by peaceful means and on the basis of consent. We therefore would wish to defeat terrorism by all lawful means, but are committed to ending counterproductive measures such as the prevention of terrorism act, strip searching and plastic bullets. I strongly support this position’.

Which was the usual Labour Party policy  standing behind the Unionist veto and seeking the defeat of the Republican movement.  She failed to mention that N. Ireland was set up against the will of the Irish people, and it was set up by extreme violence including the Belfast pogrom of 1921, the  mass burning of Catholic businesses, the driving of Catholic workers from their  jobs and the murder of several hundred Catholics by Orange extremists, aided and abetted by the British government who put the Catholics of Belfast down in 1921.

On 10th May IBRG members attended the Sands/Connolly Rally at Conway Hall in London where Mitchell McLoughlin of Sinn Fein  was the main speaker. Their leaflet heading was Towards a Lasting Peace in Ireland with no mention of Troops out or Irish self-determination. It sounded more like Labour Party fringe meeting than a republican meeting.

On 16th May the Ard Choiste took place at the Four Provinces Club in Coventry. Nine delegates attended including Neil Doolin, Kevin Bean, Siobhan O’Dwyer, Pat Reynolds, Diarmuid Breatnach, Maurice Moore, Kevin Hayes, and Virginia Moyles.

Apologies from Majella Crehan, Nigel Cook, Bernadette Hyland, and Peter Skerrit.

The meeting decided to sponsor the Anti-Racist alliance, the Anti-Nazi league, and anti-Fascist action. It was noted that the police had been involved in trawling the Irish community under the PTA. The IBRG had condemned the raids and criticised the Irish Post for lack of coverage of these arrests. 33 Irish people were detained with 31 later released. Kate Magee was now in Durham Jail.  A motion from Haringey condemned the recent raids on the Irish community, and a further Haringey motion welcomed the release of Judith Ward after 18 years of false imprisonment on Dr Skuse evidence and other fake evidence. The meeting agreed to affiliate to the PTA Research Association for £100.

On 17th May IBRG issued a Press release which stated IBRG welcomes the release of the last 1974 Hostages. It went on’ The British state of which Labour were in power criminal conspiracy in framing 18 innocent Irish people was to shut up the Irish community. The conspiracy failed because of the courage of the prisons, their families and the fight back by the Irish community aided by concerned British people. The IBRG dispute that these were miscarriages of justice, they were special cases selected for a political purpose. The special factors in these cases was anti-Irish racism aided and abetted by the state, with many British establishment figures enhancing their careers on the backs of these innocent people’. The IBRG called for the release of Kate Magee and the dropping of all charges against her. The Irish World covered the story with Ireland Welcomes the release of the last 1974 hostage.

On 18th May Pat Reynolds was able to make a number of points on the  Any Questions programme  on RTE TV which was filmed in London for the first time. The panel were Jeffrey Archer MP, Clare Short MP, David Alton MP and Pro Life, and Sr Joan Kane a Haringey Irish community worker.

In Liverpool IBRG were pushing for an Irish radio programme on BBC Radio Merseyside, the Irish being the only large minority community not provided for in Liverpool.

In May the IBRG condemned the London Evening Standard over an article on N. Ireland by an ex-soldier who compared the Six Counties to a pig sty in Victorian style colonial stereotypes. On 19th May the IBRG released a Press statement entitled IBRG deplores Gutter Journalism of London Evening Standard. The article by an ex Para was full of praise for the notorious Paras and ended up by misquoting Joyce That Ireland is the old sow that eats her farrow. When she ceases to be and only then can the parachute regiment and others withdraw from the sty’. The London Evening standard had a shocking history of anti-Irish racism including the Jak cartoons after which the GLC withdrew all advertising from the Standard. The Irish News covered the story with IBRG Fury with  Sty analogy.

The IBRG called for the paratroopers to be withdrawn from N. Ireland following several attacks on local people in Co Tyrone which was covered in the Irish News. The Paras had a history of shocking brutality in Ireland including Bloody Sunday where they  murdered 13 civilians.

In Blackburn the IBRG put on their 2nd annual Blackburn Irish Friendship Festival, with several events including the showing of Mise Eire and a Curious Journey in a week-long Festival. The Irish weeklies covered it with Blackburn Friendship Irish festival and Friendship fete for Lancashire, with a whole week of song, dance, theatre, literature and films. The Irish News had North West Irish Unite Week-long Irish festival. The Irish Post had had four photos with heading of Blackburn’s Irish festival

 

The Bolton Irish Festival organised by Bolton IBRG was held on 14-16th June. It included a wide range of cultural events such as Irish music, games, an exhibition of the Irish in Bolton, Irish dancing, Irish stalls and much more.

 The Festival got considerable publicity in local and national Irish media.  There were several  pieces in the Irish weeklies, Scenes from Bolton Irish festival  with three photos including a Gaelic Mass  a Pipe band and a Gaelic football match, a photo in the Irish Post with Festive Bolton with Joe Mullarkey speaking with the Mayor of Bolton, another Irish Post piece with Weekend Festival begins in Bolton, and Stalls still available at Bolton Festival, a photo spread with heading A Bolton Revival with four photos including one of the main square, the Irish News had Grant problem but Festival will go Ahead,, and another with Bolton Irish festival and in the Irish World Bolton Irish festival and the last one Bolton Irish History exhibition which had been put together  under the direction of Margaret Mullarkey.

On 2nd June  IBRG had a stall at the Fleadh in Finsbury Park, North London which drew thousands of people and  we were able to display materials on IBRG, prisoners and other issues.

On 4th June Judith Ward’s conviction is quashed with judges accusing the forensic scientists involved in the case of having concealed evidence.

On 15th June IBRG members attended the Casement Accused Meeting at the House of Commons where Mike Mansfield QC and Tony Benn MP spoke.

On 16th June IBRG members attended a fringe meeting a the Nalgo Conference in Bournemouth where Pat Reynolds IBRG, Fr Paddy Smith ICPO, Siobhan O’Dwyer IBRG and Patricia Campbell spoke.

The Conference turned down a motion calling for Troops Out and Irish self-determination put forward by Lewisham Nalgo. Instead Nalgo backed the Connolly Association position and their Irish night at the end of the conference raised £1500 for the Connolly Association.

The Irish Post story was headed NALGO to step up campaign on Irish Unity. The Lewisham motion for Troops out and Self-determination was moved by Carl Reynolds of Lewisham Nalgo who stated that it was impossible to separate the abuses of human rights going on in N. Ireland from the British military present there. 

The NEC opposed the motion and claimed they already had a United Ireland policy and were working with TUIUI (Trade Unionists for a United Ireland) in Dublin.

It was announced that the Irish government were to fund an Irish language pilot scheme in Southwark to teach the Irish language in three secondary schools. The IBRG had identified Southwark as having a number of Irish language speakers, from a detailed Mori survey of the Borough. Southwark was of course the place where the Irish literary Society was born which gave rise to the Irish Gaelic renaissance at the end of the 19th century. It was also where Liam MacCarty the name on the All Hurling Cup final lived his life as an Irish republican and a borough councillor.

The Irish Post story was New Irish Language initiative. The idea behind the scheme was to fund an Irish language teacher teaching Gaelic in between six to 10 schools in Southwark. The Council Irish Policy Officer Pat Reynolds welcomed the project which would benefit Irish children in Southwark.

On 21st June Jim Gibney of Sinn Fein at the Wolfe Tone commemoration stated ‘We know and accept that the British government’s departure from Ireland must be preceded by a sustained period of peace and will arise out of negotiations involving the different shades of Irish nationalist and Irish unionist’. This hinted at a possible ceasefire to allow talks to begin.

On 29th June Liverpool IBRG held an Irish Perspective on British Welfare conference at the Irish Centre in Liverpool where Liam Greenslade was the main speaker on mental health and the Irish.

On 11th July the Ard Choiste took place at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in Islington North London. Twelve delegates attended including Pat Reynolds, Maire Kennedy, Padraigin Ni Nuallain, Tom Fitzsimons, Robert Ryan, Siobhan O’Dwyer, Bernadette Hyland, Neil Doolin, Kevin Hayes, Virginia Moyles, and Majella Crehan. Apologies Diarmuid Breatnach.

Kevin Hayes reported that 28 Irish people had been arrested in the recent wave of PTA attacks on the Irish community. Kate Magee had been given £20k bail. The meeting decided to affiliate to the Irish Women’s Défense campaign.

The meeting congratulated Diarmuid Breatnach on winning the Irish Post short story competition, and the meeting expressed its thanks to Siobhan O’Dwyer, London IBRG member, who was off to Australia soon.

On 19th July the IBRG had a stall at the Kilburn Irish Youth Festival La Feile na Nog.

On 25th July the Irish Post covered the Lewisham Irish community effort to find an Irish centre with Initial objective finally achieved, where it detailed how the Committee of the new Irish Centre chaired by Diarmuid Breatnach with Theresa Burke as Runai fought for their centre.

On 29th July Birmingham City Council had a report on The Irish community In Birmingham put to the Community Affairs Committee. In 1986 Birmingham had commissioned Dr Ita O’Donavan to prepare a study of the needs of the Irish community in Birmingham. The report proposed holding a Seminar/conference with the Irish community on 18th October.

On 31st July IBRG members along with Nalgo Irish Workers Group lobbied Nalgo HQ at Kings Cross London over getting recognition for Irish workers.

Lambeth IBRG and Irish working in Social Services

The IBRG highlighted a case where an Irish home help had been dragged through the courts for an offence she did not commit. The Crown admitted there was no evidence against her. The IBRG took up her case to get justice and support for an Irish woman, who had been left shattered by the experience. It was the second such case that Lambeth IBRG had dealt with where an innocent Irish woman working in social services ended up in court, without any support from the council or her union.

On 31st July the Irish Weekly covered the story with Irish Mum’s Life in Ruins IBRG take on Lambeth for Justice, where it detailed the work of the IBRG in forcing Lambeth council to rectify the situation by providing therapy and time off for what they had put this Irish woman through.

On 2nd August Pat Reynolds and Kevin Hayes attended a meeting in Birmingham to plan Birmingham first Irish consultative conference some 10 years after the GLC held theirs. Liam Greenslade Seamus Taylor, and Fr Taaffe also attended.

On 9th August IBRG members took part in the Anti-Internment March in Belfast with their banner with Caitlin Wright and Pat Reynolds among those present.

In August the Irish weeklies covered the opening of Lewisham Irish centre, the first article was The Lewisham Team with a photo of Diarmuid Breatnach and Theresa Burke, the other article was Lewisham We’re Opening Ours again with the same photo. The centre was due to open on 10th October.

On 10th August the murderous UDA were banned in N. Ireland many years too late.

In August IBRG condemned the arrest of five Irish people in West London under the PTA and the media hype surrounding the arrests including Secret Life of Terror Sisters by Today, and Mystery as Police release IRA group by the Evening Standard.

On 2nd August the IBRG released a Press statement IBRG condemning  police raids on Irish community. The raids appeared to be a propaganda exercise to lift the flagging moral of the British police in their failure against the IRA. The raids all had a similar character often during the holidays season, false stories given by the police to the media, fake banner headlines, unfounded claims of bomb plots, the labelling of innocent Irish people as terrorist, and silent release, and a shattering of lives. 

On 29th August the Irish Post covered it with Hysteria alleged in media PTA coverage which covered both the IBRG and the Repeal the PTA Campaign response to the arrests. The London Evening Standard had Mystery as police free IRA group. Nuala Kelly of ICPO also complained of the treatment of Irish people arrested under the PTA. The Police call for people to provide information of Irish people looking for accommodation was extremely racist and was targeting innocent Irish workers in Britain seeking work. The Irish World had IBRG condemn Arrest Publicity.

The IBRG condemned the London Evening Standard for a cartoon over a Channel Four programme on the Six Counties as the usual stereotype for the Standard. The cartoon depicted the Irish as drunk and stupid, the same old Victorian racism from the backwards Standard.

On 19th September the Ard Choiste took place at the Liverpool Irish Centre. Six delegates attended including Neil Doolin, Pat Reynolds, Patrick Doolin, Patrick Logan and Terry Coirbin and Diarmuid Breatnach.

Apologies from Virginia Moyles, Kevin Bean, Siobhan O Dwyer, Majella Crehan, Kevin Hayes, Bernadette Hyland, and Maire Kennedy. 

Among the issues discussed were An Pobal Eirithe, Review of IBRG, Travellers, PTA arrests, Prisoners, and the Manchester Martyr’s Commemoration. A motion from Haringey was passed condemning the government proposal to abolish the Caravan Site Act which gave  Local Authorities  the  duty to provide sites for Travellers. A further Haringey motion condemned the BBC for voice over used with Bernadette McAliskey and a motion deploring British government for retaining British borders within Europe.

IBRG condemns abolition of 1968 Caravans Sites Act

In September the IBRG attacked Tory government plans to abolish the 1968 Caravan Sites Act which required Local authorities in Britain to provide sites for travellers. There were 2,800 Irish travellers’ caravans out of a total of 13,477 traveller caravans in Britain in January 1992. The IBRG were making a submission to the DOE before the deadline of 13th November.

On 21st September the IBRG issued a press statement IBRG oppose Government proposals on travellers. The IBRG condemned the proposed government legislation relating to Travellers as being racist in intent and practise, and an attack on Travellers way of life and culture. 

The Merseyside Racial Equality Council condemned as racist government plans to change the law after representations from Liverpool IBRG and Conrad na Geigle.

 Mise Eire/ I am Ireland events in Manchester Festival

Michael Herbert had a feature article in the Irish Post on the Irish Arts input into the Manchester Arts Festival. The article entitled Irish Arts shine in City Festival gave a very detailed account of each of the planned Irish events. The Irish element was organised by  Manchester IBRG. It included the Hairy Marys, Ronan Bennett, Glen Patterson, Clair O’Connor, and a walk around Irish Manchester plus an IBRG social.

On 25th September Michael Herbert launched his book Never Counted Out the story of Len Johnson a Black Irish man a boxer and  communist  from Manchester.

 

In Haringey the IBRG took up the employment head count where 60% of Irish staff at the Town Hall worked in manual type jobs compared with an average of 41% for all staff. IBRG also pointed out that Haringey had increased the proportion of Black staff from 21% in 1985 to 44% in 1991 a lesson for the British government in tackling employment discrimination in Nt Ireland.

On 25th September the IBRG issued a Press release IBRG condemn employment discrimination in Local Government which drew attention to a recent headcount of Town hall staff in Haringey which had an Irish population of 22,000 or 11% of the borough’s population. 

Haringey Council employed 715 Irish staff out of a total of 7.110 staff making up some 10% of the workforce.  Haringey had increased their Black and Ethnic staff numbers from 21% in 1985 to 43.5% in 1991, despite huge cuts to public service. This contrasted strongly with N. Ireland where nothing had changed to employment discrimination against Catholics for over 20 years of direct British rule.  The IBRG made the point that if Haringey, Lambeth and other London boroughs could make huge improvements  in tackling discrimination in employment, there was something very fundamentally wrong in N. Ireland.

IBRG however expressed concern over Haringey figures in that there was a high concentration,  60%, of Irish staff in the poorer manual type jobs, compared with a Council average of 41% for all staff. This meant that Irish staff got far fewer of equality jobs in the Council. Haringey did not give a breakdown of part time staff where many Irish women worked in social care. 

Thus, discrimination in employment was a huge factor in the life of Irish people in London where they were denied equal access to quality jobs even in the public sector. The Irish were in effect paying taxes to people who were openly discriminating against them. That had to change.

The Irish World covered it with IBRG Blast London Job Discrimination. The Irish News covered it with Haringey Menial Jobs for the Irish.

First National NALGO Irish Workers Conference

On 26th September the first National Nalgo Irish workers conference took place in Birmingham, probably the first ever conference of Irish workers within a British union. The Irish World covered it with First National Conference for NALGO Irish workers to be held in Birmingham with a photo of Pat Reynolds their PRO.

The Group now had contact in 30 different areas of the country which covered some 20 NALGO branches in London, and across Britain with active groups in Brent, Lambeth Southwark and other areas. In a later edition it had NALGO Irish conference Breakthrough in Midlands.

 Diarmuid Breatnach was elected Runai along with Natalie Mills from Bolton, Pat Reynolds Membership secretary. Pat Reynolds with his experience of setting up groups in Brent, Lambeth and Southwark led a workshop of how to set up a local Irish group within the Union, while Diarmuid Breatnach gave advice of how to get Irish speakers for your event. Two motions were passed one for self-recognition for Irish workers in the Union and the second motion on Irish self-determination.

On 19th September Pat Reynolds IBRG had responded to a letter in the Irish Post attacking NALGO Irish workers for seeking equal rights within the Union, and the latter had also attempted to smear IBRG who fully supported the right of Irish workers in Britain to self-identify, and to organise as a distinct group within their trade unions.

On 9th September in Southwark Pat Reynolds, now Irish Policy Officer there, set up the Irish Staff Association to represent all Irish staff working in the council at Southwark Town Hall A number of IBRG members were part of this group, Maire Stedman, Pat Reynolds, John Carty, Steve Brennan while Cllr Jodie Clark. IBRG wished the group well.

 The Irish Post covered it with a large photo of 12 staff who attended the first meeting including Steve Brennan, John Carty, Maire Stedman and Pat Reynolds all IBRG members. John Carty was elected Chair, and Steve Brennan Publicity officer. The Irish World had Southwark Irish worker Unite had separate photos of Pat Reynolds and Cllr Jodie Clark who described the setting up of the group as a positive move. Some 45 staff members had joined the group which was across unions.

In September the IBRG complained to Channel Four over its showing of the All Irelands Finals at 2AM in the morning. On 13th October Channel Four replied to IBRG on the matter, and said the 2Am showing was due to Football Italia.

The IBRG also complained to the BBC over their voice over of Bernadette MacAliskey. On 1st October the BBC replied on behalf of the Director General to state ‘It is a matter of record that the BBC objected to the imposition of the N. Ireland Notice when it became law, and that it continues to object. Repeatedly we make representations about it.’ They went on to argue that they had to sub title or voice over any contributor whose words support or solicit or invite support for any organisations in the Notice. A person does not have to be a member of a proscribed organisation to fall foul of this injunction. They also addressed Irish representation in the audience for the program and the discussion on racist anti-Irish jokes

The IBRG took issue with the Reject Shop in Tottenham Court Road in London West End over their selling of racist anti-Irish materials including racist Irish joke books published by Maxwell.

On 10th October IBRG members attended the opening of the Lewisham Irish centre. Lewisham IBRG played a key role in getting the centre off the ground with Diarmuid Breatnach and Theresa Burke playing key roles. It was a big step forward for the Irish community in Lewisham to have their own centre where their Sean chairde club could meet, and where they could put on Irish cultural events and hold meetings. The IBRG invite read from John O’Shea Mayor of Lewisham ‘You are cordially invited to the opening of the Lewisham Irish centre on Saturday 10th October 1992. The Lewisham Irish centre is set to be a focus of the Lewisham Irish community. It is the culmination of a great deal of effort and the realisation of dreams of a group of people who would be delighted if you are able to be present to celebrate this opening’.

On 15th October the London Evening Standard had an article attacking IBRG and linking IBRG with Sinn Fein. The same day the IBRG issued a Press Statement Condemning the London Evening Standard Propaganda which was covered by the Irish Post. The Standard stated two other significant pro Sinn Fein groups have offices at Coldharbour Lane in Brixton, and the St Patricks Day March for Justice and Freedom. Troops Out who were also mentioned in the article were taking legal advice about the article. The Standard had included IBRG in its so-called extreme groups including TOM and ANC.

IBRG condemned the attack on Irish and Black solidarity groups and stated that the Standard was deeply embedded in the colonial white man’s burden, and overreached itself in trying to place guilt by association.  The Standard is right wing and pro Unionist is an anti-Irish propaganda paper which censors Irish issues, and distorts the real story of Ireland and her people. The Standard had a long track record of attacking the Irish community including the Jak cartoons upon which Ken Livingstone and the GLC, withdrew all advertising for the Standard because of their anti-Irish racism.

On 16th October IBRG members in London joined others in picketing the Standard over their attack on Irish solidarity groups in London including IBRG and TOM.

On 20th October Pat Reynolds, Andy Parr and Billy Power of the Birmingham 6 set up the Frank Johnson campaign. Frank spent over 27 years in prison, the same length as Mandela, another  innocent man. See leaflet below.

On 21st October IBRG members with their banner took part in a huge march and rally for the Miners in London.

 

On 24th October the IBRG Comhcomharle took place at the Sparkhill Cultural centre in Birmingham with six branches represented. They were Coventry, Haringey, Birmingham, Manchester, Lewisham, and Hackney/Camden. Eight delegates attended including Maurice Moore, Peter Skerrett, Majella Crehan, Pat Reynolds, Kevin Hayes, Bernadette Hyland, Diarmuid Breatnach and Virginia Moyles.

Apologies Joe Mullarkey, Neil Doolin.

Diarmuid Breatnach led a workshop on trade unions, and talked about Irish work in trade unions on issues such as the Birmingham six, TOA, strip searching, Irish unity, construction safety, TULINK, Nalgo Network on Ireland, NALGO Irish workers groups,  employment discrimination, along with links with trade Unions in N. Ireland.

 Virginia Moyles led a workshop on Travellers, and Pat Reynolds led a workshop on social services.

There was a motion from Manchester IBRG that IBRG recognises that abortion is a civil rights issue for Irish women, and calls on the Women’s Officer to send a message of solidarity to the campaign in Ireland with an offer to circulate their information to our branches in Britain. The motion was agreed.

On 25th November IBRG members attended the annual Terence MacSwiney Mass at Southwark Cathedral.

On 18th October the IBRG issued a press statement welcoming the decision of the National Association of Citizen Advise Bureaux (NACAB) at their AGM at York University to approve a motion to take action against anti-Irish racism.

The motion gave recognition to the disadvantaged position of the Irish community in Britain, and committed the association to combating racism against Irish people  as part of its anti-racist policy, and recommended that CAB amended its ethnic monitoring categories to include the Irish.

Lewisham IBRG organised an Irish children’s  Halloween party at the end of October which got a couple of photos in the Irish Post.

IBRG members attended the Birmingham Irish Consultative Conference on 1st November at which Pat Reynolds IBRG spoke on anti-Irish racism in the media, with Kevin Hayes speaking on the PTA. This was an important conference to put Irish needs on the map in Britain’s second largest city and one of the largest local authorities  in Britain with a huge Irish population.

Over  many years the Birmingham Irish took a huge blow from the IRA pub bombings of 1974, not just with the framed prisoners, but with community relations in Birmingham driven by a right-wing Tory Press. Both Pat Reynolds and Kevin Hayes had been involved in attending some pre meetings in planning for the Conference which was put on by the Birmingham Race Equality Unit

On 12th November Pat Reynolds was speaking a public meeting on Frank Johnson at the Camden Irish centre.

On 15th November the Southwark Irish Forum and the Irish Staff Group issued a statement after a report on Issues facing the Irish community in Southwark went to the Councils Social Services committee. The Southwark Irish Forum, the Irish staff group and the new Irish Policy Officer had not been consulted on the report, which found only two Irish foster carers in Southwark, and that 57% of staff in social services were Home Helps. The Southwark Irish Forum demanded a meeting with the Director of Social Services to discuss the issue and to find out what his department intended to do to address issues affecting the Irish community in Southwark.

On 25th November there was a General Election In Ireland with the Labour Party doubling its vote.

The 5th annual Irish Film Festival took place in Manchester from 5-19th November with Manchester IBRG involved in putting it on. Films like the Commitments, the Quiet Man, the Informer, the Ballroom of Romance and a film documentary of Dr Noel Browne were shown.

IBRG sponsored the Manchester Martyrs commemoration in Manchester where Diarmuid Breatnach IBRG was one of the speakers along with Fr Des Wilson from West Belfast. About 350 people were on the march and the IBRG had their banner there.

 

The IBRG condemned the remarks of Kilroy Silk in the Daily Express on 9th November as racist and offensive. . Kilroy remarked on 9th November in talking about EC farm commissioner Ray MacSharry who was negotiating with the USA over trade. ‘This is what being a part of the EU actually signifies in practice. It means that Britain’s interests abroad will be represented by a redundant second-rate politician from a country peopled by peasants, priests and pixies.’

On 10th November the Irish Ambassador Joe Small had a letter in the Daily Express in which he stated that the Kilroy Column had produced an unprecedented number of calls to the Irish Embassy, conveying their sense of outrage at the sentiments expressed. Mr Kilroy-Silk is perfectly entitled to express his misgivings about Britain’s membership of the European community. That constitutes fair comment. But to descent to what can only be described as gratuitously offensive and indeed racist remarks goes far beyond fair comments and in unacceptable’.

This was the first time that the Irish Embassy had responded publicly to anti-Irish racism in the media, and in this case called it what it was, a new and welcome departure.

The IBRG in a Press release on 10th November stated ‘His view and deep prejudice reflect a Victorian colonial outlook,  that imagines everything English to be naturally superior to everyone else. The IBRG were concerned that such a public figure with a BBC public debate show should hold such racist views, and calls on the BBC to look at this matter. The Daily Express on the same day as they published the Irish Ambassador letter had a generic description of Ulster as ‘the place where they will enter the home of a young woman and beat her to death with a baseball bat’.

On 5th December Diarmuid Breatnach had a letter in the Irish Post to congratulate Joe Small, the Irish Ambassador, for protesting at Kilroy-Silk racist remarks in the Daily Express. Diarmuid gave a history of how long IBRG had complained about the lack of action at the Embassy on many Irish issues.  The heading of the letters was Signs of life creeping in at Grosvenor Place with a photo of the Irish Ambassador.

IBRG put in a submission to the DOE in November calling for the 1968 Caravan Sites Act to be retained. Over 20% of Travellers in Britain were Irish. In their submission the IBRG argued that government proposals were racist, and an attempt at forced resettlement for Travellers and a criminalisation of their way of life. The IBRG called for the 1968 Act to be retained with its duty on local authorities to provide sites. The IBRG had led the Irish community response to the consultation and had persuaded a number of councils to support their position. On 13th November the DOE replied to the IBRG to say all the responses received will be taken into consideration and Ministers will announce their conclusions about the way forward in due course.

A row blew up in Brent at Arus na Gael in Brent where Frank Harington was expelled as a member of the management committee there, and a letter signed by a number of Irish language activists in London was published in the Irish World. The internal rows at the Brent Irish Centre would run on for many years.

On 3rd December two IRA bombs in Manchester cost over £3m,  injured a number of people and led to a media inspired backlash against the Irish community in Britain. The Irish Post reported it as Manchester Irish Anger with Kevin McNamara coming out with the usual platitudes, and nothing about the need for a political solution. An Irish born Mayor of Trafford again came out with the usual.

 Only Bernadette Hyland offered an analysis of what had happened because of the war in Ireland  and the need to work out a political solution. Liam McNally new Chair of the Federation of Irish Societies was interviewed on TV and came out with the usual one-sided condemnation of the IRA, but nothing about Bloody Sunday or shoot to kill policy.

On 5th December the Ard Choiste was held at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in Islington North London. Seven delegates attended including Pat Reynolds, Neil Doolin,  Majella Crehan, Diarmuid Breatnach,  Virginia Moyles, Tom Fitzsimons, and Maurice Moore.

The meeting decided to affiliate to the Danny McNamee campaign, and to give £20. Diarmuid reported back from his NALGO sponsored trip to Kurdistan.  Among the issues discussed were An Pobal Eirithe, the PTA, Prisoners, Nalgo Irish workers group, Initiative 92, review of IBRG, Border Controls, Travellers, and the Manchester Martyrs rally. 

The meeting decided to donate £100 to the Bloody Sunday March and to make a submission to Initiative 92 in Ireland. Diarmuid reported back from Manchester Martyrs rally where he had spoken with Des Wilson, and that members had attended from Lewisham, Manchester, Bolton, and NE Lancs. 

The British Government were now willing to return  Irish prisoners from N. Ireland back there, which they could always have done anyway. Pat Reynolds had been to see Frank Johnson at Swalesside Prison in Kent and had spoken at a public meeting on the case.

On 16th December Sir Patrick Mayhew N. Irish Secretary stated that British soldiers could be withdrawn from the streets and that Sinn Fein could be included in future talks if the IRA ends its campaign. The IRA had a three-day ceasefire over Christmas.

 

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 Manchester – 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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