Jodie Clark: Proud Cork woman and Irish Community Activist

 

IBRG march: Spirit of 1916 in 1991. Photo by T.Shelly

 

 Jodie Clark’s involvement in the Irish in Britain Representation Group reflected the way in which the organisation drew in Irish working class people who were prepared to get stuck into grassroots organising. Women and men who experienced anti-Irish racism of the everyday variety,  but also the more corrosive institutional racism endemic in British society. It is an inspiring story and an important part of the radical Irish history of this country.

Here is her story.

 

Jodie was born in Lambeth in 1949,  her parents were from Cork . The family split up  and her father kidnapped the children and took them back to Cork to be looked after by their aunt. The children were told  that their Mum was dead:   Jodie  did not see her again until she was 10 years old.

After returning to England to live with her Mum, new partner and two  step sisters, her father kidnapped her  again and  returned  with her to Cork.

When she was 11 Jodie  was sent by her gran to work in a glove factory and then a knitwear factory where she learned sign language in order to communicate with two other workers who were deaf and dumb. Her gran kept her wages, just  giving her the occasional sixpence.

Jodie’s Mum found her when she was 15 and brought her back to London. She then worked with her Mum in catering and was the first woman manager at Joe Lyons cafe.  After that Jodie  went to work at Woolworths and in the evening at a Wimpey bar.

It was here she experienced racism for the first time. She says “I was told Paddy go home. Unbelievable but I gave as good as I got.” Her manager would not do anything. Jodie, was  worried about being attacked going home, so she got her older brother to escort her.

Jodie married an English man, Peter,  and had a daughter in 1972. She decided to bring her younger sister to live with them but needed a bigger flat. She went to the local housing office at Southwark and was told by the officer that “We only give to our own” and “go back to where you come from”. This upset her,  but next day she went back with her birth certificate and those of her family and they were allowed to go on the housing list.

She ended up in temporary housing for the homeless,  but its condition was poor with no heating, damp and only a mobile toilet. Through a contact at the Tenants Housing Group she managed to get a better house. This spurred Jodie on to get active in the Tenants Association in Peckham. She says:  “one of the first things I did was to make sure that anti-racism was in the constitution of the organisation.”

In the 1980s she found out about IBRG at a local Council meeting. There was a full-time Lambeth Irish in Britain Representation Group office at that time. She also met Irish activist Nina Hutchinson who became a close friend and encouraged Jodie in grassroots activity.

Lambeth IBRG Membership Form.

Jodie joined IBRG and also took part in the Southwark Irish Forum which was a network of people who wanted to promote the needs of Irish people in the borough.

A consultative conference was organised with the Irish community,  out of which a report was produced called the “Failte Report,” documenting the needs of the community.

“My own experience of housing and racism made me get involved because I felt I could get things changed.”

She worked alongside John Carty, Ann Mathews, Nina Hutchinson, Steve Brennan and Diarmuid Breatnach of Lewisham IBRG.

In 1990 she became a Labour Councillor and was  a member for Irish Affairs on the Council. She was involved in the first free  Southwark Irish Festival in July that year. Housing was a big issue for her and  in particular recognising the needs of the Irish locally. “I established local housing offices, with training for staff on Irish Awareness, and with space for tenants groups to meet.”

Other initiatives that Jodie was involved with included a St.Patrick’s Day and a   free Xmas lunch for Irish pensioners. Morley College ran an oral history project there  called “Now We’re Talking.”

Anti-Irish racism was still rampant. Jodie experienced this personally  and she felt she was also targeted because she had two mixed race children. “They sent me letters threatening the lives of my children. My front door was daubed with racist graffiti.”

 One of her most frightening experiences happened outside her front door. “Someone shouted my name from a car. I leaned inside and my head was grabbed and I was threatened with a shotgun. I was then thrown out of the car and they drove off. A black man in a car asked me what had happened and when I told him he told me to get in his car so we could  follow them. We did, I got the registration, but the police did nothing about it. It was the fascist group Combat 18.”

Southwark Council decided to appoint an Irish Policy Officer but she was not invited onto the panel until she told them she would be in the room anyway so they changed their minds.

Jodie made sure that Pat Reynolds (IBRG) was appointed so as to ensure that the needs of the local Irish were treated seriously. He was in the job from 1992-1996 and then continued as Manager in Community Development. .

Pat reflects on his time at Southwark . “I was able to set up an Irish Staff Group in the borough which had over 80 members across the Council and Irish Teachers Groups along with Nina Hutchinson. During this time we managed to open up a new Travellers site in Southwark, had a Travellers Working party, had an Irish Forum, Irish Festival, an Irish Pensioners group, started Irish Language classes in Southwark schools, agreed mutual housing transfer to Ireland, got a quota for Irish staff of 10%, got the Irish recognised as suffering from racial harassment in housing. We also had the McSwiney Mass each year in Southwark, held a 1916 commemoration on the 75th anniversary, had Curragh racing on the Thames, held a regional Irish health conference. Jodie was the driving light behind most of this”

Jodie went on to support the family of the traveller Richard O’Brien who was killed by two police officers on the streets of Walworth one night. His campaign led to the first unlawful killing verdict at an inquest.

She highlighted the suicides of young Irish men in Brixton, took part in pickets and vigils for campaigns for the Birmingham 6, Guildford 4 and  Danny McNamee, campaigned  against the Prevention of Terrorism Act and went on the Troops Out Movement delegation to the North of Ireland.

Looking back Jodie says her own experience of racism influenced her grassroots activity. “It was the right thing to do. Proud to be Irish, see myself as Cork woman, and you know what they say, ‘they don’t give up’. I knew I could get change – little by little – but I would go the whole hog.

You can read more about Jodie and IBRG’s history here

 

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My review of “Memoir: My Early Life” by Joe Mullarkey (2021)

In his  memoir Joe Mullarkey, one of the key members of the Irish in Britain Representation Group , reflects on what it means to be Irish and his experiences of being an activist in key events that affected the Irish in Britain over twenty years.

He was born in Bolton in 1942,  but his mother died when he was five years old,  and  so Joe returned to Ireland to be brought up by his Aunt Kate and Uncle Tom in Ballybeg, Tullaughane, County Mayo.

His father stayed in Bolton working until Joe  was 15 when he  returned home.”I only knew him for a very brief time. I would have seen him every year for two weeks and he wrote every fortnight and sent me sixpence.”

Brutal treatment by the Franciscan Brothers led to Joe walking out of school when he was 13. “I told the brother that if he was to try and repeat the beating I would retaliate and so I walked out three months before I was due to finish school.”

Joe moved back to Bolton when he was 17. “The lack of job opportunities was the reason I had to leave. I was an economic migrant although that wasn’t the term used then.”

In the 1960s he played for Gaelic football team Shannon Rangers which provided a social life for many Irish emigrants. “It was a great saviour for many  Irish people. Some of the clubs would meet people coming off the boat train and they did tremendous work finding them accommodation and jobs.”

Life changed for Joe  forever when he had a serious accident on a railway line and lost both legs which were amputated above the knee. Through operations and his determination to walk again Joe mastered the use of prosthetic limbs. Joe was supported by his family and even a coach load of Manchester GAA supporters who turned up in his hospital ward. “Those visits had a magic effect in encouraging me to walk again.”

In 1972 he married Margaret Schofield. They had two children,  Bernadette and Nuala,  and also adopted Margaret’s two children from a previous relationship. Together they went on to encourage the Bolton Irish community to be proud of being Irish, and  not to be ashamed of challenging discrimination and disadvantage.

Joe and Margaret

Events in the North of Ireland following the Northern Ireland Civil Rights campaign in 1969 reflected  back onto the Irish community in Britain. As Joe comments,  “The Irish community in Britain had no community structures that could cope with the aftermath of the 1974 Birmingham and Guildford pub bombings and the introduction of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (1974) that led to the conviction of the Birmingham 6, the Guildford 4 and the Maguire Family and other innocent people.”

Irish activists did respond in 1981 after the death of 10 young Irish men who were  on hunger strike  for the right to political status in the North of Ireland. Joe was one of the founder members of the IBRG. He says “to campaign and to represent the interests of the community in Culture, Education, Welfare, Repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act, Anti-Irish racism, and political issues.”

Joe and Jim King, Chair of IBRG in the 1980s.

Bolton IBRG had a membership of over 100 people with about 20 active on issues. They organised Irish language classes, as well as taking part in local multi-cultural festivals, starting an Irish radio programme, and  taking  their place on the Bolton Race Equality Council (BREC) and the Minorities Joint Consultative Council.

Joe  was  Chair of Bolton IBRG as well as national Vice President of IBRG and a member of the Ard Choiste ie the six weekly meetings of the organisation which took place at venues across the country.  He was also a shop steward in his workplace for thirty years.

Most IBRG branches had problems finding venues that would allow them to meet and Bolton was no different. After the 1974 Birmingham and Guildford pub bombings Irish pubs and clubs would not allow groups to meet that had any political agenda,  even though the actual event was a fundraiser for a football club.  Bolton IBRG challenged this and organised many  events including the first Bolton Irish Festival.

Bolton IBRG branch had difficulties finding an Irish club or pub that would allow them to meet monthly. In the end  the Socialist Club provided that venue and over the years supported IBRG as well as putting on their own events which highlighted human rights abuses in the North of Ireland.

Being Irish at this time was making a political statement. Joe and IBRG did not avoid the fact that Irish were in Britain because of the occupation of our country by the British over many centuries. IBRG policies were passed on Northern Ireland and the issue was taken up consistently over the years.

This memoir is important because it highlights how activists in IBRG were surveilled   and harassed for speaking out about Ireland and taking part in legitimate political activities.

It did not stop Joe, or other members of IBRG, in taking up issues including anti-Irish racism, the use and abuse of the P.T.A., and the human rights abuses that followed from the occupation of the North of Ireland by the British Government.

In 2002 Joe returned to Ireland for the second and last time. “Following the ceasefire and the various political changes, things improved for the Irish community, but I never felt that I belonged over there. I worked with English people, lived with them, was involved with them on a trade union and  community level but I never felt part of them.”

Joe’s story is part of the radical history of working class people in this country. It is a chapter in the history of the Irish in Britain who take their place in campaigning for a better society over here as well as challenging the role of the UK in the occupation of part of Ireland. It is an important story and one that can only inspire others to follow in his footsteps.

Joe (right0 at a northwest IBRG Ard Choiste meeting.

 

Bolton IBRG’s Minute Book and documents are now  part of the IBRG archive at the Working Class Movement Library  in Salford.

Contact Joe direct for a copy of his book at Joe@osb.ie. The cost is  £14.50 including postageto the UK

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My review of “Feminism and the Servant Problem Class and Domestic Labour in the Women’s Suffrage Movement” Laura Schwartz

 

 

Both my mother and aunt’s first job in England  after arriving from Ireland  in the 1940s was as servants. Both of them hated it. My aunt ran away from her employer and my Dad had to return to pick up her clothes and the paltry wages she was owed. The title of this book is ironic: it was not the servants who were “the problem”  but the nature of the relationship between them and their mistresses.

In this new and fascinating  history Laura Schwartz unravels the complexity thrown up by the rise of suffrage movement and the response of working class women to the rapidly changing roles between them and the women they served. When I was transcribing the Minute Books of the Manchester and Salford Women’s Trades Council the irony of the roles played by the women was not lost on me. The organisation was funded by upper class women and men who raised money by having “at home” socials. At these fundraising events for the benefit of working class women they were being served by another group of working class women; the maids.

What I really enjoyed about this book was that it gives a voice to the servants – some of them like suffragist Hannah Mitchell – who,  in her autobiography  The Hard Way Up  spoke bitterly about her experience of being a servant and who “absolutely refused to don the muslin badge of servitude”.

Hannah Mitchell

Jessie  Stephen is a prominent  voice in the book who was  founder of Scottish Federation of Domestic Workers. Jessie won a scholarship to train as a pupil teacher,  but due to the poverty of her family was forced into domestic service. Even whilst working long hours in service (16 hours per day), she  took her anger out  onto the streets,  organising her sister servants. Laura uses Jessie’s unpublished biography “Submission is for Slaves” to chart her activity and the rise of the SFDW.

Jessie Stephen

Feminism was, and  still is,  today about the ability of women to make choices about their life but there was an uneasiness in expanding this ideological view to the women who enabled many suffragettes to have an active life within the movement. Domestic workers were excluded from  the WSPU’s newspaper the Suffragette and there were no images of domestic servants in their propaganda.

It was in  other suffrage newspapers that the voices of domestic servants started being heard. Angry letters challenged  an article in the Common Cause in August 1911 which said domestic servants were well paid. Servants responded (anonymously in order not to get sacked ) calling for better wages and shorter hours. I like the response of “A Domestic Servant” “I wonder if she would feel she had been well paid when she had paid for two uniforms out of her wages.”

The anger and bitterness of working class women did find a home in the foundation of the Domestic Workers Union of Great Britain and Ireland in  1909, part of the National Federation of Women Workers. Unfortunately, neither the NFWW or the DWU’s official papers survived. So Laura has used the correspondence pages  of the Woman Worker, the Glasgow Herald  and local and radical press to piece together the history of this organisation.

The significance of the DWU was, according Laura, that “It sought to reconfigure the mistress-maid relationship as a formal employment contract, and did not shy away from the potential for class antagonism between these two groups of women.”

Kathlyn Oliver, a twenty four year old cook, took up the formation of the union in London,  and branches in Manchester and Oxford followed. Organising domestic workers was not easy. Leaflets were printed about the union and circulated to the workers at their back doors. By January 1913 it had a membership of 400 servants. It was open to women and men. The only time most domestic servants had any time off was Sunday afternoons,so  the union opened its offices to members on that day  so  that  they could share ideas and experiences which would shape the direction of the union.

Kathlyn Oliver

The DWU had to deal with all the contradictions of trying to establish domestic service alongside other forms of manual labour. Domestic service was unlike other work as it dominated women’s total life:  not just the long hours,  but its psychological hold over the women’s minds. Kathlyn Oliver summed it up that mistresses failed to see their servants “as an intelligent being with a mind and soul to cultivate and not merely a machine.”

The demands of the DWU forced the suffrage movement to examine the politics in their own home and their relationships with their female servants. The First World War, which saw many servants escape into the munitions industry, led to the demise of the DWU. The 1918 Representation of the Peoples Act excluded servants alongside many working class women, as only women householders over 30 got the vote

Laura calls for more  research  and a feminist approach to this history “which takes account of more than just the male working class, not only highlights the long-standing economic significance of the service industry, but also reveals how, although it was difficult to organise domestic workers, the impulse for collective struggle never was and never can be limited to the factory.”

Jessie Stephen’s autobiography is at the Working Class Movement Library as are the Minute Books of the MSWTUC.

More about Jessie here

You can buy Laura’s book here

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My review of Seeing Ourselves Women’s Self-Portraits Frances Borzello

 

 

First published in 1998 Frances Borzello’s “Seeing Ourselves Women’s Self Portraits” has never been out of print. And reading it I know why. It is not only very well written, it is a unique story of the history of women’s self portraiture which is demonstrated with 200 pictures as well as extensive notes and a bibliography.

Frances not only takes us through the history of self portraiture from the C16th and shows that  it is a genre in its own right,  but also that  through looking at the portraits we can understand the lives of the individual women and what it meant to be a woman artist in a man’s world.

Self portraits are popular  with all artists but Frances believes, and shows in this fascinating book, that women’s self portraits are quite different from that of their male equivalents. She asks the question; why have you chosen to look the way you do in your self portrait?

Often they were reflecting the struggles they had to go through to become an artist. It was not until the second half of the C19  that art schools allowed women to enrol.

The story begins in the C16C when women artists appear in art  histories. One of my favourite images in the book is this  chalk sketch by Sofonisba Anguissola from 1545 when she was 13 years old. She grins out at us and points to her elderly companion who is looking at a book she is holding.

 

She was one of the lucky women of that era as she was able, with her sister, to go and work with artist Bernardino Campi to learn the principles of painting. She had a long and successful career.

By the C19th not only are women pushing through the doors of art schools but they are asserting themselves as artists in their own right in their self portraits But they still had to  promote an image of respectability alongside their artistic ability. Frances gives the example of successful French artist Rosa Bonheur (see below) who ensured that she was never interviewed in the male clothes which she wore to paint in.

 

In the C20th  women artists no longer had to hide behind conventional views about their sex. As Frances comments; “As they set up their easels next to the men in the art classes, they began to feel – or at least some of them did – that they could put their concerns, their way of seeing things into their paintings without the disguise and defences of previous centuries.”

It was still not easy for many women as they challenged the views of the men they were close to and the men who were in positions of power in the art world.

Frances charts the highs and lows of some fascinating  women artists, many of them unknown to me, coupled with  fabulous examples of their work. In this book I came across the American artist and former communist  Alice Neel.  Her  life spanned the C20 and in her use of portraiture she reflected  her own activity in politics including the 1970s and the women’s movement.

In 1980, at the age of 80 she was confident enough to paint herself nude as an artist. I wanted to know more about her and found this documentary online https://www.aliceneelfilm.com/watch

Alice Neel

Reading this book is inspiring and is a reminder of how women artists in the past are role models for women today. As Frances reminds us:

“Expected to fit in with whatever contemporary notions of femininity held sway, they nonetheless managed to come up with striking images that boasted their talent, spoke of their beliefs and displayed their grasp of the standards of the day.”

 

Buy the book from women’s cooperative News from Nowhere here

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My review of Twyford Rising Land and Resistance Helen Beynon with Chris Gillham

Twyford Down was  the birthplace of ecological direct action in the UK and environmental campaigns of today have been shaped by the events that took place there. In this new,  and inspiring history of the Twyford Rising,   it is the activists who tell their story through words, photographs and leaflets. It is the best kind of history.

As co-author and activist Helen Beynon says “”What happened at Twyford Down was one of many beginnings for an enviromental movement that now takes confidently to the streets on issues of climate change and the extinction of species. The  people who stopped the bulldozers there, who camped on the route of the road, who developed tactics for blockading and locking themselves to machinery, see the legacy of their actions now in a growing  chorus of voices demanding to be heard.”

Twyford Down is in southern England, near Winchester, which  was designated as part of the  area of South Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AOOB). Much of it  was in the South Downs Natural Park,  recognising its unique landscape and wildlife.

Over the years successive governments refused to acknowledge this significant environmental landscape and put forward plans to extend the M3 through the Down to cut seven  minutes (!) off the journey from Southampton to London.

The government  rubbished campaigner’s alternative proposals including a tunnel under the hill or for improvements to the existing road. Instead they proposed a  drive a deep cutting through Twyford Down itself.

A Twyford Down Association was established In the 1980s to oppose these plans made up of local residents, local councillors and even members of the Conservative Party. It went down the legal road,  undertaking an expensve judicial review. But after four  public inquiries, endless lobbying and judicial reviews permission was given to build the road and  on  Monday 23 January 1992  work began on the M3 extension through Twyford Down and the Itchen water meadows.

Faced with the reality of the destruction of Twyford Down a former Conservative local councillor and TDA activist David Croker arranged a meeting with a new radical environmental group,  Earth First!

Earth First! is  the opposite of traditional political organising.  Originally started in the USA in the late 1980s it works through  small groups and is a network that takes direct action to oppose environmental destruction. It was a challenge to the more established environmental groups who were using political lobbying to change the policies of governments and international organisations.

One of the first actions by the TDA and Earth First!  was to try to stop the destruction of two railway bridges which  showed not only  what they were up against from the government  but  the different approaches by the two groups.

Both groups occupied the bridges but,  as  Jason, one of the Earth Firsters,  was attached to a crane by a D-lock, the crane carried on working. Chris, a local TDA activist, was horrified. “I remember begging several police to do something about protecting Jason from the movement and the diesel fumes, but met with a refusal that bordered on the callously amused. This was my first experience of the policing of Twyford Down.”

Political differences between the two groups continued as Friends of the Earth set up a camp but were not happy about the involvement of the Earth Firsters. Chris challenged FoE as he was concerned about what would happen once the major work by bulldozers started. He said “Robin told me not to worry, that when the bulldozers came in Jonathon Porrit (director of FoE) himself would be there, standing in front of them…but nobody was there from national FoE when the bulldozers trashed the Dongas of Twyford Down.”

From the beginning the proposed destruction of Twyford Down brought together people who had been involved with other campaigns,  including women from Greenham Common,  with  new activists, But as Chris comments in his protest “where Greenham centred on the protest itself, the Dongas camp centred on the land itself.”

Winchester College, the public school that owned the land, which was known as the “Dongas” named by a schoolmaster who recognised the erosion of the land as similar to that seen in Africa and known in Matabele as “dongas”.

The story of the protest at Twyford Down is told by the activists. Helen explains “I began Twyford Rising with dates and events gleaned from yellowing press cuttings and leaflets, from minutes of meetings, fragments in diaries and a chronology passed to me by Chris Gillham.”

It is a great example of how to preserve the history of a campaign. Helen got people to send her  their memories through emails and pieces of paper as well as  speaking to people on the phone or Skype. Included in the book are copies of leaflets used to promote the actions as well as some fantastic photographs and poems.

Central to the protest is how much people loved the land and the price they paid for that  in terms of serving jail sentences, and suffering  physical attacks and intimidation. Many of the activists went on to take part in other environmental campaigns, as well as working on the land, and  involvement in cooperatives.

Helen sums up the Twyford Rising:  “Twyford Down became a byword for environmental protest, for the strength of the connection that can be forged between people and place.I have been to meetings and gatherings since where I hear people tell others of what happened at Twyford Down, even though they have only read of it, or heard tell. It seems presumptuous in those moments to step in and say “I was there” and stake a claim on a legend.”

 

Buy it here https://www.octoberbooks.org/blog/twyford-rising-book

 

 

 

 

 

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The Spirit of the Irish in Britain Representation Group continues …..

IBRG as a functioning organisation did not exist after 2005.  Pat Reynolds did continue to be active in campaigns such as Christy McGrath and  put out statements from time to time in the name of IBRG. He continued both personally and politically to assert the rights of the Irish community in Britain to justice and equality and for the community to have a right to a say in the future of the island of Ireland.

IBRG members including Pat Reynolds, Maude Casey,  Jodie Clark, Harriet Grimsditch, Kevin Heyes,  Bernadette Hyland, Ann Rossiter and Laura Sullivan,   in England and Diarmuid Breatnach, Michael Kneafsey,   Joe  and Margaret Mullarkey, Maurice Moore and  Judy Peddle in Ireland  took their political activity into other organisations. This included political parties,  trade unions, history groups, community groups, anti-fascist work and refugee support amongst others. IBRG activists have never stopped!

Spirit of IBRG. Photo T.Shelly.

What follows here is a log of some of the activities that IBRG members particpated in.

 

2006

On 7th January the anti-Irish racist newspaper The Sun had a story ‘IRA song blast for 2 Celtic players”. According to the Sun propaganda sheet, two Celtic players had been slammed after being caught up in an IRA singsong.

The song they were singing according to the Sun was the Fields of Athenry, which  the Sun clained is an IRA song. In reality  the song has nothing to do with IRA but is about the Great Starvation of the Irish people, and which is sung at Irish international matches.

According to The Sun, campaigners and MSPs were calling on Celtic to launch a probe. An ignorant  Lib Dem MSP stated ‘the club should make it very clear to the players this behaviour is not acceptable, and should take internal disciplinary action.

A Celtic spokesperson stated ‘these suggestions are laughable and without foundation.’  IBRG members  condemned this repeated racism by the Sun and the Lib Dems and their ignorance of Irish culture.

Christy McGrath Campaign

On 17th January IBRG members attended a Christy McGrath planning meeting at Camden Irish centre. And on 28th January attended a successful Race Meeting at Finnegan’s Wake public house in London for the campaign.

On 11th March IBRG members attended an Irish Bookfair at the Hammersmith Irish centre and on 12th March staffed a Christy McGrath stall in Leicester Square for Christy McGrath, getting signatures, getting donations and giving out leaflets.

On 17th March Pat Reynolds spoke at a benefit/meeting at the Red Rose Club in Islington with John McDonnell MP on the Christy McGrath campaign.

In March Pat Reynolds was lobbying MPs by letter for Christy McGrath where 22 MPs had signed the Early Day Motion for Christy. In the end Pat wrote  to all 650 MPs in Britain on Christy’s case and to every TD and Senator in Dail Eireann.

 

Death of campaigner for justice for Gypsy and Traveller communities

In March IBRG members  expressed their sorrow at the death of Patrick Delaney aged 49, who died early. He had been a fearless campaigner for justice for the Gypsy and Traveller communities in Britain after the brutal racist murder of his 15-year-old son in Liverpool.

The racial killing of this Irish teenage Irish Traveller had similar features to the death of Stephen Lawrence in South London. He was murdered by two 16 years boys who stated after the murder ‘he deserved it, he’s only a fucking Gippo’ after they had kicked and stamped him to death. Despite the killers clearly shouting racist abuse, the Judge in the case at Chester decided that the attack was not racist. What would this ex public schoolboy know about racism to Irish Travellers?

Again, the IBRG saw British justice at work where the two killers were only given four years for manslaughter rather than murder and would be out in two years. The value of an Irish Travellers life in Britain was very low. There were over 50,000 Gypsy and Traveller children in Britain, who every day face racist abuse and discrimination in services and provision, and vile racism in the British media mainly in the Tabloids. Young Johnny Delaney was murdered because he was an Irish Traveller child with an Irish accent.

The Cheshire Police had recorded the murder as a racially motivated incident, under the definition given by the Lawrence inquiry because of the comments made at the time of the murder. The Liverpool Irish Community Care centre had supported the family. The deceased father was co-chair of the Pride not Prejudice, an annual conference involving Travellers the Criminal Justice agencies.

On 4th April an alleged British spy who worked for Sinn Fein was shot dead in Donegal.

On 13th April IBRG members  attended a Christy McGrath meeting at the Camden Irish Centre.

On 6th May IBRG members  attended the James Connolly/ Bobby Sands rally at the Camden Irish centre on the 90th anniversary of 1916 an the 25th anniversary of the Hunger strikes.

Irish make vote count in London local elections

On 8th May the IBRG put out a statement, Irish make vote count in local elections in London on 4th May. In Southwark the IBRG supported an Irishman who had won his case with the Local Government Ombudsman against Southwark Council, in challenging the then Liberal controlling party in Southwark. The IBRG supported the printing of a leaflet to be given out in marginal wards where the Liberals were standing. The liberals lost the election and the Liberal Leader lost his seat.

In Islington the Irish turned out in great numbers to hammer the Liberals for taking away their community centre. The Liberals  lost power in Islington and the Irish had their revenge. In Haringey the Irish again refused to vote Liberal, because of what the Liberals did in Islington and the Irish felt their community centre in Haringey would be lost if the Liberals won. The Irish vote ensured Labour held on by one seat in Haringey. Thus, the Liberal Party, had they shown some respect for the Irish community, could have won three more local authorities in London. The price of racism was costly for the Liberals.

 

On 4th June the IBRG challenged the History Channel on its showing of the Burning of Bridget Cleary in 1859 in Ireland, in which the History Channel described the incident as the murder trial, in which the superstitions of old Ireland, were pitted against the modern rationalism of the British authorities, and was a pivotal moment in Irish history.

The IBRG in response stated ‘while the trial of Bridget  Cleary was used by the then British regime in Ireland as an argument against self-rule for the Irish at the time, it is hard to believe that they now bring out the same old propaganda.

It was stated by the IBRG ’the modern rationalism of the British regime in Ireland that created wholesale Genocide against the Irish people during the Great Starvation, when the potato crop was less than 25% of the total agricultural produce of Ireland, and they using the military stole all the grain and cattle of the Irish people. For Irish people the Great Starvation was the pivotal moment of Irish history and not one isolated murder. The ordinary people of Ireland had far more rationality and dignity than the whole rotten combined imperial arrogance put together. This is not history but the same old reworking of the ’white man’s burden’ and it is time it was buried along with the rest of the rotten to the core British imperialism.

On 2nd July the IBRG had a bookstall at the Southwark Irish festival.

 

2007.

On 7th February Pat Reynolds had a long interview with RTE TV on the Christy McGrath case which was later shown on RTE TV on Prime Time on 1st March.

On 17th March IBRG members marched with their banner on the St Patrick’s day Parade in London. The Parade organisers tried to ban IBRG from marching, and asked the Chief Police officer there, if he had heard of IBRG, he replied that he knew everything about the IBRG. It appeared the Parade organisers were vetting who could march on the Parade or not.

On 30th April the IBRG publicly condemned the arrest of an Irishman in a rape case because of a DNA mix up Again, like the case of Kevin Reynolds, the case raised concerns in the community as the Irishman did not fit the description or age of the suspect and had a medical condition. The IBRG further condemned the searching of his house.

On 2nd May Senator Mary White wrote a letter to the Irish Times stating that the Irish abroad should be allowed either vote in Irish elections, and drew attention to the ease in which French citizens abroad were allowed to vote. She stated that the argument that Irish citizens living abroad ‘should have no say in the country’s future seems churlish at best’.

A new campaigning group Progressing Prisoners Maintaining Innocence (PPMI) had been set up in London made up of prison chaplains, support groups, prison lawyers, journalist  and academics to assist prisoners, who maintain their innocence to progress through the prison system.

Their leaflet showed two cases the IBRG had helped Frank Johnson and Susan May. There had been a new European court ruling in 2002 that every prisoner was entitled to an oral hearing at tariff expiry, when the Parole Board considers release and its risk. Up to ten prisoners claiming innocence where not presented to the Parole board and just rotted in Prison. Frank Johnson was one such case  where he spent seven long years in prison over his tariff, all because he claimed rightfully his innocence. The chair of the group was Bruce Kent.

On 1st July the IBRG had a bookstall at the Southwark Irish Festival and on 27th August had a bookstall again at the Crawley Irish Festival.

On 12th September the papers reported on a village magazine editor in Cornwall who had to resign after using the magazine for anti-Irish jokes portraying Irish people as stupid in a very racist fashion.

On 15th September the Irish Post reported that the Camden Irish Centre had to pay out £50,000 to the first female Director of the centre, after she had suffered a sustained campaign of sex discrimination and bullying. All previous directors had been male priests. Margaret Murnane had successfully sued the centre for sex discrimination and unfair dismissal. Senior people at the centre could not accept that there was now a woman in charge of the centre which was heavily funded by the Irish government.

2008

Kevin Reynolds seeks and wins justice

On 22nd February Mark Dixie was convicted of the murder of Sally Ann Bowman which allowed Kevin Reynolds to progress his case. On 5th March Kevin Reynold’s story was in Private Eye and what happened to him over his unlawful arrest in 2005, and how  serious questions were now being asked as to why he was ever arrested given the police already had his DNA.

Kevin had an interview with BBC London on 26th March and Lynne Featherstone local Liberal MP was due to be interviewed as well, but pulled out at the last moment.

On 8th April the BBC had a programme on the Sally Ann Bowman case. Kevin could now put in his complaint over his arrest to the Independent Police Complaints Commission where there was only a 2% chance of any success, but it allowed the family to challenge the Met Police for their unlawful arrest and search.

Kevin Reynolds forced the Metropolitan Police  to delete his DNA and finger prints from their records for the second time, the only man in Britain to have his DNA taken off the system twice.

On 6th July the IBRG had a bookstall at Southwark Irish Festival.

 

Death of Frank Johnson

On 24th October Frank Johnson who spent 27 years in prison   for a crime he did not do, died an early death. Frank should have been released after 18 year of  his tariff. The Judge at his Appeal asked why he was not released after he had served his sentence.  The judge was told the truth, the reason why he was not released was because he was an innocent man, and the system will not look at any prisoner who claims innocence.

Most of the Irish papers covered his death, The Irish Post, the Irish World, Irish Times and The Nationalist. Pat Reynolds was interviewed by Tipp FM radio about his death, and called for a change in the system where innocent prisoners should not be further penalised, if they are in prison at the end of their tariff.

A number of IBRG members including Pat Reynolds, Chair of his campaign, attended Frank’s funeral in Leyton on 7th November where Gareth Pierce and Billy Power attended with many others from the Irish community.

 

On 11th November three men were found guilty of the murder of Baby P(Peter) an Irish child in Haringey who had been murdered by his mother’s partner. On 1st December George Meehan, the Donegal Leader of Haringey Council, had to resign over the death of Baby P while the Irish Director of Children Services Sharon Shoesmith was sacked.

The end of the year’s release of public documents showed that Queen Elizabeth’s dislike of the Irish caused anxiety among British foreign office officials, examining the possibility of a state visit by the Irish President Dr Patrick Hillary. A British civil servant wrote ‘I wonder whether in the light of the queens’ alleged dislike of the Irish’ but the details of the Queen’s dislike of the Irish were missing. The proposed visit was put off until Mary Robinson came to London.

2009.

Death of Brendan MacLua;  founder and editor of Irish Post

On 13th January Brendan MacLua founder and former editor of the Irish Post died. He had set up the Irish Post in 1970 and in the late 1980’s sold it on to Smurfit, when it moved sharply to the right of centre, and away from the grass roots of the Irish community, thus losing much of its readership.

There was an EDM Early Day Motion in the House of Commons on 28th January signed by 29 MPs. He was supportive of IBRG in the early years but the claim in the American Irish Central newspaper  that he had helped found IBRG was wrong, as he was equally supportive of the other two groups which formed around the same time, the Irish National Council and the Irish Interest Group, and was always supportive of the Federation of Irish Societies.

Speaking of it later he stated I preferred a two-horse race and the Federation was a one Embassy sponsored Irish horse. He had hoped that the appearance of the IBRG would put the Federation on to do things. Sadly, despite massive Embassy support they failed to ever raise their game. This was largely due to their struggle making up the hierarchy of mainly Irish social clubs in Britain, who were limited in their capacity apart from running social clubs.

The Irish Post occupied a unique spot at the heart of the Irish community until the Irish World was set up in the mid 1980’s which provided a good two horse race in itself.  The claim in many areas that the Irish Post had campaigned for the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four was wrong, as part from reporting doubts at the time of the convictions, the Irish Post did little to raise the case until the IBRG came along. Very few people in the Irish community were even aware of the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four in 1981.

On 14th April the British press revealed that fourteen staff were suspended In Lancashire for circulating an anti-Semitic joke on email.  The Council leader stated Investigations of this nature may result disciplinary action, or in some cases termination of employment. I am sure you will understand the need for us to adopt a stringent approach to this issue’.

On the same day another headline in the Daily Mail read Senior council worker disciplined for sending racist Irish joke email.  This was in Sheffield where their staff member sent it to a councillor who was second generation Irish who challenged it. The email had been sent far and wide in Sheffield.  According to the Mail the council officer was being ‘disciplined for having a sense of humour.

 The contrast between Lancashire and Sheffield is striking and also how the Mail treated both stories. In Lancashire the story was treated with great seriousness, and taken seriously with the leader of the council involved, and 14 people suspended, and the comments in the papers were all supportive. In Sheffield it was left up to the individual Irish councillor to complain, and only one member of staff was disciplined, and the Mail treated it as non-racist when it clearly was racist. All the comments from the public were also anti Irish.

In Britain this showed that there was an acceptance of anti-Irish racist jokes and behaviour which was condemned with other communities. There was however much anti-Semitism in the British press and much anti-Black racism and anti-Muslim hatred which was often sponsored by the tabloids.

On 5th July the IBRG had a bookstall at Southwark Irish festival.

Beresford Ellis takes on distorted Irish history book

On 13th August Peter Beresford Ellis debunked the book The Irish in Post War Britain by Enda Delaney. He tokk  Mr Delaney to task over his denial  of the existence of the “No Irish No Blacks No Dogs” signs. Of interest here is that a Professor in the USA claimed the same things over the “No Irish Need Apply” in the USA, and went unchallenged for several years, until a young  student found compelling information  in a variety of newspapers at the time.

Delaney represents a revisionist brand of Irish historians. In the book there is no mention of the Connolly Association and its work in the Irish community in Britain for several decades nor of the IBRG, Ellis states that there is ‘no mention of the Irish in Britain Representation group founded in 1981, which was certainly one of the strongest and the most active groups among the Irish emigrant population. It was founded to promote a more positive Irish identity, fight anti Irish racism and seeks more representation for the Irish community’.  Neither are the Irish Post and the Irish World mentioned. Ellis endsed his review by stating the history of the Irish in Britain still  needs to be written corrctly .  There were of course the two related histories  by  T.A. Jackson and  John Denvir but nothing on the modern history post war.

On 15th October IBRG members attended the First Brendan MacLua Memorial lecture given by Dr Martin Manseragh TD whospoke  on the Peace Process from 1987-2009.

On 21st October it was revealed in the Irish Times that the Irish Embassy in London had spent over £250,000 on taxi and limousines in the past two years which was absolutely shocking, with Leo Varadkar describing it as clear evidence of squander. It was he said ‘further evidence that the Government were squandering millions during the boom, and were spending more for less’. The IBRG condemned this waste of the Irish taxpayer’s money when the community in Britain and at home were struggling to make ends meet.

In Scotland it was reported that a former Loyalist hitman stabbed a man after being called an Irish p….. and later admitted the stabbing in court. Meanwhile Rangers had offered 1.200 British soldiers a free entry to a Rangers match where they were photographed showing scarves, with Orange feet on the Garvaghy road. Along with an assortment of UDR banners. This bigotry in the   army of anti-Catholic and anti-Irish sentiment was shocking.

2010.

On 20th February Martin Doyle interviewed Seamus Taylor   in a two-page spread in the Irish Post. Seamus who had started his career as social worker at the Camden Irish Centre for three years from 1984-1987, and set up Action Group for Irish youth.

Seamus later headed up the Haringey Irish Liaison Unit from 1987 – 2001, where he pioneered a number of reports on the Irish community, including one on Irish elders and discrimination from 2001-2004.  He worked as Head of Public policy for the CRE and then from 2004-2009 worked Director of Diversity at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and from 2009 went to lecture at Maynooth University.

Seamus led the main campaign to get the CRE to recognise the Irish, where  the IBRG joined the Irish Equalities Group. Seamus was a bridgehead between the more radical end of the Irish community and projects across to the more conservative and insular federation and Church based welfare centres.

 

Sinn Fein – Lack of Unity Conference

On 27th February the Irish Post had an article Irish community in Britain must increase its influence which was a report on a Sinn Fein held conference on Irish Unity held in London which drew over 100 people. Lord Alf Dubs and Jeremy Corbyn MP spoke at the meeting and Pat Doherty for Sinn Fein.

The Conference had ignored key speakers from the Irish community like Angela Birthill, Bernadette Hyland, Mary Mason, Pat Reynolds and others who had campaigned in Britain for over 40 years and ended up with the Federation, Irish Counties Association and an unknown trade union speaker.

The meeting noted that at the 2001 census there were 642,000 people living in Britain who identified as being Irish, yet it was felt the Irish had no political power in Britain in terms of political representation.

It was pointed out that the Unionists made up only 2% of the population of the UK whereas in Ireland they would represent 20% of the people in a United Ireland. The heyday of Irish political influence in Britain in recent times was in the period 1982-1997 when the IBRG along with Livingstone and other radical groups, TOM, LCI and the Irish workers groups, PTA groups, prisoners’ campaigns, and Irish Women’s groups were fighting back against the PTA, fighting to free all the framed prisoners, fighting for equality and equal rights, for ethnic recognition, for language rights and much more.

Sadly, what was left now was Dublin politically funded right of centre groups who lacked the ability to give any leadership or direction to the community. The earlier call years ago by the Irish in Britain Parliamentary group for an annual Irish conference of the Irish in Britain was abandoned because it did not suit the powers that be. The Federation have yet to organise a community country wide conference of any kind, to address any of the issues affecting the Irish community. Much that had been pioneered by Ken Livingstone with his consultative conference who set markers for the Irish community, followed up by several education and welfare conference by the IBRG highlighted at each stage, where the community was at.

Now we have a conference organised by those who know nothing about the Irish community in Britain, and who have yet to make clear its policy of giving the vote to the Irish abroad in all Dail elections.

 

On 6th May there was a General Election in the UK after which the Tories and the Liberals formed a Coalition government which was to bring in 10 years of austerity. There was an immediate pay freeze for two years on benefits and in the public sector wages.

On 15th June the Saville report into Bloody Sunday came out with a fresh verdict on the events of that massacre in Derry.

On 1st July Kevin Reynolds a second-generation Irishman from North London won a case against Tory Kent Council over maladministration where they were forced to apologise to him and offer him compensation.

2011.

On 15th January the Irish Post reported that the Hanratty family had called for the case to be reviewed by CCRC a position the IBRG supported. The Appeal hearing some years ago ruled that the Hanratty was guilty beyond doubt, which was total nonsense as over 20 witnesses placed him in North Wales over 200 miles away at the time of the murder.

The Appeal Court relied too much on contaminated DNA evidence as all the exhibits in the case were lost for several years and not secured. The IBRG was always disappointed that Cardinal Hume who visited Hanratty for half an hour before he was hanged maintained his silence in the case, and could not be bothered over the hanging on an innocent Irish man, but Hume was a loyal servant of the English Crown as he showed during the Hunger strikers.

On 25th February there was a General Election in Ireland with Enda Kenny of Fine Gael as the new Taoiseach.

On 13th March IBRG  members attended the St Patricks Day Parade in London

On 26th March IBRG members joined the TUC sponsored one a half million marchers in the TUC march for jobs and against austerity.

On 6th May the SNP won the election Scotland and the same day on which the British public voted against an alternative vote system which the Liberals had put forward. Only one constituency in Britain voted for it, Hornsey Wood Green where Pat Reynolds lived.

On 17th May the English Queen visited Ireland the scene of many atrocities organised by her predecessors including the Starvation of Ireland.

On 22nd July a fascist murdered 91 young people in Norway one of the worst individual attacks in history but because it was done by the right rather than any nationalist group the media played down its impact and the growth of the far right.  There were no anti-terror laws brought in against the right, these were reserved for the Irish and ex colonial minorities.

Murder of Mark Duggan

Early in August a young Black Irishman, Mark Duggan was killed by the police in a hard street stop in Tottenham. The man who ordered the hard stop was Stuart Cundy who in 2005 had ordered the unlawful arrest of Kevin Reynolds and the ransacking of his father’s house for two days.  Serious rioting took place in Tottenham following the police killing which led to rioting all over the country.

On 9th September Pat Reynolds attended the funeral of Mark Duggan in Wood Green and expressed the sorrow of the Irish community to his Irish mother at the funeral.  He was later buried locally in Wood Green.

On 19th October the Irish Post was back on sale after finding a new buyer after the Cork Examiner group had closed it down. There had been a campaign in the Irish community to get the Irish Post back for the community. On 22nd October the Irish Post published the list of MPs who supported the campaign to bring back the Irish Post. Some 75 MPs signed the EDM. Again, Kate Hoey whom Maclua supported so much, stuck to her Unionist credentials and did not sign it.

On 20th October Ghaddafi the Leader of Libya was murdered in a West inspired war that destroyed the country.

On 27th October Michael D Higgins Labour was selected the new President of Ireland and he went on to serve two terms. He was a good friend of the Irish community in Britain and had been over to Haringey to speak about his Channel Four programme on the Irish in Monserrat.

 

Manchester Irish Community Care gives dignity back to Irish

On 26th November the Irish Post reported Forgotten Irish saved from paupers’ graves which showed that Manchester Irish Community care had helped to give some seventy Irish people who died without any know relatives a dignified burial. A further 14 were repatriated on death back for burial in Ireland.  The story and issue should have been in every national paper in Britain and Ireland if this had been any other community in Britain, yet again the Irish government, the church and others keep this quiet how many in our community die lonely isolated deaths without anybody.

In December   a book written by Tommy Walsh of Liverpool on Being Irish in Liverpool was brought out after he had died. It had a chapter on the Federation of Irish Societies of which he was a member.

Biography by Tommy Walsh.

In his politics Tommy was far closer to IBRG than the non-political Federation and he was supportive of the miscarriages of justice and of prisoners and fought against the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Tommy spoke at several IBRG conferences in Manchester and was interviewed for an pobal eirithe (IBRG magazine) in issue number 4. He was close to Brendan MacLua of the Irish Post.

 

2012.

On 3rd January two men were found guilty at long last of the murder of Black youth Stephen Lawrence. The failure of the police in the early investigation led to allegations of corruption and racism and the murders were allowed to run free, despite evidence coming in from the community.

On 21st January the Irish Post   had a story Sally Mulready appointment is recognition of the Irish Diaspora when Michel D Higgins appointed her to the Council of State the first-time person from abroad had been appointed.

The only problem with it, while it is  an honour for the individual concerned, it made no difference whatsoever to the lives of Irish people in Britain, as there was no feedback mechanism, and the person chosen was hostile to the Irish in Britain having a vote in Dail Eireann elections.

It was a token appointment with no feedback whatsoever to the Irish abroad, and no way for the Irish abroad to have any input whatsoever to the role of the Irish President.

On 24th January Gerry Lawless died. He was a former Sunday World journalist and a former Labour councillor in Hackney and a former member of International Marxist Group, but was not active in the Irish community.

In November the IBRG challenged the anti papist torchlight parade through Lewes with burning crosses like something from a Klu Klux Clan gathering the town had a big banner No Popery across its street. To the local Irish communities in South East England, it was a vile sectarian racist parade which was clearly anti Catholic and was an incitement to hatred of Catholics and the Irish who were perceived as all catholic.

In 2012 the Irish Government were to politically fund the Federation of Irish Societies to the tune of £475,000, for which the Irish community saw nothing, not even one Irish conference held in Britain, not even one open day.

Likewise, the Irish Chaplaincy was funded to the tune of £225,800 again with the Irish community have no access to any consultation or representation.

The London Irish Centre also got £448,500 and again they offered the Irish community very little by way of any conference or consultation. The Irish community saw nothing for the money spent and there was no accountability to the community.

 

2013

Irish on Blacklist

On 2nd March the Irish Post highlighted story Blacklist probe into alleged police collusion where thousands of building workers had been blacklisted over the previous 30 years including many Irish workers. The Consulting Association had a list of over 3,200 people that they had blacklisted and shared this information with building contractors. It was believed that the Special demonstrations Squad shared information with this company, the man leading the company stated that there was a two-way exchange of information between the company and the police for many years.

Bernadette Hyland interviewed Blacklist campaigner Steve Acheson for the Morning Star newspaper read it here

Earlier in February over 100 construction workers picketed the Crossrail project alleged that the Company were blacklisters and getting rid of workers, who were raising health and safety issues. John McDonnell MP had called for an independent inquiry into organised victimisation of workers by British companies the most common names on the blacklist were, some 20 named Kelly, 16 named Gallagher, 15 called Murphy, and 59 with names beginning with an O, which showed the number of Irish workers had been victimised. The list was discovered in 2009 after a raid on the company by the Data Commissioner.

 

Plaque to Jack Kennedy

On 16th March IBRG members attended the opening of a plaque to Tipperary man Jack Kennedy opposite the Arsenal stadium at which Jeremy Corbyn MP and Pat Reynolds spoke. Jack had been part of the Birmingham Six Campaign  and Frank Johnson campaigns plus the Construction Safety campaign

In April the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died and was buried and did not rise again.  She was remembered for the brutal war in the Malvinas and the war crime sinking of the Belgrano which it was returning home, her refusal to defuse the Irish 1981 hunger strikes, and her brutal unemployment policies of the 1980’s which left millions unemployed.

Over 30,000 people including many Irish people attended a Trafalgar Square celebration wake for Thatcher and on the day of her funeral protested outside the Royal Courts of Justice, turning their backs on the military funeral given her persecution of Republican funerals in Ireland. Her funeral cost over £10 million.

On 22nd May a British soldier was killed in Woolwich   South London in a street terror attack which shocked the British public.

In June Ruari O Bradiagh of Republican Sinn Fein died after a lifetime of voluntary activities and former Sinn Fein President before he split with Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein over going into Dail Eireann.

 

Success of Pat Reynolds against Haringey Council

In June Haringey Council settled an Employment tribunal claim in full brought by Pat Reynolds which included a claim of £10,000   for racial discrimination and back pay of £13,000.

Haringey Council had wrongly claimed that Pat Reynolds had historical links with the INLA, and reported him to the then professional body the old Social Work Council. This allegation was false and showed what Irish workers had to put up with in Britain with hidden records held against them. Pat only discovered the claim when he requested his data file off the Social Work Council.

It would appear that Haringey lifted the material from a Google search of the internet, and linked the murder of Garda Patrick Reynolds a distant cousin of the family by the INLA in Dublin back in 1982 in Tallaght Dublin.

Pat Reynolds had served as an Irish community representative on Haringey Ethnic Minorities Committee for over 15 years, and even had been awarded anti-racist award for his cross communities work in Haringey where back in 1989, he led a Black Irish march for Civil Rights and Justice, and led the campaign to support Bernie Grant to become MP in 1987. The Bernie Grant Centre in Haringey recorded Pat Reynolds tribute to Bernie Grant’s life work along with other tributes including one form Tony Blair on its website.

Pat was also a long-term member of Haringey Fostering and Adoption Panel. He  had worked as a Manager in Haringey Children and Families team, with a case responsibility for over 120 young people in care, including working with gangs in the borough to make Haringey a safer place to live.

His case highlights what often happened to Irish workers in Britain where secret records often false were held against them, in secret files and passed on to professionals and in this case the registration body.

Despite the war being over in Ireland 15 years ago the British state and its agents were still discriminating  against Irish people in Britain who stood up for their rights and the rights of their community.

Federation of Irish Societies attempts to become Irish in Britain

In June the Irish Post reported that the Federation of Irish Societies were rebranding themselves as the Irish in Britain. One might think that they should have consulted with the real Irish in Britain Representation Group on the issue. It was as if they were trying to steal all the excellent work done by the IBRG over the past 30 years and claim it as their own. Perhaps they were learning after 30 years finding out how the Irish community viewed themselves “In Britain” but not British.

The claim of the Federation now that they were the sole representative’s body of the Irish community in Britain was clear nonsense as the organisation was not open to the Irish community, nor was it accessible. They have failed for over 40 years to hold even one consultative conference with the Irish community or allow that community to have any voice. They are mainly made up of the hierarchy of the Irish social clubs in Britain mainly bars, and cannot say they represent any community.

 

 

Death of Seamus Heaney

In August the Nobel winner Seamus Heaney the Irish poet died. People will remember him for his poem ‘no glass of mine was ever raised to toast an English Queen’ when the British tried to claim him as British after he won the Nobel prize.

In September an Irish Innocence Project was set up in Ireland and the IBRG wrote to them offering them support and asking whether they would take on Irish cases in Britain.

On 10th September IBRG members attended the House of Commons for a public meeting on the Ballymurphy Massacre and to hear relatives speak of the brutal murders caried out by Crown faces in Belfast in the early 1970’s.

IBRG challenge Citizens Assembly and voting rights for Irish

On 11th September IBRG members attended a public meeting in London where Tom Arnold Chair of the Citizens Assembly in Ireland on the Vote for emigrants was speaking. Pat Reynolds challenged the Chair over the brief given to him and the Assembly to restrict any discussion of the vote for emigrants to just a token vote for the Irish president.

The exercise was a mechanism for blocking the Irish abroad from getting the vote in Dail Eireann and should be referred back to the Irish government for a broader reference to include votes for Dail Eireann election, so the People assembly could make a proper decision on the issue

On 19th September the IBRG put in a detailed submission to the People’s Assembly in Ireland calling for the Irish to be given the vote in Dail Eireann.

Martin Foran still trying to clear his name

On 19th October the Irish Post carried the story of Limerick man Martin Foran a case the IBRG had supported years ago. Martin while out of prison was still trying to clear his good name after he was wrongly convicted in 1985. Marin was one of many ordinary Irishmen in Britain who were routinely wrongly convicted because of racism discrimination and because of their class.

On 2nd November the Irish Post ran a story Author’s living history CD highlights shameful lack of emigration museum.  Historian Ultan Cowley and author of The Men who built Britain: A History of the Irish Navvy (2001) lamented the lack of an emigration museum in Britain detailing the lives of Irish people in Britain.

On 5th December the great man Mandela leader of the South African freedom movement and the ANC and first Black South African leader died. IBRG members were part of the anti-apartheid movement in Britain throughout the 1980’s and marched in London for an end to apartheid. Parties in London by South African exiles always had a number of Irish people attended, and their parties were similar to Irish parties with house singing and the playing of musical instruments, and where Irish songs of resistance were welcomed. A popular poster at the time was of Ireland/ South Africa One struggle.

Haringey IBRG had put on an exhibition linking the Irish struggle with South Africa which incurred the hatred of the Tories and the racist tabloids. Pat Reynolds recalled how in the million strong anti apartheid march in London, where the IBRG banner was bringing up the rear and was leaving Finsbury Park when the first of the march was reached Hyde Park.

2014.

On 11th January IBRG members attended the Vigil outside of Tottenham police station on the Mark Duggan killing by the police.

On 14th March Tony Benn died. Tony was a wonderful supporter of Irish freedom and independence over many years, and often spoke at the Bloody Sunday rallies.  He had intervened in the Kate Magee case and the McNulty’s by ringing up the governors of Durham and Belmarsh Prison to ensure that they got their rights.

On 16th March IBRG members attended the St Patrick’s day Parade in London.

On 24th March IBRG members attended Bob Crow, leader of the RMT’s funeral in East London,where the streets were lined with people there to remember his life.

On 27th March IBRG members attended Tony Benn’s funeral service at Westminster which Martin McGuiness and Gerry Adams attended.

In March IBRG members attended the Stand up to Racism and Fascism rally in London which drew 7,000 people. Austin Harney was also there with others protesting at current politics in Britain which were anti-immigrant. Later Diana Abbott MP addressed the rally.

On 7th April President Higgins was in London to meet the English Queen.

MacLua’s collection donated to Liverpool University
On 17th May the Irish Post ran a story MacLua library starts a fresh chapter in Irish Studies, which stated that a new Library of over 6,000 books had been opened at Liverpool University, to which the Maclua family had donated a full archive of the Irish Post which had belonged to Brendan Maclua, and which had every Irish Post from its beginning in 1970 to Brendan’s death. There is a second archive at the Metropolitan

Victor Nealson case
On 31st May the Irish Post covered the story of a Dublin man Victor Nealson who spent over 17 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. The former postman had his case turned down twice by the CCRC before he had his conviction quashed. It was based on the same issue as happened with Frank Johnson, where the police again withheld information, that would have led to his release. The CCRC also made big mistakes in his case for which they apologised. Again, like Frank Johnson he was denied release because he continued to assert his innocence, and was further punished.

Death of Gerry Conlon

Gerry Conlon and sisters.

On 21st June Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Died at a young age. On 12th July Alex McDonnell had a letter in the Irish Post detailing the campaign to free the Guildford Four, and praised the work of Theresa Smalley, Paul Hills aunt and her partner Errol Smalley, along with St Sarah Clarke and the IBRG, and to Ken Livingstone and John McDonnell. The campaign to free the Guildford Four was based at the IBRG founded Irish in Islington centre and led by IBRG member Tom Barron. Jeremy Corbyn also gave his full support and attended Paul Hill’s wedding in prison.

On 3rd July Pat Reynolds and other IBRG members picketed the Irish Embassy in London over the Tuam babies’ scandal to give support to their campaign.

On 21st August Albert Reynolds the former Irish Taoiseach died in Ireland and was given a State Funeral. He was a second cousin to the father of Pat Reynolds.

On 12th September Ian Paisley died in N. Ireland.

On 18th October IBRG members joined the TUC march for decent wages in London.

On 10th December IBRG members joined the picket of the Irish Embassy over the Water Charges in Ireland and late the same day attended a picket of 10 Downing St over the Historical cases. There was a street exhibition of many of the shoes worn by the victims of British murders in Ireland, which attracted much attention from Londoners and tourists from little children shoes to those of Irish elders who had lost their lives. That evening

IBRG members attended a meeting at the House of Commons on the Historical cases calling for justice for all.

2015

Picket of Channel 4 over “comedy” on Great Starvation in Ireland
On 17th January IBRG members took part in a picket of Channel 4 over their proposed comedy on the great Starvation of Ireland. Pat Reynolds spoke at the picket. Graham Linehan of Fr Ted had a go at the protesters in an ignorant way.

John Ryan a stand-up comedian in a more balanced view stated ‘if they are making a programme based on the Potato Blight and the policy of Famine, and thereby using comedy to raise awareness of an appalling act of genocide, and dark period of Irish history then good luck to them’, adding, ‘However I fear a romp along the lines of Fr Ted and Mrs Brown and fiddley dee dee let’s mock the Irish. Will the Irish habit of ridiculing ourselves along the stereotypical lines that are always churned out ever end? I do not recall any Jewish comedy set in the gas chambers nor Black comedy on the slave ships. But maybe they don’t have our humour, or maybe they have more respect for their history’.

On 20th January Pat Reynolds attended the funeral of Mike Marqusee who was part of the leadership of the anti-war coalition. Pat had known Mike for several years from various political events. Jeremy Corbyn MP was speaking at his funeral. The contributions made at his funereal went towards Medical Aid for Palestinians.

On 19th February there was a debate at the Comedy Club on the Channel Four and the Great Starvation where Pat Reynolds spoke from the floor on anti-Irish racism in Britain.

On 15th March IBRG took part in the St Patricks day parade in London.

On 22nd April IBRG members attended a lecture given by Geoff Bell on 1916 and the Irish d to deliver on his promise of a vote on Europe. Miliband the Labour Leader resigned.

In Manchester Bernadette Hyland published “Northern ReSisters Conversations with Radical Women”. The book reflected on Bernadette’s own history including her involvement in IBRG as well as a trade unionist. It contained interviews with Bernadette McAliskey and other northern women activists.

Northern ReSisters

 

“Struggles for a past: Irish and Afro-Caribbean histories in England, 1951-2000” by Kevin Myers was published.  Kevin interviewed Bernadette Hyland for the book and used the Irish Collection at the Working Class Movement Library in Salford.

Another book The Irish in the Troubles in London included material on the IBRG but was revisionist in outlook in trying to play down the role of the Prevention of Terrorism Act without any evidence for this.

Ruan O’Donnell’s  book on IRA prisoners in Britain included some material on the IBRG.In 1998 he had taken part in Manchester IBRG’s conference on celebrating 1798.

On 20th June the Irish Post had an article entitled “Dromey I will ensure that the voice of the Irish is always heard’. The only problem is that the Irish community could not recall Jack Dromey doing anything for Irish people at any stage of his political career. He claimed in his article ‘I will be the champion of the cause of Ireland’ which again no one in the community could recall him ever doing anything for Ireland or its cause.

When the election came up years ago for the Secretary of the T&GWU  the IBRG advised Irish people to vote for Bill Morris , rather than Jack Dromey.

Bill Morris helped several Irish workers who were injured whilst  working in Britain. Bill Morris was generous in his approach to helping injured Irish workers, who were forced onto the lump system in Britain, and in one case which Pat Reynolds supported, Bill accepted the Irish worker’s previous membership of union in Ireland, as evidence that the Irish workers would have joined a union in Britain if given the chance, and were entitled to support from their trade union brothers and sisters.

On 12th September Jeremy Corbyn, former member of IBRG, got elected a leader of the British Labour Party. The IBRG had supported Corbyn’s election as MP back in 1983. He had supported the local Irish community, and was also strong on support for a United Ireland, and was involved in supporting many of the miscarriages of justice like the Guildford Four and others.

The IBRG put out a statement welcoming the election of Corbyn, and noted that the Blairite Labour Party has now lost two elections in 2010 and 2015 despite the worst austerity programme in Europe imposed by the right-wing Tory government. The IBRG noted that Scotland had gone SNP and would never come back to Labour. The IBRG also pointed out that Labour would never regain power in Britain with loss of Scotland without a system of PR. The IBRG noted that many members of the Irish community had paid the £3 fee to join Labour to vote for Corbyn.

IBRG application to join Undercover Inquiry

On 17th September the IBRG applied for status in the Undercover Inquiry set up in Britain to look into how police infiltrated community organisations in the 1970-2000. The Inquiry Judge turned down the IBRG application leaving no Irish representation within the inquiry.
There was clear evidence that Sinn Fein in London and Troops Out movement had been infiltrated. That  MI5 agent Pat Daly had infiltrated IBRG and set up the 1985 cases involving Maire O’Shea and Peter Jordan, and later set up McGonigle and Heffernan who received heavy sentences. Daly was set up for life with tax payers’ money and paid off for his criminal activities within the Irish community.

On 27th November the English Times had an article on John McDonnell which covered a public meeting In Lewisham back in the 1980’s, which had a photo of the platform speakers which included Diarmuid Breatnach.

The two-page article entitled McDonnell gave his backing to IRA’s bombing campaign included photo of John McDonnell with Gerry Adams and Corbyn. The meeting referred to was on 23rd October 1986 at the Amersham Arms pub in New Cross, and the platform names with a photo were Francie Molloy Sinn Fein, John McDonnell, John O Brien of the Irish in Britain Representation Group, and Diarmuid Breatnach secretary of the Lewisham Irish in Britain Representation group.

The Times quoted McDonnell as saying at the meeting that the ‘ballot, the bullet and the bomb’ could all be used to unite Ireland, in a newly discovered speech in welcoming Sinn Fein to London. The Times stated that there were over 100 people at the meeting. The Times quoted Diarmuid Breatnach as follows’ Diarmuid Breatnach, Secretary of the Lewisham branch of the Irish in Britain Representation group, which organised the meeting, sat on the panel with Mr McDonnell at the pub meeting. He said last night’ I do recall him making some throwaway but unfortunate remark about knee capping, in the context of the rate capping that the Conservative government was introducing at the time’. The Lewisham IBRG banner was shown in the photo as backdrop to the panel speakers.

On 23rd October Pat Reynolds had a letter in the Guardian over their feature article which claimed that the No Irish No Blacks No Dogs signs did not exist as they claimed, there was no photographic evidence of this. Pat Reynolds challenged this by pointing the oral history within the Black and Irish communities of this.

This was a similar campaign like this one in America by an unknown Professor who claimed the same thing there, until a young female student several years later demolished his fake fabrication, by showing reams of evidence for a number of papers in the USA which cleared stated No Irish need apply. Indeed, The Clancy Brothers had a folk song on the matter. Pat Reynolds had a letter in his collection from an employer in the Midlands after the 2nd World war which clearly stated in writing This company does not employ Irish people.

2016.
In January the Photographers gallery in London had a 1916 exhibition which included many of Sean Sexton’s photos.
On 26th February there was a General Election in Ireland with no overall result.
The 100th anniversary of 1916 was on 27th March.
On 26th April the verdict of the Hillsborough inquiry was unlawful killing.
On 6th May Enda Kenny of Fine Gael became the new Taoiseach of a minority government in Ireland.
On 4th June Mohamed Ali the great boxer died.

On 4 June Bernadette Hyland and Michael Herbert of the Mary Quaile Club launched a history of Manchester Irish trade unionist Mary Quaile called and in Mary’s own words “Dare to Be Free”. Alongside a history of Mary the book included short histories of present day women trade unionists. More details here

Mary Quaile

On 23rd June the Brexit vote was held in the UK with the slim majority voting to leave the EU. Both Scotland and Nt Ireland voted to stay in Europe.

On 27th June Pat Reynolds attended a London conference on the Hunger Strikes at Notre Dame University Campus at which Fr.McVeigh and Lawrence McKeown were speaking. The conference was very academic with many students there with few from the Irish community. The event was entitled Rethinking the 1980/81 Hunger Strikes Symposium and included Cathal McLoughlin who was involved in Activision in London in the 1980’s.

On 27th June IBRG supported a demo at the House of Commons to support Corbyn who had come under attack from within the Labour Party who were mounting challenge to his leadership.
On 6th July the Chilcot report came on the Blair war on Iraq and the man with no shame tried to defend himself.
On 13th July Cameron resigned as Tory Leader after the Brexit vote with Theresa May later elected leader of the Tories. He later went on 12th September.
In August many IBRG members went to see the film Booby Sands 66 days which was on in London.
On 24th September Corbyn won the Labour leadership election for the second time by a huge majority.

On 9th October IBRG members attended the Battle of Cable Street  80th anniversary rally and demo in east London in commemoration of the Irish dockers who took part in the amss mobilsation to stop  Mosley and his fascists from attacking the Jewish community in the East End.

The Irish community had fond memories of the Jewish community feeding their hungry children during a number of docks strikes years earlier in the East End, and would now stand with the Jewish community in fighting the fascists and stopping their march. In the 1960’s the docks were closed with the opening of Tilbury and containerisation. Much of the old history of the Irish in the East End was lost, and also happened on the other side of the river in Bermondsey.

In October Michael Holden, former secretary of Hemel Hempstead IBRG died, while at home on holidays in Ireland. He had been involved in the Tepublican movement all his life and in later years in the Political Status campaign.

On 23rd November Pat Cullinane of Harrow IBRG died after a difficult and hard life after he was wrongly evicted by the Inland Revenue over an alleged tax bill. It was shocking that a man could be driven from his home over an alleged small tax bill, when Pat was an ordinary working man. His eviction and loss of his homestead impacted upon his mental and physical health and led eventually to his early death. His case is shocking case which was covered by the Guardian and other papers.

 

2017.

On 25th January IBRG members attended the Camden Irish centre for a meeting on the N. Ireland Troubles in Britain.

In April Paddy Armstrong of the Guildford Four brought out a book called Life after Life.

 

Launch of MSWTUC Minute Books website

On 29th April Bernadette Hyland was a key note speaker at the Mary Quaile club event at the NWTUC’s May Day Manchester Mechanics Institute. The event was to launch the website containing the Minutes of the Manchester and Salford Women’s Trade Union Council 1895-1919 which Bernadette had transcribed from hand written originals. Present day activist, Lisa Turnbull of the Durham T.A.’s Campaign formally switched on the website.

One of the pages of the Minutes Book

 

In the run up to the General Election the Sunday Times ran a scurrilous article on Jeremy  Corbyn claiming that he arranged a job for an IRA bomber at the Irish in Islington project. The story was a pack of lies as Corbyn had nothing to do with anybody getting any job. This was total propaganda by the Sunday Times. Corbyn did not even know the name of the worker appointed.

The story on 28th May was headed Jeremy Corbyn secured a salary for convicted IRA terrorist by Andrew Gilligan. The article was nonsense and a poor reflection on the journalist involved. He also claimed the project was raided by the police under the PTA which was a total lie. It never happened. The claim that Corbyn knew McLoughlin before he was employed was made up, as Corbyn only met McLoughlin after he was appointed as Sinn Fein representative in London which had nothing to do with the project. McLoughlin was never charged let alone convicted of being in the IRA.

The letter of support for the Irish Welfare Project was a standard MP letter of support before the project was funded. Margaret Hodge Leader of Islington Council wrote a similar letter so why did Gilligan not mention this.

Gilligan of course knew full well that Corbyn had nothing whatsoever to do with the appointment of the workers at the project, as this was done by the Management committee of the project who did the short listing and interviewing under equal opportunities.

Gilligan knew all this because he had access to extensive files from the state and from archives, so why did he make up this propaganda story for the Sunday Times. His story was abusive of the project and of the management committee and he made no attempt to talk to anybody from the Irish community about his story.

On 8th June there was a General Election in the UK with Theresa May going for a bigger majority did worse and had to do deal with the DUP to survive. Labour and Corbyn did extremely well.
On 19th June IBRG members attended a meeting at the Camden Irish Centre on the vote for emigrants.

On 11th August Bill Aulsbury a leading figure in Haringey’s Irish community died.

On 28th September IBRG members attended the Brendan McLua lecture at Hammersmith Irish Centre on the links between Nationalism in Ireland and Germany in the 1800’s. The title of the lecture and book launch was Ireland and Europe History and Nationalism by Shane Nagle

On 26th October IBRG members attended the launch of a book by Ivan Gibbons about the Labour Party and Irish Nationalists around 1900. The title of his book was The British Labour Party and the establishment of the Irish free State 1918-1924. Ivan was sone of the pioneers of Irish studies in London and used to publish the booklet Irish Studies in London back in the 1980’s.

On 29th October IBRG members attended the Terence McSwiney Commemoration at Southwark cathedral. Sadly, only small numbers now attend.
On 28th November IBRG members attended a House of Commons meeting to hear Sinn Fein speaking on Brexit.

2018.
On 19th February the Irish History Collection at the London Metropolitan University contacted the IBRG to seek permission to digitise the IBRG material in their files which would bring IBRG to far more people on line.

On 24th March IBRG members attended the Irish Unity Conference called by Sinn Fein at the TUC HQ Congress House where Gerry Adams and Mary Lou were speaking. Over 500 people attended. Adams spoke about trying to set up a campaign for Irish Unity in Britain but appeared clueless as to how this could happen. What is happening now is big Sinn Fein meetings with big name speakers but nothing at all on the ground to affect any change in Britain. The title of the meeting was After Brexit the prospects for a United Ireland which had a range of speakers including Geoff Bell, Professor Mary Hickman and Matt Carty MEP

On 27th March IBRG members attended the House of Commons for a meeting on the film No Stone Unturned on the Loughinisland massacre during the World Cup.

On 17th April IBRG members again attended a meeting at Portcullis House on the Good Friday Agreement where Francie Molloy, Paul Bew and Michelle Gildernew were speaking. The title of the meeting was 20 years on Defending the Good Friday Agreement.

On 2nd May IBRG members stated the Hammersmith Irish centre to hear the revisionist historian Bernard Canavan speak about 1918 and Conscription. He made some offensive remarks about the Great Starvation of Ireland being an act of nature, which Pat Reynolds openly challenged him on.

170 Commemoration of Great Starvation
On 13th May a 170th commemoration meeting was held outside the TUC Congress House to remember the Great Starvation at which Pat Reynolds spoke .

He said that  what happened during the Great Starvation was the English Government had conducted a war of starvation against the Irish people by using garrisons all over Ireland to forcibly remove cattle and grain from Ireland when the potato crop was only 25% of the agricultural produce of Ireland. Despite the Blight affecting much of Western Europe only in Ireland were the people deprived of alternate food and died from hunger and disease caused directly by English action and inaction. The TUC is in the St Giles area of London where many the emigrants Irish lived in slums.

On 17th May IBRG members attended a meeting at Congress House on Irish politics where ex IBRG member Maire Doolin was speaking as a trade union representative along with Orla Orfhlaigh Begley the new Sinn Fein MP from N. Ireland.

On 21st May Pat Reynolds attended a meeting at the Camden Irish centre to discuss organising a meeting around Irish unity at the Labour Party conference. This was a follow on from the Unity conference.

On 26th May IBRG members attended a meeting in Ladbroke Grove on the history of the Irish in North Kensington and the area. The lecture was entitled the Lost World of Irish London by Patrick Joyce from Manchester University who produced a written an eight-page summary of his talk complete with old pictures.

On 16th June IBRG members attended Conway Hall to hear Gary Younge of the Guardian speak to a packed house on Civil Rights in Britain and the USA.

On 11th October IBRG members attended the Hammersmith Irish centre on the anniversary of the Civil Rights movement to hear Marianne Elliot speak on the issue and her experience of it at the time. The title of her lecture was Why 1968 still Matters Northern Ireland at the Cross roads.

On 15th October Pat Reynolds attended a London meeting of People Assembly which the panel were recommending it as the answer to everything. But, Pat from the floor, pointed out that this mechanism had totally failed the Irish abroad on the question of the vote, because the system behind it was deeply flawed. The Government could dictate the limitation on any question as the Irish government did over the votes for the Irish abroad, and the Irish abroad got a tokenistic vote in a seven year presidential election, which is meaningless and without any power or purpose. The meeting held in the Constitution Unit of University College London was entitled Citizens Assemblies How can the UK learn from Ireland

A second lecture on the same evening raised the same question again. This was held at the Commercial Law centre at the Queen Mary College and was entitled Winning the Right to Vote which was based on the Irish abroad getting the vote in Ireland.

On 19th October IBRG members attended the Hammersmith Irish centre for the showing of the new film Black ’47 with questions afterwards to the Director. Pat Reynolds was able to raise a question of the Great Starvation from the floor.

On 25th October IBRG members attended the Hammersmith Irish centre for the Launching of small book on the Border by Ivan Gibbons, which he had rushed out to coincide with the Brexit debate on borders. The title of his small book was Drawing the Line the Irish Border in British politics.

On 26th October President Higgins got his second term in office for another seven years.
On 28th October IBRG members attended the MacSwiney commemoration at Southwark cathedral.
On 12th November IBRG members attended St Marks Church near Euston to hear John McDonnell speak on his economic vision for socialist future in his talk Transforming the State.
On 13th December IBRG members attended Somerset House in London to hear a BAIS lecture on the Irish in the American Civil war.

2019

On 22nd January Pat Reynolds had an online Guardian reply on the People’s Assemblies which the Guardian was promoting, again raising the issue that even this was flawed because Governments could dictate what was debated.
On 12th March IBRG members attended a debate at the London School of Economics on Brexit.
On 1st May IBRG members attended the Hammersmith Irish centre to hear Roy Foster speak mainly on the Irish revolution and he spoke about the role of women. He had been criticised in the past for leaving women out of his Irish history. Pat Reynolds asked him about the 1918 Irish election, a real Brexit of its own, and a huge majority vote by the Irish people which had been ignored and both communities in N. Ireland had paid the price for this ever since.

On 8th May the Irish writer Martina Evans was speaking to a full house at the Hammersmith Irish centre where she paid tribute to the Green Ink bookshop as resource in her early writing.

On 23rd May the Euro elections were held for the last time in the UK

On 3rd July the Minister for the Diaspora was in Camden where Pat Reynolds challenged him on the vote for emigrants. Most of the groups attending were all clients of the Irish state in that they were all receiving funding from the Irish government.

 

On 26th June Martin Ferris was at the Camden Irish centre where he was launching a new book “Ireland’s Hunger For Justice”. In discussion with Pat Reynolds, he spoke highly of Maurice Moore now back home in Co Kerry.

On 22nd August IBRG members were at the Camden Irish centre to hear Eamonn McCann speak about the Troubles and Bloody Sunday. Over 200 people attended.

On 26th September IBRG members attended the Hammersmith Irish centre for the Brendan McLua lecture which had the author of Unfinished Business speaking of Republicans who were fighting on after the Good Friday agreement.

On 20th October IBRG members attended the Terence MacSwiney commemoration at Southwark cathedral where only 15 people attended.
On 27th October IBRG members attended the Terence McSweeney commemoration outside of Brixton prison with the police turning up just as we finished. The meeting was called by Sinn Fein supporters in London.

On 5/6th December the Daily Mail ran a large-scale feature story over several pages attacking Corbyn over a made-up story over the Irish in Islington Project, and a false allegation that Corbyn had got a job for an ex-IRA bomber, and secured the job for him.
The story was totally made up and total nonsense without one shred of evidence to back it up. It was just propaganda. The Mail even claimed that Corbyn shared an office with an IRA bomber despite the Corbyn office being over two miles away at the Red Rose club. Pat Reynolds as former Chair of the Irish in Islington project put in a complaint to IPSO over the story, which is still awaiting adjudication.

 

2020
On 28th January IBRG attended the Grand Committee Room at the House of Commons to hear the new Sinn Fein MP John Finucane son of the murdered solicitor Pat Finucane.

On 31st January the UK left the EU for good.

On 8th February there was an Irish General Election in which Sinn Fein emerged as the largest party ahead of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael. In the end Fianna Fail and Fine Gael did a deal to keep out Sinn Fein and create a coalition government, with Michaël Martin as Taoiseach reverts back to Fine Gael after two years.

On 9th March Pat Reynolds attended the launch of the digital version of the Irish archives at the Metropolitan University where as the Irish Ambassador was speaking the projection was showing up many images of the history of the IBRG.

COVID-19 locked down Britain in March and ended public meetings and events in Britain for the rest of the year.

 

Black Lives Matters was to dominate politics in the USA and Britain for much of the year.
In June Jim Curran made headlines in the media including the Daily Mail for his support for Black Lives Matter and he was featured on ITV and on the social media all over the world for his stand against racism in the Black Lives campaign.

On 15th July the Haringey Irish centre closed for good. The IBRG had been involved in setting it up back in the 1980’s and its first chair was Maurin Higgins of IBRG.

On 4th September Brendan Mulkere Irish music teacher died.
In October Paddy Cowan founder of the Irish World died and Pat Reynolds paid tribute to him in the Irish World the next week.

On 3rd November the USA election took place with Joe Biden of Irish descent winning over Trump of German descent.

On 17th December Pat Reynolds had the top letter in the Irish Post on votes for emigrants in response to the Irish government published policy towards the Irish aboard, where it falsely claimed to have the best relationship in the world with the Irish abroad of all nations. This was clearly nonsense as the Irish Government was one of the most backward governments in the world, when it came to the vote for its citizens aboard and there was a democratic deficit in Ireland.

During 2020 Pat Reynolds wrote up a year-by-year history of the IBRG which Bernadette Hyland blogged on line. It now means that the history of the IBRG will be there for future generations to read and learn from. Bernadette has also given over her archive of IBRG history – including the Minute Books of North West IBRG branches – to the Working Class Movement and the Irish Collection there- and students and activists will be able to access it.

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

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

Read previous posts on IBRG history here

More IBRG history on the website (now defunct) here

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History of Irish in Britain Representation Group, part twenty five, 2005

 

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.

 

Christy McGrath’s story written in prison 2005

 

 

 

On 9th January Pat Reynolds and Andy Parr took British Times journalist Steve Baggins into Gartree Prison for a meeting with Christy McGrath. In the end the Times did not cover the story despite the journalist making the trip to see the prisoner.

On 11th January James Gillespie Secretary of Faraday Ward Labour Party in Camberwell South London, wrote to Sports England, having been referred to them by Harriet Harman MP and Tessa Jowell MP Minister for Sports, Culture and Media, to set up a meeting with the GAA in Britain, to develop a working relationship in terms of supporting the GAA, via funding coaching and training.

James copied Pat Reynolds IBRG, Noel O’Sullivan Vice Chair London GAA, and the two MPs into his letter. The IBRG had last year put in a submission to the Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group on this same issue about Irish games and culture.

The Irish community were unique in many ways in not adopting the colonial games apart from Soccer and rugby, but the Irish did not play these in large number nor did they play cricket much. Many of the colonial minorities in Britain played cricket the West Indies, Pakistani, Indians while many of the Africans had adopted to soccer. This left the Irish in Britain in an isolated position, in that they and their children could not take part in much of British sports, as their primary games were Gaelic football for both men women and children, hurling and camogie, while in culture it often followed the same lines with Irish dancing and Music, being outside the mainstream in Britain, unfunded and unpromoted.

In an earlier letter from Tessa Jowell to Harriet Harman on the same issue on 25th December 2004, Tessa stated ‘Sports England has the strategic lead for sports in England and is responsible for working with others to create opportunities to get involved in sport, to stay in sport, and to excel and succeed in sport at every level. This involved making focussed investments though partners, providing advice, support and knowledge to partners and customers and influencing the decision makers and public opinion on sport’.

The question is why did Sports England never reach out to the Irish community and to Gaelic Games. It was the same question Pat Reynolds had asked of the BBC and the Guardian over their row about Pat Canavan of Tyrone and Johnny Wilkinson, where clearly Gaelic games had far more support than rugby and more players.

On 12th January IBRG members attended a meeting at the House of Commons at which Pat Rabbitte TD spoke. He was challenged over the rights of the Irish abroad to vote in Ireland, but he flunked the question and did not answer it.

On 18th January IBRG attended the Christy McGrath meeting at Kings Cross London to plan for the year ahead at a pub owned by a Tipperary man.

Unlawful detention of nine prisoners in Belmarsh

On 20th January IBRG members supported the picket of Downing St over the unlawful detention of nine prisoners in Belmarsh under the PTA, the so called new Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001, which the IBRG had warned about at the time.

The House of Lords had ruled on 16th December 2004, and granted the appeal of the men against detention, and quashed the derogation under Article  5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and noted that their detention was incompatible with the ECHR.

Lord Hoffman put it well when he stated’ the real threat to the life of the nation…comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these. It calls into question the very existence of an ancient liberty of which this country has, until now, been very proud-freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention’.

The Law Lords ruled there was no state of emergency in Britain, and therefore no sufficiency rationale to justify the UK dropping out from Article 5, which guarantees the right of habeus corpus.

Charles Clark, the Home Secretary, was still refusing to release the men until Parliament had time to review the law. Here we get laws first used on the Irish now being extended to other emigrant communities.

Votes for Irish Emigrants

At the end of January, the IBRG drew attention to how Iraqis living abroad could still vote at home despite the war .  There were over 1M Iraqis living abroad and they had to register at their Embassies to be able to vote, some 237,704 did register to vote about 25% of the total.  In Britain of 150,000 Iraqi living here only 27,839 registered to vote, and they could register in London, Glasgow and Manchester.

There were lessons for the Irish government here to see how a war-torn country could still allow their citizens abroad in many countries of the world, the right to vote and they did in large numbers in Britain, USA, Germany, Iran, Jordan, Syria, and Turkey.

On 10th February An Phoblacht covered a letter from Pat Reynolds PRO IBRG on Votes for Emigrants around the elections in Iraq. The letter stated ‘No Dublin government has given any rational explanation argument, as to why they continue to deny the Irish abroad the vote. Yet, no country’s Diaspora has been more loyal to their homeland than the Irish, provided money during difficult times in Ireland, from the Great Starvation to the economic recession in the 1980s, they return yearly to Ireland for holidays and bring their children, they promote the Irish name abroad, and carry Irish culture abroad’.

If the Iraqi government in a war-torn country could organise a vote for its 1M citizens abroad why can’t the Irish government do so in peacetime. Why is there such a democratic deficit still in Ireland in the rights of their citizens abroad having the vote? The Irish government had failed its emigrant community time and again. By 1961 because of the failure of successive Irish government there were 780,000 Irish citizens living in Britain the largest emigrant and racial group in Britain.

In that year alone, 1961 the Irish in Britain, sent home £13.5M pounds to help their families at home, it was the equal that year to the amount that the Irish government spent on both its primary and secondary education in Ireland. In a way the Irish abroad were paying for the education of its people the whole nation at home. Yet they denied that community the vote. Even using the bogus taxation argument, the Irish abroad were entitled to the vote in Ireland and were earning it.

At the end of January, the IBRG criticised “ The Scattering” a history of the Irish centre in Camden for its very limited portrayal of the Irish in Camden.

Christy McGrath meeting at House of Commons

On 2nd February Pat Reynolds was speaking at a House of Commons meeting on Christy McGrath with John McDonnell MP and Leabras O Murchu Irish senator and Seamus Healy TD.

The meeting was well attended and reported in the Irish Post, Irish World, Racing Post, Morning Star, the Nationalist and other papers.  The meeting was to launch Christy’s own story about his arrest and his conviction. On 21st February the IBRG sent out 20 copies of Christy’s booklet to some 20 national dailies in Britain and Ireland, but with no response due to the racism of the British media towards the Irish.

Despite Christy having the support over 180 parliamentarians in Britain and Ireland, not one single British daily or Sunday paper would cover the case, yet the same papers regularly ran stories where only one MP was supporting a case.

It showed the uphill struggle for Irish people trying to get justice in Britain. Likewise, not a single Irish death in custody was ever covered by the British media. When it came to came to the Irish there was complete silence and censorship, to let Irish families and communities suffer on their own.

Even when the rabid anti Irish racist John Junor knighted by Thatcher stated ‘Wouldn’t you rather be a pig than be Irish’, not one single British journalist or media outlet from papers to radio covered it, or defended the Irish community, and all the churches stayed silent including the English Catholic Church to their great shame.

Bloody Sunday Rally

On 6th February IBRG Members attended the Bloody Sunday rally Time for Truth at Conway Hall with speakers Jeremy Corbyn MP, Raymond McCartney Sinn Fein and Jean Hegarty from the Bloody Sunday Relatives and an Iraqi speaker, but no speaker from the Irish community in Britain.

Murder of Irish people

On 9th February the Guardian covered the story of another 42-year-old Irishman kicked to death by two teenage girls He had over 50 injuries to his body and they left him to die, but came back to steal his wallet and mobile phone. The man’s father from Co Antrim had been murdered by Loyalist many years earlier. The 42-year-old was murdered in his own home.

Then on St Patrick day a 41-year-old Dublin man was kicked to death in Willesden in West London. The IBRG highlighted these cases as a regular occurrence where there was a high homicide rate against the Irish, because of racism and their position in poor communities often being the innocent victims of serious crimes.

Apology for Conlon and Maguire Families

On 9th February Kevin McNamara sponsored an Early Day Motion on the Government Apology to Conlon and the Maguire Families which stated ‘This House welcomes the statement of apology  made by the Prime Minister to the Conlon and Maguire families, ….greatly regrets the miscarriage of justice in the case of Gerald Conlon and all the Guildford Four, as well as Giuseppe Conlon and Annie Maguire and all of the Maguire Seven, recognises the trauma caused these families and the stigma attaches to them to this day, expressed sorrow that the families were subject to such an ordeal and such an injustice, wholeheartedly agrees with the remarks of the Prime Minister, and believes that the families deserve to be completely and publicly exonerated’.

He could also have mentioned that the Labour Party facilitated all of these wrong convictions, while in power and the taking of political hostages from the Irish community. He could also have mentioned how the Catholic Church covered up for over 14 years the fact that Gerry Conlon spent the night of the Guildford bombing, at one of their Catholic run hostels in Ques Road in Kilburn.

On 23rd February IBRG members attended a Christy McGrath meeting in London.

Also, on 23rd February IBRG members attended a meeting at the Camden Irish centre on Peace Process in Crisis chaired by Dodie McGuiness, Sinn Fein rep in Britain, with Jeremy Corbyn MP and Alex Maskey MLA Sinn Fein.

On 27th February the IBRG challenged the BBC programme Panorama over their presentation of Rangers v Celtic matches as being racist on both sides without looking at the colonial legacy behind the match, and the difference between a supremacist ideology and a culture of resistance. There was a complete failure to examine British racism and the racism shown in Scotland over many generations towards the Irish from the Church and the state.

On 13th March the IBRG helped run the stall at the St Patricks day Parade and celebrations in London for Christy McGrath.

On 21st May the IBRG put out a statement on the Home Office response to the Christy McGrath case which was covered in several Irish papers here and in Ireland. On 22nd March Pat Reynolds had an interview with Tipp FM on the Christy McGrath case

On 24th March Pat Reynolds was speaking at a public meeting at the Red Rose Club on Christy McGrath along with Jeremy Corbyn MP for North Islington.

On 31st March Pat Reynolds and Andy Parr took Eamon Wynne from the Nationalist newspaper in Tipperary in to see Christy McGrath in Gartree prison. This led to a huge write up in the Nationalist paper in Tipperary.

In March the IBRG drew attention to the position in Zimbabwe where Prime Minister Mugabe had banned their exiles from voting. It had parallels with Ireland in that there were nearly as many people living outside the country as inside it . There were five million living abroad and they were taking the government to the Supreme Court in Harare to challenge the Prime Minister.  Human Rights lawyers stated that the challenge would highlight constitutional abuse by Mugabe and the action taken by a London base group Diaspora Vote Action Group, seeking to overturn the ‘illegal and unconstitutional decision to bar citizens abroad form voting.

Where are the Human Rights lawyers challenging the Irish government over their illegal and unconditional actions against their emigrants abroad?

Call for end of ban on Gaelic sports

On 14th April the IBRG put out a statement Irish in Britain call for end of British ban on Gaelic sports. The statement followed an IBRG survey of coverage of sports within the UK of all sports ranging from TV Radio and newspapers, and based on the numbers playing, and the number supporters following the sport.

The IBRG discovered a total institutional ban on any mention of Gaelic sports by the British media, which could not be explained by the numbers playing or the number of followers. Thus, only British sports in Ireland were reported. Thus, rugby matches in Ireland even club matches were reported. The same with soccer. For example, the BBC sport results on Saturday evening would give results of games where only couple of hundred attended, while the Ulster Gaelic football final attracting thousands would not even be mentioned.  You can get the results of Longford Town playing a soccer match, but not the Longford Gaelic football playing an inter county match. Other sports like golf and horse racing follow similar lines.

The IBRG called for a level playing field and for equal coverage of Gaelic games. It would appear that the British media do actually apply Norman Tebbit’s cricket test to Irish games and culture.

On 26th April, the Chrity McGrath  campaign leaders Andy Parr and Pat Reynolds, asked the Irish Embassy to visit Christy in prison, and to take up his case with the Home office with their concerns, as over 180 parliamentarians were now supporting in case. The press release got covered in a number of papers on the visit to the Embassy.

On 5th May there was a British General Election where Tony Blair and Labour won a third term in office. It was his third and last term during which he would hand over to Gordon Brown just before the collapse of the economic markets worldwide in 2008.

On 19th May IBRG members attended a Christy McGrath meeting in London.

On 11th June IBRG members attended a benefit for Christy McGrath at the Black Horse pub in Camden.  Jeremy Corbyn MP and Pat Reynolds spoke at the benefit on the case which got a full house.

On 20th May Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG got a letter back from the Irish Labour Party Chief Whip on the issue of free travel for Irish pensioners form abroad while on holidays in Ireland. His reply stated ‘I am extremely frustrated with Government inaction on the issue, the Government has been examining the issue for long enough. If Minister Brenan were to start the process of free travel by granting it to Irish pension holders abroad, he will find that there are no legal constitutional or treaty provisions hindering its implementations. This simple matter is being kicked to touch by a Government that pays lip service to the diaspora but fails to implement the policies, it says it has to help them’.

With the letter the TD enclosed a Progress report on implementing the recommendation of the Task Force on policy regarding emigrants, of specific relevance to the Department of Social and Family affairs.

Much of the document was about many of the issues raised by Geaorid MacGearailt in his Emigration document back in the 1980’s, so 20 years later the Irish government are beginning to address these issues which IBRG raised with them 20 years ago.

Christy McGrath meeting in Ireland

On 26th June Pat Reynolds was speaking at the Carrick Hotel in Carrick on Suir in a public meeting on Christy McGrath in his home town. John McDonnell MP, Seamus Healy TD and Labras O’Murchu Irish Senator also spoke. The meeting drew a huge crowd. The meeting got an editorial and a huge write up in the Nationalist.

On 27th June Pat Reynolds was speaking with John McDonnell and the family at a packed Press Conference at Buswells Hotel in Dublin opposite Dail Eireann, A large number of TDs attended including Sinn Fein. Diarmuid Breatnach, now back in Dublin, turned up for the meeting as did Michael Holden. There were at least six IBRG members at the meeting in Dublin. The meeting got great publicity in Ireland in the press and radio. Christy’s parents were present on the platform and his mother spoke to the meeting.

On 3rd July the IBRG and Christy McGrath campaign had two stalls at the Southwark Irish festival and were supported by the Tipperary Association on the day.

On 7th July bombs on the London underground killed some 37 people including one Irish person. The bombs were relating to Tony Blair’s war in the Gulf. The government went on to use the bombing to bring in more draconian laws to police Britain.

On 16th July IBRG and Christy McGrath campaign shared a stall at the huge Rise festival in Victoria Park in East London part of the anti-racist festival supported by all the big Trade unions. About 80,000 attended the events put on by the TUC, GLA and the National Assembly against Racism. The Workers Beer Company organised the stalls, and the beer for the Festival.

On 22nd July a panicky police force shot dead an innocent Brazilian man, Jean Charles de Menezes  at Stockwell tube station and the lies started straight away. The Irish community was used to this from the Diarmuid O’Neill case in London.

On 28th August IBRG members attended an IBRG and Christy McGrath stall at Crawley Irish festival.

On 4th September IBRG member attended the St Bridget’s Irish Festival in Greenford along with the Christy McGrath campaign. John McDonnell attended for most of the day as it was his constituency.

On 24th September IBRG marched in the anti-war huge demonstration In London against the Iraq war.

Death of Seamus O’Coillean

In October the IBRG learned of the sad death of Seamus O’Coillean of Lambeth IBRG who was living in Cardiff. He was also a member of Conrad na Gaeilge and the Celtic league and used to teach the Irish language classes for Lambeth IBRG. He was a sad loss at such an early age.

On 21st October IBRG members attended a benefit at the Black Horse pub in Camden for Christy McGrath.

IBRG calls for inquiry into Southwark Council’s treatment of an  Irish tenant

On 6th November the IBRG put out a press statement IBRG calls for Inquiry into Southwark Council after the Ombudsman gave a judgement Maladministration causing injustice against an Irish tenant. Southwark Council had accused and targeted an Irish tenant of causing racial abuse without one shred of evidence. The Irishman himself was married to an Asian woman.

The Ombudsman in finding the Council guilty of discrimination causing injustice awarded the Irishman only £1k in compensation. The Irish community in Southwark were shocked and alarmed at the actions of Southwark Council, who lead the charge against the Irishman without one iota of evidence. The Council had given their staff a blank cheque to carry out acts of discrimination against the Irish community, and were out of control. The Irishman had been a lifelong anti-racist campaigner adding further insult to the Council’s false claims. The Council basically tried to frame up this Irishman with a malicious allegation which was clearly made up. It was blatant attempt to get the Irishman, but they picked the wrong man who exposed their corruption and anti-Irish discrimination.

Neither the Irish Post nor the Irish World would cover the case, despite been given the details which was shocking as it was in the South London press. Again, Jodie Clark and Pat Reynolds had supported this man in his case.

On 12th November the IBRG Ard Choiste met in Manchester with Bernadette Hyland and Pat Reynolds attending.

Pat Reynolds fed back on the Christy McGrath campaign which had had the written support of 50 British MPs and 134 Irish TDs and Senators.

Yet the British media which often ran campaigns where just one MP was supporting a case, were refusing across the board from the Guardian to the Daily Mail to cover Christy’s case. It showed the level of racism in the British media and the high bar to get any recognition in the British media for Irish case of injustice.

Basically, the British media will supress any case where there is an injustice against Irish people. It was only towards the end days that the British media covered the cases of the Birmingham Six Guildford Four or the Maguire seven.

Pat reported that the Barry George campaign was slow because the family were divided over any campaign, with his sister running the main campaign while the uncle was trying to run a campaign too. The case was getting lot of media coverage not because of Barry but because of Jill Dando, and her public profile while alive. Barry was innocent and the likely killer was probably a Serbian hitman after the British bombed the Serbia TV station.

The IBRG were considering a cross community campaign for the vote in Ireland next year as there was a general election due in Ireland in 2007. Bernadette reported that there were plans in Manchester to celebrate the 60 anniversary of the Spanish Civil War, which Manchester IBRG would support. Pat raised the case of an Irishman in Southwark who had won a case against Southwark Council. The case was shocking where officers of the council framed up an innocent Irishman in public housing over a case of racial harassment. The IBRG were supporting the man and his family an Irish Asian family with their case. There had been a number of Irish cases in Southwark over the years which had been referred to the Ombudsman and where Jodie Calk had helped the families get justice.

On 5th December the IBRG put out a press release on the Health of the Irish in Britain.

On 8th December Pat Reynolds was on a Christy McGrath delegation to Dublin where they met Bertie Ahern Taoiseach, and Enda Kenny Leader Fine Gael, and Tom Hayes Chair of Fine Gael in Dail Eireann along with other TD’s. Over 130 TD now supported the campaign after a letter lobbying campaign by Pat Reynolds. Given that Ministers could not sign petitions as in Britain nearly every TD in Dail Eireann supported Christy.

Pat Reynolds targeted by the Police

Pat and Kevin at Easter Rising commemoration Dublin 1991

On 12/13th December Pat Reynolds had his house raided and occupied by police for two days in a false arrest of his son Kevin. Kevin  was wrongfully arrested and held for 36 hours for no good reason other than he was Irish, and that his father was a political activist involved in miscarriages of justice campaigns.

This appeared to be a sting operation, a frolic of their own by the Met Police, to disrupt the work of the work of the IBRG and the justice campaigns for Christy McGrath, Barry George and others.  The arrest purported to be in relation to the murder and after death rape of teenager Sally Ann Bowman in South London.

There was no reason under the law as to why Kevin Reynolds was arrested as the Met Police knew from the Australian Police that the man, they were looking for was 15 years older than Kevin Reynolds. Furthermore, this was a DNA related murder inquiry and the Met Police already had Kevin’s DNA on their system from a previous incident, where he had been wrongfully arrested. Two police officers made false statements about him, which were shown to be complete lies, after the family got CCTV evidence to show both officers to be lying, yet neither the Courts or CPC did anything to deal with the corrupt behaviour of the two officers involved.

The issue related to a late night after club event where English supporters on a day that England had won were celebrating, but Kevin supports Ireland. He was accused of throwing a lighted cigarette at a police officer below in a tunnel. Kevin was a non-smoker and the video evidence showed the officers to be lying and that both officers had fabricated the story.

The incident raised concerns about how many other students like Kevin had been wrongly arrested and sometimes given a conviction. Lucky, he had an aware family, who sought the withheld video evidence on the police evidence list which showed him to be totally innocent.

In the Sally Anne Bowman case, Kevin Reynolds should never have been arrested as the Met Police had his finger prints and DNA already on their system, this was confirmed by the Forensics people, so the Met had no excuse. The Live scan also showed that his fingerprints were also already on their system.

In the early part of their investigation the Met police were given over 50 names by members of the public in relation to this murder, but yet the Met never arrested one of them, only requested them to provide DNA for elimination purposes.

So why was Kevin Reynolds arrested. Because of his job he has to have an enhanced CRB clean record as indeed has his father Patrick.   BBC Crimewatch on 13th December identified a further 30 names given to the police, with again not a single person arrested.

So why was Kevin Reynolds arrested. Out of 80 persons named they only one arrested just happened to be an Irish man already eliminated by his DNA, where the police already had his DNA and could eliminate him without arresting him. The police raided the home of his father but refused to say who was in charge of the operation, and never asked his father one single question.

You might think that a murder inquiry, might want to know where an alleged suspect was on the night of the murder, and ask the person he was living with. This shows this to be a bogus raid, a frolic of their own, to get back at a civil rights campaigner, and to disrupt his work.

For two days they tore his father’s house apart. Even when Dixie, the real murderer, was arrested the police released him after taking his DNA and only arrested him for the murder days later.

The arrest was unlawful and both father and son told the police this during their 36-hour ordeal, that the police had his fingerprints and DNA, and that there was diary evidence that Kevin was at home on the night of that incident, and you are looking for a man 15 years than Kevin Reynolds.

The Met police have yet to give any explanation for the arrest of Kevin Reynolds and why they detained him for 36 hours. There was clear evidence that the Met Police were tapping the house phone of the Reynolds family right up until 2007 and beyond for political purposes. The Met response to clear evidence of phone tapping revealed in data disclosed was. ‘we can neither confirm nor deny that your phone is being tapped’.

Three Special branch detectives attended the house for several hours during the prolonged search over two days with some 30 forensic officers involved at a cost of over £100,000 pounds. Patrick Reynolds found that many files had been tampered, with particularly the files around miscarriages of justice including Barry George and Christy McGrath.

The real reason as to why the Police raid and arrest was carried out was given later in the Independent Police Complaint Commission inquiry, where one of the officers involved in the raid stated in writing,  ‘His father (meaning Patrick Reynolds) was an old IRA man who was of interest to the Special Branch’.  This was totally untrue but clearly the officer had been told this in the briefing before the house raid and search. The raid was a political inspired raid on an Irish family for no good reason.

The story was covered in the Morning Star, Private Eye, the Irish Post and the Irish papers. Paul Donavan writing in the Irish Post stated that there would be disquiet in the Irish community until there was an inquiry into this arrest, the 36 hours detention, and the 2-day house search of the Reynolds household.

Years later the case came back to haunt the British police when they started their campaign to set up a National DNA base in Britain, and their argument that if you were innocent, you had nothing to fear. The case of Kevin Reynolds showed that a person had everything to fear, even when innocent and even if your DNA was on their system. Kevin’s case was raised at The Greater London Assembly and in the papers, to challenges the police campaign for a DNA data base.  The police had no answer to this day as to why Kevin Reynolds was arrested.

The Officer in charge who gave the order to arrest Kevin Reynolds and ordered the two-day search of the house was Stuart Cundy, despite there being clear forensic evidence available to him that Kevin Reynolds could not have been involved.

This was not the last Haringey case where Stuart Cundy was involved. Later on, 4th August 2011, he gave the order to hard stop a car where a Black Irishman Mark Duggan was shot and killed on the street, which gave rise to concerns in the Haringey Communities of a shoot to kill policy.

Mystery surrounds the killing of Mark Duggan and how an alleged gun ended up in a field well away from the Taxi. Some years earlier Harry Stanley was shot in Hackney when the police believed him to be an Irish man.

Stuart Cundy would later head the Met Police response to the Grenfell disaster in London.

During 2005 Maurice Moore returned to his native Kerry after many years working in the vineyards of the Irish and working-class communities in Britain and in Coventry. Maurice had put in some solid 20 years work for IBRG in Coventry.

He was for most of this time Cisteor/Treasurer of IBRG. He left behind him a great legacy of defending the rights of the Irish community, from Irish prisoners to Irish language rights, death in custody like Leo O’Reilly, campaigns like Kate Magee, the anti PTA campaign, to the rights of the local working-class community in Coventry. The IBRG loss is Kerry’s gain.

The IBRG had lost many of its leaders over recent years with most moving back to Ireland.  Virginia Moyles, Diarmuid Breathnach, Joe and Margaret Mullarkey, Maurice Moore, Majella Crehan, Siobhan O’Dwyer and Michael Kneafsey had all moved home.

80% of the IBRG branch leadership were now back in Ireland which left a branch-based structure in Britain very weak with only Manchester and North London operating and with many members across Britain. The IBRG would now become a membership-based organisation rather than having a branch structure, as the Internet was opening up a new world for organisations to adopt to.

During 2005 the IBRG had focussed on the campaign to get justice for Christy McGrath and to speed up his campaign to get him released. The IBRG had also supported the Barry George campaign as best it could.

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

More IBRG history on the website (now defunct) here

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History of Irish in Britain Representation Group, part twenty four, 2004

 

 

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.

On 17th January Pat Reynolds went to Gartree Prison in Leicestershire to see Christy McGrath to plan the year ahead in term of campaigning.

On 25th January IBRG members attended the Bloody Sunday Rally at Conway Hall and had a stall there.

In mid-February the Christy McGrath Campaign got a real boost with coverage in the Sunday World, a two-page spread, the Irish Independent, the Irish World, the Irish Post and Waterford Today.

On 25th February Pat Reynolds attended the Christy McGrath campaign meeting at Kings Cross

On 28th February the IBRG Ard Choiste met in Manchester with Bernadette Hyland and Pat Reynolds present.

The meeting heard of the work in the Christy McGrath campaign with 20 British MPs now backing the campaign. The campaign had met with Noel Lynch Greater London Assembly member for the Greens who gave the campaign his full support.

The meeting heard about the campaign on deaths in custody and the fight to get justice for the families. The IBRG had taken part in the silent march to Downing street on 25th October, to protest over the high number of Black and Irish deaths in custody.

The meeting thanked Diarmuid Breatnach for all his hard work for IBRG and the Irish community, and wished him every success in his new endeavours in Dublin in work and in activism.

The meeting heard that Pat Reynolds had resigned as Chair of the Irish Equalities Group in London. The meeting heard that elections in N. Ireland which had been delayed for months by Blair were held on 26th November with Sinn Fein and the DUP making gains. However, they were all elected to a non-sitting Assembly, which was an exercise in surreal democracy.

14 March The IBRG had a stall at the St Patricks Day Festival on the South Bank and also supported the Christy McGrath stall on the day. Despite the wet day there was a lot of interest in both the Christy McGrath campaign, and the IBRG literature mainly from students and London visitors.

30 Anniversary of Troops Out Movement

On 24th April TOM were celebrating their 30th anniversary at the Haringey Irish centre, set up in 1974 they had campaigned consistently for Troops out of Ireland and for a United Ireland. Their annual delegation to Ireland was planned for 12-15th August this year.

Launch of Jockey’s Petition for Christy McGrath

On 27th April Pat Reynolds spoke at the House of Commons on the launch of the Jockeys Petition for Christy McGrath. Labras O’Murchu Fianna Fail Senator from Tipperary, Seamus Healy Independent TD from Tipperary and John McDonnell MP all spoke. The meeting generated much publicity in the Irish media including the Irish World and the Irish Post.

On 11th May Pat Reynolds was speaking at a Civic Reception at the Town Hall in Clonmel on behalf of the Christy McGrath campaign and later interviewed by Mid Tipp radio. The event got good media coverage in Ireland and in the Irish weeklies in Britain. The Tipperary Association in London came over with the campaign to Clonmel this time. Over 40 British MPs were now supporting this campaign.

On 21st May the IBRG Ard Choiste met in Coventry. Maurice Moore, Tim Logan and Pat Reynolds attended with apologies from Bernadette Hyland and Sean Hone.

Pat Reynolds reported back on the successful trip to Clonmel on the Christy McGrath campaign where they had a civic reception on11th May. Over 40 MPs were now supporting the campaign and the Tipperary Association from London came over to Clonmel for the event. They had also launched a Jockeys Petition at the House of Commons with John McDonnell MP, Seamus Healy TD, and Lauras OMurchu Senator speaking.

The report back from the Deaths in Custody campaign noted that another Irishman had died in custody in Wormwoods Scrubs in West London. John Boyle from Donegal who was reported to have hung himself under stress. The Government had paid out large sums of money at that prison because of brutality from the warders.

The election for Mayor of London was coming up on 10th June and Livingstone was likely to win it again, there were also European elections on the same day and Sinn Fein were expecting their first seat in Europe.

Maurice Moore raised a case in Coventry where the Dion funded worker had been treated poorly by their management committee, and Pat reported he had dealt with a few similar cases in London. He identified a lack of training of many management committee members, who had little material experience outside their voluntary role. It was up to the Dion committee to set up training and a good complaints system for their workers.

On 26th May the IBRG attended the Christy McGrath campaign meeting at Kings Cross.

On 30 the May the IBRG had a stall at Woking Irish Festival bringing Irish literature to the community. The IBRG also supported the Christy McGrath staff on the day as both stalls were set up beside each other.

On 10th June Ken Livingstone won his second term as Major of London and Sinn Fein won their first two seats in Europe.

Exclusion of Irish at conference  Creating Confident Communities 

On 17th June there was a conference entitled Creating Confident Communities put on by the London Criminal Justice Board Building Trust & Confidence with London’s Black and Minority Ethnic Communities. It did not have single Irish speaker despite the huge numbers of Irish deaths in custody, the large number of innocent Irish prisoners, the high number of Irish stop and searches and the operation of the PTA.

It was a case NO Irish need Apply again where the Irish were excluded deliberately again and again.

On 20th June the IBRG had a literature staff at the Finsbury Park Fleadh where we also campaigned for Christy McGrath.

On 4th July the IBRG had a stall at the Southwark Irish Festival along with a stall for Christy McGrath.

Concern over verdicts in Irish Cases

In early August the IBRG took up the case of a Monaghan man kicked to death at Christmas 2003. The issue was s covered by the Irish World and later Shannonside Radio interviewed Pat Reynolds on the issue, The IBRG highlighted the fact that even in death Irish people did not get any kind of justice in Britain for the families left behind. Irish life in Britain was always cheap and went unnoticed.

On 8th August the IBRG put out a statement entitled Concern over verdicts in Irish cases. The case was local to Pat Reynolds where the Irishman was homeless and begging in Wood Green. His flatmate in a squat had beat him to death, and he had 17 different injuries to his body and facial wounds to indicate he had been stamped on, and the perpetrator waited hours before calling an ambulance. Yet he was only convicted of manslaughter and given seven years when it was clearly murder. There were now several cases in Britain where even in death the Irish person and his family will not get any kind of justice from the system.

Pat Reynolds stated ‘His death is one too many at the edges of the Irish community, and one in which parts of our community in its smugness wants to ignore and forget, without asking why? Sean would have come to Britain with the same high hopes of every emigrant to better himself and make a living, but he fell by the wayside. When he needed help and support it was not there. The question needs to be asked and answered, as to why there are so many homeless Irish on the street of Britain, without any kind of support or services to get them off the streets. There was a clear need for a specialist outreach service to reach them. The Irish World had on 13th August IBRG concerned over killer’s sentences.

On 5th September the IBRG attended the St Bridget’s Festival in Greenford in West London which John McDonnell was hoping to develop into a bigger Irish festival.

Exclusion of Irish Sports

On 17th September James Gillespie a Labour Councillor in Southwark and part of the Southwark United Irish community Group, which included Jodie Clark ,wrote to Tessa Jowell Minister for Sports to try, and set up a meeting with her, the London GAA and the wide Irish community including IBRG. Tessa Jowell went on to support the London bid for the 2012 Olympics and win it. Ironically both Tony Banks and Kate Hoey Unionist had Irish connections but did nothing to bring sport to the Irish community. Irish sports were excluded in Britain because it was Irish for over 120 years since the GAA was set up.

On 23rd September there was a Conference on Britain Irish Travellers in central London to launch their report Room to Roam at which John McDonnell spoke

Memorial for Jack Kennedy

On 24th September Pat Reynolds was speaking at a Memorial meeting for Jack Kennedy held at the Camden Irish centre where Jeremy Corbyn MP and Billy Power also spoke. Jack was a member of the Labour Party, the Birmingham Six campaign and the Frank Johnson campaign and was a republican socialist from Tipperary, who had spent years in Australia. He  was a leading member of the Construction Safety campaign along with Andy Higgins who gave the Oration to Jack on the night. Andy was also a fine singer. Mick Gilgun, an IBRG member, also spoke as did Mick Dooley from UCATT. There was a benefit later with music by Sean Brady.

On 27th September Pat Reynolds was speaking at the Labour Party Irish Society fringe meeting at the Charterhouse in Brighton along with the Leader of the SDLP Mark Durkan, Liz McManus of the Irish Labour Party and John McDonnell MP. Pat spoke on behalf of the Christy McGrath campaign and got a good response from the mixed audience. Billy Bragg started the evening by singing Raglan Road the great Paddy Kavanagh song first sung by the Dubliners.

 

On 9th October IBRG members in London attended the Innocence meeting at Conway Hall on miscarriages of justice which showed a huge number of families seeking justice.

The European Social Forum met in London from 15-17 October to discuss issues around racism, discrimination, equality and diversity at the Ally Pally in North London to try and link up struggles across European on social issues. It had its first meeting in Florence in 2002 and Paris in 2003 and now London.

On 19th October The Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group had a meeting in the House of Commons after John McDonnell the Secretary had put out a proposal to have an annual Conference of the Irish in Britain.

In his letter of invitation to the IBRG, The Irish Counties Association, the Irish Embassy AGIY, and the Federation he stated ‘I raised the idea of the need for the Irish Community to come together at least once a year to discuss the issues facing our community, and how we can work together to tackle these issues’ So far I have received nothing but positive comments. Hence, I would like to try and progress this initiative’. It was hoped to launch the event in February 2005.

On 24th October IBRG members attended the Terence McSwiney mass at Southwark cathedral.

On 27th October Jim Gillespie had a letter back from Harriet Harman on getting Tessa Jowell to meet with the GAA. As usual the task was put down to some employee in the department to look at the idea. In terms of supporting Christy McGrath, she stated that as Solicitor General she could not get involved in the campaign as she had to supervise the Crown Prosecution Service.

On 10th November AGIY put forward a proposal for an Irish Criminal Justice Forum in London to address issues on how the criminal justice system affects the Irish community in London. They were inviting Irish organisations in London to become part of this Forum. The concept while good raised some questions, why not a National organisation, and would it leave the Irish working in a parallel way to the mainstream, whereas the recent London Conference about BAME and the Criminal Justice completely left the Irish out.

IBRG challenge over voting rights for Irish in Britain

On 12th November the Irish World had an article entitled FG seeks voting rights for British Passports holders. It involved Fine Gael Senate Leader Brian Hayes asking the Irish government to grant voting right to British passport holders in Ireland, some 36,000 who were already on the electoral lists in Ireland, but could not vote in referenda.

He was arguing that Irish citizens in Britain could vote in all elections in Britain and in any referendum. Pat Reynolds wrote to Senator Hayes on 22nd November challenging him, that he had sidestepped the issue of Irish citizens in Britain, not having the right to vote at home, while British citizens in Ireland retain the vote in Britain for 20 years. The Irish in Britain would dearly love to have the same voting rights as the British in Ireland. The letter also drew attention to the Good Friday agreement, which the Irish government had signed up to, and yet were not prepared to give their own citizens the same rights, as those guaranteed under the Good Friday agreement, in that emigrants from N. Ireland retained their votes at home for 20 years. Ireland remains the odd one out in Europe, in how it treats its citizens abroad.

On 14th December Brain Hayes replied to say he supported extending the franchise to the Irish abroad.  His only proposal however was ridiculous, in that he suggested that a number of Senators be elected by the Irish abroad. Clearly a man more interested in the well represented British citizens living in Ireland with full voting rights than his own emigrants, and him the Leader of the Irish Senate. British citizens could vote in local and European elections in Ireland.

On 13th November the IBRG Ard Choiste took place in Coventry with Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds, Maurice Moore, and Tim Logan present.

The meeting noted the Diarmuid Breatnach had returned home to work in Dublin, he had been a very active member, and officer of IBRG for several years and held the Lewisham branch of IBRG together, and was involved in several other Irish organisations including prisoners support groups, Irish worker group and the Lewisham Irish centre. He was chair of the Lewisham Irish centre and of the Irish Political status group, and held many officer posts in IBRG and in the Irish workers group. He was particularly strong on the Irish language Irish music and Irish culture along with Irish politics and history.

There was a discussion on the Travellers Bill going through Parliament, which had been meant to replace the old Travellers Sites Act that the Tories had abolished in 1994.  The IBRG gave £200 to the Working-Class movement Library film project. £50 to the Ruan O’Donnell conference, and £75 to the Irish Prisoners support group.

Maurice Moore was thanked for his hard work for IBRG over the years and in keeping the books. He was Cisteoir for so many years, but also kept Coventry IBRG  active. He was soon returning to his native Kerry. Maurice had made a huge contribution to IBRG and to the Coventry Irish community and to the labour movement

Their meeting welcomes the second Harry Stanley inquest verdict of unlawful killing and called for the police involved to be prosecuted for their actions.

The meeting condemned the recent hold up and recent arrest of the famous Irish folk singer Christy Moore, and condemned the racism behind his arrest and detention by the police at the port.

In 2021, Joe Mullarkey of Bolton IBRG and P.R.O. of the Birmingham 6 Northwest Campaign comments   “I remember when the B6 campaign was short of funds, Christy came over to London, did the concert with a bad dose of flue and  took no fee or expenses”.

The meeting also called on the British and Irish governments to grant political status to all Irish political prisoners held by both governments.

The meeting condemned the British Government for holding prisoners without trial at Belmarsh prison, and called for their release. The meeting also called on the government to protect the rights of Travellers in Britain, including access to planning law. Sean Hone was prepared to take over as Cisteoir when Maurice left.

Conference for the Irish Community excludes IBRG

On 16th November IBRG members attended the House of Commons meeting for the Irish in Britain Parliamentary group to discuss setting up a conference for the Irish community. John McDonnell proposals for the conference left out completely Employment and Training, and while he included Criminal Justice with AGIY/Bias Women by the London Irish Women’s centre, Education by Professor Mary Hickman, Culture by the Counties Associations who had no experience in this area, Travellers by AGIY/ITM, Housing by Cara/Innisfree and Health by the Federation clearly leaving out IBRG completely, part of the ongoing marginalisation.

Yet the IBRG had enormous experience in many areas Like Gearoid MacGealrailt, Steve Brennan, Pat Reynolds with a Masters in Social Policy, Bernadette Hyland, Maude Casey on Literature, and many more. Both in terms of Education and Welfare the IBRG had put on several conferences and a number on health conferences including the first ever mental health conference.

On 30th November the IBRG attended the Christy McGrath campaign meeting at Kings Cross.

In November Pat Reynolds had a letter published in the Irish World on vote for emigrants

In December Pat Reynolds circulated the British media with details of the Christy McGrath campaign and the British Times and Private Eye expressed interest in his case.

Health Needs of Irish ignored again

In December the IBRG put out a statement entitled Health Needs of Irish ignored again, in which the Irish challenged the General Practise Assessment Questionnaire which only included, white, Black, Asian, and Chinese but No Irish. Yet the health needs of the Irish in Britain were many and ignored.

The IBRG stated that it was very ironic given the contribution the Irish had made in building the hospitals in Britain, and in staffing them, that the NHS should disrespect our community and ignore our needs. It was another example of deliberate and targeted discrimination by the NHS who were even going against CRE recommendations and  the National census ethnic groupings to exclude the Irish. Yet one of the key indications around health in the Irish community had been the reluctance of Irish people, to seek help at an early stage from a GP. This survey gives another clear indication as to why the Irish have low confidence in the health system in Britain addressing their needs.

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

For 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

The IBRG website  (now defunct) can be accessed here

Read previous posts on IBRG history here

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History of Irish in Britain Representation Group, part twenty three, 2003

 

 

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 Website

 

 

In January the IBRG attended the Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group meeting at the House of Commons on the Travellers Reform bill.
On 26th January IBRG members attended the Bloody Sunday Rally at the Camden Irish centre where Tony Benn was the main speaker.
On 15th February IBRG members attended the anti-war march against the USA/British war on Iraq with over one million people.
On 17th February the Miscarriages Of Justice Organisation  had a meeting in the House of Commons with Paddy Joe Hill, John McDonnell MP and Don Hale speaking.

Lewisham IBRG and fight to keep Irish Centre open

Lewisham IBRG were involved in a major fight to keep the Lewisham Irish centre open in the early months of 2003 as the Labour Council sought means to close it. On 21st February Lewisham IBRG had the top letter in the Irish World entitled Will Lewisham Irish show Pride and detailed by fight necessary to keep funding for the Irish centre and for the Lewisham Irish festival.

Christy McGrath Campaign

On 16th March IBRG members helped out on the Christy McGrath stall at the St Patrick Day festival in London on the South Bank. The McGrath family came over for the Parade and Festival.
In 17th March St Patrick Day Pat Reynolds was speaking on Tipp FM radio on the Christy McGrath campaign.

On 29th March the IBRG held their Ard Fheis at Caxton House in North London.
Diarmuid Breatnach was elected Chair with Pat Reynolds as Vice chair and PRO Bernadette Hyland as Membership Secretary and Maurice Moore as Cisteoir.

Branches were represented from North London Lewisham and Manchester, and the following officers attended Bernadette Hyland, Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds, with apologies from Maurice Moore (in Ireland), Michael Holden, Laoise de Paor, Danny Burke, and Myra Butler.

The outgoing Chair Pat Reynolds reported on activities during the year including two main campaigns, the Christy McGrath campaign and the campaign over deaths in custody. The campaign for votes for emigrants had got wide scale publicity in Ireland during the General Election there.

Joe Mullarkey had now retired home to Ireland after many years’ service to both Bolton IBRG and to the national IBRG. Manchester IBRG had taken part in a radical conference in Manchester, and Coventry IBRG had been involved in supporting Travellers’ rights, while Lewisham IBRG had worked on political status, and in defending the Lewisham Irish centre from closure. North London IBRG had worked on the Christy McGrath campaign, on deaths in custody, on Irish equalities group and the Irish in Britain Parliamentary group, as well as the vote for emigrants. The IBRG had got a few TV appearances and several radio interviews on votes for emigrants and deaths in custody along with Christy McGrath. Coverage in the Irish media in Britain had declined.

The returns on the 2001 census were disappointing in that few Irish from the second generation included themselves as Irish. The number of Irish in Britain had declined by about 30% since 1991, and the IBRG like other organisations would have suffered those one third loss of members and support. Many of the Irish, even in IBRG, were returning to Ireland and fewer Irish were coming to Britain. It was also more difficult for IBRG with the new alignment of politics in Britain and Ireland and the move to centrist politics, although the million strong anti-war demonstration showed there was room for progressive politics in Britain.

The following motions were passed;
This Ard Fheis congratulates the Lewisham Irish Community on their successful struggle to save their Irish community centre from closure by the local authority.

This Ard Fheis also commends the Lewisham branch of IBRG for their prominent role in that campaign.

This Ard Fheis calls for an end to the war on Iraq. We condemn the Anglo-American coalition flouting of international law and the direct contravention of the UN Charter. We call for an immediate withdrawal of Angle American forces and call for the UN to step in to negotiate an end to the military adventure. We further condemn the bombing of Iraqi civilians by British and American bombers.

This Ard Fheis welcomes the release of Frank Johnson after 26 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. This Ard Fheis condemns the police investigation into the murder of Irishman Jack Sheridan and the withholding of evidence from the trial which would have vindicated Frank Johnson. This Ard Fheis further condemn the length of time it took the British Home Office to release the withheld evidence and calls for a full inquiry into the whole episode.

The priorities  for 2003-04 were;
Developing the website
The Christy McGrath campaign
“Ceart “Irish deaths in custody Campaign
Barry George Campaign
Free travel for Irish elders from Britain in Ireland
Political status
Votes for emigrants in Ireland.

Death of Eddie Loyden MP
On 5th April the death of Eddie Loyden former MP for Liverpool was announced. He had been a great friend of Ireland and of the Irish in Britain and of working-class communities in Britain He was of Irish descent and always supported a United Ireland. He was at Hillsborough on the day of the great tragedy there and supported the victim’s campaign fully.

Victory at  Lewisham Irish Centre
On 12th April Lewisham IBRG had a letter in the Irish Post with a photo of a protest outside the Lewisham Irish centre to save the centre. The letter entitled Listening to the needs of Lewisham Irish stated that the Council had reconsidered their decision, and would now continue to fund Lewisham Irish centre, which was a notable victory given the cuts across London to Irish centres.

In Islington there was a very strong campaign with huge support but it was a right-wing Liberal Council in Islington which made the cuts.

On 15th April Channel Four showed a programme  on Jill Dando which raised many questions about the conviction of Barry George. The IBRG were supporting Barry George in his campaign to prove his innocence.

On 17th April the Stevens Report on Collusion between the British state and the Loyalist deaths squads came out. It raised serious questions about the death of Patrick Finucane and others at the hands of these British deaths squads which were used as a Kitsonian tactic to intimidate the Nationalist community.

 

On 17th April IBRG members attended a Ceart meeting at the Camden Irish centre on Irish deaths in custody.
In April the Wolfe Tones Society in their newsletter stated ‘Over the last year Sinn Fein have made some ground breaking and important breakthroughs both on the reunification of Ireland and achieving equality and human rights for the Nationalists in the North of Ireland.’ No one in the Irish community knew what they were talking about. Later they stated ‘Unionism is dying like the apartheid regime died in South Africa it only needs a real push by people who support a United Ireland to see it topple.’

 

IBRG condemn Blair’s postponment of N.Ireland elections.
In early May the IBRG condemned the postponement of the N. Ireland elections which exposed the sham of the Good Friday Agreement, where Tony Blair can decide whether the people of the occupied territories can vote or not. British democracy in action, you can only vote when I decide you can vote.
On 5th May the IBRG issued a statement IBRG calls for Democratic Elections in Northern Ireland, condemning Tony Blair for postponing the elections, as symbolic of a colonial and military dictatorship. The Hypocrisy of the Labour government condemning other governments usually military rulers for postponing elections is now clear as they postponed the election without any reason. The people’s right to representation under international law has been broken by Blair. This Labour ruler in Britain had entered an unlawful war with Iraq on the made-up false pretence of there being weapons of mass destruction, when both he and Bush has all the weapons of mass destruction themselves. Democracy belongs to the people not Blair. Every rule in the constitutional rule book has been torn up by Blair without even a debate in Parliament.

Picket of Brixton Prison over number of Irish suicides

On 9th May IBRG members attended the Ceart picket of Brixton prison to protest over the number of Irish suicides there. Over 40 people attended the picket. Seven Irishmen had died there in the last few years. The Heavens report into the deaths in Brixton was a complete whitewash, and the IBRG demanded a public inquiry into the high death rate in Brixton.

On 10th May Pat Cullinane, former Harrow IBRG member, was featured in the Guardian Saturday money section on the front page. It detailed his long fight with the Inland Revenue and the article showed that the Inland Revenue had a case to answer. Pat lost his house and was made homeless because of a disputed tax bill and he was only an ordinary working-class man. The IBRG argued for a change in the law that no person should lose their home, and be made homeless because of a small tax dispute.

Christy McGrath Campaign delegation to Ireland

On 15th May Pat Reynolds and Andy Parr led a large delegation from Britain and from Tipperary to Dail Eireann to raise the case of Christy McGrath. The delegation met 18 TD’s including Minister Eamon O’Cuiv and Brendan Smith Chair of the British Irish Parliamentary Group. The delegation spent all day in the Dail meeting TDs in political groupings. Many TD’s signed up to Christy’s campaign and Lauras O Muirchu and Fintan McGrath raised the case in the Dail and in the Seanad. Delegation met Eamon O’Cuiv Minister of State, Willie O’Dea, Senator Lauras O Muirchu also head of Celotas, Tony Gregory, Seamus Healy, Marion Harkin, Joe Costello Labour person for Justice, Kathleen Lynch, Dan Neville, Brendan Smith, John Deasy Fine Gael person for justice, Paudge Connolly, Tom Hayes, Michael Collins, Caoimhin O’Caolain of Sinn Fein, James Breen, Joe Higgins, Fintan McGrath and Paddy McHugh.

Pat Reynolds spoke on Tipp FM on the case, and it was covered in most of the Irish papers including the Irish Times, Irish Post, Irish World, Nationalist and the Star. The delegation was successful in putting Christy’s campaign on the political map in Ireland and raising the profile of the campaign. Seamus Healy, the socialist TD from Tipp, organised most of the Dail schedule for the campaign.

On 16th May Pat Reynolds attended the Irish Equalities Group meeting with the CRE. Pat chaired the productive meeting which dealt with Travellers, deaths in custody, Census results, new CRE policy strategies on health, education, and criminal justice. The CRE investigation into prisons would be out later in the year.

Report on Irish families and Social Services

On 17th May IBRG members attended the House of Commons launch of Irish children and Social Services Report about how Irish children and families are treated by British Social Services. This was the launch of Paul Garrett’s study of Irish children and social services which he later published. Pat Reynolds had met with him and Pat’s observations on how social services don’t meet the needs of Irish children were included in the book.

On 21st May IBRG members attended a public meeting at the Red Rose Club in Islington organised by the local Labour Party to highlight the Bloody Sunday inquiry. Pat Reynolds was asked to speak around the history of Bloody Sunday and relatives gave details of the public inquiry at Westminster. Jeremy Corbyn was the local MP.

Bobby Sands/James Connolly Rally
On 24th May Pat Reynolds was speaking at the Bobby Sands/ James Connolly Rally at Conway Hall on the Christy McGrath campaign.
The IBRG had two banners at the rally and their banners were on the front page of the Irish World in a photo. IBRG members from London and Coventry attended the rally  in good numbers. Speakers included John McDonnell MP who praised the struggle. Martin Ferris of Sinn Fein, Paul O’Connor from the Pat Finucane campaign, Terry Stewart from Ceart, and the Palestinian Solidarity campaign.

On 31 May the IBRG Ard Choiste met in Manchester with delegates from Manchester, Lewisham, Coventry and London attending. Diarmuid Bratnach, Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Moore and Pat Reynolds attended.
The issues discussed included political status and prisoners at Belmarsh, Christy McGrath campaign and its successful delegation to Dail Eireann, deaths in custody, PTA now used against Muslims, defending John McDonell against the press, and the Working-Class Movement library in Salford were happy to include IBRG material in their Irish collection.

On the case of Christy McGrath, the IBRG drew attention to the case of the two McGraths, where one was a victim in Coventry where his killer only got 18 months, while Christy got life with a tariff of 16 year minimum. It showed the difference between the Irish as victim and as alleged perpetrator as Christy disputes killing the man in his case with evidence. On Construction Safety it was noted that there were 14 construction deaths in the last six weeks, and the IBRG would be raising this with the British Government and at local level with their MPs.

At the end of May IBRG members in London and Coventry defended John McDonnell MP in the press, after he was attacked in the Sun, after his speech at Conway Hall praising the IRA volunteers in their fight for Irish freedom.

On 1st June the IBRG issued a statement IBRG Deplores attacks on John McDonnell MP. The IBRG condemns the Sun and the Guardian with the Guardian calling Martin Ferris a convicted IRA gun runner. The Guardian like the Sun tried to link John McDonnell with the mortar attacks at Heathrow airport which was despicable. John McDonnell’s speech was warmly applauded for several minutes with not one single objection to his speech The IBRG upheld John McDonnell right to free speech on Ireland, and his right to oppose British imperialism in Ireland. Irish people have always honoured those who resisted British terrorism in Ireland. The British media had no problem supporting the Blair Bush war and the bombing without warnings of hotels with civilians. The morality of the British press is to paraphrase Brendan Behan that big bombs are great but little bombs are bad. The Guardian above all papers should know that the war in the six Counties was due to a clear lack of democracy there, and the lack of free speech on Ireland.

Both Maurice Moore and Tim Logan of Coventry IBRG wrote in to the Sun, but they refused to publish any letter in support of McDonnell, thus showing total censorship. As Maurice Moore put it ‘the truth is that the IRA came into being to defend homes and communities in nationalist areas against Loyalist atrocity and attacks, aided by sectarian police (RUC), and bolstered by the presence of the British army. Wherever there is injustice those who fight will be heroes, and deserve to be honoured’.

On 9th June Pat Reynolds went on BBC Radio London about the Irish deaths in Brixton prison.

Relaunch of Malcolm Kennedy Campaign

Patrick Quinn

Malcolm Kennedy

On 12th June Pat Reynolds was speaking at Polish Centre in Hammersmith to relaunch the campaign for Malcolm Kennedy, who had been wrongly convicted of the manslaughter of Patrick Quinn in Hammersmith Police station. The meeting got front page story in the local Hammersmith newspaper. John McDonnell MP also spoke at the meeting along with Graham Smith author of Who killed Patrick Quinn, the framing of Malcolm Kennedy, Mark Metcalf and Malcom Kennedy. Patrick Quinn was an Irish republican who was murdered in Hammersmith police station but not by Malcolm Kennedy. There had been complete cover up as to how Patrick Quinn had been murdered while in police custody and Malcom Kennedy was framed to cover up the truth.

Read article by Mark Metcalf and links between undercover cops and Kennedy case here

On 24th June Pat Reynolds was speaking for the Christy McGrath campaign at the launch of the Jockeys Petition at the House of Commons. The Telegraph and the Press Association sent photographers. John McDonnell MP chaired the meeting.
A number of leading jockeys attended including Grand National winner Richard Guest. Pat Reynolds went on Dublin radio with Christy’ s mother to speak about the campaign.
On 27th June Pat Reynolds met with Niall Quinn of Ireland and Arsenal fame with Gareth Pierce to discuss the case. Niall had been in to see Christy in prison. Niall was to help with press coverage.

On 6th July IBRG members helped with the Christy McGrath stall at Southwark Irish Festival. This contrasted with the London Irish Festival who refused to allow the Birmingham Six a stall. Here at Southwark, you had the Tipperary Association and others like the Meath Association helping us on the day and providing free tea and food for the stall volunteers.

Death of Jack Kennedy

John “Jack “Kennedy plaque.

Jack Kennedy of UCATT and the Birmingham Six Campaign sadly passed away in August. He had also supported the Frank Johnson campaign. Some years later a wall plaque was put up on a gable end wall opposite the Arsenal stadium to commemorate Jacks’ life after he won a local vote on which local person should be so honoured in Islington. Winning from beyond the grave.

On 24th August IBRG helped with the Christy McGrath stall at Crawley Irish festival in Sussex.

On 3rd September IBRG members attended a by election meeting in Brent to launch the campaign for the McBride family to stand in Brent. The IBRG mailed out various Irish organisations and individuals with leaflets on the by election.

Diarmuid Breatnach went back to Dublin in September to start a new job after spending over 30 years as an activist in Britain on socialist and Irish issues. The IBRG wished him well in his new venture and to activism in Dublin.

On 4th October the Coventry Evening Telegraph front page story had Sinn Fein anger over Soldier’s Posting. It involved a young 17-year soldier who was found guilty of using an imitation firearm to steal a motorbike had been allowed by the Judge to walk free. Coventry IBRG highlighted the story and called into question the absurd light sentence, and to the fact that this soldier could be on duty in N. Ireland soon.

On 25th October IBRG members attended the annual Deaths in Police Custody rally and silent march to Downing St over the number of Black and Irish deaths.

 

On 20th November IBRG members attended the Christy McGrath Race meeting at Mabel’s tavern at Euston to raise funds for the campaign.

On 26th November the IBRG attended the CRE Irish Equalities meeting in London. Pat Reynolds stood down as chair due to work commitments in London.

On 26th November the Assembly elections were held in the Six Counties where Sinn Fein improved their position and became the leading social democratic party there.

On 2nd December the IBRG attended the Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group meeting at the House of Commons on sports, arts and culture. The IBRG made a submission to the group on the issue and later circulated the submission around the community. The IBRG divided their submission into Sports, Language Music, Dance, Literature Film and Video Theatre and in each area made recommendations.

The general recommendations included that funding bodies consider their approach to funding Irish arts and culture. That all arts centres consider rather approach to the Irish community in terms of content put on, and in terms of access by the community. That the Irish be included in all ethnic monitoring of staff employed, and users of all arts and cultural centres. That local authorities support local Irish festivals in the summer, and the St Patricks day festival. That a review of funding takes place to identify, what funding if any goes to the Irish community, that lottery funding be made available to fund an Irish arts centre /Irish museum /Irish History archives along with European funding., that consideration given to an Irish TV/radio station in Britain. Over 22,000 people signed the Irish media campaign petition for this that Sean Sexton organised. That the Irish Government reconsider their welfare only approach to funding, and recognise that culture is also part of our community.

On 6th December Pat Reynolds had a letter published in the Guardian on Gaelic sports being ignored by the British media. The Guardian carried a story Gaelic footballers fans try to topple Jonny Wilkinson by rigging sport poll.

Pat Reynolds in his reply pointed out that Peter Canavan, captain of the Tyrone team which won the All Ireland, had far more supporters than Wilkinson’s Newcastle rugby team, and that the GAA had far more supporters and match attendance than rugby. The All Ireland had 80,000 at the match with millions watching it worldwide, and Gaelic football in Nt Ireland had far more players and supporters than rugby. The BBC in N. Ireland ,by not broadcasting the All-Ireland final, were indeed rigging the poll towards Wilkinson in its discrimination against Gaelic games.

On 9th December the IBRG attended a meeting with Noel Lynch, a GLA member, to discuss the case of Christy McGrath.
On 11th December IBRG members attended the Ceart meeting at the Camden Irish centre on Irish deaths in custody.

Irish Language and Europe
On 15th December Conradh and IBRG member Tomas Macstiofan wrote to a number of Irish organisations on the question of the Irish language in Europe He noted that in May 2004 10 other countries were to join an enlarged EU with the extension of 10 new community languages, and yet the Irish language was not included, mainly because the shameless Irish government failed to ask to have it included. Tomas drew attention to the fact that Maltese was included which had the same number of native speakers as native Irish speakers. Tomas set out a number of recommendations for organisations to write to the Irish government and to other bodies on the matter.

During 2003 the IBRG made a major contribution to the Christy McGrath campaign and the Irish deaths in custody campaign. The IBRG also took up the case of Barry George and Malcolm Kennedy. The IBRG took part in the Irish Equalities Group and the Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group. The IBRG supported the Travellers Reform Bill and Lewisham IBRG defended the local Irish centre from closure.

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

For 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

The IBRG website  (now defunct) can be accessed here

Read previous posts on IBRG history here

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History of Irish in Britain Representation Group, part twenty two, 2002

 

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.

 

Christy McGrath Campaign leaflet

IBRG attend Irish Equalities Group Meeting

On 10th January IBRG officers Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds attended the Irish Equalities Group meeting at the Camden Irish Centre to plan for the next meeting with the CRE. Pat Reynolds was elected Chair of the group for the coming year. The Irish Equalities Group was made up of all Irish community groups in London.

First campaign meeting for Christy McGrath

On 11th January the Christie McGrath Campaign had its first meeting. Five IBRG members from London attended and Pat Reynolds was elected Chair for the campaign. The Irish Post and the Irish World attended the meeting which was attended by twenty people from different organisations in London. The Irish Post had given Christie case the front page and had visited Christy in prison. The Tipperary Association in London had agreed to back his campaign which was a major breakthrough.

On 14th January IBRG members attended the picket of 10 Downing St over the Loyalist attacks on Holy Cross School in the Ardoyne area of Belfast, and the recent murder by Loyalists of a young postal Catholic postal worker in Belfast.

IBRG condemns former N. Ireland Office Minister for anti-traveller comments

On 15th January the IBRG issued a statement in response to a Tory MP and former N. Ireland Shadow Secretary who described Travellers as ‘scum’, and stated that they were not entitled to civil rights. The IBRG condemned his statements and called for Travellers Rights to be upheld. How could such a bigot be appointed Shadow Secretary in N. Ireland.

 The IBRG condemned Tory MP Andrew Mackey, former shadow Minister for N. Ireland, for his anti-Travellers remarks, and stated that these remarks could lead to further attacks upon Travellers, and their way of life. Mackey was not fit to be an MP, and as an MP he should be defending the rights of the more vulnerable in society, instead of trying to scapegoat them. Mr Mackey should be calling on the Government and local authorities in Britain to provide sites to accommodate Travellers, and restore the public duty on local authorities to provide sites, which his party had taken away.

The Tories having created the problem in the first place now want to punish the victims of their creation. To suggest as Mackey did that Travellers do not merit the same human rights as other citizens is deeply offensive, and is reminiscent of Germany in the early 1930’s and their attitude to the Jewish community. The IBRG called on the Tory Party and its leader to condemn these remarks and dissociate themselves from them. The issue of accommodation for Traveller can only be addressed by government action.

Irish deaths in Police Custody Meeting

On 17th January IBRG member attended the Irish Deaths in Custody campaign meeting at the Camden Irish centre which BBC South East TV covered for its news on 18th January.

On the same day Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG went head-to-head with Toby Harris Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority over Irish deaths in custody and inquests on BBC Radio London. Toby Harris later to become Lord Harris was the former leader of Haringey Council, and was well known to Pat from attended Council meeting in Haringey, and meetings of the Ethnic Minorites JCC.

The IBRG raised questions over the recent inquest into the ‘suicide’ of Michael Barry in Brixton prison, the fourth Irish suicide in the same prison. The Irish family were not present or represented at the inquest, which made a mockery of any concept of justice.

Bloody Sunday Rally

On Sunday 27th January IBRG members from Coventry, Lewisham and N. London attended the Bloody Sunday Rally at the Hammersmith Irish Centre where Eamon McCann gave an inspiring speech. Other speakers included Michael McKinney a relative, John McDonnell MP and Gerry O’Hara of Sinn Fein, who was challenged over Sinn Fein’s position on Irish political prisoners, who were arrested since the Good Friday agreement.

The main leaflet for the Rally was one without any politics and just stated Bloody Sunday 1972-2002 30th anniversary One World Many Struggles which was a real betrayal of what people were marching for on Bloody Sunday, and the 30 years of struggle in between.

Not even a demand for justice. The leaflet sent out for support and sponsorship was the same devoid of any politics, a sort of amnesia like one reads in a thousand years of solitude, where the people had forgotten their past. The new No politics had been put upon the Irish community in Britain from Ireland. It was a shameful sell out of the politics of struggle, and marked new levels of depoliticization of the struggle. The Political Status for Prisoners Group attended the Rally and drew attention to post Good Friday prisoners and how they were denied political status. In Manchester Bernadette Hyland was featured in an article on Bloody Sunday in the Big Issue entitled Bloody Sunday Families just want Justice.

In Derry the people invited Joy Gardner’s mother over to speak linking up with the position of Black people in Britain.

In January Tom Hayden, American civil rights fighter, was going in the opposite direction and rediscovering his Irish roots, and had published Irish on the Inside in Search of the Soul of Irish America. He talked of whitewashed assimilation in an era of globalisation It was a welcome relief to whitewashing that had gone on this year over the London Bloody Sunday rally.

IBRG and other Irish Groups meet with CRE

On 28th January the IBRG joined other Irish groups for a meeting with the CRE Chair Gurbix Singh previously CEO of Haringey Council, Danny Silverstone CEO CRE and Seamus Taylor now Head of Public Policy at the CRE and Chris Myant press officer.

Pat Reynolds chaired and led the Irish community side in the discussions. Among the issues discussed were the recent deaths in Brixton prison, and how far the CRE were going addressing the needs of the Irish community within their expressed briefs in terms of employment, discrimination housing health and other area.

In reply the CRE stated that were conducting an inquiry into racism in prison, with Brixton and Feltham the youth detention centre included, they would do a stock take of the Irish community once the results of the 2001 census were known, and would commission a profile of the Irish community then.

It was announced at the meeting that the Department of Employment and Education had agreed to include the Irish as a specific ethnic category within their monitoring of school performance, and among teacher group classifications. This is something that the IBRG had fought hard for over the past year, including making direct representation into the consultation process and the Chair Pat Reynolds wrote to the Education Secretary David Blunkett on the matter, including using the recent Camden performance of Irish children to justify the need for such monitoring.

Death of Sr. Sarah Clarke

On 4th February the IBRG were saddened by the death of Sr Sarah Clarke a courageous Irish woman who stood up for the rights of Irish prisoners for over 25 years. On 11th February IBRG attended her removal service at our Lady of Halle Church in Camden at which Helena Kennedy gave the oration. Sr Sarah was always there for Irish prisoners, and when the IBRG delegation was on its way to Ireland, to meet the Irish government and opposition she rang Pat Reynolds to update him on prisoners’ issues, and when he came back wanted to know immediately how the meetings had gone with Haughey and other Irish politicians.

Sr. Sarah opened the London Irish Bookfair one year and her book No Faith in the System, was an honest account of her work for Irish prisoners, where she exposes the knowledge that the Catholic Church knew, that Gerry Conlon was at Quex Road the night of the Guildford bombing and could not have done it. She condemned this church silence. Cardinal Hume’s later efforts can be seen as damage limitation given this knowledge was hidden from the Irish community for over 14 years.

It was because of her pioneering work that the Irish government decided to fund the Irish Chaplaincy Prisons Officer  and a full-time worker with Irish prisoners in Britain, but still left it with Catholic Church. When the scandal emerged of Irish suicides in British prisoners the Catholic Church would stay silent and it took the IBRG to expose what was happening in the prisons around Irish prisoners.

On 12th February Pat Reynolds spoke at the School of Oriental and African Studies along with member of the Asian community, on the need to create broad based anti PTA movement in Britain to stop the criminalisation of minority ex colonial communities.

On 15th February IBRG members attended a presentation to Seamus Taylor Head of Public policy at the CRE, on the implementation of the new Race Amendment Act 2000 for the Irish community.

On 28th February Pat Reynolds chaired the Irish Equalities Group in Camden. North London and Southwark IBRG attended the meeting.

In Southwark Jodie Clark was fighting to have an Irish dimension in the educational plans. The Department of Health have agreed to include an Irish category in their ethnic groups for children in care. The Teachers Council have also agreed to include the Irish in their ethnic monitoring,

Coventry IBRG and TOM and meeting re-Holy Cross School and right to live free from harassment

On 7th March Coventry IBRG helped to organise a public meeting at the KOKO centre for the Holy Cross School speaker, to highlight conditions for the children and parents there. The meeting was hosted by Coventry Trades Union council and jointly sponsored by IBRG and Troops Out Movement.

Elizabeth Murphy, a mother of Holy Cross School Children, spoke at the meeting and the meeting was held under the Title The right to live free from Harassment which had been taken from the Good Friday Agreement.

Maurice Moore the MSF rep on Coventry Trades Council stated ‘Coventry’s Civic Leaders have a relationship with Belfast City Council and should express their concerns about the ongoing harassment of school children and their parents. Ms Murphy met with the Deputy Mayor, representatives the NUT, Irish community church representatives and city councillors during the visit.

Watch BBC documentary here

The Christy McGrath campaign got a two-page spread in the News of the World on 10th March. The Morning Star and the Racing Post also covered the story. The fact that Christy and his brother Larry were jockeys in Britain, and that Christy had the support of Richard Guest the Grand National winner was important.

On 12th March IBRG members attended the London Civic Forum for a meeting which focussed on the Arab and Irish communities in London, and were able to make solid contribution to the evening. The IBRG had affiliated to the London Civic Forum.

On St Patrick Day IBRG members helped out with the Christy McGrath campaign stall in Trafalgar Square which collected thousands of signatures and nearly £300 for the campaign. The family came over from Ireland with his father and mother there and got both Ken Livingstone and Shane McGowan to back the campaign for their son.

Lewisham IBRG were involved in the South London Irish Parade on 16th March and the St Patrick Day parade in central London on 17th March, where the Lewisham float was the best cultural float on parade. On 1st March the Irish World had Seventh St Patrick’s day Parade for south London by Donal Mooney, which gave a preview of the Parade and the Festival in March. It stated the Parade was coordinated by the Lewisham Irish Centre and Lewisham IBRG.

In March the IBRG heard of the death of Oliver de Brun, a lifelong Republican in London, and former member of IBRG and member of the Dessie Ellis campaign. The IBRG attended his funeral in Watford on 18th March. His ashes would be scattered in both Palestine and Ireland.

The IBRG website went public in March a wonderful addition to IBRG, it covers the history of IBRG, policies and issues affecting the Irish community. Read it here

The IBRG Ard Fheis took place on 6th April at the Friends Meeting Place in central London. The following officers were elected. Among those attending were Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Moore, Pat Reynolds, Michael Holden, Laoise de Paor, Danny Burke and Marie Casey.

Apologies from Sean Hone, Tim Logan, Tomas MacStiofan, Jackie Vance, Jodie Clark, Joe Mullarkey, and Diarmuid Breatnach.

Chair & PRO Pat Reynolds North London

Runai & Membership Bernadette Hyland Manchester

Cisteoir Maurice Moore Coventry

Vice Chair Donal de Burca North London

Prisoners Officers Tim Logan Coventry

The following motions were passed;

A motion condemning the occupation of Palestine. This Ard Fheis condemns the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands which has led to many civilian deaths. This Ard Fheis supports the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and calls for the full establishment of a Palestinian nation. This Ard Fheis calls for total Israeli withdrawal from all Palestinian lands.

A motion supporting MOJO plus £50 donation. This Ard Fheis recognises the important work undertaken by MOJO and offer our continuing support to the organisation.

A motion supporting the Christy McGrath campaign plus £50 donation. This Ard Fheis supports the campaign to secure justice for Christy McGrath who was the victim of the British judicial system. This Ard Fheis believes Christy to be an innocent man who was ambushed by the judicial system without a proper trial. This Ard Fheis calls on the Irish government to raise this case and the implications of this case, in how Irish people are treated by the judicial system with the British government.

A motion condemning Irish deaths in custody, This Ard Fheis condemns the high number of Irish deaths in prison and in police custody, and calls on the British government to protect the right to life of Irish prisoners and those in police custody in Britain. This Ard Fheis calls on the Irish government to protect the rights of Irish nationals in British prisons and in police custody, and that they demand that the British government safeguard these lives. This Ard Fheis pledges IBRG support to the current campaign to highlight Irish deaths in prison in police custody and in arrest situations.

A motion welcoming the new IBRG website. This Ard Fheis welcomed the setting up of the IBRG website now available and thanks Bernadette and Manchester IBRG for the hard work put in while setting up site, which also contains a history of IBRG.

A motion congratulating Manchester IBRG on publication of the Wearing of the Green

A motion calling once again for votes for emigrants. This Ard Fheis condemns the Irish government for denying the vote to Irish emigrants, the only EU country to deny its citizens the right to vote in home elections. This Ard Fheis pledges to continue the fight for the vote for Irish emigrants, and to seek legal clarification on the position under Irish constitution law and European law particularly Art 39 of the movement of workers, with a view to bringing a test case.

Pat Reynolds as Chair addressed  the meeting, outlined many of the issues IBRG had been involved in within the past year.  The IBRG had been involved in and chaired the Christy McGrath campaign which had a good year in advancing his case, with a monster meeting held in Carrick and a Benefit at the Galtymore plus getting the support of the Tipperary Association.

The IBRG had played a key role in setting up and supporting the new Irish deaths in custody campaign, and had chaired the Irish Equalities Group in London in its meetings with the CRE.  The IBRG has only issued six press releases last year probably the lowest in many years, and these were about the General Election, deaths in custody, Labour Party recognition, Irish children’s performance in school and racism against Travellers.

The IBRG had spoken at a number of public meetings from Carrick on Suir to the House of Commons. The IBRG had also put in submission to the British government on the Race Amendment act and to the Deaths in Custody Tribunal. We had held meetings over school children being racially abused by Loyalists in Ardoyne and held pickets in London on the issue. The IBRG had done TV and Radio interview on Christy McGrath, the British General Election, deaths in custody and attended meetings of the Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group.

Last year the Irish, were presented with their own category in the British National Census due largely to the battle fought by the IBRG, and our strategy of winning over the vast majority of local authorities to our cause. For the first time ever , a second-generation Irish community have had the opportunity, to identify as being Irish, despite the almighty pressure on them to assimilate in Britain.

The General Election was held last year with a Labour landslide, despite 40% of the public not voting at all. Following 9/11 Britain had moved to the right and it was now more difficult to organise on issues affecting the Irish community. The Irish Post had been dumbed down and lost its community grassroots support.

Sinn Fein too had moved to the centre and were trying to stifle any political protest in Britain from cancelling the Bloody Sunday march, to closing down Saoirse, to closing down the Diarmuid O Neill campaign, dropping all demands for Irish self-determination and dropping any demand from the Bloody Sunday rally.

London was still the centre of much activity form the Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group, the Irish Equalities Group, deaths in custody, Irish political status, and the Christy McGrath campaign.

Manchester IBRG had done the IBRG proud with its publication of the Wearing of the Green the history of the Irish in Manchester.

Maurice Moore was returning to Ireland soon after a lifetime of work promoting the Irish language and culture in Coventry, standing up for the rights of Irish people and standing up for Irish self-determination, and of standing up for worker rights in Britain. He will be sorely missed.

Maurice Moore

Joe Mullarkey is 60 this year and has given a lifetime of dedication to Irish culture and community activities in Bolton ably assisted by his partner Margaret. They have together put-on Irish festivals, concerts, Irish language, Irish exhibitions and have always stood up for the rights of Irish people in Bolton.

Joe and Margaret Mullarkey

Last year we saw the sad passing away of Sr. Sarah Clark who was fearless in her campaigns for justice and fair play for Irish prisoners, whether political or the framed hostages 18 stolen from our community in 1974. The IBRG salute her bravely and her example which we will try and follow. We also lost Mary Crofton in Cardiff and Oliver de Brun in Watford both lifelong republican and fighters for justice.

Both the 9/11 kickback and the Good Friday agreement had made it much harder to fight for human and civil rights in Britain.  The new status quo in Britain and Ireland wanted to control everything from the centre and to control grassroots movements. The Dion funding operating along similar lines, politically funding right of centre and Embassy supported groups. The voluntary sector was controlled now with vetting going on and only those politically approved would now be funded.

There was still an urgent need for organisations like IBRG to speak truth to power, to speak out about wrongly convicted prisoners, to continue to seek political status for Irish prisoners, to speak out about deaths in custody, to speak out against racism in the media and racism against Travellers.

There will be a General Election in the Irish Republic coming up in May and we will be speaking up again for the right of Irish emigrants to vote in all elections in Ireland. Likewise, our campaign to get the TUC and other trade unions to recognise the Irish. We will continue our fight for these basic rights as long as the IBRG exists.

Irish Deaths in Police Custody

IBRG members attended the inquest into the death of Kieron O’Donnell at St Pancras Coroners Court where the jury went for lawful killing. The IBRG condemned the killing by police and the use of lethal force. When it came to the Irish in London the police were trigger happy with the unnecessary deaths of Kieron O’Donnell, Diarmuid O’Neill, Harry Stanley and another Irish man in north London. Why did the Irish make up 50% of all killings by police when they only make up 10% of the population? There were in all these case alternatives to lethal force and this matter was not properly explored with the juries.

The IBRG had become aware of another Irish death in custody Martin Ward a 23-year-old Roscommon man at Woodhill Prison. The jury verdict in his case was ‘death by natural causes contributed to by neglect’. This was another avoidable death. No doctor was called to see Martin Ward before he died despite his deteriorating condition.

The IBRG stated how many more deaths do we need. The community needs to mobilise on this issue and stop these deaths. We have a clear duty to insist that the state protect the lives of these men and their right to life. We condone their deaths if we remain quiet about them like the Catholic Church.

On 18th April Pat Reynolds spoke at public meeting on Christy McGrath at the Camden Irish Centre with Jeremy Corbyn MP, John McDonnell MP, and Billy Power. The Irish World gave their front-page story to Pat’s exposure of the police investigation, where the police were still looking for witnesses even after charging Christy.

On 22nd April Pat Reynolds joined Billy Power and others for a meeting with the Irish Embassy organised by the Irish deaths in Custody campaign.

On 25th April Pat Reynolds was interviewed at 7AM outside Brixton prison by BBC Radio London on the Irish deaths at Brixton. At 6.45PM on the same day Pat had another head-to-head with Toby Harris Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority on the question of Irish deaths in custody, and the lack of representation for Irish families at inquests.

In April the IBRG undertook a major campaign to highlight Irish deaths in custody with a press release and background information going out to 50 new signatures including TV Radio and newspapers.

In April the IBRG made representation to the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racism, the European Convention committee for the Prevention of Torture and Degrading Treatment, Amnesty International, the Prison Service, The Home Secretary David Blunkett, Tory Shadow Home secretary Oliver Letwin, Liberal Shadow Simon Hughes, Bishop Cormac Murphy, Cardinal Sean Brady Armagh, Brian Cowan Irish Foreign Minister and to John McDonnell Secretary of the Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group.  John McDonell MP put down an early day motion on the issue and asked a question in Parliament on Irish deaths in custody. The IBRG were mentioned in Hansard as having made representations to the British government on the issue.

Six of the last nine suicides at Brixton were Irish. Irish lives needed protection in the British prison system and the IBRG were campaigning to have system within Brixton improved for all prisoners in terms of medical care for vulnerable young men, many with mental health issues often on remand away from their families.

On 29th April IBRG members attended a meeting with the CRE as part of the Irish Equalities group where the issue of Irish deaths in custody was pursued. The CRE were doing their own investigations into racism in Brixton, Feltham and Park prison. IBRG members also attended a Conference on the Irish and Policing held by AGIY in London during April.

Pat Reynolds had a letter in the Irish Times on 29th April regarding the vote for Irish emigrants drawing attention to the fact that Pakistani residents in Ireland could vote in the Pakistan general election, while Irish emigrants in Britain could not vote in the Irish General election.

 

On 2nd May in the local elections Brian Miller an IBRG member got elected as a Labour Councillor in Haringey while Tomas MacStiofan standing as an independent lost in Brent.

 

On 11th May Bernadette Hyland and Pat Reynolds were both speaking at the Conference on the Roots of Radicalism at Manchester University. Over 120 people attended the conference which Manchester IBRG supported. Other speakers included Lawrence McKeown and Sheila Rowbotham

On 15th May the IBRG put out a statement British Government and British media cover up Six Irish deaths in Brixton prisons. Six Irishmen had died in Brixton prison in the last two years.

The IBRG condemned the conspiracy of silence by the British authorities and the British media on the matter. Could you image if six British citizens had died in one foreign prison within two years, what the outcry in Britain would be. The Irish make up only 5% of the prisoners in Brixton yet make up six out nine deaths or 66% in the last two years. Thus, an Irish man was 13 times more likely to die in a British prison than any other prisoner.

Brixton prison the scene of the Hunger Strike of Terence MacSwiney has now become the most dangerous place in Britain for an Irishman, and the IBRG called for no Irish person be sent there, until these deaths are investigated. John McDonnell had put down an early day motion on the issue, and the IBRG had met with Harriet Harman MP on the issue.

The only conclusion the IBRG reached is that Irish lives were cheap in Britain, and had little value the Irish are not part of Britain despite the Labour government talking of an inclusive Britain. The IBRG calls for a public inquiry into these deaths. The Irish Right to Life appears to be much lower than that of an English person at home or abroad.

On 16th May Pat Reynolds was interviewed by BBC TV South east over Irish deaths in Brixton prison and over the recent death of Terry Doyle there. On the same day Jodie Clark and Pat Reynolds attended the Irish Deaths in Custody Meeting at the Camden Irish centre where relatives of three families attended, Fegans, Sheridans and O’Grady families to talk about their cases.

The Irish General Election was held on 17th May with Fianna Fail and the progressive Democrats again forming a Coalition government. Fine Gael had their worst performance in history. Sinn Fein made progress winning five seats, a gain of four seats. The Greens also did well.

The IBRG had put out a statement before the election entitled Votes for Irish Born citizens living abroad demanded stating ‘On May 17th the Irish government will once again discriminate against its Irish born citizens living abroad in the Irish General Election. In denying its citizens abroad the vote the Irish government are breaching its own constitution and European law, and the UN Declaration on Human Rights. Mary Robinson President of Ireland stated in 1990 ‘There is no impediment in the Constitution to extending voting rights to emigrants’ while   the Irish Council of Civil Liberties stated ‘In its treatment of its own emigrants, this country is out of line with international democratic practices in Europe’ The Universal declaration of human rights Article 21 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Art 25 guarantees all Irish citizens the right to vote. Dr Joseph Ryan of Freedom House New York stated ‘Ireland is one of the least advanced democracies on the question of absentee voting rights. And it is compared unfavourably with countries it might consider itself far advanced of politically’.

The IBRG believe that the Irish government denial of the vote to emigrants in Europe contravenes European Law, Art 39 of the Free Movement of workers in that the restriction of the vote, can be interpreted as an impediment to the free movement of workers, in that all other European workers can move abroad and retain the vote except the Irish.

Dick Spring TD stated ‘We in the Labour Party see no reason Irish citizens should be deprived of one of the most basic rights of any citizen, because they have been forced to live abroad.

The IBRG drew attention to the Irish World Cup team the only team playing in the World Cup, who were denied a vote in their home country, a question now asked in pub quizzes. Liam Kavanagh TD stated ‘the least we can do is to say to them, if we cannot give them a job, is that we can give you a vote, if they cannot come home, which will allow them to pass judgement on the administration who may be the cause of their being emigrants’.

IBRG Votes for Emigrants Leaflet.

Why is Ireland so far behind the democratic world, the whole of Europe, the USA, Australia, Pakistan, Brazil, South Africa Estonia and many more. Yet in the Good Friday agreement the Irish government agreed to create no impediment to equal rights for anybody within the Republic. If N. Ireland were to join the republic final All Ireland structure they would lose the vote too once they moved abroad.

The Irish World on 17th May had No votes for soccer heroes and the Longford Leader on 17th May had Vote demanded for immigrants, with a photo of the Irish soccer team with the IBRG Votes for Emigrants across it.

The IBRG had sent out a statement of votes for emigrants to over 40 different news agencies including TV Radio and newspaper. On the day of the election in Ireland Pat Reynolds had an interview with the BBC World Service at Bush House in the Strand, drawing attention to the fact that Ireland was the only EU country which denied its citizens aboard the vote. The Longford Leader, the Irish World and other papers covered the story and reprinted the IBRG collage of the Irish soccer team, the only team playing the World Cup who were not allowed to vote for their country of origin. They could bring honour and glory to Ireland but could not vote in the country. Later Highland radio in Donegal, Kerry radio, and Radio Anan Livia interviewed Pat on the subject.

In May the IBRG welcomed the settlement out of court by the Metropolitan Police to Richard O’Brien family his widow Alison and children. Richard was unlawfully killed when police officers held him down despite Richard saying time and again ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, let me up, you win’. He died whilst being held down by several officers in front of his wife and children outside a Catholic club minding his own business waiting for a cab to take his family home.

Jodie Clark in Southwark IBRG had supported the family, while both Jodie and Pat Reynolds helped the family early on in making contacts with Inquest and good solicitors. The family and the Traveller community had picketed the police station over his death.

On 14th May the IBRG put out a statement O’Brien Family win six-year Battle on compensation. The pay out of £324,000 did not bring any apology from the Met police for the behaviour of their officers, which led to the unlawful killing of Richard O’Brien, who was brutally killed in front of his wife and children, suffering numerous injuries in the process which led to his death.

The IBRG saluted the courage of Alison O’Brien and her family in fighting for justice. For generations the police had been allowed to kill Irish people at random and never be held accountable for their actions.

The IBRG believed that had Southwark Council and Southwark police taken on board the finding of the report on Policing and the Irish in Southwark, the death could have been avoided. The Labour Leader at the time stated that the report would be published and actioned. In the end they suppressed the report and the issues around policing of the Irish was hidden. The IBRG leaked the report to the Irish Times who published it. Ten years later the Met Police are now beginning to look at the Irish community in other ways than their PTA tainted racist vision. The O’Brien have set an example for other Irish families fighting for justice over deaths in custody

The IBRG had drawn attention to the high numbers of Irish deaths both in police custody and in prisons cells on remand, where Irish prisoners were likely to be neglected and their mental and mental conditions ignored. The point of arrest was in some case like Richard O’Brien and Leo O’Reilly a death experience.

The Irish Government need to take on board this issue and stop acting like a colonial province of Britain.  When there was a Nigerian death in custody the Nigerian High Commission went out on Christmas day to see that grieving family. No Irish Ambassador has been to visit a single family of any Irish death in custody. The Irish government bury their head in the colonial sands.

The IBRG bring to mind the murder of Patrick Quinn within a police station in Hammersmith and how the Irish government kept silent. The IBRG believe there is a racist attitudinal problem with how the police and prisons officer view Irish people, which has been a factor in all these cases. Irish lives are not valued. The Irish in such case are denied any respect dignity or humanity and that extends to the relatives of the dead men. At a recent conference the police stated they did not really know the Irish community, somewhat strange given the workings of the PTA. They know the community well going back to Fenian days, but are not prepared to change the canteen culture which view Irish lives as being of lessor value.

The five Irish deaths in Brixton Prison points to a huge problem but the Irish government and the British media stay silent even the Liberal Guardian will not mention the Irish. An Phoblacht covered the story on 16th May. They noted that Richard O’Brien had suffered injuries in 31 areas of his body including 12 cuts to his head. He was put on the ground with officers holding him in a position which can only be described as dangerous and after 15 minutes of so on the ground with officers applying their weight to his body he died’. Despite the unlawful killing verdict from the inquest jury the Met Police refused to apologise to the family.

In May the IBRG condemned the verdict in the James Hanratty Appeal which upheld the verdict against him, a judgement based mainly on contaminated DNA. This evidence had gone missing for 30 years and had mysteriously reappeared.

Hanratty had 14 witnesses who placed him over 250 away at the time of the murder. The IBRG believe Hanratty to be a totally innocent Irishman and like John Lennon believed he was murdered by the British state.  The British government have never once accepted that they ever hung an innocent man, and even with Bentley only regretted the sentence.

 

During May the IBRG mailed out over 70 trade unions in Britain demanding that they recognise the Irish community as the CRE had recommended. The TUC came back with its usual ignorant No Irish Need Apply response. 

However, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Fire Brigade Union (FBU) and a number of other unions did agree to recognise the Irish. Later, Unison stated that they recognised the Irish. The following unions also agreed to recognise and monitor the Irish, AEP, TSSA, AUT, and the T&G already recognised the Irish. Unison and T&G were the two largest unions in Britain.

On 20th May Jodie Clark attended a meeting with members of Ceart (Irish deaths in Custody campaign) with Harriet Harman Solicitor General; on the issue of inquests and Irish deaths in custody.

Sands/Connolly March

On 25th May IBRG members took part with banners in the Bobby Sands/James Connolly march through Tottenham to the Irish Centre there where Pat Reynolds spoke at the rally on behalf of the Christy McGrath campaign.

IBRG members from North London, Lewisham and Coventry attended and marched under the political status banner. There was no band on the march which was poorly attended. The march had support from the local Kurdish community, the Palestinian community and the Turkish community. The days of big Irish marches in London were gone and had been silenced after the Bloody Sunday march was cancelled.

On 8th June Diarmuid Breatnach had a letter in the Irish World headed Noble and Painful sacrifices, on the lessons to be taken from the Hunger Strikes.

On 24th May Diarmuid Breatnach had a letter in the Irish World from the Irish Political Status Committee setting out the aims of Bobby Sands for political status and why both Connolly and Sands gave their lives for Ireland.

On 8th June the IBRG had a stall at the Fleadh in Finsbury Park in North London which gave out leaflets on Christy McGrath and other campaigns and displayed their banners.

On 13th June the Justice for Harry Stanley Campaign had a public meeting in Bethnal Green in east London with speakers Irene Stanley, Marian Fegan from Ceart, Brian Sedgemore MP and chaired by Terry Stewart. The inquest on Harry Stanley was opening on 17th June at St Pancras Coroners court at Kings Cross.

The Ard Choiste took place in Manchester on 15th June to plan priorities for the year. Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Moore, Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds attended.

On Deaths in Custody the meeting heard that Cardinal Sean Brady had replied. He had circulated it to his bishops and had put it on agenda for the next Bishops meeting in Maynooth.

The Frank Johnson appeal is on 25-27th at the Royal Courts of Justice. He was very likely to be released after spending over 26 years in prison nearly as long as Mandela. Ken Livingstone and Shane McGowan are now backing Christy McGrath.

The meeting heard that 34% of Trade Unions now recognise the Irish after IBRG lobbying. The GMB the MU and the CWU said no to recognition of the Irish. Only 12 Unions had replied to IBRG with the T&G, TSSA, NUJ, AEP, AUT, FBU and unison now recognising the Irish but the TUC still refuse to recognise the Irish.

The programme for 2002-2003 was, Christy McGrath campaign, Deaths in Custody campaign, Trade union recognition, Travellers, Political Status, Votes for emigrants, Irish Equalities group and IPPG plus website and membership. The meeting heard that the IBRG had raised the issue of votes for the Irish abroad, during the Irish General election linking it in with the Irish soccer team none of whom had a vote. This issue got both radio and god press coverage in Ireland and Britain and even the BBC World Service. The meeting heard that the Met Police had settled the Richard O’Brien case. In the Hanratty case the British judiciary continued their perverse decision in the case.

On 15th June there was on day conference on Equalities and Discrimination and the North of Ireland at the Irish Club in Birmingham organised by TOM which had Una Gillespie and Brid Keenan former member of Haringey IBRG as main speakers.

It was a pity that this conference did not link up with issues such as discrimination against the Irish community in Britain, and that they failed to invite the Fair Employment Trust to the conference. The IBRG had for years taken up this matter inviting Oliver Kearney from the Fair Employment Trust to the Unison AGM in Bournemouth, where Southwark Unison had a motion at the conference on the McBride Principles. The IBRG had also challenged Abbey National at their AGM on the matter and had taken Securicor to task over discrimination against a Catholic woman in Belfast. TOM in their newsletter reported that they were still organising their annual delegation to N. Ireland and had a recent AGM with a five-person elected committee. Their newsletter still had the banner Self Determination for the Irish People as a Whole.

Release of Frank Johnson

Billy Power and Frank Johnson

During June the IBRG welcomes the release of Frank Johnson who spent over 26 years in English jails for a crime he did not commit. His Appeal hearing started on 25th June. Pat Reynolds who chaired Frank’s Justice campaign for eight years called for an inquiry into the whole case, which had Jack Tierney a highly paid police agent provocateur as its main player and crown witness.

On 26th June the IBRG put out a press statement entitled Frank Johnson Free at last. Frank Johnson the last of the 1974-76 Irish political hostages had been released after 26-years in prison.

Nineteen innocent Irish people had been taken from their community by the British state and framed up. These were the Maguire seven, the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four Judith Ward and Frank Johnson. The Gillespie sisters were also framed up by the British state.

The Irish community always believes that the fire bomb attack on Irish shop keeper Sheridan from Co Mayo was part of a Special Branch dirty tricks campaign, to discredit the IRA, when it went wrong and Sheridan died in hospital. Notorious Special Branch agent Jack Tierney and ex British soldier Smart were involved in the attack. The stories in the local and national  press were IRA Bomb Shop a story line from police sources. The story was that the IRA had bombed Sheridan because he refused to give money to the IRA.

Jack Tierney had previously been involved in trying to sell arms to the Angry Brigade, on behalf of the Special Branch, and he went wired up to tape their conversation when he offered them guns. He was also involved in a similar case in Co Waterford in Ireland.

Why was Frank Johnson kept in prison when the police and the state knew he was innocent from day one? Frank Johnson always wanted the truth to come out to vindicate himself and Mr Sheridan, but the State refused to give any details of the conspiracy to discredit the IRA in the Irish community. Frank Johnson and the other Irish political hostages paid the price of Britain dirty war in Ireland, when they extended this to Britain. Again, the Irish government stood idly by as they did in all the Irish cases. Not one single judge, not one single government scientist, not one single police officer had spent a single day in prison as a result for what they did to 19 innocent Irish political hostages in the 1970’s.

On 25th June Pat Reynolds was speaking the speaking House of Commons at a meeting for Christy McGrath which John McDonnell MP chaired.

During July the IBRG took up the case of Aiden Hume an Irish political prisoner held at Belmarsh Prison in South London and his right to receive proper medical treatment. The IBRG had contacted Hilary Benn Prisons Minister (He was the son of Tony Benn ) on the issue and David Blunkett the Home secretary.. The IBRG also got Kevin McNamara involved.

Christy McGrath Campaign

On 7th July the IBRG helped with a stall at Southwark Irish Festival for Christy McGrath. The Tipperary Association also gave their support including providing tea and sandwiches.

On 17th July the Tipperary Association in London held a benefit dance at the Galtymore ballroom in Cricklewood for Christy McGrath and raised over £1000 for the campaign. Pat Reynolds spoke from the platform to thank the Tipperary Association for their support and being the first county association to take up the case of an innocent Irish prisoner.  The plight of prisoners is always a welfare issue which Irish county associations need to consider and in this the Tipp association were giving the lead.

On 20th July the IBRG had a stall at the respect Festival in Victoria Park in east London where they collected signatures for Christy McGrath campaign.

Barry George another innocent Irishman wrongfully accused of killing Jill Dando lost his appeal in July.

On 25th August IBRG members helped out on a stall at the Crawley Irish festival for Christy McGrath.

Irish and higher death rates

On 17th September Dr Gabriel Scally gave a lecture entitled the Very Pests of Society the Irish and 150 years of public health in Britain at the Royal College of Physicians.

During the lecture he called for a nationally funded research programme to explore why Irish people suffer higher death rates than the resident English population, and why thus continued into the second and third generation. There was he stated a clear need for a public health programme  specially addressing the need of the Irish community.

He also detailed how the Irish took action in the past to improve their own conditions in Britain and spoke of Kitty Wilkinson from Derry who played a leading role in fighting cholera when it reached Liverpool in 1832. Her insistence of fresh air and cleanliness including washing bedding and clothing of the sick was crucial, and she was appointed the first superintendent of Liverpool’s first purpose build wash house.  Dr Scally was the regional Director of Public Health for the South West.

On 23rd September IBRG members attended reception meeting at the Camden Irish centre for Bloody Sunday relatives who had come to London to push their case.

On 28th September IBRG members attended the anti-war march in London against the proposed American/British war against Iraq. The march was by the Stop the war Coalition under the heading Stop Bush and Blair’s War Tell new Labour Don’t Attack Iraq.

 

On 12th October the Ard Choiste was held in Coventry at Tigh Muiris. Maurice Moore Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds attended.

The meeting heard that the Magill magazine in Dublin had covered an article on Christy McGrath and the deaths in custody at Brixton prison. The meeting discussed Irish deaths in custody, political status for Irish prisoners Christy McGrath campaign, Travellers, Bloody Sunday inquiry which had now moved to London, Irish equalities group and Trade unions.

The IBRG had now written to all 166 TD’s in the  Dail on Christy McGrath’s case and had got great support with the majority of TD supporting Christy’s case.

 

On 17th October IBRG members attended a picket of Brixton prison over the deaths of six Irish prisoners who died there in the last few years. Brixton was the prison where Terence MacSwiney died after his hunger strike there. It was also the prison used for many Irish republican prisoners over the last 30 years. Both Pat Reynolds and Jodie Clark attended the picket.

On 26th November IBRG took part in the 4th annual Remembrance march from Trafalgar Square to 10 Downing St over the number of Black Irish deaths in custody. Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds attended the event while Terry Stewart of Ceart spoke at it.

On 19th November Coventry IBRG supported a meeting entitled Communities under Attack with a video and a speaker from the Short Strand area of Belfast over conditions for local residents under attack from Loyalists. TOM and IBRG organised the meeting plus other meeting with the Lord Mayor of Coventry, the religious leaders and Irish community in Coventry. The meeting was under Communities under attack and the right to live free from harassment a line taken from the Good Friday agreement.

On 23rd November Pat Reynolds went to visit Christy McGrath in Gartree Prison in Leicestershire. Christy was in fine spirits and was able to talk clearly about his case which led to his conviction and sentence.

On 26th November IBRG members attended the launch of Sean Sexton’s book Ireland in Old Photographs. This is Sean’s second book of old photographs on Ireland. Sean is a great supporter of IBRG and ran the Campaign for Irish Representation in the Media in the 1980’s.

Sean Sexton’s book “Ireland in Old Photographs”

On 27th November Pat Reynolds was speaking in the House of Commons on a meeting on deaths in custody chaired by John McDonnell MP with Fiona Murphy solicitor some of the families including Richard O’Brien spoke, Gerry McFlynn of ICPO, Yvonne McNamara of Bias on Travellers and Terry Stewart of Ceart.

On 7th December the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Lewisham Irish centre in South London.  Diarmuid Bretanach, Maurice Moore and Pat Reynolds attended with apologies from Bernadette Hyland.

John McDonnell’s Early Day Motion had been ruled subjudice on Irish deaths in custody as some cases were ongoing. The inquiry into Brixton Prison was seen as a sham with the Governor of Wandsworth prison asked to do a review. Wandsworth itself had been found guilty of discrimination there against an Irish officer, at the time, the IBRG asked if this is how they treat Irish officers, how do they treat Irish prisoners.  The Board of Visitors at Brixton had stated that suicides had gone up 25% at Brixton and the IBRG called for better medical provision, and the screening of all new prisoners re their mental health.

29 MPs had signed an EDM on Christy McGrath. Pat Reynolds had visited him at Gartree on 23rd November with Andy Parr. The IBRG had written to 166 Irish TDs on Christy’s case with many coming out in support of Christy. The campaign was going to take his case to Dail Eireann and hold a meeting there.

Pat Reynolds had also met with relatives of Barry George including his mother in West London. Barry had been wrongly convicted of the murder of Jill Dando. Barry had severe learning difficulties and could not have caried out the murder.  The IBRG pledged to give the family what support they could.

The Bloody Sunday Inquiry is ongoing at Westminster Central hall with former PM Ted Heath due to give evidence in the new year.  The meeting expressed grave concern about the level of abuse of children in the Catholic Church, and the cover up of this abuse by the Bishops. N. London felt that the IBRG should condemn Cardinal Cormac Murphy over his failure to take action to protect children from abuse from known abusers over several years.  The Meeting stated IBRG clear opposition to the war against Iraq, and urged members to join anti-war activities in Britain. It was agreed to send solidarity greeting to the Fire Brigade Union during their strike and to ask members to support the workers.

 

29 British MPs had signed an early day motion (EDM) on Christy McGrath by the end of the year.

2002 summary

During 2002 the IBRG had played a key role in pushing forward the case of Christy McGrath with an IBRG lobby of 166 Irish TD’s on the case.

The IBRG had played a key role in pushing forward a campaign to address the deaths of Irishmen in custody in Britain and particularly in Brixton prison. The IBRG welcomed the setting up of an umbrella group called Ceart to fight on the issue a for many years IBRG had to fight it all on its own. The IBRG had in the last year raised the issue with public bodies, got the matter raised in the Commons and in the media from the Examiner to an Phoblacht and on several radio interviews.

The IBRG had again raised the issue of votes for emigrants and had got great publicity in the Irish papers and on Irish radio. The IBRG had lobbied over 70 British trade unions to get them recognise the Irish and had some success including getting the NUJ and the FBU to recognise the Irish.

 

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

For 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

The IBRG website  (now defunct) can be accessed here

Read previous posts on IBRG history here

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