On 3rd January 1987 the Unionist leaders launched a petition in Belfast against the Anglo-Irish Agreement which got over 400,000 signatures and was handed in to Buckingham Palace on 12 February.
Anti-Irish Racism and Community Care Magazine
On 7th January 1987 Gearoid McGearailt, chair of IBRG, had a letter in Community Care the social work weekly headed Hierarchy of Oppression. He was responding to a black Social worker in Brent who had attacked Irish travellers, and placed them in opposition to her own community.
In the same issue (and in the previous issue) two Irish social workers had letters in which they denied that the Irish suffered from racism, arguing that that they may only be discriminated against, and that racism was fundamentally a black and white issue, that it is the colour of a person’s skin which is the main constituent upon which racism is built.
This limited view of racism would completely ignore the Irish and Jewish experiences, and showed total ignorance of the history of racism, imperialism and colonisation. When Pat Reynolds, also a social worker, wrote a letter in reply to Community Care, they refused to publish it.
In it he stated: ‘The history of racism is the history of imperialism colonisation and slavery and the history of Ireland is such a case. The Irish experience does not negate the Black experience nor does the Black experience negate the Irish experience, neither does it collapse the Black and Irish experience into the same thing. The liberal multi-cultural approach has moved away from the state to having individuals takes responsibility for institutionalised racism. This approach denies the role of Britain as an imperial power and offer no analysis of the economic, political; and ideological origins of racism. In this matter the rights of oppressed community to self-determination is vital, and it is for each community to define their own resistance. The struggle of the Irish community is an anti-racist and an anti-imperialist struggle which is supportive of all other communities and nations in similar struggles.
The IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Van Zult centre, Arlington Road, Camden North London on 10th January 10987 (1) where 12 delegates and officers attended including Gearoid McGearailt Chair, Virginia Moyles, Pat Reynolds, Peter Murray, Kathleen Henry, Jacqueline Jolly, Maurice Moore, Peter Millar, Steve Brennan education officer, Trevor O’Farrell, Tom Barron, Brian Millar and Diarmuid Breatnach. The following branches were present: Islington, Haringey, Lewisham, Coventry, Lambeth, Camden, and Hackney.
The Ard Choiste agreed that Diarmuid Breatnach (Lewisham IBRG) would be the IBRG speaker at the Bloody Sunday rally in Sheffield. Diarmuid was voted in as new Internal Co-ordinator for the IBRG. It was agreed to produce a quarterly IBRG internal newsletter.
The Ard Choiste agreed to book a room via Clive Soley MP at the House of Commons to mobilise opposition to the PTA, and also agreed that the Prisoners Subcommittee meet on a regional basis because of travel difficulties. It was agreed to take up the case of Danny McNamee who was held in Brixton prison.
The Ard Fheis would be held in Coventry on 21 March 1987.
The meeting noted that the first Irish Mental Health Conference organised by Camden IBRG would be held the next day in London with over 150 delegates booked in for it. (Arising from the conference Camden IBRG were to set up an Irish Mental Health Forum)
The meeting agreed that Steve Brennan arrange a meeting with ILEA (Inner London Education Authority) to discuss education issues relating to the Irish community.
Gearoid McGearailt reported back on his policy document on Emigration which had been sent to all TDs in Dublin.
Diarmuid Breatnach proposed, and the meeting agreed , that IBRG write to the British Home Office calling for the Irish community to be included in the 1991 ethnic census question and to lobby MPs on the issue.
It was reported to the meeting that the Bank of Ireland had investments of over 31 million invested in South Africa, but Allied Irish were not involved there.
Virginia Moyles created an action sheet of all the decisions made at the Ard Choiste something Nessan Danaher had proposed some years earlier.
Camden IBRG and first Countrywide Irish Mental Health Conference
Camden IBRG held the first ever Countrywide Irish Mental Health Conference at the Camden Irish centre on 11th January 1987. The Conference got media coverage from the Observer with an article on the day entitled A Suitable case for Treatment which stated that over 80 delegates would be attending.
The paper quotes Raymond Cochrane who stated that the Irish were more likely to suffer from mental ill-health than any other community in Britain, and that there had been little interest because the Irish are not really seen as immigrants. Indeed, the Irish community were totally unaware of the Irish mental health figures until they were discovered by the IBRG a couple of years earlier.
Another speaker Ronald Littlewood stated that: Nobody is examining the problem because the Irish do not have the exotic appeal of other immigrants, and there is the English block about Ireland. The lack of research is a case of singular neglect.
The Observer seems to go for an explanation that lay in the traditional Irish culture and Irish Catholicism but adds in Dr Cochrane’s remark that English colonisation may have played a part. It is present day English prejudice that accounts for today’s neglect the IBRG believe. Dr O’ Shea stated ‘we hope to campaign for more resources and encourage more specific research into the mental health problems of Irish immigrants and their children’.
On 17th January 1987 the Irish Post had an article on Emigration and Mental Illness, a report on the IBRG conference. They quoted speaker Father Bobby Gilmore of the Irish Chaplaincy that ‘emigration uproots people placing them in an alien environment where they find it difficult to cope. Many do so successfully, but numerous others find the strain of forging a new life for themselves too much.’ Dr Ronald Littlewood stated ‘traditional neglect and misunderstanding of Irish people, and the widespread use of stereotypes to help cope with a large minority group, caused much of the distress and mental ill-health in the Irish community.
The Irish Press stated Irish exiles more prone to mind disorder. The Kilburn Times column Irish Scene headed the story Break through which focussed on the Brent Irish Mental Health Group, who were active locally on the issue, and had a speaker at the conference.
Diarmuid Breatnach had a letter in the Irish Post in January setting out issues over emigration and life in Britain, stating that our poverty in Ireland is a direct result of centuries of colonisation with the Irish economy being stifled or moulded to British advantage. “Irish people have in this country been victims of racism and exploited for their labour, and our elderly are largely uncared for. Our children are denied access to their culture and history and constantly subjected to attempts to make them ashamed of being Irish. Now in organisations like IBRG we are standing up as a community and beginning to take some ground’. In the same issue the Frank Dolan column praised Lewisham IBRG for their Greetings from Derry London Christmas card.
On 20th January 1987 Douglas Hurd, Home Secretary, referred the case of the Birmingham Six back to the Court of Appeal. On the same day the Irish government of Garrett Fitzgerald fell because Labour Party withdrew its support. A feud broke out between the Irish National Liberation Army and a breakaway group which led to 13 deaths, including the wife of Dominic McGlinchey.
Complaint by IBRG Rejected On 24th January 1987 the Irish Post carried this heading. The notoriously right-wing Press Council rejected a complaint by the IBRG against the Sun for identifying the nationality of homeless Irish family of 13 who were dependent of welfare services.
IBRG complained that the Sun improperly mentioned the family’s ethnic background in a manner likely to stir up anti-Irish feelings. The Press Council ruled that the Sun had no case to answer.
Pat Reynolds PRO in response stated ‘the Press Council’s own annual report condemned newspapers which encourage racial prejudice by referring to the race or colour of people in news report. It is ironic that the Council has now itself condoned such behaviour towards the Irish community’.
Kenneth Donlan, second generation Irish man and Managing Editor, replied to Pat Reynolds stating that the Sun ‘believes in the best possible relations between the Irish and the British. The best contribution to that would be an end to the Fenian activities that sickens all decent people in Britain and Ireland’. Pat wrote back to state ‘I was born a Fenian, live my life as best I can as a Fenian and hope to die an unrepentant Fenian’.
IBRG called for a boycott of the Sun for its racist reporting against Black and Irish people, and noted bias against Irish complaints from the right-wing British press council.
On Saturday 31st January 1987 the IBRG took part in the Bloody Sunday demonstration and Rally at the City Hall in Sheffield. The March was organised by the Committee for British Withdrawal from Ireland made up of LCI, TOM, IBRG and the Women and Ireland Network.
Meeting and lobby on P.T.A.
On 11th February 1987 IBRG organised a public meeting and lobby in the House of Commons to oppose the PTA with a showing of the PTA Video Suspect Community made by Haringey IBRG. Speakers were invited from NCCL, West Midlands PTA Research and Welfare Association, Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas (ICPO), Joan Maynard Labour Party NEC, Jeremy Corbyn MP, SWAPO and Sikh community representatives because of the arrest of recent delegations.
The Haringey IBRG flyer quoted Michael Holden PTA detainee ‘The police were more interested in my trade union activities and my political activities. They knew as well as I did that it was an information gathering exercise’.
Haringey IBRG had sent a letter out to all MPs with large Irish constituents in Britain while Lewisham IBRG/Diarmuid Breatnach had also sent a letter out to IBRG branches inviting them to attend.
Irish and Education Conference ; from Irish Dimensions in British Education to Anglo Irish Education
On 14th February 1987 Nessan Danaher held his 4th National Conference on Irish Dimensions in Britain Education at Soar Valley, Leicester. While the Conference was started off by IBRG Education Officer Nessan Danaher he had moved away in 1986 from IBRG and in 1987 held the Conference in conjunction with BAIS (British Association for Irish Studies) with its emphasis that the British bit comes before the Irish bit, and was set up by the British and Irish government, to move away from any radical approach to the teaching of Irish culture and history in Britain.
Many IBRG people called it the new Anglo-Irish Education conference as it reflected this duality and more revisionist than addressing anti-Irish racism and discrimination in Britain, and moving away from the colonial agenda in education that the Empire was good as was the British presence in Ireland.
The central issue promoted at the conference was that all the problems between Britain and Ireland were due to unhappy misunderstandings, and a new level of understanding would sort it all out. The theme which ran through the 1986 and 1987 conferences was to oppose the idea that British imperialism was the cause of Irelands problems and to see this as a myth, which needed to be destroyed. The power relationship between Britain and Ireland was never examined, and no challenge to the existing order.
The second lecture of the day was by Roy Foster who concluded that it would be difficult to find an acceptable form of government in Ireland, but he failed at all levels to explore the impact of British imperialism and the unequal power relations between British and Ireland.
The central theme was total revisionist but the plenary question and answer led to problems for the organisers who were challenged from the floor. Dr Austin was told by a member of the audience, that he should call his University “The New University of British Occupied Ireland”, which the audience seem to agree with.
The workshops were led by Sean Hutton and Jonathan Moore. The Conference organisers were now dominated by revisionists who were in direct opposition to IBRG yet the audience rejected much of this revisionism from the floor. The revisionists had most of the power since they were all teaching in universities and well supported by the establishment, while the IBRG represented the grassroots of the community and had little resources. There was a need for alternative Education Conferences which would more reflect IBRG and the community’s position.
On 19th February 1987 a Fianna Fail minority government led by Charlie Haughey was elected.
On 2th February 1987 the Irish Post reported the Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP would be attending a ticket only meeting at Hornsey Town Hall on 4th March which was jointly organised by LCI, IBRG and TOM although Haringey IBRG had booked the hall. Adams was due to speak at the Oxford Union the following evening at the Oxford Union debate but Lady Jane Ewart Biggs had withdrawn, so much for free speech when she would not appear with a Member of her own Parliament.
Lambeth Nalgo call for British withdrawal from N. Ireland
On 14th March 1987 the Irish Post reported that Lambeth NALGO at their AGM had passed a motion calling for British withdrawal from Northern Ireland and the right of the Irish people to self-determination, the repeal of the PTA, the disbanding of the Diplock Courts and the ending of super grass trials and strip searching. The resolution also called for the release of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four, and a publicity campaign by the union to highlight the true situation in Northern Ireland.
The meeting was addressed by Sean O’Murchu of Lambeth IBRG and the resolution was carried by a two to one majority. We see here, like in Brent, Irish workers beginning to organise within British trade unions to raise issues around Northern Ireland but also about issues affecting the Irish community in Britain.
The 5th IBRG Ard Fheis was held on 21st March 1987 (2) At the KoCo centre, Spoon End, Coventry. 14 branches attended from Bolton, Birmingham, Bristol, Camden, Coventry, Haringey, Harrow, NE Lancs, Manchester, Hackney, Islington, Lambeth, Leeds and Lewisham.
Ten officers, four of them women, were elected, with Gearoid McGearailt elected Cathaoirleach, Leas Cathaoirleach Jackie Jolly, Uachtaran Maire O’Shea, Leas Uachtaran Joe Mullarkey, Runai Virginia Moyles, Leas Runai, Trevor O’Farrell, Cisteoir Maurice Moore, Membership Marie Wynne, Internal Coordinator Diarmuid Breatnach, PRO Pat Reynolds.
Forty two delegates, officers and observers attended the Ard Fheis including Joe Mullarkey, Tom Barron, Pat O’Sullivan, Tom Kane, Maurice Cahill, Denis Casey, Virginia Moyles, Pat Daly, Michael O’ Cnaimhsi, Trevor Farrell, Seamus O’Coileann, Caitlin Wright, Elaine Scott, Gearoid Mac Gearailt, Maurin Higgins, Janice McKnight, Diarmuid Breatnach, Bernadette Hyland, Tom Fitzsimmons, John Martin, Eddie Caughey, David Kernoghan, Maurice Moore, Pat Reynolds, Jackie Jolly, Michael Herbert, and Marie Wynee
Policy motions passed included regionalisation into five areas : southern, midlands, Northern England, Scotland and Wales, the holding of an IBRG Education conference, and one on prisoners to highlight issues affecting Irish prisoners, the publication of an IBRG bulletin, a motion calling for the Irish government to demand the repeal of the racist PTA laws, the release of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four, the ratification of the international treaty to repatriate Irish prisoners, and that the Irish government implement a Race Relations Act to outlaw the publication of racist material in Ireland.
Policy motions passed included congratulating Manchester IBRG on their actions in contesting and opposing the use of anti-Irish materials in local schools, and instructed the Ard Choiste as a matter of priority to activate the IBRG anti-racism subcommittee. Congratulating Haringey IBRG in the production of their excellent education document, and request them on behalf of the whole organisation and with all branch support, to circulate this document as widely as possible throughout educational and local government authorities in Britain. This motion refers to the Haringey IBRG A4 printed document Survey into the Promotion of Irish culture within Haringey School Curriculum including Travellers’ children.
It was a major document which drew on the work of Professor Mary Hickman and Dr Philip Ullah. The document referred to Dr. Ullah’s study of 800 British born pupils in British secondary schools where the Irish were perceived as the least liked group of all children of seven racial groups including English, West Indian, German, Indian, Jewish, Irish and Pakistani. The Irish were seen in negative terms with no positive attributes.
What was shocking was that other ethnic minority pupils had negative views of the Irish with 56.4% of West Indian pupils seeing the Irish as violent, as did 48.6% of Indian pupils, and 52% of the English group.
The report stated ‘What they are faced with therefore is an ongoing problem, a negative portrayal of their cultural identity due to racism, which itself springs from the original denial of a culture for indigenous people in the colonial relationship. Thus, Irish children in Britain, in fearing rejection are forced to assimilate, outwardly denying their Irishness, while inwardly feeling alienated from the host culture. What often follows is that the child renounces its Irishness in public, while maintaining an Irish identity within the family circle’.
It further states in its section on Catholic schools that Catholic education has advocated the integration of Irish children into British society at the cost of sacrificing an Irish identity.
The document placed the teaching of Ireland within the context of anti-racist policy. The report had 11 sections including; anti-Irish racism, travellers, History and politics, Literature, Language, Art, Music, Sports/games and dance /Theatre.
The report had a major section on Travellers and issues affecting Travellers’ children in schools. It had been assumed that Catholic schools, because they educated the majority of Irish children, would have a more Irish based education, which was not true, the emphasis at these schools was on Instilling Catholicism rather than Irishness, which was left to the home and family and community.
The report of the survey and the recommendations had been approved by Haringey Education Authority on 18th June 1985 Irish studies within the Curriculum and on 19th November 1985 Educational Needs of the Irish Community.
Other motions passed at the Ard Fheis included congratulating London branches on their initiative in challenging ILEA policies towards the Irish community and instructing the IBRG Education officer to convene an education working group to draw up proposals for an organisation wide strategy to further the objectives of our education policy as a matter of urgency. Facilitate the implementation of IBRG education policy over the broadest possible area, and work in conjunction with the PRO for maximum publicity for and promotion of IBRG initiatives in this field.
That IBRG set up an Education Subcommittee to pursue IBRG education policy, that the Education Officer as a matter of priority organise a seminar, primarily for northern and midland branches, and to exchange information within the organisation as a whole on the following, the theory and practise of equal opportunities, definition of racism, sources of funding, extracting and using statistical information, and approaching and negotiating with statutory bodies. That the education officer revive the IBRG Education Conference entitled Irish Dimensions in British Education with the same format and style as our 1985 conference, and for the Education Officer to schedule the conference for January 1988 and in advance of any other conference of a similar nature, and that the conference highlight IBRG policies on Education.,
That IBRG set up an IBRG journal to be published four times a year, that the IBRG organise a conference to highlight issues affecting Irish prisoners in Britain, congratulated the Ard Choiste for setting up the Women’s subcommittee, and instructed the Ard Choiste to assist the Women’s subcommittee in providing material which can be used to inform women both inside and outside the organisation of the existence of the women’s subcommittee.
That IBRG build on the recent response to the PTA, by actively campaigning throughout the year by lobbying MP’s and getting a commitment from them, to vote against the renewal of the Act, given the recent elections in Ireland that IBRG put pressure on TD’s to raise this in the Dail, and having it included in future negotiations with the British government, looking at future strategies to bring this Act to the attention of the public at large, and building links with other minority groups who are now suffering under the Act.
That IBRG produce a policy booklet outlining IBRG policy in various areas e.g. N. Ireland, education, PTA and that this booklet be used to promote IBRG aims and objectives throughout the wider community.
That the term, “British Mainland,” when used in an Irish context, is a propaganda term and in direct contradiction to the full title of the UK, and gives rise to the preposterous notion that the six counties of Northern Ireland are not part of the Irish mainland, but somehow relegated to an offshore British status.
The Ard Fheis recognised the right of the Scottish and Welsh people to self-determination and self-government, that IBRG recognises the close historical links between all Celtic peoples and that IBRG have discussion with the SNP and Plaid Cymru to establish common ground for future progress.
That the Irish Government draft and implement a Race Relations Act to ban the printing of racist literature in Ireland which is being distributed in Britain and Europe.
IBRG branches give full assistance to Camden IBRG to make available a digest of the IBRG Mental Health Conference held in London in January 1987.
The Ard Fheis heard reports from its officers of a year of hard work and progress and an increase in membership, clearly emerging as the leading Irish community organisation in Britain in taking up all the vital issues affecting the Irish community. IBRG had held successful conferences on N. Ireland, Education, and on Mental health and the Irish community. The IBRG document on Emigration started a debate on emigration, and the IBRG lobby of the House of Commons over the PTA showed that on the big issues affecting the IBRG community in Britain, the IBRG had successfully represented the interest of the community.
Success of IBRG’s campaigns was how The Irish Post wrote up the Ard Fheis, stating ‘There is a new air of confidence amongst the Irish community in Britain in social cultural and political issues, IBRG chairman Gearoid McGearailt told his organisation’s Ard Fheis at the weekend in Coventry.
He said that “Irish people are now prepared to speak out publicly on matters on which, a few years ago, they preferred to stay silent. Furthermore, the Irish in Britain are now rightfully calling for recognition throughout the country as an ethnic group. He attributed much of this to the IBRG’s campaigning since its formation in 1981 and he reaffirmed reorganisation’s commitment to representing Irish interests at all levels. We have recognised that the priorities of our community change rapidly , and we have developed the ability to change our priorities similarly, all of the time keeping our eyes fixed on our long term objectives, namely to have the Irish community in Britain free from oppression and discrimination, and participating as equals in a multi-cultural society’.
The article went on to give the Chair’s list of achievements by IBRG, tackling anti-Irish racism in the media and in shops, calling for British withdrawal and Irish unification, condemning the Anglo Irish agreement as being worthless towards sorting out a political solution in Ireland, lobbying the Irish government on emigration, opposing the PTA, taking up issues from education to mental health, putting on Irish language classes all over the country, organising sean chairde groups, taking up strip-searching and issues re- prisoners, the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four cases, and being the progressive side of the Irish community in Britain.
An Phoblacht covered the Irish in Britain Ard Fheis with the IBRG logo on top of the story which was important for the nationalist community in Ireland to know that the largest Irish community organisation in Britain were taking up issues around their oppression including the repeal of the PTA, repatriation of Irish prisoners, release of the framed prisoners, ending of strip-searching and the call for a new Race Relations Act in Ireland.
Census and the Irish
On 31st March 1987 Runai, Virginia Moyles, had written to Douglas Hurd MP via her MP Brian Sedgemore regarding the inclusion of the Irish in the 1991 Census as a separate ethnic group.
The letter stated: ‘The lack of accurate, reliable and detailed statistics on the true size of the Irish community in Britain, including British born children of Irish parents and grandparents, is currently presenting the Irish community with great difficulty in identifying and meeting the needs of their members. The Irish are a sizeable part of our community. There is much evidence to indicate that the Irish community suffers disadvantage in housing, education, employment, health and social services. The extent of this disadvantage is unclear because of the lack of reliable data and disadvantage among second and third generation Irish people is virtually unrecognised.’
Irish Mental Health Forum
The first meeting the Irish Mental Health Forum took place on 4th April 1987 as a follow on to the successful IBRG Mental Health Conference held in January 1987. The meeting attracted 50 people, mainly Irish professionals working in the fields of mental health and social welfare.
The meeting discussed some controversial points made by the speakers at the Conference about the mental health figures of the Irish in Britain. It was felt that the research done in Britain was minimal, superficial and carried out by academics unfamiliar with Irish history and culture, and concentrated on incidence and diagnosis, and failed to understand the cultural and historical roots of mental problem e.g. the colonial aspects of Irish life and the impact of over 800 years of oppression and imperialist racist domination.
It was decided to get a research student to draw up a bibliography of research undertaken in Ireland, USA and Australia, and that identification of service provision and funding needed to be sorted out.
It was agreed to set up a steering group making up of all the interested parties and individuals to take the group forward. The next meeting was planned for 9th May 1987 at Caxton House North London.
ILEA and the Irish
On 6th April 1987 Virginia Moyles, Runai, wrote to Councillor Hilda McCafferty at the Inner London Education Authority in response to a request to join in a consultative party on Irish affairs within ILEA. One of the issues flagged up was that in London IBRG had several branches and represented several different Irish communities.
IBRG set out their demands for the recognition of the Irish as distinct ethnic/racial group, and as targets of anti-Irish racism within this society, the need for equal opportunities monitoring of Irish employees and students, and the need to effectively counter anti-Irish racism including re-evaluating the curricula for this purpose.
She asked for details of any steps which ILEA has taken or is planning to take in the near future to put these policies issues into effective implementation. We would be interested in any ILEA documentation intended to ensure a recognition by all staff and students that anti-Irish racism is included within the terms of ILEA Equal; Opportunities policy. The results of various conferences which the Irish community has organised over recent years to articulate its needs provide a sound foundation on which to base the work of the consultative group. The IBRG looks forward to sharing this information with ILEA and to working productively with you as part of the consultative group.
On 8th April 1987 there was a huge confrontation between police and mourners at the funeral of Larry Marley who ha been killed by the UVF and who had organised the 1983 Maze escape.
Haringey Teach In on Ireland
On 11th April 1987 there was a one-day Haringey Teach in on Ireland organised by LCI, TOM and IBRG. Bernie Grant chaired the morning session.
The purpose of the day school was to launch a Haringey Delegation to Northern Ireland of Labour Councillors and community people and to find out at first hand what it was like to live in British occupied Ireland.
Speakers from Sinn Fein and IBRG attended as the day wanted to look at issues affecting the Irish community in Britain, such as the PTA framed prisons the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four, strip searching and plastic bullets which were stock piled at Wood Green Police station and were brought to Broadwater Farm but not used during police storming of the estate.
On 23rd April 1987 Peter Archer, Labour spokesperson on Northern Ireland, expressed his support for the McBride Principles which were themselves based in the Sullivan Principles based on Amerith can investment in South Africa.
On 25th April 1987 Lord Justice Gibson, the second highest judge in N. Ireland, was killed by a IRA bomb to face a higher court based on his own controversial judgement on army killings.
On 1st May 1987 Camden IBRG along with Camden Rights Unit and LSPU opened an exhibition on the PTA with speaker Gareth Pierce Solicitor and John McDonnell on Surveillance and the PTA and on Saturday 2nd May showed the video Suspect Community and had a workshop on the PTA.
On 8th May 1987 the British Colonial army in breach of the Geneva Convention executed eight IRA volunteers when they had the capacity to arrest them at Lough gall. 40 members of the SAS were involved in a pre planned execution plan. The incident was the highest IRA casualty in one single incident in the recent war.
The Ard Choiste met on 9May 1987 (3) at the Socialist Club in Bolton with delegates and officers attending including, Diarmuid Breatnach, Gearoid McGearailt Pat Reynolds, Maire Wynne, Laura Sullivan, Arthur Delvin, Bernadette Hyland, Joe Mullarkey, Caitlin Wright, David Wright and Maurice Moore.
The Ard Choiste held a minute’s silence for the volunteers who lost their lives at Loughgall.
The Ard Choiste heard that Haringey IBRG were holding an open Prisoners Conference in Haringey on 19th September 1987. The Ard Choiste donated £20 to the Anti Strip Search Demo to be held in Durham on 13h June 1987. Notice was given of the James Connolly/ Bobby Sands Commemoration at Conway Hall on 16th May 1987.
The editorial committee of an Pobail Eirithe (The Risen People) was agreed, Virginia Moyles, Pat Reynolds, Diarmuid Breatnach, Del Thorogood, Kevin Campbell, Caitlin Wright, and Peter Murray. The Ard Choiste were informed that Brighton wanted to set up an IBRG branch and that Maude Casey was helping to organise a first meeting. Pat Reynolds and Diarmuid to oversee the setting up of this new branch.
Southwark IBRG took out an advert supporting Southwark’s Council 10 days of action against Apartheid from 16-16 June 1987. Southwark IBRG wished to assert their whole hearted support and solidarity with the people of South Africa in their struggle for self-determination and majority rule.
Maurice Moore had a letter in the Irish Post in support of Dave Nellist, Labour candidate in Coventry and exposed that an Irish man Frank Devin was standing for the SDP whilst the SDP voted for the use of the racist PTA laws against the Irish in Britain.
Festival Committee censors In June 1987 the Irish Post carried this story in relation to the London Irish Festival on 5th July 1987 which had refused stalls to the Brent Nalgo Irish Workers Group and the IBRG. Both organisations condemned the organisers for their political discrimination which was a breach of Brent’s Equal opportunities policies.
On 11th June 1987 the Tories led by Thatcher won the British election. Bernie Grant got elected in Tottenham and in the run up to the election the IBRG were involved with other groups on organising a support rally meeting for Bernie Grant which drew in over 300 Irish people. Bernie had given the Irish community their Centre and they would repay him with a huge vote. Bernie Grant was committed to Irish unification and supported civil rights for the Irish community in Britain.
The Irish Post also stated that the IBRG were writing to the three SDLP members of Parliament, led by John Hume, asking for their support on the PTA, strip-searching and plastic bullets. The IBRG were also contacting Labour MPs in strong Irish areas asking for their support on these issues and other issues affecting the Irish community in Britain.
The Ard Choiste met in Coventry on 20th June 1987(4) with delegates and officers attending including Tom Barron, Pat Reynolds, Caitlin Wright, Gearoid McGearailt, Brian Miller, Maurice Moore, and Kevin Campbell.
The Ard Choiste noted that Labour had lost the General election but that Bernie Grant, Jeremy Corbyn, Dianne Abbott, Clare Short and Ken Livingstone and many other had been elected who were good on Ireland.
The Ard Choiste heard that the first issue of an Pobal Eirithe would be out by December 1987.
The meeting noted that Lambeth IBRG were hosting a National IBRG Irish Welfare Conference on 4th July at Lambeth Town Hall.
The London Irish Festival again had turned down IBRG for a stall as they were afraid of us being able to reach the Irish community.
The Labour Party Irish Sections had asked to meet IBRG which was agreed,
The Ard Choiste heard that Lord Colville was conducting another review of the PTA for the British state, and the PRO would draft an IBRG response and all branches were asked to write in opposing the Act. The meeting heard that the IBRG prisoners conference’s main focus would be on Repatriation of Irish Prisoners. The IBRG had a letter back from Brian Lenihan on the issue stating that the Department of Justice was responsible for drafting any ratification agreement on the matter. The meeting noted a large meeting had taken place in Dublin on the Birmingham Six case with Tony Benn and Chris Mullin speaking.
An Emergency Ard Choiste meeting was held at Green Ink Bookshop North London on 29th June 1987 to discuss the issue of the Mental Health Steering Group which was set up following the IBRG Mental health Conference. Delegates attending included Laura Sullivan, Pat Sullivan, Brain Miller, Pat Reynolds, Gearoid McGearailt, Diarmuid Breatnach, Trevor O’Farrell, Tom Barron, Noreen Donoghue, and Virginia Moyles.
The issue was whether the Mental Health Forum should be independent of IBRG or whether it should have an IBRG chair. The problem being that IBRG had only five members present when 50 attended the first meeting of the Forum. The Ard Choiste could not take a decision as Camden branch had not met to discuss the situation and the matter was put off until the next London Ard Choiste on 1st August 1987.
Conference on An Irish Perspective on British Welfare
On 4th July 1987 the IBRG held a conference on An Irish Perspective on British Welfare which was the first countrywide conference to look in-depth at the various needs and problems of the Irish living in Britain. More than 125 people attended.
Topics covered included: Irish government welfare policy, emigration, the effects of racism, the role of the catholic Church, the needs of Irish elderly, Irish women and disadvantages, Young Irish offenders, Double disadvantage and Irish Travellers, and Welfare work and the Catholic Church.
Speakers included an Irish Government representative from the Irish Embassy, Fr Des Wilson of West Belfast, John McDonnell ex deputy GLC, Tom Connor research worker at LSPU, Alison Norman for Policy Studies on Ageing, Mary Lennon Grainuaile Collective, Michael O Riabhaig Merseyside Probation Service, Tony Lee Outreach worker at LSPU, Liam Clarke Lecturer in Social Work and Elderly, Clare Keating of the IPA and Maire Higgins of Irish Prisoners Support Group. The conference was oversubscribed and had full workshops.
Read Gearoid’s account of the conference below.
The IBRG Ard Choiste met on 1st August 1987 (5) at Centreprise Bookshop in Hackney East London with delegates and officers attended including Gearoid McGearailt, Maire Wynne, Denis Casey, Nuala Eefting, Maurice Cahill, Tom Barron, Elaine Scott, Jackie Jolly, Virginia Moyles, Laura Sullivan, Diarmuid Breatnach, Deasuin MacGearailt and Pete Millar.
The Ard Choiste congratulated Lambeth on the great success of their Welfare Conference. The meeting heard that the Birmingham Six appeal was coming up in November. It was noted that a new Irish Ambassador had been appointed and the meeting agreed to seek a meeting with him.
It was reported back that the IBRG, despite their ban, had taken a banner on the Roundwood Park Parade. Carried by Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds they were very well received by the thousands of people attending. It was agreed that the IBRG raise the ban on IBRG and the Irish Workers Group with the Chair of Leisure in Brent. The Ard Choiste heard that the Women’s Sub committee had met a few times and had held successful meetings, and had decided to create their own banner for marches and meetings.
IBRG on TOM Delegation to Belfast 7-10 August 1987
IBRG members joined the Troops out Delegation to Belfast from 7-10th August 1987 and took part in the Anti-Internment march. There were 120 people from Britain on the delegation which included TOM, LCI, IBRG, AUEW, Welsh Language society, Durham miners, Broadwater Farm Youth Association, Leicester Asian Youth Project and various trade unions bodies. Laura Sullivan was quoted in the Irish Post report on 23rd August 1987 ‘We were shocked to have guns pointed at us while being questioned, but it made us all the more determined to go on. On the day itself the march was a powerful experience and with so many people on it we didn’t feel intimidated’.
Read Laura and Virginia’s report on the delegation at the bottom of this post
On 14th August 1987 Margaret Mullarkey of Bolton IBRG received a reply from Barbara Castle MEP who wrote a supportive letter, but stated she could not agree with IBRG policy of immediate withdrawal of British troops from Ireland. She supported the Anglo Irish agreement, but stated that she believed in the reunification of Ireland and the withdrawal of troops as soon as possible, and had opposed the use of plastic bullets and strip searching. She will always fight for justice for Irish people and will be happy to help the IBRG meet the needs of Bolton Irish including their cultural needs.
IBRG urges Express Boycott was the headline on 29th August 1987 in the Irish Post story in which the IBRG called on Irish trade unionists not to print the Express newspaper in Ireland given their anti-Irish racism in Britain. They said the paper were openly racist and anti-Irish, and continually denigrate Ireland and the Irish people. The IBRG called on the Irish print workers to support their brothers and sisters in England in fighting anti Irish racism. We do not believe that they will accept 50 pieces of silver and betray their own people by printing newspapers, that call them pigs and their country a dung hole. Even when Stephen Roche won the Tour de France the Daily express printed a racist cartoon on the victory.
First meeting of Brighton IBRG
On 3rd September 1987 Gearoid McGearailt and Pat Reynolds went down to Brighton to speak to the first meeting of Brighton IBRG. The meeting was around the many issues affecting the Irish community from PTA Framed prisoners to anti Irish racism in the media. One of the new Brighton IBRG members, Maude Casey, brought out a new children’s fiction book in September called Over the Water dealing with the experience of a young second generation Irish girl growing up in Britain. It was published by the Women’s Press and was widely welcomed by the Irish community.
The IBRG Ard Choiste met on 12th September 1987 (6) in Manchester where delegates and officers including, Laura Sullivan, Michael Cnaimhsi, Joe Mullarkey Bolton, Caitlin Wright, David Wright, Bernadette Hyland, Majelle Barr- Kamkar, Kevin Campbell, Michael O Riabhaig, Maurice Moore, Maire O’Shea, Pat Reynolds, Gearoid McGearailt, Diarmuid Bretanach, Seamus O Coillean and Virginia Moyles.
Laura Sullivan was elected Leas Runia and Caitlin Wright was elected Education Officer. Laura and Caitlin would give the organisation greater strength. The Ard Choiste heard that Brighton IBRG had now been set up. It was agreed that IBRG meet with TOM and LCI. It was decided to send two delegates to the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis in Dublin. It was agreed to hold the Comhcomhairle in Leeds on 24th October 1987. The Ard Choiste was interrupted for an hour and a half by a bomb hoax. Ard Choiste agreed to support the Broadwater Farm march on 3rd October and to make a donation of £20.
The issues to be raised with the new Irish Ambassador were agreed, extradition, repatriation of Prisoners, Birmingham Six and Guild ford Four, PTA, trial by media, Racism in the media, Travel concession for elderly, Emigration, Dion and lack of funding, Abortion trail, 26 countries Race relations act, Schools and culture, qualification discrimination.
The Ard Choiste agreed to write to Charlie Haughey and Brian Lenihan urging them to state publicly that the Birmingham Six are innocent. The Ard Choiste agreed to sponsor and support the LCI Conference on Discrimination in Employment in N. Ireland Conference on 28 November in London.
The Ard Choiste condemned the interference of the American Ambassador to the UK for his political interference and his attack on the McBride Principles, and condemned his silence on discrimination in Northern Ireland and for allowing himself to be used as a small pawn in a British propaganda exercise. The Ard Choiste condemned the Irish government for their conspiracy of silence over the years on the framed innocent Irish hostages held in Britain.
The Ard Choiste further condemned the hysterical and racist manner that both the British police and media threated three Irish people alleged to have being involved in a conspiracy.
The Ard Choiste stated that they did not believe that any Irish person charged with a political offence could receive a fair trial in Britain at the present time. Irish people arrested are publicly tried by the British media in direct contravention of the sub judice laws and noted the difference with British football supporters charged with serious offences in Belgium. The assumption of being presumed innocent until proved guilty is not extended to Irish people in Britain, it is innocent when proven Irish instead. The story referred to the three young Irish people Martina Shanahan, John McCann and Finbar Cullen, who became known as the Winchester Three. They were arrested camping near Wiltshire and the estate of, Secretary of State for N.Ireland Tom King’s.
The Irish Post also reported that the IBRG had challenged Professor Davies to a debate after his total failure to see the difference between racism and humour. The IBRG statement said: Racist jokes like sexist jokes are about the power relationship and domination of one group by another. Jokes on race colour and ethnic background are based on racist stereotypes that have their origins in British and European colonisation of Black and Irish people. They attack the self-identity and self-definition of a people and are a direct attempt to marginalise and render them powerless.
IBRG pointed out that Professor Davies had also attacked Islington Council for funding an Irish welfare project in the borough. IBRG had sent Professor Davies a copy of Liz Curtis book “The Same Old Story; the history of anti-Irish racism” to try and educate him out of his ignorance.
US Envoy slammed by IBRG on 19th September 1987 the Irish Post ran this story. IBRG slammed the American Ambassador for supporting the British government in opposing the McBride Principles and of ignoring the discrimination faced by Catholics in employment in N. Ireland. The argument that the McBride Principles would prohibit American investment in N. Ireland was nonsense and without evidence as American companies should not be funding racist and sectarian discrimination in employment. Americans were far more likely to invest in companies with equal opportunities programmes. The IBRG in addition were sponsoring a conference in London in November on employment discrimination in Northern Ireland.
Haringey IBRG Conference on Repatriation of Irish Prisoners
On 19th September 19876 Haringey IBRG put on a countrywide Conference on repatriation of Irish Prisoners in order to put pressure on both the Irish and British government on the issue. Key note speakers were Gareth Pierce and Harry Fletcher of NAPO. Over 100 people attended.
Harry Fletcher stated there were over 1000 Irish born prisoners in British jails including about 45 category A political prisoners. He stated that NAPO supported repatriating prisoners as it would improve contact between the prisoners and their families, as it costs a fortune to travel from Ireland to Britain and get accommodation and food for the trip, He also argued that Irish prisoners should be transferred to N. Ireland when they were born there which was allowed under Home Office rules. He cited the European Repatriation of Prisoner treaty which the Home office had endorsed and only discrimination was stopping transfer of the Irish prisoners.
Gareth Pierce spoke about Frank Stagg who died in Hunger strike in 1976 for the right to serve his sentence in Ireland. At the time of the hunger strike the British government took out adverts in Belfast papers stating that Stagg could be transferred to a prison near his home and wife in Coventry, implying that the only reason that he could not go to Ireland, was that he could not prove it was his home at the time of his arrest.
The afternoon session was opened by four women from the Relatives Support Committee. They spoke of their experiences of travelling to Britain for visits and the extreme hardship involved, which included the PTA and strip searching being used against them. At the end of the day, a motion was passed called on the Dublin government to ratify the convention for the repatriation of sentenced prisoners and that the British government adheres to its own prison policy and transfer Irish prisoners from N. Ireland to prisons near their homes.
The Conference was given full coverage in An Phoblacht and in Hands off Ireland which carried interviews with the women speakers. The London Irish News highlighted Gareth Pierce’s talk on how Irish prisoners were often ghosted before visits, and how many relatives were held up under the PTA when trying to visit their relatives in prison in Britain.
Haringey IBRG puts case for prisoner transfers was how the Irish Post covered it and reported how Haringey IBRG had written to the Home Office Minister for prisons arguing that Irish prisoners born in N. Ireland should be transferred home. The report stated that Ken Livingstone MP had also written to the Minister who replied ‘There is no element of unfair discrimination in our policy on these transfer…Our experience has been that prisoners who retain links with paramilitary organisations are unlikely to satisfy this condition’
It was clear that Irish political prisoners were being penalised for their politics. Marie Higgins of IBRG pointed out that Britain soldiers convicted of crimes were given the automatic choice of serving their sentence in Britain. It was clear that the British government was racially discriminating against Irish prisoners because of their racial origins and their politics and the rest was lame excuses without merit.
On 1st October 1987 Haringey IBRG presented an evening of Irish Culture at Hornsey library in North London. The Haringey IBRG Video on the Irish in Haringey was shown which had been made by Haringey IBRG and included material on the new Irish Centre in Haringey., Taking part also was Green Ink Writers Collective, The Hairy Marys plus traditional music with a Green ink bookstall and an exhibition on Guildford Four. The event was free and packed, and was part of Haringey multi-cultural bookfair.
On 2nd October 1987 the IBRG received a letter from TOM outlining recent discussions between TOM, LCI and IBRG and Sinn Fein which agreed that the CBWI(Committee for British Withdrawal from Ireland) would be made up of TOM, IBRG and LCI and their main responsibility would be the organisation of the annual Bloody Sunday March in Britain and other activities it decides on regarding British withdrawal from Ireland.
On 15th October 1987 the Irish Post gave Maude Casey a full page in the Irish Post on her new book Over the Water where she was able to explain the thinking behind the novel based on second generation experience. Maude was one of the founding members of Brighton IBRG.
The Comhcomhairle was held at the Woodpecker Public House, Leeds on 24th October 1987(7). Delegates and officers attending included Kevin Campbell, Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Cahill, Caitlin Wright, David Wright, J McCarthy, Diarmuid Breatnach, Pat Reynolds, Gearoid MacGearailt, Elaine Scott, Virginia Moyles, Maurice Moore, Deasuin McGearailt, and Sam Stewart.
It held workshops on the Education system and the needs of Irish People led by Education officer Caitlin Wright, Internal Education/Training led by Runai Virginia Moyles, Emigration arrival in Britain led by Gearoid McGearailt. The minutes of the meeting included full reports on these workshops with a large number of recommendations.
On 26th October 1987 the Rev Martin Smyth, Unionist MP, released a press release to Southampton Orange Lodge headed Undermining the Integrity of the Nation How public funds Finance terrorist Sympathisers. The press release would seem to libel the IBRG which is why no news agency would touch it, but a copy was forwarded to the IBRG by a journalist.
The press release stated: One of the first things I intend to do when Parliament resumes is to probe government ministers about public funds which are flowing into republican groups and left-wing organisations who act as apologists for terrorism… One of the main organisations involved is the Irish in Britain Representation group or IBRG which obtains funds from several left-wing London boroughs including Haringey, Hackney, Islington and Camden. They recently sent groups from five of their branches in London to a Bobby Sands commemoration march organised by the Booby Sands commemoration Committee… IBRG member took part in the internment commemoration in Belfast in August along with the Troops Out movement Gerry Adams and the Labour Committee on Ireland. IBRG also promotes the cause of Irish sections within the Labour Party and the teaching of Irish in schools. The organisers of an Irish Festival in Brent during the summer banned the local IBRG from taking park along with a number of Irish political prisoners’ groups. I believe this was because of the consistent apologies for republican actions.
In fact Islington IBRG never received one penny from Islington Council. Martin Smyth was lucky this statement was not published as he might have ended up a much poorer man as he fails to evidence any connection between IBRG and IRA military actions. Indeed, the London Evening Standard had to retract a similar false allegation. Martin Smyth does not indicate his own position as regards Loyalist Terrorism, nor does he condemn British state terrorism in Ireland like the Bloody Sunday massacre and the Ballymurphy massacre, nor the killing of children by plastic bullets. He represents a colonial mindset.
IBRG had a meeting with Sinn Fein at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis in Dublin on 31 October 1987 on the issue of Irish prisoners in Britain along with TOM, Labour Party Irish Society, IPA and London Armagh Women.
The meeting noted that much work was done in Britain on prisoners but that it needed to be better coordinated and focused to be more effective. The meeting noted the success of the recent IBRG conference on repatriation. Groups were asked what they thought their involvement in a coordinated campaign should be how it could be organised, and what resources were required.
Groups were asked to write to Sinn Fein Prisoners Department with responses who would collate the responses into guidelines, for a possible strategy which could be put to the groups involved as a way of mounting a concerted campaign.
There was a difficulty in running political prisoners together with the framed prisoners and the ODC (ordinary decent prisoners), there were a lot of different issues like transfer to N. Ireland was already there under Home Office rules but transfer to Republic would depend on ratification on Prisoners Transfer Treaty.
There were also separate issues like the use of PTA against visitors to Britain, strip searching, the criminal justice system and its racism and discrimination plus the racism of the media regarding arrested persons. There were also the separate organisation Cumann Cabrach for Republican prisoners.
Solidarity with Black Marches was the Irish Post headline on 1st November 1987. The paper reported that a number of Irish organisations had sponsored the Broadwater Farm March from Tottenham to Hyde Park via Downing St – a huge distance of over 12 miles which was called under the Civil Rights banned on the second anniversary of the death of Cynthia Jarrett.
The wrongly convicted prisoners from Broadwater Farm echoed what happened the Irish community in the Birmingham Six and Guildford cases. In the police raid on Broadwater Farm, similar to N. Ireland, over 400 were arrested and over 271 homes raided. 69 people were charged but in the process many of their human rights were abused where they were kept for days without a solicitor. TOM, LCI and IBRG brought a large Irish contingent on the march with their banners. It was noted that the Labour Party Black sections had recently visited N. Ireland as guests of Sinn Fein and that Broadwater Farm Youths had visited Belfast as part of the August Delegation.
The Birmingham Six Appeal started at the Old Bailey on 2nd November 1987 and Pat Reynolds was able to observe some of the appeal which went on for days.
On 8th November 1987 an IRA bomb in Enniskillen killed 11 people at the annual Remembrance Day ceremony and was a disaster for the Republican movement and caused real damage in Ireland and abroad. Gordon Wilson, father of one of the dead, nurse Marie Wilson, came out of the incident with a forgiving mind and hopes for a better future.
Manchester IBRG Hearts and Minds Conference
On 14 November 1987 Manchester IBRG held a countrywide conference entitled Hearts and Minds the Irish in Britain held at Manchester Town Hall which was opened by Cllr. Eileen Kelly Chair of Manchester City Council. The morning keynote speaker was communist and historian Desmond Greaves and the key note afternoon speech was by Gearoid McGearailt chair of IBRG.
The morning seminars were on; Irish Politics in Manchester 1890-1914 by Steven Fielding, the Work of the Irish in Manchester History Group, Aspects of Irish women’s emigration by Mary Lennon, The needs of Irish Elderly by Liam Clarke, Working with Irish Travellers by Sister Anna, and Members of Frontline Culture and Education discussed a new play No Irish Need apply. The afternoon seminars were; Fighting anti Irish racism by Pat Reynolds, Irish Dimensions in British Education by Mary Hickman, The Irish and Mental Health by Dr Maire O Shea, Growing Up Irish in Liverpool Moy McCrory and Tiochfaidh Ar La and Then What by Michael O Riabhaigh.
The Conference was sponsored by Barbara Castle MEP, Eddie Newman MEP, Christine Crawley MEP, Bob Parry MP, Eric Heffer MP, Alf Morris MP, Cllr Jim King, Cllr.Mary Kelly, Cllr Luke Kearns Irish in Britain History Centre, UCATT NW Region, MnaNhEireann, Manchester City Council, Merseyside Irish Studies, Centerprise and Green Ink Bookshop.
The Conference received much publicity in the Irish papers in Britain with the Irish Post carrying photos and a large write up. The Post reported that 140 delegates had attended the Conference from all over Britain and particularly the North West, Midlands and Central Britain.
The Chair of Manchester City Council, Cllr Eileen Kelly in opening the Conference stated ‘The City Council shares basic policies with the IBRG. We are seeking to defend the rights of the Irish people in Manchester and elsewhere and we are working towards redevelopment of a multi-cultural city’. She said one of her own priorities was combatting anti Irish racism in the city’s schools. It quoted Bernadette Hyland ‘We are absolutely delighted with the way the conference went. It was a most successful day and it is bound to make a significant contribution to the development of the IBRG and the pursuance of Irish community interest in the North West.’
The London Irish News carried Gearoid McGearailt’s speech quoting it at length. He described the long term aims of IBRG was to have an Irish community which was free from repression in Britain and participating equally in this society. Britain has given us many things one of which was racism, we were one of the first people to suffer from deliberate derision of our morals and intelligence so that the British could justify the invasion of our country. Structured integrated racism has been one of its roots from the time of the Anglo Normans of the 12th century. They knew what they were doing to justify invasion and expansion in Ireland. Colonial repression in the British Empire was the direct result of their invasion of Ireland. Part of the stereotyping of the Irish was that this racism was ignored. Because of the absolute belief in superiority of British intelligence this racism became part of the civilising process for the Irish people who were made out to be violent stupid and dull. The Irish in Britain were given a choice, defend your Irishness or assimilate.
Gearoid spoke of the No Irish No Blacks need Apply which faced the parents of today’s children. The oppression of the Irish community left it introverted. Today there was a new spirit around and the IBRG was a key component of this new drive for respect and recognition, and were sending out a clear message that we would no longer tolerate being second class citizens, and no longer tolerate the racism for the sake of our children and future generations. The Irish government had a problem because we told them they had a clear duty of care to the Irish in Britain as their citizens. The race relations environment in Britain had been built by the sweat and tears of the Black community and we should ally ourselves with them against British oppression.
On 21st November 1987 the IBRG Ard Choiste met in Coventry (8) where delegates and officers included Diarmuid Breatnach, Maurice Moore, Bernadette Hyland, Majella Barr Kamkar, Caitlin Wright, David Wright, Denis Casey, Laura Sullivan, Pat O Sullivan, Pat Reynolds, Maire O Shea, Gearoid McGearailt, Seamus O Coilean, and Eddie Caughey with apologies from Joe Mullarkey and Maire Wynne.
Bernadette Hyland was elected Leas Cathaoirleach as Jackie Jolly had stood down for health reasons. The Ard Choiste heard that the Northern region of IBRG had held a public meeting on Birmingham Six and Guildford Four and had raised over £500 for the Birmingham Six Appeal. Maria Higgins had resigned from IBRG taking the correspondence of the Irish Prisoners Support Group with her.
Lambeth IBRG had launched a leaflet on the new Nationality Act and had received over one thousand letters from Irish members of the public on the issue. In 1981 the British government passed an Act which had an effect on every Commonwealth citizen or Irish citizen who settled in Britain before 1st January 1973 who had until the 31st December to register for British citizenship. The problem for Irish people was whether to register as British citizens or retain their Irish citizenship.
The Irish Embassy had replied over the Winchester Three stating they would only intervene or act if approached by a relative of these detained.
The meeting expressed concern and condemned Camden Council for deporting 11 homeless Irish families back to Ireland in clear cases of discrimination in that checks were made in Ireland which were not made in relation to emigrants from other countries. A motion from Haringey IBRG was agreed stating “that this meeting deplores the racism of Camden Council in deporting Irish families back to Ireland and demand that they stop immediately their racist policies against Irish people and implement their housing policies without racial bias’.
The meeting heard of an invite from Sinn Fein for an IBRG delegation to visit Belfast on their own without the pressure of being part of a large British delegation, and being seen as a foreign delegation.
A motion from Haringey IBRG was passed which stated ‘This meeting congratulates Manchester IBRG on their successful conference Hearts and Minds held recently in Manchester. Their conference set a leading example to other branches in their organisation and presentation of important issues within our own community”.
Another motion from Haringey IBRG was passed which read’ This meeting deplores the political and media attacks on Ken Livingstone for speaking out for Irish unity and support his stand on Irish self-determination and unity and British withdrawal’.
The Ard Choiste decided to donate £200 to the Bloody Sunday March which IBRG were part of the organising committee. Laura Sullivan was nominated to be the IBRG rep on the organising committee. The meeting was told of upcoming events: picket of the Home Office in Friday 27 November on the PTA, Sat 28 November Conference in London on Employment Discrimination in N. Ireland and on Saturday 5 December 1987 LSPU Conference at Lambeth Town Hall on Strip searching.
On 28th November 1987 IBRG delegates attended a trade union conference “Ireland the Cause of Labour” on employment discrimination in N. Ireland at the Camden Centre Camden Council Building at Kings Cross London which the IBRG had sponsored. The conference included a full discussion of the McBride principles and have key note speakers along with workshops to look at how trade unionists in Britain could support the battle against employment discrimination in N. Ireland.
On 2nd December IBRG published the first edition of an Pobal Eirithe with over 1,000 copies published which could be sold in branches and at Irish community events.
The IBRG ARD Choiste met on 12th December 1987 (9) at the Haringey Irish Centre in North London. Delegates and officers included the following Laura Sullivan, Pat O Sullivan, Nuala Eefting, Denis Casey, Pat Reynolds, Deasun MacGearailt, Marie Wynne, Gearoid McGearailt Chair, Maurice Moore, Diarmuid Breatnach , Brian Miller, Siobhan Hier, Virginia Moyles Runai, Kevin Campbell. Apologies Maire O Shea, Bernadette Hyland and Eddie Caughey.
The Ard Choiste agreed the delegation to the Irish Embassy as Sam Steward Leeds, Caitlin Wright Bolton, Maurice Moore Coventry, Gearoid McGearailt Lambeth, Virginia Moyles Hackney and Kathleen Henry Lewisham to include three women and three men with Pat Reynolds as a fall back if needed.
The meeting noted that decision on the Birmingham Six was reserved until the New Year. The case of Danny McNamee was discussed and support offered. A motion from Hackney That IBRG work with other groups to mount a concerted campaign for the repatriation of political and non-political prisoners who wish to be repatriated to the 26 countries and for prisoners who want to be moved to the Six Counties under Home Office rules was passed and for the abolition of strip searching.
Another motion from Hackney was passed That IBRG accepts Sinn Fein invitation to send a delegation to the 6 counties, that we learn all we can about Sinn Fein, including spending some time on cultural issues such as language and dance, and that we arrange a broader based visit to meet other groups in 1988.
The Ard Choiste discussed the racist deportation by Camden Council of homeless Irish families and agreed to send a delegation to Camden’s next Race Relations Committee to raise the issue, that Pat Reynolds Brian Miller and Laura Sullivan prepare a submission to the ALA on the issue and that along with Diarmuid Breatnach they would form a London steering group on the issue, that Shelter be asked to take a test case to the European court, and that IBRG meet with Shelter on the matter.
The Ard Choiste rejected the recommendations from Lord Colville on his review of the PTA. His main recommendation was for exclusion orders to N. Ireland be dropped as it was like South Africa with Internal exile, and his second; to make the PTA permanent rather than temporary provisions. The Government turned down his recommendation on exclusion orders.
IBRG condemned the PTA with its main aim to terrorise and intimidate the Irish community with its primary function being to politically neutralise and harass the Irish community. The IBRG calls on the Irish government to stand up for the Irish community in Britain and publicly condemn the PTA and called for its appeal. The PTA is a totally discredited piece of legislation, a relic of vindictive colonial policing methods, based on punishing a whole community. The IBRG will continue to fight the PTA with every means available. The IBRG called the report a cosmetic smokescreen to cover up the injustice of the act. The PTA was a blatant piece of political engineering designed to silence any political views or activities around Irish unity or Britain’s role in Ireland. To make the PTA permanent is to entire anti Irish racism into British law, and as a permanent feature of British police to harass Irish citizens travelling to and from Ireland. The extension of embarkation cards was a George Orwell 1984 approach designed to target the Irish and reflect early Nazi system in Germany where they recorded minority communities. Colville exercise was a sham propaganda exercise and to increase detention times from 12 hours to 48 hours was dangerous as people were held incommunicado and without legal help.
- Ard Choiste 10/01/1987
- Ard Fheis 21/03/1987
- Ard Choiste 9/05/1987
- Ard Choiste 20/06/1987
- Ard Choiste 01/08/1987
- Ard Choiste 12/09/1987
- Comhcomhairle 24/10/1987
- Ard Choiste 21/11/1987
- Ard Choiste 12/12/1987
Gearoid’s speech from the “Conference on an Irish Dimension to British Welfare 1987” – note not 1984.
Laura and Virginia’s report on the TOM Delegation to Belfast 7-10 August 1987
Listen to my talk about the IBRG in the northwest in the Irish Collection at the WCML here
An excellent history of 200 years of Irish political activity in Mancheser – including Manchester IBRG read “The Wearing of the Green” by Michael Herbert. Buy it here
Read previous posts on IBRG history here