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.
1988 was the 70th anniversary of the Irish Peoples vote for a Republic and in each decade since then the Irish abroad have raised this banner high.
The IBRG policy on immediate withdrawal of British forces of occupation was not the first time that this demand had been made. In 1971 Senator Edward Kennedy brought a motion before both House of Congress calling for the British to withdraw from N. Ireland and for an united Ireland as he stated ‘The heart of the solution we offer today is to call for the immediate withdrawal of British Troops from Nt Ireland and for the establishment of an United Ireland. Without a firm commitment to that withdrawal and unification there can be no peace in Ireland. The killings will go on and the intolerable violence will continue. Ulster is becoming Britain’s Vietnam Indeed it is fair to say that Britain’s stance towards peace in Nt Ireland today is where America was in SE Asia in the early 1960’s.’ What a tragedy that it took the British a generation to realise this.
On 13th January 1988 IBRG members Maude Casey, Diarmuid Breatnach, Brid Dooley and Pat Reynolds met with Hilda McCafferty of ILEA (Inner London Education Authority) to push for Irish recognition across the board in ILEA, ethnic monitoring of staff and students, an Irish dimension in literature, history and politics, recognition of anti-Irish racism and steps to challenge it.
On 15th January 1988 Sean McBride dies. Both Jim King and Pat Reynolds had met him at the Irish American Unity Conference back in 1985 where Sean McBride got a standing ovation from the packed Conference.
On 20th January 1988 Pat Reynolds spoke at Cambridge College of Arts & Technology to several hundred students on Ireland and the Irish in Britain.
On 23rd January 1988 the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Trade Union Club in Blackburn with 11 delegates and officers present including Joan Brennan, Michael O Cnaimhsi Jim King, Joe Mullarkey, Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds and Virginia Moyles with apologies from Gearoid MacGearailt, Maire O Shea, Diarmuid Breatnach, Maurice Moore and Caitlin Wright.
The meeting heard that two meetings had taken place in Brent to restart Brent IBRG. It was reported that IBRG had challenged Camden Council over deporting Irish homeless families and that Laura Sullivan, Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds were working on the matter. Brent Council had agreed not to deport Irish families. Camden were being taken to court on the matter. Islington and Manchester were looking at the situation.
It was felt that IBRG needed a housing policy, but IBRG were leading the fight against the deportation of Irish families.
IBRG had made a response to Lord Colville for his review into the PTA. In London the IBRG had acted over Christmas to protect several Derry young men who had been arrested including standing bail for one of them. The call had come from Derry to try and help them and get them a good solicitor. Pat Reynolds found hostility at Wood Green police station when he went to record the bail money, where the police tried to mislay his passport.
The meeting heard that IBRG had sold 650 copies of the first edition of an pobal eirithe and that it was on sale in community bookshops in London.
The Ard Choiste heard that an American High Court judge had described the Danny Gilbert McNamee case ‘an abomination of justice’. Branches were asked to take up the case of Martina Shanahan who was being strip searched on a regular basis. Haringey IBRG would be holding an Education Conference in April 1988.
The meeting heard that NALGO head office had apologised for publishing in the Nalgo Insurance magazine “Asset” –an anti-Irish article. The Manager of Nalgo Insurance based at Nalgo HQ at Kings Cross had written to Pat Reynolds PRO to say regarding “What’s in a Wogan “an article on Terry Wogan which went on say No potato head is he, that ‘We agree that the comments contained in this article were most unfortunate and should not have been published. Certainly, Nalgo Insurance agree with equal opportunities and it is intended that any future issue of Asset will contain an appropriate apology’.
Terry Wogan also made it known to the IBRG via his agent that he was disgusted with the article and disassociated himself from it, indicating that he was a proud Irish man. Manchester IBRG had taken up the issue through Manchester Nalgo who had passed a motion condemning the article as anti-Irish.
The meeting decided to send an IBRG delegation to Belfast to meet Sinn Fein and to look at cultural projects in the city. The meeting held a minutes silence for the late Sean McBride and acknowledged his fight across generations for Ireland’s freedom.
The meeting agreed to get involved in the 20th anniversary year of action to mark 200 years of the Irish Civil Rights movement. Virginia Moyles reported back on her attendance at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis in Dublin. The meeting agreed that all branches should write to the Home Office and to Brian Lenihan over the racist PTA laws in Britain.
Failure of Birmingham Six Appeal
On 28th January 1988 IBRG members picketed 10 Downing St over the Birmingham Six case and their appeal being rejected. The British State knew these men to be innocent but decided to keep them in prison for longer. Lord Lane Lord Chief Justice ruled the convictions safe and satisfactory after the then longest appeal of seven weeks in British history. Lord Denning summed up the view of the British judiciary when in retirement he stated ‘if the men meaning the Birmingham Six had been hung, we would have none of this trouble’.
The next day IBRG members attended a Birmingham Six benefit at the Camden Irish centre. After a seven-week appeal hearing the Appeal Court rejected the Appeal with Lord Lane stating ‘the longer this trail has gone on the more convinced this court has been that the verdict was correct’ which says much for Lord Lane. The Labour MP Chris Mullin stated ‘it is a sad day for British justice’. The Irish Justice Minister says he is amazed and saddened by the decision, which had soured British Irish relations because the Irish government was under massive pressure at home on the issue, and the Anglo-Irish Agreement could not even deliver Irish hostages back to the community.
The IBRG in their statement on the Birmingham Six appeal being turned down restated Lord Denning 1980 verdict on the case the appalling vista view of British justice, it is so terrible to contemplate that it could not have happened, but it did happen. ‘If the six men win, it will mean that the police were guilty of perjury that they were guilty of violence and threats, that the confessions admitted were involuntary and were improperly admitted in evidence and that the convictions were erroneous.’
The Birmingham Six remain incarcerated because the British judiciary system acts totally in accord with British colonial political policy towards the Irish people. The Birmingham Six is not a miscarriage of justice, it is the only kind of justice that the British colonial state has ever given the Irish people, and until the Irish people are free from British colonial rule, we will continue to receive the same kind of treatment. The Guildford Four, the Maguire Seven, Judith Ward, McLoughlin and McNamee cases all testify to the same political truth.
The British state strategy for policing the Irish community in Britain to render it inactive and silent, and to take political hostages from our community, to harass and intimidate the entire community under the racist PTA laws, and to use the judiciary to rubber stamp their political control. But we not be silenced or broken, we will speak out for our civil and political rights. Our sense of freedom is intertwined with the oppression of the nationalist community in Nt Ireland, and the only way forward is to fight politically for the total victory of the Irish people over British imperialism.
The IBRG will continue to fight British injustices and call for a fresh and vigorous campaign for the release of all Irish prisoners falsely convicted by the British state. While they stay in prison, we as a community are all imprisoned and our political rights shacked. We demand their release and for an end of the racist PTYA laws. The IBRG call on the Irish community to become politically active, to make their voices heard, and to resist the injustice and oppression of our people.
Bloody Sunday March January 1988
On 30th January 1988 there was a huge crowd on the Bloody Sunday March -a reaction to the decision on the Birmingham Six case. The route was from Whittington Park in Holloway to Islington Town Hall with several IBRG banners on the March. Haringey IBRG had their banner smashed outside of Islington Town Hall when the National Front attacked the march as they entered the Town Hall. Ken Livingstone was the key speaker.
The Guardian covered the march and quoted the IBRG PRO who stated that TOM had 1,200-members and that IBRG had 5,000 members.
Ken Livingstone stated that any politician allowing an Irish republican to be extradited to Britain would be denying every fibre of Irish nationhood. Livingstone condemned the decision of the Appeal Court on the Birmingham and sated that it was of the most shameful week in Britain history with Ireland.
Mitchell McLoughlin spoke for Sinn Fein, Jeremy Corbyn MP and Diana Abbot MP also spoke along with Emma Groves a plastic bullet survivor. The March and rally were the biggest in a decade, with between 5-7000 people taking part.
Diana Abbot stated there would be no peace in Ireland until British troops were removed. 27 members of the National Front were arrested for disorder after attacking the March.
It was noted that there was a sizable young Irish crowd on the March due to heavy immigration from Ireland in recent years. The Bloody Sunday March was again organised by TOM, LCI and IBRG with Virginia Moyles being the IBRG delegate to the committee.
In the USA the Irish People newspaper covered the IBRG statement PTA Review a Sham and covered the statement in full with the further headline of Racist and Anti Irish.
New Irish joke book disgusting was the Irish Post headline on 1st February 1988 about the IBRG challenge to the publication of racist books about the Irish. Futura Publications owned it, and with Chair Robert Maxwell who owned the master company :MacDonald & Co. The company was based at Maxwell House in London. In two years alone Futura had sold over 485,000 of the Official Irish joke books.
Liz Curtis and Information on Ireland joined IBRG in their protest. Futura published three anti-Irish books with the main purpose to denigrate and treat the Irish people in a very racist derogatory way. The books were the official Irish Joke Book, the Irish Perfumed Garden and the Irish Kama Sutra all vile and mocking of the Irish portraying them a stupid and ignorant.
The books contained virulent racist anti-Irish material and Pat Reynolds challenged Maxwell as to why as a well-known member of a minority community, he should be making money out of racist abuse directed at the Irish community. Futura described their racist books as harmless fun. The books were on sale in Smiths and Menzies.
On 5th February 1988 John Stalker stated that he had been taken off the Shoot to Kill inquiry because his investigation was about to cause a political storm which would lead to resignations. He said his investigation showed that trained RUC squads had shot dead six unarmed republicans and then made up stories to cover up for their deaths.
On 6th February 1988 IBRG members attended a Conference on Emigration at the Brent Irish Centre.
IBRG Delegation meets Irish Embassy
On 12th February 1988 the IBRG sent a delegation to the Irish Embassy to meet the Irish Ambassador Andrew O ‘Rourke. The delegation members were Gearoid McGearailt Chair, Virginia Moyles Runai, Caitlin Wright Education and Pat Reynolds PRO. Pat O’Connor Minister Plenipotentiary and Briefni O’Reilly Third Secretary and Ted Smith Press Officer attended for the Embassy. The meeting lasted three hours.
The IBRG statement after the visit stated ‘The IBRG express deep disappointment with the meeting with the Irish Ambassador in that on every major issue affecting the Irish community in Britain which was raised with the Embassy, they appeared to have no clear policy for effective action.’
The issues raised include the Stalker Report on the British shoot to kill policy, Extradition, Transfer of Irish Prisoners, PTA, Emigration, Dion, Deportations of Irish families, Abortion, Anti Irish racism in the media, and anti-Irish discrimination, free travel for Irish elders, Manchester consulate, Irish lottery grant, and Irish nationality changes.
The Ambassador in response stated that Charlie Haughey would be making a statement to the Dail on the Stalker report, and on the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four Case the Irish government would not comment, until after the case had been to the House of Lords, and refused to state publicly that they believed the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four were innocent. In this matter they were acting like provincial governors for the British government and lacked the bottle of an independent nation.
On the transfer of Irish prisoners, the Irish Government could give no indication as to when they would ratify the transfer agreement, probably wait until the British told them it was ok to do so. The Irish Ambassador did state that the Irish government would soon be funding a full-time worker to deal with Irish prisoners in Britain. Again, they went to the Catholic church to do this, in an effort to head off the work the IBRG were doing in this area. The Catholic church had a record of colluding with the British government and keeping silence over Irish issues in prison like deaths in custody and their silence over Gerry Conlon being at a Catholic Church run hostel in Quex Road on the evening of the Guildford bombing, where they keep silent for 14 years on the matter, and then jumped on the bandwagon when the prisoners were close to release.
On the PTA the Irish Government wanted reform rather than repeal despite the fact that Haughey in opposition wanted it repealed. On Emigration the Irish government had no policy at all except to encourage it and keep it going.
The IBRG drew attention to Dion being all male and that it did not represent the wider Irish community. On the deportations of Irish families, the Irish Embassy saw nothing illegal nor discriminatory in it, despite the clear evidence that it was anti-Irish discrimination as the Irish were singled out for deportation, and Ireland was treated as a provincial colony of Britain.
On abortion the Irish government had no comment until after the supreme court decision in Dublin. On the question of anti-Irish racism and discrimination and the various reports of the GLC and others the Irish government and Embassy had taken no action.
The Irish Embassy sems to think that the Irish in Britain were doing fine, but had no evidence to back up their fake claims. On the question of anti-Irish racism in the media the Irish Embassy were out at sea and in a heavy fog, being clueless and ignorant.
Working towards Justice Key worker to press case of prisoners was the headline of the The London Irish News on 20th February 1988. It covered the IBRG visit to the Irish Embassy in a large article. The Irish Post on the same day had Embassy not Doing Enough. The story was also covered by the Irish News in Belfast.
On 12th February 1988 Paul Hill of the innocent Guildford Four got married in prison, and the Sun headline read IRA pig weds in prison – despite them knowing that he was innocent.
On 14th February 1988 IBRG members attended a large conference on Strip Searching at Hackney Town Hall.
On 16th February 1988 the IBRG held a Press Conference at the House of Commons on the PTA at which Clare Short MP and Pat Reynolds PRO spoke. Afterwards Pat had interviews on the PTA with LBC and BBC radio, and later that evening he attended the debate in the House of Commons. What he found out at the debate was revealing is that the majority of Tory MPs who spoke in favour of the PTA all had financial links with companies supplying arms/equipment for use in N. Ireland, but none declared their interests.
On 20th February 1988 the IBRG Ard Choste took place at Birmingham Community Association building in Birmingham with 20 delegates and officers present including Michael Herbert, David Wright, Pat O Sullivan, Mary Donnelly, Denis Casey, Eddie Caughey, Liz Fenton, Trevor O Farrell, Jerry Osner, Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds, Caitlin Wright, Diarmuid Breatnach, Gearoid McGearailt, Virginia Moyles, Maire O Shea, and Maurice Moore.
The Ard Choiste agreed a Haringey IBRG motion that the IBRG organise support and sponsor a St Patrick’s Day March on 19th March for Justice for the Irish Community over the framed prisoners and the PTA. It was agreed that Pat Reynolds coordinate the march with help from Diarmuid and Lewisham IBRG.
The Ard Choiste condemned the harassment of members of Comhaltas because of their Gaelic names and would take the issue with the British and Irish governments. A report back on the delegation to the Embassy was given. The upcoming delegation to N. Ireland was agreed. The meeting supported the ongoing IBRG campaign against the deportation of Irish families back to Ireland. It was agreed that IBRG co-ordinate a campaign on the transfer of Irish prisoners back to Ireland and on prison conditions.
The Ard Fheis would take place at Lambeth Town Hall on 5th March 1988. The Education Conference run by Haringey IBRG would take place on 25th June in Haringey. It was agreed to proceed with plans to send a delegation to Ireland and to the European parliament.
The Year of Action to commemorate 20 years since 1968 Civil Rights campaign was discussed, and the meeting rejected the idea of having a front of famous English people. The point was made that the oppression of Irish people in Britain was part and parcel of Britain colonisation of Ireland. It was agreed that the aim of the year should be self-determination for the Irish people and equality for the Irish in Britain.
In Community Care social work magazine in February 1988 Angela McAndrews of Birmingham IBRG had challenged those who denied that the Irish suffered from racism . The middle classes in Britain, whilst prepared to accept that black people suffered from racism, always wanted to deny the Irish experience of racism and to deny them access to the Race Discrimination Act in employment and housing.
On 22nd February 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking with Ken Livingstone and Mrs Hill, aunt of Paul Hill, at the Marion Centre in Brent to a huge crowd. There was nearly an incident when an ex British undercover officer spoke up at the meeting but Livingstone defused the matter.
On 22nd February 1988 the Irish Government announced its own inquiry into the shooting dead of Aiden McAnespie by machine gun fire the previous day on the border.
On 25th February 1988 the Socialist Workers Party wrote to the Bloody Sunday organisers asking to take part in building for the 20th anniversary in 1989 of the troops going into Ireland. Their letter stated ‘This year’s Bloody Sunday demonstration was both the largest and the most representative in terms of widespread labour movement support since the demonstration in August 1979 marking the 20th anniversary of the troops going in’.
On 28th February 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO had an interview with RTE about the Star newspaper being printed in Ireland given their racial abuse of the Irish in Britain.
Following a 1968 commemoration conference at Coalisland on 7th February 1988 a 68 Committee was set up to organise events to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Civil Rights movement with Bernadette McAliskey as Chair and Tom Hartley as Organiser. The 68 committee wrote to IBRG to advise them of the committee, and to inspire people in Britain to set up their own committee to hold events in Britain.
On 5th March 1988 the IBRG held their Ard Fheis at Lambeth Town Hall in South London with 34 delegates attending from11 branches. These branches were Hackney, Lambeth, Harrow, Lewisham, Camden, Brighton, Birmingham, Manchester, Haringey Coventry and Bolton.
Among those attending were Laura Sullivan, Deasun MacGearailt, Tom Fitzsimons, Seamus O Coillean, Virginia Moyles, Denis Casey, Nuala Eefting, Maurice Cahill, Maire O Shea, Maire Stedman, Aine bean Ni Gearailt, Seamus Clerkin, Tom Kane, Harry Bourne, Mary Donnelly, Pat O Sullivan, Eddie Caughey, Bernadette Hyland, Joan Brennan, Diarmuid Breatnach, Janice McKnight, Maurice Moore, Kathleen Henry, Pat Reynolds, Kathleen Horan, Margaret Coffey, Brain Millar, Caitlin Wright, David Wright, Trevor O Farrell, Frank Downing, Seamus Campbell, Marie McLoughlin,
Press attending included: Paul Griffin Irish Post Una McGrory Irish World, and Rachel Downey London Irish News.
The following officers were elected: Chair Gearoid McGearailt Lambeth, Vice Chair Bernadette Hyland Manchester, President Maire O Shea Birmingham, Vice President Joe Mullarkey Bolton, Runia Virginia Moyles Hackney, Leas runai Laura O Sullivan Hackney, Cisteoir Maurice Moore Coventry, PRO Pat Reynolds Haringey, Education officer Caitlin Wright Bolton, Regional Co-ordinator Diarmuid Breatnach Lewisham, Membership Janice McKnight Haringey.
The Chair Gearoid MacGearailt recalled a year of much activity and campaigning by the IBRG giving the cases of the Birmingham Six and Guildford a higher profile, the campaign against racism in the media and noted three successes in the past year when Staedtler apologised for a racist anti-Irish advert, as did Nalgo Insurance and London Transport.
He highlighted IBRG’s continued opposition to the PTA and the 59,000 computer checks done on the Irish in the last year, the IBRG campaign against Irish emigration, the conferences in Manchester Lambeth and Haringey on different issues, and promised IBRG another busy year ahead in fighting for the rights of the community. Motions included, to set up a single Irish Secretariat in Britain to represent the entire community, one on trade union rights and one on conditions facing Irish prisoners in Britain.
On 6th March 1988 three members of an IRA Active Service Unit were executed on the orders of Margaret Thatcher the British Prime Minister contrary to the Geneva Convention. The ASU were clearly unarmed but were still executed by the British colonial state in their colonial territory of Gibraltar.
IBRG took up the matter with Charlie Haughey, Taoiseach, Neil Kinnock, Leader of the Labour Party, George Robertson Labour Foreign affairs, and the Spanish Ambassador. George Roberson congratulated British Crown forces for the executions and the Geneva Convention violations.
Haughey was asked to seek an independent enquiry into these events, and a review of the instructions given to British soldiers in such situations.
IBRG asked Neil Kinnock whether the Labour party felt it was acceptable for unarmed people to be shot dead, on suspicion of having committed a crime in the light of the British Parliament consistently opposing the reintroduction of the death penalty, and to George Robertson in view of his statement in the Commons congratulating the security forces on the shooting of three unarmed people contrary to the Geneva Convention, whether it was now Labour Party official policy to accept that unarmed people can be shot dead in a shoot to kill policy.
On 10th March 1988 Hammersmith Nalgo passed an emergency motion condemning the Gibraltar executions, and agreed to send a message of support and sympathy to the relatives and community in West Belfast. The Branch motion noted that it was Branch policy to campaign for Irish self-determination and for the immediate withdrawal of British troops as the only basis for peace.
Hammersmith Nalgo on 10th March 1988 wrote a letter to the Sinn Fein Centre on the Falls Road with a copy of the motion passed by the branch. The letter went on to state ‘We salute you for the fortitude you have displayed throughout the longest war ever waged against the British state, waged in such desperate circumstances against such overwhelming odds. The courage and resilience you have shown for all time to those throughout the world, who want to struggle against tyranny and oppression. We want you to know that there are trade unionists in Britain who are not prepared to remain silent in the face of the sort of state terror which Gibraltar saw this week, and which Northern Ireland sees every day. We know despite the lying hypocrisy of the British government that there is indeed a war going on in Ireland. We are committee to campaigning for the immediate withdrawal of British troops as the only basis for a peaceful end to that war. We support you in your fight for national self-determination. Your fight is our fight and our day will come’.
The Sun newspaper on 28th March 1988 went ballistic over the Hammersmith Nalgo motion and letter and Nalgo HQ followed the Sun loyally. John Daly, General Secretary of Nalgo, issued a letter to all branches secretaries, claiming falsely that only one member of Hammersmith Branch had taken this action, when in fact the motion was passed by the Branch.
IBRG condemned the actions of Nalgo on being dictated to by the racist Sun and wrote to John Daly General Secretary on the matter.
The IBRG statement ran Sun dictates Nalgo Policy on Ireland. And stated ‘The IBRG condemn the pandering of Nalgo NEC to the racist Sun newspaper and Nalgo failure to condemn the shooting dead of three Irish workers and citizens in Gibraltar, and condemn the divisive tactics of moving the focus from British state terrorism back upon the Irish people. The IBRG condemns the Nalgo support for the Unionist veto in Ireland, and of hiding behind the Nt Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, which had no right to dictate to Irish or British trade unions what to do when they themselves were part of the problem in N. Ireland, in a long history of racial and sectarian discrimination against Irish citizens and Catholics. The IBRG deplored how Nalgo NEC at the 1987 National Conference blocked the Irish workers group motion on self-determination for the Irish people, by giving their own NEC pro Unionist motion priority and forcing the Irish workers motion to be put as an amendment. Pure racism in action, afraid to let their own membership decide on a motion put from the heart of the Irish community in Britain. Nalgo NEC fear an open debate on Ireland and have always interfered with any democratic debate on Ireland trying to stifle any Irish debate.
The N. Ireland Committee’s position, which Nalgo support, is nothing but meaningless verbiage, the fact being that they have done absolutely nothing on employment discrimination in N. Ireland, and use their vote to block any debate on an United Ireland. IBRG pointed out that in the setting up of the sectarian statelet of N. Ireland British military might had been used to put the Catholics down. Out of 93,00 Catholics in Belfast 11,00 were driven out of their jobs because of their racial and religion origins, with 23,000 Catholics burned out of their homes by Orange state sponsored mobs, over 450 dead the majority of them Catholics and over 500 catholic business shops destroyed. In 1988 Catholics were still two and a half times more likely to be unemployed and that is the system that Naglo supports in N. Ireland.
IBRG accused Nalgo of distorting the issue which was one of British state violence which was the primary source of the conflict, and accused Nalgo in a racist way of trying to blame the Nationalist community, for the violence instead of trying to educate their members on the racist nature of the Sun, claiming for its boycott and ending Nalgo policy of supporting British interference in Ireland. Nalgo had no problem supporting the struggle in South Africa, or the struggle in Chile or Nicaragua but when it came to Ireland Nalgo supported British imperialism and the Unionist veto.
Pat Reynolds, PRO, wrote to John Daly General Secretary in protest at the Nalgo attack on British trade unionists showing solidarity with the Irish people, over a brutal shoot to kill policy in Gibraltar contrary to the Geneva Convention. Nalgo should be calling for a full inquiry into the shooting of these Irish workers and citizens, who were unarmed in Gibraltar Does Nalgo now support a shoot to kill policy despite passing a motion on 1987 conference for a full inquiry into the Stalker affair and the publication of that report. Nalgo should not be taking their instructions form the racist Sun newspaper, if the Sun is wrong about trade unionist how much more wrong are, they on Ireland. The Irish Post covered the IBRG statement with IBRG slams National Executive of NALGO
On 10th March 1988 Dr Noel Browne opened the London Irish Bookfair run by Green Ink at Camden Town Hall.
On 11th March 1988 Gearoid McGearailt and Pat Reynolds appeared on Thames TV show Time and Place to condemn the Gibraltar executions.
On 16th March 1988 Pat Reynolds, PRO, gave the Terence MacSwiney lecture in London on the topic of Building the Irish Community 20 years after the Civil Rights Movement. Over 100 people attended the lecture.
On 17th March three people were killed by Loyalist killer Michael Stone at the Gibraltar funerals at Milltown cemetery.
On 19th March 1988 during a republican funeral two British Intelligence officers were trapped by the people who thought they were under another loyalist attack, and the two disarmed agents were later executed by the IRA.
On 20th March 1988 the IBRG March for Justice went from Hyde Park to Kilburn with over 1,000 marchers. The speakers at the rally were Conor Foley from the Guildford Four campaign, Paul May from the Birmingham Six campaign, Diarmuid Breatnach from the IBRG, and Teresa McCann from the Strip Search campaign. Alf Lomas sponsored the march as did TOM, LCI, IFM, Labour Party Irish sections, Irish republican POW, SWP and the Irish Women’s Group. L’asociation Irlande in Paris sent a message of solidarity.
The March called for the release of the Birmingham Six Guildford Four and for the repeal of the PTA, the release of Judith Ward, and the exoneration for the Maguire Seven.
Diarmuid Breatnach speaking for IBRG at the Rally opened his speech in Irish and noted the huge contribution the Irish community in Britain had made to the rebuilding of Britain after the war. Irish nurses had made a huge contribution to building the NHS in Britain, and the Irish had built up the Trade union movement in Britain giving it much leadership, from the Chartist movement down to the present times. He spoke of how the voice of the Irish in Britain had been silenced, ignored, ridiculed and imprisoned because it challenged Britain colonial policies in Ireland and ended his speech by calling on the labour movement to listen to the voice of the Irish community.
The IBRG called on the International Irish community to make the theme of their St Patricks day Parades all over the world, the release of the Birmingham Six and Guildford and to carry their banners on their parades. The IBRG reminded the international Irish community that in one year alone 1974 18 innocent members of our community in Britain were framed by the British judicial system as political hostages to silence the Irish community in Britain. On the PTA over 6,500 Irish people had been arrested under the racist PTA laws for no other reason than their Irishness and the fact that they were travelling to or from Ireland, over 300 Irish people had been internally deported under these racist laws to internal exile away from their families and communities, and 4,000 women had been striped searched in Armagh and Brixton prison because they were Irish.
The message from L’Association Irlanaise in Paris read ‘The Irish Association in Paris in solidarity with the Irish in Britain Representation Group calls for freedom for the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four and Judith Ward and for exoneration for the Maguire Seven. We view with special concern the British government’s introduction of increasing repressive legislation aimed at the Irish community, in particular the introduction of the new permanent PTA laws in direct contravention of a recent ruling by the European Court of human Rights.’ IBRG branches with banners on the march were Birmingham, Camden, Hackney, Haringey and Lewisham but members marched also from Brighton, Bolton, and Lambeth. It was however the first time IBRG organised a march on his own, but as usual the British left while expecting the Irish community to support their marches did not support the community marching.
There was in addition an international outcry by the international Irish community over the British government rejecting the appeal of the innocent Birmingham six and holding them as hostages from the community. Protests took place in New York, Dublin London Manchester and Birmingham with vigils prayer meetings and protests.
The Irish News in Belfast quoted Pat Reynolds PRO as saying “We can no longer stay silent while members of our community spend their lives in prison based on false convictions, and daily see innocent Irish people being harassed under the racist PTA laws. As the international Irish community, we must stand up and seek the freedom of these innocent and victimised Irish people.’
In Dublin there was a picket of the British Embassy with Ulick O’Connor reading poems by Richard McIlkenny and with relatives of the Six travelling to Dublin for the event. The Dublin based Birmingham Six Committee was holding a meeting at the Mansion House with Chris Mullin who had written Error of Judgement on the case, Gareth Pierce solicitor for the Birmingham Six, Alistair Logan solicitor for the Guildford Four and Michael Farrell.
Manchester IBRG was accused by the Council of Irish Associations Officer Tom McAndrews of offering covert support for Sinn Fein in the Manchester Evening News. Joe Mullarkey replied and accused McAndrews of trying to smear IBRG for cheap publicity. Shamefully McAndrews in the Manchester Evening News article of 10th March 1988 had accused the IBRG of holding a debate on the Birmingham Six case and the role of the British Press. McAndrews stated ‘debates on the Birmingham Six and the role of the British press formed no part of the festival’ and added that IBRG gave covert support to Sinn Fein and ‘I don’t want our festival tainted’. Bernadette Hyland responded by stating that the McAndrews and his clique had tried to exclude Irish women andthe innocent Birmingham Six from the Festival.
Read more about Manchester IBRG vs the C.I.A. here
N.E. Lancashire IBRG in March 1988 brought out a very professional four-page newsletter giving details of Irish activities in that area. One story in it slammed Blackburn College’s rag magazine for publishing a number of racist anti-Irish jokes/insults, and had raised the issue with Blackburn Community Relations Council. Rag magazines in Britain were notorious each year for publishing anti-Irish material which was offensive to the community and put pressure on Irish students to be silent. It was a national virus in Britain which needed to be rooted out from the National Media to rag Magazine to children comics to army magazines. The Lancashire Irish News gave many details of Irish culture, music ,dancing ,language and GAA plus Comhaltas news in the area.
The IBRG Internal Coordinator brought out Cogar a six-page internal Bulletin for IBRG which covered the IBRG march for Justice, and highlighting the successful Manchester Hearts and Minds conference, and how it was organised with good tips for other branches attempting similar events.
On 15th March 1988 IBRG were invited to attend the Socialist Conference meeting in Sheffield on 11/12 June 1988 to take part in a discussion of the Irish community and the struggle for self-determination. It was based on a paper drawn up by Nadine Finch. The aim being to bring forward a comprehensive policy around the issue of Irish self-determination and the rights of the Irish community in Britain.
IBRG Delegation to Belfast
The IBRG sent a delegation to Belfast to meet Sinn Fein and to visits cultural and community groups there for five days from 31st March -6th April 1988. Nine members attended including Virginia Moyles, Laura Sullivan, Sean Brown, Seamus Cronogue, Neil Duffield, Pat O Sullivan, Paul Salveson, Del Thorogood and Pat Reynolds. Delegates came from Manchester, London, Birmingham and Blackburn.
The group stayed with local families in Belfast. The delegation met with Tom Hartley, Alex Maskey, Mairtin O Muilleoir and ex IBRG member now back home Brid Keenan.
The delegation took part in the Easter Parade to Milltown cemetery, where Martin McGuinness spoke. As this was after the Gibraltar executions, the attack on the funeral as at Milltown and then the execution of two British undercover agents, there was still an air of tension around with people on their guard against any further attacks.
The delegation visited the Davis flats, Bunscoil NaBhfal, the Falls Road Women Centre and had discussions on housing, education employment culture, prisoners and Irish self-determination.
The delegation were able to see at first hand the effect of the British military occupation of Belfast Nationalist areas with big forts and regular armoured Lorries with guns pointed at civilians.Shocking housing and the effects of employment discrimination and poverty, but also observed the fighting spirit of an unbroken people in their fight for equality and justice. The visit also showed how two border economies had ruined Ireland and whilst the Irish Republic were now paying millions to support a British border in their own country, and thousands of Irish people had been driven out by these divided failed economic states.
Cllr Alex Maskey and Gerald McGuigan spoke about how Sinn Fein were engaging in political life at Belfast City Hall, where they had to overcome Unionist opposition to their presence there. Sinn Fein had a twin strategy one of support for the armed struggle, and the second one of engaging in local politics. Danny Morrison quote sums it up ’with a ballot in one hand and an armalite in the other’.
Sean Keenan spoke about housing in Belfast and how despite Planning for Poleglas having plans for 6,000 houses only 3,000 were built as it might affect the Unionist majority in Lisburn. Housing planning was subject to military planning and control, and was based on British military control of areas.
Tom Hartley spoke of Sinn Fein broadening their activity since the 1981 Hunger Strikes to take on political representation including going into Dail Eireann – a new departure for the republican movement which had led to a split. Martin McGuinness, in a rousing speech, rejected the rabid Fleet St venom against the people of Belfast who had been portrayed as savages in old colonial style, they were a brave people and had every reason to be proud of their identity and their resistance to British occupation and oppression.
Martin O Muilleoir spoke about cultural imperialism and the role of language in that. England had realised in their colonial oppression that they had to break the Gaelic language and culture to break the people, but they always met with Irish resistance. Anti-Irish racism was part of this to portray the Irish and their language a culture as inferior and to attempt to destroy it. He notes that the Irish in Britain knew the value of culture for their children.
Jimmy McMullin of the Prisoner’s Department spoke of the campaign for transfer back to N. Ireland and for a repatriation transfer treaty to the Irish Republic, and about conditions suffered by Irish prisoners in Britain. The families were active in these campaigns.
Brid Keenan, ex Haringey IBRG, stated that Colleges of Further Education were always put in Unionist areas and West Belfast had 150,000 people without one college. While 39% of children got A levels there was a 34% illiteracy rate in West Belfast. The ethos of state schools was Unionist and it would be difficult to have integrated schools because the ethos was Unionist.
The Women’s Centre on the Falls Road was independent of Sinn Fein and they stated that the Women’s movement in N. Ireland had not bridged the loyalist/ republican divide, and it was still a male dominated culture across the board, including the political parties, where women were now raising their voices in Sinn Fein and in other movements.
Gearoid McGearailt had a letter in the Irish Times on 6th April challenging Irish Minister Des O Malley on his perception of the Irish in Britain. Des O Malley Leader of the Progressive Democrats argued that ‘In Britain Irish people had reached the pinnacle of success in every walk of life.’ Gearoid proceeded to demolish this claim completely by pointing out the recent research, which showed huge problems in housing, health, employment homelessness, social conditions and earlier death, and for good measure threw in the racist PTA laws and anti-Irish racism in the media.
On 23rd April 1988 the Ard Choiste met at the Telegraph Hill Centre, New Cross,Lewisham where 15 delegates and officers attended including Gearoid McGearailt, Denis Casey, Pat O Sullivan, Henry Barron, Tom Kane, Jackie Jolley, Treasa de Burch Laura Sullivan, Jodie Clark, Diarmuid Breatnach, Pat Reynolds and Caitlin Wright with apologies from Bernadette Hyland, Virginia Moyles, Eddie Caughey, Arthur Devlin and Maire O Shea.
The meeting heard a report back on the successful St Patricks Day March for Justice which was the first march in years to be organised by the Irish community itself. There were discussions on new branches in Islington, Brent, Southwark, Bristol, Oxford, Preston and Liverpool.
Year of Action/Time to Go
The year of action regarding 1968 was discussed. The meeting heard that an undemocratic House of Commons Committee had been set up without any consultation with the Irish community and that they had drawn up a charter again without any consultation with the community, who were now supposed to become cannon fodder for their campaign. The LCI ,LWI, TOM, Irish sections and the Wolfe Tones had decided to join the Committee. The IBRG decided to draft their own position paper and circulate and called for the present undemocratic committee to be disbanded to be replaced by a democratic structure accountable to its constituents.
The IBRG statement on the Year of Action read ‘The IBRG cannot take part in a process which has no basis in democracy and no accountability to the Irish community and IBRG cannot endorse the Charter produced by the House of Commons committee. The undemocratic nature of the current working arrangements for the Year of Action was noted. The IBRG called for the House of Commons committee to be disbanded and a democratic structure set up to organise the Year of Action. If a democratic structure is not established, the IBRG will have no alternative but to withdraw from involvement in the Year of Action recognising it, as being organised by the British left with no basis in the Irish community.
The proposal for a Year of Action was first discussed on 29th November 1987 at a National Labour Committee on Ireland meeting which IBRG attended as observers. A further meeting was held on 13th January 1988 where there was discussion on how it would be set up, and what activities would carry out. On 13th February 1988 at another meeting IBRG was informed by LCI that a steering committee had already been set up in the House of Commons, and that it included John McDonnell, Clare Short, Peter Hain Liberal MP and others, and were called the House of Commons committee.
On 7th March 1988 another meeting was held which IBRG did not attend but the meeting took no notice of any of the concerns raised by the IBRG.
At a further meeting of 21st March 1988 which IBRG attended and at which John McDonnell MP was present, IBRG tried to reinstate democracy into the group but were unsuccessful. John McDonnell told the group that Brendan McLua of the Irish Post had drawn up a charter for the Year of Action based on the vague title of Time to Go. John McDonnell said he had talked with Clare Short MP who agreed that equality for the Irish in Britain should be included in the charter.
At a meeting of 11th April 1988 John McDonnell informed the meeting that the Charter now included the word “equality” and had been signed by over 70 people. It was clear to the IBRG that House of Commons Committee was still operating autonomously without any accountability to the Irish community with Clare Short now Chair of the Year of Action.
On 18th April 1988 the Strip-Searching Campaign expressed similar views to the IBRG around the lack of accountability.
On 23rd April 1988 the IBRG Ard Choiste took the view that the undemocratic House of Commons Committee was trying lend Irish credibility to what was in reality a British Labour solidarity-based event. It was a failed opportunity to build a solid year of action on democratic lines.
Manchester IBRG on 18 March took part in the Manchester Irish Week and in a co-promotion with arts venue Green Room they put on a performance of “Kavanagh of Inniskeen” by Sean O’Neill and Company. It was an evening poetry, prose and songs based on the work of the poet and devised by the Company.
Hackney IBRG were to host an IBRG conference on Anti-Irish racism on 4th June at the Centreprise Bookshop in Hackney.
Haringey IBRG were hosting an IBRG Education Conference on 25th June 1988 in Haringey.
Lambeth IBRG were hosting their annual IBRG Countrywide Conference on Welfare and the Irish community on 9th July at Lambeth Town hall.
The Ard Choiste decided to affiliate to the United Campaign against Strip Searching with a £15 donation and to sponsor the Irish Hunger Strike Commemoration march in Birmingham with a £15 donation, and to affiliate to the 68 Civil Rights 20 years on committee with a donation of £25.
The Ard Choiste condemned Exeter City Council for sponsoring the William of Orange celebrations which was linked to anti-Catholic hatred and abuse. The meeting welcomed the Amnesty International response to the Gibraltar executions of three Irish volunteer soldiers who were unarmed. The IBRG agreed to support the March for Palestine on 15th May in London.
A campaign of letter writing had started in the Irish Post against IBRG in April 1988 led by Tom McAndrews and a ‘Mary Henry’ in Manchester. These letters were clearly politically motivated and encouraged by the Irish Post, and were not in the interest of the Irish community to have the right wing of the community, who were doing very little, attacking Irish people who were standing up for their rights in Britain.
On 28th April 1988 the Foreign Secretary failed in an attempt to ban a Thames TV documentary on the Gibraltar executions “Murder on the Rock”. On 4th May Maggie Thatcher also failed to prevent BBC N. Ireland documentary on the Gibraltar inquests.
The Bobby Sands/James Connolly Commemoration took place at Conway Hall, London on 8th May 1988.
On 10th May 1988 IBRG leafletted the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith at which Bruce Anderson of the Sunday Telegraph was speaking. He was challenged in the meeting by the IBRG over his anti-Irish articles in the Telegraph including a shocking one on the death of Sean McBride entitled Death of an Evil Man when McBride had won both the Nobel Prise for peace and the Lenin Prize. Anderson represented a classic hangover from the days of the evil British Empire which they though the sun shone out from their imperial posteriors.
On 14th May 1988 IBRG branches took part in the Hunger Strike March in Birmingham. The March was organised by Birmingham IBRG and Cumann Cabrach. The March commemorated the 12 hunger strikers including Frank Stagg and Michael Gaughan.
On 19th May 1988 IBRG members joined the picket of 10 Downing St over the deadly use of Plastic bullets being used in N. Ireland which had led to the death of several children.
On 20th May 1988 IBRG members attended the Birmingham Six Benefit at the Haringey Irish centre.
On 21st May 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO had a letter on the Birmingham Six in the Irish People paper in the USA. In it he stated ‘The British state knows well that these men are innocent, but it arrogantly used the methods of colonial repression to intimidate the Irish community on Britain. The arrest beatings and incarceration of these men indicate the extent of Britain’s barbaric methods of political control used to silence the community. The British Justice system is an integral part of Britain’s war effort against the Irish people, where the ends justify the means, whatever the consequences. The IBRG once again calls on the Irish government to get off its knees and start defending the civil rights of Irish nationals against vindictive British policing and political control. The IBRG calls on the Irish government to demand the release of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four and to publicly state their belief in the innocence of these prisoners.’
On 5th May 1988 the Irish People also covered an IBRG letter attacking an agreement between the Dublin government and the British authorities that people with Irish Gaelic names would not be harassed if they could produce a passport with their Irish names. The IBRG class this shameful and allowed the British authorities to target Irish citizens who might us their Irish names as many were bi lingual, and the Irish constitution allowed Irish people to us their own language. Later in the year the IBRG had another letter in the Irish People on Britain’s Shoot to Kill policy in Ireland.
In May Joe Mullarkey, Michael Herbert, Gearoid MacGearailt, Paul Sheehan and Bernadette Hyland all had letters in the Irish Post defending the IBRG from attacks from the right wing of the Irish community. Bernadette Hyland replied and listed some of the things that Manchester IBRG had done, a successful Hearts and Minds Conference which drew over 150 people to Manchester, joint work with Green Room venue to put on Irish cultural events, putting on an Irish Film Festival in Manchester, take up civil rights issues like the Birmingham Six and PTA supporting issues around Irish travellers, speaking at the Culture and resistance conference on anti-Irish racism, working to set up an Irish studies course, campaigning against anti-Irish material in books and in the media and much more.
Gearoid McGearailt, in his reply in challenging John Fahy of the Federation stated ‘John Fahy urges us to condemn violence. What he means if course is that we should join the British propaganda machine and indulge in selective condemnation of violence. He wants us to condemn republican violence regardless of the causes of that violence. He would like us to attack the symptoms instead of the cause of the problems in Ireland’. Gearoid went on to say that Manchester IBRG was a source of pride to the organisation and to the Irish community.
The IBRG Ard Choiste took place on May 28th 1988 at the Socialist Club in Bolton with twelve delegates and officers attending including Maire O Shea, Maurice Moore, Virginia Moyles, Pat Reynolds, Bernadette Hyland, Michael O Cnaimhsi, Joe Mullarkey and Laura Sullivan with apologies from Gearoid McGearailt, Caitlin Wright, Pat O Sullivan and Diarmuid Breatnach.
The meeting agreed to donate £10 to the Strip Search campaign, £15 to Cuman Cabhrach for advert in their annual magazine, £50 to the West Midlands PTA research and Welfare Project, and £15 to affiliate to the Birmingham Six Campaign in Birmingham.
The Ard Choiste heard that the Mental Health Forum in London had a successful AGM and that a new Irish Social Workers Group had been set up in London, with the aim of making local authorities more aware of the needs of the Irish community.
The meeting heard that the Bolton Irish Festival was taking place from 8-12 June with input from IBRG. Plans were discussed for a delegation to the European Parliament in the autumn with support from Christine Crawley MEP.
The meeting heard that IBRG had to withdraw from the Year of Action campaign as it was not representative of the community, but had been set up in the House of Commons who then expected the community to back it without question.
On 1st June 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO had an interview with BBC Radio in Belfast on the effects of the PTA upon the Irish community in Britain. Over the years the PRO had to get coverage for IBRG activities in the newspapers in the Republic and in N. Ireland from An Phoblacht, to the Irish times Irish Press, Irish News Belfast, Andersonstown News and in the Irish People in the USA. Also in Irish language papers, while in Britain we had the Irish Post, the Irish World, and for a number of years the London Irish News.
Internal Conference on Anti-Irish Racism
On 4th June 1988 Hackney IBRG hosted an internal IBRG conference on anti-Irish racism to develop up a policy on the issue which could go out to branches and to the community. It was held at the Centreprise Bookshop in Hackney ,east London. It produced a powerful document in setting how Irish people are affecting by racism and set out a strategy for challenging it. Anti-Irish racism was thus part of racism against many minority and ex colonial minorities in Britain.
The document states ‘Racism is a practise which assumes innate superiority by a dominant people or nation towards a subject or formerly subject people of nation, and also assumes the innate inferiority of the subject people. Racism can be seen as system based on power relationships between the oppressor the oppressed groups’. IBRG recognises that the imperialist and colonial policies of Britain have been and continue to be the primary determinant of racism in the country. In Britain this racism is endemic and is interwoven into the culture, history and traditions of Britain. The structures arising from this ideology have been created by Britain both at home and in its colonies, to maintain its colonial domination, and have developed forces intended to divide and thereby rule those subjected to its colonial ambitions. This racism and division are also reflected in the policies and practices of the labour and trade union movements in Britain from whom oppressed groups should be able to expect complete support in their struggle for equal rights’.
IBRG campaign against new PTA Bill
On 4th June 1988 the Irish Post front page covered the newly launched IBRG campaign against proposals in the new PTA bill which would make it permanent. The IBRG statement stated that the PTA is a direct threat to every Irish traveller going to or from Britain, because of their Irishness and their destination being Ireland. The IBRG called on the Irish government to insist that its citizens be allowed to travel unhindered between Britain and Ireland as guaranteed by the Irish passport promise. The new PTA was proposing searches of Irish home which would unleash untold level of harassment in the early morning of innocent Irish families.
The IBRG quoted Lord Ferrers a Home Office Minister who refused to introduce a random breath test despite there being over 1,000 deaths a year from drunken driving, stated ‘we must be careful not be to be seen as carrying out a witch hunt against drivers We will be stopping delaying and infuriating ordinary law abiding citizens going about their business. What effect is that going to have on them and their attitude toward the police’.
IBRG pointed out that the Irish in Britain had not caused one single political death in Britain yet was singled out for this very treatment. The IBRG urged Lord Ferrers to inform his colleagues Douglas Hurd and Lord Colville of his sensible views on these matters. The IBRG further called on the Irish government to get off the fence, and start defending the rights of its citizens to travel unhindered to and from Britain and for its citizens abroad, to be able to live without fear of harassment under the PTA. The IBRG statement was covered by An Phoblacht and the London Irish News.
On 8th June 1988 the IBRG held a picket of the Irish Embassy in London over the Irish government’s policy on extraditing Irish citizens to Britain.
In an IBRG press release issued it stated ‘The British judicial system has a long- and well-established history of meting out injustice to the Irish people. It cannot be right to extradite anybody to a country which allows the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four to remain in prison, with the sole purpose of hiding the corruption within its own judicial system. That judiciary acts as hangman for the British establishment where the end always justified the means. The judiciary lacks any independence and is deeply rooted in a biased colonial racist class structure, and acts as a consistent weapon of injustice against Irish people. The Birmingham Six and Guildford Four had spent over 140 years in prison when the Britain establishment at its highest level knew that they were innocent, when the Balcombe St siege men gave a very detailed statement of their involvement in Guildford and Woolwich, and a Catholic priest and nun knew that Gerry Conlon was at an Irish government sponsored hostel in Quex Road, on the evening of the Guildford bombing and could not have done it. The IBRG statement went on ‘Extradition to Britain is a complete betrayal of the Irish people and their history, it reduces the Irish courts to mere district courts serving the interests of British imperialism, and once against makes the Irish judiciary subservient to the British Crown. It taints Irish justice with evils perpetrated by the British courts and colludes with the shameful cases of Human Rights abuses such at the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four, Maguire Seven and Judith Ward. As it stands the Irish government decision will be seen internationally as a vote of confidence in the British judicial system, and is rubber stamping the continued imprisonment of the Birmingham Six a Guildford Four’. TOM also supported the picket of the Embassy.
On 25th June 1988 Haringey IBRG hosted an IBRG Education conference at the Red Rose Club in N. London where Maude Casey and Michael O Riabaigh spoke. There were seminars and workshops on Language and Culture, Youth Service and the Irish Community, the Oral History and Video Project, developing local strategies on education, delivering Irish teachers’ groups, Irish equal opportunities and Catholic schools and Irish culture. The Irish Post reported on the Conference which stated that a working group had been set up from the conference to promote Irish studies in Britain.
Maude Casey from Brighton stated that the Irish in Britain must publicly declare pride in their identity and cultural background, and detailed her own childhood and how she felt the British education system denied her an Irish identity.
Micheal O’ Riabaigh, a probation officer, from Liverpool called on British schools to incorporate Irish history and traditions into the curriculum, and outlined the large number of Catholic run schools with the potential to do this.
In June the Tory government published their proposed new PTA bill which the IBRG condemned and called for a full campaign against it. The Government planned to make the temporary act permanent.
In June the IBRG again called for the release of Judith Ward who had been wrongly convicted for the M62 bombing. Her case was often neglected because she was a single person without a campaign but the IBRG raised her case at every opportunity.
In June the Letters Page of the Irish Post continued to be used by the right wing in the Irish community to attack the IBRG with John Fahy of the Federation leading the pack. Paul Sheehan and Seamus O Coillean responded defending the IBRG. Shamefully John Fahy of the Federation and one time Labour Councillor and full trade union officer should attack IBRG again in the Irish Post, he stated that the IBRG ‘should abandon its role of giving the IRA credulity, it should condemn violence’ which was a shocking libel on an Irish organisation, and simply felon setting. Here Fahy is acting like the British racist media in linking anyone who speaks out on Ireland with the IRA. Fahy left himself with an appalling record on this matter and a very shameful one.
London Irish Festival refuse stalls to framed prisoners
The IBRG condemned the Organising Committee of the London Irish Festival in Brent for refusing stalls to the Birmingham Six Campaign, the Guildford Four campaign, and the IBRG. Both Paul May of the B6 and Gearoid McGearailt of IBRG had letters in the Irish Post condemning this pro-British censorship.
Paul May of the B6 campaign deplored the keep your heads down of the Festival committee, as the B6 campaign was a welfare issue, the release of six innocent men to their families. The London GAA board also expressed its concern at the ban on the B6 campaign as they supported the B6. Ironically the MC at the festival was Senator Pascal Mooney from Leitrim who had called for the release of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four and had attended much of the B6 appeal last year. The AGM of the Irish Counties Association had condemned the refusal of the B6 appeal, yet their Chair Seamus Troy was Chair of the festival committee. Fr Bobby Gilmore who was in the USA raising the case of the Birmingham Six called on Mr Troy and his Committee to reverse their decision, while the B6 campaign had written to all the Chairs of the 32 counties calling on them to reverse the decision.
On 2nd July 1988 IBRG members attended a conference on Broadwater Farm on Justice for the Black Community.
On 8th July 1988 IBRG members attended a benefit at the Haringey Irish centre against Strip Searching.
On 9th July 1988 Lambeth IBRG hosted a Countrywide Irish Welfare Conference which drew a large attendance. Speakers were Mary Connolly on Homelessness, Clare McElwee on the Abortion Trail, Sr Joan Kane on Irish Travellers, Liam Clarke on Community Care and the Elderly, Clare Doherty on Mental Health and the Irish, Nuala Kelly on the transfer of Irish Prisoners, Eamon Summers on Clause 28 and Pat Reynolds on Irish children in the care system.
Simon Hughes MP stated in his key note speech that Irish people were unjustly singled out under the PTA and stated there was no justification for this. Tom O Connor author of the Irish Youth in London was a key note speaker on the young Irish abroad.
Gearoid McGearailt in his remarks stated that social services departments in Britain did not in most cases recognise the Irish, with the result that Irish needs went unmet very often. Mary Connolly called for recognition of the Irish in housing, and Simon Hughes promised to lobby the Housing Corporation on the issue.
The Irish Government came under sustained attack from delegates at the conference, on the lack of adequate funding for the Irish in Britain, the denial of the vote to the Irish in Britain, the extradition of Irish citizens to Britain, while the Birmingham Six and Guildford four were being held as political hostages, and the lack of any concession for Irish elders form Britain travelling in Ireland.
David Donoghue Press officer at the Embassy came under sustained fire from the audience after his speech. Diarmuid Breatnach stated that the only choice open to the vast majority of Irish people was between unemployment at home, and emigrating to make a living. Diarmuid described Ireland as an open shopping market for multi nationals, who repatriate their profits leaving Ireland poorer and emigration had deprived people of their right to live in their own country, disenfranchised emigrants of the rights to vote in their own state, and disinherited Irish children of their nationality. This in relation to the Irish government ending the automatic right of Irish children born in Britain to Irish passports.
The Irish Government was also criticised for their failure to ratify the Transfer of Prisoner’s international Agreement and Nuala Kelly of ICO stated there would be about 25 transferred in the first year with it falling to 15 per year afterwards. There were 1,055 Irish born prisons in Britain but only a few would want to transfer home because of the shame in Ireland around imprisonment.
Liam Clarke stated that racist attitudes in institutions compounded the problems facing many Irish elders who were afraid to ask for services, due to a mistaken impression that they might be deported like the homeless families in Camden.
Irish are singled out unjustly was the Irish Post headline which covered the conference and focussed on the speech by Simon Hughes Liberal MP.
The Conference was also carried in the Andersonstown News in Belfast. The London Irish News gave a whole page in reporting on the Conference with Government under fire for poor response to emigrant problems.
On 16th July 1988 the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Unemployed Centre in Birmingham where 18 delegates and officers attended including Maire O Shea, Pat Reynolds, Maurice Moore, Caitlin Wright, Joe Mullarkey, Diarmuid Breatnach, Denis Casey, Pat Sullivan, David Wright, Margaret Mullarkey, Henry Herron, Eddie Caughey, Maureen Carlin, Gearoid McGearailt, Virginia Moyles and John Martin.
Diarmuid Breatnach stood down as internal coordinator and John Marin was elected as internal coordinator for the Midlands. Discussion was had on setting up branches in Brent, Southwark, Bristol, Oxford, Preston, Liverpool and Wolverhampton.
Bolton Irish Community Association wanted to terminate Bolton IBRG membership because Bolton IBRG were selling Birmingham Six badges, which they called “collecting for the IRA”. The meeting had a discussion on how the right wing in the Irish community were doing the work of the British colonial service, by internally trying to police the Irish community with same weapons of oppression right wing attacks in the media, and felon setting and putting Irish people at risk by deliberately falsely accusing them of links with the IRA.
While it was mainly Manchester and Bolton IBRG who were under attack it could happen to any branch as John Fahy had attacked Brighton IBRG.
It was agreed that Diarmuid Breatnach, Gearoid McGearailt and Pat Reynolds should comprise the editorial board of an pobal eirithe which had now produced a second edition.
It was agreed that IBRG support the Lifers campaign and that IBRG oppose the Poll Tax. The meeting heard of the very successful Lambeth Irish Welfare Conference.
On 17th July 1988 IBRG members marched with their banners flying high on the massive Anti-Apartheid march from Finsbury Park to Hyde Park with the IBRG bring up the rear. The front of the march was entering Hyde Park before the end of the march left Finsbury park at least half a million people spread out the length of London. The music was great and the atmosphere was electric as people felt that there would be movement on South Africa soon.
On 22nd July 1988 Hackney IBRG held an Irish night at Chat’s Palace in Hackney to raise some funds.
At the end of July IBRG members including Virginia Moyles, Laura Sullivan and Pat Reynolds went to Glencolmcille in Donegal of the Language and Culture week run by Liam Cunningham who was active in Ireland on the issue of emigration.
The Irish Post letter space continued to be used to attack IBRG. Bernadette Hyland, Chris Walsh and Paul Sheehan had replied to defend IBRG against these right-wing attacks. Steve Brennan a former GLC Irish Policy Office took John Fahy to task over the GLC and the Irish Cultural Committee which had split down the middle.
Meanwhile Pat Reynolds PRO had the leading letter in the Irish Post relying to Maurice Barnes on the report on the Irish homeless in Camden which the IBRG described as whitewash.
IBRG were to the forefront in defending the right of Irish people to housing in Britain without discrimination. The letter stated IBRG policy ‘The IBRG takes serious issue with the report over their position on intentionally homeless, which we consider to be a whitewash. The IBRG does not accept that a person who leaves his or her country because of economic, political or social pressure can be deemed to in any way to be intentionally homeless. We deny the right of British authorities to exercise British laws beyond Britain, after a history of transporting people to various colonies and maintaining intentionally homeless armies in these countries for centuries’ the report fails to look at the colonial relationship between Ireland, Africa, India and the Caribbean, and Britain and how people were encouraged to come to Britain after the second world war, and are now being made scapegoats for Britain’s economic ills, and are subject to deportations. The IBRG calls for the abolition of intentionally homeless for overseas persons, and a for a move away from the traditional White British first policy to an equal opportunities policy in housing based on needs.’ We call on Camden and on all local authorities to implement an equal opportunities policy to tackle and redress the institutional racism and discrimination which has left the Irish community in Britain among the worst housed in Britain’.
It is of interest here that the IBRG were aware of institutional racism and discrimination many years before the British state recognised it even among the Metropolitan police.
The IBRG welcomed the London Housing Forum report Speaking Out which pointed out that up to 120 young Irish men arrived every day in Camden from Ireland and a similar number of young Irish women, many were living in hostels or in squats or sleeping rough or with friends. The Group called on the ALA to start implementing the report as policy that Local Authorities ensure that no one is regarded as intentionally homeless, or without local connection who has come from abroad. Irish people should not be sent to Ireland nor anybody else to any other country.
ILEA (Inner London Education authority) published their account on Working Party report on Irish Perspectives in Education in July 1988. The working party was made up of the IBRG, the Federation, Irish teachers/Parents, Irish Commission for Culture, BAIS Irish studies in Britain and Irish women In Wandsworth, and attending members were Diarmuid Breatnach for IBRG Dr Alan Clinton N. London Polytechnic Irish Studies and member of IBRG, Mary Hickman North London Poly Irish studies, and member of IBRG, Brendan Mulkere, John Fahy, Ivan Gibbons, and was chaired by Hilda McCafferty.
The report gave examples of practical work carried out in ILEA school’s on Irish issues and included various individual strategies by teachers and schools plus people like Dipak Basu who was supportive. One example cited was Diarmuid Breatnach giving a talk on aspects of Irish music.
The Working party was set up after a report by the Education Officer of 5th December 1986 and this working report was put before the Education Committee Policy Sub Committee Equal Opportunity section. The report ended up with a wide range of recommendations to be put to various ILEA committees, Equal opportunities Committee, Staff committee, school’s subcommittee, Youth further and higher education and General Purposes. The proposals included recognising the Irish community as a minority community, for both staff and children to be included in ethnic monitoring and an Irish input into a range of subjects including history and literature. The report was a significant achievement although ILEA was due for closure. Why did it take ILEA seven years to agree what Ken Livingstone and the GLC agreed in 1981?
On 10th August 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO had an interview with RTE radio on the Irish in Britain.
On 12th August 1988 IBRG members attended a Benefit for the Guildford Four at the Haringey Irish Centre.
On 30th August 1988 the SAS killed three IRA volunteers in Co Tyrone.
In September 1988 the IBRG welcomes the Appeal Court in London to recognise that Travellers are a distinct racial group as defined by the Race Relations Act.
In response IBRG called for the total elimination of the No Travellers signs displayed in many pubs in London and elsewhere. The IBRG called for an active community campaign to end the display of these racist signs and for such cases to be actively pursued. In many cases IBRG had taken down these signs from pubs and called for a boycott of these places and taken the matter up with the owners, and the local Community Relations Councils.
On 2nd September 1988 IBRG members picketed 10 Downing St on the 40th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights. 15 people attended the picket. The picket called for the release of the Birmingham Six, Guildford Judith Ward and the Winchester three plus the exoneration of the Maguire Seven.
On 3rd September 1988 the IBRG held their Ard Choiste with 9 members attending in Brighton. There was only one member beyond London which because of the double journey Brighton was difficult to reach. Diarmuid Breatnach, Pat Reynolds, Pat O Sullivan, Siobhan Hier, Margaret Coffey, Maude Casey, Gearoid McGearailt, and Virginia Moyles were among those attending.
The meeting heard that there was a lot of harassment around Brighton in the lead up to the Tory Party Conference.
On 9th September 1988 IBRG members picketed 10 Downing St over the Gibraltar executions to co-inside with the opening of the Gibraltar inquiry on 6th September.
On 21st September 1988 Pat Reynolds challenged John Hume at the Brent Irish Centre about his expressed views on the British being neutral on N. Ireland, and this time he agreed that the British were not neutral in Ireland which was later picked up by the media.
In his question Pat quoted the 1949 British cabinet paper which stated ‘So far, as it can be foreseen it will never be to Great Britain’s advantage that Northern Ireland should form part of a territory outside Her Majesty’s jurisdiction. Indeed, it seems unlikely that Britain would ever be able to agree to this, even if the majority of people in N. Ireland wanted this’.
On 30th September 1988 the results of the Gibraltar Inquiry were 9-2 for ‘lawful killing’ even though it broke the rules of the Geneva Convention.
At the end of September 1988, the IBRG slammed the Labour Party document ‘Towards a United Ireland because it enshrines the British/Unionist veto and was a rehash of their peace by consent policy. The Federation welcomed the new document. The Irish World headed the story Towards an United Ireland The IBRG slams the Labour Party’s latest Irish policy.
The IBRG stated that the new Labour policy offered nothing and this was just a rehash of their peace by consent. The IBRG noted that the Labour Party Black sections, Irish sections, Women in the Labour party, LCI, TOM, IBRG the London Labour Party and the Irish communities in the USA, Australia and worldwide supported the right of the Irish people to self-determination and Irish unity, and called for the withdrawal of British troops from Ireland.
It was a missed opportunity by Kevin McNamara and the Labour Party to put something constructive forward. Constitutional nationalism could not even get the Birmingham Six or Guildford Four released and the Labour Party document only supported the British war machinery in Ireland and the attacks upon the Irish community in Britain.
Fr. Ryan of Conway House attacked Cara Irish Housing Association over their Homelessness Report where they stated the Irish should be an ethnic group. Fr Ryan did not believe that the Irish were an ethnic group. It was the clergy who had kept quiet for 14 years on the fact that they knew that Gerry Conlon was at Quex Road hostel on the evening of the Guildford bombing, and could not have been involved, the Church kept quiet on this for 14 years.
John Martin had a letter in the Irish Post in September calling for the promotion of the Irish language and for Irish centres to become cultural centres, and on the idea of setting up a Gaeltacht in Britain.
In October Camden IBRG felt that their grant funding had been put under threat because of their opposition to Camden’s policy of deporting Irish families which Camden IBRG had opposed vigorously.
At Camden Race Committee meeting the Chair, in ignorance, equated sending back families to Birmingham with Ireland as if Ireland was a province of Britain. She claimed that Irish people got better treatment. Councillors at the meeting called for a special meeting to examine Camden’s policy.
Ken Livingstone MP attacked Camden’s policy of deporting Irish families and said they we were turning on a group of people with no justification, and described their policies as outrageous. According to Camden they only issued nine travel warrants to send families back to Ireland but families were vulnerable in such situations without knowing their rights in law.
Later it was disclosed that Camden were seeking 20% cuts in funding to voluntary organisation and threats to IBRG the Irish centre, Conway House, Camden Irish youth Group and Camden Irish pensioners groups would all lose some or all of their funding. The inquiry into anti-Irish racism at Arlington House was also axed somehow convenient for Camden around their own racist policies towards Irish families. Both Angie Birthill and Kate Allen opposed the cuts. Lucky enough, Camden Council had recently given £15k to the Guildford Four campaign a few weeks before the cuts were announced.
On 2nd October 1988 the Evening Standard attacked Brent Nalgo for their trip to Belfast and their motion on Gibraltar. The Standard condemned Brent Nalgo for calling for the release of several convicted IRA bombers namely the Birmingham Six and Guildford which the branch had called for.
On 14th October 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking at the Haringey Irish Centre at Civil Rights meeting before 500 people on a platform with Bernie Grant MP, Michael Farrell ,and Bernadette McAliskey, Theresa Smalley, aunt of Paul Hill. The meeting was organised by the Haringey Irish working party made up of TOM, LCI and IBRG and the event was to commemorate 1968: 20 years on.
On 19th October 1988 IBRG members attended a picket of 10 Downing St re the government ban on Sinn Fein. Many attending wore gags to protest at the media ban. Douglas Hurd, Home Secretary, announced a ban on Sinn Fein and others in the House of Commons with actors now speaking the words of Adams and others. The next day Tom King announces the end of the Right to Silence.
A new IBRG branch had been set up in Derby on 15th October, and they had called on Derby City Council to recognise the Irish.
Laura Sullivan resigned as Leas Runai and Bridgit Loughran of Camden IBRG was elected as Training Officer. Haringey IBRG proposed a motion condemning the British government gag on Sinn Fein and the ending of the Right to Silence in the Six Counties.
The Ard Choiste agreed a policy on homelessness. The anti-Irish racism policy drafted at the internal conference in June was agreed as IBRG policy, and urged that it be circulated widely. The meeting sent its condolences to the Connolly Association on the death of Desmond Greaves, father figure to their organisation, who had made a huge contribution including writing a life of James Connolly.
On 25th October 1988 the London Evening Standard attacked the IBRG exhibition on Ireland South Africa One Struggle. The rest of the English media followed in a frenzy. The exhibition was closed before the Standard found out about it, and Haringey Council had not received one single complaint about it. The exhibition was by Derry Camera Workshop and had been sent to two libraries over five weeks.
Haringey and the IBRG got attacked across the media from Daily Telegraph, Mail, Sun Evening Standard, Hornsey Journal, and the Express. Bernie Grant local MP stood up for the Irish and stated He knew it was right to treat Irish culture and traditions with dignity.
Most of the attacks by the media was about Haringey IBRG getting 27K funding each year for two workers. The IBRG hit back at the bigoted Tory Press who got their facts all wrong on the story in their rabid attack. The Hornsey Journal, in its political ignorance, stated that had the Haringey crowd been in power they would have welcomes EOKA and the Mau Mau, without seemingly knowing that the English Queen had indeed welcomed both of these to London. Mararios of Cyprus and Jomo Kenyatta were honoured by the English Queen. The storm of protest the rabid Tory press talked about was all in their own minds, as not one single complaint had been received in Haringey over the five weeks of the exhibition.
IBRG pointed out that the vast majority of comments left in the daily log were positive as it opened people’s eyes to what was happening in South Africa and in N. Ireland and the similarities between the two on funerals, censorship and on civil liberties. The exhibition sponsored by Haringey IBRG was part of their contribution to 20th anniversary of the N. Ireland Civil Rights movement, which had huge support in Haringey with over 500 people attending a public meeting on the issue in Haringey.
Contrary to Tory Press reports the exhibition had not been closed down but had finished before they found out about it. An Phoblacht Irish Post London Irish News and other Irish papers covered the IBRG response to the rabid Tory press attack, which was about censorship on Ireland. The exhibition was a major success and the IBRG stated that it should be put on in every Town Hall in Britain to educate the people about Ireland and South Africa. During the exhibition Haringey IBRG put on a range of videos including Building for Ourselves, PTA, media censorship, and the use of plastic bullets which many people stayed and watched.
On 27th October 1988 Martina Anderson, Finbarr Cullen, and John McCann are found guilty of conspiracy to kill Tom King and given 25 years each. They became known as the Winchester Three and were released on appeal.
On 27th October 1988 Brent Nalgo Irish Worker Group led a delegation from Brent Nalgo to visit N. Ireland. The Evening Standard tried to attack the visit because Brent Nalgo had passed a motion stating this AGM condemns the murder of three IRA volunteers by the SAS in Gibraltar earlier in the year. According to the Standard the Branch also called for the release of several IRA bombers meaning the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four. Brent Nalgo felt close to the Guildford Four because three of the Four had local links to Brent and were living in Brent at the time of their arrest.
On 28th October 1988 IBRG members attended the Plastic Bullets demonstration in Regents St. in London.
On 30th October 1988 IBRG members in London attended the Terence MacSwiney memorial mass at St George’s cathedral in Southwark. The Cathedral was rebuilt after the Second World and large sums of money were collected in Ireland for it. The reason Southwark was set up as separate from Westminster diocese was that in the 1800 the English Catholics of Westminster did not want the Irish in their diocese.
Diarmuid Breatnack took part in Slogadh in Dungarvan Co Waterford with a session in the Irish language on emigration.
Manchester IBRG won an apology from Manchester Equal Opportunities Commission over the use of anti-Irish material to illustrate equality for women. Bernadette Hyland had raised the complaint over the depiction of ‘two ignorant Irish labourers’ in a cartoon. The Irish Post ran the story IBRG wins slur apology. The cartoon featured a woman seeking a job on a building site and as Bernadette pointed out, the Commission were using racism to challenge sexism. The Commission stated that the cartoon was a most regrettable instance.
Camden IBRG funding was under threat because of their criticism of Camden Council over the racist deportations of Irish homeless families.
Lewisham IBRG organised an Oiche Shamhan for children in Lewisham with Irish dance music games and dressing up. Lambeth IBRG organised a Failte Eireann evening in West Norwood with a ceili band and folk music.
On 2nd November 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking in Brighton at a Civil Rights meeting to over 200 people, a meeting the Tory Party wanted banned, at the Pavilion Theatre organised by the Brighton Year of Action on Ireland group. Cllr Geraldine Richie from Sinn Fein was also speaking along with the People’s Democracy. The meeting was entitled Civil Rights in Ireland the Long March. IBRG, TOM, LCI and Women and Ireland organised the meeting to expose Thatcher propaganda about Ireland. The Irish community had as much right to speak in Brighton as did the Tory Party.
On 12th November 1988 Manchester IBRG with Cornerhouse Arts organised the first Irish Film Festival in the city. It promoted new community and commercial Irish films, invited speakers and opened a debate on Irish issues.
Films shown included Building for Ourselves a video made by Haringey IBRG about the Irish community and its new Irish Centre. Pat Reynolds PRO spoke about how the film was made and the community and people behind it. Mother Ireland was also shown with a debate on Ireland. The film had been banned by Channel Four.
Authors of a new book on Irish women took part in the Festival. A unique history of the role of Irish women in Britain was published in 1988: Across the Water Irish Women’s Lives in Britain. It was produced by three women, none of whom were academics, all of them had been born and brought up in Dublin, and came to London in the mid-70s: Mary Lennon, Marie McAdam and Joanne O’Brien. At the Festival Mary and Marie spoke about the book and the lives of Irish women in Britain. Read more here
On 16th November 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO was keynote speaker at the Family Service Unit Residential Conference in Swanwick in Derbyshire where he also ran a workshop on anti-Irish racism and how it impacted in social work practice. The Conference had their own small group of Irish language speakers. Family Service Units were involved in poorer areas of Britain and often worked with Irish families.
ON 19th November 1988 Southwark Council held their own Consultative Conference on the Irish community which was later put into a report, and put before the various communities to try an improve services for the Irish community.
Steve Brennan IBRG member and ex GLC Irish officer was one of the key note speakers at the meeting. Pat Reynolds led a workshop on Irish children in the care system, and how they were not recognising in child protection or their culture recognised, and it was wrongly assumed that the Catholic church catered for all their needs.
Jodie Clarke, an IBRG member and later Labour Councillor, was also involved as was Nina Hutchinson from TOM who was also an activist in the Irish community.
The Failte Report was published by Southwark Council Race Equality Committee. Anne Mathews, Leader of Southwark Council ,expressed her concerns that the Irish community suffers the oppression of the state which allows strip searching, loss of the right to silence, a shoot to kill policy and the PTA. She said that the Irish community in Britain not the House of Lords should be encouraged to discuss and have an input into the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
John McDonnell Chair of the ALA Irish subcommittee spoke about the need for an independent forum for the Irish community in Southwark, with a right to input recommendation to the council. He repeated his call for the withdrawal of troops from Ireland.
The report made recommendations to the Personnel Committee to recognise the Irish, to the Housing committee, community Rights committee, Health and Community Affairs committee Women’s Committee which later called their own Irish women’s conference, Social Services Committee, leisure and Recreation committee which led to the famous Southwark Irish Festival, an the education committee plus had recommendation from the Travellers workshop, which later led to Southwark setting up their own Travellers sites.
People at the conference were reminded that it was in Southwark in the 1880 that the Irish Literary society was set up which later led to the Gaelic revival and much more. Liam McCarthy, after which the All Ireland hurling Final cup is named, is buried in Southwark and was a leading Irish figure there during the war of independence. Terence Mac Swiney died on Hunger strike in Brixton prison and his remains passed through Southwark cathedral in 1920, and where Ho Ch Minh observed his funeral, and remarked that no people with such brave people could ever be defeated.
Southwark was one of the original Irish settlement areas after the Great Hunger in Ireland. Southwark Council had also supported the making of Now We are Talking an oral History Project of Irish elders in Southwark along with an exhibition which IBRG members Mary Hickman and Cas Breen were involved in. Ronald Reagan family settled for a few years in Southwark before leaving there for the USA around 1851.
The Irish were involved in building Southwark cathedral because the English Catholics of Westminster did not want the poor Irish south of the river to be part of their diocese. Later money raised all over Ireland after the 2nd World war helped rebuild it with its now St Patricks chapel, where every year people say the Gaelic prayers for McSweeney.
On 26th November 1988 the IBRG Comhcomhairle was held at the Four Provinces Coventry where 18 IBRG delegates and officers attended representing 11 IBRG branches namely Bolton, Coventry, Harrow, Camden, Haringey, Leeds, Manchester, Lewisham, Lambeth, NE Lancs, and Hackney.
Among those attending was Caitlin Wright, Peter Skerrett, Maurice Cahill, Denis Casey, Maire O Shea, Brian Miller, Pat Reynolds, David Kernoghan, Noirin Riordan, Bernadette Hyland, Diarmuid Breatnach, Gearoid McGearailt, Aine Fitzgerald, Michael Cnaimhsi, Joan Brennan and Virginia Moyles.
A motion from Hackney called for support for the Broadwater Farm picket of Wormwoods Scrubs Prison on 11th December, and stated the IBRG belief that the men had been framed.
A motion from Haringey called for pickets of Downing St during Gorbachev’s visit to Britain to draw attention to Britain’s’ record on Human Rights in Britain and N. Ireland.
Four workshops were held on organising the Irish community, IBRG the way forward, Education, the Irish community and class politics, and human rights which looked at the Birmingham Six Guildford Four and the PTA and strip-searching.
There was a motion from Haringey IBRG about Fr Ryan being on hunger strike for 22 days in a Belgian prison and called for his release, but as Fr Ryan had been flown to Ireland avoiding British’s airspace, the motion was noted.
The delegation to Ireland was agreed with 8 delegates going, Gearoid MacGearailt, Pat Reynolds, Laura Sullivan, Caitlin Wright, Diarmuid Breatnach, Maurice Moore, Bernadette Hyland and Virginia Moyles. The delegation would have a total of 56 meetings in Belfast Derry, Cork and Dublin.
On 29th November 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking at a meeting at The Camden Irish centre on the Irish and Housing. He stated again that no Irish family should be deported back to Ireland and that Camden should fulfil its duty to the Irish community. The Irish, he stated, had made the greatest contribution to building homes in Britain, yet because of racism were the most likely to be homeless or living in poorly rented accommodation. In health, it was the same, mainly Irish women had made the largest contribution the NHS yet often endured the worst health conditions which was linked to their poor employment and housing conditions. It was time for Britain and Camden to recognise this Irish contribution with a real effort to provide equal opportunities to the Irish in Housing, health and employment.
On 29th November 1988 the European Court of Human Rights condemned the PTA as a violation of Human Rights as people were detained without reason, held incommunicado without access to legal aid their relatives knowing where they were. The breach was for holding four suspects for four days without charging them. Britain then on 2nd December derogated from the Convention and retained their seven-day detention operations.
On 6th December 1988 Clare Short MP resigned from the Labour Party front bench over the second reading of new PTA legislation.
On 7th December 1988 Southwark IBRG was relaunched with Gearoid McGearailt, Pat Reynolds and Diarmuid Breatnach attending.
On 7th December 1988 the CRE published their recommended ethnic classifications for the 1991 census which excluded the Irish community.
IBRG expressed their deep concern at this exclusion. The IBRG restated their 1984 demands that 1) the CRE recognise the Irish as specific ethnic group 2) that the CRE recognise the disadvantage suffered by the Irish in Britain based on existing research in employment housing and other areas 3). That they draw up a report on the Irish in Britain based on existing research 4) that they include the Irish in any further research 5) that they investigate areas of discrimination suffered by the Irish 6) that they support the Irish community demand to be included in the 1991 census as an ethnic group and 7) that their officers take on board issues affecting the Irish community in Britain.
IBRG pointed out that the CRE was out of touch with the major authorities in Britain including the GLC, Birmingham, Manchester, ILEA, Islington, Haringey, Southwark, Lambeth, Brent, Leeds, Bolton and many more had recognised the Irish community as a distinct racial and ethnic group.
IBRG took part in a lobby protest during Gorbachev visit to Britain to highlight the cases of the Birmingham Six and Guildford and had briefed the Soviet Embassy in London on the matter and took part in the picket of Downing St on the issue. Chris Mullin stated “I welcome the news that Gorbachev may raise with Thatcher the case of the six innocent men wrongly convicted for Birmingham and a total of 11 people wrongly convicted over the Guildford /Woolwich bombings.”
On 11th December 1988 London IBRG members attended the Broadwater Farm picket of Wormwood Scrubs prison over their framed prisoners.
On 13th December 1988 the Irish Attorney General, John Murray refused, Britain’s request for the extradition of Fr Patrick Ryan on the grounds that he would not receive a fair trial. Maggie Thatcher called the decision a great insult to the British people.
On 14th December 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking on the Kilroy ITV programme about civil liberties including the PTA.
On 15th December 1988 The British government brought in their new Fair Employment Bill for N. Ireland which made compulsory the religious monitoring of workforces in N. Ireland. Catholic Male unemployment in Nt Ireland was double that for Protestants and that Catholics were over represented in the low skilled jobs, despite 12 years of the earlier 1976 fair employment legislation. The campaign in the USA for the McBride Principles and its impact on investment in N. Ireland drove this new bill. The IBRG had also taken up the issue in Britain and were putting pressure on building societies and others over discrimination in employment.
On 21st December 1988 the IBRG condemned the conduct of a British trial where an English man had murdered an Irish woman where the defence barrister stated ‘The sense of public outrage at the loss of this particular life will be a very great deal lower down the scale than other cases, and the prosecuting barrister stated’ there might indeed have been some sympathy towards the killer and none for his victim’.
The killing was a racist killing, where the killer used the killing of two English undercover armed soldiers at funeral in Belfast as an excuse to murder an Irish woman. The murdered woman was Marie Kane (52) and the husband was also stabbed in a second murder attempt near Birmingham. The Crown accepted a plea of guilty of unlawful killing rather than going for murder which it was. Even stranger was the fact that the murderer an ex British soldier had given evidence in the Birmingham pub bombing case where six innocent Irishmen were wrongly convicted.
Around the same time a Galway man, James Connolly, was murdered on 20th March in Camberwell which the local police believed to be a racial killing linked with the death of the two British agents in Belfast the day before on 19th March. The English media which had called the people of West Belfast savages and animals, and at least two Irish people in Britain were murdered because of this media coverage. Irish lives did not matter then.
The IBRG press statement said ‘the case raises serious questions about the standards of justice given to Irish people, that an Irish life in Britain would appear to be of lessor value than an English one’. The killing was political and racist, and we find the remarks of both barristers to be offensive and racist, and remarkably similar. Such Irish deaths are invisible without any media coverage, and become silent deaths. Even in death Irish people are deemed responsible for provoking their own deaths.’ Irish trials which are deemed suitable by the British state for propaganda purposes are given the full works, while trial exposing the vulnerable position of Irish people in Britain are censored.
On 28th December 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO had a letter in the Irish Times putting the case against the PTA. In the letter the PRO challenged Brian Lenihan over his changed position on the PTA as when in opposition he stated ‘this Act is absolutely indefensible by reference to any national or international canon the Convention of Human Rights because of its discriminatory nature’.
The IBRG said Full marks to Brian Lenihan on anticipating the European Court recent decision on the Act, but why didn’t Lenihan publicly call for the repeal of the Act now. The flagships of the PTA were the arrests of the Guildford Four and Maguire Seven.
The Irish Government concern at the implementation of the Act was pure tokenism, and IBRG asked why the Irish government had kept silence for 14 years on the abuse of its nationals abroad. The Irish community in Britain was now depending on the European Courts to protect its rights rather than the British or Irish governments and were now calling on other governments to assist the release of the Birmingham Six and Guildford. It was never too late for the Irish government to redeem itself.
In December 1988 Virginia Moyles had a letter in the Irish Post defending Ken Livingstone who had come under attack from Annie Maguire of the Maguire Seven who came over as being anti-republican.
Listen to my talk about the IBRG in the northwest in the Irish Collection at the WCML here
An excellent history of 200 years of Irish political activity in Mancheser – including Manchester IBRG read “The Wearing of the Green” by Michael Herbert. Buy it here
Read previous posts on IBRG history here