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.
The IBRG Ard Choiste took place on 14th January 1989 hosted by Harrow IBRG in Middlesex. Eleven delegates and officers attended including Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Moore, Laura Sullivan, Gearoid McGearailt, Henry Harron, Dennis Casey, Caitlin Wright Nuala Eefting, Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds.
Apologies from John Martin, Maire O Shea, and Virginia Moyles.
The meeting heard that Manchester IBRG had had had a regional meeting with the CRE in Manchester. The meeting deplored the CRE for omitting the Irish from the 1991 census proposed ethnic grouping, which meant we could not find out, where the Irish were in terms of employment, health and housing. In a press release the IBRG stated that ‘it found it disturbing that given the disadvantage and discrimination faced by the Irish community in Housing, employment and other areas that the CRE should deliberately ignore the needs of the largest minority community in Britain’.
All branches were asked to write to the CRE regarding giving recognition to the Irish community for the 1991 Census in Britain. On the year of Action Haringey Brighton and Hackney were involved with other solidarity groups with public meetings planned for Brighton and Haringey. The Ard Choise agreed to sponsor the Bloody Sunday march which was jointly organised by TOM, LCI and IBRG and urged branches to support with banners flying in the cold January wind.
The Ard Choiste agreed a Haringey motion welcoming the ILEA education document and recommendations on the Irish dimension in the Education system, and urged IBRG branches outside of ILEA to use it, and seek meetings with their local education authorities.
A second motion from Haringey welcomes the new Construction Safety Group set up to protect the lives of men in the construction industry and to improve working conditions. All IBRG were asked to support this initiative as so many Irish men were killed every year on building sites, and no one was held accountable. They often left partners and children behind often without support.
It was agreed that Laura Sullivan attend the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis in Dublin as IBRG observer. The meeting deplored the production of mercury soap in Ireland in a government sponsored factory. The soap used as a skin lightener caused damage to women in Africa often affecting their unborn children.
On 21st January 1989 Pat Reynolds, PRO, was the speaker on Ireland at the Socialist Conference in Hounslow in Middlesex near Heathrow Airport, and on 25th January he spoke to the students at the Middlesex Poly (now University) on Ireland and the Irish in Britain.
On 25th January 1989 the video Off Our Knees was shown in the House of Commons as a build up to the Bloody Sunday March.
On 28th January 1989 IBRG members marched on the Bloody Sunday March from Grange Park, Kilburn to the Bridge Park Centre in Brent. It was one of the coldest and wettest days of the year, and the longest ever Bloody Sunday March, through the wilds of Harlesden and Willesden. The march got attacked by the National Front as usual and the rally was also attacked later on. The speakers were Ken Livingstone, Francie Molloy and Emma Groves.
In January 1989 Douglas Hurd Home Secretary referred the case of the Guildford Four to the Court of Appeal in London as hope grew for their release, and light at the end of a long campaign for justice.
In January Brighton IBRG organised an Irish ceilidh and drew a large crowd.
In February 1989 IBRG produced the third issue of an pobal eirithe with its famous cover British Justice which included the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four, the Winchester Three and also the Gibraltar Three and three victims of British “Shoot to Kill” policy in a photo collage The edition had articles on the Civil Rights and the Irish community in Britain, IBRG Policy on Anti-Irish Racism, No Time for Love in the Morning (PTA), Irish lesbians and Gay men in Britain, Lifers, Women of Ireland Eva Gore Booth, the Banned Community, Mental Health and the Irish Community part 2 of Dr Maire O’Shea article, the Song Speaks, Irish Youth in Britain Squatting in London, activities in Bolton and a piece of Poetry by Deasun McGearailt.
On 4th February 1989 Hackney IBRG held a Housing Advice Day in Hackney for the Irish community and that evening took part in an Irish ceilidh at Hackney Town Hall which drew over 500 people.
On 8th February 1989 London IBRG members attended the unveiling of a plaque in Lewisham to the great Irish socialism and Republican Jim Connell.
Gordon Brown spoke and unveiled the plaque but had to be prompted to say Connell was Irish. Voice from the crowd came in ’And He was Irish’ until Brown at last mentioned it. Lewisham IBRG had their bright banner there and, in the photo, taken for the Irish Post you can see Diarmuid Breatnach, Steve Brennan, Jackie Jolly, Del Thorogood, Pat Reynolds, Seamus Campbell and others. When Brown had finished and went off Diarmuid Breatnach jumped on the fence, and addressed the audience in Jim Larkin style, where he told the audience who stayed the Irish side of Jim Connell, that Brown ignored that Connell wanted freedom for Ireland as well as freedom for the working class. The event ended with the singing of the Red Flag.
On 12th February 1989 IBRG members attended the Sean MacBride Memorial lecture at Hackney Town Hall. The connection here was that Gerry Lawless, a Labour Councillor in Hackney, had been defended by McBride back in the 1960’s.
On 12th February Patrick Finucane a solicitor was murdered by Loyalists at his home in front of his wife and children the murder followed comment by Home Office Minister Douglas Hurd criticising’ a number of solicitors who are unduly sympathetic to the cause of the IRA’.
On 12th February 1989 IBRG members, mainly from Midlands branches including Birmingham, attended the 60 strong picket of Wakefield Prison to commemorate the 13th anniversary of the death of hunger striker Frank Stagg.
On 15th February 1989 Pat Reynolds PRO was interviewed by Cork radio on the Irish in Britain and on 16th February was the IBRG speaker at the ALA (All London Authorities) Conference on Irish Women in London, where he spoke on anti-Irish racism in the media and the impact of discrimination on Irish families in Britain, including the deportation of Irish families.
On 18th February 1989 Pat Reynolds was the opening speaker at the Haringey Year of Action meeting to bring together Irish self-determination issues with issues affecting the Irish in Britain. An Phoblacht attended and wrote it up under the title Injustice the Price of Britain’s Rule. Over 50 people attended.
Other speakers were Janet Clark of Broadwater Farm Campaign , Michael McDonnacha Editor of An Phoblacht and of Sinn Fein, Errol Smalley from the Guildford Four Campaign. The Video Off Our Knees was shown alongside workshops on the Irish war and British politics, Discrimination and the Irish in Britain, Guildford Four and Construction Safety. Janet Clark welcomed the coming together of the Black and Irish community on the issue of civil rights and justice and called for support for the joint Broadwater Farm and IBRG Justice March the following month.
On 18th February 1989 the IBRG delegation headed for Ireland where they had meetings in Belfast, Derry, Armagh, Dublin and Cork. The members of the delegation were Gearoid McGearailt, Virginia Moyles, Bernadette Hyland, Laura Sullivan, Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds.
The IBRG got a Civic reception in Derry City Council, and met both SDLP and Sinn Fein in Derry including Mitchell McLoughlin and Dodie McGuiness. In Ireland the IBRG met with Belfast Trades Council, Falls Road Community Centre, NUPE, SDLP, IDATU, NATE, Anti-Apartheid, ICCL, ITGWU, Combat Poverty, ICPO, USI, EETTU, IMETU, Ceoltas, Labour Party, Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Women’s Groups in Dublin and Belfast.
The issues raised included the PTA, Birmingham 6, Guildford 4, Maguire 7, Judith Ward, Irish self-determination, votes for emigrants, anti-Irish racism in media, anti-Irish discrimination, housing, employment, emigration, extradition, divorce, abortion, free travel for elders, Irish language, culture, transfer of prisoners, and travellers. The IBRG met with Peter Barry and Ruari Quinn.
The delegation produced a 20-page document on issues affecting the Irish community in Britain.
The delegation was huge success and a learning experience in that it was an all-Ireland delegation and we met all the major parties in Ireland along with all the trade unions and the pressure groups.
The delegation organised a well-attended press conference while in Dublin which got press and radio coverage. Pat Reynolds was able to give a talk on Racism in the English Media to media students at Rathmines College of Commerce, and later gave an interview on Both Sides Now a program for emigrants in Britain on RTE on Saturday evenings.
“Mother Ireland” screenings and Gibraltar Three
On 25 January 1989 Manchester IBRG put on a showing of Mother Ireland in Manchester which drew over 150 people, Bernadette Hyland Vice National Chair of IBRG spoke alongside Granville Williams of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting freedom. Mother Ireland had been banned by Channel Four because it had interviews with Máiréad Farrell of the Gibraltar Three.
On 27th February IBRG members put on a showing of Mother Ireland at the Brent Irish Centre.
On 6th March 1989 IBRG London members attended the Kilburn Square protest in memory of the Gibraltar Martyrs. Pat Reynolds spoke for IBRG at the rally along with Terry Moore of Sinn Fein. Birmingham IBRG members joined a similar vigil in Birmingham.
On 7th March 1989 Pat Reynolds was speaking with Jake Ecclestone General Secretary of the NUJ at a student union meeting at the University of North London and in the evening was speaking at a public meeting on Lifers at Deptford town hall.
On 16th March 1989 the RTE programme the Pat Kenny Show was at the Haringey Irish Centre and IBRG members attended and Pat Reynolds was able to send a St Patrick’s day greeting to the Birmingham Six before the show ended. Bernie Grant the local MP also took part in the show.
On 17th March Lewisham IBRG joined in with Greenwich Irish Project to put on some events at the Albany at Deptford. The Irish Post covered it under the title Putting the Green into Greenwich with the Lewisham IBRG banner displayed.
Joint March for Justice; Irish and Black community
On 18th March 1989 the IBRG led the Irish community in a Civil Rights march for Justice from Whittington Park Holloway to Duckett’s Common at Turnpike Lane North London where we were joined by a Black community march from Broadwater Farm. A joint Rally then took place where Breda Power and Sharon Raghip met and spoke together. The march was to link up with 1968 anniversary of civil rights and the Black civil rights movement in the USA and to bring together issues affecting the Black and Irish communities in Britain including framed prisoners and hostages taken from both communities , oppressive policing from PTA to stop and search, to death in police and prison custody. Fergal O’Hara was the guest speaker from Ireland.
On 19th March 1989 Pat Reynolds was guest speaker at Seven Sisters Labour Ward in Tottenham to speak on Ireland.
On 21st March 1989 IBRG member took part in the House of Commons Press conference on the PTA with Maire O’Shea the IBRG speaker with Bobby Gilmore.
In March the London Irish News printed Dr Maire OShea’s second article on Mental Health which they had copied with permission from an Pobal Eirithe, they also covered her first article in an earlier edition.
In March Diarmuid Breatnach had the headline letter in the Irish Post calling for the Irish to be included in the 1991 Census
IBRG challenged British Telecom over an anti-Irish advert in their phone directories. The advert to promote display adverts had Blaney & Sons Builders at Paddy Fields Avenue. BT withdrew the advert and apologised. Credit for chasing BT is due to Majella Crehan of Haringey IBRG who chased them up with two letters until she got the withdrawal of the advert and an apology. Majella had a letter in the Irish Post urging other people to write to BT at their head office.
Death of Donall Mac Amlaigh
Donall MacAmhlaigh, the Irish building worker and writer died and Diarmuid Breatnach expressed the sympathy of IBRG through the Irish Post. Donall was a member of IBRG and wrote some fine articles in Irelands Own on the early work of IBRG. He wrote many of his books in Irish which described the conditions for Irish building workers in Britain and capturing a history that might have been lost.
Pat Reynolds remembers; Donall was a very decent man. I knew him via Green Ink and IBRG. I came across a number of letters from him in my files. He wrote a number of important articles on IBRG in Ireland’s Own huge selling Irish magazine at home and here around 1983. He was more than willing to help out and we should have used him more for conferences and that. I think he was in the Connolly Association as well and lived in Northampton. He died young enough.He worked all his life as a labourer. To be fair he did speak out on the Birmingham Six and on Irish prisoners. He was a very humble unassuming man, but a good writer on ordinary Irishmen working in Britain and the conditions they worked under.
On 1st April 1989 the IBRG Ard Fheis met at Manchester Town Hall with 35 delegates and officers attending. Twelve branches were present namely Lambeth, Derby, Harrow, N.E. Lancs, South Yorkshire, Bolton, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Haringey, Hackney and Coventry.
Gearoid McGearailt stood down after three years as chair and was thanked by the meeting for his service to IBRG.
The following officers were elected Chair Bernadette Hyland Manchester, Vice Chair Laura Sullivan Hackney, President Gearoid McGearailt Lambeth, Vice President Joe Mullarkey Bolton, Runai Virginia Moyles Hackney, Midlands coordinator John Martin Derby, Education Officer Caitlin Wright Bolton, Cisteoir Maurice Moore Coventry and Pat Reynolds PRO Haringey.
Other delegates included, Denis Casey, Nuala Eefting, Nigel Cook, Mary Marken, David Wright, Noel Spencer, Jim McCarthy, Mary Donnelly, Pat O Sullivan, Robert Ryan, Sean Brown, Marcella Cronogue, Paul Sheehan, Deasun McGearailt, Mairin Carlin, David Kernoghan, and Jim King with apologies from Maire OShea and Eddie Caughey.
The following motions were passed
A Haringey motion calling on the Irish government to give emigrants the vote,
A motion condemning the high death rate on building sites in England and also discrimination against Irish building workers which left the majority of Irish men as labourer
A motion welcome decision of the European Court of Human rights to condemn Britain for its abuse of human rights inholding Irish people for 7 days without access to the courts,
A motion condemning the Labour Party for colluding with the Tories in supporting racist and anti-Irish laws,
A motion condemning Tom King British Minister intervention in the Winchester three trail over the right to silence, and also condemning the media for their treatment of the case,
A motion condemning the continued incarceration of the Birmingham Six, and Guildford Four and the failure of the Irish government to tackle the British government over the issue, the motion called on Amnesty international to treat these prisoners as prisoners of conscience, because the sole reason for their imprisonment was their racial and ethnic origin,
A motion welcoming the stand taken by Irish teachers against discrimination in pay and conditions
A motion welcoming increased Dion funding calling for Dion to be reconstituted to represent the wider Irish community
A motion deploring the Irish government for failing to provide jobs for its young people and for failing to deal with emigration, and calling on the Irish government to take action along the line of the IBRG document on emigration
The Irish Post reported the Ard Fheis IBRG Rap for Dion Committee which gave out half a million in welfare grants each year. The Dion committee had no women members despite Irish women being more involved in provided Irish welfare in Britain but also as the main carers for children, thus needed welfare services more. The Irish Government was still tied to Maynooth and the Catholic Church in trying to control Irish welfare in Britain. Thus, they had created a job for a priest to work with Irish prisoners, and the majority of Irish welfare centres were controlled by the church.
The London Irish News had The IBRG Makes History Irish in Britain get First Woman Leader. It went on to profile Bernadette Hyland IBRG chair and gave a list of the motions which were passed. The Irish World story ran IBRG Successful Ard Fheis and stated the 1989 Irish in Britain Representation Group had a most successful Ard Fheis at Manchester Town Hall on Saturday last.
In London Steve Brennan addressed a workshop on Ireland at the Green Party national Conference and raised the issue of the PTA, Birmingham Six and Guildford Four.
On 7th April 1989 IBRG members joined a picket in the London during the visit of Gorbachev, Russian leader to Britain. Nine people with the Birmingham Six banner were arrested while another group with Pat Reynolds and Catherina Scanlon who waited for Jeremy Corbyn MP to arrive at the station, arrived later and escaped arrest, and then went on to Snow Hill police station to seek the release of the others. They got Gareth Pierce Solicitor in to see those arrested. They were released at the end of the Gorbachev visit without charge and all successfully sued the Met police for wrongful detention
On 8th April 1989 IBRG attended the Construction Safety meeting at Kingsway’s College, Kings Cross London.
On May Day Pat Reynolds was one of the speakers for the May Day Workers Rally in Oxford which drew many car workers and public sector workers plus students.
On 6th May 1089 IBRG branches marched on the annual Hunger Strike Commemoration March in Birmingham
On 7th May 1989 Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking at the James Connolly/Bobby Sands Commemoration meeting at Conway hall which had over 500 people. His speech drew attention to the treatment of the nationalist community in N. Ireland and to the treatment given to the Black and Irish communities in Britain. Bernadette McAliskey, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Errol Smalley from Guildford Four Campaign, Niall Farrell brother of Máiréad Farrell and Francie Molloy Sinn Fein were the main speakers.
On 13th May 1989 the IBRG Ard Choiste met at Manchester Town Hall where nineteen delegates and officers attended. Among those attending were Bernadette Hyland Chair, Pat O Sullivan, Denis Casey, Mary Donnelly, Nigel Cook, Pat Reynolds, Laura Sullivan, Joe Mullarkey, Joan Brennan, Noel Spenser, Michael Murphy, David Kernoghan, Trevor O’Farrell, and Diarmuid Breatnach.
Apologies from Eddie Caughey, Virginia Moyles, John Martin, Gearoid McGearailt, and Janice McKnight.
The Ard Choise dealt with motions which were left over from the Ard Fheis.
The first motion called for an Irish unity Conference of all progressive Irish groups in Britain to pursue a common programme for the progress and wellbeing of the Irish community. Other motions were that contact be made with the GAA, Conradh na Gaeilge , Colmtas and the Federation of Irish Societies to formulate a common programme of priorities that we all could work on and support each other on, a motion condemning the British and Irish governments for censorship of Sinn Fein which had been extended to IBRG and other groups who voice any concern about justice or human rights in N. Ireland or Britain. The motion condemned the ending of the right to silence and viewed it as another Kitsonian racist device in their conveyor belt of injustice.
A motion condemning the horrific and wide scale searching of nationalist homes in the Six Counties which led to comparison with early Nazi Germany. The motion also condemned the new PTA which would institutionalise those searches and imprison whole communities for hours on end, a motion calling for the closure of mercury soap production factory in Arklow, and for the creation of alternative employment in the area. The production of this soap can only be seen as a racist and hostile action against Black countries and black people, a motion to welcome the proposed new Race Relations Act in Ireland but notes that travellers are now to be included within the remit of the Act.
The motion also welcomes the outlawing by the European Court of bigoted legislation against gay men in Ireland which was based on old colonial laws.
Further motions included -one calling on the Irish government to stop all extradition to British jurisdiction, since the British government has clearly shown that it has contempt for international standards of justice, and that Irish people charged with political offences are used as pawns in a British policy where the end always justifies the means, from Bloody Sunday to Gibraltar, a motion supporting the Lifers campaign and calling for an end of indeterminate sentencing. The motion condemned the Irish government for failing to facilitate the transfer of Irish prisoners and for their slavish obedience to the British Home Office.
Another motion condemned the murder of solicitor Patrick Finucane and noted the remarks of a junior minister which created a context and atmosphere for the killing, a motion noting the evidence given to the Gibraltar Inquest and the information withheld, and that the total picture would appear to indicate that the murders were premeditated. The motion called on the Irish government to take an interstate action against the British government for the judicial murder of three Irish citizens and for an international enquiry into the illegal death squads practices of the British government, a motion that IBRG should take part in the Time to Go march but march within the anti-imperialist contingent on the march, the meeting also decided to support an IFM march on Ireland in August.
Janice McKnight was re-elected Membership Secretary, and Stefan Hannigan was elected Youth officer. A new branch was planned for Corby on 20th May and a new one in Peterborough on 17th June. There were currently 16 branches functioning but Derby was not running and Southwark was struggling.
The meeting had a report back from the very successful delegation to Ireland which including visits to Belfast, Derry, Cork and Dublin for meeting with political party’s trade unions and pressure groups. It put IBRG on the map in a real way where people in Ireland could put a face to the organisation they read about in the Irish papers. The meeting heard a report back on the St Patricks Day March for Justice and Civil Rights with a joint rally with Black community. The British left did not support the march yet expected IBRG to support their marches.
Events planned for coming months included on 10th June a Justice conference in Manchester, and an Irish Language conference in Haringey on 1st July and a Sinn Fein tour of Britain in July.
Bolton IBRG put forward a motion calling on the NI Office to fulfil its obligation to education in Belfast by funding the 123 projects. The motion condemns the inflammatory statements about the project made by the British government which endangers the lives of people doing voluntary work in the area.
The Irish Post reported on the meeting with a headline IBRG Calls for Unity Conference with a major article which reported on the other motions passed.
The Irish Post reported on efforts by the Haringey Irish Liaison Unit led by Seamus Taylor to push the CRE to recognise the Irish which the IBRG had supported strongly. The Post reported that the arguments for inclusion had prompted some bitter exchanges with groups such as the Federation of Irish Societies who were opposed. Later the Irish Liaison Unit criticised the CRE for not including the Irish. Seamus Taylor played a major role in getting the CRE later to recognise the Irish and he was also involved with Action Group for Irish Youth and was able to bring the centre of the Irish community with him with most of the London projects supporting the demand. A detailed submission was sent to the OPCS from all Irish groups including IBRG drafted by Seamus Taylor of the Haringey Irish Liaison Unit arguing for the Irish to be included in the 1991 Census. While the Federation did not support it many of its affiliates did and Bernie Grant MP also supported it. AGIY Irish chaplaincy, BIAS, Cara, all supported it.
In May Pat Reynolds PRO had a leading article in the Troops Out Magazine entitled Racism, the Irish and Class Struggle a two-page article, which set out the issues around anti-Irish racism and the British state. The article traced the history of anti-Irish racism as being founded in the history of imperialism and colonisation and the appropriation of lands culture and language. It had a similar history with racism against Black people who had experienced slavery and the destruction of their languages and culture. The Irish struggle was part of the same struggle against all forms or racism and supremacy. ‘Anti-Irish racism has to be seen within the context of racism against all colonial people, and to fight anti-Irish racism means taking on all forms of racism. The effects of racism are there for these communities, poorer housing, employment, health, welfare, education, political policing, racism in the media, discrimination and disadvantage, The Black and Irish struggles should be at the heart of the class struggle in Britain, as they are the communities who are in direct front line resistance against the institution of the British state’.
On 18th May 1989 Pat Reynolds was speaking at public meeting in Camden against the Poll Tax with Jeremy Corbyn MP and Cllr. Angie Birtill
On 20th May 1989 Pat was in Corby for a meeting with John Martin to try and start up an IBRG branch in Corby. The house where the meeting was due to take place was fire bombed the night before along with the family car by right wing fascists. The town with its steel works had a strong Scottish Unionist community there.
In May the Irish Post had a heading Blackburn Irish an Ethnic Group which reported that Blackburn Borough Council had agreed to recognise the Irish community in ethnic monitoring. The N.E. Lancs IBRG had lobbied for this.
On 3rd June the members of the IBRG delegation to Ireland members met in Birmingham to try and pull together a report on their journey to Ireland.
On 10th June the South London Year of Action had a Day School on Ireland at Lambeth Town Hall with speakers Mary Mason of Troops Out on the Solidarity Struggle, Diarmuid Breatnach IBRG on Politics and Irish Culture, Geoff Bell on James Connolly The lessons for today, Pat Finnegan on Colonisation and Emigration and Bill Hamilton NALGO on Solidarity work in British trade unions.
On 10th June Manchester IBRG held their Justice for Irish People 20 Years on Conference at Manchester Town Hall. Over 80 people attended. The conference was introduced by Bernadette Hyland National chair of IBRG with Formal Opening by Graham Stringer Leader of Manchester City Council. Speakers included Michael Mansfield barrister on Irish People, British Justice, Tommy Walsh on the PTA, Virginia Moyles Secretary IBRG on Irish women in Britain, Joan O’Flynn on New emigration, Fr Des Wilson on Justice in Ireland, Fr Joe Taaffe on the Birmingham Six and Tony O’Brien on Construction Safety.
The Conference was sponsored by Andrew Bennett MP, Eddie Loyden MP, Bob Clay MP, Dawn Primarolo MP, Dennis Canavan MP, Alfred Morris MP, Christine Crawley MEP, Bob Clay MP, Dawn Newman MP, Michael Hindley MEP, Leslie Huckfield, MEP NALGO, AEU, and BETA.
The Irish Post ran a story on the conference entitled Britain to scrap trial by jury and focussed on the talk by Michael Mansfield at the conference. He stated at the meeting that the Irish in Britain were being used as ‘a testing ground for means of control that would ultimately be used against the rest of the population’. Fr Wilson was quoted as saying ‘If you find decent good people taking up arms against the government there must be a good reason for it’.
In a letter, dated 7/5/89, he wrote to Bernadette Hyland confirming his presence at the event ,Tom Walsh expressed his own concerns about the use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act at the port of Liverpool. “There is no doubt there is need for great concern about the level of justice for Irish people in Britain at the moment. It has been an extremely busy year so far, for detentions under the P.T.A. in Liverpool, with disturbing trends by Police in their treatment of families. They are regularly denying they are holding people so causing unecessary suffering for relatives.” The full letter can be read here…
On 13th June IBRG hosted a Vauxhall by- election public meeting called Britain in Ireland the Irish in Britain. at the White Horse in Brixton which drew over 100 people and was chaired by Diarmuid Breatnach of Lewisham IBRG. The meeting in Brixton was at the heart of the London Black Community and scene of the 1981 Uprising against the British state.
Sharon Atkins, a Black candidate, was pushed out by Neil Kinnock and Kate Hoey was forced upon the constituency which greatly angered the Black and Irish community. Whereas, Sharon Atkins was great on Ireland, Kate Hoey was Unionist and hostile to the Irish community even opposing Irish recognition in London.
All candidates were invited including Black preacher Rev Hewie Andrew, Henry Bewley Green Party, Kate Hoey who refused to face the community, Michael Keegan Tory Party, Don Milligan RCP, Rudy Narayan Radical Black Barrister, and Michael Tuffrey Liberal.
Dolan who was Brendan MacLua, editor of the Irish Post, called it wrong and criticised IBRG for not backing Kate Hoey, saying Kate Hoey had stood up for the Irish community after Bloody Sunday, and was one of those charged after Bloody Sunday. This was when she was young and was into the British left but she moved very quickly to the centre and to the right of British and Irish politics.
The Guardian stated that ‘The Irish in Britain Representation Group has also condemned Ms Hoey’s candidacy in a constituency with a large Irish community’. The original favourite to stand was Martha Osamor a Haringey Councillor and a great friend of Ireland, who often spoken on Irish platforms, but she was excluded by Kinnock. Years later her daughter became a Labour MP in North London while Corbyn put Martha into the House of Lords while Leader of the Labour Party. Rev Andrew stated ‘If the Labour Party is serious about Black people it should make its candidate stand down and let the black representative stand’.
Pat Reynolds in his letter in the Irish Post took Dolan to task stating ‘the front line is always there for Irish people no matter where individuals retreat from it.’ Kate Hoey opposed ethnic recognition for the Irish community, Irish sections in the Labour Party, supported the Anglo-Irish agreement, and where would she stand on the PTA and the framed prisoners. How can Dolan criticise the Federation of Irish Societies over their position on Irish recognition and then support Kate Hoey who has the same position. In London at the GLC Irish conference every single Irish organisation in London supported the Irish right to recognition of their culture history and their position in British society. The IBRG were also taking a stand with the black community at their racist treatment by the labour Party in deselecting good Black candidates in a large Black constituency. There were over 14,000 Irish people living in Lambeth where Vauxhall was situated. Later in 2020 Boris Johnson Tory Leader would send Kate Hoey to the Lords where over 90% of N. Ireland members were Unionists.
In June an IBRG delegation met with the Labour Party in Lambeth to press their demands for ethnic recognition which was supported by Fred Taggart and Linda Bellos. Lambeth had been sitting on a report on the Irish community since 1985 on Irish recognition.
In June Diarmuid Breatnach had the top letter in the Irish Post on emigration where he stated ‘We don’t pay taxes in Ireland because we pay taxes here, to which country we are effectively exiled. We have been disestablished, disinherited, and since we have been disenfranchised, they think we can also be dismissed’. Diarmuid called for emigrants to be given the vote in Ireland
On 16th June Gearoid McGearailt spoke at the Family Service Unit Conference at the Camden Irish centre on the Irish community in Britain.
On 17th June Pat Reynolds was in Peterborough to try and start an IBRG branch there and on 22nd June he was speaking at a Celtic League meeting in London.
On 24th June Brighton IBRG held a conference in Brighton on Irish Culture with speakers Diarmuid Breatnach, Maude Casey and Jonathan Moore with a showing of Mother Ireland and a benefit at the Pavilion Theatre with the Hairy Marys and Jacket Potatoes.
On 24th June 1989 the IBRG had their Ard Choiste meeting at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in Islington in North London where only seven delegates attended probably because there were too many others events on in June. Among those attending were Maurice Moore, Bernadette Hyland, Denis Casey, Pat Sullivan, Kevin Hayes, Virginia Moyles and Trevor O’Farrell with apologies from Pat Reynolds, Diarmuid Breatnach, Joe Mullarkey and Laura Sullivan.
The meeting heard that the Manchester Justice conference had gone very well and had got good publicity.
The meeting discussed the two marches on Ireland being organised for August, and about the Sinn Fein Councillors tour in July along with Haringey IBRG Irish language conference in July.
Birmingham IBRG stated they were working on issues around the PTA.
On 1st July 1989 there was an Irish Consultative Forum held by the Association of London Authorities which was chaired by Gerry Lawless from Hackney. Cllr Angie Birthill, Fred Taggert, and Mick Brenan from Southwark attended. The meeting identified the issues which needed to be addressed; Emigration, Housing and exploitation, employment and training opportunities, position of young Irish student, ethnic classifications, equality issues and Irish community, position of Irish women education issues, travellers, along with health and safety in industry.
On 1st July 1989 Haringey IBRG hosted a Teanga agus Cultur Conference at the Red Rose Club in Islington, North London. Over 30 people attended. The Conference decided to campaign for recognition of the Irish language in Britain, and called on the British government to give recognition to the Irish language as being the official language of a member state of the EU. It also called for all major community languages in Britain to be given equal recognition alongside European language.
The Conference called on the Irish government to recognise its consular responsibility for the cultural needs of the Irish community in Britain, and to recognise the damage the Irish government did to its own language by their position with the EU in having Irish not as a working language. Dr Ken McKinnon of Hatfield Poly outlined the history of Scottish Gaelic and accused the British Government of language racism, and of trying to impose English on everyone, and he noted that English was now a minority language among 300m in the EU.
Liz Saville from the Welsh Language Society detailed the struggle of the Welsh language, and stated that it was essential for parents as well as children to be involved in any language struggle.
Dodie McGuiness spoke about the struggle in the Six Counties for language and culture, where the language was seen as subversive and a weapon against British domination. She talked of the street sign campaign, the street murals, Gaelic preschools, and Irish Language paper LA in Belfast. The Irish language had been taken into the prisons, and a battle for prisoners to receive and write letters in Gaelic. The workshops held during the conferences were bilingual.
Roundwood Park Irish Festival and clash with Young Irish
On 2nd July 1989 there was a major clash between the Met Police and Irish youth at Roundwood Park Irish Festival, where the police used dogs and horses to close down the Festival. The pitched battle went on for over an hour as the police tried to take the hill over the bandstand with horses, but the youth fought back and retook the hill a number of times. The police made 55 arrests and laid serious charges against the young arrested. Pat Reynolds who was present at the event witnessed it first-hand. The festival had no beer tent for the first time but the crowd had smuggled in large crates of beer and drink. It started with a simple dispute between a young man and a police officer where the youth had sprayed a police man with beer and he tried to arrest him. Within minute the police panicked and asked for horses to be brought in which led to horrible scenes with horses flying through families with little children and Irish elders.
It was a complete overreaction and uncalled for. The police were oppressive and excessive and police and dogs should not be used as a first option in policing. The IBRG called on Brent Council to conduct an inquiry into the police action on the day. The Festival Committee had denied IBRG a stall for the fifth year running and had also denied the Birmingham Six Committee a stall. In 1988 the GAA had boycotted the festival and refused to field teams because of this. In September Pat Reynolds received a letter back from Dorman Long Leader of Brent Council where he noted that ‘the Council shares your concerns, and to this end we are currently in discussion with the local police. After the conclusions of these discussions, we hope to convene a meeting of all interested parties to discuss the matters arising from the policing o this year’s Irish festival and clearly the demand for a public enquiry would form part of such a meeting’.
The British tabloids had a field day fed by police lies about the use of alcohol at the Festival which had run for 15 years without incident and where drinking on the day was very limited to small groups because of the lack of a beer tent. The IBRG suggested that the tabloids should go to Ascot or Henley if they wanted to see real drinking.
Sinn Fein councillors visited British cities in July on a speaking tour. On 3rd July Pat Reynolds spoke with Lily Fitzsimons and Cllr Angie Birtill at the Camden Irish Centre, on 6th July he spoke with Cllr Jim McAllister at the Albany in Deptford and on 7th July he spoke with Bernie Grant at Tottenham Town Hall.
On 12th July Pat Reynolds travelled to Oxford for a meeting to set up an IBRG branch in Oxford.
The IBRG called on the incoming Irish government of Fianna Fail/PD to publicly call for the release of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four, and to call for the repeal of the PTA, give the vote to the Irish abroad, end extradition at once, end forced emigration, and get the Irish language recognised in Europe, and transfer Irish prisoners home.
On 5th August 1989 IBRG took part in the Irish Freedom Movement Anti-Internment march from Islington Town Hall to Whittington Park at Archway. After the march Pat Reynolds and Diarmuid Breatnach got attacked by 30 fascists near Archway while the police stood idly by.
On 12th August IBRG branches took part in the Time to Go march to Finsbury Park under the Irish self-determination Banner.
On 19th August 1989 IBRG had a banner on the Dublin FADA march with both Bernadette Hyland and Pat Reynolds present, Speakers were Gerry Adams MP Neil Blaney, George Galloway, MP. FADA (Forum for a Democratic Alternative) was set up to organise the march on the theme For a New United Ireland for British Withdrawal.
On 2nd September 1098 the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Sparkhill Centre in Birmingham with eight delegates present including Virginia Moyles, Kevin Hayes, Denis Casey, Maurice Moore, Diarmuid Breatnach, Maire O Shea Padraig Mac Rannall and Mary Donnelly, with apologies form Bernadette Hyland, Laura Sullivan, and Caitlin Wright.
The meeting nominated Pat Reynolds to be the IBRG delegate on the Free Speech on Ireland committee. The meeting discussed the Winchester Three campaign and how IBRG could support it. The Ard Choiste heard a report back on the Language and Culture Conference hosted by Haringey IBRG, and Haringey IBRG were leading a campaign to have the Irish language recognised as one of the modern European language within the British education system. Haringey had raised it with Department of Educational and Science and LACE were also taking up the issue.
The Terence MacSwiney March would be held on 28th October and the IBRG Countrywide Irish Welfare conference would be held at Lambeth Town Hall on 30 September. An IBRG member represent outlined their recent experience under the PTA where they were held for over 7 hours before they saw a solicitor who knew nothing about the PTA. Branches were asked to write to the CRE and the OPCS demanding ethnic recognition for the Irish. It was agreed to donate £50 to the PTA Research and Welfare Association in Birmingham.
On 30th September 1989 Lambeth IBRG held their 3rd annual Irish perspective on British Welfare at Lambeth Town Hall. Speakers were Bernadette Manning on Child abuse and the Irish community, Bobby Gilmore on the Catholic Church and Irish Welfare, Breda Gray on Alcohol use within the Irish community, Padraic Kenna on Homelessness and the Irish community, Bronwen Walters on Irish women in British society, Frank Harrington on the Irish and Mental health, Dave Murphy on Emigration and Irish Youth, Gearoid McGearailt on Needs of Irish elders in Britain, Nolliag O Gadhra on Europe after 1992 and Paul Cullen Irish Embassy on the role of Dion.
At first the Irish Embassy claimed they were too busy to attend the Welfare conference of the Irish in Britain and Pat Reynolds the organiser contacted Gerry Collins office in Dublin, and the Embassy changed their minds. The Irish Post, the Irish World, the London Irish News, the Longford Leader, and the Sunday Press in Dublin covered the conference in some details.
Gearoid McGearailt, President of IBRG and local Lambeth IBRG member, opened the conference. The London Irish News gave heading to Nollaig O Gadhra and the expected changes in Europe who would make the Irish in Britain citizens of Europe with a number of rights. The Irish Post gave the heading to the Irish Embassy representative Paul Cullen
In a statement on high emigration from Ireland the IBRG stated that if one Irish politician had to leave with every 1,000 Irish young people leaving, then emigration would be top of the agenda. An Phoblacht covered the story in some details and the statement ended by stating ‘We want our rights not charity, we want the vote now and we want a government that is not afraid to speak out for the rights of its citizens abroad. Its abysmal failure can be seen over 15 years in its lack of response to the Birmingham Six and Guildford and the PTA. It is time for the Irish government to get off its neo-colonial knees and start acting as responsible independent government’.
In September the TUC at long last called for the repeal of the PTA after 15 years silence on the abuse of Irish workers in Britain which included deportations.
Starting on 2nd October 1989 Haringey IBRG put on a weekly series of videos at Haringey Irish Centre including the Irishman, Suspect Community and Irish News, British Stories.
On 14th October 1989 the IBRG held their Comhcomhairle in Bolton where 14 delegates attended with four other delegates could not make it because of a serious car accident on the journey. Eight branches were present namely Manchester, Lewisham, Haringey, NE Lancs, Camden, Harrow, Bolton and Birmingham.
Among the delegates attending were Bernadette Hyland, Diarmuid Breatnach, Majella Crehan, Pat Reynolds, Michael Cnaimhsi, Trevor O’ Farrell, Denis Casey, Maurice Cahill, Joe Mullarkey, Caitlin Wright, David Wright and Mary Donnelly.
With apologies from Virginia Moyles Laura Sullivan, D Stewart and Stefan Hannigan all involved in a car accident, Maire O’ Shea, Gearoid MacGearailt and Maurice Moore.
A workshop was held on the idea of having a Unity Conference for the Irish in Britain. Bolton had suggested a secretariat for the Irish in Britain, but how would it be funded. There was a discussion around IBRG relationships with other groups and if we should meet the GAA, Comhaltas and the Federation and Conradh.
There was an Irish language workshop which discussed how we could promote the Irish language in Britain from adult education to the curriculum. Discussion was had on having an Irish studies pack.
There was also a discussion on N. Ireland and how we could work on issues such as self-determination and civil rights. Discussion also on working with different groups on the left like LCI, TOM, IFM and also with single issue campaigns like strip-searching and plastic bullets. Discussion also on the B6 and G4 campaigns, in the North West IBRG were involved in the B6 campaign while in London Tom Baron of IBRG was involved in the G4 campaign.
The Guildford Four were released on 17th October 1989 to a huge crowd outside the old Bailey where Gerry Conlon told the world I was an innocent man, my father was an innocent man, the Birmingham Six are innocent men.
The Court of Appeal held that the convictions were based on confession fabricated by the police. Sir John May was appointed to look into the convictions of the Guildford Four and the Maguire cases which were linked together and for which Gerry Conlon’s father died in prison an innocent man.
The British State knew they were innocent all along, and the Balcombe St siege men gave a detailed account of their bombings of Woolwich and Guildford, but the matter was covered up for years. All involved in the Guildford Four trial were all promoted to the highest levels of British legal and policing systems.
On the same day the IBRG marched with their banner on the Censorship March to the Dominion Theatre in Tottenham Court Road where Roy Hattersley was shouted down in a protest which started with IBRG members, because of his attack on Sinn Fein, who were not present at the rally to defend themselves. It was a shameful performance by Hattersley when he stated in his racist way ’No decent person would vote for Sinn Fein or be associated with them’. It was a most shameful statement about the nationalist people of N. Ireland. Why did Hattersley use a Free Speech on Ireland platform and one on Ending censorship to attack Sinn Fein, and the right of the Irish people to vote for a party that represented their views.
Pat Reynolds who attended the Rally and protested against Hattersley wrote a reply to the Guardian, which was not published. In it he drew attention to several recent events, one where Southwark Council got the Borough Solicitor to vet every single picture in an exhibition on Ireland the Right to Know, and Town Halls where Black and Irish speakers were banned
On 20th October Pat Reynolds went on the program Time and Place on TV to discuss the release of the Guildford Four and that evening spoke at Lambeth Town Hall with Cllr. Sean McKnight of Sinn Fein and Martha Osamor over Ireland and free speech.
On 27th October for Halloween Haringey IBRG held a children’s Party which drew over 100 children to the Haringey Irish centre all with an Irish theme.
On 28th October 1989 IBRG branches marched with their banners on the Terence MacSwiney March from Kennington to Brixton prison with a rally at St Mathews hall near Windrush Square in Brixton. Over 500 people attended the march and rally which IBRG helped to organise mainly Lewisham IBRG and Diarmuid Bretanach.
In October IBRG challenged the Daily Express over its story Thatcher Bomb Gang Arrested the story of five innocent Irishmen arrested in Cheltenham. The IBRG also took up the story in the press of Irish labourers on the Channel Tunnel collecting funds for the IRA when they were collecting funds for an Englishman who died working on the tunnel.
On 2nd November 1989 Pat Reynolds was on Channel Four Hard News programme on racism in the Media speaking on anti-Irish racism in the media and how the media covered PTA arrests.
On 3rd November IBRG members took part in the Regents St Picket on Plastic Bullets to coincide with Guy Fawkes night.
On 4th November Pat Reynolds was speaking at the LACE Conference at London University.
On 6th November Haringey IBRG showed the video Suspect Community on the PTA to 15 people at the Haringey Irish Centre.
On 19th November Pat Reynolds was guest speaker at Selly Oak College in Birmingham to social work students talking about the Irish community in Britain and their needs.
On 24th November IBRG members in London attended the Guildford 4 benefit at the Haringey Irish Centre to welcome the Guildford Four home again.
On 25th November the IBRG Ard Choiste took place at Lambeth Town Hall with six delegates including Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds, Laura Sullivan, Caitlin Wright and Gearoid MacGearailt with apologies from Maurice Moore, Trevor Farrell, Virginia Moyles, Joe Mullarkey, Maire O Shea and Majella Crehan.
The Ard Choiste decided to affiliate to the Winchester Three campaign, to support it in every way and gave a donation of £25. The meeting heard back from the very successful IBRG Welfare Conference in Lambeth which got wide publicity before and after. The meeting also heard back from the Terence MacSwiney march held in Brixton. Manchester IBRG reported that they had an input into the Manchester Irish Film Festival and held a ceremony at the Manchester Martyrs memorial.
The Ard Choiste welcomed the release of the Guildford Four and decided to give £100 to the St Patrick’s Day March for Justice. Haringey IBRG were drafting PTA guidelines for the NUJ in how to report PTA arrests. Branches were asked to support Nick Mullen who had been arrested abroad and taken back to Britain.
In November Bernadette Hyland chaired a meeting with Bernadette MacAliskey at History Workshop Conference in Salford University. Maude Casey was also speaking at this meeting. The Irish Post had photo of the two Bernadettes and one of Maude Casey from the event at which Steve Fielding also presented a history lecture on the Irish in Manchester.
On the 15th anniversary of the PTA the British government introduced permanent legislation on the PTA which IBRG condemned. Neil Kinnock asked the Labour Party to abstain rather than vote for it. The Labour Party introduced the PTA and were in power, when they took hostages from the Irish community back in 1974 the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four Judith Ward and the Maguire seven. Eighteen innocent Irish people in total taken away from their families and communities including trade unionists were taken away, and put away for no other reason than their Irishness. Peter Barry who claimed the Winchester Three got a fair trial appears to live in cloud cuckoo land, when they were tried in a British garrison town in the middle of the Tory Party conference, and when Tom King equating silence with guilt in the middle of their trial, given they were charged with conspiracy to kill him, they never had a change and got savage sentences of 25 years which Barry thought were a bit long. Defence barrister Michael Mansfield called the Winchester Three trial the most unfair trial he had ever been involved in.
The IBRG statement on the PTA stated that the cornerstones of the PTA were the cases of the Birmingham Six, Guildford Ford and Maguire Seven and Judith Ward -18 innocent Irish people taken away in the night. The PTA was based on the systematic intimidation and harassment of the Irish community on its way to and from Ireland, and had made anti Irish racism a functioning weapon of the state, in controlling and abusing our community, to silence its voice on British abuses in Ireland.
The PTA created a Berlin wall of silence around the war in Ireland. The European Court had condemned the abusive PTA laws in holding Irish people incommunicado for up to seven days without access to the courts. Kevin McNamara stated last year that Labour would continue to oppose the PTA, and the TUC had since come out against it, yet now the Labour Party stabbed the Irish community in the back by abstaining. IBRG stated that the new PTA would enshrine anti Irish racism into British policing, and that Irish people can now be arrested even without reasonable suspicion, they can be arrested now just because they are Irish.
In November the National Union of Journalists brought out a new code of conduct for journalists which the IBRG found to be lacking in dealing with anti-Irish racism in the media, and how the media covered PTA arrests.
IBRG responded to the new code of conduct by stating that only Royalty could defend themselves against the British media. The new code would not protect Irish people from abuse in the British media and from headlines like Thatcher Bomb Gang arrested Five IRA suspects held, all five were released without charge but had to leave England for their own security. Another heading IRA man in Chunnel cash swoop when they were collecting for an English man killed on site.
In November Peter Brooke N. Irish Secretary admitted that the British Army could never defeat the IRA and stated that if the ‘violence’ stopped the British government would talk to Sinn Fein.
On 2nd December 1989 Pat Reynolds PRO had an interview with RTE Radio in Dublin on media coverage on Irish cases.
On 4th December Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds attended a meeting with Seamus Taylor and the CRE: the first of a long series of meetings which was to lead over time to CRE recognition of the Irish and the Report on Discrimination and the Irish Community in Britain.
On 8th December Pat Reynolds spoke on the history of the Irish community in Britain since 1945 to the Irish pensioners group in Lewisham, which led to a lively discussion afterwards as most has lived during this time.
On 9th December the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Sparkhill community centre in Birmingham with ten delegates present including Kevin Hayes, Angela McAndrews, Denis Casey, Mary Donnelly, Eddie Caughley, Pat Reynolds, Laura Sullivan, Maurice Moore, and Caitlin Wright.
Apologies from Diarmuid Breatnach, Majella Crehan, Bernadette Hyland, Virginia Moyles, and Gearoid McGearailt.
Caitlin Wright was elected Chair for the meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the IBRG position on a possible broad front movement on Ireland. There was a wide-ranging discussion on our work within Bloody Sunday, the lack of support from British left groups for our St Patricks Day march, and how all the groups wanted our support but gave nothing back. Were the IBRG using their scare resources supporting the British left, and ignoring our own community e.g. time spent around Time to Go debate at the expense of community issues.
The decision of the meeting was a) that concentration on British left organisation should not be at the expense of community organisations, b) work together on specific issues where policies coincide rather than blank cheque, and c) focus on Irish self-determination and the Irish community. Diarmuid Breatnach had drafted a detailed account of solidarity work including an analysis of the Time To Go campaign. There were many divisions between groups on the left with TOM blocking IFM from the Bloody Sunday organising committee, Sinn Fein opposing IRSP speakers, and SWP backing the Time to Go campaign.
On 11th December IBRG members attended a public meeting on Democratic Rights where Lily Hill, Bobby Gilmore, Pat Reynolds and Maire O’Shea spoke to over 50 people. Bobby Gilmore stated that while one of the framed prisoners was left inside, all our freedoms are diminished. Lily Hill, Paul Hill’s mother,,got a standing ovation from the crowd. She said her son paid a heavy price for being Irish and asked the British media where were they 15 years ago. Her son was moved over 50-times in prison and spent five-year in solitary confinement all for being an innocent Irish man.
In December the Irish World covered the Judith Ward story in full with information provided by IBRG, An Phoblacht also covered this. The Irish World also carried a full page IBRG Reviews 1989 which detailed all the work IBRG had carried out during the year.
In South London Lambeth councillors had been on a delegation to the Six Counties in September 1989 and when they came back, they put a report in December to Lambeth police committee and affiliated to the United Campaign against Plastic Bullets.
On 14th December IBRG members attended a Birmingham Six benefit at the Camden Irish centre.
Editor of the Irish Post, Brendan MacLua in the Dolan column, reflected on the 1980s and stated ‘the effects of the Hunger strikes were profound. Soon the IBRG emerged a new Irish community organisation in Britain. Initially it had tremendous vitality’
This is not just the case. IBRG started off in a disastrous way set up in October 1981 it modelled itself on the SDP and took ages to get to London, them messed up London completely with a London Regional council, and never got going properly until 1983 and took a long time to get a policy on N. Ireland.
IBRG’s first position being: we condemn violence on all side without any explanation of where violence came from in Ireland. It was felt in IBRG that MacLua was annoyed because IBRG failed to join the Time to Go campaign whose manifesto he had drafted, and IBRG had clashed with him over Kate Hoey as well. History on Hoey shows IBRG to have been right about her Unionist politics. However, MacLua was right about Thatcherism when he stated that the lies about Gibraltar and then the Stalker exposure ‘confirmed the extent to which our policies and our legal system have been corrupted by Mrs Thatcher’s obstinate determination to defend the indefensible division of Ireland’.
IBRG spoke out about employment discrimination against the Irish in Britain after two cases of discrimination by employers, one against Boots which was found to have unlawfully discriminated against an Irish woman who was awarded £1,800 and another case where an Irishman was asked at his interview with Royal Mail whether he had a drink problem.
During 1989 Sinn Fein councillors in several parts of Ireland backed the IBRG campaign to make the Dublin government accountable for mass emigration. In Monaghan Council Caoimhglin O Caolain put the motion to his Council and warned of the major crisis which the IBRG had identified in London and called on the Irish Embassy to become more responsive to the needs of the newly arrived Irish. The motion was later circulated to all county councils and Urban District councils in Ireland during them to support the motion, to tackle emigration and to provide better services for those forced to emigrate.
Looking back on the1980s the rising of the IBRG coincided with the Brixton Black uprising of 1981 and the rising of the GLC under Ken Livingstone, where you had both the Black and Irish communities on the move along with the Women’s movement and the Gay and Lesbian movement.
With the Guildford Four release, it felt like Fainne Geal an Lae. Bright ring of the day.
Listen to my talk about the IBRG in the northwest in the Irish Collection at the WCML here
An excellent history of 200 years of Irish political activity in Mancheser – including Manchester IBRG read “The Wearing of the Green” by Michael Herbert. Buy it here
Read previous posts on IBRG history here