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 Ard Choiste donated £100 to the annual Bloody Sunday march which the IBRG along with TOM and LCI organised.
Coventry IBRG reported on branch work on the PTA in both Coventry and Birmingham, holding a monthly social of song music and poetry, work with the Trades Council who had held a meeting on the Birmingham Six, and work on the local Irish Festival.
The meeting affiliated to the Nick Mullen campaign and the Martin Foran campaign while continuing support for the Winchester Three campaign. The meeting decided to push Judith Ward’s case as she had been forgotten : the PRO had got her case into the Irish weeklies, An Phoblacht and the American Irish Voice along with some Dublin papers.
The new ILEA (Inner London Education Authority) booklets on Ireland had a number of racist stereotypes about Ireland. Despite being provided to educate children about Ireland, the booklets showed the Irish being violent and the British always being peaceful.
The meeting decided to support the new Irish National Congress being set up in Dublin. The meeting heard that the meeting had been held with the CRE and that they were taking the matter of Irish recognition to the Commissioners.
On 13th January 1990 the SAS executed three young men robbing a bookies shop in Belfast. The incident led to claims of a shoot to kill policy as two of the men were shot between 10-13 times while the third was shot from two foot away
On 17th January 1990 Dr Maire O’Shea from the Birmingham Six Campaign, and Pat Reynolds IBRG addressed over 100 students at Cardiff University on the issue of Ireland and the Irish in Britain, particularly the framed prisoners and the PTA. Later Cardiff students came down to London for the Bloody Sunday March.
Bloody Sunday March London and Derry
On 27th January 1990 over 5,000 people marched on the Bloody Sunday march from Hyde Park to Kilburn under the banner of Support the Irish people’s demand for self-determination. Speakers included Jeremy Corbyn MP, Father Des Wilson, and Dodie McGuiness from Sinn Fein. On the march there was a 100-foot-long banner from Derry with the heading ‘We are a people of struggle, ours is a culture of change’.
Paul Hill spoke at the Derry Bloody Sunday March and went on to pour scorn on the idea that the release of the Birmingham Six would mark a turning point for British justice, because the Prevention of Terrorism Act would remain in force.
He told the crowd that there were people fifty yards away capable of taking away sons, daughters, sisters, mothers and brothers, doctoring evidence and sending them to prison for fifteen years, simply because they were Irish.
Eamonn McCann, another speaker, condemned the Labour Party for its policies on Ireland. He said until the British labour movement and the Labour leadership take a decent stand on the Birmingham Six and other issues relating to Ireland, they will have one hand tied behind their back, even in their efforts to do something for their own people’.
On 29th January IBRG members attended a House of Commons meeting on the Transfer of Irish Prisoners where Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four spoke.
An IBRG meeting was held in Birmingham on 17th January to discuss working with other groups which was attended by five delegates and also Kevin Hayes, Eddie Caughey, Mary Donnelly, Pat O Sullivan and Angela McAndrews, all from Birmingham IBRG.
The meeting agreed that the focus of IBRG should around self-determination and issues affecting the Irish community in Britain.
The meeting found that non-alignment with the Labour Party was the source of much of the hostility to IBRG over the Time to Go Campaign, the PTA and other issues. It was felt that IBRG could work on single issues campaigns with other groups e.g. racism, PTA, strip searching, censorship, plastic bullets, frame ups, shoot to kill and prisoners.
It was agreed that priority should be given to Irish led initiatives. Most left groups had their own agenda and had little interest in the Irish community apart from recruitment, work with other groups could be at IBRG expense.
On 20th January 1990 16 delegates from various groups interested in Ireland met in London to discuss setting up a broad front. Diarmuid Breatnach and Virginia Moyles represented the IBRG. The meeting agreed to organise around withdrawal and self-determination and organise a conference on the issue. 21 people had attended an earlier meeting on 18th November 1989 on the same issue with four delegates from IBRG – Virginia Moyles, Pat Reynolds, Laura Sullivan and Siobhan Hiers.
Irish Post and attack on IBRG
Bernadette Hyland, National Chair of IBRG, had a letter in the Irish Post on 13th January challenging Frank Dolan (aka Editor Brendan MacLua) of the Irish Post over his remarks that IBRG had “tremendous vitality initially , which appeared to be more about IBRG not supporting the Time to Go Charter, which he had written. In any case his argument was very false and without evidence as IBRG grew stronger from 1982 to 1989, and indeed was weak in the early years, both in terms of policy, events and branches.
Bernadette Hyland’s letter triggered a fully-fledged attack on IBRG which went on for months. It was proved that that a number of the letters were bogus, and politically motivated. They were from quarters who had a vested interest in attacking IBRG with most of their claims clearly false and made up. Why Brendan MacLua should devote pages of the Irish Post week after week allowing it to be used for attacks on IBRG, the finest Irish organisation of its generation is puzzling.
He would not allow such attacks on the Catholic Church, the GAA, Comhaltas or the Federation. Many of the addresses used were clearly bogus and not one writer of any letter could be identified in the community, with ten different letters appearing each week. The Irish Post had already sold out to Smurfit who moved the paper away to the right, even instructing its photographer not to photograph Ken Livingstone, as he was not held in the same esteem as he had been by “my predecessors” meaning MacLua.
It was a very nasty ongoing campaign against an Irish community organisation. The Irish Post were the only Irish papers to publish anti IBRG letters on a regular basis, and now the IBRG could get great publicity in the Irish World, London Irish News, Irish People in USA, Irish language papers, Irish Press Sunday Press, An Phoblacht, Andersonstown News and in many other outlets, and could now get on TV and radio on a regular basis. The IBRG had secured thousands of pounds per month for the Irish Post by putting pressure on Local Authorities to advertise jobs in the Post.
The IBRG was founded in late 1981 and did not become a large organisation until 1983, and there was far more happening in IBRG in 1989 than in 1983-1985. IBRG now had two funded projects in Haringey and Lambeth and had lost Camden. IBRG pubished a National magazine, had an annual Welfare conference and an Eucation conference. We organised a St Patrick Day march and was now involved in the Bloody Sunday march. We were leading the campaign against anti Irish racism and the campaign for Irish recognition. We were involved in campaigns including the Dessie Ellis campaign ( including chairing it), the Winchester Three campaign, and were heavily involved in the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four campaigns. Branches were involved in numerous activities from the language to culture, with Manchester putting on range of conferences and Film Festivals. MacLua was also challenged by IBRG for his support for Kate Hoey a right-wing Labour Unionist, who opposed recognition of the Irish community.
The Irish National Congress was set up in Dublin in January 1990 with over 400 people attending. A message of support from IBRG was read out to the opening meeting and covered in the Irish Times on 22nd January 1990. The Congress would campaign for British withdrawal, full equality of opportunity, and full access to Irish culture.
Pat Reynolds PRO had a letter in the Irish Sunday Press supporting film-maker Bob Quinn’s call for the Irish abroad to be given the vote.
In January 1990 the IBRG called for Limerick man Martin Foran to be released.
In January the IBRG called for a public inquiry into British forensics which had led to the conviction of several innocent Irish people like the Birmingham Six, Maguire Seven, Judith Ward and the Gillespie Sisters. The IBRG had highlighted a problem in this area after the release of Danny McBreathy after being held for three months on explosives charges. McBreathy had been deported to Northern Ireland after his release and the IBRG deplored this internal exile, which was contrary to the free movement of workers in Europe and called on the Irish Government to act on the matter. The IBRG called on the Irish government to stop extraditing its citizens to Britain as there was no justice for Irish people in these political show trials.
Friends of the Earth apologised to IBRG after their sponsored Irish Jokes book contained anti Irish racist jokes. It was another victory for IBRG on anti-Irish racism. The story was covered by Dublin and Belfast papers. In a letter to Pat Reynolds PRO the Friends stated that they ‘profoundly regret the anguish this book has caused some people due to the offensive nature of some of the jokes’
On 24th January 1990 the Press Council turned down an IBRG complaint against the Sunday Express over its false story that Irish building workers on the Chunnel were collecting funds for the IRA. Channel Four Hard News had investigated the story and found not a single shred of evidence to back up the story. The IBRG stated that it was a new low, even by the low standards of the Press Council.
Haringey IBRG brought out a free magazine called Irish Voice. This included articles on the Winchester Three, Judith Ward, Travellers and construction safety campaign . It was the 6th issue of the Irish Voice which had a circulation of over 1,000. On 9th February the Irish World ran a story on the magazine with a photo of its front cover.
Media and censorship of Irish cases
In the NUJ Journalist magazine in January 1990 Liz Curtis had an article Learning from Guildford in which she exposed the role of the British media in covering up the framing of these innocent men. In January 1977 when the Balcombe Street men refused to enter a plea at their trial, , because they had not been charged with the Guildford and Woolwich bombs, all the media except the Guardian kept quiet on the reasons why the men had refused to plead. The Secretary of Justice, the British section of the International commission of Jurist, replied to Paddy Hill ‘In a case like yours, so many reputations are at stake, that in my view, the obstacles to overcome are insuperable’. Peregrine Worsthorne in the Telegraph actually supported imprisoning the innocent in ‘terrorism’ cases because it would have a ‘chastening’ effect on the Irish in Britain.
In 1987 when the Law Lords turned down the Birmingham Six appeal the Sun stated ‘If the Sun had its way, would have been tempted to string ‘em up’ and called Chris Mullins MP a Falls Road “Fenian”. When Paul Hill got married in prison and when there was public knowledge about his innocence the Sun wrote “IRA pig weds in prison’ and “Blood Wedding.”
In Dublin Dick Spring, Leader of the Irish Labour Party, condemned the heading of the Sun “Mictory “ when an Irish woman won her case against Boots at an Employment Tribunal which the IBRG had earlier taken up.
On 2nd February Pat Reynolds took part in the BBC Open Space program on racist jokes at the Hackney Empire, on 6th February he had an interview with BBC Talkback programme in Belfast on racism in the media, and on 7th February was the invited guest at Ealing Irish Women Group of over 50 women at Ealing Town hall, speaking on the Irish community in Britain.
On 8TH February Pat Reynolds, an Irish community worker in Lambeth, addressed Lambeth Council before they passed a report giving recognition to the Irish community, thus adding to similar IBRG achievement in Islington, Manchester, Haringey, Hackney Bolton and Blackburn.
On 10th February Pat Reynolds was speaking to Lambeth Labour Party on the Irish in Britain and Ireland. The Irish News in Belfast covered the story with a heading “Lambeth ethnic Irish ruling welcomed ‘. The article said: One of the largest Irish community organisations in Britain has welcomed the decision by a London Borough Council to recognise the Irish as an ethnic group… It is estimated that there are more than 20,000 Irish in the borough… Lambeth Council also intends to monitor the effects of the PTA on its Irish community.
Pat Reynolds addressed the councillors on the issue of job discrimination in Lambeth borough and the effects on the Irish community of the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four and other cases. It was important for the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland to read how the Irish community in Britain were organising themselves and taking on the local authorities and winning recognition. Papers such as Irish News, Andersonstown News and An Phoblacht and La regularly covered IBRG achievements in Britain.
On 11th February the Irish community celebrated the release of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. The Irish community in Britain had played an active part in supporting both the anti-apartheid work in Britain, but also the work of the ANC. IBRG members were active in these campaigns both in the trade unions and supporting demonstrations and pickets. In Haringey Oliver Tambo had been honoured by Haringey Council where he lived in exile for most of his life.
On 24th February the Ard Choiste met at the Working-Class Movement Library in Salford. Ten delegates attended, including Caitlin Wright, Diarmuid Breatnach, Pat O’Sullivan, Martin Connolly, Sean Brown, David Vickers, Joe Mullarkey, Laura Sullivan, Bernadette Hyland and Virginia Moyles.
Apologies from Pat Reynolds, Joan Brennan and Kevin Hayes.
On building a broad front in the Irish community it was agreed to contact the GAA, Federation, Conradh, Comhaltas and Glor an Deorai to meet them to discuss areas of common work. On building a broad front with the British left, it was decided that attend meetings organised to discuss this in London.
In February IBRG wrote to express concern that the London Boroughs Grant Scheme would no longer support funding the London Irish Women’s Centre.
In Harrow IBRG were approaching the local Tory Council with view to getting an Irish Centre in the Borough and the matter went to the Council’s Community Liaison Consultative Committee.
IBRG and media and new guidelines
The Andersonstown News featured IBRG in its campaign against trial by media in Britain and around two events in Britain, one: the trial of the Winchester three and the other of five men arrested in Cheltenham ‘Thatcher Bomb Gang arrested’.
The IBRG had issued guideline to the British media on reporting PTA arrests and had sent them to the National Union of Journalists, the media and other bodies.
The CAJ (Committee on the Administration of Justice/the Northern Ireland Civil Liberties Council ) wrote to IBRG in response to the IBRG guide for Journalists and argued that IBRG could also use the Public Order Act 1986 which contained material relating to publishing material ‘which is intended or likely to stir up racial hatred, where intention need not be proved.
Racial hatred was defined as hatred against a group of persons in Britain defined by reference to colour, race, nationality including citizenship ethnic or national origins. This was very useful information and support which showed IBRG working with a range of solidarity groups across Britain and Ireland.
Challenging British media and PTA arrests
In February the IBRG launched a full-scale attack on the British media and its treatment of Irish people, particularly over PTA arrests. The IBRG attack on the PTA had led to reduced arrests for some time but after an IRA bomb killed 11 soldiers in Deal on 21st September 1989 a new campaign of terror was launched against the Irish community, with PTA arrests up 50% and more innocent people getting pulled in with the British media in full war cry.
IBRG responded by attacking the PTA and attacking the English media for their fabrications around arrests. In November 1989 David Waddington, Tory Home Secretary, continued to defy the 1988 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights by detaining suspects without charge for up to seven days when the court ruled the British government should not hold them beyond four days without charge.
The IBRG statement said ‘the release of the Guildford Four has not led to any let up of those attacks on our community, and 1989 saw an increase in media and police conspiracy in labelling innocent arrested Irish people and the ignoring of the presumption of innocence in Irish arrests’. Prejudiced and sensational accounts in the British press of PTA arrest led directly to further harassment of the Irish community, and dramatically reduce the change of a fair trial for any Irish person charged.
Haringey IBRG had responded in challenging the British media by producing two papers in support of draft guidelines on reporting PTA cases which was submitted to the NUJ. The report examined how the reporting of the arrest and detention of the Winchester Three, and the case of five innocent Irish people arrested in Cheltenham in October 1989.
The Andersonstown News on 10th February led the way with Irish group blast British trial by media with the mastheads of many of the offending press. The IBRG had accused the British media as taking on the role of prosecutor and judge in Irish cases.
The Irish World on 9th February carried another IBRG story on the same issue with Press Council rejects Irish complaint. The IBRG had complained to the press council over the Sunday Express false story about Irish building workers on the Chunnel collecting funds for the IRA which had been made up. Channel Four Hard News had investigated the story on 2nd November 1989, and found no evidence whatsoever of what had been reported in the Sunday Express as fact. The IBRG stated ‘the appearance of malicious stories about Irish building workers collecting for the IRA, at the time of the release of the Guildford Four is no coincidence, as similar malicious stories appeared at the same time of the Birmingham Six appeal in 1987.
Louis Blom Cooper QC, chair of the Press Council, turned down the complaint from Pat Reynolds of IBRG over the story. In reply the IBRG stated that this was a new low even by the low standards of the Press Council. Blom Cooper came out later with inaccurate statements about the Birmingham Six in a book, and was criticised by Gareth Pierce for his shoddy research.
The Press Council response to Pat Reynolds that he had not put forward a sufficiency substantial case to warrant adjudication by the Council was challenged by the Irish World who wrote to Kenneth Morgan OBE, Director of the Press Council, asking what a substantial case might be. He replied ‘I cannot respond to your question. Because it is very similar to procedure in court. The Court must first determine if it is a prima facie case. In any event the Press Council as a long-standing rule will not comment to the press’.
The London Irish News headed their story with Express Dirty tricks campaign exposed on TV which detailed how Channel Four Hard News had exposed the Sunday Express story as fake propaganda news.
Channel Four found no evidence from the police or the employers that there was any truth in the story. There was no evidence that any collection had taken place or that the crane driver who had cleared the rubble from the Deal bombing had to be moved after harassment by Irish workers.
Pat Reynolds in his submission to the Press Council stated that ‘Such false stories without a shred of evidence put many Irish building works and their families, under threat and fear of violence, and are an incitement to stir up anti Irish feelings among English workers, and lead to discrimination against Irish workers in employment.’
On 6th March 1990 Pat Reynolds attended a Home Office Conference on Racism in Prisons at Long Lartin High Security prison which was attended by prisoners and community organisations. Pat was able to challenge the judicial system in Britain which kept the Birmingham Six Guildford Four and many others innocent Black and Irish prisoners in jail. Senior Home office officials tried to dampen down the debate saying it was becoming political but the prisoners supported the issue.
Pat met with Hugh Callaghan and Johnny Walker, two of the Birmingham Six, during the break and was able to update them on efforts in the community to support their campaign. The BBC interviewed the two men at the same time which clearly showed that the Home Office did not see the men as IRA and subject to the ban on Republicans. The IBRG highlighted this point later to the Irish media. The Home Office later produced a report on the conference which included the IBRG contribution.
On 8th March IBRG attended a torch light Vigil on Waterloo Bridge for Mairead Farrell and her two comrades murdered in Gibraltar on the second anniversary. The event was organised by Women & Ireland group, IBRG and TOM. In Dublin over 90,000 signatures were handed in at the Department for Foreign Affairs calling on the Irish government take action against Britain in the European court over the breach of both the Geneva Convention and human rights law. Among those signing it were Michael D Higgins later President, Bishop Eamonn Casey, Ruari Quinn and Neil Blaney.
On 8th March the Press Council turned down an IBRG complaint over media coverage of the five Irishmen arrested in Cheltenham under the PTA with the headline Thatcher Bomb Gang arrested.
The IBRG condemned the Press Council for failing to uphold an IBRG complaint against the Daily Express over its story Thatcher Bomb Gang Arrested where five innocent Irish men had been arrested under the PTA. The IBRG were joined by the West Midlands PTA campaign who stated that the judgement sets a dangerous precedent, in that the media can say anything they like about an individual as long as they do not name the individual concerned. The Express did admit that their heading should have been qualified. Meanwhile they had destroyed the lives of five men who had to leave Britain because of their experience, and would have difficulty finding work after such a public exposure of their arrests.
The London Irish News headline was Press Council No Sets Dangerous Precedent and covered the IBRG reaction to the Press Council Judgement to rule out the IBRG complaint. The Thatcher Bomb Gang Arrested had a smaller headline which read Five IRA suspects held in swoop on hotel. Maire O Shea from the West Midlands PTA and Pat Reynolds IBRG had lodged complaints that the article failed to maintain any presumption that the Irish people arrested were innocent. It was trial by media at its worst, and, had the men been charged, their right to a fair hearing would have been denied. The men were released the next day without charge. The IBRG called on the Home Secretary to rein in the police to stop them using the media to publicly convict Irish people,
The IBRG statement was covered in An Phoblacht. The Express had given the registration number of the men’s car and their place of residence and so the men were forced to leave the area, the country and their employment.
The IBRG statement stated that the judgement raises serious questions about the role of the police and media in attempting to railroad Irish people into the same experiences as those of the Birmingham six and Guildford Four the Maguire Seven and the recent Winchester Three case. Fifteen years on from the Guildford four and Birmingham Six arrests it is the same old story: if you are Irish you are guilty, or innocent until proved Irish. IBRG called on the Irish Government, through its Embassy, to defend its Irish citizens against such abuses from the British police and media. No one in Britain would tolerate British people aboard being treated like this. The price for being Irish in Britain remained high with the Irish government condoning the behaviour of the British police and press.
The Daily Telegraph published a story that Guinness lorries in Ireland had to put on a special message when reversing, as the Irish would not understand the English accent. Guinness confirmed that the story was completely made up and that their lorries, like other lorries in Britain, used a loud bleeping sound when reversing for safety reasons..
IBRG March for Justice took place on 17th March 1990. It was sunny day of 75 degrees. It started from Whittington Park in Holloway through Camden Town to Kings Cross calling for the release of the Birmingham Six and Judith Ward and the repeal of the racist PTA laws.
Speakers were Theresa Smalley, aunt of Paul Hill of the Guildford Four campaign, Bernadette Hyland National Chair IBRG and the Birmingham Six campaign.
The March got good publicity in the Irish weeklies, both before and after. It started with a letter in January from the PRO in the London Irish News and a headline in the Irish Post IBRG Plan march for Justice. The Irish Post for some unknown reason had a Hands-Off Ireland photo as their main one instead of the Birmingham Six or the IBRG.
The Birmingham Six speaker Nick Brown stated: “We will no longer allow them the government, the police, and the judiciary go on sacrificing the lives of innocent Irish people and their families. Your presence here today is only the beginning, we must make 1990 the year the Birmingham Six win their freedom. “
Theresa Smalley stated that the May inquiry was taking far too long. “We do not want a few scapegoats of junior officers. We want reform so that what happened the Guildford Four can never happen to anyone else. We want an independent body to look at cases like this and the ending of convictions based on confessional evidence alone. We must keep the pressure up to get the Birmingham Six out and the PTA abolished”.
Bernadette Hyland, chair of IBRG, spoke of the distress faced by families of Irish prisoners in Britain, often spending days getting to a prison, waiting hours to get into the prison, only to find their son or brother already moved to another prison.
On 19th March IBRG members took part in a picket of the Home Office over the Broadwater Farm prisoners who were innocent.
On 20th March Pat Reynolds was interviewed for 10 minutes in a detailed interview on the Pat Kenny shown on RTE on racism in the British media, and was able to demonstrate how banner headlines led to wrongful convictions and put innocent lives at risk.
On 26th March Pat Reynolds was speaking to Southwark Trades Council about Ireland and the Irish in Britain.
Media in Ireland and anti-Irish racism
On the same day the Irish Post heading read Anger over radio ad for racist paper which criticised several radio stations in Ireland, including RTE, for carrying ads for the Sun newspaper in Ireland, as the Sun was anti Irish and racist towards Ireland and the Irish community in Britain.
IBRG singled out RTE who were a semi state body and who had done very little to support the Irish community in Britain.
The Sun claimed to sell 90,000 copies of their paper in Ireland and it was common for them to speak with forked tongues with an anti-Irish editorial in Britain with the opposite editorial in Ireland. After the Birmingham Six appeal failed in 1987 the Sun suggested that the innocent prisoners should then be hanged. This article was taken out of its Irish edition. The Sun was happy to spread anti-Irish racism among the English and to stir up racist feelings towards the Irish in Britain. When in March a survey of school children in England showed Irish children to be performing above average, but the Sun, the IBRG pointed out, had its own racist headline, We’re thicker than the Irish. Capital Radio director Martin Block stated that they had complained to the Sun about the way that story was presented, and that it would give serious consideration as to whether it would carry ads for that paper in future. But RTE stated that the ads did not contravene any industry regulations.
This was most shameful that an Irish semi state body would be endorsing a product which was abusive of Ireland and the Irish people, but worse was the indifferent attitude of RTE to the abuse of its fellow citizens in Britain. In this matter the IBRG had raised the debate in Ireland and exposed the Sun for what it was, and got a lot of support from the Irish people, who felt it wrong that their children in Britain should be subject to this racism and hatred. The Irish World put the story front page on 23rd March with the heading Call for end to anti-Irish racism.
IBRG and Mail on Sunday
Pat Reynolds IBRG had responded to an article by Sir John Junor in the Mail on Sunday where he called for a boycott of Irish goods and of holidays in Ireland because the Irish Supreme Court refused to extradite two Irish citizens for trial in Britain. The Mail sold 3,200 copies of their paper in Ireland each week.
John Junor, as editor of the Sunday Express, had a long racist record on Ireland and the Irish, his infamous racial hatred statement ‘wouldn’t you prefer to be a pig than to be Irish’ was found by the Press Council to be offensive. When President Reagan visited Ireland Junor’s racism showed again that he would prefer to visit a dung heap. It was noticed that Junor had a fixation with pigs and dung heap, and was sinking fast.
The IBRG stated that the Mail should practice what they preach, and withdraw their paper from Ireland and no longer take advertisements from Aer Lingus and Bord Failte for holidays in Ireland. The IBRG called on Bord Failte and Aer Lingus to stop advertising in the Mail and ask for a refund on their recent advertisement, as the Mail story had harmed their promotion.
New campaign against PTA
On 27th March IBRG members attended a House of Commons PTA launch of a new campaign which was broadly based, including the IBRG. The campaign brought out a poster. Speakers at the launch included Clare Short MP, IBRG, Federation, GAA, Chaplaincy, Council of Irish Counties and the Guildford Four campaign. It was a clear example of IBRG working with a broad range of groups on a single-issue campaign in the Irish community.
Fr Paddy Smyth stated ‘We want all people concerned about civil liberties in Britain to join with us to get the legislation revoked. We want to break the silence around the Act. Concern was expressed over the arrest and detention of four miners’ wives for seven and a half hours with Kevin Hayes of Birmingham IBRG where any material with them was photocopied and Kevin had several rolls of film destroyed.
The IBRG Guidelines on Press Reporting on the PTA had gone to the NUJ, as current NUJ guidelines did not appear to relate to PTA arrest where journalists just published what came from the police, and many of the pieces were just fake propaganda like Thatcher Bomb Gang Arrested. All just made up to spread anti Irish feeling in Britain and to silence the Irish community. This was not working as the Irish were fighting back and wining this battle with huge coverage in Ireland and abroad on the shameful behaviour of the British press.
Anti-Irish racism in student magazine at St.Mary’s College Strawberry Hill
On 28th March Pat Reynolds was interviewed by BBC Belfast about anti Irish racism in a student magazine at St Mary’s College, Strawberry Hill, which was used as a Catholic training college for teachers and had many Irish students. The IBRG had condemned the rag magazine at St Mary’s which included racist jokes, and an anti-Irish anti-gay AIDS letter.
The IBRG supported women at the University who made a complaint about the magazine. The IBRG objected to racism in a student magazine in a University which had many Irish students, and which prepared teachers to teach Irish children in Catholic schools. It was shocking to see such racism and sexism, which portrayed Irish people as stupid and ignorant about sexual matters. The author of the magazine tried to defend its racist content which was even more shocking.
IBRG called on the university to adopt an anti-racism program to tackle racism within the university. The IBRG wrote to the Principal of the University and the Students Union to take action on the racism shown in the magazine. The IBRG stated ‘that future teachers should be involved in the promotion of such material raises serious questions about how racism is tackled within their teachers training college, and how the Union deal with the issue. To make fun of AIDS and Irish people can only be seen as sick behaviour. We are concerned that such people could soon be teaching our children and no child should have to hear such bigoted racist views and attitudes’.
On 23rd April Pat Reynolds had a reply back from the Principal of St Mary’s College who seemed more worried that students took the matter outside the college, than dealing with the racist homophobic materials in the college magazine. He then stated it led to deep division between students from Northern and what he called Southern Ireland (a Unionist term). He stated that they were starting an Irish Studies Course there in September 1990, a degree course, but he talked about the ‘mutual stereotyping of the people and culture of our two countries’ which showed him not to have a clue about England’s colonial history and oppression of the Irish people. Here he blames the victim instead of the culprit, like blaming Black people for racism and slavery.
Report showing Irish children progressing in London schools.
The IBRG welcomed a Report which showed Irish children did better than average in London schools. IBRG called for the Irish to be included in all ethnic monitoring of school’s performance in Britain and for the Department of Education and Science to recognise the Irish in their ethnic categories. The Irish Post headline was Irish pupils get better results.
The Report showed that Irish children attending catholic schools did much better than average in their GCSE exams. IBRG stated that the excellent results was due to a strong ethos within Irish families to secure the best possible education for their children, allied to a strong Irish cultural identify where many Irish children had access to holidays in Ireland, access to Irish music, song and dance along with Gaelic games, despite facing high levels of discrimination and racism in Britain. Because a majority attended catholic schools, they were often isolated from further racism and could find comfort in numbers. IBRG pointed out that even with good exams results the Irish were facing discrimination in employment in the public sector and called for full ethnic monitoring of the Irish across the board. It was the dedication of Irish teachers and parents that had produced these positive results. It was the IBRG who brought this study to the attention of the Irish community
On the same day the programme Who Bombed Birmingham was shown on TV and named individuals allegedly involved with the bombing. The IBRG condemned the naming of individuals who had not even been arrested, thus giving rise to media coverage and unfair trials. Manchester IBRG put out a press release stating that IBRG were completely opposed to any such naming of alleged bombers and quoted Billy Power of the Birmingham 6 who stated ‘This program threatens to deny other people the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. That is what happened to us. Within hours of arrest it was being reported that the bombers had been caught. Our release should not depend on other people being fingered under any circumstances whether the people who did the bombing are named or not had no bearing with us. Our case stands on its own merits’.
On 31st March 1990 the IBRG held their Ard Fheis at the Sparkhill community centre in Birmingham with twelve branches sending delegates. Manchester, Haringey, Camden, Bolton, Southwark, Coventry, Lewisham, Birmingham, Hackney, Harrow, Lambeth and Leeds attended.
The following officers were elected;
Chair Bernadette Hyland Manchester
Vice Chair Laura Sullivan Hackney
Runai Virginia Moyles Hackney
Leas Runai Trevor Farrell Camden,
Cisteoir Maurice Moore Coventry
Membership Liz Fenton Camden
PRO Pat Reynolds Haringey
North regional coordinator Joe Mullarkey Bolton
Education Officer Caitlin Wright
Youth Officer Stefan Hannigan Camden
Women’s Officer Majella Crehan Haringey
Prisoners Officers Pat Sullivan Birmingham
It was agreed to raise annual membership to £5 for waged and £1 for unwaged. The Post of President and Vice President were deleted and the posts of Women’s Officer and Prisoners Officer were created and filled.
The following motions were passed;
That the IBRG prioritise two to four issues to work on each year,
That the IBRG welcome the release of the Guildford Four and demand the release of the Birmingham Six Judith ward, Martin Foran and the Winchester three,
That the IBRG calls again for an end of strip-searching,
That the IBRG welcome the release of Nelson Mandela and call for sanctions to be increased until apartheid is defeated,
That the IBRG condemn the killing of three young men at a bookie office in Belfast by Crown Forces
That the IBRG condemn the Irish government for its failure to tackle emigration and called for policies and programs to combat emigration.
Congratulate PRO on his work in combatting anti Irish racism in the media and ask the Ard Choiste to investigate the possibility of producing a pamphlet based on his work,
That IBRG seek meeting with Home Office to persuade them that the migrant Irish community be granted s11 funding.
That IBRG seek a meeting with the European Parliament Socialist Bureau in Dublin to obtain funding for the vital work IBRG does on behalf of the migrant Irish community
That IBRG meet with Alex McDonnell of Migrant Training Scheme and the MTS executive to discuss how all migrant Irish groups can work together so that we can have a combined strategy for the migrant Irish community.
The Irish Post covered the Ard Fheis with a photo of Bernadette Hyland, Laura Sullivan, Majella Crehan and Virginia Moyles, four leading lights of the IBRG. In February the Irish Post had covered the IBRG Ard Choiste meeting at the Working-Class Movement Library with a photo of those attending with Edmund Frow and showed Virginia Moyles, Caitlin Wright, Laura Sullivan, Bernadette Hyland, Diarmuid Breatnach, Tracy Welling and Michael Connolly.
A photo from the Ard Fheis in the Irish World showed Laura Sullivan, Bernadette Hyland, Virginia Moyles, Pat Reynolds, Joe Mullarkey, Diarmuid Breatnach, Denis Casey, Majella Crehan, young Kevin Reynolds, Jodie Clark, Trevor Farrell and about six others but the quality of the photo with time is too poor to identify them.
The Andersonstown News on 21st April covered Pat Reynolds to the Ard Fheis in full. Changing Times for the Irish in Britain which reached the Nationalist community in Belfast, and it covered all the major events of the previous year, the release of the Guildford Four, events in Northern Ireland on human rights and issues affecting the Irish community in Britain. ‘The release of the Guildford Four marks a historic point in the history of the Irish in Britain in that the prisoners, their families and the community have fought back and defeated British injustice against our community. We should not be grateful to the media and politicians for their support for their release, for if they were doing their rightful work, these innocent people would not have ended up in prison in the first place. The roots of this fightback by the Irish community lies in the heroic struggle of Bobby Sands and his nine comrades in 1981. And just as the struggle of Sands from his prison cell gave new energy to the struggle of the Irish people, the struggle of the Guildford Four and their release has uplifted our community in Britain. Not only was it a victory for Irish people, but a victory for all working-class people in Britain against unjust laws and a corrupt legal system.’
The London Irish News also covered this speech with Irish people urged to take Pride in their Opposition which described the welfare money of half a million pounds given by the Irish government for welfare in Britain as conscience money, when they were spending millions more supporting a colonial border in Ireland that forced its young to emigrate.
The three Irish papers in Britain covered the Ard Fheis and gave a list of elected officers plus the motions which were carried along with a photo.
Picket of Jim Davidson’s show in London
On 30th March the London Irish News headline was “Comics show picketed over anti Irish humour”. The Campaign Against Racism in the Media had picketed Jim Davidson’s show at the Theatre Royal in central London. It hit out at Thames TV for broadcasting the shows, which was watched by about 10 million views.
Trevor O’Farrell of Camden IBRG had an excellent letter in the Irish Post headed Time to bury the hatchets in response to the Irish Post editor using the letters pages to run bogus letters against IBRG each week in his paper.
The Irish Post, to its shame, had become an Irish community public laundry where the editor allowed individuals doing nothing for their own community to attack those working day and night to create better life for Irish people in Britain. It was a most shameful chapter in the history of the Irish Post, and appeared like a deliberate campaign, since there was a clear duty on an editor to ensure that letter writers were genuine, many papers often asked for a phone number to confirm identify, and checked the addresses to see if they existed at least.
On 3rd April the IBRG led a picket of the High Court in the Strand for the Winchester Three.
On 7th April Pat Reynolds was speaking at a public meeting at the Haringey Irish Centre on Black and Irish racist stereotypes at which Michael D. Higgins, future President, spoke.
On 21st April IBRG members attended an Irish Consultative Meeting on the Irish community at Camden Town Hall. Over 200 people attended the conference which came up with a range of recommendations including recognising the Irish. They later brought out a report on the conference entitled The Voice of the Irish. It was estimated that 15% of Camden population was Irish. Why did it take Camden with its Camden Irish centre 8 years to raise the question of recognition of the Irish community, when Islington and other places had raised it? The IBRG had had their Mental Health Conference there a few years earlier.
Winchester Three Released
On 27th April the IBRG were picketing the Old Bailey on the day the Winchester three were released. An editorial in the Andersonstown News on the verdict on 5th May stated ‘ The most telling comment on the Winchester Three case came not in the reams of esoteric legal considerations in the bewildering verbal volleyball that passes for legal debate, but rather on the T-shirt of an overjoyed young Irishman outside the Old Bailey which sported the legend ‘Innocent until Proven Irish’ That young man was the IBRG PRO, Pat Reynolds. See headline photograph.
The IBRG called on Tom King to resign because of his public comments at the time of the Winchester Three trial on the right to silence, since he was the alleged victim. Tom King the alleged victim stated during the trial ‘It is a very old saying by a distinguished jurist that innocence plead for a change to make its case, and it is silence that is offering an opportunity for the guilty’. Lord Denning, ex Master of the Rolls, chipped in ‘It’s only the guilty person who says Oh I claim my right to silence, am not going to say anything’.
Following the decision to free the Winchester Three Lord Denning criticised the appeal court for being most unfair. Denning was known for his bigoted views on Irish cases, and appeared to condone the hangings of innocent Irish people. The IBRG condemned the British media for their role in the case saying their collusion with injustice marks another shameful chapter of trial by media.
The IBRG asked the DPP to investigate whether there had been a direct attempt to pervert the course of justice in the case. The Winchester Three should have been free to leave but were again arrested under the racist PTA and served with deportations orders.
The Andersonstown News in its editorial stated ‘the Three were convicted in the first place on the most circumstantial of evidence which would not have stood up in any court in the world. They were convicted on the new discredited charge of conspiracy which seems reserved for cases involving Irish people, in which no other evidence can be unearthed to warrant other charges. The Birmingham Six the Guildford Four and Judith Ward all stand testament to the crushing inhumanity of British justice in its dealing with Irish people and that is why it is incumbent upon all of us who believe in the inalienable right of every human being to a fair trial when accused of an offense to strive to keep as many people a possible out of the hands of this unjust system by vigorously opposing extradition’.
The IBRG called for action on a report which showed the Irish in Britain had the highest levels of mortality at an early age of life.
On 30th April Nick Mullen’s trial started at the Old Bailey. The IBRG sent an observer to the trial.
The Southwark Irish Forum had their AGM in April with IBRG members Diarmuid Breatnach, Steve Brennan, Jodie Clark and Maire Steadman elected to the Management Committee. The Irish Post carried a photo of the gallant crew.
Haringey IBRG launched their Spring season of Irish videos with the Irish In England parts 1 and 2 being shown at the Haringey Irish Centre over two weeks.
The Dolan column in the Irish Post had an article asking why more Irish did not stand in local elections like other ethnic communities. IBRG has several who did; Jim King in Salford, Jodie Clark in Southwark, Seamus Carey and Brian Miller in Haringey, Arthur Devlin in Bolton, Sally Mulready and John Fahy of the Federation, and Gerry Lawless and others. In addition, you had an Irish councillor group in London and Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group, the question is “what did they deliver to the community at any stage”.
Many of the best people on Ireland and the Irish community were not Irish, Ken Livingstone, Corbyn, Benn and others. As Islington IBRG found out all you needed were Irish constituents to persuade local councillors to do the right thing. Bernie Grant did more for the Irish in Haringey than George Meehan of the Federation who was leader of Haringey. Jim Murphy’s regular feature in the Irish Post that the Irish in each constituency should host a meeting before the the General election, had no evidence behind it as such meeting did little to affect the local vote. In Vauxhall, Kate Hoey did not even turn up and still won with a landslide, despite over 100 turning up for a public meeting.
The voting system in Britain worked against communities having any power and Operation Black vote could not even manage this. It was another red herring without any evidence as IBRG showed late when IBRG won ethnic recognition in over 90% of local authorities in Britain.
There were far more effective ways of winning battles than public meetings. For example, why not attend another republic meeting and raised the question of Ireland as Dennis Healey’s father did when he floored his son when he asks what Labour would do about Northern Ireland.
Pat Reynolds, one person, attended an Abbey National Share Holders meeting of over 1,000 people and raised the question of employment discrimination in Northern Ireland in the meeting, which had a tremendous effect and got media coverage. Most Irish people live in large majority constituencies where their vote has little power. Best idea would be in each election to target marginal constituencies and attend meetings organised by others and raise the question of Ireland.
In May two members of Bolton IBRG (Arthur Devlin and Noel Spencer) were standing in the local elections for Labour. The Irish Post asked “where are all the other Arthur Devlin’s in Britain”. Arthur was chair of the NW Birmingham Six Campaign. The Irish Post noted that very few Irish people were standing in local elections in Britain.
On 6th May the IBRG held a joint event with the Working-Class Movement Library on the Official Opening of the Irish Collection there which included the Desmond Greaves and TA Jackson library and collections, comprising thousands of items.
Birmingham Hunger Strike March
On 12th May IBRG branches took part in the Birmingham Hunger Strike March with Pat Reynolds being one of the Platform speakers. He described the 1981 Hunger Strike as the most significant event in Ireland since 1916 in terms of its impact upon Irish consciousness worldwide. He further called for no extradition to Britain where the dice was loaded against Irish people in political show and media trails. The Sinn Fein speaker Brendan O Caolain stated that despite all the repression used in Northern Ireland the Irish people remain unbowed, unbroken and undefeated. The photo in the Irish Post included the IBRG banner.
On 18th May IBRG member stood part in a picket of the Irish Embassy for Brian Keenan. The Irish Post photo showed Pat Reynolds on the picket line there. On the same day Pat Reynolds heard back from the Home Office on IBRG representations on the Birmingham Six. The letter stated ‘as you may know the Home Secretary has recently received further detailed representations about the safety of the convictions, which he is examining. As a part of this examination, the Home Secretary has asked the Chief Constable of the West Midlands Police for a report on a number of specific points about the convictions, and the Chief Constable has asked the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary to carry out further inquiries. It will be in the light of the result of these inquires, that the Home Secretary will consider whether his further intervention in the case is justified’.
On 19th May the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in Islington (which was largely an IBRG initiative) with 13 delegates present including Caitlin Wright, Gearoid McGearailt, Diarmuid Breatnach, Stefan Hannigan, Aine Fitzgerald, Pat O’Sullivan, Liz Fenton, Trevor O’Farrell, Pat Reynolds, Majella Crehan, Laura Sullivan, and Virginia Moyles.
Apologies from Joe Mullarkey, Jodie Clark, Bernadette Hyland, and Maurice Moore.
Condolences were passed to Caitlin Wright on the death of her husband Reverend David Wright who had been a hard-working member of Bolton IBRG for many years and who went on one of the Dublin delegations. Condolences were also passed to the relatives of Cardinal O’Fiach who was a great language and human rights defender, who had intervened in the Hunger strikes to try an end it in a positive way.
The meeting welcomed the release of the Winchester Three which Haringey IBRG were involved in. Pat Reynolds reported on the campaign to have the Irish language recognised in the British school curriculum. John Bruton had written to the English Ambassador in Ireland on the matter, while the Irish Labour Party was supportive. The European Bureau for Lesser Languages, the Irish Women’s centre, the Brent Irish centre, LACE, Cairde na Gael, Green Ink, Irish in Islington project and the Socialist teacher group supported the IBRG campaign. The Irish Times, the Irish Post, the Irish World, the London Irish News, the Irish News, Andersonstown News, and An Phoblacht had given the issue full coverage for IBRG. The meeting decided to write to the five main Irish community organisations in Britain in terms of establishing a community broad front. The left broad front on Ireland had broken down as expected.
On 24th May IBRG members attended a public meeting of over 300 people in Haringey on the EEC report into racism and Xenophobia in Europe to which the IBRG had made a submission on behalf of the Irish in Britain outlining the racism and discrimination the Irish faced in the media, in employment, housing and in health.
IBRG also raised the issue of the Birmingham Six framed because of their Irishness and the racist PTA laws. Paddy Cooney MEP one of the EEC party stunned the audience by trying to defend the racist British PTA laws, and got some boos.
On 22nd June the London Irish News carried the headline IBRG seek European Help on Racism and Discrimination. The report covered the IBRG submission to Europe which called for the repeal of the racist PTA laws, the release of the Birmingham Six and Judith ward, the ending of strip searching, the end of exploitative conditions on building sites which led to deaths of workers, and for action on employment, health, housing, prisoners, language and culture education and judicial policies in the UK which led to many innocent Irish people being wrongly jailed.
The IBRG submission stated The IBRG pledge itself to fight against all forms of racism and discrimination and to campaign for equal rights for all communities. The political voice of the Irish in Britain must be heard in Europe as the Irish government would appear to restrict their interest in Europe to only those living in Ireland and have denied the Irish living abroad the votes as citizens of Ireland and of Europe. In Nt Ireland the IBRG wanted the European parliament to support the McBride Principles to end employment discrimination there, the use of plastic bullets the Diplock Courts, shoot to kill policy, and to support a political settlement there.
On 25th May the IBRG helped to organise a benefit at the Roger Casement Irish centre for the Falls Road Women’s Centre.
The Irish Post continued in May to run a sectarian letter writing campaign against the IBRG including ’Not another IBRG empty threat on the question of recognition of the Irish language which was clearly nonsense, as there was a clear record of achievement there including holding a conference and gathering supporters in the community. Another letter stated IBRG was anti catholic which was clear nonsense and made up. A third letter attacked a photo of in the Irish Post of four IBRG women’s officers as four pretty young girls wondering where the children were. This was clear nonsense as many parents and single parents were in IBRG, and this nonsense would not be spoken about regarding men. Why the Post published such sexist rubbish was shameful.
On 23rd May Pat Reynolds received a letter from the Managing Director of the Sun newspaper after the Press Council had sent them the IBRG complaint about their Editorial on the Winchester Three. The Sun admitted and stated ‘I accept without equivocation that there was an error in our editorial of April 30th 1990.’
The Irish Liaison Unit of Haringey Council invited IBRG members to the launch of their report on the Social situation of Irish elderly in Haringey at the Haringey Irish Centre. A research Report which highlighted the discrimination suffered by Irish elders, and suggested ways of addressing it including special group housing for Irish elders. The speakers were Gurbut Singh, CEO Haringey, and later Head of the CRE, Paul Cullen Irish Embassy, Sr. Joan Kane who ran the Irish Welfare Centre in Haringey, and the Deputy Mayor of Haringey Frederick Knight. IBRG member Maureen Higgins chaired the meeting.
Report on mortality of Irish
In May the Irish News covered a story Group urges more cash for the immigrant Irish. It covered the CPCS report on Mortality and Geography which showed that the Irish had the highest early death mortality rate of any immigrant group in the UK. Irishmen between 20 and 69 had twice the rate of the Italian community and Irish women were more than double that of Spanish or Portuguese women. The Scottish, many of whom were Irish, also had higher rates.
The IBRG in response called on the Irish Government to become more proactive in support of the Irish community in Britain with Pat Reynolds stating that the position of the Irish in Britain was compounded by poor employment, dangerous work on building sites, and as dinner women and home helps, poorer housing and much homelessness. Problems with mental health and alcohol misuse were added to by the social conditions, and the discrimination and racism faced by many working-class Irish in Britain.
At the end of May Pat Reynolds had a letter in the Irish Post as IBRG PRO to mop up all the anti IBRG letters published by the Irish Post over the preceding weeks. The letter stated ‘there has recently been a number of letters in the Irish Post from individual personal viewpoints on the IBRG. While we welcome that many recognise our efforts in terms of the cultural, welfare and Irish consciousness work that the IBRG engage in, we are surprised that some have sought to misrepresent the nature of our work. Constructive criticism is always welcome, and we are able to take it on board. However exaggerated claims and cheap innuendos without a shred of evidence to back it can hardly be taken seriously’.
It went on later to state”The 1980’s was a historical period of community building by the Irish community in Britain of which the IBRG were part of…. The IBRG reflects the struggle of the Irish community, it is part of that community. It is the combined efforts of all the community which is effective in achieving change…’Contrary to claims of my imminent canonisation, my role within the IBRG has been a very minor one. It has been an honour to represent a hard-working team of officers and member throughout the country. The support given to the IBRG by the Irish community has been tremendous and it has been a humbling experience to receive their warm support. Cheap labels and anti-Catholic jibes are no substitute for political debate. The Irish people have shown little patience for such labels. The challenge of the1990’s is to build a better future for our community and other struggling community sin Britain, to continue the fight of all peoples for self-determination.”
The letter was successful in killing off the vicious anti IBRG letter writing campaign. Here the PRO referred to a support network which he did not go into. On every issue there was a network of support from IBRG officers and members, branches, other organisation and member of the public.
On anti-Irish racism, Liz Curtis of Information on Ireland, carried out brilliant work and was supportive of IBRG, Sean Sexton of Waltham Forest ran a successful campaign for Irish representation in the media getting thousands of signatures, Green Ink performed a huge cultural role via the bookshop, its stalls at events and festivals and by the London Irish Bookfair which had the biggest political meeting of the year, and the PRO had the support of two projects Haringey and Lambeth IBRG along with the Irish workers groups. On the Homelessness campaign in Camden Laura Sullivan and Diarmuid Breathnach supported it plus Camden IBRG and Brian Miller. Majella Crehan and Trevor Farrell and Caitriona Scanlon all worked wonders.
Individuals members of the Irish community volunteered out of their own pockets to monitor different papers, but no one would volunteer to buy the Sun, so one individual promised to visit the local library every day to scan it. Irish journalists helped out at times and were supportive. Without that supportive community the IBRG would have been a fish out of water.
Fleadh and challenge to Police over filming event.
On 3rd June Pat Reynolds challenged the Metropolitan police uniformed officers who were filming inside the Fleadh in Finsbury, and despite threatening to arrest him, he challenged under the law that they were breaching the civil rights of the people attending. They were forced out of the Fleadh with a flea in their ear. Other people present defending his right to challenge them included Sr Joan Kane. They took out their little evidence notebook but had to put back in their little pocket without any names. The IBRG had a stall at the Fleadh with the banner and books for sale. The matter got huge coverage in the media.
The IBRG in a statement said ‘the enjoyment of Irish culture would now appear to be a subversive activity in Thatcher’s Britain. We would suggest that if they want to video festival they should start with Ascot where some frequent who were involved in judicial crimes against Irish people’. The Commissioner of the Met Police, later in writing, apologised to Pat Reynolds PRO for the conduct of his officers on the day.
The IBRG had made a formal complaint to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police over this infringement of Irish civil liberties, when the police were videos and taking photos of the Birmingham Six and IBRG stalls and Green Ink bookshop and the Irish Chaplaincy stall.
On 7th June Bolton IBRG screened the video by Phil Donnellan The Irishmen for the local community. Bolton IBRG were represented on Bolton Council’s Race Equality committee and the Ethnic Minorities Joint Consultative Committee. The video charts the experiences in Britain of Irish emigrants who worked on the construction of the Victoria Tube line in London and on motorways by Philip Donnellan. Joe Mullarkey of Bolton IBRG stated There must be in Bolton, many who emigrated in the 1950’s, who will find it interesting and who would like to contrast their experiences with those of the Irish people featured in the film. The IBRG is doing extremely good work for the Irish in Bolton and have been accepted onto the local Race Equality Council and the ethnic minorities Joint Consultative Committee. The branch is keen to hear from new members who they have something to contribute to both of these bodies.
On 8th June IBRG members supported a Winchester Three benefit at the Brent Irish Centre with speakers from the Birmingham Six, Winchester Three and Tottenham Three campaigns. Haringey IBRG were involved in organising the Benefit and designed a poster for it.
On 12th June North London IBRG met with Virginia Moyles, Majella Crehan and Pat Reynolds present with apologies from Laura Sullivan and Catriona Scanlan. The meeting discussed producing a pamphlet on the Media and the PTA.
On 14th June the Home Office announced that the convictions of the Maguire Seven cannot be upheld because of the irregularities in the scientific evidence. Later on, 12th July the Maguire family case is referred back to the Court of Appeal.
On 23rd June the IBRG Ard Choiste met in Birmingham at Sparkhill Community Centre.
On 23rd June Nelson Mandela, when asked about the IRA in a press conference in New York stated that every community is entitled to fight for its right to self-determination, later in Dublin on 2nd July he states that there should be talks between British government and the IRA.
In Southwark the IBRG defended the exhibition Ireland the Right to Know which was attacked by the right-wing Tory press and was under threat from the Labour Party. In the end the Borough Solicitor had to vet every single picture going into the exhibition, and he had no knowledge of art.
Pat O’Sullivan, Pat Reynolds (30 posters from Irish community Campaigns) Joanne O Brien, Peter Moloney and Laoi Minto all put on materials. Southwark Borough Solicitor arrived, looked at all 88 items of art work very carefully, saying nothing. He decided not to remove any art work but wanted major changes to the catalogue explaining the work. The only reference left in to socialism was Oscar Wilde ‘the soul of man under socialism’, the Borough solicitor stating, I don’t want to go down as the Borough Solicitor who cut down Oscar Wilde’. Because of a small article in the South London press about IRA film show taken up by the right-wing tabloids and Labour panicked. The exhibition went on later at the Brixton Recreation Centre.
In June Trevor O’Farrell had a letter in the Irish Post advocating Votes in Ireland for the Irish abroad. His letter was headed Voting Rights Campaign Vital. Trevor challenged Jim Murphy on his idea of holding constituency meetings on Irish issues and its value, he argued that having the vote in Ireland would give the Irish in Britain much more power as the constituents in Ireland were much smaller and based on PR. It would give the Irish in Britain a bigger voice in Ireland and on N. Ireland and also in Europe and on Irish foreign policy. The Irish Civil Rights Movement had stood in the 1970s in a number of constituencies and only received a tiny number of votes in strong Irish areas. The voting system in the UK needs to be changed to a form of PR voting before any minority communities can wield any kind of power.
In July the Federation of Irish Societies had their annual conference in Limerick and highlighted a shopping trip for the ladies to Limerick during the main conference session, where no doubt the men were taking the big decisions.
In July the IBRG welcomed a Lambeth Council Report on a review of their Equal Opportunities Policy 1976-1989. Pat Reynolds IBRG community worker in Lambeth stated ‘Its recognition of past failures to address the expressed needs of the Irish community, and its proposals to integrate the Irish into all levels of their new Equal opportunities represents a step forward’. Lambeth IBRG had made a detailed written and oral submission to the review team and felt that many of the issues raised by IBRG were now included in the Review. The new proposals would include the Irish community in all Equal opportunities provision with specialist Irish staff, along with Irish representation on advisory committees by April 1991.
The Irish News in Belfast carried the story Lambeth’s ruling on Irish may help homeless. A major London boroughs decision to make its Irish community an official ethnic group may make significant inroads towards alleviating the homeless crisis facing many Irish immigrants The Irish were four time over represented in Lambeth’s homeless figures with an Irish population of some 30,000 in the borough which included the notorious cardboard city on the South bank.
London Irish Festival and Birmingham Six protest
In July despite the ban on the Birmingham Six the IBRG took a Free the Birmingham Six banner made the night before on the Park Counties Parade of the LIF carried by Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds, and got a great reception from the crowd. Outside the gates the Birmingham Six protested with their banner. The Irish Post put the photo of the banner on its front page.
The IBRG criticised the Irish Ambassador and Gerry Collins , the Irish Foreign Minister, for lending their support to the Festival in its official programme. ‘The IBRG expresses deep concern that the Irish Foreign Minister and the Ambassador Andrew O Rourke should endorse and congratulate the Festival committee of the London Irish Festival, at a time when it has denied the Birmingham Six a stall to publicise their campaign. While the Festival is in its 16th year the Birmingham Six are in their 16th year in prison. It is insulting of the Irish government to be unaware of the festival committees offensive and deplorable stand on the Birmingham Six. The IBRG feel strongly as do the community that the Irish Foreign Minister and the Irish Ambassador should not be endorsing this event but should be calling for the release of these innocent Irishmen. The endorsement of the festival Committee is incompatible with the Irish government new support that the Birmingham Six case be examined’.
The Irish Post carried a photograph of the Free the Birmingham Six banner which was placed outside the main entrance by the Birmingham Six campaign Group. There were hopes that the case of the Birmingham Six would reach the floor of the Labour Party Conference for the first time. People had forgotten that it was the Labour Party who brought in the racist PTA to police the Irish community and Labour were in power when they put away the Birmingham Six ,Guildford Four, the Maguire Seven and Judith Ward, part of Labour’s shameful record on their treatment of Irish people in Britain. Now trade union support was coming behind the Birmingham with COHSE backing the campaign along with others.
Meanwhile John Morison a former deputy governor of Wormwood Scrubs Prison in London was ordained a priest and kept six seats empty at his ceremony in Edinburgh for the six men who, having met, he believing to be innocent.
Southwark Irish Festival
On 14/15th July the IBRG members took part in the Southwark Irish Festival- the biggest festival outside of the London Irish Festival – but the Southwark one was free and sponsored by the Council to celebrate Irish culture in Southwark and raised funds via its programme which carried local and Council advertisements. IBRG members Steve Brennan and Jodie Clark were involved in organising the Festival with Jodie just elected as a Labour councillor in east Dulwich.
It opened on Friday evening with Currachs on the Thames at Surrey Docks. Southwark was an old Irish settlement place and here the Irish Literary society was founded which later led on to the Gaelic renaissance. Here too Ronald Reagan family rested before going on to America in 1851 and here Liam McCarthy after which the All Hurling Final Cup is named after, is buried. Here too is Southwark Cathedral where Terence MacSwiney’s body came to before its journey to Ireland, and which Ho Chi Minh witnessed, and remarked that a nation with such brave people could never be defeated. The Irish too ran the docks on the river before they were closed in the 1960’s when it moved to Tilbury with containerisation.
In July Bernadette Hyland had a major article in the Irish Post on the Irish writer Kate O’Brien.
In July Coventry IBRG put on three evenings of traditional music in Coventry with Colmtas where Kevin Hayes was playing in one of the groups. In December 1988 Coventry City Council Leisure Services commissioned an audit of arts services in the city and their final report stated ‘Greater recognition is needed for the flourishing culture of the Irish community, which represents some 15% of the population of Coventry’.
In July Pat Reynolds PRO took on Joe Haines of the Daily Mirror over a shocking article on the Birmingham Six it was headed, Don’t say it, prove it The article was accompanied by a cartoon with the heading ‘The Birmingham Six might be guilty OK.. This was shocking coming from the Daily Mirror and Joe Haines so associated with the Labour and yet Labour staying silent on the matter.
The London Irish News headed the story Mirror condemned on Birmingham Six issue. The IBRG had complained to the Ombudsman at the Mirror British Labour MP Peter Archer who rejected the IBRG complaint Pat Reynolds condemned these two Labour Party people as being living in a colonial age. He called the decision a ‘home town refereeing decision’.
The article was ill-informed, distorted and made several insinuations about the campaign for justice without a shred of evidence to back them. It ignored all the established facts which favour the six men such as the forensic evidence of Dr Skuse. Haines tried to link six innocent men with the IRA in the article when he stated that the IRA maintained the six were innocent ‘But they would do that wouldn’t they’ said the ignorant Haines who would have known the men to be innocent. Peter Archer was protecting his Labour mate rather than dealing with complaint. Haines also drew attention to George Davis campaign where an East End man had been released after a campaign only to be later arrested for a robbery.
The article ended by calling on the Six to prove their innocent. Pat Reynolds pointed out that this was a reversal of the presumption of innocence and it was for the state to prove guilt, not for the men to prove their innocence. It seems in Britain that when it comes to Irish people the onus is reversed and the Irish time and again have to prove their innocent not just in the court but in the media. Meanwhile Dr Skuse was being let go at work on grounds of limited ability, after his work on the Birmingham Six and Maguire cases, Judith Ward and the Gillespie sisters.
On 30th July IBRG members attended a Public Meeting on British Justice What Justice at the Haringey Irish centre. It raised the cases of the Birmingham Six and Tottenham Three. Speakers included Breda Power, daughter of Billy Power, Sharon Raghip, wife of Engin Raghip, of Tottenham three, Paul May Chair of B6 campaign, Bernie Grant MP and Paul Foot. The meeting was organised by Haringey Trades Council.
On 30th July the IRA killed Ian Gow MP, a personal friend of Thatcher.
On 31st July the IBRG received a letter back from Ray Burke TD Minister for Justice to say that the Irish government would not issue any stamps for the 75th anniversary of the 1916 Rising as they had in 1966. The IBRG earlier had asked the Irish community in Britain to come together to celebrate 1916 in 1991 and to start planning now, with the idea of putting on a month series of events.
On 30th July the IBRG received a report from Pauline Green, MEP for London North, which included the 77 recommendations of the European parliament work on Racism and Xenophobia to which IBRG had made a submission. The Parliament was due to debate the report on 10th September and Pauline wanted feedback from IBRG. The report and recommendation were very generic and did not mention any individual state just set out recommendations about rights for migrants from voting to language and culture, so very useful for Irish community. It also talked about far-right organisations and how to combat them.
In August Diarmuid Breatnach of Lewisham IBRG paid tribute to local member Kathleen Henry in the Irish World on her passing and her contribution to the Irish community, entitled Behind the scenes a tribute to Kathleen Henry, a page long article, on her lifelong contribution to the community. The Irish Post covered the tribute as a letter from Diarmuid Breatnach. In August the Irish Post ran five photos of a joint Lewisham IBRG/Greenwich Irish project lunch and Ceile at the local Amersham Arms
On 24th August Brian Keenan was released after 1,600 day as a hostage in Beirut.
On 29th August the Home Secretary announced that the case of the Birmingham Six is to be sent back to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that fresh scientific evidence suggests that a crucial part of the evidence leading to the conviction of two of the men may have been fabricated.
The IBRG had a major success in its battle against anti Irish racism in the British media when the Independent (British) Ombudsman ruled that a report carried in the Independent on the London Fleadh was ‘clearly exaggerated and insensitive’.
The article claimed everyone at the Fleadh was drunk, with 15 different references to drink. Two other articles in the Independent by Stan Gebler Davies ‘clearly risked giving offense’ according to the Ombudsman for the Independent. This was an important victory which sent a signal to the quality press that anti Irish racism in the media would be challenged. The article on the Fleadh ‘thirst among equals’ and the IBRG found the article to be racist stereotypical insulting inaccurate, biased misleading and exaggerated’.
Stan Gebler Davis was well known for his anti-Irish material, and in this he says “the easier way to learn Gaelic is to murder someone for the IRA’ and ‘The Irish have decided to re-join the world, they are going to quit violence and murder No more bombs or slaughter. The IBRG called it anti Irish propaganda and that anti Irish propaganda in the media aligned with British and Irish censorship serves the purpose of promoting British political policies in Ireland.
IBRG condemned the Irish Government for its silence and ineffectiveness in challenging this anti Irish propaganda in the British media which was an insult to the Irish at home and abroad, and it is sad that the defence of the Irish people and Irish identify and culture has been left entirely to the voluntary efforts on individuals and organisations in the community. The issue got huge coverage in Ireland from An Phoblacht to the Andersonstown News.
Funding cut to Haringey IBRG
Councillor Seamus Carey of Haringey Council confirmed in a letter to the Irish Post that the decision by Haringey Council to cut funding to the IBRG project was political and was to reduce Tory scope for criticism. Fifteen councillors voted against the cuts to IBRG with 20 voting for the cuts, including Irish councillor George Meehan and member of the Federation.
In the same month Haringey IBRG praised Haringey Council for its employment policies towards the Irish community with 10% of the Town Hall staff coming from the Irish community. The IBRG drew attention to the success of Local Authorities in London in recruiting minority staff compared with the situation in N. Ireland where nothing had changed in over twenty years of Direct Rule.
Mitchell McLoughlin of Derry Sinn Fein used the Haringey example to demand changes on equality in N. Ireland. Mitchell stated that the Haringey case study showed what could be done with political will power, but this was missing in N. Ireland.
In this case the IBRG , by using equality issues in Britain, had an input into equality issues in N. Ireland where the story got good coverage. Haringey had increased the number of minority staff working with the council from 21% in 1985 to 39% by December 1989, which showed what could be done with determination even at a time in Britain of public cuts under Thatcherism. The IBRG statement said’ The British maintenance of a division of labour based on supposed racial characteristics of the two communities is geared towards the political control of both communities and to upkeep British colonial policies in Ireland.”
On 3rd September Pat Reynolds PRO had an interview with BBC Belfast on the 1991 census and the exclusion of the Irish. The Irish Independent in Dublin carried story Irish seek ethnic status which covered a new campaign for Irish recognition led by Seamus Taylor of the Haringey Irish Liaison Unit where although excluded from the 1991 census, was urging Irish people to tick other and write in Irish. The CRE had stated that there is strong evidence of Irish disadvantage in Britain. There were over one million people in Britain who consider themselves as Irish.
On 12th September Pat Reynolds was speaking at Conway Hall at a public meeting on Irish culture in Britain.
On 15th September the IBRG Ard Choiste was held in Brighton at the Unemployed centre. Eleven delegates attended including Caitlin Wright, Diarmuid Breatnach, Pat Reynolds, Pat O Sullivan, Martin Connolly, Siobhan Hiers, Majella Crehan, Virginia Moyles and Kevin Hayes. Apologies from Bernadette Hyland, Laura Sullivan, Maurice Moore, Maude Casey.
Condolences were passed to Virginia Moyles on the death of her mother and to the relatives of Kathleen Henry in Lewisham.
The meeting decided to go ahead with a St Patricks Day March in 1991, and heard that the Comhcomhairle would take place on 20th October, the Haringey IBRG education conference on 13th October, and the Lambeth Welfare conference on 3rd November.
It was decided to support the 1991 Bloody Sunday march with £50 and for Virginia Moyles and Majella Crehan to join the organising group, and to support the six demands of the Irish prisoners in Nr Ireland, on the Irish language and to support the O’Fiaich Principles on the Irish language which was launched in Belfast.
The meeting heard of the campaign on the Irish language and that Irish classes were ongoing in Haringey, Lambeth, Harrow, Bolton and in other areas and of plans for IBRG Irish language badges. The meeting heard reports from London Birmingham and the North West of plans to commemorate the Spirit of 1916 next year.
The meeting heard that the CRE had not been responsive to the Irish community at the last meeting. It was noted that Southwark IBRG had folded.
Diarmuid Breatnach has designed badges for the Irish language, 1916 anniversary, and the IBRG which he was having produced.
The meeting supported a Haringey motion demanding an end to the British ban on correspondence in Irish for prisoners and the ban on Irish being spoken during visits, the ban on the fainne, the non-recognition of Irish names, the censorship on Irish language publications, and the ban on Gaelic sports. These were clearly racist and discriminatory.
Another motion from Haringey was passed calling for the right of every Irish person to an education through the medium of Irish, the establishment of an Irish language TV station and radio station, the right to deal with public bodies in Irish, for all prisoners to be allowed full rights in the Irish language, that the ban on street signs in Belfast on Irish names be repealed, that the ban on Irish in the City Hall be lifted, and that the grant aid to the Irish language in N. Ireland be provided on a par with the English language and arts support.
On 18th September Pat Reynolds had an interview with BBC Radio Belfast.
Irish Language and funding of Glor na Gael in West Belfast
In September the IBRG condemned the withdrawal of £90K funding from Glor naGael in West Belfast and made representations that it be restored immediately. Roger Stott, Labour’s spokesperson on N. Ireland, also asked for a full explanation and for the money to be restored. Glor na nGael had seven junior schools, in West Belfast and had 19 employees who were continuing to work without wages for the children. Mary O’Rourke the Irish Minister for Education had also raised the issue with the British.
On 29th September the Irish Post carried a major story Irish language schools win more support based on a motion from Aldershot Labour Party a constituency which had strong military bases. The motion deplored the decision to cut £90K from Glor na Gael in Belfast and called on Kevin McNamara to step up support for the Irish language. The article wrote up the forthcoming IBRG Education Conference in Haringey which was featuring La, the Belfast Irish language paper.
Christine Crawley MEP, raised a question in European Parliament on behalf of IBRG on the Irish language being excluded from the National Curriculum of modern European language in Britain given the size of the Irish community in Britain. Pressure from IBRG also led to the Irish language question being put on the intergovernmental conference. The question read ‘ What is the Commission’s response to the concerns expressed by many European citizens that the Irish language, which is a European Community treaty Language and one included in the Lingua program, is not, at present, included in the British Government’s list of languages for the national school curriculum’
The Irish community in Britain are being denied equal rights in the recognition of their language, when all the major communities in Britain have their language recognised except the African and Irish people’.
The Department of Education and Science had written to Pat Reynolds to state ‘Irish does not appear on the list of languages eligible to be on the National Curriculum modern foreign languages foundation subject in England and Wales because for this purpose, a modern foreign language has been assumed to exclude languages found only within the British Isles. It is also rarely if ever studied as the first modern foreign language in schools. This colonial view of Ireland being in the British Isles was never accepted by Irish people as Ireland is not British, but they can claim the Isle of Wight.
On 30th September the British army shot dead two teenage joyriders in Belfast and are accused of running a shoot to kill policy. Later in 1993 Private Lee Clegg was found guilty of murdering Karen Reilly, one of the kids and was sentenced to life imprisonment. A second member of the parachute regiment was sentenced to 12 years for perverting the cause of justice in the case. Within a short time, both would be released.
On 1st October Haringey IBRG put on Mother Ireland at the Haringey Irish centre the first of three weekly video showings. The Irish Question was shown on 29th October, and Moving Myths on 26th November, The London Irish News covered it with End of Myths and Censorship and earlier Film season devotes its theme to censorship.
On 6th October the IBRG won a victory against the News of The World over the figures it used over deaths in N. Ireland where it stated the IRA were responsible for all the deaths in N. Ireland and refused to correct it. The News of the World and Murdoch were forced to publish the verdict in their papers and at last the PRO got his name into the News of the World. The IBRG stated ‘Far from being impartial on the issue of violence the British and Irish media often condones violence against the Nationalist community and uses propaganda to shift the responsibility for the primary violence from the British state onto the nationalist community’.
On 11th October the first meeting of the London Reclaim the Spirit of 1916 group was held at the Roger Casement Irish Centre. It followed on from a letter in the Irish weeklies calling on the Irish community in Britain to organise events all over the country to commemorate 1916.
On 12th October the Irish World covered another IBRG victory with Abbey National drops anti Irish advert “Back in a tick, Mick with a workbench, wood and a shovel”.
On 12th October the Irish World ran an editorial on trial by media in which it asks. Where is the voice of the Irish in Britain? The IBRG have protested but have others? They will tell you that they have protested. Silence is no good. Silence is consent’. Later it stated ‘Sections of the Irish community are quick to decry terrorism but they should realise that continued injustice is the incubator that produces all terrorists. Fairness evolves from strength of character and the leaders of the Irish community must unswerving loyalty and commitment to their own’.
Arrest of two Irish people at Stonehenge and IBRG response
An Phoblacht carried an article Trial by Media which covered the IBRG response to the British media over the arrest of two Irish citizens at Stonehenge. The IBRG stated that the British media had driven a coach and horse through any concept of subjudice. The Sun had IRA seized in Stonehenge with ‘a deadly IRA cell was captured in a dramatic ambush by armed police last night,’ while Today had 3 Held for Gow Murder IRA showdown at Stonehenge. The Star had Irish held in terror swoop, the Express proclaimed IRA cell trapped by police Armed police in IRA swoop.
Pat Reynolds stated that the presumption of innocence is not given to Irish people arrested in Britain. The Sun followed up by College Kids who kill for the IRA which put Irish students at risk in Britain. The alleged interview by the Sun had never taken place, and the story was invented.
Kevin Hayes of the West Midlands PTA campaign stated that anti Irish hysteria in the British media was responsible for the arrest of three students at Staffordshire Poly who were released after seven hours. Kevin Hayes called the Sun report irresponsible and unfounded. The National Union of Students had complained to the Press Council over the Sun article as did the Student Union in Ireland as Queens University Belfast had been named as a hotbed of recruitment.
On 13th October Haringey IBRG hosted the IBRG National Conference on Education at the Haringey Irish centre. Speakers included Dr Elinor Kelly author of Anti-Racism after Burnage which included racism against Irish children, and Eoghan O Neill of the Irish language paper La.
Over 80 people attended the conference which was later drafted into a report with 1,000 copies circulated. The report had some twenty recommendations regarding the Irish community and Education.
Siobhan Ui Neill led a seminar as Gaeilge on the Irish language, Maude Casey ran a workshop on Our censured Voice, while Catriona Scanlan ran a workshop in English on the Irish language, Anne Rossiter ran a workshop on Irish women and British education, with Mike Carroll running one on Youth provision for a Positive identity, Brian Foster on Travellers a Right to education, Irish History Alan Clinton, and Brigid Loughran on Anti Irish racism. The report covered all the keynotes speakers and the workshops with all of the recommendations plus included at the end the IBRG Education policy, the IBRG Irish Language Policy and the IBRG Policy on Anti Irish Racism.
The Conference got huge coverage in the Irish weeklies with the Irish World headline Conference calls for Irish Language support stated ‘resolutions calling on the British government to immediately restore its funding to Glor nanGael in Belfast and to give recognition to the Irish language in the national curriculum were passed unanimously at the conference on Irish Perspectives on British education’.. The London Irish News had Irish language issue to dominate IBRG conference which was a preview of the conference. The Andersonstown News had London Irish Hear Gael which had also covered a preview of the conference.
The N. Ireland Office had responded to IBRG over its letter on the funding for Glor na Gael to say that ‘Irish language and culture continue to receive very substantial governmental support both through educational system and the voluntary sector’ but yet failed to explain why they had cut the funding to Glor naGaeil.
On 19th October the IBRG marched with the National Union of Journalists over censorship on Ireland and the ban on Sinn Fein to the Dominion Theatre where Tony Benn was the main speaker. What a difference from Roy Hattersley of last year.
On 19th October the Irish World had a headline Embassy protest for Murray Two with a photo which showed Majella Crehan and Trevor O’Farrell of IBRG picketing the Embassy.
On 20th October the IBRG held their Comhcomhairle in Birmingham with 16 delegates. Among those attending were Diarmuid Breatnach, Pat Reynolds, Majella Crehan, Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Moore, Caitlin Wright, and Kevin Hayes.
The meeting was given over to discussing the Spirit of 1916 and how IBRG could commemorate this in Britain by staging events in many parts of Britain. The meeting decided to campaign on getting a system of PR in Britain which would enhance the Irish vote, as the present system in Britain worked against minority communities
In the afternoon the meeting discussed recruitment and membership and a review of priorities
On 26th October the IBRG held their first picket of the Irish Embassy over the extradition of Dessie Ellis to Britain. This was the first of four pickets held weekly. Over 500 people had attended an anti-extradition rally in Glasgow to campaign against extradition of Irish people to Britain on political changes.
On 28th October IBRG members attended the Terence MacSwiney mass at Southwark Cathedral.
On 31st October Pat Reynolds was speaking to students at the North London University in Kentish Town, at a meeting organised by Irish students.
The IBRG in the North West organised a series of meetings on the PTA in Blackburn on 23rd October, Bolton on 24th October and Manchester on 25th October under the Repeal the PTA banner. Speakers were Father Bobby Gilmore and Kevin Hayes. An IBRG statement said The PTA has little to do with terrorism but everything to do with intimidating the Irish community. The Act does nothing to solve the problems of N. Ireland and should be abolished’. A photo in the Irish Post from Bolton Town Hall showed Kevin Hayes, Arthur Devlin, Caitlin Wright, Bobby Gilmore, Joe Mullarkey and Neil Duffield President of Bolton Trades Council.
Dessie Ellis Campaign
Ten MPs in Britain placed a letter in the Irish Post No Guarantee of a fair Trial doubting whether Dessie Ellis would receive a fair trial in Britain. These MPs included Bernie Grant MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Dave Nellist MP, Ken Livingstone MP, and Tony Benn MP. Above the letter was a photo of the IBRG picket of the Irish Embassy on Dessie Ellis with both Majella Crehan and Caitriona Scanlon in the photos with IBRG placards. The letter ended with ‘we appeal to the Irish people not to hand their citizens over to this system. You have a responsibility to protect your citizens’ rights as it has become clear time and again that the British legal system will not. Dessie Ellis will face such injustice unless you refuse to hand him over. Don’t extradite Dessie Ellis. Don’t risk becoming party to yet another injustice’
At the beginning of November, the Education and Cultural committee of the Intergovernmental Conference met to discuss the Irish language which Mary O’Rourke of Fianna Fail had submitted.
On 3rd November Lambeth IBRG hosted their national Welfare Conference. Over 70 people attended. Speakers included Raymond Crotty who called on the Irish abroad to boycott Irish companies and Irish goods until the Irish abroad got the vote, Paul Cullen from the Irish Embassy, Liam Greenslade from Liverpool University, Traolach Brugha, grandson of Cathal Brugha on Mental Health, and others speakers on AIDS, Travellers, Housing, Women, Construction Safety and Challenging racism.
The Conference was well covered in the news with An Phoblachtreporting Conference call for action on Irish vote where Raymond Crotty had called on the Irish abroad to boycott Irish goods until they were given the vote in Ireland. The Irish in Britain News had Boycott Irish goods Crotty urges the Irish in Britain.
On 5th November IBRG members joined the picket on Plastic bullets outside the Home Office.
On 9th November IBRG members led a picket of the Irish Embassy over Dessie Ellis.
On 9th November Mary Robinson is elected President of Ireland, the first female President, while on 6th November Cathal Daly was appointed Cardinal of Ireland.
On 9th November Peter Brooke states that Britain has no strategic or economic interest in N. Ireland and would accept the unification of Ireland if consent existed for it. He does not deal with the vote in Ireland the general election of 1918 which voted for a Republic.
On 10th November Pat Reynolds was speaking at a Public Forum in Brixton for the Terence Macswiney Commemoration lecture along with Peter Beresford Ellis.
On 12th November IBRG members joined a PTA picket of Paddington Green Police station which was probably the first picket of the PTA Interrogation centre.
Trade Unions and representation for Irish Workers
On 12th November IBRG put out a statement calling for a strong voice in the new Union with COHSE, NALGO and NUPE joining to become a super union:Unison. IBRG were concerned that their new union white paper Equal Opportunities and Fair Representation made no mention whatsoever of the Irish in Britain. Such an omission was totally unacceptable.
All available evidence in Britain from the 1981 census, the GLC Irish in London documents, Irish women in London, Town hall staff surveys in Brent, Haringey, Islington and Hackney all showed that the Irish faced institutional disadvantage an discrimination in employment in the public sector using any criteria of equal opportunism or the Race Relations Act the Irish qualify to be included within the new union Equal Opportunities programme. The IBRG argued that the Irish should be included in the Race Equality policy of the EOP. The deadline for submission on the document was 7th December and the IBRG urged all Irish trade unionists and community organisations to put in submissions.
On 13th November the Irish Times carried a large photo of Dr Maire O Shea protesting in Dublin against the extradition of Dessie Ellis.
On 14th November IBRG members led a picket of the Irish Embassy over Dessie Ellis.
On 15th November Pat Reynolds was speaking at the Central Library in Islington to over 100 people on the night Dessie Ellis was extradited to England. Dessie’s father spoke at the meeting that Dessie would not be going on hunger strike but would politically fight his case in Britain. Pat Reynolds was Chair of the Dessie Ellis campaign in Britain.
On 16th November Manchester IBRG in conjunction with Cornerhouse Arts Centre put on a series of seven Irish films in their third Irish Film Festival. The aim of the Festival was to celebrate the work of Irish film makers in Britain and Ireland and to use some of the work shown as a starting point for discussion about the nature of Irish identity and contemporary social and political problems. There was massive publicity in the papers for the film festival which had its own programme; Out of Ireland. The Irish World had Irish Film Festival expected to draw crowds. The Irish Post had Irish Film Festival in Manchester, the Irish in Britain News had After a sense of Ireland comes a sense of Irish Film and. The Irish Post’s headline was Big screen delights in Manchester.
On 18th November Pat Reynolds was guest speaker at the National NUS anti-racist conference at Newcastle University speaking to over 100 students on two different days. The conference agreed to oppose the PTA, support free speech on Ireland and organise conference for Irish students in Britain. The Irish Post covered the story with NUS agrees to lobby on behalf of Irish students to challenge anti Irish racism in Britain
On 27th November Thatcher is defeated in a vote by Tory MPs and John Major takes over as Prime Minister.
In November a substance motion was put in to Lewisham Nalgo AGM calling for the repeal of the PTA, calling on the council to recognise the Irish community, calling on Nalgo to recognise IBRG as an organisation of the Irish community in Britain, and to make donations towards the IBRG St Patricks day march and the Terence MacSwiney rally in Brixton.
On 30th November Pat Reynolds was speaking to Social Work and Community Work students at Goldsmiths College in South east London.
In November Trevor O’Farrell had a letter in the Irish Post advocating a vote for the Irish abroad.
The Ard Choiste was held in Manchester on 1st December. Virginia, Maurice Moore, Linda Ryan, Kevin Hayes, Joe Mullarkey, Martin Connolly, Denis Casey, Linda Sever, Virginia Moyles Bernadette Hyland and Pat Reynolds were among those attending.
Apologies from Majella Crehan, Laura Sullivan, Diarmuid Breatnach.
The meeting heard that Kevin Hayes had set up a PTA telephone tree which could be activated when an Irish person got arrested under the PTA to get people to ring the police station asking about the missing person. The NUJ had come back over the IBRG media guidelines to say they were not practical. The meeting discussed plans for commemorating 1916 and Women in IBRG were planning pamphlet on women’s involvement in 1916
On 10th December IBRG members attended a picket of Paddington Green PTA interrogation centre.
On 13th December Haringey IBRG put out a statement on Haringey Council cutting their funding describing the decision as unfair, discriminatory and politically motivated. Haringey Council had created unwritten criteria to politically vet IBRG. While the Council had the right to cut funding it had to be according to set criteria and had to be fair to all. Haringey had also disbanded the Irish Liaison Unit which was a big blow to the Irish community. Haringey IBRG were represented on the Council Ethnic Minorities Committee, the Irish Forum, the Irish Centre and the Travellers Group.
Bernadette Hyland had an article in the Irish World on the election of Mary Robinson in December.
The IBRG condemned proposals from the DES on languages in the curriculum which excluded the Irish language. Both Conradh and IBRG had made submissions on the Irish language to get a Department of Education and Science working party. On 8th December Tony Birthill in an article in the Irish Post entitled Exclusion of Irish in schools unfair put the IBRG position in reply to the DES claim that they were only including languages outside the British Isles, that Ireland is a sovereign country separate from Britain and her Isles and its citizens were the largest minority community In Britain. The DES then stated that the Irish language was practically non-existent. Conor Foley from the Connolly Association stated ‘they won’t acknowledge the fact that we have a language and literature that is far older than English., and their failure to recognise Ireland as a separate nation.
It was confirmed in December that Haringey IBRG Irish Project would lose its funding of £34k from 1st April 1991. Because of redundancies the project would close early in the New Year.
Haringey IBRG put up a great fight back against the cuts, but they still went ahead. Trevor O’Farrell and Majella Crehan had both worked for Haringey IBRG which had supported a number of Education conferences, the St Patricks day march, the Irish Voice magazine, had published the Survey into Irish culture in schools and Irish Perspectives in British education They had organised a number of video festivals, had supported the Haringey Irish centre and provided its first Chair, organised Halloween and other cultural events for the Irish community, were on the Ethnic Minorities Consultative Committee, got Irish books into Haringey libraries, got Haringey to recognise the Irish community, organised the Ireland/South Africa exhibition which panicked Labour who ran when the Tories put pressure on them. Fought anti Irish racism in the media , supported campaigns such as the Winchester three, and supported the Irish Prisoners support group, held a Conference on prisoners, had produced the PTA guidelines for the media and had monitored the British press coverage on the Winchester Three case. Highlighted cases of Irish welfare neglect, and supported the Sinn Fein Tour of Britain which came to Haringey and organised the Hornsey Town Hall public meeting for Gerry Adams.
The local Branch did the political work, the project focused on education, welfare, employment, travellers, prisoners, and other issues.
Lambeth Nalgo Irish Workers’ Group chaired by Pat Reynolds criticised Nalgo, Cohse and NUPE’s paper on Equality for the new super Union Unison which excluded the Irish from their Equal Opportunity programme.
On 23rd December 1990 the IRA announced a three-day truce over Christmas for the first time in 15 years.
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