Patrick Reynolds was one of the founders of IBRG and played a key role in its history. He is now writing up that history and putting it into the context of radical history in Britain and Ireland in the C20th.
On 12th January. The IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Four Provinces Club in Coventry Five delegates attended including Maurice Moore, Diarmuid Breatnach, Linda Sever, Bernadette Hyland and Pat Reynolds.
It was decided to hold a two-day Ard Fheis at the Roger Casement Centre in Islington on 9th/10th March with Margaret Ward down as Guest speaker and with Haringey IBRG showing their video Building for Ourselves along with Thames TV’s report on the PTA. Haringey, Hackney, and Camden IBRG were to hold a meeting to decide on whether to become one large branch.
The meeting heard that Kevin Hayes had drawn up a telephone tree for IBRG branches to raise support for people arrested under the PTA. Thames TV had shown a positive programme on the PTA while the Evening Standard had printed a brilliant article on the PTA, the Year of Living Dangerously. Both Thames TV and the Evening Standard had consulted with the IBRG PRO on the features, and had been provided a with a wide range of contacts.
IBRG had attended two pickets of Paddington Green Detention Centre over the PTA.
The Green Ink Bookshop had set up an Irish Prisoners Book club to supply Irish prisoners with books, for which there was a huge demand mainly from Republican prisoners who all seems to be studying hard.
Spirit of 1916 events
Plans were advanced in London, Birmingham and Manchester to celebrate the Spirit of 1916. London were organising a Spirit of 1916 March on 23rd March. Diarmuid Bretanach was working on 1916 badges. Birmingham was looking at putting on films and an exhibition, while Manchester were organising films and a book launch.
The 1991 TICC (Irish Census campaign) which the IBRG were part of, was discussed with all branches asked to get local Irish people to count themselves in by marking the other box and writing in Irish. The Labour Party in Ireland were to put a motion to Dail Eireann on the vote for emigrants. Dick Spring of the Irish Labour Party was involved in conducting an inquiry into the Irish community in Britain via the Inter-Governmental committee.
It was reported that Nalgo Irish workers Group, of which IBRG members were playing a leading role, were pushing for recognition within NALGO.
The British government had turned down the IBRG demand to have the Irish language included in the National curriculum in Britain. Anois, the Irish language magazine in Ireland, had covered the IBRG story about the Irish language in the British curriculum and covered the IBRG campaign. Increasingly IBRG were getting good publicity in Irish language outlets from LA, Anois, Irish Times Irish column and other places.
The Gulf War under John Major started on 16th January.
On 5th February Pat Reynolds PRO was the guest speaker at the Jewish Socialist Group meeting at Conway Hall where he spoke on the Irish community in Britain and on Nt Ireland, and discussed racist attacks on both communities in Britain.
On 7th February bomb mortars rocked 10 Downing St during the Gulf war cabinet meeting , and immediate thoughts of the Cabinet was that Saddam had hit them, but it was Seamus from their own little war that had hit them. Later they arrested a man called Murphy for the attack and when M15 came in to interview him, they asked him if he had been seen by the intelligence people. No, he replied they were not in any way intelligent or I would not be here, no they were not intelligent people. He was later released without charge.
On 27th February Pat Reynolds PRO was the invited speaker at Cardiff University Student Union meeting as part of anti-racism week, where he was threatened was some right-wing students, but Black women from the student Union offered solid protection on the evening, and saw them off.
Campaign for the Irish Language in the National Curriculum
The deadline for submission on languages to be included in the national curriculum in Britain was 15th February. The IBRG and Conradh na Gaelige were the only two Irish organisations to put in submissions which was disappointing given the publicly and the public call for submission in the Irish Post. Where were the GAA, Ceoltas, Federation, Connolly Association and the various Irish projects and centres in Britain? The IBRG got Christine Crawley MEP to ask a question in the European Parliament on the Irish language and the European Commission reminded Britain of its duty to promote the culture and language of its minority communities.
In February Anois and An Phoblacht in its Irish column and the Irish Times in its Irish column covered the IBRG campaign on the language.
The Irish Post covered it with Education chiefs set to ignore Irish plea. The Report covered the reply of the Commission to a question asked by Christian Crawley on behalf of IBRG ‘As far as the children of Irish migrants are concerned, member states are of course required by council directive to take appropriate measures to promote the teaching of the mother tongue and the culture of the country of origin of these children’.
Success of discrimination case
A major article on the editorial page by Gabrielle Mullarkey under Case of Limited Options dealt with anti-Irish racism in the British media and covered the IBRG response to it. The article quoted Brian Hilliard editor of the Police Review which appeared in the London Evening Standard article on the PTA ‘The police do tend to feel entitled to push just a little bit further with Irish people’ That entitlement added Hilliard ‘was based on a perception that the Irish are nowhere near as organised as other groups’.
On 1st March IBRG members attended the Dessie Ellis benefit at the Haringey Irish centre which drew a capacity crowd of several hundred people. The Irish community in Britain were mobilising on the issue of extradition, and wanted no more Birmingham Six and Guildford cases.
On 2nd March the Irish Post ran a supplement to its weekly paper with photographs from the Irish community over the past 21 years of the paper. It stated Rally and protest have been part of the pattern of Irish community activity throughout the past 21 years, latterly much of it organised by groups such as the IBRG, which since its foundation in the early 1980, has provided a radical edge to Irish community politics.
In Salford Jim King was now Labour Party vice chair of Salford Equal Opportunities subcommittee and invited the Irish community to a Friendship Day in Broughton
On 4th March the Birmingham Six appeal started at the Old Bailey. Pat Reynolds and other IBRG members attended different days of the hearing.
On 4th March Pat Reynolds and Liz Curtis were guest speakers at a day on censorship and the media Reporting Ireland at the City University post graduate journalist course of over 100 students.
On 8th March the Irish World covered two separate letters from Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds on the IBRG March for Justice and Spirit of 1916 March 30th. The paper also reported that the Labour Committee on Ireland had dropped their support for Irish self-determination and unconditional withdrawal.
The Irish Post also carried the same two letters from Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds on the March for Justice and carried a photo of Breda Power and Gerry Conlon with it. In the same issue Gearoid MacGearailt had a half page letter on Bringing Humanity back to the Middle East and ended by saying ‘as it is people will tell me it is all over now, and that peace has been restored. But it is the peace of the dead. And history will tell remind us that such peace is usually of temporary duration. I fear the solution may eventually prove worse than the problem’. Which is exactly what happened there.
The IBRG Ard Fheis took place at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in Islington North London over two days on 9/10th March. Historian Margaret Ward was guest speaker on the Sunday speaking on Women and 1916.
Ten branches were represented at the Ard Fheis, Manchester, Camden, Harrow, Haringey, Lewisham, Coventry, Birmingham, Hackney, Lambeth, and Bolton. Twenty-three delegates attended.
Among those attending was; Bernadette Hyland, Trevor O’Farrell, Martin Connolly, Linda Sever, Nuala Eefting, Denis Casey, Maurice Cahill, Pat Reynolds, Diarmuid Breatnach, Caitriona Scanlan, Maurice Moore, Kevin Hayes, Virginia Moyles, Ann Fitzgerald, Gearoid MacGearailt, Siobhan Dwyer, Liz Fenton, Majella Crehan, Caitlin Wright, Robert Ryan, David Casey, and G Murphy.
The following officers were elected for the year
Chair Bernadette Hyland Manchester
Vice Chair Diarmuid Breatnach Lewisham
Runai Virginia Moyles Hackney
PRO Pat Reynolds Haringey.
Cisteoir Maurice Moore Coventry
Regional coordinator North Joe Mullarkey Bolton
Education officer Caitlin Wright Bolton
Women’s Officer Majella Crehan Haringey
Membership/Internal coordinator Catriona Scanlan Haringey.
The following motions were carried on the day
A motion deploying the decision of the Dublin government in compromising Irish neutrality by allowing US war planes to refuel at Shannon
That a report on creating an Irish secretariat in Britain be written
That a total review of IBRG takes place taking submissions from branches and individuals to decide whether IBRG should reconstruct itself away from being a community-based branch structure to individual membership of a pressure group, and whether the organisation should concentrate on two or three key issues each year.
A motion condemning the Dublin government for extradition Dessie Ellis to Britain
A motion calling of the release of the Armagh Four wrongly convicted of murdering a Catholic in Armagh
A motion condemning the murder of Fergal Carragher , the murder of two joyriders in Belfast and the murder of three men at a West Belfast bookie office by Crown Forces, and calling on the UN, and other Human Rights bodies to investigate war crimes committed by Crown forces in occupation in Ireland including the shoot to kill policy.
A motion condemning the Gulf war as an imperialist war to protect Western oil interests.
A motion condemning Fords for discrimination in West Belfast and calling for action against Fords in Britain
A motion welcoming the celebration of 1916 throughout the world, and condemning the Irish government for failing to mark the occasion in any proper manner,
A motion condemning the British government for failing to include the Irish language in the national curriculum and for withdrawing funds from Glor naNGael in West Belfast.
A motion condemning the trial of the Casement accused and calling for their release.
A motion condemning the detention of Arab people in Britain during the Guld War,
A motion condemning the attacks on the Jewish community in Britain by right wing organisations,
A motion welcoming the Irish Labour party move to extend the vote to Irish abroad,
A motion to welcome the recent inquiry by the Irish British Inter parliamentary Body into the Irish community in Britain and call for the report be published and acted upon,
A motion calling for the vote to be given to emigrants from Nt Ireland living in Britain,
Lewisham IBRG had produced eight new badges, four to promote the Irish language, two to commemorate 1916, one Smash the PTA, and the last one Fighting for the Irish community IBRG.
On 18th March IBRG joined the picket of Tottenham Police station for the Broadwater Farm prisoners. The same day a House of Commons Motion supported by 100 MPs called on the Queen to dismiss the Lord Chief Justice Lord Lane over the Birmingham Six case.
On 19th March Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking at Trent Park Middlesex University Students Union on the Birmingham Six case to a full House with a speaker from the Broad water Farm campaign.
On 25th March IBRG members attended a Press Conference at the House of Commons where the Directory of Discrimination in N. Ireland was launched. There IBRG pointed out at the Conference how Lambeth Council had increased the number of Black staff employed from 16% to 37% in seven years despite cuts in service, compared with N. Ireland where there had been no gain over 20 years of Direct Rule.
On 27th March fascists attacked an Irish pub in Kilburn because Ireland drew 1-1 with England in a football match.
On 30th March the IBRG held their St Patrick Day March from Whittington Park Holloway to Camden Town to the Camden Irish centre where Paul Hill of the Guildford Four was the main speaker. Several hundred people attended the march which was around the Spirit of 1916. The Rally ended with a performance of the Rose Tree a celebration of 1916 in song music and poetry.
On 30th March the Irish Post editorial was on 1916 with a heading Proud Legacy which stated ‘This Saturday in London there is a march with assembly at 12noon at Whittington park of Holloway road and a rally from 2.30 at the Irish centre in Camden’. It further stated ‘the current violence emanating from Northern Ireland does not in any way invalidate the ideals of 1916. The concept of an All-Ireland nation will simply not go away. The hope remains that over a period of time it will be achieved. It is a natural order. A united Ireland can with justice and fairness accommodate all the diversities. Not to aspire for such a happy resolutions defeatist. Worse it is to bequest to subsequent generations a continuation of the tragic events of the past 22 years. Pearce and his colleagues should be remembered with pride. They were the heroic founding fathers of an Irish nation which has still some way to go before being fully attained.’
The Irish Post covered the march with a photo of the leading banner Spirit of 1916 Justice and Freedom for the Irish People carried by Kevin Hayes and Pat Reynolds with an IBRG banner straight behind it. See below.
Sadly, the Irish Post allowed letters in attacking the march and IBRG by an unknown man in Birmingham and another from Belfast with a heading What did 1916 really change.
Bolton IBRG condemned the booking of racist comedian Bernard Manning for the Lord Mayor’s annual charity ball in Bolton which was an insult to the Black and Irish people of the town. This was covered in the Irish in Britain News with Uproar over booking of racist comedian for Mayor’s ball.
Joe Mullarkey stated ‘the involvement of Bernard Manning is offensive to minority communities and women in Britain, particularly the Irish community who have complained against racist abuse generally disguised as humour. Given the Mayor is the President of the Bolton Race Equality council, an organisation that has campaigned against racist abuse, one can only conclude that the Mayor is trying to sabotage community relations in Bolton.
IBRG were supported in their protest by the West Indian Community Association. Manning was found guilty later of discriminating against a Black woman waitress at one of his functions by telling racist offensive jokes in her presence. When IBRG picketed him at the National in London in a large Black Irish area, his audience was 100% male with not a single Black person attending.
The Minute Books of Bolton IBRG are lodged at the Working Class Movement Library in Salford.
On 6th April the IBRG marched with their banner in the 1916 Commemoration March in Dublin among those present were IBRG officers Bernadette Hyland, Laura Sullivan and Pat Reynolds. See headline photo.
On 13th April the Irish Post covered the IBRG submission to the Inter Parliamentary British Irish Body with a heading Sweeping change to emigrant provision urged. The IBRG in its submission called for the Dion committee to be restructured to include women, and the wider community and called for a shift from welfare to community development, and called for Irish consulates in Manchester and Glasgow. The IBRG also called for the Irish to be included in all equal opportunities’ programmes in Britain, for anti-Irish racism to be tacked, for free fares for Irish elders visiting Ireland and for a tightening of anti-racist laws in Britain to prevent abuse in the media.
On 18th– 21st April Manchester IBRG organised a series of events in Manchester as the Irish Post announced Manchester celebrates 75th anniversary with music with Poetry and songs of the Rising with also the story of Easter week plus a walk around Irish Manchester.
In Birmingham there was a Spirit of 1916 festival of films and music with a whole range of films put on, including, Hidden Agenda, Anne Devlin, Curious Journey Mise Eire, Hang out your Brightest Colours, Irish Rising 1916, the Cause of Ireland, Saoirse, and the Irishman. Both Conradh na Gaeilge and Birmingham IBRG were involved in putting on the program which had a bi lingual flyers.
The Ard Choiste was held in Manchester on 20th April. Eleven delegates attended included Bernadette Hyland, Linda Ryan, Siobhan Dwyer, Pat Reynolds Diarmuid Breatnach, Neil Doolin, Majella Crehan, Kevin Hayes, and Joe Mullarkey.
It was noted that Camden and Hackney had become one IBRG branch. Neil Doolin agreed to start up a new IBRG branch in Merseyside. The idea of having a full-time organiser was debated with Majella providing a breakdown cost.
The Ard Choiste welcomed the release of the Birmingham Six and of Siobhan McKane. The meeting heard reports on the Dessie Ellis campaign which the IBRG was involved in with Pat Reynolds as Chair and Majella Crehan as Secretary.
The meeting heard back on the Spirit of 1916 IBRG March in London which was successful but received no support from TOM, Wolfe Tones, or Connolly Association. The meeting decided to affiliate to Construction Safety campaign, and the Repeal the PTA campaign. Pat Reynolds PRO had put in a submission on the position of the Irish community in Britain to the Irish British Parliamentary Body. The meeting heard of the IBRG input into the 1991 census campaign and of recent meetings with CRE over research into the Irish community. The IBRG had contributed to a meeting in London on the emigrant vote.
Irish and National Census
The National Census was held in Britain on 21st April with Trevor O’Farrell of Camden IBRG writing a major article on the issue for the Irish Post calling on the Irish in Britain to identify themselves entitled Equality for All. The same issue had another anti- IBRG letter about the 1916 March entitled Inspiring but so poorly attended which looked like it came from the left who failed to support the march, but used the Irish Post to attack the community. There was a photo of Cllr Jim King from Salford on another page on the Broughton Friendship day.
Maurice Cahill of Harrow IBRG had a letter in the Irish Post on 6th April, detaining a reply he had received from OPCS on the 1991 Census, which said the Irish lobbying had come too late to test an Irish question. Maurice called for an Irish secretariat in Britain.
On 22nd April Pat Reynolds PRO attended the Abbey National Building Society AGM and before several hundreds of people raised the issue of employment discrimination by Abbey National in N. Ireland by asking the CEO the question on his annual report. It was the first time in Britain that employment discrimination had been raised at an AGM of any major company in Britain. It showed that anyone with a mortgage could challenge any of the building societies over their discrimination in N. Ireland.
Michael Herbert had a two-page article in the Irish Post on Mna na hEireann on the neglected role of women in the making of the 1916 Rising.
IBRG called for the restructuring of the Dion committee on funding to the Irish community in Britain with a move away from welfare to community development and for Irish consulates in Manchester and Glasgow, free travel for Irish elders in Ireland, equal opportunities for the Irish in Britain, ethnic monitoring, and the ending of the racist PTA laws, the release of Judith Ward and Danny McNamee, support for Irish studies in the submission to the Interstate body.
Gearoid McGearlailt had a letter defending the IBRG from an attack after our St Patricks Day March.
Manchester IBRG put on Poetry and songs of the Rising on 18th April along with a range of Irish events to mark the 1916 anniversary including the Story of Easter Week, plus an exhibition at the Working-Class Movement Library in Salford.
On 3rd May Troops Out Movement put out a letter calling for a network of groups working around Ireland to come together around the issue of withdrawal, and planned another meeting in Birmingham on 29th June on the same issue. They had held a meeting with LCI, Time to Go, and various trade union groups and individuals working around Ireland.
Interesting, the largest group working on Irish issues was the NALGO Irish Workers Group who were not invited. TOM also produced a paper to go with the proposed meeting. In it, they did not propose a New Broad Front but rather a linked network, but it seemed to exclude the Irish community and the British left, and were mainly Labour Party and trade union people. There was fresh hope because of the fall of the eastern bloc, the war in the Gulf and the fall of Thatcherism that there was room to build again.
On 11th May Pat Reynolds was guest speaker at a May Day rally in Bridgewater in Somerset after a march through Bridgewater with an IBRG banner. Bridgewater was in Tom Kings’ constituency and despite several hundred people on the march there were no police present, with a traffic warden leading the march. Now if that was an Irish event, we could have provided employment for a few hundred police officers.
In his speech Pat criticised the local MP Tom King for his support for the shoot to kill policy in N. Ireland and for his wrongful intervention into the Winchester Three trial over the right to silence. Pat stated that English workers and Irish workers had no quarrel with each other but with the British government, and its army of occupation in Ireland where they sent working class soldiers to fight their dirty war. The release of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four was a victory not just for Irish people, but for the whole working class against an unjust corrupt system of justice. He welcomed the driving from office by the workers of Britain of Thatcher and her oppressive poll tax by the greatest campaign of civil disobedience seen in Britain for generations. He called Tom King to count for his time in Ireland, for his repressive shoot to kill policy and his wrongful intervention into the Winchester Three case.
In ending he called for an end to the war in Ireland and for talks with Sinn Fein and a political solution to end the partition of Ireland, and to end a shameful history of British colonisation in Ireland, which preceded their expansion into slavery and oppression abroad. It is in the interest of the English worker to support the Irish struggle as it is a common enemy which oppresses both groups of workers. On this international day let us begin to build this solidarity to further our struggles and for the future for our children.
On 12th May Gerry Adams was the main speaker at the Bobby Sands/James Connolly commemoration at Conway Hall which was packed out.
In another article on 18th May entitled Amazing hypocrisy of DES the Irish Post highlighted Conradh na Gaeilge submission to the British Irish Body by Liverpool Conradh na Gaeilge. When the DES was challenged, they said there was no demand for the Irish language and when given evidence that the Irish language was taught in all the cities and major towns of Britain, the DES then said it was studied for mainly cultural reason. Conradh accused the DES of double speak and hypocrisy since their own report stated that among the purposes of foreign modern language are to offer insights into the culture and civilisation of the countries where the languages are spoken, to encourage a sympathetic approach to other cultures and civilisations and to develop pupils understanding of themselves and their own culture’. Thus, the DES still held shameful anti Irish colonial mentality which was oppressive and racist.
On 18th May Gearoid McGearailt had a letter in the Irish Post Record of IBRG Stands Up to answer a few of the anti IBRG letters published in the Irish Post after the 1916 march. Again, the Irish Post used a photo of the march of just individuals rather than any of the banners. On 25th May Pat Reynolds PRO had a letter in also in reply to some of the letters on the march which appeared to come from the British left.
The fifth edition of An Pobal Eirithe was produced with articles ranging from the role of women in 1916, a visit to Palestine, a review of IBRG’s work in 1990 and a bibliography of the History of the Irish in Britain. See below.
Response to Mori Survey on languages
IBRG published a statement on a London Mori Survey in Southwark South London which showed that English was the only language for 53% of the Irish population with a further 17% having English their main language. 3% of the Irish community did not use English at all, with 6% indicating that they can speak Irish with 3% as their first language. The Southwark figures if produced nationally would give a figure of 25,00 Gaelic speakers in Britain whose first language was Irish, and a figure of some 50,00 who could speak Irish. The Southwark Survey put the Irish language question back on the education agenda, and indicates the needs for an Irish language rights body in Britain. How many more people also spoke Scots Gaelic and who spoke Welsh in England. Anois in Ireland carried the story on its front page.
On 23rd May IBRG picketed the Courts of Justice for the Dessie Ellis trial.
NE Lancs put on an Irish Friendship Festival in Blackburn on 25th May. The Irish Post covered it with Blackburn offers lots to delight with a Ceili Mor and a street festival like a Fleadh Ceol In Ireland.
Michael Kneafsey of NE.Lancs comments about the Festival.
The festivals were a great success on many fronts. Organising them brought
us into contact with a wide range of Irish and non Irish
organisations. These included Community Art Groups, Local Authority
Culture Departments etc.
We always insisted that as a guiding principle, our festival events
would take place where possible in Local Authority premises. We wanted
to demonstrate that the Irish Community were as entitled to use those
premises as any other community. Another guiding principle was that
the festivals always include at one open air free event. Blackburn
Shopping Centre was the venue that we used for open/free element of
the festivals. One of the most pleasing aspect of those open/free
events was the number of asian women of all ages. When the wonderful
dancers the ” hairy Marys’ performed, the most enthusiastic audience
were Asian girls and young women.
I think that the early 90’s was a time when Irish people were
beginning to gain confidence about their identity, and there were
glimmers of hope that the political space was beginning to open up for
Republicans to put forward their political vision. But there was still
huge hurdles to overcome including trying to get innocent people
released from prison and political prisoners recognised.
N.E.Lancs Minute Books are lodged in the IBRG archive at the WCML in Salford.
IBRG members were involved in setting up a national Nalgo Irish workers Group to campaign on Ireland and on Irish issues in Britain, and they had a letter in the Irish Post signed by Diarmuid Breatnach, Virginia Moyles, Seamus Carey, and Pat Reynolds all IBRG members. It was letter appealing to all Irish workers in NALGO up and down the country to join the Irish workers Group.
The Ard Choiste met at the Sparkbrook Cultural Centre in Birmingham on 1st June. Nine delegates attended including Bernadette Hyland Chair, Linda Sever, Pat Reynolds, Kevin Hayes, Diarmuid Breatnach, Virginia Moyles, Neil Doolin and Maurice Moore.
Apologies from Joe Mullarkey, Majella Crehan, and Gearoid McGearailt.
The meeting heard that the first meeting of Merseyside IBRG would take place on 13th June. Haringey IBRG and Majella Crehan had produced and printed 6,000 IBRG membership recruitment leaflets.
It was agreed to affiliate to the Dessie Ellis campaign for £25. Haringey IBRG were planning to hold an Irish Prisoners Awareness Day in September to highlight all the different Irish campaigns and prisoners in Britain, along with the different issues like transfer and strip searching. There were over 40 Irish political prisoners in Britain. The meeting hear that Michael Bromell case had been referred to the Court of Appeal. Michael’s case had led to the disbandment of the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad.
Linda Sever was elected editor of an pobal eirithe. The Commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Hunger strikes was in Birmingham on 12th October. The meeting discussed talking up a boycott of Ford in Britain as they were discriminating against Catholics in N. Ireland in Belfast.
On 31st May the Irish World had IBRG branch for Merseyside which gave a write up for the first meeting 13th June.
The Glor na nGael Tour of Britain was staring on 5th June with Majella Crehan and Caitriona Scanlan of Haringey IBRG doing most of the work with Pat Reynolds arranging London accommodation and transport to meetings. On 5th June Noirin Ni Cealaigh started her tour of Britain by speaking at Arus na Gael in Brent as part of her tour organised and sponsored by IBRG. 18 people attended the meeting in Brent.
On 6th June Noirin was speaking at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in Islington where 40 people attended with a benefit later at the Victoria in Holloway road which raised £150 for Glor na nGael. On 7th June Noirin was guest speaker at the Irish women’s centre. A meeting was held meeting was in Manchester which drew over 40 people. The Irish Post and the Irish in Britain News covered the Tour but made no mention of IBRG who sponsored and organised it.
The Irish Post had a feature In Defence of the Language and Lords likely to decide case two articles on Glor na Gael on 15th June and on 8th June had Glor nan Gael fighting back. The British government has slapped a Public Interest Immunity Certificate on the group in their search for document which had led to a Court battle. These were often used to cover up wrong doings by the state.
On 7th June IBRG members attended the Dessie Ellis benefit at the Camden Irish centre.
On 14th June IBRG members picketed the Old Bailey for the Dessie Ellis trail and later that evening picketed the Irish Embassy where Mary Robinson Irish President came face to face with her first picket.
Newham Council and homeless Irish
On 21st June the IBRG condemned the High Court decision which stated that Newham council had no legal duty to house a homeless Irish family after they had fled sectarian violence in Belfast. In a public statement the IBRG said ‘The IBRG are alarmed and very concerned at the decision of the High Court of 21th June 1991 that Newham council had no obligation to house an Irish family on the grounds that they had made themselves intentionally homeless. The family had fled Belfast after sustained Loyalist violence and now faced being put on the street by Newham Council. The IBRG finds the decision of the High Court unacceptable and in our view morally wrong. The decision has major implications for families leaving Nt Ireland because of intimidation and violence. The IBRG have written to Newham council asking them to reconsider their decision and rehouse the family, and have raised the issue with Tony Banks Labour MP the local MP who is from Nt Ireland. The IBRG maintain that families fleeing violence in Nt Ireland should be treated as homeless and rehoused in Britain. If the British government who are responsible for policing in Belfast cannot provide safe housing for families, then they should at least be willing to provide housing for the few families who flee to Britain because of immediate violence’.
The IBRG noted the publication in June of the Consultation paper on languages in the National Curriculum had again excluded the Irish language. The IBRG expressed disappointed that only Conradh na Gaeileg and IBRG had put in submission to the DES on the matter and in a public statement said ‘If the Irish community in Britain are to effect change in any public institution then they must at once make their voices heard and their demands known. The demand for equal cultural and language rights in Britain needs the full support of all the community and we call on all Irish organisations to make their views known to their public representatives on the issue. The exclusion of the Irish language makes a mockery of the equal opportunities policy statement of the working party, and it is clear that for them equal opportunities do not extend to Irish parents and their children’.
Aldershot Labour Party had proposed a motion to the Labour Party Annual conference calling for the Irish language to be included in the National curriculum. Pat Reynolds was working with the proposer of the motion offering support.
On 21st June the Irish in Britain News carried a page long feature on Jim King who had been selected by Labour to fight a Tory held seat in Southport Lancashire, after spending seven years as a Labour councillor in Salford. Jim said that he had been involved in IBRG in the early years and was national chair for three years, and that IBRG was one of the most radical Irish community groups that came on stream this century.’ The IBRG, he said, were a catalyst for many issues affecting the Irish like the PTA and cases like the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four.
On 26th June the Maguire Seven are finally cleared by the Court of Appeal in London after serving sentences from four years to fourteen years.
On 29th June the Ard Choiste met at the Labour Club in Lewisham with eight delegates present including host Diarmuid Breatnach, Siobhan O’Dwyer, Tom Fitzsimons, Teresa Burke, Neil Doolin, Virginia Moyles and Pat Reynolds.
Apologies from Gearoid MacGearailt, Majella Crehan and Kevin Hayes.
There were 11 active branches.
The meeting heard reports back on the Glor na nGael tour of Britain, the Dessie Ellis campaign, and the campaign for the vote in Ireland.
IBRG in London had met with Glor na Deorai in London over the issue of votes for emigrants. Several branches were planning activities to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the hunger Strikes.
It was reported that the report on the Irish community in Britain produced by the Inter Parliamentary Irish in Britain Body was oppressive, dangerous and inaccurate and a white wash. Branches were urged to write letters of complaints. The report was seen as an effort by the Irish government to close off any work by the CRE or others to highlight anti Irish discrimination in Britain.
Lewisham IBRG were holding a day school on Ireland. A message of sympathy was sent to the family of Donegal Sinn Fein Member Eddie Fullerton who was murdered by Loyalists in Donegal. Eddie had spent most of his life in Birmingham before he returned home.
Diarmuid Breatnach had a long letter in the Irish weekly about organising in Nalgo and getting motions to Conference.
On 28th June the Irish World carried a feature Public Meeting to Support Jim Moher who was the Labour candidate for Brent North and the Irish Interest group had organised a meeting with Jim speaking and Pat Reynolds PRO IBRG to talk about the needs of the Irish community in Brent.
On 2nd July Pat Reynolds PRO had an interview with BBC Radio 5 and that evening was speaking at a public meeting at Aras na Gael in Brent along with Jim Moher Irish Labour candidate for Labour in the General election.
On 3rd July Pat Reynolds was speaking at a full house at a Dessie Ellis public meeting at Central Library in Islington.
On 5th July IBRG members attended a welcome home meeting at the Haringey Irish centre for the Birmingham Six. Pat Reynolds had a letter from Michael Farrell who was considering a libel case against the Sun for some of its materials about the Birmingham Six after Pat had sent him coverage from the British media on the case.
On 7th July Nesan Quinlivan and Pierce McAuley escaped from Brixton and were later seen at the Irish Festival in Brent that afternoon.
On 8th July Pat Reynolds had an interview BBC TV South East on the Brixton escape, where he advised the escaped men to head for the Wicklow Hills rather than give themselves up to British injustice.
On 9th July the British Independent featured IBRG in a piece on the escape.
On 10th July Pat Reynolds PRO gave an interview to RTE radio on After 5 show on the same issue.
Trevor O Farrell had a long letter in the Irish Post on 27th July where he noted that 37 TDs could not even be bothered to vote on a Bill proposing to give Irish emigrants the vote. Trevor pointed out that in Britain a Party winning 42% of the vote can end up with a majority of 100 seats given the British voting system. He stated ‘If no party is willing or able publicly to pledge themselves to the cessation of British military and political interference in Ireland, or to provide definite proposals for tackling the impasse inherent in the Unionist veto, then on this issue it is hard to see any reason for supporting any of them’. He argued against the two evils syndrome which the community had fallen for in supporting Labour.
On 29th July Pat Reynolds was a speaker at Brent Council full meeting on the needs of the Irish community in Brent, when the Tory Council cut funds to various Irish projects.
In July the IBRG condemned the so-called Peace Train into London by reactionaries’ forces in Ireland supported by Labour Harry Barnes. The IBRG called on them to go home and stop engaging in British propaganda stunts for a servile pro-British anti Irish media. IBRG stated that the Peace Train condemned the violence of the oppressed but ignored the violence of the British state in its shoot to kill policy.
TOM stated that ‘far from being a peace movement the group is made of politicians and interest groups with a clearly partisan approach to the future of Nt Ireland’ The Repeal the PTA campaign urged the event’s organisers to highlight restrictions imposed on Irish people under the PTA. The New Consensus were clearly anti Republican and pro Unionist. It was later revealed that the so-called Peace Train had been given £8,500 by the British government
On 11th August the IBRG banner was carried on the Anti Internment march in Belfast by Haringey IBRG members with Laura Sullivan and Pat Reynolds attending. The Andersonstown News had a central photo of the IBRG banner on the parade with another one from the Basque country.
On 12th August it was announced that the case of Judith Ward jailed for the M62 Coach bombing was to be reviewed raising hopes that she would be released.
On 30th August IBRG member picketed 10 Downing St over Glory na Gael funding.
On 31st August Lewisham IBRG held their 1916/Hunger strike commemoration event. The Poster for the event featured James Connolly and Bobby Sands.
In August Margaret Mullarkey of Bolton IBRG had an article in the Irish Weekly about the history of the Irish in Bolton with Joe Mullarkey later calling for an Irish community centre in Bolton in another article published by the Irish in Britain news.
The Mullarkey family had a whole page to themselves. Margaret Mullarkey gave a potted history of the Irish in Bolton and how they were in radical movements in Britain like the Chartist and trade union movements, but also involved in Irish issues such as Home Rule and the Irish struggle for independence, and then she recorded the work of IBRG in Bolton since 1983, and their involvement with other Irish groups in running a successful Bolton Irish festival and then helping to set up BICA(Bolton Irish Community Association).
Joe Mullarkey article’s was headed Bolton Irish to get Organised. Joe argued that the Irish need an Irish community centre in Bolton. Joe stated ‘the Irish are a community in Bolton and are entitled to receive the same level of service and support as any other community. But unless it unites and presents its needs in a very structured and documented manner using the best members of the community, those needs will never be addressed’. Another article in the Irish Post on 31st August had IBRG Input at Bolton’s festival while another article had Irish input in Manchester about the Irish input into Manchester International Festival of Arts.
Michael O’Cnaimhsi of N.E.Lancs IBRG had a letter in the Irish Post with the headline Blackburn success about the success of Feile Cardiuil Eireannach.
On 7th September Bolton IBRG organised an Irish evening as part of Bolton’s 200 years celebrations.
On 7th September the IBRG Ard Choiste was held in Liverpool.
The Ard Choiste welcomed the actions of Amnesty International in issuing an urgent notice on the British government over its ill treatment of a Catholic youth in Castlereagh Interrogation centre. The meeting welcomed the action of Amnesty International in issuing an urgent notice upon the British government over the ill-treatment of a Catholic teenage boy in Castlereagh Interrogation centre.
IBRG condemned the British government for its systematic abuse of detainees over the past 20 years in Nt Ireland and condemned the sheer hypocrisy of the British Prime Minister, using an Amnesty list of prisoners to berate the Chinese government while his own government, has been involved in widespread abuse of human rights in Nr Ireland from Shoot to kill policy to the ill treatment of detainees.
On 7th September the Southwark Irish Forum held their spirit of 1916 event at Elephant and Castle in south London an evening to celebrate the 75th anniversary of 1916 in music words and song with guest republican speaker who was Gerry McLoughlin of Sinn Fein. The Irish Post covered it with a number of photos with one including John Carty, Jodie Clark, Maire Steadman, Gerry McLoughlin, all IBRG members.
Irish Input at Bolton’s top Festival in the Irish Post had a photo of Margaret and Joe Mullarkey with Labour Councillor Pauline Spencer at the final night of the Bolton Irish Festival.
On 14th September the IBRG held their Irish Prisoners Awareness day at the Camden Irish centre. Over 50 delegates attended from various organisations attended. The main item of the day was for Irish prisoners to be transferred back to Ireland.
The cases of Dessie Ellis, Judith Ward, Danny McNamee, Nick Mullen were all raised. The Irish Post had a photo of the speakers which included Nina Hutchinson from the Danny McNamee campaign, Annette Maloney from the Desie Ellis campaign, Majella Crehan, Von McCleary from the Nick Mullen campaign and Liz Leicester from the Kilburn defendants’ campaign, with the IBRG banner draped over the table with the headline IBRG conference highlights prisoners’ rights issues.
Jennifer McCann from Sinn Fein POW Department, called for full support for all prison related campaign in particular the transfer of prisoners. The piece stated that the strongest call of the weekend was for the transfer of Irish prisoners. A pre meeting piece in the Irish Post had Prisoners demands in focus at Camden Meeting.
On 25th September IBRG members attended a meeting at Conway Hall on Dessie Ellis where Ken Livingstone spoke with Paddy Joe Hill.
On 30th September IBRG joined a picket of the Irish Embassy over Dessie Ellis.
In Manchester IBRG along with the NW Labour History Group launched the 16th issue of their journal devoted to the Irish input into Labour History in the Northwest.
On 3rd October IBRG members attended a public meeting in Brighton to hear Martha Ellis Dessie’s sister, Frances McNamee (Danny’s brother) and Billy Power B6 speaking. The meeting British Justice No Irish Need apply was to focus on the Dessie Ellis and Danny McNamee campaign during the Labour Party Conference in Brighton. Other speakers were Jeremy Corbyn MP, Majella Crehan IBRG, and Pat Reynolds of Desie Ellis campaign, with chair by Dorothy Macedo National Co- Chair Labour Party Socialist Group at the Brighton Centre. There was also a joint social for the two campaigns on 1st October which Haringey IBRG had helped organise.
Haringey IBRG put on a series of Irish films during the Autumn/winder months with The Irishmen and Impression of Exile on 2nd October with a speaker from the Construction Safety campaign, Suspect Community about the PTA on 6th November with a PTA speaker, andon 4th December and on 29th October Silent Scream about 17 people, eight of them children, killed by Plastic Bullets in N. Ireland which was commissioned but then censored by Channel Four.
On 5th October IBRG members with their banners were on the Broadwater Farm March from Haringey Civic Centre to Finsbury Park to hear Bernie Grant MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, and Sharon Raghip who called for the release of Desie Ellis and Danny McNamee. Billy Power (Birmingham Six) who called for the release of Judith ward and the Bridgewater defendants. The Dessie Ellis Campaign had their banner on the march. Billy Power got a huge reception from the crowd and he gave a victory salute flanked by Bernie Grant MP and Jeremy Corbyn MP.
On 9th October Pat Reynolds was speaking at the Selby Centre in Haringey on racial harassment and the Irish community to over 100 people on a conference on racial harassment and Schools. Pat drew on the work of Dr Elinor Kelly on her work Anti-Racism After Burnage in Manchester which included the experiences of Irish children in schools which was often ignored and unrecorded.
On 10th October Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking with Duncan Campbell and Mark Wadsworth on censorship at the Cultural partnerships conference. The meeting drew a capacity crowd of students and media people.
On 18th October the Irish in Britain News ran a feature on Manchester which includes a piece on Manchester IBRG and carried a photo of Mike Herbert’s Walk around Irish Manchester.
On 19th October the Comcomhairle was postponed because of travel problems faced by delegates from London getting to Bolton after 3PM.
On 27th October IBRG members attended the Terence McSwiney Memorial Mass at Southwark Cathedral. The Irish Post photo of 2nd November featured a number of IBRG members including Cllr Jodie Clark, Pat Reynolds, Sr Jean Marie, along with the Lord Mayor of Cork, Jimmy Doyle, Siobhan Ui Neill and others.
In Southwark efforts by Peckham Labour Party to name a housing office in Southwark after Terence MacSwiney was blocked after the South London Press attacked the idea. The IBRG attacked Labour for running scared of the right-wing press, and noted that Neil Kinnock was happy to be associated with James Connolly to win Irish votes. The issue was covered in An Phoblacht where IBRG criticised Labour for caving in to pressure from the right-wing press and drew attention to how Neil Kinnock was happy to appear with a plaque of well-known Irish pacifist James Connolly in his hands. If Neil Kinnock saw fit to be identified with Connolly, the local Labour Party must honour another heroic Irishman from the same period.
The Irish Post had MacSwiney Row hits Southwark .IBRG member and local Labour Councillor Jodie Clark stated that the Council should recognise a nationally respected Irish historical figure. Southwark had a long historical Irish connection as far back as the 1540’s and now has an Irish population of 12,000. Jodie Clark stated that other local minority communities had their own historical figures commemorated and it was right for the Irish to also be honoured. MacSwiney was a cultured literary man with great insight into public housing and public services and was Lord Mayor of Cork and a member of the Irish Dail, who died in Brixton prison and his funeral mass was at Southwark cathedral. He was the only major figure of the Irish War of Independence to die in London. In the Irish in Britain News Pat Reynolds called on Southwark Council to reconsider the matter and honour MacSwiney and stated ‘The British Legion commemorate their dead, so they should show respect for our dead’.
On 30th October Dessie Ellis was acquitted of all charges. A successful campaign led by IBRG with both Chair and secretary being IBRG members which got widespread support across the community and from Irish solidarity groups. Dessie got his ticket back home paid for by the British state as he was excluded from Britain under the PTA.
On 31st October Lambeth Nalgo Irish workers group including IBRG members organised an Irish afternoon seminar at Lambeth town hall where Richard Balfe MEP and the Leader of Lambeth council spoke.
The IBRG deplored Marlow Council in Thameside which had taken the shamrock out of their two crests. The Liberal Party wanted to get rid of the crest which a former Irish Tory Mayor had included the shamrock as a mark of respect to his own father, and other Irish people who had helped to build Marlow town. The Irish in Britain news had Marlow in anti-Irish dispute. Only 370 people out of 15,000 people had signed the petition and at least 30 names had been duplicated on the list.
On 23rd November the Comhcomhairle was held at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in North London. The following branches attended Manchester, Birmingham, Lewisham, Haringey, Harrow, Coventry, and Camden/Islington. Eleven delegates were present including Bernadette Hyland Chair, Kevin Hayes, Diarmuid Breatnach, Pat Reynolds Maurice Moore, Maurice Cahill, Tom Fitzsimons, Val Deegan, Siobhan O Dwyer, Robert Ryan, and Virginia Moyles.
Apologies from Linda Sever, Laura Sullivan and Majella Crehan.
Branches were asked to write to the Home Secretary demanding the release of innocent Irish prisoner Judith Ward. It was agreed to donate £100 to the Bloody Sunday Commemoration march and Rally.
The meeting called on branches to take up Judith Ward’s case. Mike Bromell had been freed while Martin Foran had escaped and had been rearrested. It was agreed that Kevin Hayes produce a new PTA leaflet.
On 30th November Lewisham Nalgo held an Irish conference.
On 30th November Pat Reynolds as a long-standing member of Haringey Ethnic Minority Community Consultative Committee was a guest at Freedom of Haringey Borough ceremony and celebration at Tottenham Town hall to Comrade Oliver Tambo and his wife Adelaide. Oliver was Vice President of the ANC, to recognise the contribution they had made to contribution the struggle for freedom in South Africa during his years of exile, and while living in Haringey that had provided an inspiration to many local residents. They were given the title of Honorary Freeman and Woman of Haringey. The evening was filled with many rebel songs from South Africa and Tottenham Town Hall felt at times to be like being in the Roddy McCorley Republican Club in Belfast with its rousing songs and music. The evening looked forward to freedom for all South Africans and in many other places where they were fighting for freedom.
On 2nd December Dolan in the Irish Post wrote in an article Linkage forged by injustice ‘In the early eighties the Irish in London learned a lot about community activism from Black organisations. By the late Eighties, the Black community was learning from the Irish how best to campaign for the release of the Tottenham Three. How fitting that, on his release on bail, Mark Braithwaite should have singled out Billy Power for praise. At the press conference he held his hand and went on to say that this was the man who gave me hope and inspiration. But long before the Birmingham Six were released, Billy Power’s daughter Breda, was cooperating with the Tottenham Three campaign. She and Engin Raghip’s wife, Sharon, had become close friends. They first met as speakers at a rally in London organised jointly by the Broadwater Farm Defence Campaign and the Irish in Britain Representation Group. But it was while visiting the men at Wormwood Scrubs Prison that the two young women became friends. They had much in common including having experienced Lord Lane. We feel we have known each other for years. Breda Power told the Irish Post at the time. So, there was a joint campaign. And they won. Incidentally Sharon Raghip is of Irish descent, while his husband is of Turkish background’.
Manchester IBRG were involved in putting on Manchester 4th Irish film festival which started on 7th December and lasted a week.
In Manchester Bernadette Hyland met with the NW TUC Leader Alan Manning to discuss issues affecting the Irish in Britain and the situation in Ireland. The North West TUC were shortly to go on a fact-finding trip to both the 6 and 26 counties in Ireland. The Irish in Britain News covered this with Concern over Young Irish Homeless in Manchester which reported on the meeting between Alan Manning North West TUC leader and Bernadette Hyland National chair of IBRG. Bernadette called for more research and support for the young Irish arriving in Manchester
The IBRG welcomed the report by Seamus Taylor and Haringey Council entitled Equal opportunities the Irish Dimension an Agenda for Change. The report was supported by Bernie Grant MP, Kevin McNamara MP, Clive Soley MP, Harriet Harman MP and Clare Short MP. The IBRG called on the CRE to recognise the Irish as an ethnic community, and take action to address discrimination against the Irish community in Britain. The Irish in Britain News covered the event with Second Class citizens but in claiming it was the first report to show the conditions of the Irish community in Britain, it was wrong. The Greater London Council had published a number of reports relating to the Irish community in London and their social conditions and likewise had Islington Council, where Dr Michael Maguire of the Irish in Islington Project had done trojan research work on the Irish in Islington. Likewise, the IBRG conference in Camden on the mental health of the Irish and the annual Lambeth IBRG welfare conferences. The newspapers report gave the IBRG response to the report
In December the IBRG condemned Abbey National Building Society for using a ‘Paddy’ joke in their advertising feature. Kevin McNamara MP took up the issue. The advert had a fictitious investor called Mr A Paddy from Cork Eire. This was the second time in two years that the IBRG pulled up Abbey National over their anti-Irish material. Abbey were also one of the Building Society’s which discriminated against Catholic workers in N. Ireland. The Andersonstown News gave it head billing with Abbey National gets the Paddy habit. And the Irish World had Abbey National apologise to Irish staff as Bad Habit is Blasted. Kevin McNamara was quoted ‘These people are right to be outraged. It is typical of the attitude held by certain sections of English society against the Irish It is proof if proof is needed of the hidden discrimination in our society by the use of the racist joke’. The IBRG forced Abbey National to withdraw the advert and apologise.
In December the new Press Complaints Commission turned down an IBRG complaint over the To-Day newspaper about lilywhites and the IRA claiming that Irish students were joining the IRA and that your quiet neighbour could in reality be in the IRA. So, watch you Irish neighbours.
IBRG had complained to the Press Complaints Commission over a Today front-page story of 18th November. Mr and Mrs Lillywhite who were Irish were now a danger to Britain alleging that Irish people in Britain were IRA sleepers. The Commission now stated that they could not consider any complaints unless they were specific and identify individuals which was a clear licence to abuse the community at large. ‘They appear to be typical next-door neighbours, perhaps with a trace of an Irish accent.
IBRG stated that the new Press body was even worse than the old Press Council and that under the new regime, John Junor’s comments would not have been censured since he named nobody. Minority communities in Britain were now left without redress when under racist attacks in the British media. The Irish in Britain News took the side of the Today newspaper and the Press Complaints Commission and ended up by stating ‘We Irish should count ourselves fortunate that the English population in general is so tolerant’ probably the most shocking editorial by any Irish newspaper in Britain, which would have easily fitted into the Sun newspaper.
On 7th December Pat Reynolds Chair of the London Dessie Ellis campaign travelled to Dublin for the welcome home benefit for Dessie Ellis.
The Manchester 4th Irish Film festival was put on between 7th and 14th December and was covered in both the Irish Post and the Irish World. It had the Commitments, Pigs, Journey to Knock and The Grass Arena. The Festival was put on jointly with IBRG and the Cornerhouse Arts Centre. There was also a one-day event entitled Protestant and Irish with guest speakers Christina Reid and Cherry Smyth
On 11th December Pat Reynolds had an interview with BBC Radio Belfast about the CRE and the Irish community, and on 22nd December had a similar interview with BBC Radio Warwickshire Irish program.
On 20th December the Irish in Britain News ran a story Irish people innocent victims of firebombs backlash which detailed several firebomb attacks upon Irish people and Irish Centres including the Irish World Heritage site in Manchester. The report quoted Bernadette Hyland who spoke of increased police activity at ports and against students after any IRA action in Britain.
On 22nd December the papers reported Fury over Prince Andrews Irish tart crack where Prince Andrews stated at a Reception at the American Embassy in London that he had his own theory as to how Maxwell had died with some racist sexist joke about an ‘Irish tart’. Here we get Prince Andrew mocking the Irish and of course Maxwell made thousands selling racist sexist books about the Irish including the Irish joke book and the Irish Kama Sutra. Maybe Andrew got the racist sexist joke there. They say mocking is catching and both Prince Andrew and Maxwell daughter would be involved in an alleged case of the sexual abuse of minors in Britain and America. Jim King of IBRG was quoted as calling on Andrew to apologise to the Irish community for his so-called joke.
On 31st December Pat Reynolds was an invited guest at Paddy Joe Hill New Year’s Eve Party in Teddington to see in his first new year in freedom after 16 years in prison.
Listen to my talk about the IBRG in the northwest in the Irish Collection at the WCML here
An excellent history of 200 years of Irish political activity in Manchester – including Manchester IBRG read “The Wearing of the Green” by Michael Herbert. Buy it here
Read previous posts on IBRG history here