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 meeting discussed the upcoming Bloody Sunday march in London, the Ard Fheis in London on 26th March, the Downing St Declaration, the McBride Principles, the PTA, Prisoners and Travellers. The meeting heard that the IBRG had responded to the Downing St Declaration which had been covered in the Irish Post, Irish World and An Phoblacht.
The meeting heard that Southwark Irish Staff Group, which had a number of IBRG members, had taken up the case of Securicor discriminating against a young Catholic woman in Belfast where they had been fined £25,000. IBRG wanted Southwark Council, to take action against Securicor under their equal opportunities policy, which allows them to take action against employers who have been found guilty of discrimination. However, it later turned out that because of a legal loophole, a public body in Britain cannot take action against a firm discriminating in Nt Ireland, as the law governing action only applies to Britain.
The meeting gave £100 to the Bloody Sunday March, £25 to the McNulty campaign and Merseyside IBRG gave a further £10, and £50 to the West Midlands PTA campaign. The meeting discussed the new Criminal Justice bill which would affect Travellers and the Irish community. The meeting condemned the racist attack on the Chair of the Bristol Irish Society. It was reported that some 200 people attended a lecture by the historian JJ Lee from Cork University in Hammersmith on 12th December on the Great Hunger in Ireland.
IBRG branches took part in the Bloody Sunday March in London with their banners from Hyde Park to Kilburn on 29th January. Haringey and Lewisham IBRG had their banners on the march. With members attending from Coventry, Hackney, Leeds and Brighton. Ken Livingstone was the main speaker along with Sinn Fein and Jeremy Corbyn MP.
Tim Smith Tory MP was appointed Minister of State for N. Ireland in January. The IBRG condemned the appointment given his opposition to Irish people in Britain having the vote. The IBRG put out a statement on 10th January objecting to his appointment. Following Tim Smith statement that votes for the Irish in Britain were unjustified, John Major was forced in Parliament to state, that his government had no plans to change the arrangements where Irish citizens can vote in Britain. British people living in the Republic were also allowed to vote there.
The Irish government lifted its Section 31 ban on Sinn Fein in January.
In Southwark Pat Reynolds Irish Policy Officer had drafted a report to the Education Committe with a series of recommendations including putting Irish culture onto the national curriculum including history and literature. Southwark Council should also recognise the Southwark Irish Forum as the main consultative body for the Irish community in Southwark.
Carlton TV in a letter to IBRG in January admitted that the Frank Carson jibe about the Great Starvation in Ireland was offensive and promised to be ‘more sensitive with our choice of material in the future’.
In a statement by the IBRG on 22nd January the IBRG objected to Carlton TV position where they stated that ‘Most communities enjoy a joke at their own expense and it would be a sad day in a difficult world if we cannot laugh at ourselves’. IBRG pointed out that Irish literature was full of humour and wit, but there was a huge difference between racism and humour. The racist anti Irish joke has been the main tool in the racialisation and abuse of Irish children within British schools, and had no place in fostering understanding between different people.
Again, IBRG quoted the English critic Victor Lewis Smith from the London Evening Standard writing on comedians like Carson and Manning who appeared on the Royal variety show ‘After two and a half hours of frilly shirted comedians saying there was an Englishman, and Irishman and a Scotsman. The Dominion seemed to be not so much a theatre but as an zoo, a last refuge which for species which you thought had long ago become extinct, and which clearly could no longer survive in the wild’.
However, the Broadcasting Standards Council in a reply to Pat Reynolds PRO on 11th January found nothing wrong with Carson’s jibe about the Great Hunger, and nothing wrong about a racist jibe about the death from forced starvation of over a million Irish people, after its Complaints Committee meeting of 6th December.
Gerry Adams was allowed into America in February despite opposition from Britain.
Dominic McGlinchey was shot dead in Drogheda on 10th February.
On 10th February over 70 people attended a Frank Johnson public meeting at the Camden Irish centre with Gareth Pierce speaking along with the McNulty family.
On 11th February the film In the Name of the Father opened in London based on the story of Gerry Conlon. The IBRG condemned the remarks of BBC 1 DJ Nicky Campbell who stated ‘who will be the biggest fundraiser for the IRA, that film or Gerry Adams.’
On 14th February Pat Reynolds was speaking on Anti-Irish Racism in the Workplace at Lambeth Town Hall organised by the Lambeth Unison Irish Workers Group. The second event was on 14th March with Mary Hickman speaking on Irish People and Emigration, and on 11th April Peter Moloney on Irish Outdoor Political Art on his collection. Irish workers in Lambeth had paid time off to attend these day time lectures. The Irish Workers group got an annual small grant from Lambeth Unison to spend on community events similar to Brent.
On 17th February the Home Affairs Committee of the House of Commons wrote to Pat Reynolds PRO with a Final Draft of the IBRG Memorandum on Racial Attacks and Harassment as it affected the Irish Community.
On 19th February Lambeth IBRG held their 6th annual Irish Welfare Conference at Lambeth Town Hall entitled Irish Perspectives on British Welfare- Caring for Our Community with speakers Gearoid McGearailt on Irish Elders, Phil MacGiollabhain on Mental health, Padraig Kenna on Housing and Homelessness, Marie Steadman on Women’s as carers, Alex McDonnell on Irish Travellers and an Irish language workshop on Community Care.
The guest speaker was Fr Des Wilson from West Belfast speaking on communities. The Welfare conference got much publicity with Caring for our Community Irish Welfare Conference in Irish World, and Irish Welfare Conference in south London and a week later London Irish Welfare Conference in the Irish Post with an advert for the event.
Merseyside IBRG put on Liverpool’s first ever Irish cultural festival from 22nd-27th February. The festival was given a message of support from Mary Robinson Irish President. The festival included a Cultural Parade on 26th February, Eamon McCann on 23rd February, Liam Greenslade on 25th February along with a range of Irish music and other events.
The Festival got considerable media coverage. The Irish Echo had Merry on the Mersey Hopes high for Liverpool’s first Irish Festival, on 29th January the Irish Post had Countdown to Liverpool Irish festival, on 5th February Liverpool set for feast of Irish culture, on 12th February Merseyside Irish in festive mood, on 19th February it had Liverpool readiness with a photo of Neil Doolin, on March 5th with Another Liverpool Success with two photos of the event, on 12th March a large spread of photos of the event including the big parade with seven photos. The Liverpool Irish Cultural and Community festival produced thousands of their Green White and Orange programme of events.
The CRE announced that Mary Hickman and Bronwen Walters had won the £50,000 research project on Discrimination and the Irish community. The Sun lost its racist temper and published a whole page of anti-Irish gutter racist jokes based on century old of colonial stereotypes when the British thought there were masters of Black and Irish people.
On 27th February the IBRG put in a detailed submission to the British Government over their Habitual Residence Test and how it would impact upon the Irish community. A number of IBRG branches also put in submissions. The British were later to exclude the Irish from this test, because it would have been impossible to implement it.
IBRG’s four page submission, drafted by the PRO, gave a background legal position of the Irish community in Britain based on the 1949 Ireland Act, the Immigration Act 1971, the British Nationality Act 1981 and the Race Relations Act 1976. It showed that the position of the Irish community in Britain with the British state, was very different from that of citizens from the EU, in that Irish rights in the UK predated the EU and gave the Irish in Britain similar status in law as that of British subjects. There was also a Common Travel Area under the 1971 Immigration Act between Britain and the Irish mainland. Leaving aside the racist PTA laws and discrimination the Irish had established rights in Britain. The Rights of EU citizens came from the European Communities Act 1972(Treaty of Rome).
Under the heading No Taxation without Benefits the IBRG argued that the Irish benefitted the British economy enormously as each Irish citizen entering Britain with an education saved the British state up to £100,000 which the Irish taxpayer had paid for. The IBRG argued there could be no taxation of the Irish community without having access to benefits for those in need or in sickness within our community. The Irish were far more economically active than the British born population with very few students. The IBRG challenged the British government on their Sun/Daily Mail xenophobia around abuse of benefits, and there was no evidence of any extra Irish involvement in fraud than the British born population. The Irish were not benefit tourists but came to Britain to work. The real benefit tourist was the uninvited British army of occupation in the Six Counties.
The IBRG expressed it concerns over the provisions in the Criminal Justice Bill which would include new PTA clauses enabling police to set up roadblocks and arrests people for having a range of household materials. It also included the repeal of the 1968 Caravan Sites Act which was to have a huge impact on Travellers in Britain. It also proposed removing the right to silence which it did later.
On 5th March Pat Reynolds visited Frank Johnson in Swaleside Prison on Isle of Sheppey in Kent.
On 9th March the IRA mortar bombed Heathrow Airport and closed it down, and repeated the exercise on both the 11th and 13th March making idiots of British intelligence.
On 11th March Pat Reynolds gave a lecture on Reality versus Stereotypes Irish Images in the media to over 100 people at the Museum of London at the Barbican as part of their Irish focus week, which also included Angie Birthill talking on Irish women in London, Now We Talking an Oral History and Exhibition on the Elderly Irish in Southwark completed by Morley College, Philip Donnellan The Irishman an impression of exile, and the Green Ink Writers Group presenting their own short stories and poetry.
On 12th March there was a benefit at the Camden Irish centre for Frank Johnson. It was reported that his solicitor was due to put in a submission to the Home Office to have his case reopened.
On 15th March the IBRG put in a five-page submission drafted by the PRO on Access to Local authority and housing Association tenancies. The new Government proposals would exclude the majority of Irish homeless people either arriving or already in Britain, and would institutionalise anti Irish discrimination within housing provision in Britain
IBRG called for the 1985 Housing Act to be retained and called on the Government to put forward genuine proposals to end homelessness in Britain. The IBRG pointed out that the Irish in Britain were the least likely of any community, except the Bangladeshi, to own their own houses in Britain. Only the Bangladeshi and the Afro Caribbean communities were more dependent on public housing than the Irish. The Irish had the highest figures for private rented accommodation and live in accommodation with high rents, overcrowding, low security and high evictions rates with many having to share facilities like bathrooms and kitchens. The Irish were over represented in single homeless figures both on the street and in short term hostels, with alarming high rate of mental ill-health, and more likely to be in low paid low skilled work.
IBRG went on to make ten proposals to improve the housing position of the Irish community in Britain, and noted that the Irish community had made an enormous contribution to house building in Britain and in housing the British public. The mobility of Irish workers in construction work and of nurses in the NHS should be noted as many nurses were hospital based during training.
On 18th March Hugh Callaghan and Niamh Cusack opened the London Irish Bookfair at the Camden Irish centre. Pat Reynolds, as Chair of Green Ink, welcomed the large attendance who came for the opening of the bookfair, and welcomed Hugh Callaghan to the event. Among the speakers at the Bookfair were Bernadette MacAliskey, Tim Pat Coogan and Robert Kee all drawing huge crowds with Bernadette drawing several hundred and standing room only. It was the largest Irish Literary event in the world with over 4,000 attending over three days.
On 19th March Neil Doolin and Maire Kennedy of Merseyside IBRG got married.
On 21st March Southwark Council agreed in Committee a Mutual Transfer Policy with Local Authorities in Ireland.
The policy was drafted by their Irish policy Officer Pat Reynolds. It was a first of a kind whereby an Irish family in Southwark could swap their house with a family in Dublin or Cork. It got huge media coverage in both Irish and British press – some hostile from the right-wing press. Tory Councillors in Southwark opposed the move with their usual rant. There were 8,203 Irish Republic born living in Southwark with 57% of them living in council housing. Southwark had one of the highest council housing density in Britain.
On 24th March Pat Reynolds gave a Presentation on the Irish Community to Lambeth Social Services Committee.
On 26th March Diarmuid Breatnach had the star letter in the Irish Post on celebrating 1916 entitled Rising worth Celebrating
The IBRG Ard Fheis took place on 26th March at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in Islington North London. Seven branches attended namely Manchester, Lewisham, Haringey, Birmingham, Harrow, Merseyside and Hackney/Camden. Fourteen delegates attended.
Those attending include the elected officers apart from Neil Doolin who was on his honeymoon in Donegal, and the following Padraigin Ni Nuallain, Siobhan ODwyer, Kevin Hayes, Nula Eefting, Val Deegan, Pat Cullinane, Maurice Cahill, Terry Corbin, and Maire Byrne-McCann attended.
Apologies from Neil Doolin and Maire, Maurice Moore. Apologies from branches in Coventry, Bolton and Blackburn.
The meeting took an emergency motion from Lewisham IBRG on the death of Brian McNulty who had died waiting to clear his good name after his arrest under the racist PTA laws, the motion condemned his treatment in prison.
The following officers were elected
Chair Diarmuid Breatnach Lewisham
Vice Chair Virginia Moyles Hackney/Camden
Runai Neil Doolin Merseyside
Cisteoir Maurice Moore Coventry
PRO Pat Reynolds Haringey
Membership Bernadette Hyland Manchester
Prisoners. Laura Sullivan Haringey.
Diarmuid Breatnach took over as Chair from Virginia Moyles who had completed a three-year term. The meeting thanked her for her long work both as IBRG Runai and then National Chair. Virginia spoke about the proud history of IBRG in standing up for the rights of the Irish community and of IBRG being the cutting edge of the community against government attacks and censorship from Warrington the Warrington Downing St Declaration, the IBRG continued work for Irish prisoners, and that the IBRG had made that bit more safer to be Irish in Britain, and to be able to reflect pride in Irish culture.
The following motions were passed
A motion congratulating Merseyside IBRG on their pioneering work on behalf of the Irish community in Liverpool including organising the 1st ever Liverpool Irish Festival
A motion recognising that Frank Johnson was wrongfully convicted and calling for his case to be referred back to the Court of Appeal, and for his release and for his good name to be cleared,
A motion calling on the British government to close the legal loophole whereby firms e.g. Securicor in N. Ireland could discriminate against Catholics and yet apply for contracts in Britain with immunity,
A motion noting that the Downing St Declaration upheld the Unionist/British veto in Ireland, and rejecting the gerrymandering self-determination proposals of the declaration, and calling for the right of all Irish people to decide on their future without outside interference. The motion called on the IBRG to continue working for Irish self-determination, a motion condemning Peter Lilley’s proposal to cut Income benefit, Housing benefit, and Council tax benefits to the Irish community Irish with less than three years residence in Britain. The Motion called on IBRG to campaign against these proposals which attack the basic legal and civil rights of the community,
A motion deploring the proposals of George Young Housing Minister to attack the rights of Irish homeless people in Britain. The motion called on IBRG to campaign against the proposals which would deny Irish homeless people access to public housing,
A motion opposing the repeal of the Caravan Sites Act 1968 which removed the duty on local authorities to provide site for Travellers. The motion urges branches to fight for Travellers Rights to maintain their culture and lifestyle along with their right to proper sites and living conditions.
A motion condemning new clauses in the PTA which gave police more powers to stop and search vehicles and pedestrians, and new offenses of possession of any article or any information. The motion noted that these new powers in the Criminal Justice bill would lead to more innocent Irish people being arrested. The motion called on IBRG to intensify its campaign against the PTA including pursuing each individual arrest.
Bolton IBRG hosted Mary Nellis from Derry for their 5th March part of International Women’s Week.
The first meeting of Derby IBRG took place on 12th March.
Coventry IBRG held an Irish concert on St Patricks Eve.
Lewisham IBRG took part in the Lewisham Irish Festival from 11th -19th March.
Harrow IBRG held their Ard Fheis in March.
PTA Annual Debate
The PTA annual debate and renewal in the Commons took place on 9th March and the IBRG lobbied several MPs on the issue drawing attention to the film In the Name of the Father as one of the first cases under the PTA. The IBRG put out a statement on 5th March calling for total opposition to the PTA and condemned the new proposed measures on the PTA under the Criminal Justice and Public Order act, which would give the police powers to use PTA laws inland in stopping cars and stopping pedestrians in the street, and criminalise being in possession of ‘any article’ or ‘any information’ with the onus on the innocent person to prove their innocence.
On 31st March the IBRG took part in a picket of the Home Office over the case of Frank Johnson. On 9th April the Irish Post covered the event with a photo which included Billy Power of the Birmingham Six founder of the campaign, Pat Reynolds Chair of the campaign, Andy Parr, Laoise de Paor and many more.
The report stated that Gareth Pierce Frank’s solicitor had now submitted a request to the Home Office for full disclosure of the prosecution evidence in the 1975 case. She said that the Home Office should have great anxiety about the manner in which Frank Johnson was convicted, but warned that the journey to free him was a tortuously slow process. Frank was to spend 27 years in prison a record he shares with Nelson Mandela.
In March the IBRG put in a detailed submission to the Department of the Environment on their Consultation paper on Access to Local Authority and Housing Associations Tenancies arguing that the proposals were moving towards an English first policy on access to public housing, which did not take into account emigration and the mobility of Irish labour in Britain. The submission noted that the Irish had made an enormous contribution to building house for all communities in Britain and they should not exclude from the benefits of their labours.
On 3rd April Pat Reynolds was the key speaker the Home at the 1916 event organised by Lewisham IBRG at the Irish centre in Lewisham.
Richard O’Brien Case
On Easter Sunday 3rd April Richard O’Brien an Irishman was killed during an arrest by police outside the English Martyrs Catholic Club in Walworth south London. On 6th April Pat Reynolds Irish policy Officer at Southwark Council and Cllr Jodie Clark met with Alison O’Brien widow of Richard O’Brien to offer her support and advice and to put her in touch with Inquest, Birnberg solicitors and the Irish Embassy.
On 9th April over 100 demonstrators picketed Walworth Road police station over the killing of Richard O’Brien while in police custody. IBRG members attended the picket and provided a loudhailer for the demo which included many Travellers from London. It was the first occasion where the Irish community took up a death in custody in a big way and challenged the unlawful death.
On 21st April Paul Hill had his conviction of murdering a British soldier in Belfast in 1974 quashed in the Court of Appeal. The Lord Chief Justice for N. Ireland states that the inhuman treatment Hill suffered at Guildford Police station may have led him to confess to the murder.
On 21st April the IBRG met along with other Irish groups Herman Ouseley of the CRE.
On 23rd April Pat Reynolds was speaking at the Irish Consultative Conference in Sheffield at the University .Other speakers were Liam Greenslade, Patrick Buckland, Seamus Taylor, Bronwen Walters, and Brendan O Caollai of the Irish Embassy. It was the first national conference on Irish issues with two aims, to raise the national profile of Irish issues and culture in Britain, and to bring together professionals capable of having some impact on national initiatives to benefit the expatriate community.
Haringey Council and bad employment policies
In April the IBRG deployed Haringey’s council’s use of the Irish family name Brophy as an example of bad employment policies in their Equal opportunities policy paper Ensuring Equalities in Tendering Procedures presenting the Irish business as being stupid and anti-equal opportunities. On 4th April IBRG put out a statement deploring Haringey Council’s Equal Opportunities Policies for using a racist stereotype which was anti-Irish to demonstrate their policies.
IBRG called for an apology from the Council and asked, how many Irish companies had Haringey on their list of contractors used by the council, and what kind of contracts were offered to Irish companies. Pat Reynolds who was an Irish Community representative on Haringey’s Ethnic Minorities Consultative Committee raised the matter at a council meeting, and called for the council to address these staff prejudices against the Irish.
In April the IBRG welcomes Harriet Harman’s challenge to the government over their proposed cuts to Income Benefits to Irish people. Harman came out with her challenge after the Southwark Irish Forum raised the issue with her. Harman was the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury. On 20th April the IBRG put out a statement welcomes Harriet Harman’s intervention.
It marked one of the rare occasions in Britain when a front bench person of any party, raised an issue in the Commons on behalf of the Irish community. It also showed that the IBRG could move the Labour Party behind the Irish community on social issues affecting the community in Britain. Again, the IBRG pointed out that the Irish were more economically active than the British population and therefore contributed more to these benefits per head of population than the British.
In April the IBRG condemned the rantings of Paul Johnson in the Daily Mail about the Irish teaching the Caribbean how to fiddle the dole, who in turn taught the Nigerians. The IBRG remarked that perhaps the Irish had also taught the West Indies how to play cricket which was covered in the Irish papers. At that time the Irish community in London were supported the great West Indies team who were hammering the British in cricket, with Irish hurling fans admiring the great skills of the West Indian batsmen.
On 25th April the IBRG put out a statement condemning the xenophobia of the Daily Mail. The IBRG stated that Mr Johnson should stick to fantasy fiction writing. The opposite was the case in the Irish community where there was massive underclaiming by Irish elders and others, and Irish people came from a culture where reliance on state aid was frowned on, and Irish elders often went in want because of this cultural pride.
An Phoblacht covered the story along with several Irish papers and stated ‘The IBRG rubbished this cheap attack on minority communities with some well-chosen arguments, but their most telling response and one that will cut the heart of Johnson and his ilk, will be the tongue in check point that ‘next Mr Johnson will be telling us that the Irish taught the West Indians how to play cricket’. Howzatt, umpire.’
Kate Magee hearing Sheffield
In April IBRG members joined others including Philip Donnellan in picketing Sheffield Crown Court for the Kate Magee hearing which set the trial date for 18th July. The Irish Post covered the event with a photo of the banner Justice for Irish People Support Kate Magee with over 10 supporters in front including Phillip Donnellan, Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Moore, Michael Herbert, Kathleen Wright and others. The piece quoted Kevin Hayes stating ‘we remain firmly convinced of Kate’s innocence and we seriously concerned that it has been now over two years since she was arrested. Throughout this period Kate and her family have suffered considerate hardships and we now believe she should be allowed to rebuild her life with her children’.
During the trial the Kate Magee Support Group ensured that representatives from the Irish Embassy, trade unions and solidarity groups took part. The Sheffield Women and Ireland Group (see photo) were part of the campaign group and looked after Kate and her children before and during the trial.
Belmarsh Prison and access to Irish Language
In April the IBRG took up the ban on the Irish language being taught in Belmarsh prison in South east London where Sean McNulty and Hugh Jacks were denied access to the language. Sean McNulty stated that the Governor told them they could not have Irish classes, but they could have classes in any other language they wanted.
In a letter to IBRG the University lecturer and prisoner Feilim O hAdmaill stated that ‘this policy against the Irish language is vindictive, immoral and an example of racial discrimination’. His letters were being stopped because they were written in Irish and he had been banned from speaking in Irish to his family. Neil Doolin stated that the Irish language was seen as subversive both inside and outside the prison. Pat Reynolds PRO called for a Charter of Rights and called on the Irish government to clarify the situation on the language with the British government, and also for the European Parliament to act against the discrimination against a community language. The Irish Post covered the story on 23rd April with the heading Irish language ban vindictive.
On 4th May Pat Reynolds had interviews with Sligo North West radio on Southwark Council’s Mutual transfer agreement with Irish local authorities. Later the same day Pat had a prime RTE radio interview with Pat Kenny show on the same issue and later on an interview with Cork radio.
On 3rd May the Daily Mail had an editorial with heading Cuckoo Council with ‘Southwark is a case in point. Despite massive debts, it has appointed a £25,000 a year Irish Liaison Officer and is now encouraging families from the Irish Republic to apply for council flats in the borough.’ This was a total lie by the Mail who also ran an article entitled Luck of Irish opens door to a home deal.
On 8th May the Irish Sunday Press ran the story Irishman at the centre of London swop row written by Rachel Downey who knew Pat Reynolds and had worked in London with Irish weeklies here. The article was balanced and fair and explained the background to the story. On 18th May Pat had an interview with Dundalk radio again on Mutual transfers. The report on Mutual transfers was covered in all the Irish daily papers and the Irish weeklies and made the front page of the Star in Ireland.
Local elections were held in London on 5th May and elsewhere in parts of Britain.
On 8th May Pat Reynolds was speaking at the Sands /Connolly rally at Conway Hall in central London to a capacity crowd.
On 11th May Coventry IBRG Coventry, Trades Council and the Socialist Alliance organised a public meeting at which Barry McElduff of Sinn Fein was the main speaker along with Fr Joe Taffe and chaired by Mary Pearson of TOM. An Phoblacht gave the meeting a big write up with photo with heading British obstacles preventing peace.
On 12th May the Labour Leader John Smith died suddenly and Tony Blair took over as Labour Leader.
On 14th May Pat Reynolds and Sean Sexton of IBRG attended the Opening of the Great Hunger Museum in Strokestown in Co Roscommon which the Irish President opened without mentioning the English, or the fact that Ireland was overflowing with food at the time with loaded ships leaving Irish ports daily loaded with cattle, pigs, butter, wheat barley, beer and whiskeys. Sean Sexton had donated a number of photos to the Museum.
On 16th May the IBRG were involved in the Unison Conference fringe meeting in Bournemouth at which Oliver Kearney of the Fair Employment Trust was speaking on the McBride Principles. Kevin Hayes was speaking on the effects of the PTA on the Irish community. A motion on the McBride principles from Southwark Unison had been blocked from Conference along with three motions on Irish self-determination. There was a high level of anti-Irish racism within Unison who operated a Unionist veto against progressive Irish motions even on framed prisoners and Human Right. Unison tried to bill the Unison Irish Workers with a huge bill of over one thousand pounds for using the main hall for the meeting after the days conference, but the bill was never paid. When Irish members put up our Unison Irish workers banner the Conference organisers called the fire brigade on us claiming that the banner was a fire risk. Many IBRG members were involved in the meeting.
Manchester IBRG welcomed Hugh Callaghan of the Birmingham 6 to launch his autobiography Cruel Fate and meet up with comrades who supported his case. The meeting took place at the radical bookshop Frontline Books.
On 19th May the Northern Irish Office issued a 21-page commentary on 20 questions raised by Sinn Fein on the Downing St Declaration. The commentary again stated that any change to the constitutional position of Nr Ireland within the UK would be subject to the will of the majority there. But Sinn Fein the had begun to swallow the bait already, and to sacrifice Irish self-determination in principle and in practice, and to adopt the Fianna Fail position on Irish unity.
On 21st May the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Working-Class Movement Library in Manchester with nine delegates present including Laura Sullivan, Denis McGovern, Tony Cantwell, Maire Doolin, Pat Reynolds, Bernadette Hyland, Neil Doolin, Joe Mullarkey and Maurice Moore.
Apologies from Diarmuid Breatnach, Virginia Moyles, Kevin Hayes, Terry Corbin and Pat MacAndrews.
It was reported that the CRE had given full recognition to the Irish and would publicise this decision soon. It took them over a year to do so in August 1995, and it had no effect whatsoever as they never asked anybody to do anything, with result that not one single local authority in Britain changed their ethnic categories, until the IBRG started their own campaign on the issue and forced the changes. The CRE research into discrimination and the Irish community was in full swing with interviews taking place in London Manchester and Glasgow. The issue of the 2001 census was raised with the CRE with Irish groups calling for including as a specific ethnic category.
The Federation had agreed to support the Frank Johnson case which was a first for them. The meeting called for the release of Malcolm Kennedy wrongly convicted of killing another Irishman in Hammersmith police station. Malcolm Kennedy argued that Patrick Quinn was killed in the station by a police officer and that they framed him up for the murder. The meeting also noted the statement of Patrick Hayes regarding Patrick Kelly’s innocence and called for Kelly’s release and an inquiry into his arrest and conviction. The statement was reminiscent of the statement of the Balcombe St IRA Unit and the IBRG called for no 14-year delay in this case, and called for immediate action. The Irish World covered the IBRG call with Inquiry demand into Irish convictions. The meeting heard about the killing while in police custody of Richard O Brien in South London and agreed to support the case in any way they could.
Liverpool Irish Festival made a donation of £120 to the Irish Community Care Project in Liverpool.
Manchester IBRG began organising drama workshops in Manchester as part of the city Drama festival. The Irish Post covered this with IBRG drama workshops in Manchester
On 2nd June a Military helicopter carrying 25 senior British intelligence officers went down on the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland killing all on board. With them went most of the secrets of Britain’s dirty war in Ireland.
On 5th June IBRG members took part in the 20th anniversary of Michael Gaughan’s death with a picket of Whitemoor Prison. Caitlin Wright, Pat Reynolds and Kevin Hayes were among the IBRG members attending. An Phoblacht covered this with a photo and a report entitled Tribute to Vol Michael Gaughan at English prison on the 20th anniversary of his death.
Over 120 people attended the event including three Pipe Band. Kathleen Wright recited Michael Gaughan’s words, Pat Reynolds spoke on the long struggle for freedom and justice in Ireland while Jackie Kay long-time activist for Irish prisoners spoke on prisoners why Michael died. The bands played a series of rousing Republican airs and marched around the prison so that the Republican prisoners inside could hear the music, and ended the event with Amhrain na bhFiann.
On 6th June Pat Reynolds PRO had an interview with Greater London radio about Lambeth Council recognising the Irish.
On 6th June Irishman Trevor McAuley won his Industrial Tribunal hearing at Nottingham tribunal after he was abused at work on a daily basis with taunts like ‘typical thick Paddy’. The Tribunal found that he had been dismissed from his job because he would not take anti-Irish jokes lying down. The case set a precedent on abuse of Irish people at work, that it was unlawful, and that the individual Irish person could take action against such abuse.
The case made banner headlines in the tabloids and quality press in Britain and Ireland. Pat Reynolds PRO went on RTE Radio and Radio Ulster on the issue and made a five-minute Channel Four TV slot on anti-Irish racism along with Smiley an Irish comedian. Channel Four helped Pat with the production which went out on 8th June at 8PM. The signs that Irish people were beginning to fight back against anti-Irish racism in the media and at work were showing.
The tabloids in Britain put out a lot of vile anti-Irish material because of the judgement including the Sun with anti-Irish cartoons and derogatory remarks in their leader columns on the case.
The IBRG pointed out the difference in what the British tabloids published in Britain compared with the same papers in Ireland. and accused them of speaking with forked tongues and using anti-Irish racism to whip up anti-Irish feelings in Britain. The Daily Mail had an anti-Irish cartoon which the IBRG condemned. Even the Guardian came out with poor material but John Little in the British Independent had a brilliant article on the issue. David Frost also made racist comments on TV on the issue.
On 18th June the UVF murdered six men watching the World Cup match of Ireland beating Italy 1-0 on TV at Loughlinisland which was carried out by the Glenane gang and covered up by the British state.
On 24th June John Major British Prime Minister demands that Ireland remove its territorial claim to N. Ireland and recognise the legitimacy of N. Ireland. It was never legitimate as it was set up by pogroms against Catholics and against the will of the Irish people.
On 26th June the Irish Post had a story entitled Kate Magee faces July trial which detailed Michael Mansfield’s efforts to stay the proceedings. The report stated that the local Sheffield MEP Roger Barton had attended the picket of the court with the campaign group.
In June the IBRG welcomed the Home Affairs committee response to their inquiry into racially motivated attacks with a recommendation of a new offense of racially motivate violence. There were 38 new recommendations including monitoring of racial attacks which begun to take place. The IBRG had argued that the Irish be included in these statistics.
On 26th July the IBRG put out a statement on the publication of the Home Affairs Committee report on racial attacks and harassment on 22nd June. Both AGIY and IBRG had been included in over 30 selected memoranda published in the report.
The IBRG welcomed the Committee support for a new specific offense of racially motivated violence and the general 30 recommendation to tackle the increasing number of racial attacks in Britain. The IBRG pointed out that the Committee failed to address several central issues affecting the Irish community, such as the government institutionalised anti-Irish racism in its so called Prevention Of Terrorism Act, the lack of work contracts for many Irish building workers, the government unlawful banning of Irish workers from a wide range of jobs in Britain on ground of security, and the failure to deal with anti-Irish racism in the British media, the repeal of the 1968 Caravan Sites act, the exclusion of the Irish language culture and history form British curriculum, and the failure to address the apartheid statelet of Nt Ireland which was built on supposed racial differences by the British government.
Most of the anti-Irish racism in British society was fuelled by the government and the British media. The IBRG called for the Irish to be included in the monitoring of all statistics on racial attacks in Britain. The Irish World covered thus with Racial Report not addressing Irish issues and the Irish Post had Failure on Irish racism where both AGIY and the IBRG claiming the report although including the Irish submission failed to mention the Irish in the main body of the report.
On 30th June the British government announced that they will transfer over 40 Irish political prisoners to Ireland which showed that their detention in Britain was one of discrimination and punishment.
In June the IBRG condemned the attacks on the Battersea Arts Centre over their showing of Gerry Adams short story developed as a play. Local Tory MP John Bowis and the Tory leader of Wandsworth Council tried to withdraw funding because of the play. On 7th June the IBRG put out a statement headed Irish community rejects censorship of Irish writers. The Tories tried to attack the London Irish Bookfair in March on the same issue but the Irish community turned out in their thousands to the bookfair with over 4,000 attending. Green Ink never received one singe complaint about the performance of Adam’s play, which showed the Tory action was all about suppressing any alternative views on Ireland apart from state propaganda. Next the Tories will be calling for the Mountains of Mourne to be banned because it promotes the beauty of Ireland. The IBRG would continue to support Irish literature and culture in Britain
On 13th July the IBRG put out a statement welcoming an Irish victory on Welfare Benefits in Britain, where Peter Lilley the Social Security Secretary had climbed down on the right of Irish people to claim benefits in Britain. This victory was due to a determined campaign on the issue within the Irish community led by the IBRG.
The IBRG also welcomed that refugees had also been left out from this discrimination on benefits on the Habitual Residency test proposed by the British government. Merseyside and Coventry IBRG had put in submissions along with the National IBRG on the issue. 42 of the 79-submissions came from the Irish community in Britain as the IBRG were able to get several other Irish groups to put in submission and supplied them with background facts on the matter. AGIY coordinate much of the work in this area. The Daily Star attacked the Irish exemption claiming that Tory MPs were furious because the Irish were getting special treatment, and the right-wing Terry Dicks called the exemption crazy, and he was writing to the Minister on the matter
Anti –Irish articles by Ruth Dudley Edwards
On the 5th June Ruth Dudley Edwards had an anti-Irish propaganda piece in the Irish edition of the Sunday Times headed Why become a minority when the majority treat you so well, one of the most ignorant pieces written on the subject. It was totally short of any facts or any research and ignored the mountain of evidence in Britain going back to the 19th century of anti-Irish discrimination and racism in Britain, and the mountain of further evidence which had come out if the 1980’s from researchers on Mental health, mortality ratios, GLC research, and even the evidence of the London metropolitan police on Irish disadvantage.
Her description of IBRG as ‘extreme left wing, anti-British republican sympathisers showed her true propaganda colours. Her claim that IBRG was funded by the Inner London Education authority was another made up lie, but why let facts disturb your propaganda rantings. According to Ruth the Irish were exceptionally well off in Britain which was a shocking claim given the well-researched position of the Irish community in Britain. Edwards attacked the University of N. London Irish Studies Unit as a notorious Irish grievance dissemination place without producing a single fact that the University had produced anything in this area.
What Edwards was opposing was research into discrimination against the Irish in Britain, which would not suit her propaganda stories. Edwards was in total denial of the reality of life for Irish people in Britain, and in denial of several cases going through British employment tribunals of discrimination against Irish men and women in Britain. Edwards was unable to provide a single fact to support any of her assertions about the Irish in Britain, or to rely on one single report to support her cloud cuckoo land beliefs.
The IBRG put out a statement in July entitled Revisionist whinges to Sunday Times which noted Edwards attacked the IBRG The Commission for Racial Equality, the University of North London Irish Studies Unit, the Irish in Greenwich Project and the liberal wing of the Federation, with her main attack on the concept of the Irish being classified as a Minority community, and whether they suffered from Discrimination.
Edwards who was well known for her anti-Irish and anti-republican views and for her pro right wing Unionist views, offered not a single fact to support her bogus theory that the Irish were doing extremely well in Britain, were very well liked despite research shown that the Irish were the most disliked in Britain among all communities. Edwards even attacked the forthcoming research on the Irish community in Britain commissioned by the CRE even before it has come out which is alarming, she represented the Militant tendency of Murdock press who earned he living by attacking any concept of Irish self-determination.
The IBRG noted that her right-wing views would go down well with the gin and tonic brigade. In a letter to the Irish Post Pat Reynolds the PRO demolished Edwards shallow arguments on the Irish in Britain. “Her story on based on anecdotes of a neighbour, of a right-wing councillor in Greenwich, and offered not one single piece of research or fact to support he arguments. Her main argument that the Irish do not suffer from discrimination or disadvantage in Britain was absolute nonsense and just a propaganda claim on her part. Edwards is unable to name a single Irish group or individual in Britain who supports her position, indeed at the Greater London Conference in the 1980’s every single Irish group in London agreed that the Irish were a minority community, that they should be recognised and monitored. and that they suffered from discrimination and racism in British society. Pat Reynold quoted from the Metropolitan police Fair treatment for all document where they stated, Irish people have often been the recipient of racist behaviour based on ignorance and prejudice breeding false stereotypes. Would Edwards now describe the Metropolitan Police as an extreme left-wing group. On her views that the Irish were doing very well in Britain Edward could not produce one single piece of research. The former Chair of the British Association of Irish Studies showed herself to be bereft of any reason on the subject, preferring to revert to propaganda to puts her anti-Irish pro Unionist viewpoints.”
On 24th July Gerry Adams at a Sinn Fein Ard Fheis in Letterkenny states that the Downing St Declaration suggest a potentially significant change in the approach of the government to resolving the conflict in Ireland. Sinn Fein had swallowed the bait.
In July the IBRG welcomed the climbdown by British minister Peter Lilley over Irish people’s entitlement to benefits in Britain. The IBRG had put in its submission in February and took the battle to the community. The Irish and refugees were excluded from the government Habitual residency tests of three years. The Daily Star attacked the Irish community on the issue but the IBRG responded.
In Lambeth the IBRG along with Unison Irish members defeated a Tory/Liberal attempt to derecognise the Irish in Lambeth. The IBRG lobbied Lambeth council and got the decision reversed. The Irish Post refused to cover Lambeth Council employment figures but the Irish World, An Phoblacht the South London Press and the Greater London Radio covered the figures for the Irish working with Lambeth which were small compared with their size in the borough.
Sean McNulty’s trial started at the Old Bailey in London on 4th July with IBRG members attending as observers.
Case of John Leo O’Reilly
In July the IBRG took up the case of John Leo O’Reilly an Irishman who died from neglect and discrimination in a Coventry police station, and called for an inquiry into all aspects of the case. Maurice Moore offered the family the support of Coventry IBRG in their demand for justice and the truth. This was a case where an Irishman was suffered from a head fracture but the police treated it as if the person was drunk which was not the case, and left the man to die without medical help in a police station overnight.
On 6th August Pat Reynolds had an hour-long debate with Ruth Dudley Edwards on Greater London Radio Irish hour where she became abusive after losing the debate. Edwards was hopeless in offering any evidence to her wild views on the Irish, and was a hopeless debater probably as she was not used to having her propaganda challenged in any way.
On 12th August Pat Reynolds PRO had a letter in the British Independent which challenged an article ‘mad Ireland should get real’ by Bryan Appleyard. The article was based on the Whiteman’s burden and had all the old colonial with statements like ‘the English still retain a startling level of affection for the Irish’.
Pat Reynolds stated ‘The article portrayed all the worst colonial stereotypes about Ireland and the Irish, and marks a rather sad repetition of the Whiteman’s burden. The article offers no real analysis of the past 25 years, and included every colonial cliché about the Irish, mad, violent, bloody, irrational, illogical, ignorant, drunken, can’t be trusted, while the English are tolerant, neutral, well meaning, peaceful, torn between two unruly children, and of course always knowing what is best for the Irish’….. Ireland is neither mad nor illogical but a reality for Irish and British people. The issue is not about teaching tolerance to the Irish, but of English understanding how they have contributed to the creation of what Nt Ireland is, and that history now demands a different and imaginative response in working out a political solution. Sadly, the 25th anniversary has so far ignored the British dimension and British politicians have been left off the hook. For the sake of the future, leave the White Man’s burden outside, while we seek a political solution based on equality and justice, and let the Irish people decide on their own future, without any outside interferences, as well as bringing all the British people into the debate as to the purpose of the British presence in Nt Ireland.’
On 13th August the IBRG marched with their banners on the 25th anniversary of the troops going into N. Ireland from the Imperial war Museum to Hyde Park where Tony Benn was the main speaker.
20 August Laura O’Sullivan and Bernadette Hyland attended the Sinn Fein ArdFeis in Dublin as IBRG representatives.
On 21st August, on a Sunday, Sean McNulty was found guilty and the new mobile phones made its appearance to get news from the Old Bailey to the Southwark Irish Festival. Only the British would find a man guilty on a Sunday.
On 31st August 1994 the IRA announced a ceasefire after a 25-year war against the British forces of occupation in N. Ireland.
Kate Magee was found not guilty in early August. Her campaign stated ‘this was persecution not prosecution’. On 6th August David Granville had a page long article in the Irish Post entitled The Nightmare she thought would never end on the experiences of Kate Magee and an interview with her. She went through a shocking experience during her arrest with her six-year-old son, being separated from her son and her long tortuous time in prison before the jury acquitted her in two hours.
Gareth Pierce her solicitor stated ‘The prosecutions desire to press ahead, knowing what they did, can only be described as deliberate, conscious and ultimately sadistic’. The case illustrated the shocking use of the PTA and the clause of withholding information, a catch 22 situation where the person had to prove their innocence of knowledge of possible future events of other people.
The first prisoner transfer to Ireland took place in August with Ella O’Dwyer and Martina Anderson along with the husband Paul Kavanagh and Patrick Mcloughlin all went home.
Neil Doolin of Merseyside IBRG had an excellent article on the health of the Irish in Britain entitled ‘The luck of the Irish’ in the Nursing Standard in August. It had a huge impact among health professionals, in raising concerns about the health needs of the Irish in Britain. The Irish contribution to health in Britain had always been taken for granted, from the building of hospitals to the contribution of large numbers of Irish nurses and doctors plus hospital workers, who had made such a large contribution to building the NHS in Britain. It was a serious article well researched with references given on issues like mental health. It was a clear argument that the Irish should be included in all ethnic monitoring within the NHS both in staffing, and for health needs so that the specific needs of the Irish could be better addressed.
The IBRG produced a national newsletter in August which was circulated via the branches. It highlighted the McNulty case, the Danny McNamee case, Kate Magee victory, Frank Johnson and the transfer of Irish prisoners, which showed the enormous amount of work the IBRG were doing around Irish prisoners in Britain. It also highted the case of Leo O’Reilly in Coventry and Irish deaths in custody.
IBRG Statement on Ceasefire
On 4th September the IBRG released a statement urging a British positive response to the ceasefire by ending all repressive legislation such as the PTA, EPA, the Broadcasting ban, and to remove Crown forces of occupation from Nationalist areas. The IBRG called for an All-Ireland Constitutional conference to decide on the way forward for all Irish people The IBRG noted that 70 years of constitutional British Unionist with its armed violence and 20 years of Direct Rule had failed to bring any form of democracy or equality to Nt Ireland.
The IBRG supported an All Ireland referendum on the issue and all Britain referendum on the matter to stop the Unionist veto where 2% of the population of the UK had determined lives on these islands for the past 70 years. The IBRG saluted the Nationalist community in Nt Ireland for having resisted British violent repression for the past 20 years. 99% of guns in Ireland were in the hands of British and Loyalists and these needed to be taken out of Irish politics. The IBRG calls for an amnesty for all Irish political prisoners, fair employment an end to all repressive legislation and for the Irish people to have self-determination without outside interference.
on 9th September The Irish World covered this with Irish Groups in Britain respond to Ceasefire which covered the IBRG response and the Irish Post on 10th September had Thoughts on the Ceasefire which included IBRG, Robert Kee, Bernie Grant and Roy Foster. An Phoblacht on 8th September had Irish exile groups welcome ceasefire which included the IBRG response.
On 16th September the IBRG in a statement called for a British referendum on N. Ireland and rejected a six-county limited referendum. 70 years of British and Unionist repression had not produced one single democratic structure in Nt Ireland. A referendum in Nt Ireland would ensure that the Unionist veto where only 2% of eth UK population decide the future of these islands. It was based on white Protestant supremacy and was set up with violent pogroms against the nationalist community with over 500 dead, over 500 Catholics business burst out and thousands of Catholic workers driven from their jobs in the shipyards and the Mills. The IBRG repeated its call that the vote on any referendum in Nt Ireland be extended to those driven out by violence and discrimination and that any referendum in the republic be opened up to emigrants.
On 10th September five IRA prisoners including Danny McNamee attempted to escape from Whittmoor Prison.
On 16th September the British Broadcasting ban on Sinn Fein was lifted.
On 17th September the IBRG Ard Choiste took place in Derby. Ten delegates attended including Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds, Neil Doolin, Maire Doolin, Terry Corbin, Pat McAndrews, Maurice Moore, Virginia Moyles Kevin Hayes along with Kate Magee recently acquitted. The meeting was addressed by the O’Reilly family whose father had died from neglect in a Coventry police station.
Apologies form Diarmuid Breatnach, Laura O Sullivan, Joe Mullarkey and Peter Skerrit.
The Ard Choiste noted the British government climbdown on Social Security legislation. The August 25th anniversary Troops Out march only attracted 1,500 people. The meeting thanked all those who worked on the Kate Magee campaign and those who worked on Sean McNulty’s case. The Richard O’Brien case was being investigated by the Police Complaints Authority. There had been an increase of Irish deaths in police custody over the years which the IBRG were challenging. The IBRG had highlighted four such cases, Patrick Quinn in Hammersmith, Leo O’Reilly in Coventry, Con Sexton Coventry and Richard O’Brien in South London.
Afterwards IBRG member attended celebration party for Kate Magee.
On 29th September Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking with Mary Mason of Troops out on the ceasefire a at a public meeting at the Green Ink bookshop in N. London.
On 30th September IBRG attended a Frank Johnson benefit at the Camden Irish centre.
In September the IBRG called for all Irish emigrants to be allowed to vote in the referenda in the Republic and in the Six Counties on any changes to the constitution.
In September Ruth Dudley Edwards attacked the IBRG call for the Irish abroad to be given the vote. The IBRG responded defending their position on the vote for emigrants. Her article in the Irish Sunday Times filling in for the right wing rabid anti Republican and anti-liberal Eoghan Harris, Dangerous nonsense of votes for emigrants. Her argument that ‘it does not take a genius to work out how emigrants with votes might unwittingly but dramatically destabilise the Irish republic. Yet Dublin seems committed to letting it happen’. Here Edwards is totally out of touch as Dublin never supported an emigrant vote in any way, Edwards fails to notice that emigrants from Nt Ireland retains the vote just like British people. On 17th October the IBRG issued a statement defending its position on votes for Irish emigrants. Over a quarter of a million Catholics were forced out of Nt Ireland by repression and employment discrimination from 1921-1968 and these were entitled to vote on any Nt Ireland referendum.
On 15th October Edwards had a letter in the Irish Post supposed to be a reply to the IBRG but was a Beal Bocht letter trying to portray her Irish origins. It was a very weird letter which had nothing to do with the original article or the IBRG response. Her individual grievance fakery created cottage industry could not hide her cheap propaganda.
On 13th October the Combined Loyalist Military Command announced a ceasefire after receiving assurances and guarantees that the constitutional position of Nt Ireland within the UK would stay unchanged.
On 20th October Mo Mowlam replaced Kevin McNamara as Shadow spokesperson on N. Ireland which was a big improvement.
On 9th October the IBRG banner was on the Criminal Justice march from the Embankment to Hyde park where a large-scale riot took place between the police and marches. On this occasion the police lost the fight badly. Over 100,000 people were on the march with Paddy Joe Hill, Billy Power and Judith Ward leading the march.
On 19th October the IBRG took part in the evening lobby of Parliament over the Criminal Justice Bill, this time the police were seeking a rerun match fight with different numbers and were attempting to kettle the crowd.
On 30 October IBRG members attended the Terence McSwiney commemoration at Southwark cathedral.
In early October the IBRG drew attention to the denial of language rights to Feilim O hAdhmaill, an Irish language speaking political prisoner, at Belmarsh Prison in south London. On 3rd October the IBRG issued a statement calling for the rights of the prisoners and his family be protected and for them to be able to communicate in their own community language. The IBRG called on Michael Howard Home Secretary to immediately restore basic human rights to this family, to be able to communicate in their family language by letter and in person during visits.
Lewisham IBRG put on an Irish historical drama entitled Irish ways on 29th October with over 30 children involved in the production.The Irish Post covered it with Lewisham holds second festival.
In October the IBRG demanded an inquiry into the death in police custody of Leo O’Reilly in Coventry.
In October the Mayor of Clonmel Seamus Healy visited Frank Johnson in Swalesside Prison in Kent.
On 17th November Taoiseach Albert Reynolds is forced to resign and the Fianna Fail/Labour Coalition falls. Bertie Ahern is elected Leader of Fianna Fail and Labour join with Fine Gael and John Bruton anti republican in a new Coalition government.
On 14th November the McNulty family are all acquitted. See photo below of Dorothy and Kevin.
On 17th November Nina Hutchinson, a great friend of the Irish in Southwark and of Ireland, died early from cancer. She was an active member of Troops Out Movement.
On 18th November Gerry Adams addressed a capacity meeting the Camden Irish Centre.
The IBRG Ard Choiste took place on place on 19th November in Liverpool. Fourteen delegates attended including Bernadette Hyland, Maire Doolin, Terry Corbin, Barrie Wood, Michael Naughton, Denis Ashe, Marie Byrne-McCann, Pat Reynolds, Neil Doolin, Maurice Moore, Virginia Moyles, Diarmuid Breatnach, Laura Sullivan and Joe Mullarkey.
Apologies Virginia Moyles and Denis McGovern.
The meeting discussed the peace process and noted that Sinn Fein made no attempt to involve the Irish community in Britain in the process preferring British left groups. The meeting decides to request a meeting with Sinn Fein to discuss its lack of understanding of the Irish community in Britain, and to make a submission to the Forum for Peace and reconciliation in Dublin. The meeting decided to sponsor the Bloody Sunday march with £50 and to provide a speaker.
On 19th November the Irish Post had four photos of an IBRG Ceili in Harrow.
On 23rd November Pat Reynolds was the key speaker at the Chairde na nGael AGM in Newham in East London.
On 23rd November IBRG members picketed the Home Office over the transfer of Irish prisoners. The Irish Post on 1st December had a photo of the Picket with Laoise De Paor, Sr Maire, Eddie Caughey, Laura Sullivan, Pat Reynolds, young Quinlivan later a TD in Dublin. On 1st December An Phoblacht covered this with Repatriation decision welcomed with large photo. Albert Reynolds, Taoiseach, announced that legislation imminent to ratify the European Convention on the transfer of Sentenced prisoners after they had made the decision on 29th November.
ON 24th November IBRG members in South London attended the funeral of Nina Hutchinson in South London which Mary Nellis attended.
In November the IBRG protested against Bernard Manning and Frank Carson appearing at Millwall Football ground given that the club had signed up to the anti-racist football charter.
Harrow IBRG condemned a Liberal councillor who told a Council meeting that the Irish should go home in a debate on services to the Irish community. On 26th November the Irish Post covered this with Irish Outburst ‘Harmless Fun’. John Knight, Liberal councillor, stated that the Irish should ‘go home’ during a debate on meeting Irish needs in Harrow which had an Irish population of 10,00. He was strongly condemned by Harrow IBRG and by the Council Race Racial Equality group.
Harrow IBRG had made representation to Harrow’s Community Liaison Consultative Committee while Harrow Social Services had indicated that Irish people were over represented in mental health services and underrepresented in elderly referrals. Only 2% of elder referral were Irish, whereas mental health had 6.8% of all referrals 4.9% of children and families, disabilities 4.7%. The Irish community were seeking a community centre where their elders could meet and where community advise could be given.
In November the IBRG condemned remarks by soccer manager Ron Atkinson when he stated after a player being stretchered off was sent in two directions by the bearers, that the scene was like something you would see in Ireland. The Irish Press on 25th November covered the IBRG response.
On 1st December IBRG members joined a picket in Trafalgar Square over the peace Process. The Irish Post on 10th December had a large photo of the Demo with the banner Self-determination for the Irish people as a Whole
On 14th December Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking at the NUS anti-racist conference at the University of London.
On 15th December John Bruton was elected Taoiseach. There were 62 deaths from the troubles in 1994 despite the August ceasefire.
On 16th December IBRG picketed the Home Office over Frank Johnson. Christy Moore was supporting his campaign and Joe Benton Liverpool MP had put down an early day motion on Frank’s case. Gareth Pierce was due to file case with the Home Office within days. The Mayor of Clonmel Seamus Healy later a TD went to visit Frank in prison. The Irish Post on 24th December had a photo of the Picket with John McDonnell MP, Billy Power, Andy Par, Sr Marie, Pat Reynolds and others.
On 18th December over 100 people were picketing Belmarsh Prison in south east London where Pat Reynolds was one of the speakers.
On 24th December Bernadette Hyland had a letter in the Irish Post headed Making a significant contribution which detailed the work of IBRG around seeking a political solution in N. Ireland.
On Christmas Day IBRG members picketed 10 Downing St over Irish prisoners both political and innocent ones.
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