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 statement expressed concern at the growing pattern of harassment and discrimination against Irish political prisoners in Britain. This included locking them up for 23 hours a day in Full Sutton prison, the banning of the use of their native language on the phone to their families, the refusal to continue the transfer programme, the ill-treatment of the Whitemoor escapees, and a range of other petty harassment of prisons and their families.
The IBRG supported the fight of Feilim O hAdhmaill to be able to speak his native language and to teach it within the prison.It condemned the 19th century colonial schooling methods employed by the Britain on the Irish language, where they punished Irish children for speaking their home language.
IBRG considers the ban on Irish to be racist and discriminatory. IBRG supported the Christmas Day picket of Downing St which was called by Conrad na Gaeilge over the ban on the Irish language. The IBRG also supported the picket of Belmarsh prison over the treatment of the Whitemoor escapees who were moved to Belmarsh prison. The pickets reflected the growing anger in the Irish community over the political victimisation of Irish political prisoners, and the attempts by the British government to use the prisoners as peace barter.
IBRG condemned the use of Special Secure Units and supported the prisoner’s action in refusing to cooperate with this system and their protest which started on 15th December which led to the 23 hours day lock up at Full Sutton. IBRG stated that Michael Howard was abusing international Law on the rights of prisoners. IBRG called on the Labour Party and the Irish government to stand up for basic human rights of Irish prisoners.
In January Bernadette Hyland highlighted the case of Feilim O hAdhmaill who was prevented from speaking Irish to his family. She called for Irish prisoners to be transferred to Ireland. The IBRG in a statement condemned the use of SS (Special Secure Units) for Irish prisoners as provocative. The Irish World in an article IBRG slam Strategy of tension quoted Bernadette Hyland accusing the Home Office actions as being a dangerous strategy of tension, where they forced Irish native speakers to speak in a foreign English language, and stopped their family phone calls in mid-flight. Bernadette went on’ The IBRG sees the issue of Irish prisons in British prisons as crucial test of the British government good faith in pursuing the Irish peace process. By imposing fresh restrictions on republican prisoners and refusing demands for a speedy transfer to Ireland d the Home Secretary Michael Howard is creating a politically dangerous situation.’
On 6th January IBRG picketed Ashford Industrial Tribunal in Kent in support of Máiréad Hold a Kent trainee social worker who stated that she had been discriminated against by Kent County Council. It was an all Irish language picket as Máiréad was a leading Irish language activist. IBRG members attending were Diarmuid Breatnach, Padraig O Conhconcur, Seamus O Coileann, Padraig Mac Rannall and Máiréad Holt.
On 14th January the Ard Choiste was held at Caxton House in North London. Six delegates attended in including Laura Sullivan, Padaigin Ni Nuallain, Terry Corbin, Bernadette Hyland, Diarmuid Breatnach, and Pat Reynolds. Apologies Neil Doolin.
The meeting heard that Sinn Fein had not responded to the IBRG request for a meeting to discuss the Peace Process. It was noted that the Wolfe Tone Society had organised a meeting with Francie Molloy from Sinn Fein at the same time as a picket of Belmarsh Prison on 18th December.
Lewisham and N. London had met earlier in the day and had identified five areas of work for IBRG to prioritise, the transfer of prisoners, the repeal of the PTA, the Irish language, anti-Irish racism, and framed prisoners. The meeting heard that Saoirse, a new campaign group, had been set to campaign for the transfer of Irish prisoners, which had already been agreed by the British Government, and for an amnesty for political prisoners which would only come with a political settlement.
The meeting felt that Sinn Fein had failed to address the Irish community in Britain and their concerns on the peace Process in any meaningful way. Branches were asked to push for Irish ethnic recognition given that the CRE had made public their support of Irish recognition.
- London IBRG (made up of Haringey, Hackney and Camden) submitted three motions which were passed. The first rejected the proposal by Fine Gael/Labour Coalition government for three Senate seats for the Irish abroad, and called for full voting rights to be given to the Irish abroad. The second motion condemned the appointment of Sean Donlon former Irish Ambassador in America to the post of special advisor on N. Ireland to the Irish government. While in America Sean Donlon on behalf of the Irish government had tried to block the case of the Birmingham Six being put forward in the USA. The third motion condemned the withdrawal of funding to Meanschoil Firste and called for full Irish language rights in N. Ireland.
On 15th January the IBRG put out a statement Vote demanded instead of Token Senate Seats which rejected the plan by the Labour/Fine Gael Coalition to give three Senate seats to the Irish abroad. The IBRG wanted the vote for the Irish abroad and nothing less and called for all Senate seats to be elected by the Irish people. The IBRG drew attention to the situation where under British colonial rule in N. Ireland Irish people maintain their voting rights for 12 years after leaving Nt Ireland, and yet the Irish Republic deny their citizens abroad thew vote. The IBRG called for equal voting rights all over Ireland for its people.
On 25th January Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking with Billy Power at a Public Meeting at the Camden Irish Centre attended by over 70 people. It was a joint meeting between the Malcolm Kennedy and the Frank Johnson campaigns.
On 26th January Pat Reynolds was speaking on the Kilroy Show on the case of Lee Clegg. Ken McGuiness was also on the show. The show was later attacked by the Sunday Express which showed we won the debate on the day.
That evening Martin McGuiness, Clive Soley MP, Peter Bottomley MP and Gareth Pierce were all speaking at a Public meeting at Friends Meeting place at Euston London. Gareth Pierce made by far the best speech of the night on the issue of justice. Clive Soley and Peter Bottomley were both awful while McGuinness made some useful points on the Peace Process, but many remarked at the meeting that there was no speaker from the Irish community in Britain. IBRG members asked a number of questions from the floor on the PTA, Article 2&3, and on the Felim O hAdhmail case. IBRG members in Birmingham attended a similar meeting where Martin McGuiness spoke.
On 27th January Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking on BBC Radio Belfast Talkback programme on the Lee Clegg case.
Bloody Sunday March Manchester
On 28th January IBRG members marched with banners on the Bloody Sunday March in Manchester at which Pat Reynolds was speaking with Martin McGuiness. Pat raised the question of Irish deaths in custody and the framed prisoners such as Frank Johnson. Hackney and Haringey had their banners on the march and IBRG members also attended from Manchester, Coventry, Liverpool, Bolton, Harrow and North London. The police presence was small compared with London and because of the peace process and the crowd was quite large.
In January the IBRG condemned the London Evening Standard for an article on the Great Hunger entitled ‘attack of the killer Potato’ but praised another article on the same topic by Melanie McDonagh entitled ‘A year long guilt trip for the nation’.
IBRG condemned the first article for its racism and stated ‘The views expressed by Mr Pepys are the same old racist views which created the Great Hunger. The Irish community in Britain and throughout the world will be remembering the Great Starvation and the contribution made by those fleeing from Hunger in Ireland to world history. Their contribution was one IBRG slam of hard work, equality and justice along with a strong desire to support other people in similar distress whether in Somalia or Bosnia. We celebrate the courageous legacy left by our brace ancestors, a noble dignity, a spirit of struggle and a consideration for others. Something Mr Pepys will never understand’.
The second article by the Irish writer Melanie McDonagh was well argued. She quoted Sinead O’Connor on about the Great Hunger that “God didn’t sent the Great Starvation to Ireland, He sent the English”. The writer states’ the potato blight was an act of nature, one that devastated many European countries besides Ireland. But the fatal response to it, and the dreadful vulnerability of the people, was a result of the way the Irish had been viewed and treated. A million people died in the famine, not because of nature, but because of England’s politics. She ends by stating ‘remembering the sins of colonisation isn’t comfortable, but it may turn out to be redemptive’.
In a statement on 6th January the IBRG stated ‘ Pepys is a stable mate of the racist anti-Irish cartoonist JAK and we say to them both, haven’t they got enough problems without carrying the Whiteman’s burden, had nobody told them the days of Empire are over and that this racism U Like journalism, belongs to the colonial mentality of the past, long past its sell by date’.
On 5th February IBRG members joined the Frank Johnson picket of Leman St police station in East London where the original investigation took place from. It was the 20th anniversary of the death of Irish shopkeeper Mr Sheridan for which Frank, his employee, was framed.
Meeting with CRE and research on discrimination and Irish Community
On 7th February the IBRG joined other Irish groups to meet with Herman Ouseley Chair of the CRE to discuss progress on the University of N. London research on discrimination and the Irish community which would be finished by August with publication date of Spring 1996.
The CRE were going to use the Trevor McAuley case as an example in the Racial Harassment at Work booklet. The CRE were shocked at the level of anti-Irish abuse in the English media over the Trevor McAuley case, which included five editorials calling for the CRE to be abolished. Thus, any organisation supporting the Irish community in Britain would be attacked by the English racist media.
The CRE would support the inclusion of the Irish community as a separate category within the 2001 Census in Britain and would raise the matter in meetings with the OPCS. Irish groups criticised the CRE because they failed to make public their recognition of the Irish, or to put any pressure of local authorities to implement their recommendation with the result, that not a single local authority in Britain had taken any notice of the CRE circular. The CRE agreed to send out a public notice to this effect which eventually went out in August 1995.
The IBRG raised the issue of Regional Health Authorities which were bringing in ethnic monitoring in April 1995 but were excluding the Irish, and asked the CRE to make representations on this given the hidden health needs of the Irish community in mental health and other areas.
On 7th February the Irish Government lifted the State of Emergency which was in place since 1976.
19th Anniversary of death of Frank Stagg
On 12th February IBRG took part in a picket of Belmarsh prison in South east London for the 19th anniversary of Frank Stagg’s death. Pat Reynolds PRO was one of the speakers at the picket calling for the transfer of Irish prisoners and for the repeal of the PTA. The picket was covered in An Phoblacht.
In February the IBRG expressed disappointment that the British Government had restricted the Mortgage Incentive Scheme to the UK which mean Irish Council tenants could not buy a house in the 26 Counties. On 12th February the IBRG put out a statement on the British government re Mortgage Incentive scheme which was to encourage Council tenants to move out by giving them a deposit or cash incentive to buy a house around £10K. The Government scheme was limited to properties in the UK so people from N. Ireland could accept the cash and put it down against a house in N. Ireland, but the scheme did not extend to the Irish Republic.
The IBRG stated that given that the Republic was within a Common travel area, and given that both British and Irish people enjoyed full rights in each other’s countries, the scheme should have been extended to the Republic. Common homelessness went across borders and Irish returnees made up 18% of the Homeless in the Republic while the Irish in Britain also made up a high number of the homeless here. Both Governments needed to look at schemes like Mutual transfer and other schemes to address this problem. In the past families from the Republic could take part in the Mortgage incentive scheme. The IBRG called for a Mutual transfer scheme to be set up between Britain and Ireland.
On 15th February an IBRG delegation met with Mo Mowlam (see headline photo) at Westminster and discussed the PTA, Irish prisoners, Frank Johnson, the police treatment of Sr. Sarah Clark, the case of Feilim O hAdhmaill the Peace Process.
The delegation was led by IBRG Chair Diarmuid Breatnach, along with Pat Reynolds PRO, Virginia Moyles and Laura Sullivan. It was the first ever meeting between the Labour Party and the IBRG and Mo Mowlam was the Labour Party Spokesperson on N. Ireland. She wanted reform of the PTA and the days reduced from 7 to 4 and an end to exclusion orders.
Later that day Mo Mowlam wrote to Pat Reynolds PRO to say ‘I am writing to thank you and your colleagues for coming in to meet Nigel and myself today. We found it a very useful and constructive meeting. If there is anything you would like us to do with regard to the cases of particular prisoners, please let us have a contact name and we will examine what appropriate action cane be taken. Look forward to seeing you again soon, Your sincerely Marjorie Mowlam.
The IBRG issued a statement on 16th February with details of the discussion. The Irish World covered the story with Westminster meeting urges abolition of PTA. The Irish Post covered did with a photo of Mo Mowlam in conversation with Virginia Moyles and Pat Reynolds
On the same day the Ireland V England match in Dublin was abandoned because rioting by English fans including right wing groups after Ireland took the lead.
On 16th February Pat Reynolds was speaking at Kent University in Canterbury where students supported the case of Frank Johnson, who the students adopted as a prisoner. The film In the Name of the Father was then shown. The Irish Post covered it with Students rally behind Frank Johnson.
On 18th February IBRG members attended a moving celebration of the life of Nina Hutchinson who died of cancer. Pat Reynolds praised the Nina’s commitment not just for the people of the Six Counties but also for the local Irish community, where she had helped set up the Southwark Irish Forum, The Irish Teachers Group and helped organise the Ireland the Right to Know Exhibition at the South London Gallery. She had been stopped from going into the USA because of her work around Ireland.
In February the IBRG condemned the treatment of Sr. Sarah Clark an elderly blind Irish nun who worked with Irish prisoners in Britain. She had been visited at her home by the Special Branch who took her fingerprints at her house. The IBRG condemned the cowardly Special branch for their attack on the civil liberties of 76-year-old blind nun.
On 15th February IBRG put out a statement Anger in Irish community over police treatment of Irish Elder, whose only crime was supporting human rights in Britain and Ireland and the rights of prisoners. It was seen as a calculated insult in post ceasefire Britain to target a blind Irish nun of 76 without allowing her statutory rights, and fingerprinting her at her home.
Sr. Sarah Clark was revered among Irish prisoners both political and framed, and within the Irish community who for many dark years carried the torch of freedom for the Birmingham Six and other prisoners. Even after the ceasefire the British government can’t keep its grubby hands off our community.
IBRG raised the issue with Mo Mowlam in their meeting on 15th February and handed in a formal letter of protest at the British Home Office. The IBRG also complained to the Irish Government over her house arrest and finger printing, and that she had been given no rights to legal advice and support. It was an act of state intimidation for all her work on Human Rights. The Irish Press covered it with British police fingerprint elderly nun and quoted the IBRG in the story. Sr. Sarah Clark was not cautioned before the police interview nor allowed to contact her solicitor Gareth Pierce. The IBRG called on the Irish government to stand up for its citizens abroad. The Irish World ran the IBRG statement as a letter.
British Government documents on future of Ireland
On 22nd February the British Government published two documents entitled Framework for the Future and a Framework for Accountable Government in N. Ireland. These included the Irish Government giving up its territorial claim to N. Ireland and a recognition of the Unionist veto in Ireland. John Mayor spoke of the Triple Lock. N. Ireland will stay British until the majority of political parties in N. Ireland want to change it, until the people of N. Ireland vote to change it and until the British government vote to change it.
On 25th February the IBRG issued a statement entitled Framework Document Rejigs Failed solutions. The IBRG stated ‘The Framework lacks any concept of self-determination for the Irish peoples a whole, and is totally lacking in putting forward any structures for a United Ireland. There is no acknowledgement of Britain’s role and responsibility for the creation of N. Ireland, the problem is now referred to patronisingly as parity of esteem, two traditions, thus letting Britain off the hook.’.
On 25th February IBRG officers met at the Lewisham Irish Centre to plan the Ard Fheis.
On 1st March IBRG members joined a midday picket of Belmarsh Prison and in the evening picket of Downing St over the arrest in Derry of Sinn Fein activists including Mary Nellis. The picket was called by the Colin Roach Centre in Hackney.
In March the IBRG made public the case of Norah Waugh sister of Jimmy Doyle, her husband and her son who had been cleared after wrongful arrest.
On 1st March the IBRG issued a statement where a wronged arrested Irish family were cleared by the court. The IBRG had complained publicly over the treatment of the family and the Southwark Irish Forum had written to Chief Supt at Peckham station over the incidents.
On Boxing day in 1994 Michael Waugh was leaving his parents’ home when he was mugged on the street. One of assailants went into the public house, and when he went in, he was attacked by youths from the pub. When his father went in to investigate, he too was beaten. The mother frightened at what was happening to her husband and son being badly injured, dialled 999. But when the police arrived, they arrested the Irish father and son and took them to Peckham police station. At 3am the mother went to the police station to find out what was happening and was herself arrested. Because of a medical condition brought on by her arrest she had to be rushed to hospital where they put her arm in a sling the father and mother were charged with being drunk and the son with criminal damage. The father and son spent 14 hours in custody and the mother spend 11 hours in custody before appearing in court the next day. All charges were cleared at court. The father and son both worked with the Probation Service and were highly respected in the neighbourhood. The father could not even drink because of a medical condition. The IBRG expressed its alarm that an innocent Irish family could be falsely arrested and charged, and an Irish mother racially abused, and as victims they did not get any protection from the law.
On 5th March Pat Reynolds attended a meeting in Brent with IBRG members in Brent to try and restart Brent branch with John Tymon and Tomas McStiofan. John Tymon was Branch Secretary of Brent Unison while Thomas MacStiofan was a leading Irish language teacher.
British Government renews attack on Irish Community
On 5th March IBRG released a statement headed British Government renews attacks on Irish community on the British government renewing the racist PTA laws, despite the IRA ceasefire and the lifting of the State of Emergency in Ireland. It was set for renewal on 8th March in the Commons.
IBRG stated the renewal exposes the real intention and purpose of the PTA at last, to politically silence the Irish community and to stifle debate in Britain on the Government’s failure to negotiate with all the political representatives of the Irish people. The British Government told us for over twenty years that the only reason for the PTA was the IRA, now the real reason is exposed to abuse the human and civil rights of Irish citizens in Britain.
IBRG deplored the feeble effort of the British Labour Party in opposing the PTA, when they would support the PTA minus exclusions orders and a reduction of 7 days to 4. Why does the British Labour party want to keep any section of the PTA, and why support the two new clauses in the Criminal Justice bill, which further target the Irish community and abuse their civil liberties. Rather than preventing terrorism the PTA has been used to terrorise the whole community, and was instrumental in keeping the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four in prison. More recently it was used to racially abuse a blind Irish elderly nun Sr Sarah Clark.
Death of Maire O’Shea
On 8th March Dr Maire O Shea former president of IBRG died in Dublin. The Guardian carried an Obituary as did the Sunday Tribune by Bernadette McAliskey. Maire had been attempting to set up a public inquiry into the framing of the Birmingham Six, when she herself became the victim of state terrorism.
She had spent a lifetime fighting for better rights for people in mental health. She was IBRG President for three years and had been a member of the IBRG NEC for many years. She was a founding member of the West Midlands PTA Campaign, had been in in the Anti-Partition League, the anti-Internment League, Troops Out and IBRG. Pat Daly, MI5 agent, had been involved in infiltrating IBRG and in setting up what was a state conspiracy to damage the IBRG.
Maire’s campaign gave rise to the campaign for the release of the Birmingham Six, she gave the community the inspiration to rise up against repressive laws and false imprisonments in Britain. As the IBRG stated ‘the burden of oppression is a bit lighter today on the Irish community because of brave women like Dr Maire OShea, and we owe it to her to continue our campaign and her vision of a free and united Ireland, and a free Irish community in Britain’.
In March Green Ink held the London Irish Bookfair which drew thousands of people including a capacity crowd on the final evening to hear Bernadette MacAliskey. Sr Sarah Clark opened the Bookfair and spoke highly of Dr Maire O Shea and the struggle of Irish prisoners in Britain.
On 9th March Bill Clinton grants Gerry Adams, a visa to visit America and raise funds.
On 17th March Manchester IBRG organised the launch of the book “The Cause of Ireland” with Liz Curtis at Frontline Books in Manchester.
On 18th March IBRG members attended a lecture given by Gareth Pierce on The State of Criminal Justice at the Halkevi Kurdish Centre in Hackney in memory of all those people who have suffered and died in police custody.
On 23rd March IBRG members in London attended the launch of the Service Needs of the Irish Community report at the ALA (All London Authorities). Herman Ouseley head of the CRE attended as did Bernie Grant MP and over 90 local authority staff. The main issue and purpose of the meeting was to push for Irish ethnic recognition among local authorities and in the 2001 National Census.
On 25th March the IBRG Ard Fheis was held at the KOKO Centre in Coventry. Eleven delegates attended from six branches including Neil Doolin, Marie Byrne McCann, Jonathan Richards, Peter Skerrett, Sean Hone, Tim McNamara, Bernadette Hyland, Kevin Hayes, Maurice Moore, Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds.
The following officers were elected;
Chair Pat Reynolds North London
Cisteoir Maurice Moore Coventry
PRO/Membership Bernadette Hyland Manchester.
Prisoners Officer Laura Sullivan North London.
Neil Doolin was thanked for his hard work as Runai over the previous three years and for his work on the Liverpool Irish Festival. Maurice Moore paid a moving tribute to Dr Maire OShea who had died earlier in March. Outgoing Chair Diarmuid Breatnach outlined the positives and negatives of the IRA ceasefire upon the Irish community in Britain, but highlighted the fact that the racist PTA laws were still in place, and that the conditions for Irish prisoners had not changed. He welcomed the decision of the CRE to recognise the Irish community, but the vote for emigrants in N. Ireland had yet to be won. Kevin Hayes gave an update on the PTA and highlighted the success of the Kate Magee campaign and also the work undertaken by IBRG in the McNulty family campaign.
The PRO had spoken at seven public meetings on behalf of the IBRG along with seven pickets on prisoners’ issues. He had been able to make a five-minute program on anti-Irish racism after the Trevor Mcauley case with the help of Channel Four, and had been speaking on the Kilroy show re Lee Clegg, and had two meeting with the BBC to assist their First Sight program on racial harassment on the Irish.
The PRO had spoken 10-times on Radio four-time on Mutual exchanges in Housing, and spoke on the Pat Kenny Show, Cork radio, Sligo radio, and Dundalk radio. He spoke also on Greater London radio about the Lambeth head count, and to Radio Eireann and Radio Ulster re the Trevor McAuley case and had a 30-minute debate with Ruth Dudley Edwards on greater London radio on ethnic status for the Irish, spoke with Radio Foyle re the vote in Ireland and on Radio Belfast re Lee Clegg.
IBRG stories were carried in the Irish Post, Irish World, An Phoblacht, Irish Independent, Irish Press, Evening Press, Evening Herald, Irish Times, Irish News, South London Press, Cork Examiner, Sligo Radio, Radio Eireann, Dundalk Radio, Asian Times, Greater London radio, Channel Four TV, Radio Ulster, BBC TV, Sunday times, Independent, Yorkshire Post, Coventry Irish Hour, Radio Foyle, Central TV, London Tonight, London News Agency, Kilburn Times, Brent Chronicle, Guardian Saoirse and other Irish language outlets.
Motions passed included;
A motion calling for Irish emigrants to be given the vote in Ireland, and rejecting the offer of three senate seats,
A motion rejecting the framework documents as seeking an internal solution to Nt Ireland
A motion calling for outright opposition to MP who supported the PTA
A motion calling for inclusion of the Irish in the 2001 Census in Britain,
The Ard Fheis heard reports of IBRG work on the Kate Magee Campaign, the Frank Johnson Campaign, The McNulty Family campaign, work against the PTA, prisoners work on transfer and amnesty, along with language and cultural work.
Felim O hAdhmaill Case
In a letter to Manchester IBRG Mo Mowlam stated that she would visit Felim O hAdhmaill in Full Sutton Prison. This was covered in the Irish Post who quoted Bernadette Hyland that the proposed visit by Mo Mowlam was a breakthrough and showed that the resolution of Irish prisoners’ issues in British jails was an integral part of the peace process. Meanwhile Eamon O’Cuiv grandson of Fianna Fáil founder, Taoiseach and President of Ireland, Éamon de Valera,was coming to Britain to meet Irish prisoners and would meet Feilim. O’Cuiv was a native Irish speaker and would speak with Feilim in Irish at the prison.
Manchester IBRG produced the 4th IBRG National Newsletter (see below) with an article on the Irish community and the peace Process, a review of 1994, news of various campaigns and news from branches. The front cover had a photo of Kate Magee.
On 6th April Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG took part in an hour-long debate on the Irish being an ethnic minority community on BBC Greater London Radio, Kent Radio, Oxford Radio, and Radio Bedfordshire along with Deirdre Robinson of the Camden Irish Centre and Irish Tory Councillor Tony Hennessy from Hammersmith, with members of the public ringing in with questions to the panel of three. It was a fascinating debate.
The same evening BBC TV carried a program The Irish A Race Apart which Pat Reynolds had two sessions with the producers on, giving them cases to interview. The programme featured the Waugh family from Southwark and their treatment by the police. So, despite increasing censorship from the moving right Irish Post the IBRG were receiving excellent coverage on BBC TV, several radio stations in the south East and several Irish national papers. The IBRG were leading the national debate on issues like ethnic status, the PTA and Irish miscarriages of justice.
Joe Benson MP of Liverpool had put in an EDM (Early Day Motion) in the Commons on Frank Johnson which had received the support of 25 MPs with more to come.
On 19th April Brent IBRG held their first meeting.
In April the IBRG took up the issue of including the Irish in ethnic monitoring of European Funding programs. Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG wrote to Pauline Green MEP on 30th April on the fact that the ethnic monitoring for the European social funding did not include the Irish, so there was no way of knowing whether the Irish were getting any funding or not. The IBRG argued that given the CRE were recommending the inclusion of the Irish, and the fact of the 1976 Race relations act recognising the Irish, the European social Funding program should include the Irish.
In April Diarmuid Breatnach was called in to an Old Bailey trial to provide language translation for a man from the Gaeltacht, the first time since Fenian times that an Irish language translator was used at the Old Bailey. The Irish World reported this on 28th April with Irish Interpreter makes court history.
Lewisham IBRG marked Easter 1916 with a lecture by Liz Curtis author of the newly published book The Cause of Ireland. The Irish Post covered it with a photo of Liz Curtis.
On 29th April the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Working-Class movement Library in Salford Manchester. Nine delegates attended including Diarmuid Breatnach, Tim McNamara, Denis McGovern, Martin Connolly, Stobhart Matuieveicz, Pat Reynolds, Maurice Moore, Bernadette Hyland and Joe Mullarkey.
Apologies Neil Doolin, and Laura Sullivan.
The meeting heard that Saoirse had been launched in London in March and that Laura Sullivan was attending their meetings. A letter from Feilim O hAdhmaill was read to the meeting, he had won the right to communicate in Irish with his family. Pat Reynolds was collating information on ethnic recognition of the Irish across Britain. Bolton IBRG had organised a series of Irish programmes for Bolton Radio. Other issues discussed were, Frank Johnson, CRE meeting and recognition for the Irish, the Great Hunger anniversary, votes for emigrants, 2001 Census and the history of IBRG.
Haringey Council support inclusion of Irish in 2001 Census
On 25th April Haringey Ethnic Minorities JCC discussed the Service Needs of the Irish community in Britain with Pat Reynolds winning Haringey Council’s support for the inclusion of the Irish within the 2001 Census, the first Local authority in Britain to do so. Haringey CEO would write to the OPCS on the matter, and also write to Virginia Bottomley Health Minister about the getting the NHS to recognise the Irish. Former IBRG Vice Chair Seamus Carey now a Haringey councillor was there to support the Irish motion, along with Cllr George Meehan many times Leader of Haringey Council and from Donegal.
On 30th April the IBRG issued a statement entitled Haringey Council support for Irish Needs Report which stated that Haringey EMJCC had on 25th April heard a report on Developing a community response the Service needs of eth Irish community. Bill Aulsbury Vice Chair of the Federation addressed the meeting. Bill was also Chair of the Haringey Irish Centre. George Meehan, several times leader of Haringey Council and then Chair of Housing attended the meeting to give his support. Pat Reynolds IBRG Chair and member of the EMJCC proposed on the back of the report acceptance, that Haringey Council CEO write to the OPCS calling on them to include the Irish community as a separate category in the 2001 census, and further to write to Virginia Bottomley Minister for Health calling on the government to include the Irish in ethnic monitoring within the NHS. Cllr Toby Harris Leader of Haringey council and Chair of the ALA in London responded from the Council side supporting these two proposals, and called for reports to come back to the various committee like Housing and social Services, on ways to address the needs of the Irish community locally.
The Report was drafted by Action Group for Irish Youth and the Federation. Haringey had only two Irish councillors George Meehan and Seamus Carey former Vice chair of IBRG.
On 5th May the Irish World covered this with Haringey pledges support for Irish, the paper also covered the battle for ethnic status in London fought by the IBRG, and noted that nearly half of the 32 London boroughs now recognised the Irish with North London leading the way.
IBRG announced their results of their ethnic monitoring campaign in London with some 15 London boroughs out of 32 now recognising the Irish about half.
Merseyside IBRG Meeting on Peace Process
On 4th May Pat Reynolds was speaking with Una Gillespie of Sinn Fein at the Liverpool Irish Centre, the first time Sinn Fein had spoken at public meeting in Liverpool since the War of Independence. Over 200 people attended the meeting to talk about the Peace Process. The speakers included a speaker from the Connolly Association, but the Federation of Irish Societies failed to turn up.
The meeting was organised as part of the Liverpool Irish Festival organised by Merseyside IBRG. Nell McCafferty and Mary Dorcey also spoke on different evenings during the festival plus a Festival Parade was held.
The Festival got a two-page Photo spread in the Irish Post on 20th May with a large photo of the parade with its banner Liverpool Irish cultural community festival, and a photo of Neil Doolin and others, the Irish World on 19th May again had a whole page photo spread with eight photos including Neil Doolin outside the Irish centre with Marie Byrne McCann.
The Irish Post covered the political meeting with Irish in Britain have key role in talks process. Pat Reynolds stated that there were over two million people in Britain who identified as being Irish and that it was time to decommission Britain’s role in Ireland which was a colonial and repressive one.
In May the British government published its consultation paper on identity Cards which the IBRG opposed.
On 4th June IBRG members joined the first Saoirse picket in Britain of 10 Downing St before then it was just Cuman Cabrach and the IBRG who had kept the pickets going on Irish prisoners from 1981 to 1995 some 15 years.
On 11th June IBRG members attended the Bronterre O’Brien commemoration at Abney Cemetery in Hackney.See below. O’Brien was one of the leaders of the Chartist movement and was born in Granard Co Longford.
On 12th June IBRG members attended the Unison Irish fringe meeting in Brighton with Diarmuid Breatnach speaking for the Irish workers Group, Frank O’ Neill speaking for Saoirse and Joan O’Connor for Sinn Fein. The meeting drew over 70 people.
On 17th June the IBRG Ard Choiste met at Caxton House at Archway north London. Six delegates attended including Laura Sullivan, Pat Reynolds, Diarmuid Breatnach, Bernadette Hyland, and Maurice Moore.
It was agreed to affiliate to Saoirse for £25, and to the Bridgewater Four campaign for £10. Diarmuid Breatnach was elected Vice chair. A motion from North London condemned the proposed identity cards introduction by the British Government. The priorities for the year were identified, Great Hunger events, Prisoners issues, ethnic recognition, 2001 census and votes for emigrants. A meeting had been arranged with Mo Mowlam to discuss the PTA, prisoners and Nt Ireland policy.
On 20th June Martin McGuiness stated ‘in reality there is not a snowball’s chance in hell of any weapons being decommissioned this side of a negotiated settlement’.
In June the IBRG condemned the remark by Paddy Ashdown Leader of the Liberals about not giving ‘an Irishman’s answer’ to a question. The Irish World had the story on the front-page quoting Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG that his remark was racist and betrayed a colonial mentality, and reflected on the British establishment entrenched attitude towards Irish people.
Laoise de Paor of Nt London IBRG had painted a banner for the Frank Johnson Campaign which was put on display at the London Irish Fleadh in Finsbury park.
Merseyside IBRG and rejected plans for Dublin/Liverpool Ferry
On 1st July the Irish Post ran a story Liverpool City Council’s blow to ferry Link about the rejected plan to restart a Dublin Liverpool ferry. Neil Doolin of Merseyside IBRG was quoted as saying’ We are disappointed with the Liverpool City council’s decision not to go ahead with the ferry proposal, and see it as missed opportunity to strengthen economic cultural and social links with Ireland. Let’s not forget that Dublin is the nearest EU capital to Liverpool, and it seems ludicrous that links between the two are not being forged, especially now that millions of pounds of EU Objective One cash is available’.
On 3rd July Lee Clegg a British soldier convicted of murder was released after four years. This led to rioting in nationalist areas in the occupied territories. In London IBRG members joined with other human rights supporters in picketing the Home Office and then Parliament and getting on TV. This was during John Major’s re-election as Tory Leader on 4th July. John Bruton stated that he expects the British authority to apply the same rules to all other similar prisoner cases.’
On 3rd July Pat Reynolds was a key note speaker at a Haringey Education Conference on Racial Equality in schools.
On 9th July the Orange march was blocked from marching down the Garvaghy Road in Lurgan but the next day the Tory Government gave in to the right-wing marchers and allowed them to go through. The Irish government accused the RUC of bias in favour of the marches.
On 14th July after a meeting of John Bruton, John Hume, Gerry Adams and Dick Spring a joint statement called for all-party talks as soon possible.
By the end of July, the Irish government had released 33 republican prisoners while the British Government had transferred some 21 republican prisoners.
On 15th July Coventry IBRG issued a statement condemning Coventry’s Lord Major Joe Clifford for refusing to meet with elected public Sinn Fein figure Joe Austin, who was in Britain to build up support for the peace process.
Joe Austin was met by representatives of the Christian churches in Coventry, leaders of the Irish community, trade unions and other city councillors, yet last spring Coventry had feted Cllr Hugh Smith PUP in their City, and the refusal to meet a Sinn Fein Councillor smacked of colonial racist attitudes.
Maurice Moore, Chair of Coventry IBRG, stated ‘by his actions the Lord Major has insulted Coventry’s Irish community and owes us an apology. We demand that Coventry City Council make clear their role and contribution, if any, to the Peace Process’.
The Irish Post on 5th August had Refusal still rankles which covered letters in the Coventry Evening Telegraph on the issue. The Mayor, in taking office, stated that Peace was to be the theme of his year in office, yet as Maurice Moore pointed out, he refused to take part in a Peace Process meeting in Coventry and showed bias by openly inviting Loyalist PUP to Coventry.
On 17th July Bernadette Hyland, PRO IBRG, issued a statement IBRG Condemns British government’s year zero policy on Irish prisoners in British jails. New prison regimes were imposing closed visits on Irish prisoners and going back on agreements such as Feilim O hAdhamill’s right to speak and write to his family in Irish Bernadette Hyland stated ‘these prisoners are part of our community over here, and we utterly condemn this new regime as vicious and repressive. Eleven months into the ceasefire we have yet to see a positive response from the British government on the treatment of Irish prisoners in British jails, republican prisoners are clearly being used as political pawns in the peace process We call on the British government to transfer all Irish prisoners immediately and move quickly to all-party talks in which the early release of prisoners would be3 a crucial part of any settlement’.
Lewisham and recognition of Irish
On 22nd July the Irish Post story Breakthrough on monitoring in Lewisham covered Lewisham council moving to recognise the Irish in the autumn and were preparing a report for committee. The IBRG had made several representations to the Council on the matter.
The article also reported that Lambeth Southwark and Lewisham Health commission we relooking at the issue. The article reported that seminar on the issue was being held at Southwark Town Hall on 21st July at which IBRG Chair and Southwark Irish Policy Officer was one of the keynote speakers, and he would be recommending recognition of the Irish, and was working with the Health Commission to develop policies to address health issues in the Irish community.
IBRG oppose Identity Cards
On 30th July the IBRG issued a statement IBRG oppose use of Identity cards in Britain. The statement noted the publication of the British Government paper by Michael Howard Home Secretary. The IBRG at their Ard Choiste meeting of 17th June passed a motion opposing the introduction of these cards in Britain.
IBRG pointed out that in Dr Jock Young’s Study on Police stops in North London which showed that Black and Irish people were stopped many more times than English people, and that ID cards would make all Irish people more vulnerable given the existence of the racist PTA laws. Indeed, the Irish community had been subject to pass laws and identity checks for over 20 years going to and from Ireland, solely based on their racial background. It was noted that the four countries in Europe which had ID cards were all former dictatorships. The IBRG however welcomed the description of the UK as our island geography and hopes that the Home Office now believed in a United Ireland. The Irish World covered this on 4th August with Irish lobby group calls for opposition to identity cards.
IBRG Meeting with Mo Mowlam
On 3rd August an IBRG Delegation led by IBRG Chair Pat Reynolds along with Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Moore and Kevin Hayes met with Mo Mowlam at Westminster.
The IBRG argued for the total repeal of the PTA but Mo Mowlam stated, that Labour wanted to hold on to the PTA to deal with drugs fraud and international terrorism. The IBRG argued for all Irish prisoners to be transferred and released, Mo Mowlam agreed with transfer and would look at 30-50% remission. The IBRG wanted to know what percentage rule was used for Lee Clegg, there was no answer.
Mo Mowlam supported a Bill of Rights and wanted the Peace Process moved on, but would not reveal their position prior to the General election. The IBRG raised the question of Irish inclusion in the 2001 census which Mo stated Labour would look at, and Mo would raise it with Jack Straw Shadow Home Secretary.
The Irish Post on 12th August had a photo of the meeting with Mo Mowlam Maurice Moore and Kevin Hayes. See below. The Irish World on 12th August had Labour challenged on peace process stance IBRG delegation describes meeting with Mowlam as useful.
On 31st August IBRG members took part in vigil/picket of Trafalgar Square on the 1st anniversary of the IRA ceasefire to protest at the lack of progress on the Peace Process.
The IBRG condemned the Sun over its attack on an Industrial Tribunal award to Alan Bryan for discrimination at work where he was called Gerry Adams. The IBRG condemned an article in the Sun by Islington and ex Harriet Harman advisor’s Leo McKinstry who attacked the concept of anti-Irish racism.
The article entitled Taking the Mick was the usual stuff that Ruth Dudley Edwards peddles. He talked of the ‘absurdly politically correct campaign against so called anti-Irish racism in Britain’, attacked the Roger Casement Irish centre and the Irish women’s centre, and the Industrial Tribunal award to Alan Bryans. He attacked the CRE, Irish Lesbians and AGIY. He does not respect the law of law and its judgement when it come to the Irish. When you think that this right winger was an advisor to Harriet Harman, one wonders about the Labour Party and its attitude towards the Irish.
On 6th August the IBRG issued a press release defending Alan Bryan’s victory in the Industrial Tribunal. And condemned the politically correct Sun for its sour grapes. The Sun was spreading a very dangerous line in supporting such racial abuse of Irish people in the workplace, even after a legal victory over racial harassment and abuse. The Sun’s brand of political correctness won’t respect the work of Roger Casement after 80 years, his fight for equal rights for many oppressed peoples. A nobler name for an Irish Centre in Britain can hardy exist, than that that of Roger Casement, and it is fitting that it should follow in his footsteps and demand equality for the Irish in Britain.
Leo McKinstry and his like use their Irishness to attack the Irish community, but he is part of an old colonial history of Uncle Toms, gombeen men, quislings who always have pandered to reactionary forces in Britain and are in effect small minded whingers and begrudges. The term politically correct is now used by the right in Britain to describe anything, they do not agree with and is only used against those who stand up for social justice and equal rights. The white man’s burden rests heavily on the Sun. The PC represent by the Sun is the old WASP culture which supported slavery, genocide, the starvation of Ireland, dispossession of the people, violence and oppression. Women Gays, Irish Blacks are no all politically correct because they are winning through to a brighter future. It hurts the Sun and them irk to see the Irish community winning, and standing up for their rights.
McKinstry argues that the Irish in Britain have the same rights as their British neighbours, it is strange then that he does not extend then their rights to act like their British neighbours, and defend their right to take any case of discrimination to an Industrial Tribunal. It is quite clear that neither he nor the Sun accept that the Irish have equal rights in Britain. The Irish World covered the IBRG press release in full under The Sun’s commentary slammed as sour grapes on 11th August
Labour Party exclude Irish from ethnic monitoring
The IBRG deplored the Labour party for excluding the Irish from their ethnic monitoring in their document Active Labour Towards 2000 which listed eight different ethnic groups. Here Labour was not taking any notice of the Government Race body the CRE, who recommended the inclusion of the Irish.
On 9th August the IBRG issued a statement noting the publication of the Labour Party’s document Active Labour Towards 2000 the Regeneration project a 66-page booklet, on how to build the party in the community. Corbyn could have done this for them in no time, but this was the Blair method which was a slow burning one. The Labour party left the Irish completely out of their document despite including the other major communities in Britain.
Unless the Labour Party begin to take seriously the issues affecting the Irish community including the peace Process, Irish prisoners, the PTA along with equal rights, they can hardly expect the full support of the Irish community. The Irish community wants policies from the Labour party on Irish self-determination and on the needs of the Irish community in Britain. The Labour party, without specific Irish policies, would miss out on the Irish votes and Corbyn and Livingstone had shown how to mobilise the Irish vote. The Irish World covered this on 18th August with Lobby group slams Labour for ignoring Irish ethnic status.
On 18th August Diarmuid Breatnach had an excellent letter in the Irish World stating Prisoners transfer was not the only issue in the peace process, and that the first and main issue was the decommissioning of the British in N. Ireland. He argued that we should not forget why these prisoners took up the struggle that was to free Ireland of British rule. The letter was also in the Irish Post on 19th August under let’s not overlook the basic issues.
Coventry IBRG put a on a short film season from 21st-23rd August which included films by Philip Donnellan including the Irishmen, one on Irish Travellers, and Passage West about emigration from Ireland. Maurice Moore led the group behind the Festival.
On 25th August the Irish World had Groups rally round to save Liverpool festival which reported efforts by Neil Doolin to secure the future of Liverpool Irish Festival. They were to set up a new formal committee with charity status to secure funding from the Council and Art bodies. 5,000 people had taken part in that year’s festival.
Bolton IBRG had a festival from 25th August to 2nd September which Bolton IBRG were involved din the Irish Post on 19th August had Bolton Irish making waves about its radio programme, and earlier on 12th August it had Keeping Irish on air in Bolton.
On 8th September David Trimble took over as Leader of the UUP.
Camden Council challenged over low representation of Irish in workforce
In September the IBRG took Camden Council to task over their low representation of Irish staff at their Town Hall. This was part of an ongoing IBRG campaign to ensure fair representation of Irish staff within Town halls in Britain.
On 8th September the Irish World covered an IBRG statement re Irish missing out on Council jobs about Camden council, where only 381 Irish staff worked making up 5.8% of the council’s workforce. Pat Reynolds pointed out that this figure did not even make up the 6.5% of the borough population who were born in Ireland, let alone the second generation. Haringey which had only 5.2% born in Ireland had some 10% of staff who were Irish.
There was for some reason a bias against employing Irish staff in Camden despite the Camden Irish Centre being in the borough. However, the Camden Irish Centre made no effort to represent the Irish community in the borough and stayed within a narrow catholic parochial mindset.
On 15th September the Irish World had Blair blasted for Sinn Fein snub where the IBRG slammed Blair for refusing to meet with Sinn Fein in Ireland on recent visit there.
On 16th September the IBRG Ard Choiste met in Coventry with six delegates attending including Diarmuid Breatnach, Bernadette Hyland, Laura Sullivan, Pat Reynolds Kevin Hayes and Maurice Moore.
The meeting agreed that IBRG should seek a position on the Saoirse national committee. It noted that Sinn Fein did not consult with other groups in Britain before setting up Saoirse. Other issues discussed included Prisoners transfer, PTA, CRE, ethnic monitoring and local authorities, Census 2001, Irish census 1996, the Peace Process, the Great Starvation, and votes for emigrants.
Manchester IBRG had written to the leader of Manchester City Council on the 2001 census, while North London IBRG would explore an EDM on the issue. Pat Reynolds had written to the 17 boroughs who did not recognise the Irish. The CRE had made it public in August by means of a notice to public bodies that they recognise the Irish. There was no response to the notice from any public body nor did the CRE seek any response.
That evening the IBRG Members attended a celebration of the life of Dr Maire O Shea in Birmingham at which Pat Reynolds spoke for the IBRG, and spoke of Maire’s contribution to opening up the way for the release of the framed prisoner sin Britain, by building a huge campaign on her own case.
On 26th September Pat Reynolds had an interview with BBC West Midlands over Irish elders being allowed to use residential care in Ireland.
On 27th September European court of Human Rights ruled the execution of three unarmed IRA volunteers in Gibraltar had breached the Human Rights Convention and ordered Britain to pay the families legal costs in the case.
In September the IBRG raised the question of Irish emigration in the 1996 census. Pat Reynolds, Chair of IBRG had written to the Director General of the Irish census asking them to consider a specific question on emigration, e.g. does any member of your family live abroad, if so where and what year did they emigrate.
On 25th September the IBRG made a three-page submission making 14 separate objections to the British government over the proposed introduction of identity cards in Britain. One of the main objections of the IBRG, was the impact upon the Irish community given the existence of the racist PTA laws, which targeted the Irish just because they were Irish, and the ID cards could lead to an extension of PTA type stops within communities. Mass carding and computer indexing of the Irish had gone on in Britain over the past 25 years. In one case in1991 a Derby college gave the names and addresses of all Irish pupils attending their college after an incident in Derby. This does not happen with white English students. Ireland and Britain were Common Travel areas with no requirement for passports or other identification.
In early September the IBRG announced that Croydon council in South London had agreed to recognise the Irish community, while a meeting in Lewisham attended by the IBRG to discuss Irish recognition was inquorate. The Irish Post on 9th September had Monitoring breakthrough in Croydon. However, the Post added at the end Britain’s Irish community remains divided over whether or not expatriates should be classified as an ethnic minority. This was a clear false statement without any evidence.
The GLC and other conferences of all the Irish community groups 100% supported the inclusion of the Irish as a minority community and supported recognition. This was clear evidence of a right wing move by the Irish Post from its former editor Brendan MacLus who always supported the community. The Irish Post in particular had made millions form ethnic advertising form the GLC and mainly London Local Authorities yet here they go with one or two right wingers who represent nobody.
In September the Department of Health confirmed to IBRG that they would allow ageing N. Irish born elders to go back into residential care in N. Ireland, one reason was that it was cheaper there, but it held many positive things for Irish elders to be among their own people.
The Irish World on 15th September had Elderly Irish in victory over residential places and indicate that the IBRG would now campaign to allow Irish people to apply to go into care homes in the Irish Republic, as costs were lower, and there were other benefits of Irish elders being able to return home near their relatives. The Irish Post on 16th September reported Breakthrough for the elderly covering the IBRG story.
On 23th September the Irish Post had Harrow Council accused of snubbing Irish Labour councillor which said that Harrow had slapped the Irish community in the face by failing to provide them with office space to work with the Irish community and the 30 Liberal councillors refused to support the Irish.
In September the IBRG took Hackney Council to task over its failure to employ a fair representation of Irish people. On 23rd September the Irish Post had Hackney’s failure on jobs for Irish. Pat Reynolds chair of IBRG had exposed a second borough after Camden, of failure on providing equality of employment for Irish people in the borough. Hackney had only 4.9% of its workforce as Irish whereas the Irish made up 9% of the borough’s population. The report also found that Irish staff were concentrated in low manual type jobs with low wages. Pat stated the first principle of good local government is that they should reflect the communities they serve. 294 Irish staff worked for Hackney with 129 listed as officers.
In September the IBRG welcomed the victory of Alan Bryans in an Industrial tribunal in Newcastle on racial discrimination against him because he was Irish. He had been called Irish prat and Gerry Adams. His victory was attacked by Ruth Dudley Edwards, the Sun and the tabloids.
The Daily Mirror (Labour supporting) had £30K for being called an Irish Prat,
the Daily Star had Irish prat taunt wins sir £30K, Today had the £30K Prat,
the Daily Express had £30K for being branded Irish prat,
the Sun had the law gone mad £30K for being called Gerry Adams,
and the Daily Mail had An Insult to Common Sense.
All of these papers including the Daily Mirror, Labour supporting, all share the same anti-Irish racism with their readers, would they have done the same to a Black, Muslim or Jewish person. The issue here was about Irish people getting access to the law to challenge anti-Irish racism.
On 29th September the Irish World had College lecturer labelled an Irish prat receives £30k in damages. Some Tory Councillor had attacked the award for racial discrimination as being ‘stupidly high, thus showing his own stupidity. The Irish Post had College give deadline on racial abuse. Both papers covered the IBRG condemnation of the British media on racism, in how they covered the award. The British media across the board apart from the quality press were anti-Irish and extremely racist towards any rights of Irish people under the law
On 1st October the IBRG took part in a picket of Downing St over prisoners organised by Saoirse. These would now take place on the first Sunday of each month.
On 1st October the IBRG issues a statement ID cards Threat to civil Liberties based on the IBRG submission to the Home Office on the subject. On 6th October the Irish Post gave the story half a page entitled ID cards warning by IBRG. The Post covered the IBRG submission in detail and noted that the proposals would change the status of the Irish in Britain under the Common Travel area and also under the Ireland 1949 Act, whereby Irish citizens enjoyed equal rights in Britain in terms of voting and standing for political office in Britain. British people in Ireland now enjoyed the same rights since the mid 1980’s. The Irish World on 6th October had ID cards plan pose threat to Irish IBRG and again covered the IBRG submission.
In October and November, the IBRG highlighted the high number of Irish murders in London and called for action to address these attacks on our community.
On 6th October there was a letter in the Irish World entitled tackling violent crime against Irish community, which supported the IBRG call for more action to be taken against a high number of violent murders committed against member of the Irish community which required a public response. It seemed in Britain, in terms of policing and judicial decisions, that Irish lives were deemed of lesser value. There was a high homicide rate against the Irish community often because they lived in poorer areas, and had a late-night culture which made them easy targets for violent crimes. The homicide rate against the Irish was double that for British people. Despite being one of the most policed communities in Britain the Irish remained the most vulnerable and the least protected.
On 19th October Pat Reynolds spoke to the Hammersmith Irish Forum at Hammersmith Town Hall on the case of Frank Johnson.
On 20th October the Irish World covered on their front page Hounded to death by Hooligans a shocking story of a crippled wheelchair bound Irishman who had been racially targeted in in Camden Pat Reynolds IBRG stated that his death could have been prevented had the police and local authority attended to several pleas for help from the man
On 22nd October IBRG members attended the Terence MacSwiney commemoration at Southwark cathedral on the 75 the anniversary of his death. The issue then was around Irish prisoners as it was today.
On 25th October Mary Robinson President of Ireland met the English Queen at Buckingham palace, lucky she was not detained or beheaded.
On 26th October Pat Reynolds was speaking at the Camden Irish Forum AGM with Mo Mowlam and Jeremy Corbyn MP. Mo hoped that since she was speaking in the McNamara Hall that they would also name a room after her. Here she was advised wrongly as the hall was not called after Kevin McNamara and after Fr McNamara the priest who set up the Irish centre. Pat Reynolds knew Fr McNamara well as he was parish priest of St Gabriel’s and spent a lot of time at the Gresham Ballroom across the road. Over 100 people attended the meeting where Mo Mowlam got a roasting over the Labour Party’s position on N. Ireland.
In October Bernadette Hyland PRO had a letter in the Irish Post on 7th October headed Labour risks losing the Irish Vote taking Mo Mowlam to task over her piece in the same paper on Labour New policy on N. Ireland which was just the same as their own one. Bernadette called for the removal of all guns in N. Ireland including state guns, and noted that the British had not raised the issue of decommissioning of weapons during secret talks with republicans. Bernadette condemned Blair for not meeting with Adams and accused Labour of still backing a Unionist veto. A letter next to the IBRG letter was from Brian Behan brother of Brendan Behan who stated ‘how dare Herr Blair refuse to meet Adams. Clinton can meet him. Mandela can meet him’. He called the Labour Party the poor man’s Tory Party.
In October IBRG announced that Greenwich Council in south London would now recognise the Irish. On 21st October the Irish Post had Now Greenwich Irish to get recognition The large piece in the Post covered a letter from the leader of Greenwich Council to Pat Reynolds Chair of IBRG which stated ‘In line with the provisions of the Race Relations Act 1976 the London Borough of Greenwich has taken a policy decision which recognises the Irish as an ethnic minority group who make a valuable contribution to the life of the borough, but are disadvantaged and discriminate against both in employment and in provision of services’.
This statement was important coming from the Leader of a British Council. The leader stated that Unison in Greenwich had opposed the move which showed how trade unions in Britain often hindered rather than helped the Irish. Pat was reminded by a Greenwich Irish resident that the last Irish person to get any concession and recognition of rights in Greenwich was Grainne O Maile when she met Queen Elisabeth 1 there.
In October Harrow IBRG and Tony McNulty, later an MP, took Harrow Council to task over their neglect of Irish needs.
In October Joe Mullarkey of Bolton IBRG highlighted a chance for the Irish community to lobby local Town Halls over including the Irish in the 2001 census. Local Authorities were now being consulted by the OPCS over the ethnic categories for the 2001 census, and now was the time for the Irish to put pressure on their Town hall on this matter.
On 30th October Bill Clinton President of the USA visited Belfast and Derry the first serving President to do so.
On 2nd November Lewisham Council recognised the Irish community after lobbying from IBRG. On 4th November the Irish Post had A Lewisham breakthrough on monitoring reported on the IBRG London campaign for recognition. The IBRG reported that 18 London boroughs now recognised the Irish with about 11 holding out and three considering it. It had been a remarkable year in pushing the battle for recognition on in London.
In another article in the Irish Post on 18th November reported Chance for Irish category in next census and quoted Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG that getting more local authorities to include the Irish in ethnic monitoring would increase the chance of the Irish being included in the 2001 census.
The article also quoted at length Joe Mullarkey of Bolton IBRG who has started the process in Bolton by asking Bolton Council to write to the OPCS on the question. Now on the back of the request from Bolton, the OPCS had written to all local authorities in Britain asking for any proposed revisions to the census forms. Joe quoted a number of figures from the 1991 census which gave only those living in Irish headed households, with the result that many Irish were lost including the second generation. Bolton, Manchester and Haringey seem to be the only three areas who were pushing the census question.
On 4th November the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Working-class Movement Library in Salford Manchester. Four delegates attended namely Joe Mullarkey, Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds and Maurice Moore. Apologies from Diarmuid Breatnach and Laura Sullivan.
The meeting heard that the Irish Government had passed legislation to allow the transfer of Irish prisoners and that the British government had increased remission time from 30% to 55% so that political prisoners could be released earlier.
Joe Mullarkey reported that Bolton Council had following the Haringey example and had written to the OPCS supporting the inclusion of the Irish in the 2001 census. The Peace Process was discussed and the meeting felt that talks should continue with emphasis on self-determination, the keeping of article two and three, an end to employment discrimination, an amnesty for prisoners, and all emergency legislation to be repealed. The meeting heard that both Lewisham and Greenwich councils in South London had now agreed to recognise the Irish after IBRG lobbying.
In November the IBRG made a submission to the OPCS calling in them to include the Irish in the 2001 Census as a separate ethnic category.
On 10th November Pat Reynolds had an interview with GLR radio on the 1986 Irish census and the IBRG call for a question on emigration.
Richard O’ Brien Case
On 10th November a jury delivered a verdict of unlawful killing in the case of Richard O’Brien who had been killed in police custody in front of his family. Richard repeatedly told the police officer that he could not breathe and that they won, you win you win I can’t breathe, let me up, but he was held down forcibly until life passed slowly from him in South London.
Both Pat Reynolds and Irish Policy Officer in Southwark and Cllr Jodie Clark provided the initial support for the family to get further support from Birnbergs and from Inquest. In November the CPS announced that it was considering criminal charges against the police officers involved in the killing of Richard O ‘Brien in South London. It was the first time that the Irish community had challenged the police as for over two centuries Irish lives in Britain had been cheap and at the end of heavy policing and many deaths.
On 17th November Pat Reynolds was speaking at a benefit for Frank Johnson at the Camden Irish centre which raised over £450 for the campaign.
In November AGIY launched their 1991 census figures on the London boroughs. The IBRG had already given these figures months earlier, but AGIY gave a much more detailed picture on the Irish in London in terms of housing and other areas.
In November the CSO in Ireland rejected the IBRG demand to have question on emigration in the 1996 census to spare the Irish Government shame.
on 18 November Maurice Moore of Coventry IBRG spoke at an MSF (Manufacturing, Science and Finance Trade Union) organised Day School in Birmingham on The Irish Peace Process and the British Labour Movement.
On 30th November The European Court of Justice ruled that the operation of the PTA contravenes European Union Law by breaching the freedom of movement guaranteed by the Treaty of Rome.
Censorship of TOM Meeting in Manchester
In November Bernadette McAliskey was invited by Manchester Troops Out Movement to speak in the city about the Peace Process. The venue was the Mechanics Institute, run by Manchester TUC and the building was owned by Manchester City Council. TOM were informed that the venue hire was withdrawn.
They rang Bernadette Hyland of Manchester IBRG who contacted the Manager, Josie White, who explained that the Police had visited them and told them that they would lose their licence if the meeting went ahead. Bernadette discussed this with Josie and one of the Trustees,an NUT officer, but they would not challenge or publicise why they were withdrawing the venue. Bolton Socialist Club stepped in and the meeting went ahead there with Bernadette.
In Manchester IBRG had got the support of Tony Lloyd MP for inclusion in the 2001 Census of the Irish.
On 2nd December Bernadotte Hyland IBRG PRO had a letter in the Irish Post welcoming the release of some Irish prisoners for Christmas and calling for support for Paul Magee a prisoner at Belmarsh.
On 6th December Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG wrote to the American Embassy in London on the occasion of Bill Clinton Visit to Ireland and Britain setting out the position of the Irish community in Britain both in terms of the Peace Process and Irish self-determination, and also about the social conditions of the Irish in Britain including the PTA.
Southwark Council and needs of Irish
On 16th December the Irish Post had Southwark Irish worse off than native population based on a report passed by Southwark Council, which was put before the Council by Pat Reynolds the Irish Policy Officer. It showed that unemployment for the Irish was 22% compared with 16 for white British, 57% of the Irish working in manual jobs compared with 37% for the white English, 57% of the Irish lived in council hosing compared with 49% for white British, home ownership for the Irish was 19% compared with 29% for the white British. The figures for Irish mental health and disability were much higher than other groups. The Southwark Irish Staff Group expected the Council to now follow up on the report, and write to the OPCS for the inclusion of the Irish in the 2001 census.
Nine people died in the troubles in N. Ireland during 1995, the lowest number because of the Ceasefire.
On Christmas day the IBRG held a picket of 10 Downing St over Irish prisoners both political and framed ones.
NE Lancs IBRG put on a free Irish pensioners dinner before Christmas. The Irish Post on 25th November had a boost to pensioners and noted that this was the 10th annual free Christmas event. The Southwark Irish Forum did the same each year and also on St Patricks day with Town Hall support and funding. On 5th January 1996 the Irish World had four photos of the event entitled All smiles at NE Lancs IBRG Christmas Party Night
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