Patrick Reynolds was one of the founders of IBRG and played a key role in its history. He is now writing up that history and putting it into the context of radical history in Britain and Ireland in the C20th.
On 10th January Sinn Fein responded to the International Arms Body by saying the IRA might dispose of their weapons with independent verification, but only after a political settlement had been negotiated, and only in the context of overall demilitarisation.
The Ard Choiste took place on 13th January at Caxton House Archway North London. Delegates attending included Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds, and Thomas MacStiofan.
Issues discussed included the Peace Process, Irish Prisoners, Ethnic recognition, Census 2001, Bloody Sunday and plans for the Ard Fheis.
On 19th January Pat Reynolds chaired a stormy meeting at Aras naGael in Brent of over 100 people over the threatened closure of the centre with two rival factions on involved on a right/ left split.
Bloody Sunday March Leicester
On 27th January Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG was speaking at the Bloody Sunday rally in Leicester along with Lucilita Breatnach of Sinn Fein. Huge falls of snow made the march smaller than usual. Maurice Moore, Kevin Hayes, and Laura Sullivan were among IBRG officers present. Both the IBRG banner and the Frank Johnson banners were displayed at the rally.
Harrow Council recognises the Irish as an ethnic community
In January Harrow became the 19th borough Council in London to recognise the Irish after IBRG lobbying. Despite this, Harrow had refused to give the IBRG office space to provide for Irish people in the borough. The Irish World on 5th January had Storm over anti Irish behaviour in Harrow where Cllr Tony McNulty later an MP accused the Liberal and Tories of anti-Irish behaviour in refusing the Irish accommodation.
Labour had proposed at the Council meeting that the IBRG be given office space to offer advice to the Irish community, but the Liberal and Tories opposed the motion. The Irish had put forward the original idea that all major community groups be given office space, yet they were the only community now denied a space.
Cllr McNulty accused the Liberals and Tories of using the No Irish need apply rule. On 13th January the Irish Post had Harrow to recognise the Irish. The Irish Post quoted the Irish Trade Board figures for Harrow which were quite different from IBRG but the Irish Trade board figures were based on postal codes which are different. In a letter to the Irish Post on 27th January Pat Reynolds clarified that the IBRG figures were right for Harrow and gave further figure for those living in Irish headed households, which would miss many Irish where an Irish woman had an English partner.
The London Irish Women’s Centre launched their report on Travellers Rights in London. Angie Birthill had done most of the work on the document.
IBRG condemns Government over Mitchell Commission
In January the IBRG deplored the British government response to the Mitchell Commission on N. Ireland. The IBRG again called for talks without preconditions.
On 28th January the IBRG issued a statement IBRG deplores British provocation and deplore the British government response to the Mitchell Commission as an act of provocation against the nationalist community. The IBRG called for immediate talks between all parties without preconditions and rejected the British demand for decommissioning of Irish arms.
IBRG condemned the Labour Party bipartisan approach to Ireland, where they too like the Tories hide behind the Unionist veto in Ireland. The British had no mandate ever in Ireland over the last 800 years, and had no mandate of dividing Ireland in 1921. What need to be decommissioned in Ireland was British rule, British discrimination and oppression, the British military war machine, and the decommissioning of its 100% Unionist police force.
Camden Council block on allowing Sinn Fein accommodation
In January IBRG condemned Camden Council for its refusal to allow Sinn Fein take up rented space offices in Camden. The IBRG further condemned Glenda Jackson MP and Frank Dobson MP for blocking Sinn Fein’s right to Office space. The IBRG statement read Dobson will soon be coming begging for Irish votes, and he will get his come uppance. In 2000 in the election for Mayor of London the Irish voters refused to vote for him paying him back in kind and in good measure.
On 14th January the IBRG issued a statement stating Block on Sinn Fein Undemocratic. In it the IBRG drew attention to the fact that Sinn Fein speakers could draw hundreds to their meetings, while the two local MPs could only draw handful of people. The IBRG also noted that neither MP had asked the British government to renounce violence, and to apologise for over 800 years of colonial rule and repression and violence against the Irish people. The argument put out by British politicians over the years was that republicans should use the democratic process, and yet when they attempt to do this, the same politicians block them at every stage.
IBRG also drew attention to how few staff Camden council employed at their Town Hall. Sinn Fein had over 40% of the nationalist vote in N. Ireland. The IBRG challenged Dobson and Jackson as to where they stood on the Peace Process. An Phoblacht covered the story with SF to open London Office. The Irish Post had Camden say No to SF Headquarters.
On 24th January Pat Reynolds and Diarmuid Breatnach carried the Lewisham IBRG banner on the Asylum March where it was later featured on BBC TV news, and on the next day on Around Westminster.
On 9th February the IRA called off their ceasefire and bombed Canary Wharf in East London killing two people.
On 18th February an IRA bomb goes off on a London bus killing volunteer Edward O’Brien. IBRG in a statement blamed John Major for the Ceasefire breakdown and for wasting months in doing nothing to further the Peace Process.
On 11th February the IBRG had issued a statement entitled Major’s Policy on Ireland a failure. It stated The IBRG holds John Major responsible for the breakdown of the IRA ceasefire, in his failure to act as a responsible leader in progressing talks for a political settlement in Ireland. The IBRG calls for all-party talks without any preconditions.
The Irish Post on 17th February had Bid for peace talks must go on, and quoted the IBRG where it contrasted N. Ireland with South Africa and Bosnia where talks had taken place.
On 11th February IBRG members joined the picket of Belmarsh Prison on Frank Stagg’s anniversary at which Pat Reynolds spoke.
Death of Bolton IBRG member Caitlin Wright
On 26th February IBRG members including Virginia Moyles, Joe Mullarkey and Pat Reynolds attended Caitlin Wright’s funeral in Bolton. Caitlin and her family had given a lifetime’s work to the cause of Ireland, the Irish in Bolton and Irish prisoners. Caitlin was 68 at the time of her death. The last song at her funeral was I will wear no convict’s uniform.
The IBRG issued a statement on her death in which they drew attention to her lifelong work for the Irish community, and for a United Ireland. Along with her husband the Reverend David Wright she had been on a number of delegations to Ireland to raise issues affecting the Irish community in Britain with the Irish political parties. She was leading member of Bolton IBRG, and was national leader in IBRG for many years, having been the Education Officer and the National Coordinator.
She was a lifelong socialist and republican and carried Irish banners in Dublin, London Belfast and Bolton. She spent many years trying to get Irish culture into the National curriculum in Britain. She strongly supported Irish prisoners and their rights around strip searching, and transfer.
She was a member of the National Union of Teachers and was involved in many working classes struggles in Britain including the Miners’ strike, supporting the NHS, the Dr Maire OShea campaign, the Birmingham Six campaign and many more. She had a great love of Ireland although her family had come to Britain after the Great Hunger. Her early death at the age of 68 deprived the community of a great activist and leader. Her life’s work and struggle are an inspiration of those of us carrying on that struggle for a free and united Ireland and for a just society in Britain.
In February the IBRG condemned Coronation Street for its wife beating character who was Irish. The issue of domestic violence was an issue in the Irish community, but every Irish character in British soaps were either mad or bad and most time both. The Irish News carried the story with Irish group critical of Streets’ wife beating. The IBRG condemns the characterisation of Irish people in British TV where the only representation of one of violence, if they were represented at all. The Irish in Britain were rarely represented in soaps or in drama in Britain, as if they did not exist.
Southwark Irish Family win case against Southwark Council
In February the IBRG welcomed the story of an Irish woman victory over Southwark Council who were found guilty on two charges of maladministration and ordered to pay the woman compensation of £1,850 for the stress. On 18th February the IBRG issued a statement entitled Southwark Irish family win Ombudsman’s case against Southwark council. Southwark had been found guilty of a six-month delay in issuing an S64 notice, and were guilty of a delay in offering the Irish woman a suitable property.
IBRG expressed disappointment that the Ombudsman had not supported the central complaint of racial harassment because of its political sensitivity. Southwark council had failed for many years to recognise Irish cases of racial harassment, which led to several Irish families having to put up with racial abuse and attacks for many years. There was a failure to implement their obligations under the Race Relations Act, and where the Chief Officer dealing with racial harassment excluded the Irish, and held the erroneous view that only Black families could be racially harassed. There were only eight cases proved against Southwark Council last year which showed how difficult it was to succeed in these cases.
It was notable victory and showed that Irish families did not have to put up with racial harassment and with unfair treatment by any local authority. In this case Cllr Jody Clark had supported the family rather than the Council Racial Harassment Unit. The IBRG called on the Dion committee to set up a national office which could deal with anti-Irish discrimination in employment, housing and in welfare in Britain.
In February IBRG condemned Jack Straw and Tony Blair over their support for the racist PTA laws.
The Times Literary Supplement attacked the Green Ink Bookshop by trying to link it in with the Dockland bombing but Green Ink responded to that outrageous attack by the Times. It was interesting that Green Ink should be publicly attacked and then in the same year have their funding stopped.
Leo McKinstry attacked the IBRG in the Sun on 24th February after the IBRG had a feature on the Peace process in the Islington Express.
The IBRG got a sympathetic piece in the Sunday Telegraph on 18th February on Irish inclusion in the 2001 Census by Jenny McCartney daughter of Bob McCartney UK Unionist. It quoted at length Pat Reynolds IBRG Chair on the reasons why the Irish should be included in the 2001 census ‘There is statistical evidence that Irish people are disadvantaged in terms of health, employment and early mortality rates’. It also quoted the CRE in support of Irish inclusion.
In Haringey the Ethnic Minorities Joint Consultative Committee got the Haringey CEO to write to John Major calling on him to increase efforts to find a peaceful solution in Ireland after the Docklands bombings. On 28th February Haringey CEO wrote to John Major to state ‘The EMJCC is a body composed of representatives of all the major ethnic minorities within Haringey and of Members of the Council. At their meeting of 13th February 1996 concern was expressed at the resumption of violence. and the recent docklands bombing. The hope was expressed that all the parties involved in the conflict, would not abandon their efforts to find a peaceful solution to the problems in Nt Ireland, and would continue to persevere with the Peace Process’.
Irish Community call on Solihull Council Leader to resign
In February IBRG called on Ken Meeson Leader of Solihull Council near Birmingham to stand down after he sent a ranting letter to IBRG accusing the Irish in Britain of bombing English civilians. The issue was given good coverage by the Birmingham Post. He lost the next election.
On 18th February the IBRG released a statement entitled Irish Community calls on Tory Leader to resign. It stated the IBRG deplores the statement by Cllr Meeson, Tory Leader of Solihull Council, in the West Midlands blaming the Irish community for the recent Docklands bombing.” We call for his resignation, and for the retraction of, and apology for his statement.” It went on ’ despite the severest provocation and the abuse of our civil and human rights by the racist PTA over the past 20 years, we have remained a law-abiding community. Indeed, our community is made up of many of the victims of the British lack of democracy in Nt Ireland over the past 75 years when thousands of Nationalists were forced to emigrate because of employment and sectarian discrimination in Nt Ireland. It is Britain’s responsibility, they created and maintained a sectarian apartheid statelet, of which the IRA are but a symptom. The Irish people have never blamed the British people for what happened in Nt Ireland but have blamed the government for failing to exercise democracy in Nt Ireland.
The ironic thing is that the IBRG received Cllr Meeson’s letter on the very day that Irish born head teacher Philip Lawrence was being buried in London. He too was creating democracy in the inner city and defending it too. Yet not one single English newspaper could bring themselves to describe Philip Lawrence as being Irish. The Birmingham Post had Irish group calls for council leader to resign over bomb remarks. Meeson had wrote to Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG who had sent him a letter calling on Solihull to recognise the local Irish community ‘It is ironic that your letter should have reached me on the very date that Irish people in Britain once again took up arms against democracy and attempted to murder innocent civilians adults and children who were going about their peaceful busines’.
In February the IBRG called for Irish elders to be allowed to return to residential care in Ireland rather than having to stay in Britain, based on the free movement of workers in Europe which should apply to retired workers.
The Irish Post on 24th February had battle for Camden to set a precedent, where an elderly Irish woman was seeking court order to force Camden Council to place her in a residential retirement home in Ireland, rather than in London. A High Court Judge granted her permission to apply for a declaration that the Council must comply with her request, even though it would be contrary to British rules. Irish councillor Dave Horan a supporter of the Frank Johnson campaign stated that Camden should be privileged to set a precedent in this matter.
Morally it should facilitate such an arrangement. The Judge stated it concerned the rights of EU workers and the case should be heard as should possible because of its wide implications. The IBRG had argued this for years. A placement in Ireland would be a cost saving to Camden and the quality of life of the Irish elder would be much improved, so it was a win/win situation. Cllr Joe Callanan from Lambeth Council had been lobbying as well as the IBRG, politicians in Britain and Ireland to take up the issue and had approached the British Irish Inter Parliamentary body on the issue.
Tory flagship recognises Irish
In February Westminster City Council and Havering Council in East London both agreed to recognise the Irish bringing the number of London boroughs recognising the Irish to 24.
On 10th February the Irish Post had Westminster recognition. This was the Tory flagship Local Authority and in the heart of Westminster the City and of British power. It was the first Tory local authority in Britain to do so. Westminster had 9,334 Irish born residents. The previous week on 3rd February the Irish Post had Now Havering moves on Irish ethnicity. The Irish World on 9th February had Tories flagship borough accepts Irish ethnic status.
On 20th February Pat Reynolds had an interview with RTE Radio Marion Finucane Hour on the Irish and the 2001 census.
On 2nd March IBRG attended the Camden Irish Consultative Conference at Camden Town hall, despite having the Camden Irish Centre, the borough was one of the last to take on board the need of the Irish community.
On 10th March Pat Reynolds had an interview with Radio Berkshire Irish hour on Irish theme pubs.
On 10-12th March Green Ink held their annual London Irish Bookfair at the Camden Irish Centre in London.
PTA Debate and Labour Party
On 14th March the annual PTA renewal debate took place in the Commons, with only 25 MPs voting against, which was the Labour left group of MPs.
The Irish Post on 2nd March had Labour drops opposition to the PTA. 3 SDLPs also voted against with John Hume missing as usual. Martin Kettle writing in the Guardian on 3rd April stated about the Labour Party ‘Even if it had proposed the precautionary culling of the first born of all Irish families Labour would accept Howard’s bogus new bill’.
It showed up Labour’s absolute craving for power at all costs in their support for the draconian PTA, it laid bare Labour’s unscrupulous and unprincipled pursuit of power as they ditched their opposition to the racist PTA laws. The placards on the Irish picket outside the Labour Part HQ said it all, Innocent until proven Irish.
Manchester IBRG Conference Irish Heartbeats
On 16th March Manchester IBRG held a one-day Conference entitled Irish Heartbeats at the Friends Meeting House in Manchester. See headline image.It was their contribution to the Manchester Irish Week and 70 people attended.
Speakers on social policy and ethnic recognition included Liam Greenslade social researcher, Pat Reynolds National IBRG Chair and Eric Seward of CRE.
On the first session in the afternoon the subject was the PTA and its effect on the Irish Community. Speakers were Kevin Hayes West Midlands PTA and Research Association, Tommy Walsh (Federation Liverpool), and Dorothy McNulty spoke about the McNulty Family Campaign for justice.
The last session looked at the Peace Process from different perspectives. Ruth Moore speaking from the Protestant N.Irish background, Sue Ramsey of Sinn Fein and Bernadette Hyland who criticised the Labour Party for abstaining in the renewal debate on the PTA.
Manchester IBRG produced a red leaflet with a Claddagh ring in the middle with ‘A conference for all those concerned with the future development of the Irish community” The Irish Post had a preview of the Conference on 27th January with IBRG plan Manchester Conference giving the list of speakers and topics. On 9th March the Irish Post had Conference in Manchester. The Irish World also carried a preview with IBRG Conference on future of Irish.
On the same day Green Ink put on an Irish Bookfair in Bristol.
On 19th March Pat Reynolds had an interview with BBC Radio Belfast on the Irish ban in the Civil Service.
On 23rd March the IBRG Ard Fheis took place at the Friends Institute in Birmingham. Six branches were represented namely Merseyside, Manchester, Birmingham, Coventry, Lewisham, and N. London.
Eleven delegates attended. Delegates attending were Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds, Patrick Prescott, Neil Doolin, Patrick Doolin, Marie Byrne-McCann, Eddie Caughey, Kevin Hayes, Eileen Ferris, Patrick Cullinane, and Collette Hartnett. Apologies Maurice Moore.
Pat Reynolds Chair spoke of the achievement of IBRG during the past year which had ranged from the Irish Festival in Liverpool to a Conference in Manchester, work on the PTA and ethnic monitoring. He paid tribute to the work of Caitlin Wright Bolton IBRG who had recently passed away at early age of 68. She had given a lifetime of dedication to the Irish and working-class communities, and will be greatly missed.
Pat looked at the strength of the IBRG at branch and national level. They were 11 active branches and a wealth of campaigning experience there. However, we had no full-time workers or no national office. However, IBRG had shown it could win victories for the Irish community, one such being the campaign for recognition of the Irish community by local authorities in Britain. The battle for the Peace Process had yet to be won, and the for the community the battle for inclusion in the 2001 census must be won. The IBRG looked forward to the publication of the CRE report on Discrimination and the Irish community which we need to build on.
Bernadette Hyland reported on her work as PRO in the last year which a number of press releases and good coverage in a range of newspapers and a number of radio interviews by herself and the chair. She had also put on a major Conference on Manchester on Irish issues. Bernadette also reported on the National newsletter plus a new recruitment leaflet and on IBRG membership
Kevin Hayes gave a report on the PTA noting the failure of the Labour Party to vote against the PTA. The use of language he stated was important. The PTA was not about the prevention of terrorism, but about restrictions on the civil liberties of the Irish community, when in transit to and from Ireland, or when they became politically active. IBRG needed to continue combating the PTA and supporting individuals arrested under the act.
Eddie Caughey gave a report on the position of Irish political prisoners in Britain and drew attention to the case of Patrick Kelly who was dying in prison from cancer, and who should be released on humanitarian grounds. It was important for IBRG to continue its work on both political and framed prisoners and to work with other groups in this area.
The following officers were elected;
Pat Reynolds Chair North London
Neil Doolin Runai Merseyside
PRO/Membership Bernadette Hyland Manchester
Prisoners Kevin Hayes Birmingham
Cisteoir Maurice Moore Coventry.
The following motions were passed;
A motion from Merseyside condemned the Tory government for intransigence leading to the breakdown of the ceasefire, and calls for immediate all-party talks without preconditions,
A motion for Merseyside condemning the Labour party for abstaining on the PTA vote in The Commons,
The key issues for IBRG work in 1996 were agreed as Recruitment, ethnic recognition, PTA and Employment discrimination in N. Ireland.
On 27th March IBRG members joined Saoirse to picket the Labour Party HQ in Walworth Road St London. The Labour NEC were meeting and people were able to talk with Clare Short MP and others.
Recognition of Irish and Local Authorities
In March the IBRG announced that Hillingdon Council, where John McDonnell was MP had recognised the Irish, as had the metropolitan boroughs of Manchester and Bolton who had for some years agreed to recognise the Irish, while Suffolk Country Council became the first County Council to do so.
On 9th March the Irish Post had Another Four councils move on monitoring and listed Liverpool City council, Trafford Council in Greater Manchester, Newcastle on Tyne City Council and Barnsley Metro Borough Council all important Irish areas.
The Irish World on 8th March had More boroughs recognise Irish. On 16th March the Irish Post had Cambridge Council confirms monitoring of Irish. This was the first English city outside the Metropolitan areas to recognise the Irish, and was the site of Cambridge University. There were 1,671 Irish born persons living in Cambridge.
On 20th March the front-page photo in the Irish Post was of the Lewisham St Patrick’s Day parade which was organised by the Lewisham Irish centre with IBRG input. The photo had Irish councillor John OShea heading the march with a banner for the Irish Centre, on page two was Hampshire the latest to monitor Irish in a banner headline. Hampshire had 18,829 Irish born residents with Southampton having a large Irish population.
On 30th March the Irish Post had more monitoring success reporting that Rugby, Chesterfield and Basingstoke had agreed to recognise the Irish.
IBRG condemns Derbyshire Council over racist and anti-Irish leaflet
At the end of March, the IBRG condemned Derbyshire Constabulary over the racist and anti-Irish leaflet targeting the Irish community as suspects with their Not all Irish are criminals. After IBRG protests and a lot of negative publicity the leaflet was withdrawn. The leaflet to Neighbourhoods Watch schemes stated ‘persons with Irish access, they are not all criminals.
On 30th March the IBRG issued a statement IBRG calls for Racist Leaflet to be withdrawn. The leaflet talked of ‘persons tendering large quantities of high denomination banknotes, which would be a trademark of any Irish building worker or any Irish person buying a car. The IBRG regard the leaflet as an incitement to anti-Irish racism and likely to stir up anti-Irish feelings. The watch your Irish neighbours under the guise of anti IRA alertness was simply targeting the Irish community and people with Irish accents. The attempt to criminalise the Irish community will not work we are a law-abiding community.
IBRG referred the leaflet to the CRE and later raised in a meeting with Herman Ouseley. Coming on the back of the failure of Merseyside Police to ensure a peaceful St Patrick’s day Parade took place, allowing Orange and Fascist thugs to stop a peaceful celebration, it shows a complete lack of impartiality among British police forces. Policing by consent will be not be improved by targeting innocent communities. The Sunday Tribune in Dublin covered the story with the heading Not all Irish are criminal-UK police and covered the IBRG response to the outrage.
IBRG member Collette Hartnett was fighting a battle against losing her house to the A40 in West London. Her story made the front page of the Irish World on 8th March with Hands off my House with a photo of Collette.
Liverpool’s first St.Pat’s Day Parade attacked by Orange Order and Fascists
Liverpool’s first St Patricks day Parade in 25 years was blocked by the Orange Order and fascists. The Irish Embassy who had a representative on the parade stated ‘I am very disappointed that this parade wasn’t allowed to go ahead as planned’.
On 30th March the Irish Post covered it with Aftermath of Liverpool’s march fiasco. There was uproar in Liverpool over what the Orange and fascist bully boys had done to a celebration of a community national day. One Councillor put it’ It is diabolical that women with young children dressing in dancing costumes were abused and prevented from celebrating their national day. Hundreds of people had travelled to the city to see the parade, but it never appeared because the highway was blocked by a crowd of bully boys. The Orange mob were singing anti-Catholic songs during the protest. The Irish World on 29th March had Protesters drum up wave of support for Merseyside Irish
Local MPs Bob Parry and David Alton supported the Irish community, and their right to hold their parade without hindrance. The Irish Post on 23rd March had A Right to celebrate which covered the Parade being blocked by 200 Orangemen and Fascists. Bob Parry MP had blasted the police for their handling of the parade where the Orange Order and the National Front had combined to prevent the Irish community celebrating their national day. Bob Parry was raising the matter with Michael Howard the Home Secretary. Sheila Coleman, Chair of the Liverpool Irish Centre, stated that the Irish community had as much right to march as any other group. Neil Doolin of IBRG, who was organising Irish Parade as part of Liverpool Irish festival in June, stated he would be meeting the police to guarantee this did not happen again.
On monitoring the IBRG reported that Hampshire Country Council had agreed to monitor the Irish along with Cambridge City Council.
On 2nd April the British government introduced the PTA additional Powers Bill giving the police extra powers to search individuals and premises. Labour shamefully abstains on the vote.
On 7th April IBRG members attended the unveiling of a new monument to Liam McCarthy in Camberwell New cemetery in South London. McCarthy after whom the All-Ireland Hurling final cup is named was a Southwark Councillor and a supporter of Padraig Pearce and the Irish Revolution of 1916-1921.
On 12th April the Irish World reported that Derby Cops say sorry to Irish.
Pat McAndrews of Derby IBRG said the apology was welcome, but that the original remarks were very offensive to the Irish community. The Derby Police stated ‘we apologise for any offence which has been caused’. The CRE stated ‘We are investigating a complaint made to us in relation to Derbyshire Police. We will be getting in touch with the force about this’ and the Irish Embassy stated “This is something we would not dismiss. It is a very sensitive time for the Irish in Britain and we don’t need this sort of thing’.
On 17th April Pat Reynolds had an interview with BBC Radio Scotland the first time they ever discussed anti-Irish racism on radio in Scotland. Liam Greenslade was also on the same programme.
On 20th April Bernadette Hyland PRO IBRG had a letter in the Irish Post Stand up and be counted publicly about the fight for Irish civil liberties in Britain and the effects of the PTA on the community.
On 24th April the IRA bomb decommissioned Hammersmith bridge.
In April Manchester IBRG produced the 5th IBRG Members newsletter which included an IBRG month by month review of IBRG activities, with news of campaigns with a front-page statement on IBRG position on the Peace Process and the PTA.
Bolton IBRG Oppose Apprentice Boys marching in town
Joe Mullarkey was quoted in the Guardian on 13th April opposing the Apprentice Boys marching in Bolton. The Irish Post on 20th April had Bolton march halted with help from the Irish. The Apprentice boys of Derry were due to march in Bolton, but there was evident that Combat 18 and other fascists were supporting the march, which was opposed by the IBRG and by the local multi-racial community.
In the end the march never happened given the local opposition of the community. Joe Mullarkey said Support from Socialist club members and trades council members ensured the march was unable to move off and the arrival of young Asian men convinced police to take them down a back street. I can still remember explaining combat 18 to the Bolton Evening News and Balmoral Hotel.
The Irish World had Bolton Apprentice Boys march curtailed by police. Joe Mullarkey, Margaret Mullarkey, Arthur Delvin and Cllr Pauline Spencer all IBRG members were standing in a proud tradition of the Irish community in opposing the Fascist and Combat 18 Hitler supporters going back to Cable Street and Bermondsey in the East of London in the 1930’s.
Looking back in 2020 Joe Mullarkey reflects:
That Salford apprentice boys march in Bolton was very strange. I got a phone call from Searchlight a couple of weeks prior to the event and was very dubious. I checked with Noel Spenser, local councillor and IBRG member, he confirmed police had no objection to the march but the person organising it was a convicted football hooligan. Why not have the march in Salford why Bolton. Was it done to get some of those BNP out in the open?
Around that time a house was raided in Little Hulton a number of men arrested (BNP) suspected and put on trail. Police claimed they found a shotgun pick axe handles etc. I made the phone calls to the Bolton Evening News and the hotel the Balmoral which was the starting place for the march and where some including Gregory Campbell stayed overnight. The proposed route was blocked by bodies but police in the afternoon took them (fascists) down a back street, let them march a hundred yards then dispersed them. Very strange still puzzled”
In April the IBRG tackled the Association of County Secretaries and Solicitors over their failure to include the Irish in the ethnic monitoring.
On 6th April the Irish Post had Irish ethnic monitoring is extended even further. The report showed that Ipswich had recognised the Irish. The leader of Harrogate Council stated ‘I have no problem with your suggestion, particularly as my mother comes from Donegal in Ireland and I am a frequent visitor to the Republic of Ireland’. Another Michael Walsh namesake of Diarmuid North Yorkshire Chief Executive was himself of Irish origin. The Leader of Kirklees Council talked about his close connection with local Irish community. Malcom Doherty, a good Irish name leader of Blackburn council, who confirmed that they already recognised the Irish. Blackburn had 1,965 Irish born residents and Blackpool had 2,311 Irish born residents.
On 20th April the Irish Post had campaign by IBRG switching and stated that the IBRG campaign was switching to the district councils in England. The IBRG stated that there were very few local districts in England that had less than 500 Irish born residents.
On 9th May Bernadette Hyland IBRG PRO had a letter in the Irish World entitled Labour Blow to Irish Community where she attacked the Labour Party for betraying the Irish community on both the PTA the Peace Process and warned them that they would struggle with getting Irish votes in areas where the Labour MP abstained on the PTA.
On 11th May the Ard Choiste took place at the Liverpool Irish Centre. Among those attending were Kevin Hayes, Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Moore, Pat Reynolds and Neil Doolin representing Birmingham, Coventry, N. London, Manchester and Merseyside.
The meeting decided to affiliate to the new group Fuaslcailt with a donation of £20-. Saoirse had been folded up after one year’s work. The meeting agreed on a new membership/recruitment leaflet. Liverpool IBRG gave details of their summer Irish Festival coming up.
An update on monitoring the IBRG announced that 60 local authorities in Britain now recognised the Irish in a drive organised by the IBRG. On 4th May the Irish Post had “Four more Councils recognise the Irish.” The report stated that Cornwall, a Celtic nation, Northamptonshire, Gloucestershire, and East Sussex had all agreed recognise the Irish.
In another area it reported that the Association of Council Secretaries and Solicitors had apologised to IBRG for omitting the Irish as an ethnic category in its race equality questionaries of British local authorities.
In a letter to IBRG Chair Pat Reynolds Robin King the Secretary stated ‘I am sorry that we have indeed misquoted the CRE recommended categories of ethnic origins. You may be a little reassured that some of the respondents to the questionnaire also pointed out the omission’.
On 11th May the Irish Post had New Progress on monitoring with a photo of IBRG Chair Pat Reynolds, who announced that the campaign would now be extended to Wales and Scotland, and that he was hoping to build on recent Labour and liberal success at the local election in Britain.
He reported that the reply rate from the English local authorities was 40% with a success rate of recognition at 20%. Cumbria and Devon county councils had agreed to monitor the Irish.
The report stated that Southwark had launched a Federation of Irish Groups to increase their lobbying power and which had the support of the Council leader. The groups included the IBRG, the Irish Staff Group Cara, Irish Pensioners, The O’Brien family campaign, the McSwiney Society, Irish Forum Innisfree and others.
On 18th May the Irish Post had Wandsworth hedges on Irish ethnic status. Wandsworth was a Tory flagship borough based on its cheap council tax. The Chief executive claimed that over 150 languages were spoken in the borough, and he argued the Polish community wanted to be included in ethnic monitoring. However, the Irish community was 30 times larger than the Polish community, and the Chief executive was being evasive on the real issue.
Heather Rabbatts, Chief executive in Lambeth, who used to come on Irish pickets at one time stated that the Irish response to the boroughs first equal opportunities survey showed that the number of Irish staff at the Council, far exceeded the estimated Irish born population. The IBRG described her claim as absolute rubbish and unfounded as she had an exact figure for the Irish born from the 1991 census, and the Irish were very poorly represented at the Town Hall. The IBRG knew this from their own information from the Irish Workers group in Lambeth.
On 21st April the IBRG corresponded with St Mungo over their Equal Opportunities policies and the Irish. They replied back on 3rd May with a very defensive letter claiming they did recognise the Irish, and which did not address the issues, IBRG had raised, that their staff training did not take on board the Irish dimension.
The same month the IBRG corresponded with Pauline Green MEP over why the Irish were excluded from ethnic monitoring in the European Social Fund. Pauline Green replied on 26th May to say she would raise the matter with Research International to find out why the Irish were excluded.
Diarmuid Breatnach had a letter in the Irish Post defending the right of the Irish in Merseyside to have their St Patrick’s day Parade on 4th May entitled A Right we must Defend.
3rd Irish Festival in Liverpool
The Liverpool Irish Festival took place form 28th May to 2nd June and was opened by Ted Barrington Irish Ambassador. It was the third Irish Festival in Liverpool organised by Neil Doolin and the IBRG. On 4th May the Irish Post had Greening of Liverpool and again on 11th May had Community Spirit on Merseyside and on 25th May and had Festive Spirit on Merseyside in Irish World on 17th May had Merry on the Mersey for Third Irish festival.
On 7th June the Irish World had a page full of photos of the Festival with photos of the Irish Ambassador Ted Barrington and the Mayors of both Dublin and Liverpool. On 14th June the Irish World had another page of photos one of the Parade with the Festival banner with six photos of the Parade.
In May the IBRG attacked Des McHale of Cork University over his support for racist anti-Irish jokes.
The IBRG pointed out that the ignorant McHale that McAuley and Bryans were two Industrial tribunal winners who didn’t get money because they were Irish, but because they were racially abused and racially harassed because they were Irish, with the result that both men lost their jobs, suffered ill health and lost financially.
On 11th May the IBRG put out a statement headed Gombeen Humour Condemned which stated the IBRG deplores the remarks of Professor MacHale of Cork University over his apparent support for the racial abuse of Irish people in the workplace in Britain. Employment laws in Britain right protect women in the workplace from sexist abuse and harassment and also protects Black Jewish Asian and Irish people form racial abuse and harassment in the workplace. MacHale attempt to justify such abuse is obscene and sick, when you read the case histories of abuse in the workplace. Most employers in Britain now include codes of good practice on the elimination of sexist and racist abuse in the workplace.
IBRG suggested that Professor MacHale should study the work of Dr Elinor Kelly of Manchester university, on the racialisation of Irish children in British schools and continue to tell us that the anti-Irish jokes is just good fun. There is clearly link between racial stereotyping and the subsequent abuse and harassment. That MacHale finds it funny that Irish people can be driven out of the workplace in Britain, and that they should have no redress against racial abuse is staggering. Machale would accuse the IBRG of being PC politically correct. Unlike him we are not PB politically backward.
The IBRG pointed out how British people living in Australia got anti-British jokes banned on Australian TV, and while British tabloids think anti-Irish jokes funny, while at the same time applauding English cricketers who walked out on a small comedy sketch about the English Queen. The IBRG salute Irish humour of which our literature is full of from Oscar Wilde and Brendan Behan to Maeve Binchley.
The Irish Post on 18th May covered this story and remarked how JAK of the Evening Standard seemed to agree with MacHale and stated ‘The IBRG enjoy Irish humour and wit and have great time at work, but it is not at the expense of women Black, Jewish or Irish people. We laugh with people rather than at them, and have learned much to appreciate in other cultures, rather than the narrow world of MacHale that ridicules and makes fun of others.’
The IBRG along with other Irish groups met with Herman Ouseley and the CRE on 23rd May. The meeting heard that the report on discrimination on the Irish would go before the CRE commissioners on July 23rd for approval and then on to publication. Herman Ousley remarked on the high success rate achieved by the IBRG in their ethnic monitoring campaign, The CRE received 30-60 complaints year on No Travellers signs in pubs. This was also an issue that IBRG campaigned on tearing down the signs from pubs in Irish areas.
The CRE had written to all relevant organisations in Britain regarding recognition of the Irish and their inclusion in ethnic monitoring. The IBRG also raised with the CRE the issue of anti-Irish racism in the media, and the total failure of the Press Council to deal with this issue. The CRE wanted copies of all these examples to take back to Lord Wakeham who was Chair of the PCC. The CRE would also write to all local health authorities on recognising the Irish. The IBRG also raised with the CRE the Derby Police leaflet which was racist against Irish people.
In terms of ethnic monitoring the IBRG announced that 23 of the 33 London boroughs now recognised the Irish, that 5 Metropolitan Boroughs did, four County Councils, three City Councils, 19 boroughs council outside of London, and 13 District councils overall 73 local authorities in Britain now recognise the Irish. Coventry had now recognised the Irish, and the Coventry paper reported it Irish join ethnic minorities Move could help target services. Cllr Cairns chair of Coventry’s Irish community advisory group stated ‘We are part of Coventry but nonetheless we are different. In many ways we are an invisible community because of this we are ignored. Being classed as an ethnic group means we will ensure that services will be earmarked to meet the needs of the community’.
On 1st June Bernadette Hyland and Pat Reynolds were speaking with Liam Greenslade at the Liverpool Irish Festival.
On 7th June the IRA shot dead Garda Gerry McCabe in Limerick which caused a huge anti-Republican backlash in the Irish Republic.
On 14th June the IBRG had a letter from the Department for Education and Employment stating they would look at whether to include the Irish in their ethnic monitoring in Employment and Training programs.
On 15th June an IRA bomb in Manchester injured 200 people and caused over £300M of damages. Attitudes harden in Britain against Sinn Fein. The Irish Post on 22nd June had Manchester subdued in bomb aftermath.
Both Gearoid O Meachair National Chair of the Federation and Mike Forde vice Chair condemned the bombing yet neither were on record of ever having condemned a single British army killing of civilians in N. Ireland, and no sign of them ever on a Bloody Sunday march. They are one sided apologists for the British occupation of Ireland. Bernadette Hyland stated ‘the fact is that the only future is for there to be political talks with all parties sin N. Ireland including Sinn Fein’. The Liverpool Irish Centre was attacked the same evening and the bar smashed up.
Bobby Sands/James Connolly Event
On 16th June Pat Reynolds was speaking with Pat McKeown of Sinn Fein at the Booby Sands/James Connolly event at Conway hall in central London. Diarmuid Breatnach sang the Irish National anthem at the end of the meeting.
This was covered by An Phoblacht on 27th June. It states the main platform included speakers from the Irish community in Britain Pat Reynolds IBRG and Angie Birthill of the Camden Irish Forum. Both speakers talked about the need for the Irish community whose numbers over three million in Britain to be involved in the current political process to bring freedom peace and justice in all of Ireland. They asked that more pressure be put on the British political parties so that everybody is represented at all-party talks and that the Irish community in Britain bring pressure to bear on the Labour Tory and liberal parties before the next General Election.
On 29th June the IBRG Ard Choiste took place at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in Islington north London. Six delegates attended including Bernadette Hyland, Diarmuid Breatnach, Tomas MacStiofan, Neil Doolin Past Cullinane, and Maurice Moore.
It was agreed that Kevin Hayes and Pat Reynolds work on a General election leaflet for IBRG with four main issues for the Irish community, PTA, ending, all-party talks without preconditions, transfer and release of Irish prisoners, and the 2001 Census. The response from Scotland on ethnic monitoring was good with seven councils our of 32 now recognising the Irish.
The IBRG challenged Islington council over their failure to include the Irish in their Town Hall heard count report to Committee thus covering up on the Irish. On 1st June the Irish Post had Another five Councils to monitor Irish which showed the Braintree in Essex, Colchester an army town, Harlow and Epping Forest were going to monitor the Irish. Steve Cawley council leader in Colchester stated he was of Tipperary origin.
On 29th June the Irish Post had Ethnicity campaign moves to Scotland which showed IBRG were in correspondence with local authorities in Scotland. The same article detailed that IBRG had contacted the Department of Education and Employment asking them to include the Irish, and showed that the IBRG had challenged the Department in its stance against the Irish.
The Bolton Irish Festival was held from 14-16th June organised by Joe and Margaret Mullarkey and included two exhibitions.
The Festival had ben previewed in the Irish Post as early as 9th February with Bolton Irish festival for June., again on 26th April with Bolton all set for IBRG Irish Festival on 31st May it had Bolton stages two Irish exhibitions one on the Irish in Britain 1801-1821, alongside photographic history of the Irish in Bolton compiled by Bolton IBRG. Margaret Mullarkey stated that this would include a section of local Irish writer Bill Naughton author of Alfie, Neither use nor ornament, and on the Pigs back.
On 1st June the Irish Post had Irish emigrant exhibitions in Bolton, on 21st June Mayor gives Bolton Irish seal of approval. The report noted that the Festival was kicking off at the same time as the IRA bomb exploded in Manchester, but they made a decision to carry on with the music. Joe Mullarkey stated the Irish in Britain are here to stay and won’t be going away. We should be proud of our heritage and culture and don’t be afraid to show it. The Mayor and Mayoress of Bolton had turned up twice on the day and Margaret Mullarkey noted ‘That was a nice gesture and a real bonus for us’. On 29th June the Irish Post covered several photos of the Festival; including the top one of Margaret Mullarkey with the Mayor and Mayoress of Bolton, Joe Mullarkey made the second photo with the Irish radio DJ. On 5th July the Irish World had four photos and a write up of the festival again with photo of main Festival organiser Margaret Mullarkey.
On 7th July the RUC banned an Orange March from going down the Garvaghy Road but on 11th July after the murder of a taxi driver in Portadown the Orange Order marched down the road. John Bruton accused the British government of giving in to force. David Trimble met with Billy Wright on 10th July during the standoff. Paisley and Trimble dance a victory jig marching down the road on their imperial walk.
On 9th July IBRG members met with the CRE along with other Irish groups. They met again on 26th July,
Irish community protest Orange March being allowed down Garvaghy Road
On 12th July IBRG members along with other groups picketed 10 Downing St over the Orange March being allowed down the Garvaghy Road. On 27th July the Irish Post ran a large photo from Birmingham of a protest on the issue and stated TOM and IBRG were involved in similar protest in London. The reroute the Sectarian orange Marches banner was displayed at both Lewisham people’s festival and the Southwark Irish festival, and received much support from the Irish community, who were shocked at how Orange marches were allowed to march through Catholic areas.
On 19th July IBRG members attended the launch of the Irish community’s experience of discrimination within the Criminal justice system with speakers Harry Fletcher NAPO and Fr Gerry McFlynn ICPO
On 22nd July Pat Reynolds had an interview with Waterford Radio on the Frank Johnson case.
Bernadette Hyland had a letter in the British Independent on 3rd July entitled Anti Irish racism is still rife. It stated ‘the reality for the Irish in this city is that they are largely working class, working in the service industry, if at all, and facing discrimination and deprivation on a day to day basis Irish people walk the line every day in the city between acceptance and rejection. Anti-Irish racism is rife, although in recent years many people have refused to accept it and have mounted campaigns locally and nationally against discrimination …it is only when the political situation in Ireland is resolved in a just and peaceful way, that our community will be accepted’.
In London John Deegan won his case against the Metropolitan Police after IBRG took up his case. He had been subjected to a terrifying ordeal when arrested at his home, and taken naked into a police van. He was kept in custody for three days, his house was wrecked, and his children threatened with being taken into care, He was cleared in court of any wrongdoing. The Irish Post on 10th August reported it Donegal man claims police overreacted.
In July IBRG drew attention to the high number of Irish in Britain prisoners with 621 prisoners from the Irish Republic 604 of these were male. The Irish Post reported this on 27th July with More Irish in British jails. The Post credited IBRG with eth disclosure of the figures.
The IBRG accused the BBC in Liverpool of censoring debate when they only asked the Orange Order representatives onto their programme panel in Liverpool, despite the Irish community St Patricks day Parade being blocked by the Orange Order. The BBC showed shocking bias towards the Irish community and towards democracy in Liverpool in its biased one-sided approach to the issue giving the Orange Order propaganda, and stacking the programme against the Irish community.
The IBRG pointed out that seven local authorities in Wales now recognised the Irish. Coventry and Sheffield two important cities had now agreed to recognise the Irish. On13th July the Irish Post had Seven Welsh councils to monitor the Irish which showed the IBRG had won over seven councils in Wales including Swansea and Newport.
On 6th July the Irish Post had Redbridge’s lame excuse with a photo of IBRG Pat Reynolds. Redbridge is East London were arguing that they could not follow the CRE advice since the Irish were not in the National census. The IBRG described the Redbridge position as backward and negative and failing its Irish community. In the same article the IBRG had deplored the low number of Irish staff employed at Hammersmith Council which was a very Irish area of London.
On 3rd August IBRG members joined others in a ceremony outside Pentonville Prison to commemorate Roger Casement the great Irish patriot.
On 9th August the Department of Education and Employment had written to Pauline Green MEP on why the Irish were excluded from their ethnic monitoring programs. They came back with the lame excuse that the Irish were not in the 1991 census nor in the labour force surveys. Basically, they were arguing that they follow the National census.
On 16th August the IBRG issued a statement entitled Irish community concerned over Islington’s Council employment monitoring policies, where they had excluded the Irish community.
Pat Reynolds founder of the Irish in Islington project had written to Council Leader Alan Clinton who was a member of IBRG, asking for an explanation, as to why Islington were now backtracking after being the first local authority in Britain to recognise the Irish. The Irish were the largest minority community in the borough, and Islington council were by far the largest local employer apart from the NHS with the Whittington and Royal Northern Hospitals. On 24th August the Irish Post had Islington has taken backward step.
IBRG stated that, in year in which the CRE had called publicly for the Irish to be included in ethnic monitoring, it was shocking that Islington Council should now be moving in the opposite direction. Dubliner Alan Clinton was leader of Islington Council and a member of IBRG. It was likely that council officials had decided on excluding the Irish rather than councillors. There were over 11,000 Irish born residents in Islington.
On 21st August Pat Reynolds Chair of the Frank Johnson campaign had an important interview with RTE radio. It was recognised that when RTE gave an interview on a case, it meant that the Irish government were ok with it.
On 30th August Ronnie Flanagan took over running of the paramilitary RUC.
The IBRG called on all members of the Irish community to register for votes before the expected 1997 General election and the IBRG call got covered on teletex, which was a first, and on the front page of the Kilburn Times for the Irish Youth Festival in Kilburn.
On 10th September Pat Reynolds had an interview with Talkback on BBC Radio Belfast on ‘Irish jokes.
On 12th September Pat Reynolds was in Sheffield to put on a one-day training course for community workers in Sheffield on Irish issues.
On 13th September the Irish World had Tipp Nurse wins case in which an Irish nurse had won her Industrial Tribunal case which the IBRG had supported.
On 14th September the IBRG Ard Choiste met at St Osburg’s in Coventry. Six delegates attended including Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Moore, Tim Logan, Kevin Hayes, Diarmuid Breatnach, and Pat Reynolds.
The meeting heard that Eamonn O’Cuiv had been to visit Frank Johnson in prison. The first TD to visit Frank in 21 years and him an innocent man. His case had recently been covered by the Nursing Times, to find doctors or nurses who could remember Mr Sheridan in hospital and his employee Frank Johnson visiting him there. The South London Press also covered this story.
The Home Office were now conducting a fresh inquiry into his case. The Bridgewater Case had been referred back to the court of appeal. Kevin Hayes was working on a joint PTA card with Fuascaillt. Only one Irish prisoner had been transferred back to the Republic. It takes the Irish government too long to pick up on innocent Irish cases, it took them over 13 years to become aware of the Birmingham Six.
The CRE were to produce a four-page flyer along with their report of the Irish and discrimination. The report was being kept secret because of the fear of the right-wing press trying to rubbish it, before it was even published. Pat Reynolds reported to the meeting that 78 local authorities now recognise the Irish.
Shooting by police of Diarmuid O’Neill in West London
On 23rd September young IRA volunteer Diarmuid O’Neill was executing by British agents in West London contrary to the Geneva Convention to shoot dead an unarmed prisoner. The IBRG called for a public inquiry into the shooting of Diarmuid O Neill in that his death was unnecessary and preventative, as the police knew he was unarmed. His shooting was an extension of the British shoot to kill via Gibraltar to London.
IBRG condemned the media including the quality press for running with police stories on the shooting. The Observer mentioned the IBRG in their article on the killing on 29th September.
On 29th September the IBRG issued a statement calling for a public inquiry into the shooting dead of unarmed Volunteer contrary to the Geneva Convention and British law that you should not kill captured prisoners.
The IBRG described his death as unnecessary and preventative with the room already bugged, and knowledge that he was not armed. The IBRG condemned the police misinformation and disinformation put out by the police similar to what happened in Gibraltar, where truth became the first casualty. The IBRG views the killing of O’Neill as an extension of British shoot to kill policy to Britain from N. Ireland via Gibraltar. The British media including the quality press acted like judge and jury on the case, and accepted without question whatever the police gave them. without asking any questions on human rights. The IBRG condemned the police dragging of O’Neill’s body across the pavement as an abuse of a badly wounded prisoner.
On 12th October the Irish Post had a photo of large picket of 10 Downing Street over the execution of Diarmuid O’Neill. Many of the placards had Stop Shoot to kill Now and No More shoot to kill. On 5th October the Irish Post had Executed without a trial and quoted the IBRG and others condemning the execution of an unarmed man.
On 3rd October An Phoblacht stated that Amnesty International had called for an independent judicial inquiry into the killing. The Amnesty statement drew attention to how O’Neill was dragged down the steps of the house to the pavement instead of being treated where he was shot. An Phoblacht quoted IBRG as saying the death was unnecessary and preventable and comparing the disinformation by the police as similar to how they operated in Gibraltar. The Irish World on 4th October covered the IBRG statement on the killing.
Closure of Green Ink Books
The Green Ink bookshop, which Pat Reynolds founded, lost its £32k grant and was due to be closed A great loss to the community, as it had sold over one-million-pound worth of Irish books and music over 15 years.
The IBRG took the Guardian to task for describing the GAA as an excuse for a punch up. The Irish News in Belfast on 23rd September had GAA punch up label racist says Irish group. The Guardian stated that Gaelic football was a thinly disguised excuse for a punch up, when discussing Camogie which it described as a fast furious and downright frightening game not for the faint hearted.
The IBRG pointed out that Gaelic games were family friendly, and attracted large crows without any trouble whereas in Britain, there was a male dominated racist violent culture with a huge police presence with horses around soccer. Rugby also was a physical game but that game was British and therefore manly violence.
Southend and racist killing
The IBRG expressed their concern at the racist killing of an Irish man in Southend on Sea. The media mentioned he was killed for kicks by a gang of teenagers. The IBRG condemned the murder of a man who died from five stab wounds, from a group of teenagers, who killed him for kicks. Southend had 2,000 Irish residents and was also popular day trip for the London Irish.
The IBRG expressed concern at the high homicide rate against the Irish community particularly Irish males, and believe that anti-Irish racism was often a factor, but one which was never considered by the police. The long history of hunting lone Irishmen hunting the barney later turned into hunting Pakistani young men was often racially driven. Anti-Irish racism in the media along with anti-Republicanism led to some of these attacks and hostility towards Irish people in certain English towns. There had been because of the recession in Britain a turning in of communities upon one another, and there had been a rise in racial attacks on Irish people in housing, which was reported in different London boroughs. In recent years the IBRG had made a submission to the British Home Office on this matter the report was placed in the Hansard records.
Bolton IBRG had persuaded their local Social Services to provide an Irish Sean chairde club in Bolton where Irish elders could meet for lunch and socialising. The Irish World on 27th September had Tonic for Elderly Irish which Margaret Mullarkey and Ruth Kneafsey had organised. On 28th September the Irish Post had Bolton Club for Irish Elders.
Haringey support Irish Census
On 13th September the Irish World had Council supports Irish census bid which stated that Haringey Council were supported the infusion of the Irish in the 2001 census after a debate at their EMJCC and their CEO was writing to the ONS on the issue. Haringey had over 10,000 Irish born residents.
On 28th September the Irish Post had Hereford and Worcester opts for ethnic monitoring. IBRG now had six county councils in England recognising the Irish. Luton and Leicester indicated that they already included the Irish in their monitoring. The Irish Post indicated that the ONS were shortly to make a decision on whether to include the Irish in the 2001 census.
On 24th September IBRG members along with other regroups picketed Paddington Green Interrogation centre over PTA arrests.
On 30 September Pat Reynolds had an interview with Vincent Browne on RTE Radio over the Diarmuid O’Neill killing.
On 6th October IBRG members along with other groups picketed 10 Downing St over the unlawful execution of Diarmuid O Neill contrary to the Geneva Convention.
On 13th October Pat Reynolds had an interview with Thames Valley Irish Hour over votes for emigrants.
The IBRG expressed its alarm over the failure of the CPS to prosecute Officers involved in the unlawful killing of Richard O Brien.
O’Brien had 31 separate injuries to his body after his death in custody, when he repeatedly told his oppressor, that he could not breathe again and again. On 5th October the IBRG issued a statement Nothing done over Unlawful killing on the case of Richard O’Brien where the Inquest verdict was unlawful killing. The IBRG condemned the CPS for their ‘insufficient evidence’ excuse. A British jury finds that an Irishman is unlawfully killed and no one is held accountable in Britain. The slogan British Justice -No justice comes to mind.
The CPS decision in the same week and the PCA (Police Complaints Authority) decided to take no action in the case of Brian Douglas, an Afro-Caribbean man, who died in police custody shows that in Britain there is no justice for Black or Irish people. Are the police beyond the law and not accountable to the law, which they are meant to serve and uphold. O’Brien had 31 injuries to his body because he was waiting peacefully to get a lift home with his wife and family from an Irish social club.
IBRG called on the Irish Government to take up this case, and for the two local MPs Harriet Harman and Tessa Jowell to take it up with the Home Office. The question the Irish community in Britain are now asking what kind of justice exactly is available to Irish citizens in the UK, when young Diarmuid O’Neill is executed in his bedroom, an Irishman is murdered in Southend, and the CPS refused to prosecute even on an unlawful killing jury inquest verdict.
The IBRG welcomed the Government climb down over ID cards which the IBRG had opposed. The IBRG were the only Irish group to put in a submission on the issue. In a statement on 14th October the IBRG noted the climbdown by the British government over ID and saw it as a victory for common sense. The IBRG had strongly opposed the introduction of any ID in Britain and Nt Ireland as it had major implications for the Irish community, having to operate under British border pass laws under the PTA. The Irish Post on 19th October had Plans for identity cards scrapped with the IBRG lead on the story. The IBRG had put in a strong submission to the Home Office opposing any introduction of ID cards in Britain.
Irish Community not allowed to have heroes
The IBRG drew attention that the British media deemed Diarmuid O Neill be to be Irish although born and reared in England, but regarded Philip Lawrence who was born and reared in Ireland to be British because he was seen as a hero and the British claim all Irish heroes. The murder trial for the Philip Lawrence the Head teacher coincided with the execution of Diarmuid O Neill.
In a statement of 21st October, the IBRG stated the Irish community not allowed to have Heroes, and asked the question, when is an Irishman not an Irishman, answer when the British media decide he is British because he is a hero. Thus, Philip Lawrence could be an Irish hero a role model for the 21st October, second generation, and an example of the dedication to duty of thousands of Irish people in Britain.
The Irish community are not allowed heroes or an image of a peaceful Irish man who gave up his life for the safety of his pupils. The British media had no problem describing Diarmuid O Neill as Irish despite the fact that he was born and reared in Britain. The IBRG reject the British media, and regard both men as being Irish. In Britain a person cannot be Irish and a Hero at the same time.
The IBRG condemned the increase in the price of Irish passports in October to £47 compared with £18 for a similar British one. The impact on second generation Irish and people from N. Ireland was obvious. In an IBRG statement on 17th October Outrage over price of Irish passports the IBRG deplored the increase from 1st October 1996 and its impact upon the Irish community in Britain and the second generation. The Irish government were fond of talking about parity of esteem in relation to Nt Ireland but the Irish abroad wanted parity of economics. The impact in N. Ireland could also be worse. What young person could afford £47 for something they can get for £18. The IBRG does not accept comparison with other European states which have different economics.
The Irish Government need to look at the needs of its Irish community in Britain, which is mainly working class and particularly its second generation. Having denied Irish citizens abroad the vote the Irish government now want to rip off its emigrants with overpriced passports. They have now abandoned the colour green for the Irish passports, and ignore that we live in a Common Travel area and where people living in N. Ireland, and the second generation in Britain will now be forced to make choices on which passport to use for travel.
The Irish Post on 26th October had IBRG slam rise in price of passports. Why should the Irish passport be two and a half times more expensive than a British one when wages in Britain are lower than Ireland.
The IBRG announced that over 100 local authorities in Britain now recognise the Irish with 23 of the 33 London boroughs now recognising the Irish, 12 of the Metropolitan boroughs, 7 of the 35 County Councils, 8 of the City Councils, 25 local boroughs, 15 district councils, 7 Scottish and 3 Welsh local authorities now recognising the Irish.
In an IBRG statement of 11th October the IBRG showed that the Irish community were winning the battle in Britain for ethnic recognition which augured well for the 2001 Census battle. The IBRG’s plan was to get the majority of democratically elected councils in Britain backing us, then the government would have to give in on the debate. It was a strategic tactical battle which the IBRG knew they could win, and snooker the British government into accepting our case. The IBRG had won 72% of the London boroughs to our side and with 100 of the leading councils in Britain backing us, our case had strength and energy and the IBRG were determined to continue this battle.
On12th October the Irish Post had Rochdale and Bury opt for monitoring. Bothe of these were Metropolitan boroughs in the greater Manchester area. Cllr John Byrne was the leader in Bury. Pat Reynolds was quoted as stating ‘How can the ONS not now recognise the Irish and the case for inclusion the 2010 census when over 100 local authorities in Britain with the highest concentration of the Irish do so. There is a huge demand for the Irish to be now included.
On 18th October the Irish World had Irish support on the rise in councils which detailed that over 100 local authorities in Britain now recognise the Irish.
On 26th October the Irish Post had Now Irish in Trafford win recognition. It had the highest number of Irish outside of Manchester city in the area. Sunderland City Council and the Wirral in Liverpool had also come on broad. Frank Prendergast leader of Liverpool City Council said they would look at the issue. Bradford city council were also looking at it. In the Metropolitan Borough of Sefton Brian Reynolds deputy leader stated I certainly agree with you that the Irish community are subject to discrimination in much the same way as other ethnic groups. He suggested bringing an Irish community representative onto their Race Committee.
The Irish Government had turned down the three Senate seats for Irish emigrants which the IBRG opposed. Pat Reynolds had a letter in the Irish Times on the issue.
The IBRG Ard Choiste took place on 2nd November at the Friends Meeting Place in Manchester. Five delegates attended namely Bernadette Hyland, Diarmuid Breatnach, Maurice Moore, Kevin Hayes and Joe Mullarkey.
The meeting heard that Patrick Kelly who was suffering from cancer and was close to death had been released from Portlaoise Jail. Frank Johnson had been 21 years in prison an innocent man. The newly named ONS (Office for National Statistics) had responded to the IBRG demand for inclusion in the Census. Pat Reynolds had informed them that over 100 local authorities in Britain now recognised the Irish. The meeting heard that 106 local authorities now recognise the Irish. The IBRG had given £100 to the Bloody Sunday march and Pat Reynolds was on the organising committee.
On 3rd November the IBRG picketed 10 Downing St over Irish prisoners.
On 21st November Pat Reynolds was speaking with Billy Power of the Birmingham Six, Maurice Quinlivan later a TD in Dublin, Pegeen O Sullivan and Shelagh O’Connor at the launch of the PTA card at the Camden Irish centre and later had an interview with Heart Radio on the issue. An Phoblacht on 28th November covered the launch with “Fuascailt launches PTA card 22,000 arrested during cessation” with a photograph of all the speakers. The Irish Post on 30th November covered it with a photo of Billy Power and Shelagh O’Connor. The Irish World had Advice card to end rough justice on 15th November.
The IBRG condemned the Daily Mail over its anti-Irish rantings in November.
On 1st November Bruce Anderson was again having a go at the West of Ireland. Anderson wrote ‘Death of an Evil Man’ after the death of Sean MacBride winner of the Nobel peace prize some years earlier. On 3rd November the IBRG put out a statement Outbreak of Xenophobia at Daily Mail condemning Anderson for his attack on the Gaeltacht in Ireland. Anderson betrays a sense of siege about Ireland and things Irish whether it be the Michael Collins film, Irish economic success or successful Irish people abroad like Sean McBride. Anderson has a typical 19th century colonial mindset who lives in the past who can only see Ireland in terms of pigs and potatoes, and he belongs to the past.
A year after the Irish government had ratified the European Convention on the Transfer of Prisoners only two Irish prisoners had been transferred to the Irish Republic.
The IBRG were mentioned in the Sunday Telegraph on 19th November in an article on Irish theme pubs. The story Phoney Irish pubs leave a bitter taste by Andrew Gilligan. The IBRG called for more sensitivity in naming such pubs. Scruffy Murphy’s was more a colonial stereotype which could impact on Irish kids. They were selling fake Irishness which was plastic. and often replacing genuine Irish pubs and staff which often provided Irish music and culture. It was Walt Disney meeting Fr Ted. The Irish theme pub was now universal and in over 100 cities in the world. There was more to Irish culture than plastic leprechauns and prefabricated Irishness and expensive beer.
On 25th November the German Government requested the extradition of Roisin McAliskey to face trial in Germany.
On 2nd November the Irish Post had Warrington opts for monitoring of Irish. This was significant in that Warrington had sought to find way forward for the Peace Process following an IRA bomb in the town. The move by Warrington was seen as a gesture of goodwill towards the Irish people. Brighton Council also confirmed that they recognised the Irish as did Bedford as did Basildon and Southend.
On 11th November the Irish Post had Call to include emigrants in census rejected, this time it was the Irish government rejected the IBRG bid to have a question on emigration included in the Irish census, to find out the level of recent emigration from Ireland.
On 16th November the Irish Post had Another four weigh in. The report showed that four more English city councils had recognise the Irish in Portsmouth, Lincoln, Gloucester and Worcester. Both Portsmouth and Gloucester had sizable Irish communities. On 23rd November the Irish Post had Five More agree on monitoring. This included Leicester.
The IBRG now had 108 local authorises on board in Britain on ethnic monitoring of the Irish. In a story alongside the Irish Post had Nottingham call to Irish which the IBRG had given the Post. Nottingham City Council wanted to make contact with local Irish organisations and individuals to consult with them about the needs of the Irish community. There was a big Irish community in Nottingham which used to have an IBRG branch.
On 30th November the Irish Post had More ethnic monitoring in Scotland with two more local Councils on board. The IBRG stated that they had been encouraged by the response from Scotland the Scottish would make a separate decision on the ethnic groups for the census in Scotland as it was important for IBRG to get the majority of councils in Scotland behind recognition of the Irish in order to win the census debate there.
On 4th December IBRG member joined the picket of Bow St Court over Roisin MacAliskey and again on 13th, 20th and 27th December.
On 7th December IBRG London members met at the Roger Casement Irish centre with nine delegates present including Diarmuid Breatnach, Tim McNamara, Laoise de Paor, Danny Burke, Michael O Maolain, Jack Vance, Thomas MacStiofan, Pat Reynolds and Jody Clark.
The meeting discussed reports from Lewisham, Brent, Southwark and North London, recruitment, Bloody Sunday march, Prisoners, General election, census 2001, ethnic recognition, CRE, PTA and employment discrimination. North London, Brent, Southwark and Lewisham attended.
The meeting was a success with a full debate on many issue and full reports on branch activities, from pickets to prisoners where Danny and Laoise were always involved and Pat and Thomas were involved in the Roisin McAliskey campaign, while Pat chaired the Frank Johnson campaign. The branches had use of two Irish centres one in Lewisham and one at the Roger Casement, and IBRG had been instrumental in setting both up. Green Ink another local IBRG resource was losing its funding, but would alter continue until 2001.
IBRG members attacked on bus by plain clothes police
On 13th December the Irish World had Growing concern after bus attack which detailed two IBRG members were waylaid on a late evening bus by two plain clothes police officers. Danny Burke and Laoise de Paor both members of Islington IBRG were coming back from an Irish language class. The police tried to bundle Danny off the bus and began asking him questions about IRA bombings in London.
When at first, Laoise asked the bus driver to call the police, the driver responded they are the police. Other passengers intervened and stopped the police in their tracks. An Englishman on the bus stood up and intervened and defended the Irish couple, demanding to know why they were arresting an innocent man. Several middle-aged Black women on the bus also spoke up loudly and told the police to back off. Eventually the police took notice of the other angry passengers and got off the bus at Kings Cross.
The IBRG in a statement on 9th December condemned the targeting of innocent Irish people travelling on a bus. Both were elderly and retired.
The couple clearly got targeted because they had Irish accents and were speaking some Gaelic. The incident had one strange moment when the police eventually flashed their warrant cards, but Danny Burke flashed back his new PTA bust card. He was frightened that they would take him off the bus and beat him up around the corner. The IBRG put the couple in touch with a solicitor and with Liberty and advised him to inform the Irish Embassy of the incident.
Coventry IBRG had an open meeting with Coventry’s Irish community on 16th December. The Irish Post on 7th December had IBRG meet in Coventry. Maurice Moore was the leading IBRG figure in Coventry.
On 14th December the Irish Post had photos of a Colmtas night in Bolton with Margaret and Joe Mullarkey in the top photo. The paper described Joe Mullarkey as Bolton’s best known Irishman and a former GAA player with Shannon Rangers. Margaret Mullarkey was of course Bolton’s best-known Irish woman, and a prime organiser of festival Ceili exhibitions and much more.
Pickets for Prisoners
On 14th December IBRG members joined the picket of Belmarsh prison where Pat Reynolds spoke, and joined a picket of 10 Downing St on Christmas Day, plus a picket of the Home Office over Frank Johnson on 17th December.
On 24th December the IBRG organised a picket of Holloway Prison over Roisin McAliskey. On 27th December Roisin McAliskey was placed in the all-male Belmarsh Prison.
IBRG organised the picket of the German Embassy on 30th December again over Roisin. Both Thomas MacStiofan and Pat Reynolds were active in this campaign to get justice for Roisin along with other IBRG members and people from the community.
At the end of the year 110 local authorities in Britain recognised the Irish.
15 people had died in the Trouble in 1996.
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