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 16th January the trial of the six men who escaped from Whitemoor Prison was stopped for state security reasons rather than the reasons given in the British media.
On 17th January Channel Four showed, that contrary to Lord Widgery, three of the civil rights demonstrators murdered on Bloody Sunday were killed by the Royal Anglian Regiment. Along with the recent publication of Don Mullen’s book Eyewitness Bloody Sunday there is a renewed strong campaign for a fresh inquiry to go behind the Widgery cover up inquiry.
The Green Ink Bookshop closed in January.
The Bloody Sunday March
Was held on 25th January from Highbury Fields to Caxton House in North London for an indoor rally. This was the first year that the march and rally was held a week earlier to try and boost the march in Derry in terms of the media and build up. It got good publicity in several papers and magazines, and Pat Reynolds put in a letter of correction to the Irish Times on their report on the march. Declan Bree’s remarks condemning only republican violence were heckled on the day, and the IBRG wrote to him over the issue, because that day was about British violence in Ireland.
IBRG members attended from Birmingham, Coventry, Harrow, Brent, North London and Lewisham with a couple of IBRG banners. Martin McGuinness was the main speaker along with Gerry Duddy for the families. The focus of the rally was the new evidence in the case.
The rally later in Derry had over 40,000 people. In February Diane Abbott MP wrote to the IBRG to say that she supported a full independent inquiry into Bloody Sunday. David Alton MP from Liverpool stated in his reply ‘I have never been happy with the Widgery Report and I fully support the calls which have been made for an independent public inquiry to be heard’. IBRG had started to lobby/write to MPs on this issue to demand a public inquiry. There were over 2,000 people on the march and two IBRG banners one from Haringey IBRG, and the old Islington IBRG banner rescued from the Roger Casement Centre.
Pat Reynolds was Publicity Officer for the Bloody Sunday March and Rally in London and had interviews with three different radio stations including Greater London Radio and Heart Radio plus a five-minute TV spot with NBC in America, and chaired the Press Conference that morning with Martin McGuiness and Declan Bree.
Pat Reynolds got banned from the Dimbleby BBC show on 26th January at which Martin McGuiness was the guest.
Bolton IBRG meet with prospective Labour Candidates
In Bolton three prospective Labour candidates including Ruth Kelly met with the IBRG, all three backed all-party talks in Ireland.
The Irish World on 17th January had Labour meets Bolton IBRG. It quoted Joe Mullarkey ‘The trio backed calls for all-party talks to be held in N. Ireland to include Sinn Fein with only condition an IRA ceasefire. They saw a United Ireland as a long-term objective as part of a European community without internal borders. My only concern is with the leadership of the Labour Party once in government. We expect any incoming Labour government to engage in all party talks with no preconditions. I call on individuals and groups in the Irish community to challenge all parliamentary candidates on Irish issues during the election in any open meeting on the doorstep and in the media.’
In Manchester IBRG condemned the remarks of a Tory candidate who called for the Manchester Martyrs plaque to be removed.
In Haringey the IBRG expressed its concern that Haringey Council only employed 8% Irish staff when the figure should be 13%. The Irish World on 10th January had Haringey council under employment attack over Irish. Only 4% of teachers in Haringey were Irish and only 2% of new teachers were. Only 6.5% of new starters were Irish despite young Irish people having double the qualifications of their British counterparts. Haringey Council were missing out on recruiting talented Irish staff. Haringey blamed the lack of recruitment on cutbacks in the Council.
The IBRG Ard Choiste took place on 1st February at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in North London. Eight delegates attended including Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds, Diarmuid Breatnach, Pat Cullinane, Tony from Lewisham, Maurice Moore, Tim Logan and Tomas MacStiofan.
Apologies from Joe Mullarkey, Kevin Hayes, Jodie Clark and Pat McAndrews.
Concerns were expressed at the collapse of the Whitemoor escapees trial because of state interest. Two individual warders had died since in mysterious circumstances and part of the tapes had gone missing. The question was why did Max Hastings editor of the London Evening Standard and the Malvinas war correspondent blew the case out of the water.
Roisin McAliskey case
IBRG members had attended ten pickets for Roisin McAliskey since she had been taken as a prisoner to Britain. The IBRG had organised the German Embassy picket and the one of Holloway prison plus the one of Downing St on Christmas day. There was concern over her unborn child because of the stress and prison conditions. It was pointed out that Germany did not extradite their own citizens: so why are they asking for Roisin. Letters had been written to the German Embassy on this matter.
Maurice Moore, Coventry IBRG, reported that a second inquest was due to be held on 18th February on Leo O’Reilly who died in police custody. Fiona Murphy has taken over his case as his solicitor. Sean Farry had been in touch with IBRG over his case.
110 local authorities in Britain now recognised the Irish. The IBRG had a good turnout at the Bloody Sunday march and rally. Pat Reynolds had been one of the organisers and was Press Officer on the day. The march got extensive coverage on TV and Radio in Britain Ireland the USA along with the quality press. It was agreed that Diarmuid Breatnach would write to Declan Bree over his offensive remarks at the rally.
The election strategy was discussed and the five demands agreed. On Richard O’Brien, Panorama were investigating the case, and Alison O’Brien, his widow, had been speaking at the AGM of Inquest. The CRE had delayed the report on the Irish until after the General Elections as Labour might be more supportive than the Tories. The indication was that the Irish would be left out of the 2001 census, but again as Labour was likely to get in, they might be more supportive. In any case it was one of our five General elections demands.
On 2nd February IBRG members joined the picket of Downing St. over Roisin McAliskey.
On 7th February Pat Reynolds was speaking at the Pathfinder Bookshop in Waterloo London at a public meeting following a racist attack on the bookshop after the Bloody Sunday March.
On 12th February a British occupying soldier Stephen Restorick was shot dead on the border, the last British soldier to die in that phase of the Irish struggle.
On 13th February IBRG members attended a picket of Bow St Court over Roisin McAliskey, and that evening attended a public meeting at the House of Commons on the case where her mother Bernadette and Gareth Pierce were speaking along with Eamon OCuiv and Kevin McNamara. Over 200 people attended the meeting.
London meeting on election strategy
On 15th February London IBRG members met at the Roger Casement Irish centre in Islington. The issues discussed were a London strategy for the general Election, All Party Talks, the PTA, Census 2001, Ard Fheis, Prisoners, and Bloody Sunday. Brent and North London attended with apologies from Lewisham, Harrow and Southwark. In London IBRG were supporting Corbyn, Livingstone, Bernie Grant, Diane Abbott and John McDonnell.
On 19th February the Irish Foreign Minister Dick Spring warned the British Ambassador that the continued detention of Roisin McAliskey could damage the Peace Process.
On 20th February Southwark IBRG had a meeting to try and revive the local branch. The meeting was called by Jodie Clark and Pat Reynolds attended.
On 21st February IBRG members were outside the High Court Royal Courts of Justice to welcome the release of the Bridgewater Three. Patrick Molloy an innocent Irish man had died in prison.
On 26Th February IBRG members attended a meeting in Haringey for Arthur Scargill with over 200 people attending. Members raised the question of Ireland at the meeting, where Arthur gave his full support for Irish Unity and Irish self-determination.
North London IBRG mailed all London MPs with a copy of our Election manifesto.
Jodie Clark from Southwark IBRG had written to Tony Blair over the failure of Labour to recognise the Irish in terms of ethnic monitoring of their own membership. She received standard reply from Blair’s Office about the party’s position in Nt Ireland.
On 27th February the N. Ireland Arms Decommissioning Act is passed.
On 1st March Bernadette Hyland had a letter in the Irish Post on the Irish and the British General Election. The letter was headed What Irish people should expect from politicians. In it, Bernadette put the IBRG demands: the total repeal of the PTA, inclusion of Irish in 2001 Census, immediate inclusion of Sinn Fein in all-party talks, the transfer of Irish republican prisoners to Ireland and self-determination for the Irish people without British interference. It is an ideal opportunity to challenge all candidates and their party’s policy on Ireland. We should make our views known and not allow any party to take our votes for granted.
On 2nd March IBRG members picketed Downing St over Roisin McAliskey.
P.T.A. debate in House of Commons
IBRG members attend the PTA debate in the Commons on the PTA where only 12 Labour MPs voted against it. The IBRG condemned the Labour Party on its position. The Irish Post distorted the issue with its headline PTA renewal Forced Through which was a lie as Labour did not oppose it. Both the Irish Post and An Phoblacht refused to publish letters from Pat Reynolds, Chair of IBRG, to present the correct picture. Both the Irish Post and Sinn Fein were covering up for Labour in the run up to the General Election and the Irish community were on their own again.
IBRG had lobbied over 150 MPs of all parties on the PTA. The Irish World did publish the IBRG response to the debate. On 28th March the Irish World published the IBRG letter from its Chair Pat Reynolds that the Irish Post and An Phoblacht refused to publish, as both were courting Labour coming into the General election. Pat stated ‘Jack Straw the Shadow Home secretary opened for Labour, saying It was of course the Labour Government who introduced the PTA in 1974 and who ensured its renewal every year they were in power. Last year we helped to ensure that the renewed order went through, we shall do so again this year. He ended by saying they have our support’.
‘A vote for a pro PTA MP is a vote of approval of over 22 years of PTA abuse on human rights, along with those PTA flagships the miscarriages of justice. It is also a vote for continuation of this abuse, and the silencing of any political debate on Northern Ireland’. Pat Reynolds who attended the debate in the House of Commons was shocked at the position of the Labour Party who were more interested in campaigning for the General Election than turning up to vote.
On 6th March the IBRG issued a statement Labour Party Desert Irish Community in Greed for Power. The vote for the PTA on the night was 304 to 13 against. Seamus Mallon on the night made by far the best speech of the evening distinguishing between the need and the means used to achieve an objective, he also spoke out on the Roisin McAliskey case, and called for her and he unborn child to be treated with dignity. The Tory MP Robert Allison made an offensive quip about Roisin, which was clearly against the subjudice laws and had shades of Tom King and the case of the Winchester 3, about it. Kevin McNamara challenged him on his remarks. It was sad to watch the childish games of Jack Straw and Michael Howard trying to be both hard little men, at the expense of the civil rights of the Irish community.
On the night only Ken Livingstone, Kevin McNamara and Jeremy Corbyn stayed for the full debate. It was no wonder that the level of street protest from the Irish community in Britain was at its highest since the early 1970’s, and that the Irish community in Britain had been left out of the democratic process, in terms of representation of their rights. All of the main political parties in Britain were pro Unionist
On 8th March IBRG joined a picket of Holloway prison over Roisin McAliskey which drew a huge crowd for International Women’s Day mainly from Women’s groups.
On 12th March IBRG joined a picket of Bow St Court over Roisin and on 14th March the High Court overturned her case.
On 17th March St Patricks Day, the British General Election is announced for May Day which Labour are expected to win well. The Sun backs Labour and Tony Blair.
On 21st March Pat Reynolds speaks at the 1916 Commemoration event at the Lewisham Irish centre.
On 27th March Diarmuid Breatnach gave a good lecture on the Great Starvation at the Roger Casement Irish Centre which was well attended.
Leo O’Reilly Case
The O’Reilly family in Coventry won a new verdict on the death of their father in police custody in Coventry. The IBRG were supporting the family and their campaign to get answers and justice. The Irish World covered it with Call for Police monitoring. Maurice Moore was quoted ‘We cannot bring Leo O Reilly back but we can do something to see that this happens to no one else’.
IBRG had called on the Irish Government and Embassy to monitor all Irish deaths in custody in Britain, in seven out of 15 cases in London recently the men involved were Irish. On 4th April the Coventry Herald had a photo of Maurice Moore, Gess Reilly, son of Leo Reilly and the family of Kevin McLoughlin. The latter was another Irishman who died in police custody with the heading People with tragedy in common. The story told of the tragedy of death in custody for both Irish families.
On 3rd April the IRA closed the M1, M5, and M6 with bombs near Birmingham.
On 5th April the IRA force the postponement of Aintree for two days.
The 16th IBRG Ard Fheis took place at the Koko centre in Coventry on 5th April. Twelve delegates attended with seven branches represented namely Manchester, Birmingham, Coventry Brent, Harrow, Lewisham and N. London.
Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG in his address to the Ard Fheis called for Irish self determination to be put back in the centre of British politics. There was he stated no constitutional practise of history in Britain of a territorial minority such as the Unionist community in N. Ireland having the power to challenge the will of the majority of British people. The unionist population made up only 2% of the UK population which was about the same size as the Irish community in Britain.
The Greater London Council, a far Greater area of population, was abolished by Margaret Thatcher against the wishes of the vast majority of people living in London and without any democratic vote. This showed that British government can make decisions on territorial areas. Being a majority is not a principle of British politics unless it comes to the oppression of the Irish people, when their majority achieved in the 1918 all Ireland election for a Republic was denied by Britain. No Irish emigrant in Britain Australia or the USA had ever voted any Irish Dublin or Stormont governments, we have no voice and there was an urgent need for the Irish abroad to set up their own Dail in exile to campaign for their interests, and to have a voice on Irish self-determination.
He called on the IBRG to activate the Irish community for the upcoming general election with our five demands, and to make an impact in areas of high Irish population in Britain. He notes that IBRG had campaigned and won over 100 local authorities in Britain to recognise the Irish, and stated that the 2001 census inclusion was within our reach, but only if we caried on our hard work in that area. There was a likelihood of a Labour Victory in the upcoming General election which provides opportunities, but we have many bitter memories of betrayal by Labour in the past, in bringing in the PTA, in the framing up of innocent Irish people, in their continued support for the PTA, but there are margins to be won in the areas of equal opportunities.
The biggest question is over the future of N. Ireland is the Irish right to self-determination. The war is over and the majority of prisoners will be released, but from past history we learn of betrayal at the final post. This must not happen again so we need to stay resolute and determined in our stand for Irish self-determination, as being in the best interests of all Irish people at home and abroad. Equally we must stand resolute for equal rights for the Irish in Britain.
The following Officers were elected
Chair Pat Reynolds North London.
Vice Chair Diarmuid Breatnach Lewisham
PRO/Membership Bernadette Hyland Manchester.
Cisteoir & Welfare Officer Maurice Moore Coventry
Education officer Tomas MacStiofan Brent
Prisoners Officer Kevin Hayes Birmingham and Tim Logan Coventry.
The following motions were passed;
A motion from North London condemning the cost of Irish passports and calling for a £20 passport,
A motion from N. London calling for all emigrants from N. Ireland living in Britain to be given the vote in all N. Ireland elections, The IBRG noted that not one single Irish emigrant had ever cast a vote for any Dublin or Stormont government ever in their histories.
A motion from N. London calling for an end to SSU in prisons in Britain and calling on the Irish government and the European Parliament to take upon the issue,
A motion from N. London calling for the setting up of a Dail for Irish emigrants in Britain since the Irish government continue to deny emigrants the vote,
A motion from N. London calling for the repeal of the racist PTA and condemning the Labour Party for supporting it,
A motion from N. London calling for an international inquiry into Bloody Sunday and noting the important new evidence recently made available,
A motion from Lewisham calling on the British government to stop the persecution of Roisin McAliskey,
A motion from N. London calling for the cases of Frank Johnson, Michael O’Brien, Sean Farry, Danny McNamee, James Hanratty and Mary Druhan to be referred back to the Court of Appeal.
A motion noting the verdict of unlawful killing in the Richard O Brien case and the open verdict on the Leo O’Reilly case, and expressed its concern over the high number of Black and Irish deaths in custody,
A motion from N. London condemning the ONS for leaving the Irish out of the final testing programme for the 2001 census, and calling for a full community campaign to win inclusion for the Irish,
A motion from N. London condemning the British racist ban of Irish workers in certain civil service jobs,
A motion from N. London condemning the Orange Order marching through nationalist area where they are not wanted, The IBRG pointed out that the Irish community in Britain which was about the same size as the Unionist population of N. Ireland had one march each year apart from the St Patricks day parades, yet the Orange/Unionist community in N. Ireland had over 2,600 marches each year.
A motion for N. London nothing the current talks in Ireland are based on the Downing St Declaration and the Framework Documents both of which were rejected by the IBRG. The Ard Fheis calls for a United Ireland to be placed on the political agenda for the talks and called for an all-Ireland constitutional conference to decide the future of Ireland.
The Irish World on 11th April had devolution for Britain’s Irish community which covered the IBRG Ard Fheis and the motion on setting up a Dail abroad for Irish emigrants.
On 6th April the IBRG joined a picket of Downing St over Roisin McAliskey.
On 7th April the IBRG attended the Camden Irish Forum General Election meeting at the Camden Irish Centre which drew 60 people. Local MP’s Frank Dobson and Glenda Jackson did not turn up.
On 18th April IBRG members picketed Paddington Green Interrogation Centre in London, with both Pat Reynolds and Diarmuid Breatnach IBRG officers attending.
On 2nd April Pat Reynolds was speaking General Election meeting in Nottingham with Alan Simpson Labour at which the UKIP candidate walked out when the issue of Ireland came up.
In April the IBRG condemned the Daily Mail over an article by Ian Woolridge who called for the Irish to be banned from the Cheltenham Festival on 23rd April St George’s day. The IBRG suggested he might have been over celebrating on the day.
On 24th April the IBRG issued a statement Daily Mail Writer loses the Head on St George’s Day. The IBRG suggested that the Daily Mail writer could learn from the Irish how to celebrate the day without losing his head. It was suggested that he wanted to ban Irish horses from Cheltenham, to give the English horses a change of winning the odd race now and then.
IBRG suggested the Daily Mail leave the horses alone, and begin to tackle the root problems of N. Ireland of a Unionist Supremacist apartheid government based on discrimination against Catholics. If smoke from Irish fires is getting in his eyes he should try and put out the fires.
IBRG was surprised the writer did not advocate a ban of Irish advertising in the Mail, a ban on sales of the Mail in Ireland and a ban on the Irish reading the Mail. The Mail heading was Let’s ban every Irish horse, Irish jockey and Irish trainer form the Cheltenham festival.
Manchester IBRG election meeting cancelled
On 19th April a public meeting organisesd by Manchester IBRG, which would have seen Mary Nellis of Sinn Fein and IBRG Chair Pat Reynolds speaking, had to be cancelled because of right wing threats following the Manchester Evening News (owned by the Guardian) attack on the meeting.
IBRG made a formal complaint to the Press Complaints Commission which got nowhere. On 11th April the IBRG released a statement entitled Outbreak of McCarthyism in Manchester denies Irish Freedom of Speech. IBRG condemned the Manchester Evening News owned by the liberal Guardian, and the Tory candidate for Manchester, and the Labour Leader of Manchester Council working together to force the cancellation of a public meeting, because of an invitation to an Irish grandmother Sinn Fein Councillor Mary Nellis.
It was a sad day for democracy in Manchester. Nobody wanted to listen to the Tory candidate in Manchester yet hundreds would turn up for Mary Nellis, which is why they got the meeting banned.
It was censorship pure and simple engineered for cheap publicity by the Manchester Evening News, the right wing Labour Council and the Tories. The Right of the Irish community in Manchester to assembly without fear, and to be able to express their political views have been denied. The IBRG can invite who they like to their meetings, and reject that we should condemn IRA action. The British community in Ireland have never ben asked to condemn Bloody Sunday or any other reactions of the British army in Ireland.
On 14th April the Irish News had Irish group blast at press. The report stated that IBRG were informed by the owners of the Friends Meeting Place, that they had been told that the safety of people attending the meeting could not be guaranteed. The Tory candidate in his ignorance stated that IBRG were a front for Sinn Fein. The Irish World had Meetings sparks bomb city rage. The claim by the Tory candidate that the basis of any visit to Manchester by Sinn Fein should be to apologise. The Irish would prefer if the British only practised what they preached, and began to apologise for 800 years of brutal repression and brutal violence in Ireland, the brutality of Cromwell to the genocide, when they starved the Irish people, while ships laden with food and cattle left Ireland.
Manchester IBRG brought out a leaflet headed Freedom of Expression Freedom of Debate Freedom of Assembly No Irish Need Apply, and distributed it in the Irish community and labour movement calling on people to protest to the Manchester Evening News and to the leader of Manchester City Council and to boycott the Manchester Evening News.
On 10th May the Irish Post had SF coverage is referred Manchester claims to be investigated and covered the IBRG referral to the Press Complaints Commission over the Manchester Evening News article.
IBRG members and supporters picketed the MEN offices and challenged the writer of the offensive article, Andrew Grimes. His colleagues, faced with the picket, said that they only worked for the paper.
Bernadette Hyland called for the City Council to organise a conference to address the issues arising from the bombing of the city, and to deal with the issue, like Warrington had, by creating dialogue and reconciliation.
On 6tH April IBRG put in a complaint to the Press Complaints’ Commission about the two-day story in the Manchester Evening News.
The British General Election took place on 1st May with a landslide of 179 seat majority for Labour. Mo Mowlan is appointed Secretary for N. Ireland. Sinn Fein win two seats with Adams and McGuinness elected. Sinn Fein wins 16% of the vote in N. Ireland. John Mayor resigns and Hague takes over Tory Party.
On 4th May IBRG members picket Downing St over Roisin McAliskey.
On 5th May the IBRG issued a statement Irish Community seeks action from new Labour Government. The statement called on Labour to immediately call all party talks without preconditions, called for the transfer of Irish political prisoners, the release of Roisin McAliskey, and the framed Irish prisoners, Frank Johnson, Mary Druhan, Danny McNamee, John Kinsella, Sean Farry, Michael O’Brien, the inclusion of the Irish language in the national curriculum, a fresh inquiry into Bloody Sunday, the inclusion of the Irish in the 2001 Census and direct action on employment discrimination in N. Ireland.
IBRG noted that the IBRG had lived under Tory rule since its birth in 1981 for 16 years, but also noted that the Labour administration from 1974 -1981 was the most brutal oppressive and anti-Irish administration since the Black and Tans in Ireland with Roy Mason and his gang, In Britain Labour brought in the racist PTA and used it with relish against the Irish community, took 19 political hostages from the Irish community in 1974, and colluded with the Tories in their continued oppression during the Hunger strikes and afterwards. It was noted that Ken Livingstone had more Irish votes in his constituency than any Irish TD in Dail Eireann and was better on Ireland than most of them.
On 8th May Robert Hamill died from injuries received on 27th April in Portadown while the RUC stood idly by and allowed him to be killed by Loyalists.
On 10th May the Choiste met in Manchester at the Friends Meeting Place. Eleven delegates attended including Bernadette Hyland, Charles Hegarty, Steve Joyce, Celia Ecceleston, Dave Kernohan, Rose McManon, John Gallagher, Pat Reynolds, Kevin Hayes, Maurice Moore, and Joe Mullarkey.
Apologies Diarmuid Breatnach and Michael Kneafsey from Blackburn
The IBRG agreed to pay for a leaflet for the Cardiff Three campaign including Michael O’Brien.See below.
The meeting heard that IBRG had written to over 150 MPs during the General Election, spoke with Alan Simpson MP in Nottingham, had meeting with candidates in Bolton, had a meeting in Blackburn, had a meeting cancelled in Manchester, because of media witch-hunt, and in Coventry had leafleted the community. IBRG had produced several thousand leaflets setting out the IBRG five demands which were copied by the Connolly Association and the Wolfe Tones. The leaflets were sent out to all the key Irish community organisations.
The IBRG called on the new Labour Government to release Roisin McAliskey, repeal the racist PTA, start all-party talks, transfer Irish political prisoners, release the framed prisoners including Danny McNamee, Mary Druhan, Frank Johnson, Sean Farry, Michael O’Brien and John Kinsella, put the Irish language in the curriculum, call a fresh inquiry into Bloody Sunday, include the Irish in the 2001 census, and take direct action on employment discrimination in N. Ireland. All of these were included in an IBRG Press statement of 5th May.
Several Irish MPs were elected including Clare Short, Kevin McNamara, Mike O’Brien, Tony McNulty Margaret Moran, Siobhan McDonagh, Chris Runae, Jim Dowd, and Ruth Kelly whilst, Kate Hoey and Brian Mawhinney were elected Unionists. It was agreed to write to the British Government to ask for an independent Inquiry into Bloody Sunday and to write them re inclusion in the 2001 census.
Nick Ainger MP from Wales had written to Mo Mowlam on behalf of IBRG re Bloody Sunday and stated ‘I would be grateful if you could consider this request for a public inquiry bearing in mind new evidence which has come to light in recent months.”
On 14th May Adams and McGuiness are denied access to the House of Commons facilities by the Brits.
On 16th May in Belfast Tony Blair says that his agenda does not include a United Ireland.
On 18th May IBRG Chair Pat Reynolds was presented with a Haringey council Community Award for his community relations work over the last ten years on the EMJCC representing the Irish community. The Award was an anti-racist award as part of the European Community anti-racist year of 1997.
On 20th May John Hume tabled a motion in the Commons calling on the Government to reopen the inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday.
On 21st May Sinn Fein take 17% of the vote in N. Ireland and win 74 local council seats.
On 29th June President Clinton on a visit to London says that Sinn Fein should participate in multi-party talks but calls for an IRA ceasefire first.
On 1st June Pat Reynolds opened the Irish Bookshop at Archway on the site of Green Ink but without any funding apart from Family Credit to top up his wages.
On 1st June a Loyalist mob kicks an RUC man to death in Ballymoney.
On 2nd June Alban Maginnes is elected the first Nationalist mayor of Belfast.
On 6th June there is a General Election in the 26 Counties with Fianna Fail and Progressive Democrats forming a Coalition led by Bertie Ahern. Sinn Fein win their first seat in Monaghan.
On 19th June Coventry IBRG with other groups organised a public meeting in Coventry for new Garvaghy councillor Brendan MacCionnaith to speak as Guest of Coventry Trades Unions Council.
The meeting was covered in the Coventry paper with Ulster visitor seeks union help. Maurice Moore was quoted People can hear from communities suffering Orangemen trampling over their rights. IBRG and Tom had organised the tour of Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester, Bristol, and Cardiff. Brendan stated It is like the BNP regularly marching through Brixton. Enough is enough these marches have to be rerouted. The international Human Rights body Helsinki Rights watch strongly condemned the role and attitude of the RUC on the marches.
Ken Livingstone backs the IBRG campaign to have the Irish included in the 2001 Census and it makes the front page of the new London Irish Press. Ken stated It is a terrible situation. There are over a million people of Irish extraction in England, I will be contacting the appropriate Minister to try and get the situation sorted.
In June Irish Taoiseach John Bruton of Fine Gael met with the Bloody Sunday families and showed them copies of the Irish government review of the Widgery Report, which he said had severe deficiencies.
He stated ‘It is a priority that the problems of Northern Ireland be resolved on the basis of respect for both communities. As long as respect had not been shown to the memory of the victims of Bloody Sunday, and the truth is not told about what was done to them, there isn’t the possibility of beginning a healing process’. Don Mullen author of the new book on Bloody Sunday stated, ’We are very hopeful that this will lead to a resolution of the very painful issues of Bloody Sunday, and we also see it as a step towards the confidence building, which is necessary for the Peace Process in the future, because in resolving Bloody Sunday, I think we are making a major step towards finding the healing that is necessary for a peaceful Ireland in the future’.
On 25th June the CRE Report on Discrimination and the Irish Community was launched at the University of North London and Bernadette Hyland and Pat Reynolds attended. Pat was part of the Media Panel which Mary Holland chaired.
On 28th June Pat Reynolds IBRG Chair was speaking with Francie Molloy of Sinn Fein and John McDonnell MP at the Bobby Sand /James Connolly event at Conway hall. Kevin Hayes ran a workshop on the PTA earlier in the afternoon.
On 3rd July Danny McNamee’s case is referred back to the Court of Appeal.
On 4th July IBRG and Conradh member and Irish language activist Padraig OConchonor died in London, he was a constant part of every picket held in London over years. He was a frequent letter writer in both English and Gaelic in a variety of papers and was on every picket for Roisin.
On 5th July the IBRG Ard Choiste meets at the Irish bookshop at Archway. Seven delegates attend including Diarmuid Breatnach, Pat Reynolds, Bob McCartney, Laoise De Paor, Danny Burke Pat Cullinane, and Kevin Hayes.
The meeting heard that Roisin McAliskey was out on bail and that she had had her baby. Sean Farry had been released. Danny McNamee’s case had been referred to the Court of Appeal. New evidence had been discovered in the Frank Johnson case, a statement from Jack Sheridan then victim, which had been withheld from the defence for 22 years. John Kinsella’s case had been referred back. Patrick Kelly had died from cancer after returning to Ireland where he was released before his death. The meeting donated £20 to Diarmuid O’Neill campaign.
The CRE report of Discrimination and the Irish community had been published and IBRG Chair Pat Reynolds had spoken at their launch conference at the University of North London. The National census testing day was soon on 15th June. It was decided to write to the British government over getting the Irish language onto the curriculum since they had promised this while in opposition. The growing hostility in Ireland to refugees was discussed while the meeting gave £10 to an individual campaign in Britain. Censorship and the Irish Post was discussed with a view that local papers which had a far greater Irish audience should be tried.
On 6th July New Labour forced the Orange march down the Garvaghy Road leading to rioting in nationalist areas, and showed Labour to be spineless in confronting Orange supremacy in N. Ireland.
Maurice Moore, of Coventry IBRG, had a letter published in the Coventry Evening Telegraph condemning Labour for pushing the Orange march through a Catholic area. His letter stated How can Mo Mowlam equate the Orangeman’s bigotry and despotism with the nationalist community’s wishes not to be continually insulted by Orange triumphalism. Why is the new Labour government authorising and supporting these sectarian marches?
On 19th July the IRA restore their 1994 ceasefire with a complete cessation of military operations. Sinn Fein join the peace talks two days later.
Launch of campaign on Diarmuid O’Neill
On 23rd July Pat Reynolds spoke with John McDonnell MP in the House of Commons to launch a campaign on Diarmuid O Neill. On 2nd August the Irish Post had Demand for inquiry into O’Neill killing with a photo of John McDonnell MP. The report showed that the Transport and General Workers Union General Executive Council supported the call for a public inquiry, as did Hammersmith Councillor Gerald Johnson who stated ‘it seems the police can do anything to the Irish, I feel so ashamed it could happen in our borough’.
In August Joe and Margaret Mullarkey were featured in an article in the Irish World entitled Mullarkeys enhance Bolton’s Irish culture with a photo of the couple, and details of all the work carried out by the family on Irish culture.
Diarmuid Breatnach, of Lewisham IBRG, had a letter in the Irish Post on 23rd August on the need for Irish inclusion in the 2001 Census.
Princess Diane was killed in car crash in Paris on 31st August, with many theories as to how she was killed.
On 5th September the Irish News had Fury over writers invite to Peter’s dinner about where a Daily Mail journalist who called for Irish to be banned from Cheltenham was invited as a speaking guest to a Belfast dinner to honour Mary Peters.
On 9th September Sinn Fein sign the Mitchell Principles to be allowed into all Party talks.
On 13th September the Irish Post had a feature on Blackburn IBRG Start of a long road towards an Irish club in Blackburn with four photos from a social one with the IBRG Chair Steve McManamon and IBRG secretary Caroline Forkin.
On 13th September the IBRG Ard Choiste meets in Manchester at the Friend Meeting Place. Delegates present included Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds, Diarmuid Breatnach, and Kevin Hayes.
Issues discussed included Prisoners, CRE report, census 2001, PTA, and Bloody Sunday march. Sean McNulty had been transferred to Ireland.
On 15th September All-party talks begin under George Mitchell.
On 17th September the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) went down to Swaleside Prison on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent to visit Frank Johnson.
On 18th September Pat Reynolds had an interview with BBC West Midlands on the 2001 census and the Irish.
On 21st September Pat Reynolds got a two-page spread in the News of the World for Frank Johnson and his case and Mr Sheridan’s hidden statement of 22 years. It was a major breakthrough for the campaign. The paper had 5million readers. The South London Press and the East London Advertiser took up the story too.
On 29th September IBRG members picketed the German Embassy over Roisin McAliskey.
In September the IBRG took Birmingham City Council to task over their non-recognition of the Irish. On 20th September the Irish Post had Birmingham City Council condemned Pat Reynolds accused Birmingham City council of having a No Irish need apply mentality.
Pat pointed out that only last week the Leader of Birmingham City council had called for the Irish to be included in the 2001 Census along with Christine Crawley MEP for Birmingham, and two local MPs Steve McCabe and Gisela Stuart were also supporting this. Birmingham City council had refused to include the Irish in their monitoring or employment.
Over 120 local authorities in Britain had now responded to the IBRG campaign and recognised the Irish community. The IBRG had lobbied over 350 local authorities in early September on the issue.
On 1st October Pat Reynolds had an interview with RTE on the PTA and on 2nd October had a similar interview with East Coast radio in Dundalk which showed the IBRG keeping the PTA in the news back in Ireland.
The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture were visiting Britain in the light of the cases of Richard O’Brien, Shiti Lapite, and Derek Treadway.
On 11th October Diarmuid Breatnach ,the tireless IBRG letter writer, had a letter in the Irish Post on the 2001 Census entitled We need monitoring to address inequality.
On 24th October the Haringey Irish Centre celebrated its 10th anniversary, Maureen Higgins of IBRG was its first Chair and IBRG were involved with other groups in setting it up.
On 26th October IBRG members attended the MacSwiney commemoration at Southwark cathedral.
Maurice Moore, of Coventry IBRG, got a story into the Longford Leader including an editorial on the case of a Longford man in the Midlands. On 10th October the Longford Leader ran a front-page story Prisoner on hunger strike in protest at UK court sentence about two Longford brothers, one escaped from court and the other went on hunger strike to protest over their treatment. The Leader had an editorial The Irish in Britain these Old Story about the Irish in Britain.
On 31st October Mary McAleese is elected President of Ireland.
On 3rd November IBRG members attended the CRE Conference in Birmingham City Hall to discuss the report Discrimination and the Irish community. Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG was one of the speakers and ran a workshop on ethnic monitoring, while Diarmuid Breatnach ran a workshop on education.
Over 50 people attended including Maurice Moore and Jodie Clark. It was decided to set up an Irish equalities group to progress the report through the CRE. One of the interesting features of the day was the fact that IBRG turned out as many people as the Federation of Irish societies on the day, and the only difference was that all the federation people were funded people while the IBRG were unpaid. Old IBRG members Mary Hickman one of the authors of the report and Nessan Danagher were also speakers on the day.
On 15th November the Irish Post had Another monitoring landmark which stated that Bedfordshire County Council had now recognised the Irish as had Norfolk County Council
The IBRG Ard Choiste took place on 22nd November at the Irish bookshop at Archway North London Nine delegates attended including Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds, Pat Cullinane, Máiréad Holt, Laoise de Paor, Danny Burke, Liz Benson, Maurice Moore, and Kevin Hayes.
Apologies form Diarmuid Breatnach, Thomas MacStiofan and Blackburn IBRG.
Kevin had brought the new leaflet on Michael O’Brien’s case to the meeting for distribution. Pat Reynolds informed the meeting that as a result of IBRG lobby some 150 local authorities in Britain now recognised the Irish, 25 of the 32 London boroughs did so, 15 of the 36 Metropolitan boroughs did, 12 of the 35 county council did, 14 of the Unitary council did, 10 of the 32 Scottish council did 4 of the Welsh councils did and 69 of the Shire councils did so. It was agreed to sponsor the Bloody Sunday march with £100. The meeting expressed alarm at the treatment of Black people travelling to Ireland who were subjected to racialised treatment at ports and airports. Other issues discussed were the PTA, prisoners, Roisin McAliskey, 2010 census, and the new Irish equalities group.
Some 50 MPs had now signed an Early Day Motion (EDM) on Frank Johnson. A hidden statement by his employer Mr Sheridan which had been hidden by the police for 21 years had now come to light. Chris Mullen had written to Jack Straw on the case.
On 27th November Kevin Hayes, of Birmingham IBRG, was speaking at a meeting on the PTA at the Central Library in Islington which drew over 50 people.
On 2nd December IBRG Chair Pat Reynolds, John Brennan Director of Cara, and Jodie Clark Southwark IBRG met with Neil Duffy, Leader of Southwark Council, over the needs of the Irish community. Issues raised included the 2010 census, the CRE report, Housing Social services, employment, policing and equal opportunities and the Irish. Southwark Council, agreed to send a letter to the ONS recommending that the Irish be included in the 2001 census.
Anger of Leo O’Reilly family in response to PCA report
On 6th December the IBRG put out a statement Unanswered questions remain over death of Irishman in Coventry after the publication of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) into the death of Newry born Leo O Reilly following his detention in police custody. The family and relatives were angered at the report which was released without informing the family of its content.
The PCA report was a whitewash, which answered none of the questions about the man’s death in custody. Log sheets went missing and so-called visits to the cell were never recorded. One female police officer claimed she spoke to Leo at 1.15am but the neurosurgeon, in his evidence, stated that given the nature of Leo’s brain injuries this was a near physical impossibility.
The question the family were asking, why did the police arrest Mr Reilly for being drunk and disorderly for having fallen down a stair and suffered serious brain injuries, and not call and allow an ambulance to take him to hospital,
Why did the police surgeon not do a proper medical examination following his detention the doctor said he just looked at him in the dark light and he looked ok?
What role did racial stereotyping of Irish men play in this case that a badly injured man is deemed to be drunk when injured. It took the police 13 hours to notice Mr Reilly’s condition.
On 7th December the 32 county Sovereignty Movement (CSM) was set up in Dublin with Bobby Sand’s sister Bernadette Sands-McKevitt as it’s vice chair.
On 27th December Billy Wright, Loyalist, is shot dead in Long Kesh by the Irish National Liberation Army.
22 people were killed in the Troubles in 1997
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