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.
IBRG Reject British Flawed Proposals.
On 12th January the British and Irish Governments produced the Heads of Agreement document. The IBRG rejected this as being deeply flawed, since it was based on an internal settlement subject to the British/Unionist veto. The IBRG rejected their definition of consent which was based on Unionist/British consent rather than self-determination for the Irish people as a whole. The Orange statelet would continue with some window dressing, for the SDLP and Sinn Fein to police the nationalist community on behalf of the British Unionist statement.
On 16th January the IBRG issued a statement entitled IBRG Reject British Flawed Proposals. The IBRG stated that the proposals failed to address the central issues of the conflict, the British colonial presence in Ireland, and the economic apartheid associated with it.
The IBRG drew attention that these proposals were being brought forward on the backs of the murder of three Catholics, and noted that 15 of the 20 political killings in N. Ireland last year, were Catholics killed because of their religion. The IBRG noted the silence of both the British and Irish government to these killings similar to the silence of both Government in 1921-22, when over 500 people were murdered in setting up the N. Ireland statelet. Thus, British murder gangs have always been part of the system in N. Ireland, and they operate for the purpose of forcing Catholics to accept the status quo and to block democratic development.
The British Government claim to Ireland is a colonial one, and Britain must start a decolonisation programme at once. The new proposals contain no plans to address employment discrimination or sectarian policing in N. Ireland.
The Irish in Britain could be used as a model of how a British community in Ireland could keep their citizenship, culture and take a full part in the life of that country. The Irish in Britain are a bigger community within the UK than the Unionist community and although living abroad are a bigger group within the Irish nation. The British government had had 75 years to bring democracy to N. Ireland and had failed. It is now up to the Irish people to create their own democracy. The English government have nothing to offer the Irish only disengagement and decolonisation, and should pay reparation for all their crime committed in Ireland. The Unionist/British veto needs to be removed from Irish politics; it was artificially placed there in 1921 against the wishes of the Irish people.
New public inquiry into Bloody Sunday
On 24th January IBRG members marched with their banners on the Bloody Sunday March in London from Highbury Fields to Caxton House at Archway. IBRG members from Coventry, Birmingham, Lewisham, Brent and North London were present.
At the end of the month, the IBRG gave a cautious welcome to the new public inquiry into Bloody Sunday. The IBRG maintained that Bloody Sunday was a pre-planned massacre on orders from Downing St to break nationalist resistance. It killed off large scale civil rights protests and street demonstration and led to a full-scale military conflict.
On 30th January the IBRG issued a statement entitled Cautious Welcome for New inquiry into Bloody Sunday. It stated the IBRG do not share Tony Blair’s admiration for the conduct of Crown forces over the past 26 years. The IBRG have called for a full Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which would show up many war crimes committed by Crown forces in Ireland ranging, from Plastic bullets deaths to the shooting of prisoners in Gibraltar contrary to the Geneva Convention. Crown forces have acted as an army of colonial occupation backing the supremacy community, and have been responsible for the deaths of over 150 unarmed civilians during that time, and only a handful of soldiers shave ever been taken to Court.
The IBRG are aware that the judiciary in Britain lack independence from the government and senior judges depend on government for their appointments which makes them, more likely to carry out government wishes, if they want to remain in favour and want promotion. Those involved in framing up Irish prisoners have all reached the highest level of the law and policing in Britain. Senior Judges are appointed by the Prime Minister on the advice of the Lord Chancellor, who is also a member of the British cabinet, and then the Senior Judicial members of the House of Lords are the Highest Court in Britain. Thus, the cover up of what happened on Bloody Sunday was arranged from the Prime Minister’s Office in Britain, Edward Heath who still does not want to know the truth.
The IBRG salutes the relatives of the victims of Bloody Sunday in their long and courageous battle for truth and justice. The Irish community in Britain has always stood shoulder to shoulder with this demand from the first march in 1972 after the Massacre, until the Irish community were driven off the streets by the racist PTA laws. But our community did rise up again after the Hunger Strikes and every year have supported the Bloody Sunday march in Britain. The only movement to those who died on Bloody Sunday is a free and united Ireland, free form forces of occupation and foreign interference.
In February the Irish World had Bloody Sunday investigation is met with some guarded praise. The Irish Post on 7th February had A very cautious welcome. The report quoted the IBRG and TOM response to the inquiry. All the shameful Labour MP Harry Barnes of New Consensus wanted was an apology but no justice.
The IBRG noted that 15 of the 20 ‘political killings’ in N. Ireland last year were Catholics killed because of their religion. Since Billy Wright’s death a further eight Catholics were killed because of their religion. Thus, the Peace Process is driven by British death squads which want nationalists to accept anything for peace.
Mary Druhan Case referral to Court of Appeal
The IBRG welcomed the referral back to the Court of Appeal of Mary Druhan’s case, which the IBRG had highlighted in the Sunday World and the Irish World. In February the Irish World had Clare woman wins an appeal. Mary has been in jail since 1989. Trial and Error on Channel Four had raised her case. The IBRG had got her case onto the front page of the Sunday World. The IBRG started campaigning for Mary Druhan in 1992. In the original IBRG leaflet on Mary we had Justice Delayed is Justice Denied.
Police charged with “unlawful killing” of Richard O’Brien
On 11th February the CPS announced that three Metropolitan police officers are to be charged with manslaughter over the ‘unlawful killing’ of Richard O’Brien in South London. This was a real breakthrough and the first time ever in Britain, that police officers were being held accountable for the unlawful killing of an Irishman. For over 200 years they had got away with it because Irish lives in Britain were deemed to be cheap, and did not matter.
On 14th February the IBRG Ard Choiste met at St Osburg’s Club in Coventry. Six delegates attended including Bernadette Hyland, Tim Logan, Maurice Moore, Kevin Hayes, Liz Benson and Diarmuid Breatnach. Apologies Pat Reynolds and Tomas MacStiofan
Kevin Hayes had produced a new leaflet on the PTA along with the Repeal the PTA ,a London based campaign, and the West Midlands PTA group.
The IBRG had got publicity in the Wexford Echo on the case of Michael O’Brien as his family were from there. Maurice Moore raised the case of the Dalton Brothers from Granard, Co Longford who had received rough treatment from the policing and judicial systems, and Maurice had got a front-page story plus an editorial in the Longford Leader on the case. The meeting welcomed the referral of Mary Druhan’s case to the Court of Appeal, and the news that three Met officers were to be charged with the unlawful killing of Richard O’Brien. Roisin McAliskey’s case was with Jack Straw, the new Home Secretary, for a decision.
There was a discussion on whether IBRG should engage in civil disobedience over the 2001 census if the Irish were excluded. Branches were encouraged to join the new Equalities Group working with the CRE over the report Discrimination and the Irish community. Both Manchester and Lewisham IBRG were organising 1798 commemoration events this year. On the Bloody Sunday March this year the Irish self-determination demand had been dropped against IBRG wishes and without consultation with IBRG. The Leo O Reilly case had gone to the Police Complaints Authority.
On 20th February Pat Reynolds was speaking at a meeting at Kings Cross groups opposed to the basics of the Peace talks.
In London Sutton Council in South London, controlled by the Liberals, had agreed to recognise the Irish.
On 4th March John McDonnell MP brought a report to the House of Commons on the position of the Irish community in Britain the first recorded debate on the Irish in Britain in modern times. The IBRG were mentioned in the report.
On 8th March Gerry Adams writing in Ireland on Sunday stated that the talks would not lead directly to a United Ireland but his bottom line included the disbandment of the RUC and the keeping of Article Two and Three.
On 9th March Jack Straw announced that Roisin McAliskey will not be extradited to Germany because of poor health. Later she was released in April and allowed to return to her family. There was no evidence against her which was their main problem.
PTA was renewed on 21st March.
The IBRG condemned the Labour Party for this. The Irish World on 6th March had PTA extension criticised. It quoted Pat Reynolds ‘It does not go far enough. The Labour Party promised to abolish the PTA when they were in opposition. Now they delaying it for another year, despite the fact that it is discriminatory legislation used against the Irish community in Britain’.
Kevin Hayes of West Midlands PTA echoed those views and said ’in essence all the government is offering is minor reforms of the PTA the Labour Party voted against the PTA renewal from 1983 to 1995 during the time of paramilitary activity which constituted an emergency. Now that emergency seems to be over, the Labour party is supporting it. It is a betrayal of the Irish community by the government.
On 24th March Coventry City Council had a conference entitled The Irish in Britain at which Mary Hickman was the keynote speaker which local IBRG members attended.
Diarmuid Breatnach had a letter in the Irish World on 28th March criticising British soaps for stereotyping the Irish in a negative way including a critique of Fr Ted. He ended by saying ‘I am quite prepared to have aspects of society satirised, but not in front of a wide British audience. Their prejudices need challenging not feeding’.
On 1st April a United Nations investigator report concluded that the RUC had engaged in ’activities which constitute intimidation, harassment and hinderance of defence solicitors’. The report called for an independent inquiry into the murder of Patrick Finucane.
On 3rd April Lewisham IBRG held their 1916 Commemoration event with a Sinn Fein speaker Michelle Gildernew. The Irish Post had a photo of Michelle Gildernew speaking headed by Music Song and Passion.
On 7th April Tony Blair states ‘he feels the hand of history up on our shoulders.’
On 10th April the Good Friday Agreement was signed off by all parties except the DUP Jeffrey Donaldson. The IBRG rejected the Agreement as a charter for the preservation of British colonial statelet into the 21st century. The IBRG condemned the Irish government for giving away article Two and Three and accepting partition in Ireland, and accepting the British and unionist veto in Ireland. The IBRG rejected the central tenet of the agreement in its so-called principle of consent, which was based exclusively on the British/Unionist veto in Ireland.
On 13th April the IBRG issued a statement entitled Agreement an Attempt to Booster British Rule in Ireland. The IBRG rejects the new British Irish agreement as fundamentally flawed which offers no way forward in solving Britain’s Irish problem. The IBRG regard the central purpose of the new agreement as an attempt to booster British rule and prolong it into the 21st century. The agreement is a charter for the preservation of the British colonial statelet in Ireland, and a further attempt to block Irish unity.
The IBRG condemns the shameful actions of the Irish government in proposing to amend and destroy the purpose an intention of article 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution, and for the first time proposing to accept Partition and the right of the British government to rule part of the national territory.
IBRG calls on the Irish people to reject any changes to article 2 and 3 and condemn the Irish government attempt to blackmail its own people, by linking the destruction of these articles with the sham peace process. What nation would give up its birth right for such a mess of pottage. The British their now wants the Irish people to pay for the upkeep of the treasure it had stolen from the Irish people.
The Andersonstown News had Irish in Britain denounce settlement. The Sunday Press had How the Irish in Britain view with Peace deal and quote the IBRG as stating British rule in Ireland has been strengthened, and for the first time in history legitimised. The IBRG regard this attempt by the Irish government to recognise British rule in Ireland as a betrayal of the Irish nation, and of the men and women from 1916 onwards who fought for and founded the Irish nation.
The Irish World on 24th April carried reaction from IBRG, Republican Sinn Fein, IRSP and the Federation. It quoted IBRG” The Unionist community are a minority in Ireland and as such have rights, but they do not have the right to block Irish unity. Nowhere in the world would a national minority be allowed to block the will of the people. The socially constructed Unionist community is the Six Counties is less than 2% of the UK population, and is smaller than the Irish community in Britain. The Unionist community could learn much from the Irish community in Britain, in terms of preserving their culture and nationality. The construction of a specially chosen sectarian majority is a created tool of British imperial interests, and is not a principle in British law or in practise. Northern Ireland was set up by the brutal putting down of the Catholic community with over 500 murders over 10,000 driven out of their jobs because of their religion, and thousands of Catholic businesses burned out in the worst pogroms in Europe in 1921-22. Thus, the unionist statelet was set up by pogroms against Catholics and has no legitimacy. It is a colonial backwater with nothing to offer its people.
In April the notorious Norman Tebbit came out with another anti Irish rant in the Mail on Sunday where he described Bertie Ahern the Irish Taoiseach as ‘a puffed-up nonentity and the leader of a country which lives on European handout from countries like ours and Germany’. He suggested that feeding the egos of Irish politicians like the Taoiseach was similar to coseying up to republican terrorists. Clearly time Tebbit got a new bicycle.
On 23rd April five republican prisoners were transferred back home including the Balcombe St group. The Irish government released nine republican prisoners on 14th April.
On 30th April the IRA stated that the Agreement falls short of a basis for a lasting agreement and that the IRA will not decommission any weapons.
The DUP the UK Unionists, republican Sinn Fein, the IRSP, IBRG, the 32 Counties group, Martin Galvin of Noraid, and the newspaper Ireland on Sunday all reject the Good Friday agreement.
On 10th May 96% of the 350 delegates at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis agreed to change their constitution to accept partition and allow its elected members to join the British statelet at Stormont
On 2nd May 71% of the voting electorate in N. Ireland voted for the Belfast Agreement. A Sunday Times survey found 96% of voting Catholics supported the Agreement, while only 55% of Protestants did so. N. Antrim constituency voted 55% against the Agreement while only 52% supported it in the Lagan Valley.
In the Irish Republic 94% vote to remove Article Two and Three in a poor turnout of 56%, while in N. Ireland 81% of the people voted the highest turnout since Partition. Only 53% of the total electorate in the Republic voted for the removal of Article 2 and 3 despite it being backed by all parties and the media.
On 16th May the IBRG Ard Fheis was held at Caxton House in N. London. Branches represented were N. London, Manchester, Lewisham, Coventry and Birmingham.
Among those present were Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds, Maurice Moore, Diarmuid Breatnach, Liz Beson, Clare Hedderman, Daithi from Lewisham, Tomas MacStiofan, and Kevin Hayes. Branches had delegates from North London, Manchester, Coventry, Lewisham, Birmingham and Brent.
The following officers were elected.
Chair Pat Reynolds North London
Runai Liz Benson Lewisham
Cisteoir/Welfare officer Maurice Moore Coventry.
PRO/membership Bernadette Hyland Manchester
Education officer Tomas MacStiofan Brent
Prisoners Officer Kevin Hayes Birmingham and Tim Logan Coventry
Internal coordinator Diarmuid Bretanach Lewisham.
The following motions were passed;
A motion supporting the setting up supporting of an IBRG website,
A motion calling on IBRG to publish a range of pamphlets on issues such as ethnic monitoring, PTA, Prisoners, history of Irish in Britain, health of the Irish, Housing of the Irish, employment the Irish identity and the Irish and the history of the IBRG.
On 17th May the IBRG issued a statement IBRG Hold Successful 17th Ard Fheis. It stated due to the hard work of IBRG over 150 local authorities in Britain now recognised the Irish community in terms of monitoring their employment and their service delivery, which is a real advance for the community.
The Ard Fheis welcomed the release of Roisn McAliskey, the fresh inquiry into Bloody Sunday, the publication of the report of Discrimination and the Irish Community, and transfer of many Irish prisoners, all issues the IBRG had campaigned hard on over many years.
The Ard Fheis agreed that IBRG continue its campaigning work for the Irish to be included in the 2001 Census, the inclusion of the Irish language in the national curriculum in Britain, the repeal of the racist PTA laws, and to continue to campaign for Irish unity and Irish self-determination without any Unionist /British veto.
Pat Reynolds, Chair, in his address noted that this was the first IBRG Ard Fheis to be held outside of Tory rule in Britain, the IBRG had survived Thatcherism and would survive Blairism. The community did not expect Labour to automatically deliver the Irish agenda, we had to fight for our rights and to assert our rights in Britain in a planned strategic way, and not to be afraid of the issues facing our community.
There was, he stated, no evidence whatsoever to back up the recent claim that the Irish community were outperforming their British counterparts in employment, or that the Celtic Tiger had reached Archway, Kilburn, Birmingham Liverpool, Coventry, Bolton or anywhere else.
IBRG had rejected the Irish welfare model put forward by the Catholic Church and the Irish government as a way forward for the community, likewise the IBRG had rejected we are on the pigs back now model of the Irish establishment. It was only by a strategy geared to action that the Irish community could succeed.
The IBRG role has been one of strategic intervention such as the campaign for ethnic recognition to get the British state at local level, to recognise the Irish right to employment, and to a service delivery to meet the need of the community, likewise the campaign to have the Irish language history and culture included in the National curriculum in Britain, to have our framed prisoners released, to stop Irish deaths in custody , and work with other Irish progressive organisation to improve the conditions for Irish people in Britain.
Thus, the IBRG had worked with the CRE in pursuing them to carry our research into the Irish community, and to put into practice strategies for challenging anti Irish discrimination and anti-Irish racism, such as in the media and in the workplace. Our community had grown in confidence and will continue to grow.
The Irish Post caried a letter on 2nd May attacking the Federation and IBRG and a suitable reply was published on 16th May entitled ‘Don’t Knock Pat and Gearoid’ with photos of Pat Reynolds and Gearoid O Meachair respective Chairs of IBRG and the Federation. It looked like a bogus letter with just W1 as the address by a writer no one had heard of. It was mainly an attack on IBRG. The reply to her from a person in the community was well argued, and suggested that the writer read the report on Discrimination and the Irish community before deciding whether the Irish should be monitored.
The Federation of Irish Societies were holding their 17th Annual Congress in Limerick from 18-20 the May with sponsorship from B&I Aer Lingus, AIB, Bank of Ireland, Bus Eireann, Guinness and Bord Failte. There was a Golf Tournament sponsored by Aer Lingus and a very special offer for the wives a coach trip to Limerick and Killaloe to take in some scenery, and buy some souvenirs and some shopping, no doubt while the men caried out the important work of the Congress. The sexist proposal caused uproar in the Irish community who found this sexism to be outdated, and it reflected poorly on an organisation that claimed to represent the Irish community in Britain. It was felt that they need to adopt an equal opportunities policy and put it into practise. The women who went on the shopping trip would miss the entire all-day Congress.
On 21st May Pat Reynolds had an interview with Greater London Radio Irish hour over the IBRG argument that Irish emigrants should be voting on the Belfast Agreement and on Article 2 & 3.
On 7th June Pat Reynolds was speaking at the Camden Irish Forum AGM at the Camden Irish centre.
On 10th June the Commons cross party approach to N. Ireland was broken when the Unionists and Tories voted against bill for the release of prisoners, so much for Labour’s bipartisan approach over the years, when the Tories on the very first opportunity put the boot in.
On 13th June the Justice for Leo O Reilly Support group held a national conference calling for Justice for all those who have died in police or prison custody in Coventry with speakers Ges O’Reilly, Maurice Moore, Fiona Murphy and others.
On 20th June Manchester IBRG held a 1798 Commemoration event at the Friends Meeting place in Manchester. Speakers were Ruan O Donnell on the 1798 Rising, Ruth Taillon on Women and 1798, Michael Herbert on the Irish in Manchester, Ruth Frow on the Unite Englishmen and Women, Maurice Moore and Chrissie Meleady on Irish Community issues, Pat Reynolds on Irish struggles in Britain, and Tony Doherty on the Bloody Sunday Justice campaign about the struggle for truth and justice over the Bloody Sunday massacre. The Irish Post on 20th June had details of the Conference and speakers.
On 25th June the N. Ireland Assembly election took place with Sinn Fein winning 17.7% of the vote and 18 seats. Sinn Fein won 143,000 votes within 2,000 votes of the DUP. The SDLP emerged as the largest party with 22% of the vote and 24 seats. The SDLP won 55% of the nationalist vote with Sinn Fein winning 44%. David Irvine and Billy Hutchinson won two seats for the PUP.
On 2nd July the Loyalist Volunteer Force attacked ten Catholic churches in Nt Ireland.
On 4th July the Irish Post had Irish in Britain peace plea on the results of the Assembly elections. It quoted IBRG as saying ‘If Orangemen call themselves British, they should obey the British rule of law and not march down the Garvaghy road’. Mary Mason of TOM stated the Orange Order as an organisation of Protestant supremacy must learn that it will never be acceptable again to march in Catholic areas.
On 5th there was a 1798 Commemoration and Parade in Liverpool which IBRG members attended.
On 11th July the IBRG Ard Choiste meets at St Osburg’s Club in Coventry. Delegates attending included Diarmuid Bretanach, Maurice Moore, Tim Logan, Kevin Hayes and Liz Benson.
Apologies Pat Reynolds and Bernadette Hyland. Kevin Hayes agreed to write a PTA booklet, Lis Benson to write on ethnic monitoring, and Diarmuid to write a booklet on anti-Irish racism. Issues discussed included the Good Friday Agreement, Prisoners, PTA, 2001 census, ethnic monitoring, 1798 events, and Ard Fheis motions.
On 12th July during the Drumcree standoff three Quinn children aged 9,10, and 11 are burned to death in a Loyalist arson attack. These will not be remembered like Warrington because they were Irish Catholics, and Catholic lives did not matter. On 13th July Maurice Moore had a letter in the Coventry Evening Telegraph calling on the British government to uphold the ban on the Orange Order marching through Nationalist areas in provocation. The marches Maurice pointed out were not about celebrating British culture, but about domination and triumphalism over the Catholic communities. He pointed out that 11 Catholic churches had been fire bombed recently while the Orange Order remain silence on what was happening.
On 17th July Coventry and Birmingham IBRG and others picketed West Midlands Police HQ over the death in custody of Leo O’Reilly and the failure of the police to produce the documentation on the case.
First Local Health Authority Conference on needs of Irish
On 22nd July IBRG members in South London attended the first ever local Health authority Irish Health Conference when Lambeth, Southwark, and Lewisham Health Authority put on an Irish Health conference. Pat Reynolds was one of the keynote speakers. Jodie Clark helped to organise the Conference and IBRG played a key role in the various workshops with Diarmuid Breatnach running one of them. The Irish World on 8th May in a preview had London hosts first Irish health study.
Sheffield Health Authority had contacted IBRG to say they were working with the Irish community in Sheffield in considering Irish health needs and how they might be met, and were asking IBRG about any good practice in terms of Irish health initiatives. In responding the IBRG showed that they could reach areas of Britain where they had no branches. Previously Pat Reynolds had put on an Irish training day for community workers in Sheffield and had worked with Chrissy Meleady on issues there affecting the Irish community.
Lewisham IBRG brought out a four-page newsletter entitled Gael Force with article on peace Process, 1798, ethnic monitoring and 1916.
Pat Reynolds had a four-day Industrial Tribunal hearing against Southwark Council on 10-13th August which he lost. The case from moved to Ashford in Kent where the chair acting a racist way, did not recognise the Irish as being a racial group, and mocked the Irish being one.
Maire Holt had lost a case here some years earlier against Kent County Council. The case arose where new Labour just like Tory Brent sacked all their workers in the Equalities Unit. The case showed Russell Profit, despite being the Director of Personnel in Southwark, not knowing how to conduct an interview under equal opportunities.
Pat Reynolds had to represent himself the four-day hearing because his union Unison were racist in approach, and even told the Tribunal that Pat had returned to Ireland. The case exposed how Unions often work with Labour to close down cases.
The Irish Post toned down its reporting on the case after Southwark Council placed a half page of advertising that week with the Irish Post the last time ever, they advertised with the Irish Post. It showed how Town Hall openly tried to buy good publicity in minority papers. The Local government Chronicle carried the case with Irish social worker with Southwark claims discrimination.
Pat had been offered a later a job with Hackney Council but Southwark had given a bad reference so the job was withdrawn. Despite Southwark being short of social workers they never offered Pat even an interview during redeployment. The case went to Appeal in London later in the year. Southwark blocked his race discrimination by deliberately going outside procedures and placing another Irish person in the job in superfast time. The jobs had been boycotted by the Union because of the behaviour of Management.
On 15th August a real IRA bomb in Omagh killed 29 people after the RUC failed to clear the town centre despite being given three warning of a bomb in the High St. Not one single RUC officer was injured in the bombing. The bomb was used to kill off not just any just military action but also any political opposition to the Good Friday agreement.
On 2nd September two Scots Guards who were convicted of the murder of Peter McBride in Belfast were released.
On 19th September the Ard Choiste met at the Friends Meeting Place in Manchester. Delegates included Diarmuid Breatnach, Maurice Moore, Steve Joyce, Pat Reynolds, Bernadette Hyland, and Liz Benson. Apologies Kevin Hayes.
The meeting heard that both the Irish and British governments had rushed in extra new PTA laws after the Omagh bombings. Issues discussed included Michael O’Brien, Frank Johnson, Irish equality group, 2001 census, Travellers, 1798 events, Health Conference in south London, IBRG web site, Robert Hamill, Great Hunger as Genocide, Town hall employment and publications. The meeting discussed the report from the New York Committee to recognise the Irish Great Hunger as Genocide which was Sent out to branches for discussion.
On 16th October John Hume and David Trimble both receive the Nobel Prize for peace.
On 31st October Lewisham IBRG organised an Irish children’s Halloween party in Lewisham Irish centre as part of the Lewisham Irish Festival from 24th October -14th November. On 26th October IBRG put on a children’s Irish art and history workshop.
At the end of October, the IBRG welcomed the inclusion of the Irish language into the list of languages to be used in the National curriculum. It made the front page of the Catholic Times. The IBRG along with Conradh had led a big campaign on the issue with both making a submission to the British Government on the matter. The IBRG had sought the support of both the Irish government and the European Parliament for the campaign, and was supported by the European Bureau for Lesser languages. The EU Treaty of Rome also provided for member states to support the culture and language of minority communities living in large numbers in host countries. It was a significant victory for the IBRG and the Irish community.
On 14th November the Ard Choise met at the Lewisham Irish Centre in south London. The delegates included Diarmuid Bretnach, Maurice Moore, Pat Reynolds and Tomas MacStiofan. Apologies Bernadette Hyland and Liz Benson.
The meeting head that the Bloody Sunday March would now be under the banner for March for Justice, Time for Truth. The IBRG had held Marches for Justice back in the 1980’s under Justice for the Irish Community. IBRG had been excluded from the decision-making process of the march.
Michael O’Brien’s case had been referred to the Court of Appeal. Danny McNamee case will be heard in late November. Agreed to support Eddie Guilfoyle’s case in Liverpool with a donation of £20. The meeting condemned the British government for allowing two Scots guards convicted of the murder of young McBride back into the British army. The meeting heard that a new Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group had been set up in the House of Commons. The meeting welcomed the inclusion of the Irish language onto the list of community languages on the National curriculum in Britain.
The meeting passed the following motion ‘This Ard Choiste notes with concern the basis on which talks have been held, and states its view based on history, that whatever the short-term gains of talks and /or cessation of war, real long-term peace is only achievable through self-determination and equality for the Irish peoples a whole’.
The meeting notes that the European Convention on Human Rights had now been incorporated into British law and would come into effect in 1999. There was also a new law on Protection from Harassment on which the IBRG had input some years ago in its report to Hansard on Racial Harassment.
On the evening of 14th November after the Ard Choiste Lewisham IBRG put on their wonderful pageant on 1798 a mixture of song, poetry music, narrative and actors.
First Meeting of Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group
On 2nd December the IBRG attended the first meeting of the Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group at the House of Commons. Kevin McNamara was elected chair, with John McDonnell as secretary, Simon Hughes for the Liberals and Margaret Moran were elected as vice Chairs.
Pat Reynolds proposed four areas of work that the new group should consider working on, Inclusion of the Irish in the 2001 Census, economic exclusion, the judicial system, and wrongly convicted prisoners. He informed the meeting that over 150 Local authorities in Britain now recognised the Irish community, and it was urgent that the wishes of those democratically elected representatives of the people, be listened to and that the Irish now be included in the 2001 census. Simon Hughes and Eddie O’Hara spoke to back up this proposal of inclusion in the Census.
It was then agreed that the Group would formally ask for a meeting with new Home Office Minister on the issue, Michael O’Brien was himself of Irish descent. The Group appeared to want to work closely with the Irish Embassy and had invited Seamus McGarry to speak to the meeting. McGarry stated that the main issues were the 2001 Census and the lack of access to Local Authority resources, yet there was no evidence whatsoever of the Federation doing anything towards getting recognition from local authorities for the Irish community, all 150 local authorities who did recognise the Irish were won by the IBRG. In terms of the Census the Federation were the last group to come on board.
The IBRG had been excluded from the reception and launch of the group on 3rd November where the special guest was the Irish Ambassador Barrington. At the end of the meeting on 2nd December the Group again they showed extreme bias by asking the Federation to give a presentation at the next meeting on their response to the CRE report, instead of either inviting Mary Hickman to present her report, or by asking both the Federation and IBRG to make submissions to the Group.
It was clear that this new group was just another colonial type Irish establishment group meant to contain the natives and those with attitude who wanted change.
On 17th December Danny McNamee wins his appeal against conviction. That evening IBRG members attended his victory celebration at the Camden Irish centre.
55 people died in the Troubles during 1998, 29 of them in the Omagh bombing.
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