History of Irish in Britain Representation Group, part nineteen 1999

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 Manchester leaflet 1990s.

On 18th January IBRG members attended a public meeting at the Camden Irish Centre with   The Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition to welcome their delegation to London. The delegation  had earlier in the day met Tony Blair at Downing Street.

The Robert Hamill murder was also discussed at the meeting.

Dogs more important than lives of Irish

In January the IBRG noted that two police officers,  who were found guilty of cruelty to the dogs, were sacked from the Essex Police force. Meanwhile two Scots Guards found guilty of murdering 18-year-old Peter McBride in North Belfast were allowed back into the British army. The decision was taken by the Army Board which included Armed Forces Minister Doug Henderson. The board stated that they had taken into account the soldiers’ ‘unblemished record’.

In the Brave New World of the Good Friday Agreement the value of an Irish person life is now less than that of an injured English dog. Who fears to speak for justice now? This matter goes back to the heart of British colonial policy in Ireland where it was no crime to kill an Irish person, which they later transferred to the plantations in the USA and the Caribbean, that it was no crime to kill a Black person.

On 30th January IBRG members with their banners marched in the Bloody Sunday March in London under an Irish self-determination banner.

On 3rd February four republicans, including Pearse McAuley,  pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Garda Gerry McCabe in Limerick.

Rough Sleepers Report excludes Irish

On 3rd February Pat Reynolds joined others in a meeting with Government’s Social Exclusion Unit in London to discuss Irish homelessness.  The Social Exclusion Unit was a 20 person Think Tank that reported directly to Tony Blair on issues of social exclusion in Britain. The Unit had produced their book on Rough Sleepers, which did not even mention the Irish community, despite high numbers of Irish living rough on the streets.

 

On 4th February Nick Mullen is released in Britain, after he is cleared by the Court of Appeal His conviction was ruled unsafe because of the manner of his forced extradition from Zimbabwe.

 

10th anniversary of  the murder of Pat Finucane

On 12th February, on the 10th anniversary of the murder of Pat Finucane, a petition signed by more than a thousand legal figures, and supported by Amnesty International,  call for an Independent inquiry into his murder by pro-British death squads.

Public meeting on Irish language and National Curriculum

On 14th February Máiréad Holt and Pat Reynolds helda  public meeting at the Irish Bookshop at Archway north London on a way forward on getting the Irish language into the curriculum.

On 18th February IBRG members attended the Irish Equalities Group at the CRE which Herman Ouseley attended.

On 20th February the IBRG Ard Choiste met at Caxton House north London. Among the delegates were Diarmuid Breatnach, Pat Reynolds, Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Moore and Liz Benson.

Issues discussed included the Irish language in the curriculum, the Robert Hamill case, report on the visit to Social Exclusion Unit, reportback on Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group (IBPG), agreed that the Great Hunger should be seen as Genocide of the Irish people, donation agreed for the St Patricks Day festival in Belfast, report back on Bloody Sunday march, the Ard Fheis, and a welcome to the inclusion of the Irish language onto the curriculum, and the release of Danny McNamee.

The meeting noted that IBRG had persuaded the IBPG to send a delegation to the Home Office on the question of the Irish inclusion in the 2001 Census to see the Minister Mike O’Brien. The issue had now been won in England and Wales, but Scotland had yet to be won as they made their own decision. The IBRG agreed to fight on in Scotland on the same principle of getting the majority of local authorities there to recognise the Irish, and then telling the Government that they should listen to the voice of the democratically elected majority, and what they wanted.

The Macpherson Report into the case of Stephen Lawrence was published on 24th February. The IBRG welcomed the report and most of the proposals,  except the one to repeal the double jeopardy rule, which would be used more against minority communities.

On 4th March a BBC poll showed that only 41% of Unionists in favour of the Good Friday Agreement,  a drop of 14% from the referendum result.

Irish to be included in 2001 Census

On 5th March it was made public that the British government would include the Irish as a separate category in the 2001 census on the 200th  anniversary of the Act of Union, although this time the Irish were claiming their heritage and not territory. The IBRG were aware of the decision for some weeks beforehand. The White Paper on the 2001 census had been published and the IBRG responded to the White paper, which was covered by Ireland on Sunday and the Irish Post.

On 14th March Ireland on Sunday reported: ‘The Irish in Britain Representation Group (IBRG) has secured a new protocol for the 2001 Census whereby the Irish can now claim their Irishness as a recognised community. This new data will lead to a more reliable picture of the overall state of our community and its position within British society and industry’.

On 5th March a former UDA leader told the BBC that he was getting so many intelligence reports from the RUC and the Army that he had difficulty in finding space to store them.

On 11th March Lee Clegg was acquitted of the murder of teenage Karen Reilly,  but guilty of attempting to wound Martin Peake, the judge describes Clegg’s evidence as ‘untruthful and incapable of belief’.

Murder of Rosemary Nelson

On 15th March Rosemary Nelson, a Belfast solicitor,  was murdered by Loyalists in the heart of Belfast in the middle of the day, the second solicitor to be murdered in N. Ireland. The use of commercial explosives suggested British intelligence involvement. She had been threatened many times by members of the RUC

On 18th March Ronnie Flanagan asked the deputy Commissioner of the Met John Stevens to conduct an inquiry over claims of collusion by the security forces in the murder of Pat Finucane.

On 23rd March Jack Straw fails in his attempt in a judicial review on the case of Patrick Magee to stop his release.

On 23rd March IBRG members attended a large public meeting at Conway Hall in Central London on Rosemary Nelson at which her friend Gareth Pierce spoke.

On 24th March IBRG members attended the IBPG meeting at the House of Commons to hear Mary Hickman present her Report on Discrimination and  the Irish Community in Britain.

On 24th March the Independent Commission on Police Complaints listed a number of serious concerns about the RUC investigation of alleged threats made against Rosemary Nelson, by members of the RUC. Calls were made for the RUC to be removed completely from the murder investigation.

On 27th March Tony Blair Chief of staff stated that Tony Blair holds the Orange Order in high esteem, which shocked Catholics given their long history of anti-Catholic murders and bigotry.

On 29th March the Chief Constable of Norfolk is put in charge of the murder investigation of Rosemary Nelson.

On 30th March the Hanratty case is referred back to the Court of Appeal. Hanratty was an innocent Irishman, hanged for a crime he did not commit.

IBRG success on Ethnic Monitoring 

The IBRG had great success recently  on ethnic monitoring with Barking and Dagenham in London coming on board, as well as Walsall and Stockport Metropolitan boroughs, Middleborough, Peterborough, Nottingham, City of York, Milton Keynes, Winsor and Maidenhead, Kingston and Hull, Northumberland, Herefordshire, Cheshire, Kent, Leicestershire, Falkirk, West Lothian, South Ayrshire, City of Glasgow, Pembrokeshire, Neath Port Talbot, Torfaen, Epping Forest, Cheltenham, Tewkesbury, Burnley, Northampton, Hastings, Barrow in Furness, Wycombe, Brentwood and Stafford.

Over 175 local authorities in Britain now recognise the Irish. A number of Scottish and Welsh local authorities had also come on board as well several county councils and many cities in Britain.

On 13th March the Irish Post carried Bernadette Hyland’s  Obituary for Phillip Donnellan entitled Philip told the People’s story, with a photo of the Kate Magee Banner Justice for Irish People Support Kate Magee. The photo included Philip Donnellan, Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Moore, Michael Herbert and six other supporters. Phillip and his partner Jill   had supported the Kate Magee campaign.

Philiph and Jill are second and third from the left.

 

On 24th March the British, along with NATO,  started the war on Serbia including bombing their television station,  killing the journalists producing the news.

Criticism of RUC Chief over harassment of defence solicitors by RUC

On 12th April a report from United Nations special rapporteur criticises Ronnie Flanagan RUC Chief for allowing the situation to deteriorate after a number of defence solicitors alleged harassment by the RUC. He further claimed there was evidence of collusion by the security forces in  the murder of Pat Finucane, and called for an independent inquiry into the murder.

On 17th April Ronnie Flanagan announced that John Stevens will conduct a fresh inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane. On 20th April the US Congress called for an independent inquiry into allegations of harassment of defence lawyers by members of the security forces

By 13th April 257 political prisoners had been released under the Good Friday Agreement, 131 Republican and 118 Loyalists. The British media in their one-sided propaganda war will ever only talk about their being Republican prisoners, and never about the Loyalist and their sectarian violence and targeting of Catholics.

On 17th April it was announced that John Stevens would conduct a fresh inquiry into the murder of Patrick Finucane.

On 19th April Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG had a head-to-head debate on BBC Radio N. Ireland on the issue of decommissioning.

On 22nd April David Trimble member of the anti-Catholic Orange Order met the Pope. On many issues they would share the same views on abortion, divorce, gay rights, and male authority.

On 24th April the IBRG Ard Fheis was held in Coventry at St Osburg’s Club. Delegates attended from Coventry, Manchester, Lewisham and Nt London.

Among those attending were Maurice Moore, Bernadette Hyland, Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds.  Among those sending apologies were Joe Mullarkey, Thomas MacStiofan, Tim Logan and Liz Benson.

Registered branches included NE Lancs, Manchester, Bolton, Coventry, North London and Lewisham with Hemel Hempstead set up later in the year.

The Chair in his address welcomed the inclusion of the Irish language in the national curriculum in Britain, which the IBRG along with Conradh had fought for. He further welcomed the inclusion of the Irish within the 2001 National census in England and Wales, but stated that the fight for inclusion in Scotland had to be won yet. He praised IBRG for their campaign for ethnic recognition across Britain which was the winning strategy for winning the 2001 census, as the majority of local authorities in Britain now supported Irish inclusion. He notes that the IBRG had won over 200 local authorities in Britain to recognise the Irish.

This had huge implications for Irish employment and for service delivery to the Irish community. 26 of the 32 London boroughs now recognised the Irish, 22 of the 36 Metropolitan borough council now recognise the Irish, 18 of the 34 County Councils, 29 of the 46 Unitary Councils, 16 of the Scottish councils, 8 of the Welsh and 90 District councils all recognise the Irish.  Half of the Scottish local authorities now recognise the Irish. This was very important in the fight for inclusion in the 2001 census in Scotland that we now had 50% of Irish recognition in Scotland and growing.

He noted the acquittal of Danny McNamee and Nick Mullen, He welcomed the Macpherson Report on Stephen Laurence racist murder, and called for full support for action to address racism against Black communities in Britain. We must stand shoulder to shoulder with them against all forms of racism in Britain.

Bernadette Hyland PRO stated that the last year had been difficult because of the IRA bombing in Manchester. There had been attempts, with the new realignment of politics in Britain and Ireland, to marginalise IBRG which was  seen in the Irish Post, the IBPG, the Peace Process and even the Bloody Sunday March.  The IBRG had got coverage in the Irish Post, Irish World and a range of other papers from articles to letters, to campaign work. Manchester IBRG were hoping to start an IBRG website in the coming year.

The following officers were elected;

Chair Pat Reynolds North London.

PRO/Membership Bernadette Hyland Manchester

Vice Chair Diarmuid Breatnach Lewisham

Cisteoir Maurice Moore Coventry

Prisoners Tim Logan Coventry.

The following eight motions all from North London were passed;

A motion welcoming the inclusion of the Irish in the 2010 Census and calling on the IBRG to campaign for Scottish inclusion, plus a campaign for full participation of the Irish community in the census,

A motion welcoming the inclusion of the Irish language in the national curriculum and calling on IBRG to start a community campaign to have the decision implemented at local level,

A motion condemning the Loyalist murder of Rosemary Nelson, called for a public inquiry into the murder and also into the murder of Patrick Finucane.

A motion deploring the continued siege of Garvaghy road residents the sectarian Orange Order, and calling for all Orange marches to rerouted away from areas where residents objected to their presence,

A motion welcoming the Macpherson Report into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, and calling on all the recommendations to be implemented, and calling on IBRG to continue their anti-racist work in the Irish community, and to work with other communities in joint action in tackling all forms racism in Britain,

A motion noting the setting up of the IBPG, and calling on IBRG to lobby the group on issues of concern to the Irish community,

A motion noting the release of Danny McNamee and Nick Mullen, calling for action of Frank Johnson, Mary Druhan, Michael O’Brien and Martin O’Halloran. The motion also called on IBRG to continue action for justice for Diarmuid O’Neill, Leo Reilly, Richard O’Brien and the Hanratty family all Irishmen who were either executed by the state or died in police custody, in the Richard O’Brien case an unlawful killing at police hands.

On 5th May Mo Mowlam met the family of Patrick Finucane who asked for a public inquiry and that that material in a confidential Irish government file claimed that there is compelling evidence of collusion between the security forces and the loyalist killers.

1999 Good Friday Agreement Discussion Meeting

On 8th May Pat Reynolds was speaking at Connolly Association and Tower Hamlets Trades Union Council Conference entitled 1999 Good Friday Agreement Discussion meeting along with John McDonnell MP, Brendan MacCionnaith,  Angie Birthill and  Peter Beresford Ellis.

Pat was the only speaker on the platform who was critical of the Agreement. Over 100 people attended. The flier for the event had Black shirts at Cable Street 1936 and the Orange Order at Garvaghy Road Portadown 1999,   parallel examples of supremacist marches.

On 19th May IBRG members attended a House of Commons meeting called by the Friends of Ireland where Gerry Adams and Martin Ferris spoke along with PUP, Alliance, SDLP and the Women’s Coalition.

Making the links; history of  fascist groups and Irish community

Ireland on Sunday featured the IBRG in an article on the fascist bombing of Soho gay bar which left three dead on 30th April. Pat Reynolds drew attention to the fact that fascists had been attacking the Irish community for years attacking Irish pubs and the Bloody Sunday march each year, and also attacking Black and minority communities with earlier bombs in Brixton and Brick Lane. Across the country Irish people’s homes, schools and Irish Centres had over the years been attacked with little publicity given to it by the media or left wing groups.

The links between fascists in Britain and Loyalists paramilitaries have been played down by British intelligence.

The Biddy Mulligans Pub in Kilburn had been attacked in the past by Loyalists, as had the Black Lion in Kilburn because England lost a match against Ireland. The three bombings in London had left two people dead and over 130 injured but the press played down the attacks, and did not point to the right in Britain. If it was an IRA attack the Irish community would be asked to condemn it, but here there was silence about the enemy within in Britain.

Reports on Irish in Britain and USA

There were two further reports on Ireland on Sunday on the Irish in Britain,-one Irish in Britain still fare badly, which stated that there were over 1,000 Irish born prisoners in Britain. It quoted from a report from the Irish Episcopal Commission on Emigration, and said that the Irish were more likely to be imprisoned than any other group in Britain, that they were the only community whose life expectancy got worse on emigration, and said that the Irish community ‘suffered ongoing discrimination and unwarranted harassment” and it painted a disturbing picture of a divided community experiencing chronic housing health and unemployment, and said figures for mental ill-health and alcoholism were very high in the community.

It also pointed out that 4,000 Irish were living as illegals in the USA.  The report stated that successive government have ignored the fact that many are as vulnerable as they were in the past. 60% were between 18-24 many of them poorly qualified and marginalised before leaving Ireland. Because this report was backed by the Irish bishops it could not be ignored, but it confirmed what IBRG had been saying for years while the Embassy and the Federation were peddling the idea that all the Irish were very successful in Britain.

In another article headed Irish emigrant’s need more resources which showed on the back of the above report that the Celtic Tiger was rather shy about leaving Ireland, and did not travel abroad with its emigrants who often struggled abroad. The report also debunked the idea that emigration was slowing down put out by the government More than 20,000 left the Republic every year and a further 10,000 left N. Ireland. The Celtic Tiger had bypassed the modern Irish emigrant. The young became invisible once they went abroad and were forgotten.

Jill Dando was killed the same week probably by a Serbian hitman because of the British bombing of Serbia TV station which killed a number of Serbian journalists.

The Scottish and Welsh Assembly election was held on 6th May. The IBRG would be lobbying the MSPs on the Census question in Scotland.

On 2nd June Martin O’Halloran’s case was featured on BBC TV.

IBRG Campaign on ethnic recognition in London

On 4th June the Irish World had 88% of London Boroughs treat Irish as minority which covered the Irish campaign for ethnic recognition in London. Twenty-eight of the 32 London boroughs now recognised the Irish. Lewisham City of Westminster, Havering, Greenwich, Harrow, Croydon Richmond, Barkling and Dagenham Kingston, Bexley and Hillingdon had all now signed up.  Kensington and Chelsea had no ethnic monitoring at all, along with Bromley while Wandsworth had refused to recognise the Irish and Ealing were sitting on it.

The IBRG pointed out that too often the Irish community were content with a small welfare project with two jobs, while hundreds of jobs were there at the Town Hall, which needed to open up to Irish recruitment. The same went with service delivery which needed to reach out to the Irish community to provide decent services.

On 16th June IBRG attended the Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group meeting at the House of Commons where the issue was housing and the Irish presented by Cara and Innisfree. Christine Crawley, now in the Lords attended, as did Margaret Moran.

On 17th June Cardinal Hume died, no friend of the Irish, he served the British colonial government well during the Hunger Strikes. His employees at Quex Road had kept quiet on Gerry Conlon being there on the night of the Guildford bombing for 15 years, and then had the audacity to claim that Hume and the Church had helped to get him released, when they were largely responsible for covering up this criminality for 15 years.

On 23rd June IBRG PRO Bernadette Hyland had a letter in the Guardian taking Ruth Dudley Edwards to task over her misty eyed one-sided distorted views on the Orange Order.

The letter stated: ‘It is disingenuous of Ruth Dudley Edwards to try and portray the Orange Order as a misunderstood and much maligned minority of harmless eccentrics…  the idea that republicans have a superior propaganda machine which has somehow coned the world is nonsense. It is not the absence of a Peter Mandelson that has led to their negative public image, but the fact that their behaviour is now seen for what it is, a manifestation of bigotry and intolerance, which closely resembles that seen in Alabama in the 60s and South Africa in the 70s.’

On 26th June the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Friends Meeting House in Manchester.  Among those attending was Diarmuid Breatnach, Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds Maurice Moore and Joe Mullarkey.

The meeting heard that the second inquest into the death of Leo O’ Reilly in police custody was an open verdict. A Donegal man called Boyle had died in Wormwood Scrubs prison recently. Three police officers were going on trial for the killing of Richard O’Brien in south London. Frank Johnson’s case was going to the CCRC soon.  The IBRG had written to Tony Blair over the two Scots Guards getting their jobs back, despite their murder of young McBride.

Other issues discussed were the 2001 census, ethnic monitoring, Irish equality group, IBPG, and an IBRG website. The IBRG programme  for the year was identified as; having quarterly regional meetings, winning ethnic category in Scottish census, continue local authority ethnic monitoring campaign, lobby schools over inclusion of Irish language in curriculum, challenge Irish representation in the media, work on such cases Leo Reilly, Frank Johnson, Martin O Halloran, Mary Druhan and Richard O’Brien.

Launch of Stop and Search Report: Irish most likely targets.

On 6th July the IBRG attended the IBPG meeting the House of Commons where Professor Jock Young presented his report on “Stop and Search in North Islington” which showed that the Irish the most likely of any group to be stopped and searched.

The report on Ethnic Minorities and Stop and Search in north London, showed that the Irish had the highest rate of stop and search at 14.3% followed by Afro Caribbean at 12.8%, Cypriots 8.2%, African 5.9%, British 5.8%, and Asians 4.5%.

The Irish were also had the highest rate as victims of street crime at 11.2%, followed by Africans at 10.5%, British at 7% and Afro Caribbean at 3.3%.

The report was interesting in that the Irish had been left out completely out of the recommendations of the Stephen Lawrence Report despite the above figures. There was a clear policy in Britain across both liberal society and the government to suppress data on the Irish community in Britain. Similarly, a report in Southwark which showed the Irish and African getting the worse housing and the British and Afro Caribbean getting the best housing was suppressed. In the 1980’s a similar report on the criminal justice system showing the Irish on a par with the Afro Caribbean community in terms of discrimination by the judicial system was suppressed.

Irish Women’s Centre Survey on the Trade Unions and recognition of Irish

On 15th July the CRE launched the Irish Women’s Centre Survey on the Trade Unions which showed that only two trade unions out of 73 affiliated to the TUC recognised the Irish which was shocking, and showed the bias even in the working-class movement in Britain against Irish people, where they were more against the Irish than even the general public instead of setting a lead.

On 16th July Mary Druhan was acquitted and released. The IBRG had backed her campaign since 1993, had produced a leaflet on her case which was circulated, including getting it on the front page of the Sunday World and also into the Irish World. On 20th July Pat Reynolds who led on Mary Druhan’s case had an interview with Clare FM on her case. The Irish Post never covered her case until 1998. North London IBRG led on this case.

On 21st July Frank Johnson’s case was referred back to the Court of Appeal.

Pat Reynolds had chaired Frank’s campaign for years, ably assisted by Englishman Andy Parr, and had visited Frank in prison on a regular basis. The News of the World again covered his story. Frank had now served 24 years in prison.

Pat Reynolds had set up this campaign in 1991 with Andy Parr and Billy Power who knew Frank Johnson in prison. In the 1980’s Maurin Higgins of Haringey IBRG had done some work on Frank’s case.

The story this week was in the Irish Post, front page of the Irish World, News of the World, Ireland on Sunday, the Nationalist, and the Herald Evening Herald in Dublin. Five members of North London IBRG were involved in his campaign over many years carrying his banner and putting out his leaflets and doing public meetings, and pickets.

On 23rd July Pat Reynolds had an interview with Radio Foyle in Derry on the Irish language in the curriculum.

Acquittal of police officers in Richard O’Brien Case

On 29th July the three police officers charged with the manslaughter of Richard O’Brien were acquitted. The jury verdict in this case was unlawful killing at the inquest, but the jury here could not be told that.

Richard O’Brien was minding his own business, and waiting for a taxi to take him his wife and children home from a Catholic Social club in south London, was attacked by the police, and suffered death at their hands with some 30 injuries to his body and broken ribs, as he told the police as he was dying, that he could not breathe again and again.

Both Jodie Clark and Pat Reynolds supported the family fight for justice with Jodie supporting Mrs O Brien in her case.

The case highlighted the high number of Irish deaths in custody, and how the system dealt with such cases.  A number of other cases had come to light like Leo O’ Reilly in Coventry which Maurice Moore had supported. The IBRG were determined to stop these Irish deaths in custody and to get justice for these families. The biggest issue was to get the truth of what happened in each case as the police blocked any information coming out.

In July the IBRG observed that the siege of the siege of the Garvaghy Road had now gone on longer that the siege of Derry.

In terms of the demand for decommissioning in N. Ireland the IBRG observed that Sinn Fein had a TD in Dail Eireann for years and he never decommissioned a single button to get in there.

In July a young Irishwoman in Lewisham had challenged Lewisham Council regarding their new trainee solicitor scheme which had excluded the Irish without any reason. When challenged they said they had no data on Irish representation in the legal profession. The matter was taken up  with the CRE and with local MP Bridget Prentice.

Clearly if the Irish were well represented in the legal profession, they would be no need to include the Irish, but there was clear evidence in Britain that the Irish were poorly represented among officer groups in Town Halls and other employment in Britain and were concentrated in nursing, construction pubs, home helps, dinner ladies and manual type jobs.

Shock horror “Irish have fewer rights”

Bernadette Hyland in the Letters page of the Big Issue in the North (9/8/99 ) challenged the reaction of the right wing Irish community regarding the disclosure by  investigative reporter Duncan Campbell that in 1989 the Ministry of Defence built a £20m listening tower in Capenhurst, Cheshire to intercept all dialogue between England and the Irish Republic.

The Big Issue had only canvassed the right wing of the Irish community. Michael Forde of the Irish World Heritage Centre said he was  “sad that the Security Forces feel they have to do this”.  Colin Colmquinn of the Irish Community Project in Liverpool was more assertive saying: “It’s no big surprise to anybody in our community.” Although it was not clear who he was, or what if any work was going on regarding the surveillance of the Liverpool Irish.

Bernadette responded in a letter the following week reminding readers that IBRG had over the last twenty years  challenged the censorship and surveillance of the Irish community. And that this censorship had “seriously undermined the rights of English people to know what is happening in their name for 30 years and only a 45 minute plane flight away.”

Death of Irish World Editor Damien Gafffney

On 15th August the young Editor of the Irish World Damien Gaffney died while on holiday in Ireland. The IBRG paid tribute to the award-winning journalist and noted that he had supported the Frank Johnson Campaign and other cases. His early death was a very sad loss for his family and the Irish community.

On 3rd September the Irish Post ran a page of tributes to Damien’s life with contribution from the Irish Ambassador, IBRG, Federation, Irish Counties association, Mo Mowlam, Brian Behan and Frank Johnson from prison.

IBRG challenges racist tirade against Padraig Pearse

In August Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG challenged an article in the Guardian by Kevin Toolis on Padraig Pearse. Pat was then attacked by the revisionists in the Irish Post over his letter on Pearce but was defended by the writer Morgan Lllewelyn.

Padraig Pearce was in Kevin Toolis article ‘a bloodthirsty fanatic who espoused violence, death and destruction, no matter how futile, in the pursuit of a United Ireland.’ Given that Ireland was one unit under Britain rule and historically had always been one unit, Toolis is distorting the picture to fit into today’s world, where people want a United Ireland.

The IBRG pointed out that Pearse called a halt to the fighting in Dublin to spare the lives of Dublin civilians. The bloodthirsty part of 1916 was in the British state executions of the 1916 leaders and the later Bloody attacks by the Black and Tans mobs in Ireland later, the sectarian pogroms against Catholics in Northern Ireland led by the Orange Order, and the Unionist leadership backed by the British government.

The IBRG stated: ‘Political revisionists and political distortionists have tried for years to distort the life and vision of Padraig Pearse for their political masters. What they are attacking is the distinct idea of a separate Irish nation. Kevin Toolis article is an example of racist propaganda. Would Toolis label Nelson Mandela as being a bloodthirsty fanatic. Toolis talks of ambiguity in Ireland over IRA resistance yet is silent over the ambiguity in Britain and Ireland over Bloody Sunday and the Dublin Monaghan bombings. No American or Irish President visited the scene of these killings, no English champions went to play for these victims, no music record was ever made for their sorrow, no Late Late show special event for these families, and no generous donations by public institutions for the victims. Contracting the media treatment of the Omagh, Warrington, the Dublin bombings show up the real political ambiguity in these islands, a subject too hot for Toolis to handle for his political masters, that Irish lives do not matter.

The IBRG called on the Guardian and Toolis to withdraw their vile and distorted claims on Padraig Pearse which has no basis in Pearse’s actions of writings. If Toolis wants to look at bloodthirsty fanatics in Ireland he might want to at English brutal rule in Ireland over 800 years, Cromwell’s campaign, the Great hunger Genocide, or Gilbert’s honoured by the English Queen for his bloody thirsty mass beheading of civilians in the Munster rebellion. The IBRG statement was covered as a letter in the Irish Post on 28th August.

On 30th August the Repatriation Committee in Ireland wrote to IBRG re three young Irish prisoners Tony Hyland, Liam Grogan and Darren Mulholland who wanted to return to Ireland. The letter was from Louise Hyland,  a sister of one of the prisoners. The IBRG supported their campaign to return to Ireland as all three had been given over 20-year sentences. In a letter from Full Sutton Darren Mulholland raised the issue of the high number of Irish prisoners in British jails as an issue that the IBRG had raised in the Irish community.

On 3rd September the Irish World had Council slated for Irish policy where IBRG had accused Ealing Council of discriminating against the Irish by failing to implement the CRE recommended categories on ethnic recognition which included the Irish.

There were 16,374 Irish born residents in Ealing some 6% of the total population of the borough Ealing has the largest Irish community in London after Brent for four years talking had been dragging their feet on this matter. Years earlier Irish women in Ealing had brought out their own report on Irish women in Ealing.

On 9th September London IBRG members met at the Irish bookshop at Archway North London.

In September the IBRG rejected the rebranding of the sectarian Protestant colonial force in N. Ireland and called for their disbandment. The RUC were a paramilitary colonial police force whose duty was to uphold British rule in Ireland and keep the nationalists in their place. They had many links with the Unionist and Loyalist community and the Orange Order.

On 10th September the IBRG issued a statement on Rebranding the RUC noting the recommendation of the Commission into Policing in N. Ireland.  The IBRG noted that the recommendations only tampered with the rough edges of the RUC and left the main RUC body intact.

Patten ex Colonial Hong Kong Governor had adopted a minimalist approach towards change in the RUC. A change of name, badge and symbols will not change much. The RUC have been the paramilitary wing of the British forces occupation on the Six Counties since it was set up and maintained though violence for over 75 years.

The IBRG condemned the Commission for allowing the continued use of Plastic bullets. The RUC had within its ranks thousands of sectarian Orange lodge members which Patten did not address.  As in Cyprus the British government has used the Protestant RUC to fight British dirty colonial war in Ireland putting the RUC into the front line just as in Cyprus, they put the Turks into the front line against the Greek community. The RUC had been involved in a dirty war against the Nationalist community and had no credibility in the community. Even with the proposals we would have to wait 30 years before 30% of the force would be Catholic.

In inner London despite recession the number of Black workers in these Councils had been increased from 5% to 35% in a few years despite downsizing and recession. It was time to stand down the RUC for good and create a totally new civilian police force pending the reunification of Ireland. A police force made up of large number of the supremacist Orange Order will not work as they are an anti-Catholic sectarian force.

On 11th September the IBRG Ard Choiste met at Caxton House Archway North London.  Among the delegates attending were Maurice Moore, Bernadette Hyland, Diarmuid Breatnach, Liz Benson and Pat Reynolds.

The meeting heard that new IBRG branch had been set up in Hemel Hempstead led by Michael Holden. The meeting decided to support three republican prisoners who were anti agreement and were held in Britain. The IBRG would support their right to transfer. The issue discussed were: IBPG, Irish Equalities Group, 2001 census, ethnic monitoring campaign, Peace Process, and Prisoners. The meeting agreed to start lobby SMPs over the census in Scotland.

On 17th September the Irish World had a front-page story on Susan May case in which Paddy Hill called for her release and question her conviction. The IBRG had long supported Susan’s case. John McDonnell also supported her case.

On 22nd September Harry Stanley a Scotsman was shot dead on the street by the police because they though he was an Irishman.  The IBRG condemned the killing. The Evening Standard reported the man as being Irish.

On 1st October the Irish World had Unarmed Irishman shot dead by police on death of Harry Stanley in Hackney. Stanley was in fact Scottish but the early reports on his death was that he was Irish, and the police shot him dead because they thought he was Irish.

On 11th October Peter Mandelson was appointed Secretary to the colonial statelet of N. Ireland.

On 19TH October Tomas MacStiofan wrote to Paul Boating his MP calling for an independent public inquiry into the execution of Diarmuid O’Neill on 23rd September 1996 in Hammersmith, noting that the Hammersmith Coroner had also called for one to establish the facts of the case.

On 23rd October the IBRG Ard Choiste was held at St Osburg’s Club in Coventry. Among the delegates were Diarmuid Breatnach, Kevin Armstrong and Maurice Moore. Apologies from Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds, Michael Holden, Sean Hone and Tim Logan.

The IBRG had raised an issue about another Irish death in custody that of Kevin McLoughlin from Derry. The inquest gave a verdict of accidental death but with a rider of ‘aggravated neglect ‘by the police.”  An Phoblacht featured an article on deaths in custody based on IBRG work in that area in Britain. Susan May had written to thank the IBRG for our support. In the case of Diarmuid O’Neill the Hammersmith coroner said that there should be a public inquiry into his death.

Bernadette Hyland PRO had written to the Scottish parties on including the Irish in the 2001 census in Scotland, only the Greens and the Tories had replied. However, Donald Dewar stated that they would be reviewing the issue soon. 18 of the 32 local authorities in Scotland now recognised the Irish and over 200 local authorities in Britain now did so.

Over 250 local authorities in Britain now recognised the Irish. Salford had come on board as had Cardiff the capital of Wales which had a large Irish population with the University and head of Government there. In Hemel Hempstead the local IBRG had defended Irish Travellers against attacks from a Tory councillor in the local Press where he was scapegoating Travellers for everything.

On 24th October IBRG members attended the Terence MacSwiney Commemoration at Southwark cathedral.

The IBRG had a feature article in the Irish World on travel to Ireland after putting out a statement condemning the high fares of travel to Ireland by air and by boat.

On 29th October the Guardian had a major story and photo of a 49-year-old homeless Irishman who had been living in the doorway of Harvey Nichols shop for four years, after the store had taken the case into the criminal courts.  The store was berated for using the criminal courts rather than the civil courts for the case, which was now going to the Crown Court. Harvey Nichols had made 13.6M in profits in the last year.

On 30th October the Irish Post had a story Labour Ignores Irish Community where it was shown that Labour did not have one single Irish candidate standing the Greater London Area for election which made nonsense of the Labour Party claim for diversity the Labour Party, claimed they that it wanted its Assembly candidates to reflect the ethnic diversity of London.

The Irish made up some 10% of London population and yet were the only significant minority without a candidate in the election. The Labour Party had added names from minority communities to their top up list but discriminated against the Irish by excluding them. Kevin McNamara MP Chair of the IBPG condemned the Labour Party as did the IBRG.

The fact that over 60,000 Labour members in London did not choose a single Irish candidate showed the discrimination within Labour Party. The Party Director for London came out with some sectarian statement to say ‘In our opinion the Irish are not an obvious ethnic minority in the same way that the Black and Asian communities are ethnic minorities’. This despite every single report over the past 30 years showing the Irish to be in the same position as these communities in terms of employment, health, housing, stop and search and deaths in custody.

In October Diarmuid Breatnach wrote an Open Letter to the BBC over their exclusion of the Irish in terms of their debates on race and ethnic origins.

Diarmuid Breatnach

The Irish World covered the letter in full on 5th November. Diarmuid pointed out that the Irish  had been objects of governmental and societal racism in Britain for generations.   The Irish suffered the No Irish No Blacks No Dogs signs in Britain in the 1950s and 60s,  that the British state had oppressed the nationalist people in N. Ireland in a racist and sectarian manner and supported supremacist organisation there. The British government had brought in the PTA  one of the most racist pieces of legislation  against a minority community, who could be arrested without even suspicion based on their Irishness, and held for up to seven days, they could be examined and recorded in records because of their  Irishness. All research over the last 30 years has shown the Irish to suffered from racism, discrimination and disadvantage in Britain.

On 4th November London IBRG members met at the Irish Bookshop at Archway north London.  Issues discussed were Irish language in curriculum, Bloody Sunday march, London Mayor election, Diarmuid O’Neill campaign, transfer of prisoners, Irish equality group IBPG, census 2001, and Irish Travellers.

The meeting decided to support Ken Livingstone for Mayor of London and to call on the Irish community to support Livingstone in this election we should give no votes to Labour Dobson who opposed Sinn Fein having an office in Camden.  The meeting decided to march under the banner of Irish self-determination on Bloody Sunday as it was the British occupation that led to Bloody Sunday, the British response to peaceful protest. The meeting supported the demand for a public inquiry into the killing of Diarmuid O’Neill outside the Geneva Convention rules which state you cannot kill prisoners in cold blood.

On 5th November the Guardian had a feature story about an Irish Jordanian child of 13 who had died of a drugs overdose after falling into a world of drugs and prostitution, and who had been shuttled among assorted carers some 68 times. More than 230 professionals had worked with the child but she was failed by 10 different state agencies at the time of her young death. Harrow Social services had responsibility for the child. The inquiry into her sad death listed 18 recommendations for improvement in the care of young people. The case illustrated the underbelly of British society where often young Irish people drifted to because of discrimination and disadvantage.

In Scotland 19 of the 32 local authorities now recognised the Irish. In London the IBRG decided to back Ken Livingstone for Mayor of London rather than the Labour candidate because he had stood with the Irish community and had stood for Irish unity. Frank Dobson had opposed Sinn Fein having an office in London and few Irish would vote for such an oppressive politician obstructing the peace Process in Ireland.

In Lambeth an Irishman had won an Industrial Tribunal case against Lambeth Council on grounds of discrimination of race, and sex along with constructive dismissal.

233 Councils now recognise Irish as ethnic minority

At the end of November 28 of the 32 London boroughs now recognised the Irish, 25 of the 36 Metropolitan Boroughs councils, 36 of the 46 Unitary councils, 20 of the 34 county councils, and 19 of the Scottish 32 councils, 11 of the Welsh councils and 95 of the District councils making it a grand total of 233 now recognising the Irish.

At the end of November, the CRE launched a scathing attack on the proposed Government Race Bill. Earlier the Government had promised that the Race Amendment Bill would make it unlawful for any public body to racially discriminate, as recommended by the Macpherson report into the Stephen Lawrence murder. Now the government had backtracked and the Bill would only outlaw discrimination and the victim had to prove that the public body had intended to discriminate in individual cases.

Herman Ouseley Chair of the CRE described the Bill as woefully inadequate and an insult. The Government had failed to implement the key decision of the Macpherson Report the IBRG stated that the new laws only applies to direct acts of racism, but left out institutional racism.

Pat Reynolds IBRG stated Individual cases and case law have so far failed to root out institutional racism e.g., where local authorities fail to reflect their communities in Town Hall staffing. The IBRG stated that the new Bill  fails miserably to address this issue. The Irish World on 26th November carried the CRE and IBRG views on the new laws.

In Manchester IBRG PRO Bernadette Hyland challenged the slogan behind a conference on N. Ireland entitled Ireland beyond the sectarian Divide to be held at Manchester Town Hall on 13th November as lacking as analysis of the how N. Ireland was a British colony.

In Hemel Hempstead the local IBRG branch had taken up the side of Irish Travellers being targeted in the local press and by local Tories, with a number of letters in the local press and the Irish World in November. The IBRG pointed out that the proposal by Tory Councillor Coxage that local residents not employ Travellers was discriminatory and against the British Race Relations Act to deliberately deprive any section of the community of their livelihoods.

On 5th November the Irish World had a letter from Hemel Hempstead IBRG slamming the views of the Tory councillor and defending the rights of Travellers to earn their living the same way as the next person.

Irish Post and “abolition of PTA”

IBRG campaign badge.

During November the Irish Post carried a banner headline entitled Dreaded PTA to be abolished and a major feature PTA now history. The IBRG wondered what planet the Irish Post were living on as the PTA was alive and well and had been expanded far beyond the 1974 legislation.

On 20th November under Dreaded PTA to be Abolished the Post stated that Labour had continually voted against the PTA while in opposition which was false. The PTA was not being abolished at all but was being strengthened to include other activities incudes those protesting against climate change and environmentalists.

On 27th November the Irish Post had PTA Now History which looked back on the history of the PTA using Paddy Hillyard’s  Book Suspect Community but never been mentioned any fightback by the Irish community. Of course, the Act was not abolished it was incorporated into the new Terrorism Bill. The only change was the ending of exclusion orders against Irish people sending them into  internal exile. Just amazing how Roan McGreevy could write a feature article on the PTA without mentioning the prolonged fight against it within the Irish community. The Irish Post was in effect writing out the history of the Irish community.

On 11th November IBRG Chair Pat Reynolds challenged John Grieve of Scotland Yard over the exclusion of the Irish from the Policing Diversity strategy at the Haringey Civic Centre particularly when you looked at the operation of the racist PTA laws which targeted the Irish simply because they were Irish. He also raised with him in a contribution as a member of Haringey EMJCC about Irish police stop and Search based on Jock Young report in North London, and the high numbers of Irish deaths in custody. The Irish could not be excluded or ignored in policing diversity   in Britain both in terms of employment and in terms of service to that community. The meeting was attended by over a hundred people.

John Grieve promised that he would sort out the fact that the Met did not include the Irish in ethnic monitoring as advised by the CRE, and that they would soon include the Irish.

Strange because the Met have been monitoring the Irish since the time of the Fenians as indeed the Met definition by the police at the time of the Fenians was adopted by the Irish community in the 1980’s: the definition of an Irish person was defined by the Met as Anyone who was born in Ireland, or whose recent forbearers came from Ireland. They would include anyone with an Irish grandparent.  The definition was often used to exclude Irish born and those of Irish descent from many Britain defence jobs. Grieve said the Irish were close to his heart, that he was aware of the Jock Young study on stop and search and that he had spoken at a meeting in Cork.

Challenged further by the IBRG that he had avoided the question on monitoring the Irish he got angry, and stated that he never avoids anything, and would take the matter away and deal with it. It was important that the Irish be included in diversity programmes  both in terms of policing and within the judicial system. After all the police spied enough on the Irish community and had used the PTA against the Irish community so had targeted the Irish community in an unfair way.

On 29th November Martin McGuinness was appointed the Education Minister for the Six Counties and Barbara de Bruin was appointed Minister of Health for the Occupied Territories.

On 2nd December Michael O’Halloran, ex Labour MP for North Islington before Corbyn was elected in 1983, had died in Ireland. He was from Co. Clare and was hopeless on Ireland and the Irish. He stood an Irish independent against Corbyn but the Irish would not vote for him anymore.

On 2nd December the Irish Government gave up Article 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution. Ireland no longer, despite the 1918 vote for a Republic, had any claim on Nt Ireland.  It was the only time in history that a sovereign nation had given up part of its territory without a war or a defeat.

On 3rd December the Irish World had IBRG winning ethnic battle which detailed IBRG in winning further successes in ethnic monitoring.  Bristol, Leicester, Brighton, Derby, Nottingham, Reading and Luton had come on board and all had sizeable Irish communities.

On 8th December the IBRG attended the IBPG at the House of Commons to hear a report on the health of the Irish in Britain. The IBRG had made a major contribution to the debate in the past, with Camden IBRG holding the first Irish mental health conference, more recently IBRG were involved in a Health Conference on the Irish in South London, and Lambeth IBRG for years ran Irish Welfare Conferences which always included aspects of Irish health. The IBRG had also lobbied local Health authorities in Britain to recognise the Irish, and to improve their service delivery to the Irish community. Dr Maire O’Shea had pioneered psychiatric services in Birmingham and thousands of Irish nurses and doctors had made an enormous contribution to the NHS in Britain, while Irishmen largely built most of the NHS hospitals after the war

As the IBRG pointed out at the meeting, the enormous contribution has never been acknowledged in Britain, that the community with the largest contribution should in return receive the worst health service , similar to what has happened in housing in Britain where the Irish have made by far the largest contribution, yet are the most likely to be homeless or in poor housing. The IBRG claim good health for Irish workers and all working-class communities and good housing for the Irish and all working-class communities.

On 11th December Liverpool Born Irishman Kevin Armstrong was wrongly accused in several Sunday newspapers including the News of the World, Sunday People and the Sunday Mirror of leaping at a car and banging on the side windows of a car in which Cherie Blair wife of the Prime Minister was being driven in. Kevin was reported by the papers as having shouted pro IRA slogans at Mrs Blair who according to the papers was shocked and shaken by the incident.

The problem was that that none of this happened and it was all made up. Kevin had witnessed Mrs Blair being driven out of Downing St. The papers reported that he was overpowered by Diplomatic protection Groups officers on duty and taken to Charring Cross police station where he was released without charge. Again, none of this happened and the police confirmed this in writing, that he had not been arrested for any incident outside of Downing St.  the papers still claimed that the article was factually correct. Kevin Armstrong solicitor stated ‘We are satisfied that the police have admitted this incident did not take place. The attitude of the papers is that it does not matter if it is the truth or not’.

On 11th December the Irish Post had a photo of President Mary McAleese at the Camden Irish Centre meeting IBRG member and Irish language teacher Sr. Maire Ni Chuinn

IBRG and Coventry meeting on Irish deaths in police custody

On 15th December  Pat Reynolds and Maurice Moore  were both speaking at a public meeting in Coventry on Irish deaths in police custody and many local cases were discussed including Leo Reilly and Kevin McLoughlin and others. The Irish World on 19th November had Event to highlight deaths in custody.

On 17th December the Cardiff Three including Michael O’Brien were released and cleared. Kevin Hayes and others in IBRG had worked on the case and IBRG had produced a  leaflet for the campaign.

The end of December Pat Reynolds had drafted a pamphlet on Irish Deaths in  Police Custody.

On 25th December Kevin McNamara MP and Chair of the IBPG had an article in the Irish Post entitled Draconian Law where he argued that the new Terrorist legislation was an offence to democratic standards and that the new law was draconian. McNamara,who still used the offensive term British mainland, surely if he ever learned any geography at school would know that no part of Ireland is part of Britain, makes no apology for Labour introducing and maintaining the PTA laws in 1974.

McNamara stated that key elements of the Bill appear to be incompatible with the European Human Rights law, but so was the PTA, Kevin. At the end of the day Kevin McNamara was a faithful servant of the Labour Party to the detriment of the Irish community, he was Labour Party first and Irish a poor second.

Listen to my talk about the IBRG in the northwest in the Irish Collection at the WCML here

For Aa 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

About lipstick socialist

I am an activist and writer. My interests include women, class, culture and history. From an Irish in Britain background I am a republican and socialist. All my life I have been involved in community and trade union politics and I believe it is only through grass roots politics that we will get a better society. This is reflected in my writing, in my book Northern ReSisters Conversations with Radical Women and my involvement in the Mary Quaile Club. .If you want to contact me please use my gmail which is lipsticksocialist636
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