History of Irish in Britain Representation Group, part twenty two, 2002

 

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.

 

Christy McGrath Campaign leaflet

IBRG attend Irish Equalities Group Meeting

On 10th January IBRG officers Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds attended the Irish Equalities Group meeting at the Camden Irish Centre to plan for the next meeting with the CRE. Pat Reynolds was elected Chair of the group for the coming year. The Irish Equalities Group was made up of all Irish community groups in London.

First campaign meeting for Christy McGrath

On 11th January the Christie McGrath Campaign had its first meeting. Five IBRG members from London attended and Pat Reynolds was elected Chair for the campaign. The Irish Post and the Irish World attended the meeting which was attended by twenty people from different organisations in London. The Irish Post had given Christie case the front page and had visited Christy in prison. The Tipperary Association in London had agreed to back his campaign which was a major breakthrough.

On 14th January IBRG members attended the picket of 10 Downing St over the Loyalist attacks on Holy Cross School in the Ardoyne area of Belfast, and the recent murder by Loyalists of a young postal Catholic postal worker in Belfast.

IBRG condemns former N. Ireland Office Minister for anti-traveller comments

On 15th January the IBRG issued a statement in response to a Tory MP and former N. Ireland Shadow Secretary who described Travellers as ‘scum’, and stated that they were not entitled to civil rights. The IBRG condemned his statements and called for Travellers Rights to be upheld. How could such a bigot be appointed Shadow Secretary in N. Ireland.

 The IBRG condemned Tory MP Andrew Mackey, former shadow Minister for N. Ireland, for his anti-Travellers remarks, and stated that these remarks could lead to further attacks upon Travellers, and their way of life. Mackey was not fit to be an MP, and as an MP he should be defending the rights of the more vulnerable in society, instead of trying to scapegoat them. Mr Mackey should be calling on the Government and local authorities in Britain to provide sites to accommodate Travellers, and restore the public duty on local authorities to provide sites, which his party had taken away.

The Tories having created the problem in the first place now want to punish the victims of their creation. To suggest as Mackey did that Travellers do not merit the same human rights as other citizens is deeply offensive, and is reminiscent of Germany in the early 1930’s and their attitude to the Jewish community. The IBRG called on the Tory Party and its leader to condemn these remarks and dissociate themselves from them. The issue of accommodation for Traveller can only be addressed by government action.

Irish deaths in Police Custody Meeting

On 17th January IBRG member attended the Irish Deaths in Custody campaign meeting at the Camden Irish centre which BBC South East TV covered for its news on 18th January.

On the same day Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG went head-to-head with Toby Harris Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority over Irish deaths in custody and inquests on BBC Radio London. Toby Harris later to become Lord Harris was the former leader of Haringey Council, and was well known to Pat from attended Council meeting in Haringey, and meetings of the Ethnic Minorites JCC.

The IBRG raised questions over the recent inquest into the ‘suicide’ of Michael Barry in Brixton prison, the fourth Irish suicide in the same prison. The Irish family were not present or represented at the inquest, which made a mockery of any concept of justice.

Bloody Sunday Rally

On Sunday 27th January IBRG members from Coventry, Lewisham and N. London attended the Bloody Sunday Rally at the Hammersmith Irish Centre where Eamon McCann gave an inspiring speech. Other speakers included Michael McKinney a relative, John McDonnell MP and Gerry O’Hara of Sinn Fein, who was challenged over Sinn Fein’s position on Irish political prisoners, who were arrested since the Good Friday agreement.

The main leaflet for the Rally was one without any politics and just stated Bloody Sunday 1972-2002 30th anniversary One World Many Struggles which was a real betrayal of what people were marching for on Bloody Sunday, and the 30 years of struggle in between.

Not even a demand for justice. The leaflet sent out for support and sponsorship was the same devoid of any politics, a sort of amnesia like one reads in a thousand years of solitude, where the people had forgotten their past. The new No politics had been put upon the Irish community in Britain from Ireland. It was a shameful sell out of the politics of struggle, and marked new levels of depoliticization of the struggle. The Political Status for Prisoners Group attended the Rally and drew attention to post Good Friday prisoners and how they were denied political status. In Manchester Bernadette Hyland was featured in an article on Bloody Sunday in the Big Issue entitled Bloody Sunday Families just want Justice.

In Derry the people invited Joy Gardner’s mother over to speak linking up with the position of Black people in Britain.

In January Tom Hayden, American civil rights fighter, was going in the opposite direction and rediscovering his Irish roots, and had published Irish on the Inside in Search of the Soul of Irish America. He talked of whitewashed assimilation in an era of globalisation It was a welcome relief to whitewashing that had gone on this year over the London Bloody Sunday rally.

IBRG and other Irish Groups meet with CRE

On 28th January the IBRG joined other Irish groups for a meeting with the CRE Chair Gurbix Singh previously CEO of Haringey Council, Danny Silverstone CEO CRE and Seamus Taylor now Head of Public Policy at the CRE and Chris Myant press officer.

Pat Reynolds chaired and led the Irish community side in the discussions. Among the issues discussed were the recent deaths in Brixton prison, and how far the CRE were going addressing the needs of the Irish community within their expressed briefs in terms of employment, discrimination housing health and other area.

In reply the CRE stated that were conducting an inquiry into racism in prison, with Brixton and Feltham the youth detention centre included, they would do a stock take of the Irish community once the results of the 2001 census were known, and would commission a profile of the Irish community then.

It was announced at the meeting that the Department of Employment and Education had agreed to include the Irish as a specific ethnic category within their monitoring of school performance, and among teacher group classifications. This is something that the IBRG had fought hard for over the past year, including making direct representation into the consultation process and the Chair Pat Reynolds wrote to the Education Secretary David Blunkett on the matter, including using the recent Camden performance of Irish children to justify the need for such monitoring.

Death of Sr. Sarah Clarke

On 4th February the IBRG were saddened by the death of Sr Sarah Clarke a courageous Irish woman who stood up for the rights of Irish prisoners for over 25 years. On 11th February IBRG attended her removal service at our Lady of Halle Church in Camden at which Helena Kennedy gave the oration. Sr Sarah was always there for Irish prisoners, and when the IBRG delegation was on its way to Ireland, to meet the Irish government and opposition she rang Pat Reynolds to update him on prisoners’ issues, and when he came back wanted to know immediately how the meetings had gone with Haughey and other Irish politicians.

Sr. Sarah opened the London Irish Bookfair one year and her book No Faith in the System, was an honest account of her work for Irish prisoners, where she exposes the knowledge that the Catholic Church knew, that Gerry Conlon was at Quex Road the night of the Guildford bombing and could not have done it. She condemned this church silence. Cardinal Hume’s later efforts can be seen as damage limitation given this knowledge was hidden from the Irish community for over 14 years.

It was because of her pioneering work that the Irish government decided to fund the Irish Chaplaincy Prisons Officer  and a full-time worker with Irish prisoners in Britain, but still left it with Catholic Church. When the scandal emerged of Irish suicides in British prisoners the Catholic Church would stay silent and it took the IBRG to expose what was happening in the prisons around Irish prisoners.

On 12th February Pat Reynolds spoke at the School of Oriental and African Studies along with member of the Asian community, on the need to create broad based anti PTA movement in Britain to stop the criminalisation of minority ex colonial communities.

On 15th February IBRG members attended a presentation to Seamus Taylor Head of Public policy at the CRE, on the implementation of the new Race Amendment Act 2000 for the Irish community.

On 28th February Pat Reynolds chaired the Irish Equalities Group in Camden. North London and Southwark IBRG attended the meeting.

In Southwark Jodie Clark was fighting to have an Irish dimension in the educational plans. The Department of Health have agreed to include an Irish category in their ethnic groups for children in care. The Teachers Council have also agreed to include the Irish in their ethnic monitoring,

Coventry IBRG and TOM and meeting re-Holy Cross School and right to live free from harassment

On 7th March Coventry IBRG helped to organise a public meeting at the KOKO centre for the Holy Cross School speaker, to highlight conditions for the children and parents there. The meeting was hosted by Coventry Trades Union council and jointly sponsored by IBRG and Troops Out Movement.

Elizabeth Murphy, a mother of Holy Cross School Children, spoke at the meeting and the meeting was held under the Title The right to live free from Harassment which had been taken from the Good Friday Agreement.

Maurice Moore the MSF rep on Coventry Trades Council stated ‘Coventry’s Civic Leaders have a relationship with Belfast City Council and should express their concerns about the ongoing harassment of school children and their parents. Ms Murphy met with the Deputy Mayor, representatives the NUT, Irish community church representatives and city councillors during the visit.

Watch BBC documentary here

The Christy McGrath campaign got a two-page spread in the News of the World on 10th March. The Morning Star and the Racing Post also covered the story. The fact that Christy and his brother Larry were jockeys in Britain, and that Christy had the support of Richard Guest the Grand National winner was important.

On 12th March IBRG members attended the London Civic Forum for a meeting which focussed on the Arab and Irish communities in London, and were able to make solid contribution to the evening. The IBRG had affiliated to the London Civic Forum.

On St Patrick Day IBRG members helped out with the Christy McGrath campaign stall in Trafalgar Square which collected thousands of signatures and nearly £300 for the campaign. The family came over from Ireland with his father and mother there and got both Ken Livingstone and Shane McGowan to back the campaign for their son.

Lewisham IBRG were involved in the South London Irish Parade on 16th March and the St Patrick Day parade in central London on 17th March, where the Lewisham float was the best cultural float on parade. On 1st March the Irish World had Seventh St Patrick’s day Parade for south London by Donal Mooney, which gave a preview of the Parade and the Festival in March. It stated the Parade was coordinated by the Lewisham Irish Centre and Lewisham IBRG.

In March the IBRG heard of the death of Oliver de Brun, a lifelong Republican in London, and former member of IBRG and member of the Dessie Ellis campaign. The IBRG attended his funeral in Watford on 18th March. His ashes would be scattered in both Palestine and Ireland.

The IBRG website went public in March a wonderful addition to IBRG, it covers the history of IBRG, policies and issues affecting the Irish community. Read it here

The IBRG Ard Fheis took place on 6th April at the Friends Meeting Place in central London. The following officers were elected. Among those attending were Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Moore, Pat Reynolds, Michael Holden, Laoise de Paor, Danny Burke and Marie Casey.

Apologies from Sean Hone, Tim Logan, Tomas MacStiofan, Jackie Vance, Jodie Clark, Joe Mullarkey, and Diarmuid Breatnach.

Chair & PRO Pat Reynolds North London

Runai & Membership Bernadette Hyland Manchester

Cisteoir Maurice Moore Coventry

Vice Chair Donal de Burca North London

Prisoners Officers Tim Logan Coventry

The following motions were passed;

A motion condemning the occupation of Palestine. This Ard Fheis condemns the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands which has led to many civilian deaths. This Ard Fheis supports the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and calls for the full establishment of a Palestinian nation. This Ard Fheis calls for total Israeli withdrawal from all Palestinian lands.

A motion supporting MOJO plus £50 donation. This Ard Fheis recognises the important work undertaken by MOJO and offer our continuing support to the organisation.

A motion supporting the Christy McGrath campaign plus £50 donation. This Ard Fheis supports the campaign to secure justice for Christy McGrath who was the victim of the British judicial system. This Ard Fheis believes Christy to be an innocent man who was ambushed by the judicial system without a proper trial. This Ard Fheis calls on the Irish government to raise this case and the implications of this case, in how Irish people are treated by the judicial system with the British government.

A motion condemning Irish deaths in custody, This Ard Fheis condemns the high number of Irish deaths in prison and in police custody, and calls on the British government to protect the right to life of Irish prisoners and those in police custody in Britain. This Ard Fheis calls on the Irish government to protect the rights of Irish nationals in British prisons and in police custody, and that they demand that the British government safeguard these lives. This Ard Fheis pledges IBRG support to the current campaign to highlight Irish deaths in prison in police custody and in arrest situations.

A motion welcoming the new IBRG website. This Ard Fheis welcomed the setting up of the IBRG website now available and thanks Bernadette and Manchester IBRG for the hard work put in while setting up site, which also contains a history of IBRG.

A motion congratulating Manchester IBRG on publication of the Wearing of the Green

A motion calling once again for votes for emigrants. This Ard Fheis condemns the Irish government for denying the vote to Irish emigrants, the only EU country to deny its citizens the right to vote in home elections. This Ard Fheis pledges to continue the fight for the vote for Irish emigrants, and to seek legal clarification on the position under Irish constitution law and European law particularly Art 39 of the movement of workers, with a view to bringing a test case.

Pat Reynolds as Chair addressed  the meeting, outlined many of the issues IBRG had been involved in within the past year.  The IBRG had been involved in and chaired the Christy McGrath campaign which had a good year in advancing his case, with a monster meeting held in Carrick and a Benefit at the Galtymore plus getting the support of the Tipperary Association.

The IBRG had played a key role in setting up and supporting the new Irish deaths in custody campaign, and had chaired the Irish Equalities Group in London in its meetings with the CRE.  The IBRG has only issued six press releases last year probably the lowest in many years, and these were about the General Election, deaths in custody, Labour Party recognition, Irish children’s performance in school and racism against Travellers.

The IBRG had spoken at a number of public meetings from Carrick on Suir to the House of Commons. The IBRG had also put in submission to the British government on the Race Amendment act and to the Deaths in Custody Tribunal. We had held meetings over school children being racially abused by Loyalists in Ardoyne and held pickets in London on the issue. The IBRG had done TV and Radio interview on Christy McGrath, the British General Election, deaths in custody and attended meetings of the Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group.

Last year the Irish, were presented with their own category in the British National Census due largely to the battle fought by the IBRG, and our strategy of winning over the vast majority of local authorities to our cause. For the first time ever , a second-generation Irish community have had the opportunity, to identify as being Irish, despite the almighty pressure on them to assimilate in Britain.

The General Election was held last year with a Labour landslide, despite 40% of the public not voting at all. Following 9/11 Britain had moved to the right and it was now more difficult to organise on issues affecting the Irish community. The Irish Post had been dumbed down and lost its community grassroots support.

Sinn Fein too had moved to the centre and were trying to stifle any political protest in Britain from cancelling the Bloody Sunday march, to closing down Saoirse, to closing down the Diarmuid O Neill campaign, dropping all demands for Irish self-determination and dropping any demand from the Bloody Sunday rally.

London was still the centre of much activity form the Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group, the Irish Equalities Group, deaths in custody, Irish political status, and the Christy McGrath campaign.

Manchester IBRG had done the IBRG proud with its publication of the Wearing of the Green the history of the Irish in Manchester.

Maurice Moore was returning to Ireland soon after a lifetime of work promoting the Irish language and culture in Coventry, standing up for the rights of Irish people and standing up for Irish self-determination, and of standing up for worker rights in Britain. He will be sorely missed.

Maurice Moore

Joe Mullarkey is 60 this year and has given a lifetime of dedication to Irish culture and community activities in Bolton ably assisted by his partner Margaret. They have together put-on Irish festivals, concerts, Irish language, Irish exhibitions and have always stood up for the rights of Irish people in Bolton.

Joe and Margaret Mullarkey

Last year we saw the sad passing away of Sr. Sarah Clark who was fearless in her campaigns for justice and fair play for Irish prisoners, whether political or the framed hostages 18 stolen from our community in 1974. The IBRG salute her bravely and her example which we will try and follow. We also lost Mary Crofton in Cardiff and Oliver de Brun in Watford both lifelong republican and fighters for justice.

Both the 9/11 kickback and the Good Friday agreement had made it much harder to fight for human and civil rights in Britain.  The new status quo in Britain and Ireland wanted to control everything from the centre and to control grassroots movements. The Dion funding operating along similar lines, politically funding right of centre and Embassy supported groups. The voluntary sector was controlled now with vetting going on and only those politically approved would now be funded.

There was still an urgent need for organisations like IBRG to speak truth to power, to speak out about wrongly convicted prisoners, to continue to seek political status for Irish prisoners, to speak out about deaths in custody, to speak out against racism in the media and racism against Travellers.

There will be a General Election in the Irish Republic coming up in May and we will be speaking up again for the right of Irish emigrants to vote in all elections in Ireland. Likewise, our campaign to get the TUC and other trade unions to recognise the Irish. We will continue our fight for these basic rights as long as the IBRG exists.

Irish Deaths in Police Custody

IBRG members attended the inquest into the death of Kieron O’Donnell at St Pancras Coroners Court where the jury went for lawful killing. The IBRG condemned the killing by police and the use of lethal force. When it came to the Irish in London the police were trigger happy with the unnecessary deaths of Kieron O’Donnell, Diarmuid O’Neill, Harry Stanley and another Irish man in north London. Why did the Irish make up 50% of all killings by police when they only make up 10% of the population? There were in all these case alternatives to lethal force and this matter was not properly explored with the juries.

The IBRG had become aware of another Irish death in custody Martin Ward a 23-year-old Roscommon man at Woodhill Prison. The jury verdict in his case was ‘death by natural causes contributed to by neglect’. This was another avoidable death. No doctor was called to see Martin Ward before he died despite his deteriorating condition.

The IBRG stated how many more deaths do we need. The community needs to mobilise on this issue and stop these deaths. We have a clear duty to insist that the state protect the lives of these men and their right to life. We condone their deaths if we remain quiet about them like the Catholic Church.

On 18th April Pat Reynolds spoke at public meeting on Christy McGrath at the Camden Irish Centre with Jeremy Corbyn MP, John McDonnell MP, and Billy Power. The Irish World gave their front-page story to Pat’s exposure of the police investigation, where the police were still looking for witnesses even after charging Christy.

On 22nd April Pat Reynolds joined Billy Power and others for a meeting with the Irish Embassy organised by the Irish deaths in Custody campaign.

On 25th April Pat Reynolds was interviewed at 7AM outside Brixton prison by BBC Radio London on the Irish deaths at Brixton. At 6.45PM on the same day Pat had another head-to-head with Toby Harris Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority on the question of Irish deaths in custody, and the lack of representation for Irish families at inquests.

In April the IBRG undertook a major campaign to highlight Irish deaths in custody with a press release and background information going out to 50 new signatures including TV Radio and newspapers.

In April the IBRG made representation to the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racism, the European Convention committee for the Prevention of Torture and Degrading Treatment, Amnesty International, the Prison Service, The Home Secretary David Blunkett, Tory Shadow Home secretary Oliver Letwin, Liberal Shadow Simon Hughes, Bishop Cormac Murphy, Cardinal Sean Brady Armagh, Brian Cowan Irish Foreign Minister and to John McDonnell Secretary of the Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group.  John McDonell MP put down an early day motion on the issue and asked a question in Parliament on Irish deaths in custody. The IBRG were mentioned in Hansard as having made representations to the British government on the issue.

Six of the last nine suicides at Brixton were Irish. Irish lives needed protection in the British prison system and the IBRG were campaigning to have system within Brixton improved for all prisoners in terms of medical care for vulnerable young men, many with mental health issues often on remand away from their families.

On 29th April IBRG members attended a meeting with the CRE as part of the Irish Equalities group where the issue of Irish deaths in custody was pursued. The CRE were doing their own investigations into racism in Brixton, Feltham and Park prison. IBRG members also attended a Conference on the Irish and Policing held by AGIY in London during April.

Pat Reynolds had a letter in the Irish Times on 29th April regarding the vote for Irish emigrants drawing attention to the fact that Pakistani residents in Ireland could vote in the Pakistan general election, while Irish emigrants in Britain could not vote in the Irish General election.

 

On 2nd May in the local elections Brian Miller an IBRG member got elected as a Labour Councillor in Haringey while Tomas MacStiofan standing as an independent lost in Brent.

 

On 11th May Bernadette Hyland and Pat Reynolds were both speaking at the Conference on the Roots of Radicalism at Manchester University. Over 120 people attended the conference which Manchester IBRG supported. Other speakers included Lawrence McKeown and Sheila Rowbotham

On 15th May the IBRG put out a statement British Government and British media cover up Six Irish deaths in Brixton prisons. Six Irishmen had died in Brixton prison in the last two years.

The IBRG condemned the conspiracy of silence by the British authorities and the British media on the matter. Could you image if six British citizens had died in one foreign prison within two years, what the outcry in Britain would be. The Irish make up only 5% of the prisoners in Brixton yet make up six out nine deaths or 66% in the last two years. Thus, an Irish man was 13 times more likely to die in a British prison than any other prisoner.

Brixton prison the scene of the Hunger Strike of Terence MacSwiney has now become the most dangerous place in Britain for an Irishman, and the IBRG called for no Irish person be sent there, until these deaths are investigated. John McDonnell had put down an early day motion on the issue, and the IBRG had met with Harriet Harman MP on the issue.

The only conclusion the IBRG reached is that Irish lives were cheap in Britain, and had little value the Irish are not part of Britain despite the Labour government talking of an inclusive Britain. The IBRG calls for a public inquiry into these deaths. The Irish Right to Life appears to be much lower than that of an English person at home or abroad.

On 16th May Pat Reynolds was interviewed by BBC TV South east over Irish deaths in Brixton prison and over the recent death of Terry Doyle there. On the same day Jodie Clark and Pat Reynolds attended the Irish Deaths in Custody Meeting at the Camden Irish centre where relatives of three families attended, Fegans, Sheridans and O’Grady families to talk about their cases.

The Irish General Election was held on 17th May with Fianna Fail and the progressive Democrats again forming a Coalition government. Fine Gael had their worst performance in history. Sinn Fein made progress winning five seats, a gain of four seats. The Greens also did well.

The IBRG had put out a statement before the election entitled Votes for Irish Born citizens living abroad demanded stating ‘On May 17th the Irish government will once again discriminate against its Irish born citizens living abroad in the Irish General Election. In denying its citizens abroad the vote the Irish government are breaching its own constitution and European law, and the UN Declaration on Human Rights. Mary Robinson President of Ireland stated in 1990 ‘There is no impediment in the Constitution to extending voting rights to emigrants’ while   the Irish Council of Civil Liberties stated ‘In its treatment of its own emigrants, this country is out of line with international democratic practices in Europe’ The Universal declaration of human rights Article 21 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Art 25 guarantees all Irish citizens the right to vote. Dr Joseph Ryan of Freedom House New York stated ‘Ireland is one of the least advanced democracies on the question of absentee voting rights. And it is compared unfavourably with countries it might consider itself far advanced of politically’.

The IBRG believe that the Irish government denial of the vote to emigrants in Europe contravenes European Law, Art 39 of the Free Movement of workers in that the restriction of the vote, can be interpreted as an impediment to the free movement of workers, in that all other European workers can move abroad and retain the vote except the Irish.

Dick Spring TD stated ‘We in the Labour Party see no reason Irish citizens should be deprived of one of the most basic rights of any citizen, because they have been forced to live abroad.

The IBRG drew attention to the Irish World Cup team the only team playing in the World Cup, who were denied a vote in their home country, a question now asked in pub quizzes. Liam Kavanagh TD stated ‘the least we can do is to say to them, if we cannot give them a job, is that we can give you a vote, if they cannot come home, which will allow them to pass judgement on the administration who may be the cause of their being emigrants’.

IBRG Votes for Emigrants Leaflet.

Why is Ireland so far behind the democratic world, the whole of Europe, the USA, Australia, Pakistan, Brazil, South Africa Estonia and many more. Yet in the Good Friday agreement the Irish government agreed to create no impediment to equal rights for anybody within the Republic. If N. Ireland were to join the republic final All Ireland structure they would lose the vote too once they moved abroad.

The Irish World on 17th May had No votes for soccer heroes and the Longford Leader on 17th May had Vote demanded for immigrants, with a photo of the Irish soccer team with the IBRG Votes for Emigrants across it.

The IBRG had sent out a statement of votes for emigrants to over 40 different news agencies including TV Radio and newspaper. On the day of the election in Ireland Pat Reynolds had an interview with the BBC World Service at Bush House in the Strand, drawing attention to the fact that Ireland was the only EU country which denied its citizens aboard the vote. The Longford Leader, the Irish World and other papers covered the story and reprinted the IBRG collage of the Irish soccer team, the only team playing the World Cup who were not allowed to vote for their country of origin. They could bring honour and glory to Ireland but could not vote in the country. Later Highland radio in Donegal, Kerry radio, and Radio Anan Livia interviewed Pat on the subject.

In May the IBRG welcomed the settlement out of court by the Metropolitan Police to Richard O’Brien family his widow Alison and children. Richard was unlawfully killed when police officers held him down despite Richard saying time and again ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, let me up, you win’. He died whilst being held down by several officers in front of his wife and children outside a Catholic club minding his own business waiting for a cab to take his family home.

Jodie Clark in Southwark IBRG had supported the family, while both Jodie and Pat Reynolds helped the family early on in making contacts with Inquest and good solicitors. The family and the Traveller community had picketed the police station over his death.

On 14th May the IBRG put out a statement O’Brien Family win six-year Battle on compensation. The pay out of £324,000 did not bring any apology from the Met police for the behaviour of their officers, which led to the unlawful killing of Richard O’Brien, who was brutally killed in front of his wife and children, suffering numerous injuries in the process which led to his death.

The IBRG saluted the courage of Alison O’Brien and her family in fighting for justice. For generations the police had been allowed to kill Irish people at random and never be held accountable for their actions.

The IBRG believed that had Southwark Council and Southwark police taken on board the finding of the report on Policing and the Irish in Southwark, the death could have been avoided. The Labour Leader at the time stated that the report would be published and actioned. In the end they suppressed the report and the issues around policing of the Irish was hidden. The IBRG leaked the report to the Irish Times who published it. Ten years later the Met Police are now beginning to look at the Irish community in other ways than their PTA tainted racist vision. The O’Brien have set an example for other Irish families fighting for justice over deaths in custody

The IBRG had drawn attention to the high numbers of Irish deaths both in police custody and in prisons cells on remand, where Irish prisoners were likely to be neglected and their mental and mental conditions ignored. The point of arrest was in some case like Richard O’Brien and Leo O’Reilly a death experience.

The Irish Government need to take on board this issue and stop acting like a colonial province of Britain.  When there was a Nigerian death in custody the Nigerian High Commission went out on Christmas day to see that grieving family. No Irish Ambassador has been to visit a single family of any Irish death in custody. The Irish government bury their head in the colonial sands.

The IBRG bring to mind the murder of Patrick Quinn within a police station in Hammersmith and how the Irish government kept silent. The IBRG believe there is a racist attitudinal problem with how the police and prisons officer view Irish people, which has been a factor in all these cases. Irish lives are not valued. The Irish in such case are denied any respect dignity or humanity and that extends to the relatives of the dead men. At a recent conference the police stated they did not really know the Irish community, somewhat strange given the workings of the PTA. They know the community well going back to Fenian days, but are not prepared to change the canteen culture which view Irish lives as being of lessor value.

The five Irish deaths in Brixton Prison points to a huge problem but the Irish government and the British media stay silent even the Liberal Guardian will not mention the Irish. An Phoblacht covered the story on 16th May. They noted that Richard O’Brien had suffered injuries in 31 areas of his body including 12 cuts to his head. He was put on the ground with officers holding him in a position which can only be described as dangerous and after 15 minutes of so on the ground with officers applying their weight to his body he died’. Despite the unlawful killing verdict from the inquest jury the Met Police refused to apologise to the family.

In May the IBRG condemned the verdict in the James Hanratty Appeal which upheld the verdict against him, a judgement based mainly on contaminated DNA. This evidence had gone missing for 30 years and had mysteriously reappeared.

Hanratty had 14 witnesses who placed him over 250 away at the time of the murder. The IBRG believe Hanratty to be a totally innocent Irishman and like John Lennon believed he was murdered by the British state.  The British government have never once accepted that they ever hung an innocent man, and even with Bentley only regretted the sentence.

 

During May the IBRG mailed out over 70 trade unions in Britain demanding that they recognise the Irish community as the CRE had recommended. The TUC came back with its usual ignorant No Irish Need Apply response. 

However, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Fire Brigade Union (FBU) and a number of other unions did agree to recognise the Irish. Later, Unison stated that they recognised the Irish. The following unions also agreed to recognise and monitor the Irish, AEP, TSSA, AUT, and the T&G already recognised the Irish. Unison and T&G were the two largest unions in Britain.

On 20th May Jodie Clark attended a meeting with members of Ceart (Irish deaths in Custody campaign) with Harriet Harman Solicitor General; on the issue of inquests and Irish deaths in custody.

Sands/Connolly March

On 25th May IBRG members took part with banners in the Bobby Sands/James Connolly march through Tottenham to the Irish Centre there where Pat Reynolds spoke at the rally on behalf of the Christy McGrath campaign.

IBRG members from North London, Lewisham and Coventry attended and marched under the political status banner. There was no band on the march which was poorly attended. The march had support from the local Kurdish community, the Palestinian community and the Turkish community. The days of big Irish marches in London were gone and had been silenced after the Bloody Sunday march was cancelled.

On 8th June Diarmuid Breatnach had a letter in the Irish World headed Noble and Painful sacrifices, on the lessons to be taken from the Hunger Strikes.

On 24th May Diarmuid Breatnach had a letter in the Irish World from the Irish Political Status Committee setting out the aims of Bobby Sands for political status and why both Connolly and Sands gave their lives for Ireland.

On 8th June the IBRG had a stall at the Fleadh in Finsbury Park in North London which gave out leaflets on Christy McGrath and other campaigns and displayed their banners.

On 13th June the Justice for Harry Stanley Campaign had a public meeting in Bethnal Green in east London with speakers Irene Stanley, Marian Fegan from Ceart, Brian Sedgemore MP and chaired by Terry Stewart. The inquest on Harry Stanley was opening on 17th June at St Pancras Coroners court at Kings Cross.

The Ard Choiste took place in Manchester on 15th June to plan priorities for the year. Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Moore, Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds attended.

On Deaths in Custody the meeting heard that Cardinal Sean Brady had replied. He had circulated it to his bishops and had put it on agenda for the next Bishops meeting in Maynooth.

The Frank Johnson appeal is on 25-27th at the Royal Courts of Justice. He was very likely to be released after spending over 26 years in prison nearly as long as Mandela. Ken Livingstone and Shane McGowan are now backing Christy McGrath.

The meeting heard that 34% of Trade Unions now recognise the Irish after IBRG lobbying. The GMB the MU and the CWU said no to recognition of the Irish. Only 12 Unions had replied to IBRG with the T&G, TSSA, NUJ, AEP, AUT, FBU and unison now recognising the Irish but the TUC still refuse to recognise the Irish.

The programme for 2002-2003 was, Christy McGrath campaign, Deaths in Custody campaign, Trade union recognition, Travellers, Political Status, Votes for emigrants, Irish Equalities group and IPPG plus website and membership. The meeting heard that the IBRG had raised the issue of votes for the Irish abroad, during the Irish General election linking it in with the Irish soccer team none of whom had a vote. This issue got both radio and god press coverage in Ireland and Britain and even the BBC World Service. The meeting heard that the Met Police had settled the Richard O’Brien case. In the Hanratty case the British judiciary continued their perverse decision in the case.

On 15th June there was on day conference on Equalities and Discrimination and the North of Ireland at the Irish Club in Birmingham organised by TOM which had Una Gillespie and Brid Keenan former member of Haringey IBRG as main speakers.

It was a pity that this conference did not link up with issues such as discrimination against the Irish community in Britain, and that they failed to invite the Fair Employment Trust to the conference. The IBRG had for years taken up this matter inviting Oliver Kearney from the Fair Employment Trust to the Unison AGM in Bournemouth, where Southwark Unison had a motion at the conference on the McBride Principles. The IBRG had also challenged Abbey National at their AGM on the matter and had taken Securicor to task over discrimination against a Catholic woman in Belfast. TOM in their newsletter reported that they were still organising their annual delegation to N. Ireland and had a recent AGM with a five-person elected committee. Their newsletter still had the banner Self Determination for the Irish People as a Whole.

Release of Frank Johnson

Billy Power and Frank Johnson

During June the IBRG welcomes the release of Frank Johnson who spent over 26 years in English jails for a crime he did not commit. His Appeal hearing started on 25th June. Pat Reynolds who chaired Frank’s Justice campaign for eight years called for an inquiry into the whole case, which had Jack Tierney a highly paid police agent provocateur as its main player and crown witness.

On 26th June the IBRG put out a press statement entitled Frank Johnson Free at last. Frank Johnson the last of the 1974-76 Irish political hostages had been released after 26-years in prison.

Nineteen innocent Irish people had been taken from their community by the British state and framed up. These were the Maguire seven, the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four Judith Ward and Frank Johnson. The Gillespie sisters were also framed up by the British state.

The Irish community always believes that the fire bomb attack on Irish shop keeper Sheridan from Co Mayo was part of a Special Branch dirty tricks campaign, to discredit the IRA, when it went wrong and Sheridan died in hospital. Notorious Special Branch agent Jack Tierney and ex British soldier Smart were involved in the attack. The stories in the local and national  press were IRA Bomb Shop a story line from police sources. The story was that the IRA had bombed Sheridan because he refused to give money to the IRA.

Jack Tierney had previously been involved in trying to sell arms to the Angry Brigade, on behalf of the Special Branch, and he went wired up to tape their conversation when he offered them guns. He was also involved in a similar case in Co Waterford in Ireland.

Why was Frank Johnson kept in prison when the police and the state knew he was innocent from day one? Frank Johnson always wanted the truth to come out to vindicate himself and Mr Sheridan, but the State refused to give any details of the conspiracy to discredit the IRA in the Irish community. Frank Johnson and the other Irish political hostages paid the price of Britain dirty war in Ireland, when they extended this to Britain. Again, the Irish government stood idly by as they did in all the Irish cases. Not one single judge, not one single government scientist, not one single police officer had spent a single day in prison as a result for what they did to 19 innocent Irish political hostages in the 1970’s.

On 25th June Pat Reynolds was speaking the speaking House of Commons at a meeting for Christy McGrath which John McDonnell MP chaired.

During July the IBRG took up the case of Aiden Hume an Irish political prisoner held at Belmarsh Prison in South London and his right to receive proper medical treatment. The IBRG had contacted Hilary Benn Prisons Minister (He was the son of Tony Benn ) on the issue and David Blunkett the Home secretary.. The IBRG also got Kevin McNamara involved.

Christy McGrath Campaign

On 7th July the IBRG helped with a stall at Southwark Irish Festival for Christy McGrath. The Tipperary Association also gave their support including providing tea and sandwiches.

On 17th July the Tipperary Association in London held a benefit dance at the Galtymore ballroom in Cricklewood for Christy McGrath and raised over £1000 for the campaign. Pat Reynolds spoke from the platform to thank the Tipperary Association for their support and being the first county association to take up the case of an innocent Irish prisoner.  The plight of prisoners is always a welfare issue which Irish county associations need to consider and in this the Tipp association were giving the lead.

On 20th July the IBRG had a stall at the respect Festival in Victoria Park in east London where they collected signatures for Christy McGrath campaign.

Barry George another innocent Irishman wrongfully accused of killing Jill Dando lost his appeal in July.

On 25th August IBRG members helped out on a stall at the Crawley Irish festival for Christy McGrath.

Irish and higher death rates

On 17th September Dr Gabriel Scally gave a lecture entitled the Very Pests of Society the Irish and 150 years of public health in Britain at the Royal College of Physicians.

During the lecture he called for a nationally funded research programme to explore why Irish people suffer higher death rates than the resident English population, and why thus continued into the second and third generation. There was he stated a clear need for a public health programme  specially addressing the need of the Irish community.

He also detailed how the Irish took action in the past to improve their own conditions in Britain and spoke of Kitty Wilkinson from Derry who played a leading role in fighting cholera when it reached Liverpool in 1832. Her insistence of fresh air and cleanliness including washing bedding and clothing of the sick was crucial, and she was appointed the first superintendent of Liverpool’s first purpose build wash house.  Dr Scally was the regional Director of Public Health for the South West.

On 23rd September IBRG members attended reception meeting at the Camden Irish centre for Bloody Sunday relatives who had come to London to push their case.

On 28th September IBRG members attended the anti-war march in London against the proposed American/British war against Iraq. The march was by the Stop the war Coalition under the heading Stop Bush and Blair’s War Tell new Labour Don’t Attack Iraq.

 

On 12th October the Ard Choiste was held in Coventry at Tigh Muiris. Maurice Moore Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds attended.

The meeting heard that the Magill magazine in Dublin had covered an article on Christy McGrath and the deaths in custody at Brixton prison. The meeting discussed Irish deaths in custody, political status for Irish prisoners Christy McGrath campaign, Travellers, Bloody Sunday inquiry which had now moved to London, Irish equalities group and Trade unions.

The IBRG had now written to all 166 TD’s in the  Dail on Christy McGrath’s case and had got great support with the majority of TD supporting Christy’s case.

 

On 17th October IBRG members attended a picket of Brixton prison over the deaths of six Irish prisoners who died there in the last few years. Brixton was the prison where Terence MacSwiney died after his hunger strike there. It was also the prison used for many Irish republican prisoners over the last 30 years. Both Pat Reynolds and Jodie Clark attended the picket.

On 26th November IBRG took part in the 4th annual Remembrance march from Trafalgar Square to 10 Downing St over the number of Black Irish deaths in custody. Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds attended the event while Terry Stewart of Ceart spoke at it.

On 19th November Coventry IBRG supported a meeting entitled Communities under Attack with a video and a speaker from the Short Strand area of Belfast over conditions for local residents under attack from Loyalists. TOM and IBRG organised the meeting plus other meeting with the Lord Mayor of Coventry, the religious leaders and Irish community in Coventry. The meeting was under Communities under attack and the right to live free from harassment a line taken from the Good Friday agreement.

On 23rd November Pat Reynolds went to visit Christy McGrath in Gartree Prison in Leicestershire. Christy was in fine spirits and was able to talk clearly about his case which led to his conviction and sentence.

On 26th November IBRG members attended the launch of Sean Sexton’s book Ireland in Old Photographs. This is Sean’s second book of old photographs on Ireland. Sean is a great supporter of IBRG and ran the Campaign for Irish Representation in the Media in the 1980’s.

Sean Sexton’s book “Ireland in Old Photographs”

On 27th November Pat Reynolds was speaking in the House of Commons on a meeting on deaths in custody chaired by John McDonnell MP with Fiona Murphy solicitor some of the families including Richard O’Brien spoke, Gerry McFlynn of ICPO, Yvonne McNamara of Bias on Travellers and Terry Stewart of Ceart.

On 7th December the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Lewisham Irish centre in South London.  Diarmuid Bretanach, Maurice Moore and Pat Reynolds attended with apologies from Bernadette Hyland.

John McDonnell’s Early Day Motion had been ruled subjudice on Irish deaths in custody as some cases were ongoing. The inquiry into Brixton Prison was seen as a sham with the Governor of Wandsworth prison asked to do a review. Wandsworth itself had been found guilty of discrimination there against an Irish officer, at the time, the IBRG asked if this is how they treat Irish officers, how do they treat Irish prisoners.  The Board of Visitors at Brixton had stated that suicides had gone up 25% at Brixton and the IBRG called for better medical provision, and the screening of all new prisoners re their mental health.

29 MPs had signed an EDM on Christy McGrath. Pat Reynolds had visited him at Gartree on 23rd November with Andy Parr. The IBRG had written to 166 Irish TDs on Christy’s case with many coming out in support of Christy. The campaign was going to take his case to Dail Eireann and hold a meeting there.

Pat Reynolds had also met with relatives of Barry George including his mother in West London. Barry had been wrongly convicted of the murder of Jill Dando. Barry had severe learning difficulties and could not have caried out the murder.  The IBRG pledged to give the family what support they could.

The Bloody Sunday Inquiry is ongoing at Westminster Central hall with former PM Ted Heath due to give evidence in the new year.  The meeting expressed grave concern about the level of abuse of children in the Catholic Church, and the cover up of this abuse by the Bishops. N. London felt that the IBRG should condemn Cardinal Cormac Murphy over his failure to take action to protect children from abuse from known abusers over several years.  The Meeting stated IBRG clear opposition to the war against Iraq, and urged members to join anti-war activities in Britain. It was agreed to send solidarity greeting to the Fire Brigade Union during their strike and to ask members to support the workers.

 

29 British MPs had signed an early day motion (EDM) on Christy McGrath by the end of the year.

2002 summary

During 2002 the IBRG had played a key role in pushing forward the case of Christy McGrath with an IBRG lobby of 166 Irish TD’s on the case.

The IBRG had played a key role in pushing forward a campaign to address the deaths of Irishmen in custody in Britain and particularly in Brixton prison. The IBRG welcomed the setting up of an umbrella group called Ceart to fight on the issue a for many years IBRG had to fight it all on its own. The IBRG had in the last year raised the issue with public bodies, got the matter raised in the Commons and in the media from the Examiner to an Phoblacht and on several radio interviews.

The IBRG had again raised the issue of votes for emigrants and had got great publicity in the Irish papers and on Irish radio. The IBRG had lobbied over 70 British trade unions to get them recognise the Irish and had some success including getting the NUJ and the FBU to recognise the Irish.

 

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

For 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

The IBRG website  (now defunct) can be accessed here

Read previous posts on IBRG history here

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History of Irish in Britain Representation Group, part twenty one, 2001

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.

Launch in  November  of a book that includes history of Manchester IBRG.

TUC’s refusal to recognise the  Irish

In January the British Trades Union Congress (TUC) replied to IBRG Chair Pat Reynolds on the question of including the Irish within their ethnic categories stating that ‘The TUC categories have been developed to address the specific discrimination, faced by Black and Asian workers in the labour market’. In  refusing to recognise the Irish  the TUC even claimed that they were working with the CRE on the matter, which was false.

The IBRG went public on the matter, deploring  the stand taken by the TUC and  accusing them of trying to play colonial divide and rule games, by playing off the interests of the Black and Asian communities against the Irish community.  Even the Metropolitan Police in their public statements have admitted that the Irish were victim of discrimination, racism and disadvantage over generations!

The TUC showed themselves as be  the bastion of British imperialism when it came to the Irish. Given the contribution made by the Irish to the trade union movement in Britain, from Chartism in the 1830s to the present day, it was shocking,  and based on anti-Irish racism by the TUC.

John McDonnell, Secretary of the Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group, stated: ‘I am staggered at the TUC’s response. It was like stepping back 20 years’. The Connolly Association also supported the IBRG’s call for recognition.  Bronwen Walters, co-author of the Report on Discrimination and the Irish Community, wrote to John Monks General Secretary of the TUC on the matter.

The IBRG circulated the TUC response via the Irish Equalities group and to over 50 Irish community organisations in Britain. It is for historians and scholars to explain why the TUC and the Labour movement were so racist and hostile to the Irish community in Britain over the generations,  and particularly over the last 40 years.

On 9th February the Irish World had TUC criticised for Irish status, which covered the IBRG position. The IBRG pointed out that recognition of the Irish was totally compatible with recognition of the Black and Asian communities. The CRE Commissioner Bob Purkiss, in the foreword to the Trade Unions Survey carried out by the London Irish Women’s Centre, talked about a formal CRE investigation into the RMT Union and stated:‘It is also recommended that the Irish be included in the categories used in such monitoring’.

ONS excludes Irish in ethnic categories

In January the IBRG deplored the decision of the Office for National Statistics to not  include the Irish in their ethnic categories for their enumerators on  the National Census, given the fact that the ONS were responsible for the Census.

On 25th January IBRG issued a statement entitled “Office for National Statistics in muddle over Census,” which stated: ‘Given that the ONS are the main and only body advising the Government on data required from the census, it is unbelievable that they have failed to take account of their own recommended categories. In the ONS recruitment form the Irish category disappears. The Count Me in Census does not inspire confidence. If the ONS cannot get the ethnic categories right, how can they expects other groups and individuals to do so. What message are they giving out to their enumerators, by they themselves, ignoring certain categories on the 2001 National l census’.

On 6th January the Irish Post had Row over Met Police plans to recruit in Ireland with a photo of Pat Reynolds who had criticised the Metropolitan Police  for not even looking at the Irish community in Britain for recruitment. The Police Federation stated that vetting would have to be tightened if recruitment took place in Ireland, which the IBRG condemned stating that the Irish were no more a security risk than any other community or nationality, as nearly all communities in Britain had  had to fight British colonization at one time or another. From India to the Caribbean from Cyprus to Kenya. It was simply more anti-Irish nonsense without any evidence to back it up.

On 13th January Pat Reynolds had an interview with RTE TV in London on the Irish being included in the National Census in Britain.

Bloody Sunday Rally

On 20th January IBRG members from North London, Lewisham, Hemel Hempstead,  and Coventry attended the Bloody Sunday Rally at Caxton House in North London.

Diarmuid Breatnach was able to ask a question from the floor at the meeting. This was the first year since 1973 that no Bloody Sunday March took place in Britain. Speakers were John McDonnell, Jeremy Hardy from the Robert Hamill campaign,  Sinn Fein and others, with a social in the evening. Over 200 people attended the rally.

On 24th January Northern Ireland Colonial Minister had to resign and was replaced by another colonial Secretary called Reid.

On 2nd February IBRG attended the Irish Equalities Group meeting with the CRE in London.

On 8th February IBRG members attended the launch at the House of Commons of the call for a public inquiry into the killing in cold blood of  Diarmuid O’Neill in West London.

On 24th February the IBRG held their Ard Choiste meeting in Coventry at Tigh Muiris. Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Moore, Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds attended with apologies from Joe Mullarkey, Sean Hone, Tim Logan and Peter Skerrit.

The meeting discussed the case of young Irish jockey Christie McGrath,  a 23-year-old from Tipperary , who had  been convicted of murder in the North east of England. Birmingham Six solicitor Gareth Pierce had taken over his case.  Pat Reynolds had met Christie’s brother Larry in London and had promised IBRG support on the case.

Other issues discussed included the police shooting of Irish teenager in London in a standoff, the Census 2001 campaign, the St Patrick’s Day parades, the Irish Equalities Group, the forthcoming British General Election, the Hunger Strike 20th anniversary, the Irish in Islington Conference, and an IBRG policy on Travellers.

On the Patrick Kieron O’Donnell case Pat Reynolds had received replies from the Police Complaints Authority, the Metropolitan Police, Toby Harris – Chair of GLA Police Committee, and the leader of Islington council. Jeremy Corbyn MP did not reply. The Irish Government had replied, stating  they would be asking the Irish Embassy in London to raise the four cases we had referred to them,_ Diarmuid O’Neill, Patrick O’Donnell, John Francis O’Brien and Harry Stanley – with the Metropolitan Police. Pat Reynolds had raised the killing of young Patrick O’Donnell at the House of Commons meeting on Diarmuid O’Neill.

These were Irish citizens whose lives were seen as cheap in Britain. The Harry Stanley campaign was going strong and had a very good leaflet. North London IBRG had written to the campaign to offer IBRG support. Frank Johnson had a RTE TV program which had been made in London. Frank was waiting for a date for his appeal and release. Eddie Guilfoyle had his appeal turned down.

In February IBRG put in a submission to the Department of Education and Employment on including an Irish category in ethnic monitoring of pupils in school and of school performance.

On 26th February Pat Reynolds presented a paper on the Irish Issues in Education for the Irish Equalities Group to the CRE and its outgoing Chair,  Susie Parsons. The paper was later circulated to all Irish organisations.

Victory of Bolton Irish man in race case

In February the IBRG welcomed the victory of Gordon Campbell,  a 25-year-old Tipperary man,  who won a race discrimination case at a Manchester Industrial Tribunal against Carpet Factors in Bolton. Alan Birchall a manager at the company admitted telling Mr Campbell:  ’ there three things wrong with you. One you are Irish, two you live in this country, and three you are still breathing’.

Joe Mullarkey of Bolton IBRG went on the Pat Kenny Show on RTE and Tipp FM to discuss the case, and called for more protection for Irish workers in the workplace against such racist abuse.  According to the British TUC it does not exist. The IBRG highlighted this case in Britain and Ireland.

“Irish Independent” newspaper 7 February 2001

On 9th February the IBRG put out a statement Tipperary man wins British Race discrimination case.  Mr Campbell had been regularly called ‘thick Paddy’ and ‘leprechaun’ and had ‘hey didley dee’ sung to him many times,  mocking him in his work.

The IBRG welcomes Mr Campbell victory after a five-day hearing It was very difficult in Britain for an Irish worker to defend himself in Britain, as he or she often to represent themselves in the hearing, when the company often a had a barrister on their case.

The IBRG called for more support for Irish workers in Britain both from the trade unions, who still refused to recognise the Irish, and often discriminated against them in terms of offering representation in cases. The IBRG also called on the Irish government to create a distinct post with a view to supporting Irish workers in such cases, and called  on the Dion committee to do so urgently.

Only two trade unions in Britain recognised the Irish and the Irish Workers’ groups had experienced great hostility from union HQs and at conferences, in blocking any motions on Ireland or the Irish in Britain.

The IBRG stated there was an urgent need for the Irish Government to move away from the Maynooth Catholic church 1960s model of welfare, to a community development model in Britain where support was given more to test cases like the Richard O Brien case  and the various victories of Irish people at  Industrial Tribunals. The Good Samaritan model does not work, and relied  on pity when the community wants action to access fair employment housing and health rights. The case was covered by the Irish Post and Irish World.

On 9th March Pat Reynolds was interviewed by BBC Radio London about the treatment of an Irish family in Lambeth who had been racially harassed in their home. Jodie Clark was supporting this family.

On 10th March IBRG members attended an Irish In Islington Conference held at Islington Town Hall. The conference arose out of the fightback by the local Irish community over the closure of the Roger Casement Irish Centre by the ruling Liberal Democrats.

John McDonnell MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP,  local Irish historian Peter Beresford Ellis, John Brennan of Cara Housing, Sarah Morgan of the University of North London, Fr Jerry Kilvehan of the Camden Irish Centre, Mary Tiki, Marie McCloskey Irish Embassy, and Ronan Bennett were among the speakers. Pat Reynolds was on the final panel along with Steve Hitchens, Liberal Leader of Islington Council, who was asked to address the issue raised by the Conference.

Launch of Miscarriages of Justice Organisation

MOJO

On 14th March IBRG members attended the launch of MOJO (Miscarriages of Justice Organisation) at the House of Commons. The IBRG had agreed to support this new broad-based campaign. Gareth Pierce, Michael O’Brien and Paddy Joe Hill of the Birmingham Six were among the speakers. Paddy Joe Hill and Michael O’Brien were the two leading  figures in the group.

Michael O’Brien

On 15th March IBRG attended a picket of 10 Downing St over the murder of solicitor Rosemary Nelson by British death squads, using British explosives in a bomb under her car.

St.Pat’s day card produced by Diarmuid Breatnach

On 23rd March IBRG members attended a benefit for Pat Cullinane in west London to highlight his campaign to get justice from British Inland Revenue, who took and sold his house and made him a homeless man, a modern-day eviction.

On 31st March the IBRG Ard Choiste met at Caxton House in North London. Diarmuid Breatnach, Danny Burke, Laoise de Paor, Pat Reynolds, and Michael Holden attended with apologies from Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Moore and Tomas Macstiofan. Bolton, Manchester and North London had registered, and Hemel and Lewisham had yet to register this year.

Among the issues discussed were the upcoming National Census on 29th April, the Christie McGrath case, the upcoming General Election, and St Patrick’s Day march with Lewisham holding one locally. A policy on Irish Travellers put forward by Maurice Moore was agreed as IBRG policy, along with report back on the Irish Equalities group, the launch of MOJO, the Irish in Islington conference, and IBRG work on prisoners including Frank Johnson and Christie McGrath.

Laoise de Paor and Danny Burke had both been to see Frank Johnson lately, Laoise had painted Frank’s banner some years ago. Gareth Pierce had taken on the Christie McGrath case and Pat Reynolds was chairing the campaign with help by Andy Parr.

The IBRG had eight members attending the Irish in Islington Conference which Pat Reynolds had helped to organise. Diarmuid reported back on a successful St Patrick Day march in Lewisham despite poor weather. They had seven floats, the IBRG had their banner plus a banner on the 2001 census. The floats had an Irish Pageantry lorry which highlighted Celtic and Irish myths and legends.

There was concern that the Irish Post and John McDonnell had censored IBRG and other groups, in giving the London parade back to the church and the Irish county societies, who had largely stayed silent over the past 30 years, and now wanted to climb on the bandwagon of the  Peace Process. Tony Blair had been featured on the front page of the Irish Post and Irish World leading up to the General election, electioneering promoted by the Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group.

Coventry IBRG were thanked for their policy on Travellers which was adopted as IBRG policy. Pat Reynolds was now chairing the Irish Equalities Group meeting and had recently made a presentation on Education to the CRE.

IBRG take up James Hanratty case

In April the IBRG took up the case of James Hanratty, hanged for  murder. Many people believed he ws innocent.  The British press tried to claim that  he was guilty after the  police leaked the results of DNA testing. The DNA material was all mixed up in his case, and stored in the same box, and should not have been used as evidence in this case as it was all cross contaminated. All the evidence looked at by the IBRG points to Hanratty’s innocence.

Back in the early 1970s John Lennon used to picket on his case. Even a dead Irishman cannot get justice in Britain, because the British state does not want to admit that they hanged an innocent Irishman. The Irish World on 20th April had IBRG appeal to government on James Hanratty.  The IBRG called on the Irish government to send a representative to the Court of Appeal in the Hanratty case.

In Hanratty’s fourteen witnesses had placed Hanratty more than 250 miles away from the scene of the crime There was no forensic evidence against Hanratty at the time of his trial. The right-wing press again went to town,  trying to convict Hanratty all over again with the Daily Mail headline during the hearing of Hanratty was Guilty, with The Sun running this headline two years ago. The IBRG called  the digging up of Hanratty’s  body a publicity stunt for propaganda reasons. It was  already admitted  that because the materials relating to the murder had been  contaminated, the match was worthless.

However, the IBRG do not believe that DNA fake matches can prove that Hanratty had powers of bilocation, that he could be in two places  more than 250 miles apar at the same time t. John Lennon was right,  Hanratty was murdered by the British state, who were now  trying  to destroy the family#s fight for justice. It will remain forever a deep stain on the British record of the killing of an innocent Irishman. How could fourteen different witnesses be wrong about his location?

 

Ealing Council recognise the  Irish – at last

In April the IBRG welcomed Ealing Council in West London coming on board to recognise the Irish after a battle lasting several years.  Ealing became one of the last boroughs in London to recognise the Irish, despite them having a large Irish population.

On 11th April the IBRG issued a statement Ealing Council to recognise the Irish at last, after IBRG had spent six years trying to get them on board. 29 of the 32 London boroughs now recognised the Irish.  Two Tory controlled boroughs in London Bromley and Kensington and Chelsea had no monitoring of any groups at all, while Wandsworth refused to include the Irish in their monitoring. Ealing had 16.374 Irish born residents according to the 1991 census, with an estimated Irish population including second generation of over 40,000 residents, the second largest after Brent.

Overall, in Britain 309 local authorities recognised the Irish out of a total of 442 local Councils in Britain, some 75% recognise the Irish, and most of these were the bigger Councils where more Irish lived. In the campaign the IBRG had sent out over 3,000 letters with some Councils needing more pressure than others. The IBRG also used a network of people in the community of different organisation like the GAA, Ceolthas or Conradh who lived in an area to also write in. The IBRG had contacts in every single area of Britain from students to political contacts to community contacts.

The history of ethnic monitoring in Britain is a more recent thing, apart from the Special Branch monitoring the Irish since Fenian times. Ethnic groups were included in the census in Britain for the first time in 1991 and at first there was opposition from some sections of the Black community to monitoring, and the SWP for example opposed it, under their slogan Black and White Unite and Fight, and claimed monitoring was dividing the workers.

In the Irish community the issue was led by IBRG and by Seamus Taylor, former Irish Liaison Worker, in Haringey. Seamus led the campaign to get the CRE to take up the case of the Irish, and Seamus led a range of Irish groups to meet with the CRE on a regular basis, until we got the research done in the report on discrimination the Irish community by Mary Hickman and Bronwen Walters.

The rest is history, there was no promise from the Labour Party to recognise the Irish, and we had to fight up to the last moment, to have the Irish included. The story is told that Mike O’Brien asked his Irish mother on the issue and she argued with him, that he should include the Irish. The fact that the Race Relations Act in 1976 recognised the Irish as racial group in Britain, confirmed by a House of Lords judgement on the matter, with a definition was helpful, along with the CRE who had forgotten the Irish for over 20 years, in pursuing just a Black /Asian agenda.

For the Irish community there was a clear recognition that we were a colonial minority in Britain with an unsolved colonial disputed territory in Northern  Ireland. There was also the fact that at the GLC conference in the 1980s, every single Irish community group attending supporting the fact, that the Irish needed recognition as a distinct community. The pro-British and pro Unionist section of the Irish community tried to suppress this demand, making the false claim that the Irish did not want this. They were heavily defeated time and again on the issue, and it was part of their continued oppression of Irish culture, and Irish self-determination.

On 30th April the Irish World had a banner headline at last Ealing recognises the Irish, and in their editorial stated under a Tribute to Perseverance ‘That Ealing had moved is largely down to the perseverance of the Irish in Britain representation group, whose long running campaign for recognition for the Irish had now secured a positive response from 70 per cent of local authorities in Britain’. And ‘The IBRG showed the same persistence in the successful battle to secure an Irish category in the national census which take place at the end of the month. The Irish community as a whole must show the that the same determination, if we are to make the most of the opportunities that have been won. Everybody in the community whether Irish born or of Irish descent can play apart in that by ticking the Irish category in the census on April 29th. The results of the census will have a huge impact on the future of the Irish community here. Its findings will be taken into account by local and central government in planning public services. They will even be used by historians increasing the picture of contemporary Britain which will be transmitted to future generations. If we want to be a part of that picture, we have to say so, and we should. The Irish have contributed a great deal to the country in recent generations. The census may be our historical opportunity to have that contribution recognised’.

On 27th April the IBRG put out a statement Over two million Irish to claim their cultural heritage in British Census. It stated ‘Two hundred years after the Act of Union with Britain the largest ethnic minority in Britain are claiming their cultural rights. The Irish in Britain join over 40 million Irish American in claiming their identity, which in the past has often been denied and supressed in Britain. In the 1991 Census in Britain there were 837,000 Irish born residents living in Britain with over 1,090.000 living in Born in Ireland headed households. The 2001 census will reveal the sharpest decline in the number of Irish born residents since the second world war, because of the massive numbers, who have returned to Ireland in the past ten years, the low emigration from Ireland and because of the high early death rate among the Irish in Britain. Ironically the second generations Irish born in Britain who go back to Ireland are classified as British under the Irish census.  The IBRG call for both the Republic to use ethnic rather than Born in categories, and for Northern  Ireland to include ethnic categories as well as religious ones. The results of the 2001 census would allow comparison to be made with both Black and Asian groups and to look at discrimination and disadvantage in all communities. Ten years after the release of the Birmingham Six the Irish community are also walking into the limelight of hopefully more enlightened times.

London IBRG members met on 19th April to discuss issues in London.

 On 28th April the IBRG held their 20th Ard Fheis in Manchester.  Delegates attended fom Manchester, Coventry, North London and Lewisham with apologies from Bolton and Hemel Hempstead.

The following officers were elected

Chair/PRO Pat Reynolds North London.

Vice Chair Diarmuid Breatnach Lewisham

Cisteoir Maurice Moore Coventry

Membership Bernadette Hyland Manchester.

Prisoners Officer Tim Logan Coventry

Pat Reynolds listed some of the achievements of IBRG in the last year, The IBRG had supported Ken Livingstone as Mayor of London, and gave a donation of £100 to his campaign. IBRG had won the debate in Scotland on including the Irish in the Scottish census after lobbying  80 MSP on the issue, and getting 22 of the 32 Scottish local authority to recognise the Irish. IBRG  had defended Lewisham IBRG and its 1916 event from the right wing press, had opposed the closure of the Roger Casement Irish centre in Islington, which the IBRG had set up. Lobbied for the Irish language to be taught in Catholic secondary schools and  had campaigned to get UCAS to include the Irish which had been successful. Had challenged the British TUC over their refusal to recognise the Irish, had continued our campaign for ethnic recognition by British local authorities , had worked hard for the inclusion of the Irish in the 2010 Census, had played a full part in the Irish Equalities group, had supported Irish prisoners and Irish campaigns, taken up Irish deaths in custody, and the  shooting by police of  Kieron O’Donnell in North London.

The IBRG had welcomed the decision by the High Court that travellers were an ethnic group under the Race Relations Act, while Coventry IBRG had drafted the IBRG policy statement on Travellers.

Looking ahead the Chair stated that the 2001 Census was crucial for the Irish community moving forward, and the coming General Election, which Labour was expected to win, was important in terms of pushing Irish issues from self determination to equal rights in Britain, and the IBRG would be putting an Irish manifesto out to the community.

The following motions were passed;

A motion calling of the Irish government to do more for the Irish language, including passing the Irish language bill,

A motion noting the huge amount of work carried out by IBRG to win ethnic recognition in the 2001 census.

A motion supporting the Diarmuid O’Neill campaign with a donation of £50,

A motion noting the historical importance of the 1981 Hunger strike and its impact upon the Irish community abroad,

A motion in support of the Irish Political Prisoners campaign,

A motion noting the 20th anniversary of the founding of the IBRG and its work in the Irish community over the last 20 years,

A motion supporting Pat Cullinane’s campaign and calling for a new law in Britain to prevent the eviction of any individual from their primary home over tax disputes,

A motion supporting MOJO with a donation of £50. At the end of April on 29th the National census was held, and for the first time included an Irish category in the ethnic groups, which allowed the Irish in Britain to identify themselves.

Pat Reynolds had written up a preliminary chronological history of the IBRG over the last 20 years which he circulated to IBRG branches.

On 4th May IBRG members attended a meeting on policing at the Greater London Authority and raised the issue of the Irish being monitored within the judicial and policing systems in London.

On 5th May IBRG members attended a Black Flag picket of Maggie Thatcher   in London over her role in the Hunger strikes, and to let her know that they were honoured in our community. The Irish World carried a colour photo of the picket which showed Pat Reynolds leading the protest.

The Irish Post had a two-page feature on the Hunger strikes, on How the Hunger Strikes changed Britain’s Irish Community, and quoted Mary Hickman, Jonathan Moore and Pat Reynolds who stated that the fightback in the Irish community had its inspiration in the hunger strikes, and that the campaign to free the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four had come from that inspiration and energy.

Death of Mary Crofton

On 14th May the funeral took place in Newport, Wales of Mary Crofton,  a lifelong Republican and activist who was a member of TOM and IBRG. Mary attended every Bloody Sunday March, and was involved in political campaigns from Chile to South Africa and was a real campaigner for Irish freedom, the Birmingham Six, and the Miners.

In a statement the IBRG said Mary was an example to younger people in various movements, she was a gentle woman with a heart of gold for the working class and struggling peoples of the world, no struggle was too big or too small for her support. Mary will be missed by many, who will want to celebrate her life by continuing her struggle for equal rights and freedom for all peoples.

Christy McGrath campaign

On 25th May Pat Reynolds, Chair of the Christie McGrath campaign in London, spoke at a public meeting in Carrick on Suir on the case long with Paddy Joe Hill, Larry McGrath, Richard Guest – Grand National winner, Michael O’Brien and Seamus Healy TD. Over 500 people attended the meeting,  the largest political meeting in Carrick in generations. Carrick was the home of Sean Kelly,  the great Irish cyclist who attended the meeting.

The campaign, including Paddy Joe Hill, was given a Civic reception by Carrick on Suir District Council. While in Carrick Paddy Joe Hill made a point of thanking Pat Reynolds for the work IBRG had put in for the Birmingham Six, and stated that IBRG were the first to raise the issue in the Irish community in Britain.

To be fair it was for Father Faul and Father  Murray with their Birmingham Framework booklet that brought the issue to the Irish community in Britain, and the Troops Out Movement were the main group before IBRG bringing this booklet to the community via their bookstalls at different events.

Paddy Joe Hill got taken aback and was speechless when Pat Reynolds informed him, that a booklet on the Irish Chaplaincy which came out in the early 1980s stated that there were innocent Irishmen in prison,  that they knew to be innocent,  and that that they were likely to die in prison.  Paddy Joe went silent as he was unaware of this and then said I am a dead man walking free then. Certainly, Pat Reynolds and others in IBRG did not accept that these men should die in prison, but that these political hostages taken in 1974 from our community should be released. As long as they were kept in prison the whole community was imprisoned, and their release would help to free the community from Babylonian PTA laws.

Pat Reynolds appeared on RTE TV and on Radio Eireann to speak about the campaign while in Ireland.

Camden Council failing Irish Children

Early in May the IBRG took up the issue of Irish children failing in Camden schools in terms of attainment. The IBRG has long taken up this issue and are the only Irish organisation to do so. Others prefer to stay silent and let our children suffer, and pretend that our children were b doing ok. Earlier in the year the IBRG had a notable success when the Department of Education and Employment indicated, that they would be including the Irish within their ethnic monitoring programme of pupil attainment in Britain.

On 13th May the IBRG put out a statement Camden Council Failing Irish Pupils in which it stated:

The IBRG accuse Camden Council of falling Irish children in their schools, and calls for urgent and immediate action to address the issue, the results of the 2000 GCSE exams show that only 24% of Irish children gained 5 plus Grades A-C the lowest performance of any ethnic group in Camden. The average for all Camden pupils was 51%.

The figures are shocking and disturbing and yet Camden can give the community no reason for these failing figures. The Irish community pay their fair share of taxes both locally and nationally, and are entitled to equality with the education field. Irish parents in Britain have made many sacrifices to ensure either children get access to decent education.

This is an ongoing problem, and yet Camden Council have yet to consult with the Irish community, or provide any research as to why Irish children are failing in Camden schools. The IBRG called on Irish community organisation and local Irish welfare projects to broaden their horizons, to include the educational and welfare of our children within their brief.

Why are local Irish welfare centres, including the Camden Irish centre remaining silent, while our children are being failed by the local education system. Welfare had to include employment, health provision, criminal justice education and welfare. Irish organisation needs to start engaging with their local authorities and other bodies to challenge institutional anti Irish racism within the system, in both employment and in the provision of services including education.

The Irish World covered the issue with Camden Lashed over Irish pupils. In it Pat Reynolds argued that this was why the IBRG wanted the Department of Education, to include the Irish in ethnic monitoring of both pupil and their performances, and deplored the narrow debate in Britain on race, which would condemn Irish children to suffer and to remain hidden within the system.

Race Relations (Amendment) Act Challenge to Irish Community

In May the IBRG made a submission the Home Office on the new Race Relations (Amendment) Act which was enacted on 30th November 2000.  In July 2001 the government was going to introduce secondary legalisation imposing specific duties on public bodies in relation to equality. This would include Codes of Conduct for public bodies such as the police, health service, local government, educational bodies and central government. Six months would be allowed for compliance with the new codes. The IBRG were concerned that the PTA and Civil Service employment remained outside the code as did the British monarchy.

On 16th May the IBRG put out a statement Race relations (Amendment) Act Challenge to Irish Community based on its two-page submission to the Home Office. The IBRG took exception to the use of ‘Mainland Britain’ in relation to Ireland which was legally wrong as no part of Ireland was part of Britain. In relation to the Great Starvation of Ireland it should be noted that Ireland was part of the United Kingdom from 1801 and that the migration of its people should be seen in that context.

The IBRG drew attention to how the report could state that 15% of the British Army were Irish in 1900, and yet today we cannot get any figures on the number of Irish in the British Civil Service or other republic bodies. The IBRG also challenged their research by stating our own, and showing that some 355 local authorities in Britain recognised the Irish some 70%. In the larger Borough and country council 181 of the 203 nearly 90% recognise the Irish.

The IBRG pointed out that discrimination against the Irish was highest on the British left and trade union movement within only two trade unions out of 73 recognising the Irish, and with the Labour Party, the party of government, refusing to include the Irish. The submission went on to make proposals on health education employment and service delivery, to improve the duty on public bodies to deliver to communities. The IBRG were opposed to the collapsing of monitoring into Black White categories which covered up discrimination against the Irish.

The IBRG had mailed out the remaining 137 local authorities in Britain who did not monitor the Irish in April and 25 more local authorities had come on board.

General Election and Irish Community

On 7th June there was a General Election in Britain and Northern Ireland with Sinn Fein winning four seats and outvoting the SDLP for the first time. The Nationalist vote made up 43% of the votes cast. Labour got elected in Britain with a landslide with Tony Blair staying on as Prime Minister. The Irish community in Britain made up about 10% of Britain’s population and their vote was crucial in many cities in Britain such as London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, and in many towns such as Luton Derby, Leicester and other places. The majority of the Irish had traditionally voted Labour although in Wales and Scotland they can now vote for Nationalist parties.

The IBRG could not endorse any political party in Britain as most are parties of imperialism when it comes to the Irish and because of the first past the post system, it restricted any vote to either Tory or Labour in most cases in England.

On 2nd June the Irish Post had IBRG unveils its manifesto goals, which coved the IBRG seven demands. The Irish World on 1st June had Irish to decide on Hague’s fate which included the IBRG statistics of different constituencies showing the number of Irish in each. Two IBRG members had stood in the general election Tim Logan in Coventry for the Socialist Alliance and Tomas MacStiofan in Brent for the Tenant and motorist.

The IBRG published its election manifesto for the General Election in April calling for

All political parties to recognise the Irish

Equal access to employment

A fair service based on the needs of the Irish community

A health action plan to address the need of the community

Fair access to housing

Fair access to justice

And fair access to Irish culture

The IBRG recognised that three of the five demands made by IBRG for the 1997 election had been won, Irish political prisoners had been transferred to Ireland and released, Sinn Fein had been included in the political process, and the Irish had been included in the 2001 National census. The Irish World had IBRG spells out Election Demands.

On 6th June Pat Reynolds had an interview with RTE Radio on the British General Election and the Irish community. Labour got back in with a landslide but got 3 million less votes than in1997.

Campaign for political status for post Good Friday prisoners

On 16th June IBRG members took part in a picket of the Home Office over political status for post-Good Friday prisoners, and later attended benefit in London for the same purpose where Diarmuid Breatnach read his poem on Bobby Sands MP. The evening was to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Hunger Strikes which were all about political status for prisoners.

On 30th June Diarmuid Breatnach had a letter in the Irish Post with top billing, and photo of the picket of the British Home Office on political status, and on the Good Friday agreement. It was a good critique of the Good Friday agreement and that other Treaty back in 1921, which was supported by the majority too.

The Irish World on 22nd June had Political status protest at Home Office.

On 10th August Diarmuid Breatnach,  Chair of the Irish Political Status Committee,  had a letter in the Irish World arguing for political status for all Irish political prisoners, not just those who supported the Good Friday Agreement.

Irish Deaths in Police Custody

In June the IBRG highlighted four Irish prisoners’ suicides in Brixton prison and listed over 30 Irish deaths in custody over the past 15 years highlighting a hidden problem in the Irish community.

While the Irish government paid for a Catholic priest to work with Irish prisoners in Britain, he had kept complete silence on these Irish deaths in prison, just as the same Church had kept quiet for 14 years on Gerry Conlon being at Quest Road Irish hostel, on the night of the Guildford bombing and could not have done it. Ireland on Sunday contacted the IBRG on the story as did the South London Press and the Irish Examiner but the Irish Post ignored this very serious story affecting the Irish community,

The IBRG Ard Choiste met in Coventry on 23rd June. Maurice Moore and Pat Reynolds attended with apologies from Bernadette Hyland, Diarmuid Breathnach, Michael Holden, Tim Logan, Peter Skerrit and Sean Hone.

Among the issues discussed were the 2010 census, the British general election, deaths in custody, Christie McGrath campaign, Race amendment act and political prisoners. The IBRG had a stall at the London Fleadh in Finsbury party and displayed both the IBRG and the Frank Johnson banners.  Pat Reynolds reported back on the hugely successful public meeting held in Carrick on Suir for Christie McGrath which drew over 500 people, at which he spoke with Paddy Joe Hill and Michael O’Brien and Richard Guest the Grand National winner. The Dion funding had been increased to 2 million a year.  The Roundwood Irish Festival had closed down as many of the Irish had gone home.

On 4th July IBRG members attended a meeting at Conway Hall on the wrongful conviction of Barry George to hear Mike Mansfield and others speak about the Court of Appeal.

On 5th July the IBRG had attended a meeting at the Camden Irish Centre on Irish deaths in custody along with the Connolly Association and the Wolfe Tones who wanted to set up a new group CASSK (Campaign against State Sponsored Killings) to cover Britain and N. Ireland. A new campaign had also been set up for Derek Fegan by his widow as Derek had committed suicide in Brixton without getting the help he needed.

On 7th July IBRG members attended a Race Equality Conference at Haringey Civic Centre with CARA and Irish Community Care.

Pat Reynolds had also attended a Disabilities Tribunal this week to support an elderly disabled Irishman from Tipperary who had come over for a hearing. He had been , injured in a building site accident back in 1965 in Britain, and is still fighting for his rightful benefits.

Pat Reynolds wrote to Bill Morris, Leader of the Transport and General Workers Union, asking them to provide representation as the man was a member of their union in Ireland, and worked in Britian at one time. Bill Morris was generous in his reply and agreed to provide support and argued that any Irish worker if given the choice would have joined the union, and thus was entitled to support.

On 9th July the IBRG made a submission to the Conway Hall Tribunal into Deaths in Custody listing over 30 Irish deaths in custody and linking in with general campaign in Britain on the issue.

 Christy McGrath Campaign Meeting in House of Commons

On 12th July Pat Reynolds spoke at the Christie McGrath Campaign meeting in the House of Commons along with John McDonnell MP, Billy Power and Paddy Joe Hill. The meeting was to launch an EDM (Early Day Motion) on the Christie case.  Speakers from the Harry Stanley campaign and Derek Fegan campaigns also spoke, linking deaths in custody to framed prisoners, which was a useful link up in the community. Pat did an interview with Tipp FM radio and was able to get a piece in the representation Racing Post and into the Star in Ireland. Later Pat was interviewed by  the Star newspaper in Ireland.

On 21st July IBRG members attended the Respect Festival in Finsbury Park which over 50,000 people attended. The Connolly Association, BIAS and Construction Safety all had stalls there along with all the major trade unions.

On 29th July the Christie McGrath campaign had a stall at Southwark Irish Festival at Burges Park helped by IBRG members.

In July the IBRG supported the case of Irish nurses and Unison fighting the Department of Health over the withdrawal of £5k bursaries for Irish nursing students in Britain. On 20th July the Irish World had Bursary Blow for Irish Nurses and covered the IBRG response to the story, with the IBRG calling on the Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group  to raise the matter with the Department of Health.

On 11th August Pat Reynolds had spoken at Derek Fegan meeting in South London. The Christie McGrath campaign had a front-page Irish Post story last month.

Labour finally to include Irish in ethnic monitoring

On 25th August the IBRG put out a statement Labour Party to Monitor Irish Nominees for local Government Elections.  The Irish World had on 31st August Labour to include Irish in ethnic Monitoring by Donal Mooney former editor of the Irish Post, now editor of the Irish World.

This was a good victory for the IBRG who had fought the Labour Party on this issue for number of years. The IBRG stated, the first time ever the Labour Party in Britain are to include the Irish in its ethnic monitoring programme  for nominees at local government level for selection of  councillors. An Irish category is now be included in the Labour Party Rule Book for 2001.

The campaign to get Labour to recognise the Irish was spearheaded by Jodie Clark a former Labour Councillor Southwark. The IBRG stated it was time the Labour Party paid back its debt to the Irish community in Britain, for its huge contribution to the working-class movement in Britain, and to Labour sponsored objectives like the NHS.

Seamus Taylor had now been appointed Head of Public policy at the CRE the highest post ever achieved by an Irish person at the CRE. Seamus was also the founder of Action Group for Irish Youth in London. He was also a member of the Commission on the Future of Multi Ethnic Britain which was set up by Jack Straw after the 1997 general election.

On 8th September the IBRG Ard Choiste met in North London. Bernadette Hyland and Pat Reynolds attended.

Among the issues discussed were the Ardoyne school situation, political prisoners, deaths in custody, Christie McGrath and the Hunger strike commemoration. The IBRG Box no. was up and running while Manchester IBRG were working on an IBRG website. Susan May’s appeal starts on 30th October. Frank Johnson’s appeal will be next Spring.

The Hunger Strike Commemoration March planned for London for Sunday 23rd September, the first Irish march to use Trafalgar Square sine the 1972 ban was called off by Sinn Fein at the last moment. The IBRG felt that the march should have went ahead in defence of democratic rights. Sinn Fein should not be interfering with the political expression of the Irish community in Britain.

The September 11th plane bombings on New York Twin Towers and the Pentagon led to an American backlash against civil liberties and the right to free expression, the slogan You are with us or against us, led to a similar scenario in Britain. No definition was offered of terrorism except being against America. There was a very public shift by the establishment to stifle all dissent and political opposition.

On 21st September there was a major feature in the Irish Post on Demand for political status which was a long interview with Diarmuid Breatnach talking about the campaign.

On 11th October IBRG members attended the Equalities Group meeting in Camden which Pat Reynolds chaired.

On 24th October Pat Reynolds had an interview with BBC Radio London on decommissioning arms after the IRA announced that they had decommissioned some weapons. The IBRG had no intention of decommissioning any of its work in Britain.

On 25th October IBRG members attended a meeting in Camden to set up an Irish Deaths in Custody umbrella group in the Irish community.

On 27th October IBRG members attended the Rally and March to 10 Downing Street  as part of the United Campaign Against Deaths in Custody, which was mainly Black families who had lost members in police custody.

On 31st October IBRG members attended the Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group at Government buildings opposite Parliament at Portcullis House.

October marks the 20th anniversary of the founding of IBRG the most important Irish organisation in the political life of the Irish community in Britain from 1981- 2001.

First public meeting on campaign on Irish Deaths in Police Custody

On 1st November at the Friends Meeting House  in London Pat Reynolds spoke with Billy Power and others on Irish deaths in custody. This was the first public meeting of the new campaign. North London and Lewisham IBRG members attended. Joy Garner’s mother spoke with Billy Power and the widow of Harry Stanley.  The police will not prosecute the officers who shot Harry Stanley.  The inquest on Kevin Sheridan will take place on 5th and 6th December at Southwark Coroners court.

On 9th November the Irish World had a story Lewisham Dismay over Lewisham Council stopping the autumn Irish children’s events which were an annual thing in the past. It quoted IBRG and how unhappy the community was with the lack of consultation by the Council

On 14th November IBRG members attended the Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group meeting at the House of Commons.

On 22nd December Diarmuid Breatnach,  Chair of the Irish Political Status Committee,  had a long letter in the Irish Post taking them to task over their reporting of a picket by the Group of the Irish Embassy in London. The Group had also produced a four-page newsletter for November /December.

On 24th November the IBRG held their Ard Choiste meeting in Manchester. Bernadette Hyland and Pat Reynolds attended with apologies from Joe Mullarkey, Maurice Moore and Diarmuid Breatnach.

Among the issues discussed were the web site, the launch of the Irish in Manchester book written by Michael Herbert, Christie McGrath, deaths in custody, and the Irish Equalities group.

Launch of The Wearing of the Green: a Political History of the Irish in Manchester by Michael Herbert

That evening Bernadette chaired the launch of the Wearing of the Green a political history of the Irish in Manchester, at which Pat Reynolds spoke for the IBRG and Micheal Herbert author went through the main historical events in the book. It was major first by the IBRG to produce a book on the history of the Irish community in Manchester,  probably the most significant community outside of London in the earlier decades. The book was also the first history of an IBRG branch – Manchester.

Launch with L-R Michael Herbert, Bernadette Hyland and Pat Reynolds.

Main events of 2001 for Irish Community

The main events of 2001 for the Irish community was the inclusion of the Irish for the very first time in the 2001 National census in Britain, and the impact will be huge in future years in terms of knowing where the Irish are, also in terms of provision for the community and also issues like housing and employment along with health, and lastly in terms of history and sociology, where future scholars can go back and do research on the Irish community during this time.

For the first time both historians and sociologists, will know of the existence of a second-generation Irish community. It will also give a lot of information about the forced assimilation of the Irish in Britain through discrimination racism and political pressure.

The second big event of the year was the 2001 General Election which Labour won with a large number of Irish MPs elected like John McDonnell, Kevin McNamara, Margaret Moran, Siobhan McDonagh, Clare Short, Mike O’Brien, Tony McNulty, Ruth Kelly, Jim Dowd, Jim Fitzpatrick, and Lorna Fitzsimmons.  Of these Clare Short, John McDonell and Kevin McNamara already identified with Irish issues. Jermyn Corbyn MP and other left MPs also were good on Ireland but the numbers were few and none had any power within Labour.

Events from Northern  Ireland still impacted on the Irish in Britain: the Peace Process, the Ardoyne school situation, the BBC bomb, the Ealing bombing, Irish prisoners, Diarmuid O’Neill, Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson cases, the anniversary of the Hunger strikes, revelations about the Omagh bombing and the coverup, the Dublin Monaghan bombings, and Bloody Sunday inquiry.

In Britain two new campaigns had taken off one on Irish deaths in custody and the other on Christie McGrath both of which the IBRG were very much involved in.

The IBRG were still involved with the Irish Equalities Group, the Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group, the Irish political status campaign and other general campaigns.

The PRO had two TV interviews, 5 radio interviews and spoke at six public meetings during the year.

The IBRG had held their Ard Fheis along with five Ard Choisteana meetings.

Michael Herbert’s book The Wearing of the Green on the Irish in Manchester had given the Irish in Manchester a history they could be proud of. Every city in Britain should follow this example from London to Liverpool to Birmingham and Glasgow.

The PRO had completed a 20-year chronological history of the IBRG which was important in term of keeping a history of the movement and would help future historians writing about this time.

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

For 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

The IBRG website  (now defunct) can be accessed here

Read previous posts on IBRG history here

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History of Irish in Britain Representation Group, part twenty, 2000

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.

Bloody Sunday campaign postcard.

 

 

Last Bloody Sunday March

On 22nd January IBRG branches attended the annual Bloody Sunday March in London with their banners and the rally afterwards at London University. It was announced that it was the last Bloody Sunday march in Britain.

The IBRG made it clear it wanted the march to continue. Since 1982 the IBRG had marched with their banner on this march, and had been part of the organising committee each year making a large donation to the march, plus getting other sponsorships for it. The last photo of the start of the march was with people carrying crosses with the name of the murdered civilians written on included Thomas MacStiofan and Sr. Jean Marie both members of IBRG.

In Coventry, Maurice Moore, who was part of the Bloody Sunday Organising Committee, sent out a letter on 13th January to all Irish and political groups in Coventry to let them know there was a coach from Coventry going to the Bloody Sunday march in London. The leaflet gave a brief history of Bloody Sunday and the campaign for justice for its murdered victims. Maurice also got a number of press and radio interviews in the Midlands on the matter.

On 24th January IBRG members attended the Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group meeting at the House of Commons to hear the Irish Ambassador Ted Barrington speak on the social position of the Irish community in Britain. He gave a good outline of the problems facing many in the Irish community in Britain, and showed that the Irish Embassy at last had come off the fence in relation, to the social issues facing the Irish community in Britain.

The IBRG challenged the Irish Ambassador over the failure of the Irish government to give the vote to its emigrants abroad. The Chair of the meeting Tory Michael Mates expressed alarm at the fact that Irish citizens abroad were denied the vote, when the British government gave this right to their citizens for 20 years.

Postcard produced by Haringey IBRG.

 

Towards a Just System: the Irish and Justice Lessons from the Lawrence inquiry.

On 24th January AGIY and NAPO held a conference Towards a Just System the Irish and Justice Lessons from the Lawrence inquiry. Fiona Murphy, the solicitor for the Richard O’Brien family ,spoke at the conference and outlined the death in police custody of Richard, and the family six-year campaign for justice, she outlined concerns about the operation of the PTA, of disproportionate stop and searches by the police against members of the Irish community, and that the Met police were doing little to address the concerns of the Irish community.

The Conference also noted other Irish deaths in police custody, and the use of strip searching against members of the Irish community. The conference called for an action plan which included monitoring across all criminal and judicial systems, the inclusion of an Irish dimension to training, and the need for an independent complaints system.

On 26th January Pat Reynolds took part in the Channel Four series on the White Tribes Debate led by the Black journalist and activist Darcus Howe.

On 31st January at the Haringey Ethnic Minorities Joint Community Council  Pat Reynolds challenged the British Army over the case of two Scots Guards, convicted of murder of a member of a minority community who were allowed back into the British army, and also the case of the Royal Irish regiment displaying an orange banner at Drumcree.

The Army, who was there to present a recruitment presentation to minority communities in Haringey, was completely spoiled by the IBRG, who challenged  their failure to tackle anti Irish racism and other forms of racism in the British army.

The colonial system of approving the murder of natives was still operating practice in Ireland, in that the British army saw it as no crime to kill an Irish person, and talked about the two soldiers having exemplary records, clearly the murder of an Irish person does not count.  How can any murderer have an exemplary record?

 

Manchester IBRG announced plans to support the writing of a book on the Irish in Manchester.

Lewisham IBRG took up the issue of how Irish people, despite their health needs, get poorer treatment in Britain, and called on ethnic monitoring of the Irish along with better provision to meet the health needs of the Irish community. The Irish had made an enormous contribution to the building of the NHS on Britain by building the hospitals and staffing them with nurses, yet their needs were ignored.

Neglect of Irish in NHS

On 22nd January the Irish Post gave Diarmuid Breatnach letter their top place under Neglect of the Irish with a photo of Irish nurses, while the Irish World on 28th January had Dying for a Health Service.

In his excellent letter Diarmuid drew attention to the fact that Irish needs were being neglected by the NHS after a presentation to the IBPG on the health needs of the Irish. He noted that very few NHS Trusts recognised or monitored the Irish either in terms of staffing or of service delivery, and Diarmuid called on all Irish community organisations and individuals to start lobbying their local NHS trust to have the Irish recognised.

 

The IBRG condemned Home Secretary Jack Straw for turning down an inquiry into the killing of Richard O’Brien in Southwark in 1994 by the Met Police. The jury at the inquiry stated that Richard O’Brien had been unlawfully killed. Three police officers from Peckham police station were later acquitted of manslaughter of Richard O’Brien. The case highlighted how over centuries Irish men were killed by police forces in Britain without any means of redress.

Here with the support of IBRG and the Traveller community, the family were able to stand up and challenge the police and say, you will not get away with this, we will hold you accountable. It was a landmark case where the Met Police later paid out a substantial amount in damages to the wife Alison and the children of Richard O’Brien.

On 18th February the Irish World had an article entitled Fresh calls for PCA reform which featured Kevin McNamara who had called for major reforms to the Police Complaints system after a European report condemned the current procedures.

The report by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment reported on the police killing of Richard O’Brien. Only 0.4% of complaints against the police resulted in any action being taken against the police, it was very much a case of the police investigating themselves.

 

North London IBRG deplored the coverage of the closure of the Gresham Ballroom of Romance in Holloway Road by the Islington Gazette with comments like ‘we had to put up with drunks leaving at all hours;’ and ‘it was a haven for drunks. We need something to replace it’ The story was totally one sided, and contained the usual stereotypes with no comment from the very community, who used the venue, with major Irish showbands, great dancing, and the hall often hosted local events including the Labour Party, which Prime Minister Harold Wilson attended back in 1971.

Pat Reynolds who worked there after he came over to London remarked that as far as he knew Harold Wilson left the Gresham a sober man, despite receiving much Irish hospitality. The ballroom also made sizable donations several Irish and local charities and provided local employment.

The story by the Islington Gazette was typical of many such articles over generations against Irish people and their culture. The Gresham was on the Holloway road a busy road day and night with big lorries and noise. The dance hall was where most Irish nurses in London from the Whittington and Royal Northern Hospitals both local, the North Middlesex and Whips Cross hospital went to socialise in the evenings, and the vast majority of people went to hear country music and the showbands. It was the one-sided story that was so shocking as it was purely racist and lacked any kind of balance.

On 4th February the Irish World had Last dance for Ballroom which covered the IBRG response to the story. On 5th February the Irish Post had Gresham to be demolished with photo of Ballroom an inside picture and a photo of Pat Reynolds and covered the IBRG response to the story.

The IBRG highlighted the case of an Irish prison officer at Wandsworth prison who had won £22,000 because of the racial abuse from colleagues and superiors such as ‘thick Paddy’ and ‘bog trotter’. The IBRG asked if this is happening to Irish officers what is happening to Irish prisoners. Often the political prisoner gave support to other Irish prisoners in the system in offering them protection.

 

The IBRG welcomed new proposals to strengthen the Race Relations Act in the light of the Macpherson report into the Stephen Lawrence murder. The new Bill would outlaw indirect discrimination by all public bodies including eth police and introduce a statutory duty to promote racial equality. The IBRG called on the Home Office to include the Irish in their ethnic monitoring programmes including Home Office staff, prisons, police and judicial systems.

On 28th January the IBRG put out a statement IBRG Welcomes Proposed extension of Race Relations Act. While the Irish were included in the provisions of the 1976 Race Relations Act, the earlier 1974 PTA racist laws prevented the Irish from making use of the law, to redress their grievances at work or in terms of service delivery.

The hostile environment for the Irish in Britain was part and parcel of Britain’s’ war effort against the Irish people which was both military, psychological and cultural to suppress the Irish demand for self-determination at all levels.

It would be 20 years later before the Irish after a long battle with the CRE were able to prove their case with the Report on Discrimination and the Irish community in Britain, and the IBRG campaign for ethnic recognition. In doing so the Irish were taking their place among other ex-colonial communities in Britain, and worked in solidarity with them to combat all forms of racism discrimination and disadvantage in Britain.

The IBRG welcomed that the new Act would be extended to prisoners, policing and all areas of public service and that it would attempt to tackle institutional racism in Britain. The IBRG also called on the Home Office to include the Irish in ethnic monitoring of prisons the police service the judicial system, and the civil service.

The IBRG pointed out that it was strange in Britain that the community who had contributed the most to housing in Britain should be the worst housed, that those who contributed the most to the NHS in terms of building the hospitals, and staffing them should receive the worst heath, and that those who were the most likely to be victims of street crime should be themselves the most likely to be stopped and searched., The IBRG called for plans and strategies to tackle these issues.

On 4th February the Irish World had Straw toughens discrimination law and included the IBRG response to the proposals.  Outgoing Chair of the CRE Herman Ouseley also welcomed the proposals.

 

On 10th February London IBRG members met at the Irish Bookshop at Archway to plan their work for the year ahead.

 

“Lawful killing”  verdict  in Diarmuid O’Neill Inquest

On 18th February the verdict ‘lawful killing’ was given at the Diarmuid O’Neill inquest which was held in Kingston, a Tory area rather than Hammersmith, where he lived. In Britain it was common to move Irish political cases to garrison towns or Tory towns, so they got the verdict they wanted as they did not trust the working communities in some areas to support state policies towards the Irish.

The IBRG described the verdict as a mockery of justice, and condemned the coroner’s remarks to the jury when he stated that an unlawful killing verdict would make Diarmuid O ‘Neill a martyr, and justify the campaign he was involved in. There remarks were politically motivated to steer the jury away from a fair verdict. Of course, O’Neill, had been vilified in the British press. The facts of the   case were that he was unlawfully killed contrary to the Geneva Convention as he had surrendered to the police at the time, he was killed.

On 18th February the IBRG put out a statement Inquest Verdict a Mockery of Justice which stated ‘the IBRG views the verdict of the inquest into the killing of Diarmuid O’Neill as a mockery of justice, and condemns the remarks of the coroner as biased and one sided. Where was his concern for justice when the character of Diarmuid O’Neill was destroyed in the court hearing, long preceding the inquest? It would be impossible in Britain for Diarmuid O’Neill’s case to be given a fair hearing. The demands for a public inquiry grow with this controversial verdict. Diarmuid O’Neill was killed contrary to the Geneva Convention and Britain should be answerable in an international court for the conduct of its agents. Diarmuid O’Neill had surrendered and no prisoner should be shot after surrendering. There was clear evidence in advance that there were no weapons on the premises and no danger to the police. The reality is that if the police knew there were guns there, they would not have come within three hundred yards of the house like at Balcombe St.

On 26th February the Irish Post had Appeal over Jury Verdict and covered the IBRG response to the verdict. The Federation also found it impossible to accept the jury verdict in the case.  The IBRG stated ‘No person can be lawfully killed on the basis of what they are suspected to have done, or may do in the future. The case is another example of how difficult it is for Irish people to get justice within the British judicial system’. The Irish World on 25th February had Supporters anger over coroner’s martyr remarks and covered the IBRG response to the verdict.  The O’Neill family stated that the inquest had shown that the police were totally out of control during the raid.

 

On 19th February the IBRG Ard Choiste met in Manchester. Bernadette Hyland and Joe Mullarkey were the only two present so they had a discussion around the different items plus discussed issues pertaining to the North West.

 

North London IBRG announced that some 200 Local Authorities in Britain now recognised the Irish and include them in their monitoring of Town Hall staff and of service delivery.

 

Irish Community and Labour Party 1968-2000

On 11th March IBRG Chair Pat Reynolds spoke at the Labour Party 100 Centenary Conference at Manchester University on the Labour Party and the Irish community since 1970. Bernadette Hyland IBRG PRO of Manchester IBRG chaired the seminar. The title of his talk was The Irish Community and the Labour Party 1968-2000.

Pat pointed out that the Labour government of the 1960’s did nothing to change anything in N. Ireland and it was Labour who sent in British colonial troops into N. Ireland. The Tories were responsible for Internment without trial and for Bloody Sunday the Irish Sharpeville. The Labour Tory bipartisan policy had been the mainstay of British politics in N. Ireland from 1968 to 2000.

In 1974 the Labour Party brought in the racist PTA laws to stifle any Irish politics in Britain and to close down the debate on N. Ireland. They were in power and backed the framing of the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven, The Gillespie Sisters, Judith Ward, and Frank Johnson.

Kevin McNamara, Labour M.P., even praised the Birmingham police for their arrest and interrogation of the Birmingham Six, saying that these police officers had used ordinary decent police tactics to arrest, interrogate and convict these innocent men. It was shameful that McNamara many years later in the 1980’s should still justify the brutal police tactics used to convict the Birmingham Six.

McNamara stated in 1983 in the Commons ‘ordinary decent coppers using ordinary decent police methods apprehended those responsible for the Birmingham outrage’. The Labour Government of 1974-1979 failed to stand up to the Orangemen and backed down every time. In 1971 Harold Wilson called for the establishment of a constitutional commission made up of representative of the government of Britain, the North and South of Ireland. The terms of reference of this commission would be involved in agreeing on the constitution for a United Ireland. Shirley Williams was right when she stated’ In Northern Ireland we have inherited a historical tragedy. We are paying for three centuries of past imperialism’.

But Labour was the party fit for imperialism. The Ulsterisation policy of Roy Mason left a bitter legacy for a generation. Kinnock in his imperialistic heart policy on Ireland was summed up in his statement ‘Nobody in or associated with Sinn Fein is welcome within a million miles of the Labour Party’.

The Labour Party has been the faithful servant of British colonial policy in Ireland throughout its history, and put the Nationalist community in N. Ireland through the most repressive policies in European since the 1930’s and openly oppressed the Irish community in Britain to suit their colonial purposes abroad. There have always been some friends of Ireland in the Labour Party, Benn, Corbyn, Livingstone and others. Tony Benn stated in 1980 ‘The partition of Ireland was a crime. The sooner we withdraw the better’.

Karl Marx writing about English workers in 1869 stated  one hundred years before Britain, again put its imperialistic forces backing a supremacist statement in1969 into N. Ireland, ‘I have become more and more convinced, and the only question is to drive this conviction home to the English working class, that it can never do anything decisive  here in England until it separates its policy with regard to Ireland, most definitely from the policies of the ruling class, until it makes not only common cause with the Irish, but actually take the initiative in dissolving the Union, if not the English people will remain tied to the leading strings of the ruling class, because it will have to join with them in a common front against Ireland’. Is it not time for Labour to create that common front with the Irish people in Ireland and in Britain to serve the interests of the working classes of both our peoples?  On 11th February the Irish World had Seminar of Irish link with Labour, a preview of Manchester conference.

History of Irish in Holloway over 30 years

On St Patrick Day the Highbury and Islington Express newspaper carried a major front page and second page article in their leisure section, on the Irish headed, Where have all the Irish gone with a major photo of Pat Reynolds in the Irish bookshop at Archway and the Pogues in a truck on the Holloway Road. And subtitled The Gresham was the place to be. Queues would go right up to Archway Tube. It was a brilliant article and in depth of what had happened to the Irish community in Holloway over the previous 30 years.

With an interview with Tommy McManamon from the Pogues and Pat Reynolds who had arrived in Holloway in 1970. It had a photo of the Gresham and Tommy on his Banjo on page two. Shane McGowan still socialised on the Holloway Road but the community had changed, and many Irish had gone home in the 1990s.

Pat Reynolds ended by stating Islington is much more multi-cultural community now than when I came. There a more vibrant Black Asian and eastern European community now along with the Irish. And I think we richer for that experience, You know’.

The posters in bookshop in the photo showed James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Samuel Becket Sean O’Casey   and Brendan Behan. The article spoke proudly of the Irish nurses who staffed the two local hospitals the Whittington and the Royal Northern since the war, and the various Irish pubs along the Holloway road including the famous Favourite famed for its traditional music and Sunday afternoon dancing in the streets.

The article was a celebration of a generation of Irish people who had passed through Holloway and made an enormous contribution to its cultural life along with its health and welfare. The article put to shame the racism of the Islington Gazette who were pandering to anti Irish racism earlier in the year on the closure of the Gresham.

On 21st March the IBRG attended the Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group  at the House of Commons to hear Norah Casey, Editor of the Irish Post, speak on Irish representation in the media. The IBRG had a long history of challenging anti Irish racism in the media over the past 20 years.

 

 

Irish community support Ken Livingstone and his  Campaign for Mayor of London

Ken Livingstone speaking at 1981 Hunger Strike demonstration.

On 31st March IBRG members in London attended a benefit for Ken Livingstone at the Camden Irish Centre. The IBRG were the only Irish organisation to publicly support Ken Livingstone who stood as an Independent against Labour’s Frank Dobson. Dobson had made enemies of the Irish community when he blocked the right of Sinn Fein to open offices in Camden.  A cross community group called Chairde Ken which included the IBRG did campaign for Livingstone on the street.

An Irish Post Poll showed 95% of Irish people voting for Livingstone, the highest figure ever achieved by any British politician. The Labour Party asked to comment showed their ignorance by asking whether all Irish Post readers were Sinn Fein Supporters.

On 31st March the Irish Post had Livingstone defends stance on Ireland in mayoral bid, and he stated that the Hunger strikers of 1981 were Freedom Fighters ‘Ten of them starved themselves to death. That’s not what a criminal does. That’s not what some godfathers of crime does. It is someone who believes they are fighting for the freedom of their country and you have got to deal with them on that basis’. Here was a lesson for British politicians Livingstone with positive views on Ireland was getting 95% of the Irish vote. The Labour Party needs to wake up if it wants the Irish vote and support Irish rights.

The Irish World on 14th April had Mayoral candidates make Irish pitch. It quoted Pat Reynolds, on how the candidates would address the perception that the Irish were a second-class ethnic community. Dobson talked about the importance of the 2001 Census which included the Irish for the first time, while Livingstone called for the performance of localAauthorities to be monitored in term of the Irish to ensure fair employment and a fair delivery of service. The Irish Post on 15th April had Confident Confused and Bemused in their report of the evening with Livingstone being confident, Dobson being confused, and Norris the Tory bemused.

The IBRG condemned the Scottish Parliament for leaving the Irish out of the national census in Scotland on the draft questions and started an immediate lobby of all MSPs to win the issue. The IBRG had already won 22 of the 32 Scottish local authorities to recognise the Irish in terms of ethnic monitoring and could argue that the Scottish Parliament should recognise the will of the democratically elected majority of its people and recognise the Irish. On 17th March the Irish World has Anger over census which covered the IBRG position.

North London IBRG ,who had mailed out some 200 local authorities in a follow up exercise last month, announced that some 283 local authorities in Britain now recognise the Irish an increase of 40 more than last month alone.

Winning some 40 victories for the Irish community in terms of monitoring of employment and service delivery was some achievement. Recently Oldham, Wolverhampton, Liverpool, Bournemouth, Lancashire County Council, Surry County Council, Essex and Oxfordshire now recognise the Irish as do Swansea, Newport, and Preston.

In another important move the IBRG had clarified with the British Government that it was now using  the CRE ethnic categories which include the Irish in their new Best Values within Local Government performance indicators which all local authorities in Britain had to adopt from 1st April 2000. No 17 of the BVP is the requirement of every Local Authority in Britain, to record minority ethnic community staff as a percentage of the total workforce which should reflect the makeup of their local communities.

 

On 8th April the IBRG held their Ard Fheis at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in Islington North London. Motions were passed supporting Ken Livingstone with a £100 donation to his campaign, ethnic monitoring of the Irish, the inclusion of the Irish in the Scottish Census, the inclusion of the Irish in the 2001 Census, and establishing an IBRG website.

The motion on Livingstone read ‘The IBRG recognises Ken Livingstone to be the outstanding candidate for election to London Mayor.  In his time at the Greater London Council and since he has opposed anti Irish racism, opposed the racist PTA laws, has been instrumental in providing welfare and cultural support to the Irish community, supported the demand for British withdrawal from Ireland and given a platform for Irish republicanism to state its case in Britain. Ken Livingstone has done more for the Irish community than any British of Irish politician in living memory, and had provided more funding in five years for the Irish community than the Irish government has done over the previous    60 years. The IBRG urges London Irish community to a person to vote for Ken Livingstone to be the first elected Major of London.

The following officers were elected;

Chair Pat Reynolds North London

Vice chair Diarmuid Breatnach Lewisham

Membership Bernadette Hyland Manchester

Cisteoir Maurice Moore Coventry

Prisoners officer Tim Logan Coventry.

Death of Bernie Grant: friend to the Irish Community

Bernie Grant meet Sinn Fein Delegation October 1986

The death of Bernie Grant MP for Tottenham elected in 1987 with huge Irish support occurred in April. The IBRG paid their respect at his laying instate at Tottenham Library and at his funeral at the People Palace at the Alexander Palace once an ancient Celtic place of worship. Bernie Grant had given the Irish their community centre in Haringey and had welcomed Sin Fein councillors to the borough and to the Civic centre in Haringey.

Pat Reynolds wrote his Obituary for An Phoblacht and Pat’s name was placed on the Bernie Grant centre website with his tribute to Bernie’s life. In the 1970s Pat Reynolds had worked with Bernie Grant on community and trade union rights and the IBRG in 1989 had held a joint Black Irish march for Civil Rights and Justice in Haringey. Bernie had also spoke at a huge public meeting in 1988 on the anniversary of the Irish Civil Rights movement. In 1987 several hundred Irish turned up for an Irish election rally for Bernie Grant where the vast majority of Irish people voted for Bernie because of his track record of support for the Black and Irish communities in Britain.

Pat Reynolds detailed Bernie’s support for a United Ireland and his support for the Irish community, how he as Leader of Haringey Council gave the Irish community their own centre an old secondary school. Bernie had spoken with Michael D Higgins later President of Ireland at an Irish Caribbean evening in Haringey talking about the Irish in Monserrat.

In October 1988 on the 20th anniversary of the Irish civil Rights movement Bernie spoke with Michael Farrell and Bernadette McAliskey to over 500 people. At that meeting Bernie talking about growing up in Latin America under British rule in British Guinea, and talking about experiences of colonialization of Irish people and the colonisation and slavery for Black people, and talking of innocent prisoners from both communities like Broadwater Farm, Birmingham Six and Guildford Four, strip searching and employment discrimination in N. Ireland and in Britain.

His early death at the age of 56 was such a great loss to both the Black and Irish communities where he was seen as the people’s MP with his funeral the largest ever seen in the area.  The scene outside Haringey Civil centre where they stopped for the last time, and where a Black woman came out from the crowd to sing Amazing Grace before they moved on to the People Palace at Alexander Place for his funeral service was moving, on how this warrior had touched the hearts of everybody in the community.

On 13th April IBRG attended a farewell ceremony for Herman Ousley of the CRE organised by AGIY. The IBRG had worked with the CRE for several years along with other Irish groups to get them to recognise the Irish and to carry out their research into discrimination and the Irish community in Britain .

The IBRG first met the CRE back in 1983 with Seamus Carey, Pat Reynolds and Michael Maguire meeting them on Irish issues. The IBRG had led the Irish community campaign on equality and ethnic recognition.

On 13th April the IBRG put out a statement in London entitled Call for Irish Community to support Livingstone for Major. With it the IBRG sent out the Irish population’s statistics for each of the London constituencies. With Brent & Harrow having nearly 32,000 born Irish person and along with the second generation making up some 80,000 of Brent residents some 18% of eth population. Overall, the Irish make up over 10% of London residents.

The IBRG stated that Ken Livingstone recognised the Irish some twelve years before the CRE did, and neatly 20 years before the British government did. Livingston had opposed the PTA and supported the fight to free the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four and eth Maguire seven, he opposed British colonial involvement in Ireland and supported the right of the Irish people to decide their own future, free from British colonial interference.  He supported the rights of all minority communities in London, Blacks, Asians, Irish, Travellers, Gay and Lesbian, and People with Disabilities Dobson had no record on the Irish or Ireland and opposed Sinn Fein having an office in Camden.

On 17th April London IBRG members held their meeting at the Irish Bookshop which was well attended. Issues discussed included having a public meeting in London on the Peace Process, progressing the IBRG website, and the Irish language.

The IBRG condemned the shooting of a Longford man called carry at Abbeylara in hide home by the Gardai. The shooting was totally unnecessary and his death was avoidable.

On 28th April the Irish Post front page story was Army Row Flares up Killers should be sacked say campaigners with a photo of a picket by the Justice for Peter McBride Campaign in London, which showed Laoise de Paor of IBRG with Pegeen O Sullivan of the Connolly Association.

The photo like many of pickets in London highlighted the huge role played by Irish women including retired women in highlighting issues affecting human rights in N. Ireland and issues affecting the Irish community in Britain. The IBRG had condemned the British government for restoring the two killers to their former position in the army thus restating the old colonial practice that it was no crime to kill an Irish person.

On 4th May Ken Livingstone was selected Mayor of London. The IBRG had declared for Livingstone back in December 1999 and had campaigned for his victory. On 6th May the IBRG put out a statement Irish Celebrate Livingstone’s Victory. The IBRG called for the setting up of a London Irish Forum made up of all the Irish community groups in London in order to put together a united agenda and approach to achieve our aims in London.

The Irish World on 12th May had London Irish urged to unite for Mayor in which the IBRG demand for an Irish Forum, was supported by Fr Kivlehan Federation PRO and Director of the Camden Irish Centre, and he stated ‘Such a body would be preferable to isolated groups working on single issues. As a community we need to work in a more strategic way’.

Lewisham IBRG held their annual 1916 event at the Lewisham Irish centre on 5th May. The same evening the London Evening Standard attacked the events as a 32 County Solidarity Movement  event as London fundraiser for Omagh bombers. Despite this witch-hunt the event was a huge success. Some weeks later the Lewisham Irish centre was attacked with a fire device at its front door.

The IBRG condemned the right-wing media attack on a 1916 event, as the Irish had every right to celebrate their patriots and the founding of the Irish nation. The London Evening Standard with a long history of anti-Irish racism came out with the headline London fundraiser for the Omagh Bombers alleging that the event was organised by supporters of the real IRA. The IBRG were seeking legal advice on the article as the event was organised by Lewisham IBRG.

Looking back Diarmuid Breatnach of Lewisham IBRG remembers;

As we in the SE London, Lewisham branch of the Irish in Britain Representation Group began to plan our Easter Rising commemoration locally in 2000, we could not have imagined the drama it would bring.  It resulted in calls for the event’s cancellation, for the Lewisham Irish Centre to revoke our hire of the hall and even for the withdrawal of Centre’s meagre funding from the local authority.  And shortly afterwards an attempt was made to burn down the Centre.

Even in the general atmosphere of anti-Irish racism in Britain and context of the 30 Years’ War in Ireland, we could not have expected these developments.  The Lewisham Branch of the IBRG, founded towards the end of 1986 had been hosting this annual event locally long before the Irish Centre had opened in 1992 and in fact the branch was instrumental in getting the disused building, which had belonged to the Cooperative Society, handed over to the Irish community and refurbished by the local authority.  Furthermore, the 1916 Rising had been commemorated at the Lewisham Irish Centre by the local IBRG branch for a number of years running without any fuss.

As usual, whenever the event was to take place we naturally hoped others would promote it.  In the days before Facebook and Twitter etc, email would would reach some contacts, a poster in the centre would be seen by users, some illegal street postering might be done and the Irish Post or Irish World might publicise the event.  The rest would be by word of mouth.

It happened that in the week preceding the 1998 event, an activist of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement in London was in touch  with the branch and he posted the event on the 32CSM site, intending it as a supportive advertisement.  However, someone who hated that organisation took it to be an event of the 32 CSM themselves. 

Victor Barker’s son James had been killed in the Omagh car bombing of 15th August 1998, carried out by the “Real IRA”, a group opposed to the Provisional IRA’s signup to the Good Friday Agreement and to the British colonial occupation of Ireland.  Although the organisation responsible has always stated that it intended to kill no civilians, with 29 fatalities the bombing took the highest death toll of a single incident (but not of a single day, which was the British intelligence bombing of Dublin and Monaghan in May 1974) during the 30 Years War.

 Understandably Victor Barker had pursued a vendetta against the Real IRA since and, less understandably perhaps, against anything connected with it, including the 32CSM and even, in this case, the right of an unrelated Irish community organisation to commemorate its national history.

Barker contacted the Lewisham Irish Centre and expressed his outrage, demanding the event be cancelled.  A nonplussed Brendan O’Rourke, Manager of the Centre, explained that the event was an annual one and booked by a local comunity organisation and affiliate of the Centre.  Not in the least mollified, Barker then got to the local authority, an official of which rang Brendan, he repeated the explanation and the official seemed satisfied. 

But Brendan was getting a bit worried and phoned me at work – I had been Chair of the Management Committee since the Centre opened and was at the same time Secretary of the local IBRG branch.  We discussed the matter and agreed to cary on but his next phone call was to alert me that the matter was now national or at least London-wide news, with a report in an early edition of the Evening Standard headlining that we were running a “London fundraiser for the Omagh bombers”.  Furthermore, the cowardly local authority official was now saying – and quoted — that while they had no power to cancel the booking, they would be looking at the Irish Centre’s funding.

I hurried home to Lewisham as fast as I could – the SE London borough is about 90 minutes’ journey by underground line and overground train from King’s Cross, where I worked.  With no time for a meal, I got some things ready and got down to the Centre, about 15 minutes’ walk from my flat.

By virtue of being Chairperson of the Irish Centre’s management committee, I had a key, opened the door, turned off the burglar alarm and locked the door again, then began to get things ready.  The part-time Caretaker would lay out tables and chairs for events but I generally liked to change it to a less formal arrangement for our events and so I set to that.  There was also “decoration” to be done: some posters and portraits of 1916 martyrs to put up in places, flags to hang etc.

In the lobby I placed a chair by a table there and also some hidden short stout lengths of wood.  This was a provision inherited from earlier days when Irish or British left-wing meetings might be attacked by fascists of the National Front or the British Movement but we hadn’t felt the need at the Irish Centre for some years now.  However, with the current hysteria being whipped up by Barker and the Evening Standard and assisted by the wriggling of the Council officer, fascists might well decide the conditions favoured an attack.

Early arrivals started to knock at the door and I was in a quandary – until I had some reliable able-bodied people to staff the door, I didn’t want to start letting people in.  On the other hand if we were going to be attacked, I couldn’t leave them outside either.  So it was open, let them in, lock the door again, open, let some more in …. until the arrival of some I could ask to mind the door (after I’d told them about the “extras” in case they were needed).

Then there were sound amplification checks and gradually the hall was filling up.  I was to be MC and so on duty inside the hall but kept checking the lobby to see everything was ok.  And of course people wanted to chat about the news so would stop me and ask me about it

For the evening’s program, the MC was to welcome people, introduce the Irish ballad band and have them play for an hour.  Then intermission, MC on again with a few words on behalf of the local organisation, introduce the featured speaker, get the band on again for an hour or so to finish.  So, some time to kill, to worry before the hour for which the band was booked.

The time came but the band didn’t.  At half an hour late I started to worry and the supporter who had booked the band on behalf of the branch couldn’t get any reply from them by phone.  As MC I apologised to the attendance and asked for their patience.  Over an hour late, the band’s manager finally phoned to say they would not be coming.  Because of worry arising out of the media reporting.

A few of us in the organising group held a quick conference.  Nothing for it but to face the music – or rather its absence – and so I got on the stage and told the audience that the band had pulled out and everyone was entitled to a refund of their ticket price without any hard feelings whatsoever or …

Before I could lay out the alternative, a guy sitting near the stage jumped up and shouted “We will NOT accept our money back!” to the applause of some others.  A little taken aback, I thanked him for his spirit but said people should have the choice and laid out the alternative, which would be to hear the speaker and just socialise for the rest of the evening.  Nobody made a move to get up and approach the door so ….. I introduced the speaker, who that year might have been from the Irish Republican Socialist Party.  He did his bit, I did mine, much of that not surprisingly being devoted to censorship, intimidation and repression of the Irish community as well as the commemoration of our history.

Then a guy approached and said he’d play guitar and sing, so he went up on stage, I followed with a few songs acapella, someone else sang a few …. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the evening, there was no trouble at the door …. and because there was no band to pay, we made more money than we had ever done for function organised by the local IBRG branch!

But there were to be two dramatic sequels to this controversy.  And tensions between myself and the Centre Manager would follow.

 

THE “MAC CHICKEN BROTHERS”

 

The professional name of the Irish ballad band was The Mac Namara Brothers but Brian, a resilient Dublin comrade from a deprived background, that night baptised them the Mac Chicken Brothers (a play on the Mac Donald chain’s naming of items and a reference to the band members’ cowardice.

Our event had been on a Friday night and they were due to play Sunday afternoon at an Irish bar a five minutes’ drive from the Lewisham Irish Centre.  We didn’t see how we could let them do that without confronting them.  In discussion I suggested we present them with some white feathers and denounce them and Brian was all up for that; he was taking the kids to the seaside and would pick up some white feathers around the beach.  But, unbelievably, he could find none.  Nor could I in a local park.  In the end, I opened a pillow and took out handfuls but they were all small.

The next day, we declined to invite anyone who might get hurt without being accustomed to defending themselves or who might not be sufficiently disciplined in behaviour and of the remainder, only myself and Brian were available.  The pub, The Graduate, was under new management, one of three sisters from the Six Counties (perhaps Armagh), who lived in South-East London. I knew her from when she had been barmaid and perhaps manager at the Woodman, another Irish pub in the general area, where I attended Irish traditional music sessions (and sometimes a lock-in for an extra hour or so).

On Sunday we were a bit late in getting going but Brian drove us there and we entered the crowded area that would have been the public bar before the lounge and that area were combined.  I bought us a round and we tried to act as relaxed and natural as possible, nodded to people we knew … It was certain that many of those present already knew what had happened but no-one came to ask us about it.

The “Mac Chicken Brothers” were playing and I was unsure whether we had perhaps missed their break.  I got another round in but that was going to be my limit.  To our relief, the band took a break but now my tension racked higher as I positioned myself nonchalantly near the stage and waited for the band to get ready for the second half of their act.

Finally, I saw them coming and with a small plastic bag in my hand I jumped up on to the low stage, Brian ready to handle any trouble from the floor.

“Ladies and gentlemen!” I called out loudly and got instant attention.  “A few nights ago the British press ran a scare story about a 1916 Rising commemoration in Lewisham,” I continued.  “This band here was booked to attend but didn’t turn up, leaving a couple of hundred people waiting.  This is what we think of you,” I said, turning to the band members and threw a handful of the feathers from the bag in their direction.

“Hear, hear!” shouted someone in the crowd and I got down from the stage, glanced at Brian and made for the door, with him following closely behind.  Incredibly I heard one of the band members say to me: “You might have told us you were going to do that!”

As we walked away outside, my heart thumping, the manager came rushing out.

“You had no right to do that,” she said, her eyes flashing fire.  “Not in my pub!”

“Sorry, Bridget,” (not her real name), I replied, “It had to be done!”

“Not in my pub!”

“But that’s where the band was!  It just had to be done.”

Now a customer came haring out looking for us and, from the look on his face, it wasn’t to offer congratulations.  I felt Brian beside me change his stance to take him on but the manager took the guy by the arm and talked him back inside and we got in Brian’s van and car and drove off.  “Bridget” wouldn’t talk to me for some years afterwards, though one of her sisters would.

The following day, I wrote a letter about the matter to the Irish Post, attacking the Labour Council for its cowardice, the band for failing to comply with their booking and the Evening Standard for its felon-setting.  Since I was Chairperson of the Management Committee of the Centre, which was already under some pressure, I wrote it under a pseudonym.  The letter was published.

I felt that not only our branch of the IBRG but the Irish community had been attacked and we had responded appropriately and publicly, both locally and in the wider context.  We would now face the next move, if one was to come, from the Council, as an Irish community with pride.

But at the next monthly meeting Management Committee, I was surprised to find that the Brendan, the Centre Manager, believed that either Lewisham IBRG had organised the event jointly with 32CSM or that I had placed the advertisement.  But worse, I was genuinely shocked to see that he believed my use of a pseudonym for the Irish Post letter was an attempt to distance the IBRG and myself from the controversy and leave him to face it alone.  Brendan and I disagreed politically (he was a Sinn Féin supporter and I was by this time hostile to the party’s new trajectory with respect to the conflict in Ireland) but I supported him as Manager of the Centre while as Irishmen we stood together against oppression.  But no matter what I said now, I seemed unable to convince him that the use of a pseudonym, far from being a device to have a say and protect myself at the same time, was to protect the Centre and himself as its Manager.

We got through the meeting and the Council officials seemed happy to let the matter rest, since the Standard lost interest and moved on to the next sensation. 

But a more direct attack than that of Barker and the media was being planned somewhere.

 

ARSON ATTACK ON THE CENTRE

 

In the early hours of one morning a couple of weeks later, I received a phone call from the Fire Brigade, attending at the Lewisham Irish Centre.  I was one of the emergency nominees.  When I got down there, Pat Baczor, another member of the Management Committee and also an emergency nominee, was there already.  So were the Fire Brigade and the police.

There had been an arson attempt and a hole was burned in the wood of the front door.  We opened up and let the Fire Brigade in, who came out a few minutes later, pronouncing the building safe.  A container with some inflammable liquid had been set by the door and had burned a hole about the size of my fist but the floor inside was tile and had not caught.

In response to the police, I said while we had received no threats, there had been some controversy in the media about a history commemoration and though I would suspect local fascists, I had no specific individuals in mind.

If we hadn’t wire screens on all the external windows, it would have been easy to smash a glass pane and to throw in the container with a lit fuse.  The flooring of the whole hall was wooden and the result would have been quite different.  I was very glad that during discussion on the refurbishment of the Coop Hall for use as an Irish Centre more than many years earlier, as Chair of the Steering Group,  I had made a point of insisting on the wire screens.  An Irish Centre in Britain could expect to be the target of an attack some day.

AFTER ALL THAT

But we weathered that storm and the following year’s 1916 Rising commemoration took place without incident. 

The next crisis for the Irish Centre came some two years later when the Council’s Labour Party Leadership, which had been “Blairite before Blair” as one local Leftie commented years later, listed the Centre for cuts to our total staffing: one (underpaid) Manager and one part-time caretaker-handyman.  There were heavy cuts planned to the whole Council-funded service sector across the Borough of Lewisham so, although in our case the cuts would have meant wiping out our entire staffing, it was difficult to say whether the controversy some years earlier had played a role or not. 

But that was another day’s battle.

 

 

 

 

 

On 11th May Angie Birthill had her farewell party on leaving the London Irish Women’s centre.

 

Scottish Parliament include Irish in Census

The IBRG welcomed the decision of the Scottish Parliament to include the Irish within the ethnic categories in the Scottish census. This would not have happened without the IBRG lobbying of over 80 Labour Liberals and SNP members of the Scottish parliament along with the IBRG lobby of 32 local authorities in Scotland which saw 22 of them recognised the Irish. The Irish World had on 12th May Ethnic win in Scotland, which stated that IBRG had welcomed the decision to include the Irish in the Scottish census, and that the IBRG strategy of getting the majority of local authorities on board had been successful in winning the debate.

On 23rd May IBRG members attended the IBPG at the House of Commons where Seamus McGarry spoke on the Irish community. Despite inviting IBRG to speak earlier the IBRG were censored again by the IBPG, but the IBRG still presented our written detailed report on the Irish community to all those present. A proposal from the IBRG was accepted that delegation from the IBPG should meet with Minister Hilary Armstrong to persuade her to include the Irish as a separate category in the Best Value Local Government targets, which had at present only had Black/ White categories.

The IBRG, denied speaking rights, laid around a four-page report on issues affecting the Irish community and the IBRG demands in these areas such as, ethnic monitoring, education, Welfare, Criminal Justice system, Irish self-determination, Ireland and voting rights, health, anti-Irish racism and discrimination.

On 4th June IBRG members attended the Bronterre O’Brien commemoration at Abney cemetery in Stoke Newington East London.

The IBRG had as usual a stall at the Fleadh at Finsbury Park North London on 10th June and displayed the Frank Johnson banner there all day.

On 15th June IBRG members attended a packed public meeting the Roger Casements Irish Centre in Islington, held in protest at the decision of the Liberal held Islington Council to withdraw the £80,000 annual grant from the centre, which would mean its closure in October 2000. Jermyn Corbyn, Local MP, Gareth Pierce and Seamus McGarry spoke at by the meeting. The IBRG had set up the Irish in Islington Project and later went on to set up the Roger Casement Irish Centre.

The IBRG Ard Choiste met on 17th June in Coventry. Present were Diarmuid Breatnach, Maurice Moore, and Pat Reynolds with apologies from Bernadette Hyland and Tim Logan.

Maurice Moore reported that Liz Davis, Islington Labour Party and Labour NEC member was supporting the Leo O’Reilly campaign. She also supported the Frank Johnson campaign in London. The O’Neill family were to appeal the verdict in the Diarmuid O’Neill inquest, due to extreme bias shown by the coroner before the jury reached their decision.

Frank Johnson was waiting for a date for his appeal in the autumn as is the relatives in the Hanratty case, Susan May had a big event at the House of Commons recently. Martin O Halloran was waiting for CCRC to make a decision but is getting some home leave.

The meeting condemned the shooting by the Garda Special branch of a young man with mental health issues in Co Longford, when he could have been talked out.

The demand for a public inquiry in the case of Rosemary Nelson and Part Finucane continue to grow after a TV programme  by Peter Taylor. A new support group had been set up in Britain for Robert Hamill. The inquiry into Bloody Sunday is continuing. The meeting welcomes the decision in Scotland to include the Irish category in the census there.

On 22nd June IBRG members attended a picket of Islington Town Hall over the funding cuts to the Roger Casement. The picket was heavily policed for no reason as the huge crowd was angry but good humoured.

Th University of North London had been given a new Irish library collection with funding from Smurfitts of £75,000. The Hammersmith Irish centre got the old ILEA Irish library collection, while the Working-class Movement Library got the Desmond Greaves and Jackson collections.

On 7th July the Irish World reported on a report Study challenges emigrant views, on a new study Between Two Places a case study of Irish born people living in England, which found more discrimination now than back in the 1950s and 1960’s. This did not surprise the IBRG which had highlighted this as had the Discrimination and the Irish community report

On 14th July Sr. Joan Kane had her leaving party at the Haringey Irish Centre after years working with the Irish community

On 19th July Pat Reynolds National Chair IBRG was interviewed by BBC2 Newsnight team on the Peace Process.

On 20th July IBRG member again picketed Islington Town hall over the cuts to the Roger Casement Irish centre.  The IBRG had written a full report on the social position of the Irish community in Islington, and had lobbied all 52 councillors in Islington on the matter before the council meeting. The IBRG had written to Charles Kennedy the Liberal Leader on the Islington Irish centre with copies to Chris Smith, Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Simon Hughes.

On 3rd August IBRG members attended a meeting of the Greater London Authority chaired by John McDonnell MP.  Over 100 people attended. The clear view of the meeting was for a secular march on St Patrick’s day but the Council of Irish Councils wanted to keep their march on a Sunday. The IBRG wrote a letter to the Irish Post setting out our views on the march. The Irish Post refused to published the letter or invite IBRG to any further meetings., despite the fact that we had indicated our interest. The IBRG had called on GLA to help facilitate a London wide Irish Forum to represent the needs of the Irish community in London.

The Irish Bookshop at Archway north London closed for good at the end of August. Many IBRG members had been involved in Green Ink over the years and the London Irish Bookfair. The IBRG also used the address as HQ and held many meetings there. It was set up by Pat Reynolds who later ran it for the past three years without funding. It never got one penny of the Irish government yet sold over one million pounds of Irish books and music. It was funded at first by the GLC and later by London Arts Board. Because it sold books the subsidy was about 50% of the income of the shop because of high rates and high rents in London.

Irish Travellers recognised as ethnic group

At the end of August, the IBRG welcomed a Court decision recognising Irish Travellers as an ethnic group under the terms of the Race Relations Act in Britain. On 1st September the IBRG put out a statement IBRG Welcomes Court Decision on Travellers.  The IBRG congratulated the Travellers for their fight back against discrimination, but remain concerned about the lack of access to proper sites and facilities. The IBRG called on Labour to restore the duty on local authorities to provide sites which had been abolished by the Tories. The IBRG also called on the Press Complaints Commission to take up the issue of anti-Traveller hate in the British media, where reporting is one sided biased and intended to stir up anti Traveller feelings. The IBRG called for accurate and fair reporting on Travellers with Travellers being able to put their position to the public like any other community. In particular the IBRG called on local authorities to ensure Traveller shad access to education health employment and welfare.

On 9th September at Thousands are Sailing Conference at the Camden Irish Centre.

Pat Reynolds gave the opening speech on Irish emigration to Britain since 1945. Philip Donnellan’s film  The Irish Men was shown during the day along with a performance of Tim Grady’s I could read the Sky. Over 100 people attended the event.

 

On 16th September the IBRG Ard Choiste met in Manchester at the Friends Meeting House. Manchester, Bolton and North London attended with Coventry and Lewisham held up by the fuel crisis. Bernadette Hyland, Joe Mullarkey and Pat Reynolds attended with apologies from Maurice Moore and Diarmuid Breatnach.

The meeting heard that a Jim Allen event had been sold out in Manchester on 7th October.  Michael Herbert was working on a History of the Irish in Manchester. There was an Irish bookfair at the Hammersmith Irish centre on 23rd September. The British Independent were doing an article on Frank Johnson which would help his appeal.

The Ard Choiste welcomed the High Court decision to recognise Travellers as an ethnic group in their own right under the Race Relations Act. The IBRG were mentioned in Tim Pat Coogan book on the Irish abroad Wherever Green is Worn and, in another book, the Irish Diaspora by Longmans.

In October the IBRG welcomed the introduction of the Human Rights Act into law in Britain on 2nd October. Britain had such a bad record in Europe many of the cases involving Irish prisoners, that they decided to hear these cases in Britain, rather than let them go on to the European Court. The book the Future of Multi Ethnic Britain was published and was attacked by the right wing with Jack Straw joining in the attack. Home Office Minister Mike O’Brien welcomed the report which Seamus Taylor had been involved in.

On 3rd October the British Independent carried a major full-page article on Frank Johnson’s case.

On 7 October Bernadette Hyland of Manchester IBRG was involved in organising and speaking at a commemoration for Manchester socialist and writer Jim Allen.

Jim Allen commemoration day brochure.

Bernadette in her contribution to the commemoration said “Jim Allen described the life of the Irish community as that of a “clenched fist”. He came from a working class Irish background and he lived and worked with Irish people and respected their struggle for equality and justice. In “Hidden Agenda” he exposed the brutality of British rule in the N. of Ireland and said “Like the hot lava from an exploding volcano, Ireland has hurled her defiance at the ruling class of England”. Jim’s archive can be found at the WCML.

 

On 16th October IBRG members attended a meeting with the CRE on Housing as a member of the Irish Equalities group.

On 17th October the James Hanratty Appeal opened at the High Court but was adjourned to exhume the body over disputed DNA.

Inclusion of Irish Language in National Curriculum

North London IBRG had written to some 36 Catholic Secondary schools over the inclusion of the Irish language in the curriculum in the national curriculum Only four responded (11%) which is poor compared with a response rate of 90% with local authorities. It would appear that the inclusion of the Irish language in the national curriculum in Britain, had made no difference whatsoever to the teaching of Irish in secondary schools.

The Catholic Church in Britain was deeply hostile to the Irish, and to the inclusion of anything Irish in the curriculum. This was the English Catholic church who spent much of their time supressing Irishness within schools.  In their  book Sisters in Cells the Gillespie sisters refer to Catholic nuns, forbidding them, as native Irish speakers to speak Irish in the playground in Manchester thus carrying on the old colonial regime. In Southwark teachers from Catholic schools refused to attend the Irish Teacher group. Mary Hickman has written at length on the Catholic Church teaching and the Irish, and their role in denationalising the Irish in Britain.

 

Police shooting of Cork born teenager

The IBRG condemned the shooting dead by the Met police of a 19-year-old Co Cork born teenager in a siege in upper Holloway on 30th October. The IBRG had raised the issue with local MP Jeremy Corbyn, Steve Hitchens Leader of Islington council, Islington Police Consultative Group, Toby Harris Chair of MPA (Metropolitan police authority) Stevens Commissioner of the Met and the PCA (Police Complaints Authority). The case was now to be investigated by West Mercia police.

The Irish World covered the story on its front page but the Irish Post refused to carry it which was total censorship. Imagine a Black or Jewish paper refusing to cover the shooting dead in disputed circumstances one of their community. The Irish Post had moved away from the Irish community and was losing its readers in vast numbers.

Of the six fatal shootings in London in the past six years, four have been Irish connected, with two of the killings in north Islington where the Irish were heavily policed based on Jock Young’s study of stop and search in North Islington. Harry Stanley was shot dead because the police believed him to be Irish, while they shot young Diarmuid O’Neill, contrary to the Geneva Convention, like they did in Gibraltar.

 

On 18th November the IBRG held their Ard Choiste at the Lewisham Irish centre. Diarmuid Breatnach, Tomas MacStiofan and Pat Reynolds attended with apologies from Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Moore and Michael Holden.

The meeting discussed the recent police killing of Patrick O’Donnell in North Islington in Jermyn Corbyn’s constituency where the young Irish man had taken his girlfriend and mother hostage with a knife, and had mental health problems. The question arose as to whether lethal force was necessary in the situation The IBRG had raised it with the local MP Corbyn, Islington Council Police unit and the GLA police unit. Four of the last six killings by police in London had Irish connections John Francis O’Brien, Diarmuid O’Neill, Patrick O’Donnell, and Harry Stanley who the police thought was Irish when they killed him.

Bloody Sunday Inquiry ongoing. Don Mullan, who wrote book on Bloody Sunday, has a new book coming out on the Dublin Monaghan bombings which will be launched at the House of Commons with John McDonnell. The Irish Equalities Group had meeting with Irish Embassy which the Federation were annoyed about as they were seen as the Embassy crowd. The Embassy stated they could not get involved in campaigning on the issue of Irish self-identification. It was recently reported in the British that a Tory advisor stated to the Russians that the British needed a well-armed police force to control the Irish and the Blacks. The Irish and Blacks also made up a high proportion of deaths in police custody.

On 25th November IBRG members attended the 32 County Sovereignty Meeting at a pub near Euston to support their right to hold a public meeting. The event was picketed by some of the Omagh relatives and led to a right-wing hunt against the 32CSM.

The IBRG took up the case of a 32CSM member, Simon Pook,  who was suspended by Manchester City Council because of his membership of a legal organisation, and raised the matter with the Leader of Manchester City Council and Tony Lloyd MP for Central Manchester.

On 26th November IBRG members attended the Fergus O’Connor commemoration event at Kensal Green cemetery.

 

Irish and ethnic monitoring in schools, Labour Party and Police

On 29th November the IBRG wrote to David Blunkett, Minister for Education and Employment, asking him to include the Irish in ethnic monitoring for schools, colleges and for employment, arguing that he should follow the CRE guidelines of groups to be monitored. Blunkett wrote back himself saying he would need to get his department to reply.

On 11th December the Department replied to Pat Reynolds Chair of IBRG on behalf of Blunkett to say they were conducting a consultation on guidance for schools on ethnic monitoring which they hoped to send out in September 2001.

On 29th November Pat Reynolds wrote to Margaret McDonagh of the Labour Party calling on them to include the Irish within their ethnic monitoring of membership and of staffing, and pointing out that this was the recommendation of the CRE, and he also wrote to Commissioner Stevens of the Met police arguing the same that the Met should include the Irish in their diversity programme  and in their monitoring of staff and services. It was pointed out to them that redefinition of Irishness accepted by the Irish community was once first drafted by the Special Branch at the time of the Fenians. Anyone born in Ireland or those whose recent forebears came from Ireland. Certainly, the police were not shy in Britain in monitoring the Irish in terms of their political work on Ireland or their trade union work.

IBRG welcomes Irish inclusion in UCAS

In November IBRG welcomes the move by UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admission System) to recognise the Irish and include them within their ethnic categories after IBRG campaigning. On 30th November the IBRG put out a statement IBRG Welcomes Irish Inclusion in UCAS Ethnic Monitoring UCAS had agreed to have the Irish as a separate ethnic group within their 2001 entry forms, which would bring in line with the 2001 census and the CRE recommendations.

It was a major breakthrough for the Irish community in terms of ethnic recognition in Britain, as a National body was now recognising the Irish rather than a local authority. For the first time the Irish community would know how many Irish students applied for University in Britain, and how many were successful. In terms of education the Irish community remembered the Sun headline ‘We’re thicker than the Irish’ when studies showed Irish children in Britain performing better than English children in schools.

The IBRG called on David Blunkett and the Education and Employment Department to end their stubborn resistance to Irish recognition. The IBRG also called on the English Catholic Church to come off the fence on the issue, and support the recognition of the Irish the right of Irish children in Britain, to access their heritage and culture within the catholic schools. It was the great silence from the English Catholic Church which Mary Hickman had identified as having over generations suppressed Irish nationalism and culture in their schools and churches. The Irish World on 9th December had College applicants get ethnic status which covered the IBRG statement.

On 1st December IBRG members picketed the Ministry of Défense and Buckingham Palace of the decision by the second British Army Board to retain the two Scots Guards guilty of the murder of Peter McBride, an Irish teenager in Belfast.

The IBRG had written to Tony Blair on the issue, along with Northern Ireland  Secretary Peter Mandelson and Geoff Hoon the Defence Minister.  The British Army were relying on the old racial colonial practise, that it was no crime to murder an Irish person.

The IBRG drew attention to the comments of the current British Ambassador to Mexico who stated back in the early 1970’s that diseases should be introduced into Derry, and that the people should be allowed to rot from within. Despite the Labour Party and its new ethical Foreign policy Robin Cook did nothing on the matter. When it comes to Irish lives, there is silence. This Nazi style proposal from a British diplomat had come out in the Bloody Sunday Inquiry.

DFEE considers Irish category for schools

The IBRG welcomed the response from the DfEE (Department for Education and Employment) to include the Irish as distinct category in their consultation paper, on ethnic monitoring in schools being sent out to all local authorities in Britain.

On 14th December the IBRG put out a statement DfEE to Consider Irish Category for Schools based on the Department document entitled Consultation on Guidance for schools on Ethnic Monitoring, which had been sent out to all local education authorities in Britain. These new categories would be in place for autumn 2001 after the Census.

The IBRG called on all Irish community organisations in Britain to raise the inclusion of the Irish with both their local LEA and with David Blunkett the Education Minister. The community had until 16th February 2001 to make their submissions. The IBRG notes that Irish parents mostly mothers in Britain made enormous sacrifice to get their children a decent education in Britain, and the Irish community also made enormous efforts to make Irish culture available to the second and third generation, with groups like the GAA, Ceoltas, and Conradh doing fantastic work. Sadly, the Irish have been let down by the Catholic Church who still remain hostile to the Irish community and its culture. The IBRG also praised Irish teachers in Britain who again had made enormous efforts to educate the children of all communities.

The IBRG drew attention to how Headteacher Irish born Mr Lawrence had given his life for the safety of his pupils in London. It was important that the Irish community be aware of the overall attainment of their children in schools.  On 22nd December the Irish World had Irish category for schools and the Irish Post had Ethnic category is welcome.

In December the IBRG wrote to Robin Cook Foreign Minister over the memo written by the current British Ambassador to Mexico about introducing diseases to the Derry communities and letting them rot from within. The memo a written in the early 1970’s and appeared at the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. The IBRG called for the Ambassador to be sacked immediately for his racist and evil views.

An appeal opened at the High Court for Eddie Guilfoyle with a picket on 7th December.

By December Frank Johnson had been 25 years in prison.

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

IBRG website can be accessed here

Read previous posts on IBRG history here

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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

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History of Irish in Britain Representation Group part eighteen 1998

 

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.

Coventry IBRG and Leo O’Reilly picket

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

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.

Peter Moloney collection.

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.

Lewisham IBRG Easter Rising Celebration 1999

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.

1798 Conference leaflet

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

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History of Irish in Britain Representation Group part seventeen 1997

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.

1997 IBRG Election leaflet.

1997 IBRG Election leaflet.

 

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.

Manchester Martyrs plaque.

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

1997 Irish Rights Conference leaflet.

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.

1997 Leaflet for picket of 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.

1997 CRE Report on Discrimination and Irish.

 

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

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History of Irish in Britain Representation Group Part sixteen 1996

 

 

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.

Manchester IBRG Irish Heartbeats Conference 1996

On 10th January Sinn Fein responded to the International Arms Body by saying the IRA might dispose of their weapons with independent verification, but only after a political settlement had been negotiated, and only in the context of overall demilitarisation.

The Ard Choiste took place on 13th January at Caxton House Archway North London. Delegates attending included Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds, and Thomas MacStiofan.

 Issues discussed included the Peace Process, Irish Prisoners, Ethnic recognition, Census 2001, Bloody Sunday and plans for the Ard Fheis.

On 19th January Pat Reynolds chaired a stormy meeting at Aras naGael in Brent of over 100 people over the threatened closure of the centre with two rival factions on involved on a right/ left split.

 

Bloody Sunday March Leicester

On 27th January Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG was speaking at the Bloody Sunday rally in Leicester along with Lucilita Breatnach of Sinn Fein. Huge falls of snow made the march smaller than usual. Maurice Moore, Kevin Hayes, and Laura Sullivan were among IBRG officers present. Both the IBRG banner and the Frank Johnson banners were displayed at the rally.

 

Harrow Council recognises the Irish as an ethnic community

In January Harrow became the 19th borough Council in London to recognise the Irish after IBRG lobbying. Despite this, Harrow had refused to give the IBRG office space to provide for Irish people in the borough.  The Irish World on 5th January had Storm over anti Irish behaviour in Harrow where Cllr Tony McNulty later an MP accused the Liberal and Tories of anti-Irish behaviour in refusing the Irish accommodation.

Labour had proposed at the Council meeting that the IBRG be given office space to offer advice to the Irish community, but the Liberal and Tories opposed the motion. The Irish had put forward the original idea that all major community groups be given office space, yet they were the only community now denied a space.

Cllr McNulty accused the Liberals and Tories of using the No Irish need apply rule. On 13th January the Irish Post had Harrow to recognise the Irish. The Irish Post quoted the Irish Trade Board figures for Harrow which were quite different from IBRG but the Irish Trade board figures were based on postal codes which are different. In a letter to the Irish Post on 27th January Pat Reynolds clarified that the IBRG figures were right for Harrow and gave further figure for those living in Irish headed households, which would miss many Irish where an Irish woman had an English partner.

 

The London Irish Women’s Centre launched their report on Travellers Rights in London. Angie Birthill had done most of the work on the document.

IBRG condemns Government over Mitchell Commission

In January the IBRG deplored the British government response to the Mitchell Commission on N. Ireland. The IBRG again called for talks without preconditions.

On 28th January the IBRG issued a statement IBRG deplores British provocation and deplore the British government response to the Mitchell Commission as an act of provocation against the nationalist community. The IBRG called for immediate talks between all parties without preconditions and rejected the British demand for decommissioning of Irish arms.

IBRG condemned the Labour Party bipartisan approach to Ireland, where they too like the Tories hide behind the Unionist veto in Ireland. The British had no mandate ever in Ireland over the last 800 years, and had no mandate of dividing Ireland in 1921. What need to be decommissioned in Ireland was British rule, British discrimination and oppression, the British military war machine, and the decommissioning of its 100% Unionist police force.

Camden Council block on allowing Sinn Fein accommodation

In January IBRG condemned Camden Council for its refusal to allow Sinn Fein take up rented space offices in Camden. The IBRG further condemned Glenda Jackson MP and Frank Dobson MP for blocking Sinn Fein’s right to Office space. The IBRG statement read Dobson will soon be coming begging for Irish votes, and he will get his come uppance. In 2000 in the election for Mayor of London the Irish voters refused to vote for him paying him back in kind and in good measure.

On 14th January the IBRG issued a statement stating Block on Sinn Fein Undemocratic. In it the IBRG drew attention to the fact that Sinn Fein speakers could draw hundreds to their meetings, while the two local MPs could only draw handful of people. The IBRG also noted that neither MP had asked the British government to renounce violence, and to apologise for over 800 years of colonial rule and repression and violence against the Irish people. The argument put out by British politicians over the years was that republicans should use the democratic process, and yet when they attempt to do this, the same politicians block them at every stage.

IBRG also drew attention to how few staff Camden council employed at their Town Hall.  Sinn Fein had over 40% of the nationalist vote in N. Ireland. The IBRG challenged Dobson and Jackson as to where they stood on the Peace Process. An Phoblacht covered the story with SF to open London Office. The Irish Post had Camden say No to SF Headquarters.

 

On 24th January Pat Reynolds and Diarmuid Breatnach carried the Lewisham IBRG banner on the Asylum March where it was later featured on BBC TV news, and on the next day on Around Westminster.

On 9th February the IRA called off their ceasefire and bombed Canary Wharf in East London killing two people.

On 18th February an IRA bomb goes off on a London bus killing volunteer Edward O’Brien. IBRG in a statement blamed John Major for the Ceasefire breakdown and for wasting months in doing nothing to further the Peace Process.

On 11th February the IBRG had  issued a statement entitled Major’s Policy on Ireland a failure. It stated The IBRG holds John Major responsible for the breakdown of the IRA ceasefire, in his failure to act as a responsible leader in progressing talks for a political settlement in Ireland. The IBRG calls for all-party talks without any preconditions.

The Irish Post on 17th February had Bid for peace talks must go on, and quoted the IBRG where it contrasted N. Ireland with South Africa and Bosnia where talks had taken place.

On 11th February IBRG members joined the picket of Belmarsh Prison on Frank Stagg’s anniversary at which Pat Reynolds spoke.

 

Death of Bolton IBRG member Caitlin Wright

Caitlin Wright

On 26th February IBRG members including Virginia Moyles, Joe Mullarkey and Pat Reynolds attended Caitlin Wright’s funeral in Bolton. Caitlin and her family had given a lifetime’s work to the cause of Ireland, the Irish in Bolton and Irish prisoners. Caitlin was 68 at the time of her death. The last song at her funeral was I will wear no convict’s uniform.

The IBRG issued a statement on her death in which they drew attention to her lifelong work for the Irish community, and for a United Ireland. Along with her husband the Reverend  David Wright she had been on a number of delegations to Ireland to raise issues affecting the Irish community in Britain with the Irish political parties. She was leading member of Bolton IBRG, and was national leader in IBRG for many years, having been the Education Officer and the National Coordinator.

She was a lifelong socialist and republican and carried Irish banners in Dublin, London Belfast and Bolton. She spent many years trying to get Irish culture into the National curriculum in Britain. She strongly supported Irish prisoners and their rights around strip searching, and transfer.

She was a member of the National Union of Teachers and was involved in many working classes struggles in Britain including the Miners’ strike, supporting the NHS, the Dr Maire OShea campaign, the Birmingham Six campaign and many more. She had a great love of Ireland although her family had come to Britain after the Great Hunger.  Her early death at the age of 68 deprived the community of a great activist and leader. Her life’s work and struggle are an inspiration of those of us carrying on that struggle for a free and united Ireland and for a just society in Britain.

 

In February the IBRG condemned Coronation Street for its wife beating character who was Irish. The issue of domestic violence was an issue in the Irish community, but every Irish character in British soaps were either mad or bad and most time both. The Irish News carried the story with Irish group critical of Streets’ wife beating. The IBRG condemns the characterisation of Irish people in British TV where the only representation of one of violence, if they were represented at all. The Irish in Britain were rarely represented in soaps or in drama in Britain, as if they did not exist.

Southwark Irish Family win case against Southwark Council

In February the IBRG welcomed the story of an Irish woman victory over Southwark Council who were found guilty on two charges of maladministration and ordered to pay the woman compensation of £1,850 for the stress. On 18th February the IBRG issued a statement entitled Southwark Irish family win Ombudsman’s case against Southwark council. Southwark had been found guilty of a six-month delay in issuing an  S64 notice, and were guilty of a delay in offering the Irish woman a suitable property.

IBRG expressed disappointment that the Ombudsman had not supported the central complaint of racial harassment because of its political sensitivity. Southwark council had failed for many years to recognise Irish cases of racial harassment, which led to several Irish families having to put up with racial abuse and attacks for many years.  There was a failure to implement their obligations under the Race Relations Act, and where the Chief Officer dealing with racial harassment excluded the Irish, and held the erroneous view that only Black families could be racially harassed. There were only eight cases proved against Southwark Council last year which showed how difficult it was to succeed in these cases.

It was notable victory and showed that Irish families did not have to put up with racial harassment and with unfair treatment by any local authority. In this case Cllr Jody Clark had supported the family rather than the Council Racial Harassment Unit. The IBRG called on the Dion committee to set up a national office which could deal with anti-Irish discrimination in employment, housing and in welfare in Britain.

In February IBRG condemned Jack Straw and Tony Blair over their support for the racist PTA laws.

The Times Literary Supplement attacked the Green Ink Bookshop by trying to link it in with the Dockland bombing but Green Ink responded to that outrageous attack by the Times. It was interesting that Green Ink should be publicly attacked and then in the same year have their funding stopped.

Leo McKinstry attacked the IBRG in the Sun on 24th February after the IBRG had a feature on the Peace process in the Islington Express.

The IBRG got a sympathetic piece in the Sunday Telegraph on 18th February on Irish inclusion in the 2001 Census by Jenny McCartney daughter of Bob McCartney UK Unionist. It quoted at length Pat Reynolds IBRG Chair on the reasons why the Irish should be included in the 2001 census ‘There is statistical evidence that Irish people are disadvantaged in terms of health, employment and early mortality rates’.  It also quoted the CRE in support of Irish inclusion.

In Haringey the Ethnic Minorities Joint Consultative Committee got the Haringey CEO to write to John Major calling on him to increase efforts to find a peaceful solution in Ireland after the Docklands bombings. On 28th February Haringey CEO wrote to John Major to state ‘The EMJCC is a body composed of representatives of all the major ethnic minorities within Haringey and of Members of the Council. At their meeting of 13th February 1996 concern was expressed at the resumption of violence. and the recent docklands bombing. The hope was expressed that all the parties involved in the conflict, would not abandon their efforts to find a peaceful solution to the problems in Nt Ireland, and would continue to persevere with the Peace Process’.

Irish Community call on Solihull Council Leader to resign

In February IBRG called on Ken Meeson Leader of Solihull Council near Birmingham to stand down after he sent a ranting letter to IBRG accusing the Irish in Britain of bombing English civilians. The issue was given good coverage by the Birmingham Post. He lost the next election.

On 18th February the IBRG released a statement entitled Irish Community calls on Tory Leader to resign. It stated the IBRG deplores the statement by Cllr Meeson, Tory Leader of Solihull Council, in the West Midlands blaming the Irish community for the recent Docklands bombing.” We call for his resignation, and for the retraction of, and apology for his statement.” It went on ’ despite the severest provocation and the abuse of our civil and human rights by the racist PTA over the past 20 years, we have remained a law-abiding community. Indeed, our community is made up of many of the victims of the British lack of democracy in Nt Ireland over the past 75 years when thousands of Nationalists were forced to emigrate because of employment and sectarian discrimination in Nt Ireland. It is Britain’s responsibility, they created and maintained a sectarian apartheid statelet, of which the IRA are but a symptom.  The Irish people have never blamed the British people for what happened in Nt Ireland but have blamed the government for failing to exercise democracy in Nt Ireland.

The ironic thing is that the IBRG received Cllr Meeson’s letter on the very day that Irish born head teacher Philip Lawrence was being buried in London. He too was creating democracy in the inner city and defending it too. Yet not one single English newspaper could bring themselves to describe Philip Lawrence as being Irish. The Birmingham Post had Irish group calls for council leader to resign over bomb remarks. Meeson had wrote to Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG who had sent him a letter calling on Solihull to recognise the local Irish community ‘It is ironic that your letter should have reached me on the very date that Irish people in Britain once again took up arms against democracy and attempted to murder innocent civilians adults and children who were going about their peaceful busines’.

In February the IBRG called for Irish elders to be allowed to return to residential care in Ireland rather than having to stay in Britain, based on the free movement of workers in Europe which should apply to retired workers.

The Irish Post on 24th February had battle for Camden to set a precedent, where an elderly Irish woman was seeking court order to force Camden Council to place her in a residential retirement home in Ireland, rather than in London. A High Court Judge granted her permission to apply for a declaration that the Council must comply with her request, even though it would be contrary to British rules. Irish councillor Dave Horan a supporter of the Frank Johnson campaign stated that Camden should be privileged to set a precedent in this matter.

Morally it should facilitate such an arrangement. The Judge stated it concerned the rights of EU workers and the case should be heard as should possible because of its wide implications. The IBRG had argued this for years. A placement in Ireland would be a cost saving to Camden and the quality of life of the Irish elder would be much improved, so it was a win/win situation. Cllr Joe Callanan from Lambeth Council had been lobbying as well as the IBRG, politicians in Britain and Ireland to take up the issue and had approached the British Irish Inter Parliamentary body on the issue.

Tory flagship recognises Irish

In February Westminster City Council and Havering Council in East London both agreed to recognise the Irish bringing the number of London boroughs recognising the Irish to 24.

On 10th February the Irish Post had Westminster recognition. This was the Tory flagship Local Authority and in the heart of Westminster the City and of British power. It was the first Tory local authority in Britain to do so. Westminster had 9,334 Irish born residents. The previous week on 3rd February the Irish Post had Now Havering moves on Irish ethnicity. The Irish World on 9th February had Tories flagship borough accepts Irish ethnic status.

On 20th February Pat Reynolds had an interview with RTE Radio Marion Finucane Hour on the Irish and the 2001 census.

On 2nd March IBRG attended the Camden Irish Consultative Conference at Camden Town hall, despite having the Camden Irish Centre, the borough was one of the last to take on board the need of the Irish community.

On 10th March Pat Reynolds had an interview with Radio Berkshire Irish hour on Irish theme pubs.

On 10-12th March Green Ink held their annual London Irish Bookfair at the Camden Irish Centre in London.

PTA Debate and Labour Party

 

On 14th March the annual PTA renewal debate took place in the Commons, with only 25 MPs voting against, which was the Labour  left group of MPs.

The Irish Post on 2nd March had Labour drops opposition to the PTA. 3 SDLPs also voted against with John Hume missing as usual. Martin Kettle writing in the Guardian on 3rd April stated about the Labour Party ‘Even if it had proposed the precautionary culling of the first born of all Irish families Labour would accept Howard’s bogus new bill’.

It showed up Labour’s absolute craving for power at all costs in their support for the draconian PTA, it laid bare Labour’s unscrupulous and unprincipled pursuit of power as they ditched their opposition to the racist PTA laws. The placards on the Irish picket outside the Labour Part HQ said it all, Innocent until proven Irish.

Manchester IBRG Conference Irish Heartbeats

On 16th March Manchester IBRG held a one-day Conference entitled Irish Heartbeats at the Friends Meeting House in Manchester. See headline image.It was their contribution to the Manchester Irish Week and 70 people attended.

Speakers  on social policy and ethnic recognition included  Liam Greenslade social researcher, Pat Reynolds National IBRG Chair and Eric Seward  of CRE.

On the first session in the afternoon the subject was the PTA and its effect on the Irish Community. Speakers were Kevin Hayes West Midlands PTA and Research Association, Tommy Walsh (Federation Liverpool), and Dorothy McNulty spoke about the McNulty Family Campaign for justice.

The last session looked at the Peace Process from different perspectives.   Ruth Moore speaking from the Protestant N.Irish background,  Sue Ramsey of Sinn Fein and Bernadette Hyland  who criticised the Labour Party for abstaining in the renewal debate on the PTA.

Manchester IBRG produced a red leaflet with a Claddagh ring in the middle with ‘A conference for all those concerned with the future development of the Irish community” The Irish Post had a preview of the Conference on 27th January with IBRG plan Manchester Conference giving the list of speakers and topics. On 9th March the Irish Post had Conference in Manchester. The Irish World also carried a preview with IBRG Conference on future of Irish.

Discussion after conference L-R Martin Connolly (Mcr IBRG) Ruth Moore and David Kernohan of Leeds IBRG

On the same day Green Ink put on an Irish Bookfair in Bristol.

 

On 19th March Pat Reynolds had an interview with BBC Radio Belfast on the Irish ban in the Civil Service.

 

On 23rd March the IBRG Ard Fheis took place at the Friends Institute in Birmingham. Six branches were represented namely Merseyside, Manchester, Birmingham, Coventry, Lewisham, and N. London.

Eleven delegates attended. Delegates attending were Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds, Patrick Prescott, Neil Doolin, Patrick Doolin, Marie Byrne-McCann, Eddie Caughey, Kevin Hayes, Eileen Ferris, Patrick Cullinane, and Collette Hartnett. Apologies Maurice Moore.

Pat Reynolds Chair spoke of the achievement of IBRG during the past year which had ranged from the Irish Festival in Liverpool to a Conference in Manchester, work on the PTA and ethnic monitoring. He paid tribute to the work of Caitlin Wright Bolton IBRG who had recently passed away at early age of 68. She had given a lifetime of dedication to the Irish and working-class communities, and will be greatly missed.

Pat looked at the strength of the IBRG at branch and national level. They were 11 active branches and a wealth of campaigning experience there. However, we had no full-time workers or no national office. However, IBRG had shown it could win victories for the Irish community, one such being the campaign for recognition of the Irish community by local authorities in Britain. The battle for the Peace Process had yet to be won, and the for the community the battle for inclusion in the 2001 census must be won. The IBRG looked forward to the publication of the CRE report on Discrimination and the Irish community which we need to build on.

Bernadette Hyland reported on her work as PRO in the last year which a number of press releases and good coverage in a range of newspapers and a number of radio interviews by herself and the chair. She had also put on a major Conference on Manchester on Irish issues. Bernadette also reported on the National newsletter plus a new recruitment leaflet and on IBRG membership

Kevin Hayes gave a report on the PTA noting the failure of the Labour Party to vote against the PTA. The use of language he stated was important. The PTA was not about the prevention of terrorism, but about restrictions on the civil liberties of the Irish community, when in transit to and from Ireland, or when they became politically active. IBRG needed to continue combating the PTA and supporting individuals arrested under the act.

Eddie Caughey gave a report on the position of Irish political prisoners in Britain and drew attention to the case of Patrick Kelly who was dying in prison from cancer, and who should be released on humanitarian grounds.  It was important for IBRG to continue its work on both political and framed prisoners and to work with other groups in this area.

The following officers were elected;

Pat Reynolds Chair North London

Neil Doolin Runai Merseyside

PRO/Membership Bernadette Hyland Manchester

Prisoners Kevin Hayes Birmingham

Cisteoir Maurice Moore Coventry.

The following motions were passed;

A motion from Merseyside condemned  the Tory government for intransigence leading to the breakdown of the ceasefire, and calls for immediate all-party talks without preconditions,

A motion for Merseyside condemning the Labour party for abstaining on the PTA vote in The Commons,

 

The key issues for IBRG work in 1996 were agreed as Recruitment, ethnic recognition, PTA and Employment discrimination in N. Ireland.

On 27th March IBRG members joined Saoirse to picket the Labour Party HQ in Walworth Road St London. The Labour NEC were meeting and  people were able to talk with Clare Short MP and others.

Recognition of Irish and Local Authorities

In March the IBRG announced that Hillingdon Council, where John McDonnell was MP had recognised the Irish, as had the metropolitan boroughs of Manchester and Bolton who had for some years agreed to recognise the Irish, while Suffolk Country Council became the first County Council to do so.

On 9th March the Irish Post had Another Four councils move on monitoring and listed Liverpool City council, Trafford Council in Greater Manchester, Newcastle on Tyne City Council and Barnsley Metro Borough Council all important Irish areas.

The Irish World on 8th March had More boroughs recognise Irish. On 16th March the Irish Post had Cambridge Council confirms monitoring of Irish. This was the first English city outside the Metropolitan areas to recognise the Irish, and was the site of Cambridge University. There were 1,671 Irish born persons living in Cambridge.

On 20th March the front-page photo in the Irish Post was of the Lewisham St Patrick’s Day parade which was organised by the Lewisham Irish centre with IBRG input. The photo had Irish councillor John OShea heading the march with a banner for the Irish Centre, on page two was Hampshire the latest to monitor Irish in a banner headline. Hampshire had 18,829 Irish born residents with Southampton having a large Irish population.

On 30th March the Irish Post had more monitoring success reporting that Rugby, Chesterfield and Basingstoke had agreed to recognise the Irish.

IBRG condemns Derbyshire Council over racist and anti-Irish leaflet

At the end of March, the IBRG condemned Derbyshire Constabulary over the racist and anti-Irish leaflet targeting the Irish community as suspects with their Not all Irish are criminals. After IBRG protests and a lot of negative publicity the leaflet was withdrawn. The leaflet to Neighbourhoods Watch schemes stated ‘persons with Irish access, they are not all criminals.

On 30th March the IBRG issued a statement IBRG calls for Racist Leaflet to be withdrawn. The leaflet talked of ‘persons tendering large quantities of high denomination banknotes, which would be a trademark of any Irish building worker or any Irish person buying a car. The IBRG regard the leaflet as an incitement to anti-Irish racism and likely to stir up anti-Irish feelings.  The watch your Irish neighbours under the guise of anti IRA alertness was simply targeting the Irish community and people with Irish accents. The attempt to criminalise the Irish community will not work we are a law-abiding community.

IBRG referred the leaflet to the CRE and later raised in a meeting with Herman Ouseley. Coming on the back of the failure of Merseyside Police to ensure a peaceful St Patrick’s day Parade took place, allowing Orange and Fascist thugs to stop a peaceful celebration, it shows a complete lack of impartiality among British police forces. Policing by consent will be not be improved by targeting innocent communities. The Sunday Tribune in Dublin covered the story with the heading Not all Irish are criminal-UK police and covered the IBRG response to the outrage.

IBRG member Collette Hartnett was fighting a battle against losing her house to the A40 in West London. Her story made the front page of the Irish World on 8th March with Hands off my House with a photo of Collette.

Liverpool’s  first  St.Pat’s Day Parade attacked by Orange Order and Fascists

Liverpool’s first St Patricks day Parade in   25 years was blocked by the Orange Order and fascists. The Irish Embassy who had a representative on the parade stated ‘I am very disappointed that this parade wasn’t allowed to go ahead as planned’.

On 30th March the Irish Post covered it with Aftermath of Liverpool’s march fiasco. There was uproar in Liverpool over what the Orange and fascist bully boys had done to a celebration of a community national day. One Councillor put it’ It is diabolical that women with young children dressing in dancing costumes were abused and prevented from celebrating their national day. Hundreds of people had travelled to the city to see the parade, but it never appeared because the highway was blocked by a crowd of bully boys.  The Orange mob were singing anti-Catholic songs during the protest. The Irish World on 29th March had Protesters drum up wave of support for Merseyside Irish

Local MPs Bob Parry and David Alton supported the Irish community, and their right to hold their parade without hindrance. The Irish Post on 23rd March had A Right to celebrate which covered the Parade being blocked by 200 Orangemen and Fascists. Bob Parry MP had blasted the police for their handling of the parade where the Orange Order and the National Front had combined to prevent the Irish community celebrating their national day. Bob Parry was raising the matter with Michael Howard the Home Secretary. Sheila Coleman, Chair of the Liverpool Irish Centre, stated that the Irish community had as much right to march as any other group.  Neil Doolin of  IBRG, who was organising Irish Parade as part of Liverpool Irish festival in June, stated he would be meeting the police to guarantee this did not happen again.

On monitoring the IBRG reported that Hampshire Country Council had agreed to monitor the Irish along with Cambridge City Council.

On 2nd April the British government introduced the PTA additional Powers Bill giving the police extra powers to search individuals and premises. Labour shamefully abstains on the vote.

On 7th April IBRG members attended the unveiling of a new monument to Liam McCarthy in Camberwell New cemetery in South London. McCarthy after whom the All-Ireland Hurling final cup is named was a Southwark Councillor and a supporter of Padraig Pearce and the Irish Revolution of 1916-1921.

 

On 12th April the Irish World reported that Derby Cops say sorry to Irish.

Pat McAndrews of Derby IBRG said the apology was welcome, but that the original remarks were very offensive to the Irish community. The Derby Police stated ‘we apologise for any offence which has been caused’. The CRE stated ‘We are investigating a complaint made to us in relation to Derbyshire Police. We will be getting in touch with the force about this’ and the Irish Embassy stated “This is something we would not dismiss. It is a very sensitive time for the Irish in Britain and we don’t need this sort of thing’.

On 17th April Pat Reynolds had an interview with BBC Radio Scotland the first time they ever discussed anti-Irish racism on radio in Scotland. Liam Greenslade was also on the same programme.

On 20th April Bernadette Hyland PRO IBRG had a letter in the Irish Post Stand up and be counted publicly about the fight for Irish civil liberties in Britain and the effects of the PTA on the community.

On 24th April the IRA bomb decommissioned Hammersmith  bridge.

 

In April Manchester IBRG produced the 5th IBRG Members newsletter which included an IBRG month by month review of IBRG activities, with news of campaigns with a front-page statement on IBRG position on the Peace Process and the PTA.

 

Bolton IBRG Oppose Apprentice Boys marching in town

Bolton Orange March. Irish Post article.

Joe Mullarkey was quoted in the Guardian on 13th April opposing the Apprentice Boys marching in Bolton. The Irish Post on 20th April had Bolton march halted with help from the Irish. The Apprentice boys of Derry were due to march in Bolton, but there was evident that Combat 18 and other fascists were supporting the march, which was opposed by the IBRG and by the local multi-racial community.

In the end the march never happened given the local opposition of the community. Joe Mullarkey said Support from Socialist club  members and trades council members ensured the march was unable to move off and the arrival of young Asian men convinced police to take them down a back street. I can still remember explaining combat 18 to the Bolton Evening News and Balmoral Hotel.

The Irish World had Bolton Apprentice Boys march curtailed by police. Joe Mullarkey, Margaret Mullarkey, Arthur Delvin and Cllr Pauline Spencer all IBRG members were standing in a proud tradition of the Irish community in opposing the Fascist and Combat 18 Hitler supporters going back to Cable Street and Bermondsey in the East of London in the 1930’s.

Looking back in 2020 Joe Mullarkey reflects:

That Salford apprentice boys march in Bolton was very strange. I got a phone call from Searchlight a couple of weeks prior to the event and was very dubious. I checked with Noel Spenser, local councillor and IBRG member, he confirmed police had no objection to the march but  the person organising it was a convicted football hooligan. Why not have the march in Salford why Bolton. Was it done to get some of those BNP out in the open?

Around that time a house was raided in Little Hulton a number of men arrested (BNP) suspected  and put on trail. Police claimed they found a shotgun pick axe handles etc. I made the phone calls to the Bolton Evening News and the hotel the Balmoral which was the starting place for the march and where some including  Gregory Campbell stayed overnight. The proposed route was blocked by bodies but police in the afternoon took them (fascists) down a back street, let them march a hundred yards then dispersed them. Very strange still puzzled”

In April the IBRG tackled the Association of County Secretaries and Solicitors over their failure to include the Irish in the ethnic monitoring.

On 6th April the Irish Post had Irish ethnic monitoring is extended even further. The report showed that Ipswich had recognised the Irish. The leader of Harrogate Council stated ‘I have no problem with your suggestion, particularly as my mother comes from Donegal in Ireland and I am a frequent visitor to the Republic of Ireland’. Another Michael Walsh namesake of Diarmuid North Yorkshire Chief Executive was himself of Irish origin. The Leader of Kirklees Council talked about his close connection with local Irish community. Malcom Doherty, a good Irish name leader of Blackburn council, who confirmed that they already recognised the Irish. Blackburn had 1,965 Irish born residents and Blackpool had 2,311 Irish born residents.

On 20th April the Irish Post had campaign by IBRG switching and stated that the IBRG campaign was switching to the district councils in England. The IBRG stated that there were very few local districts in England that had less than 500 Irish born residents.

On 9th May Bernadette Hyland IBRG PRO had a letter in the Irish World entitled Labour Blow to Irish Community where she attacked the Labour Party for betraying the Irish community on both the PTA the Peace Process and warned them that they would struggle with getting Irish votes in areas where the Labour MP abstained on the PTA.

 

On 11th May the Ard Choiste took place at the Liverpool Irish Centre. Among those attending were Kevin Hayes, Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Moore, Pat Reynolds and Neil Doolin representing Birmingham, Coventry, N. London, Manchester and Merseyside.

The meeting decided to affiliate to the new group Fuaslcailt with a donation of £20-. Saoirse had been folded up after one year’s work. The meeting agreed on a new membership/recruitment leaflet. Liverpool IBRG gave details of their summer Irish Festival coming up.

An update on monitoring the IBRG announced that 60 local authorities in Britain now recognised the Irish in a drive organised by the IBRG. On 4th May the Irish Post had “Four more Councils recognise the Irish.”  The report stated that Cornwall, a Celtic nation, Northamptonshire, Gloucestershire, and East Sussex had all agreed recognise the Irish.

In another area it reported that the Association of Council Secretaries and Solicitors had apologised to IBRG for omitting the Irish as an ethnic category in its race equality questionaries of British local authorities.

In a letter to IBRG Chair Pat Reynolds Robin King the Secretary stated ‘I am sorry that we have indeed misquoted the CRE recommended categories of ethnic origins. You may be a little reassured that some of the respondents to the questionnaire also pointed out the omission’.

On 11th May the Irish Post had New Progress on monitoring with a photo of IBRG Chair Pat Reynolds, who announced that the campaign would now be extended to Wales and Scotland, and that he was hoping to build on recent Labour and liberal success at the local election in Britain.

He reported that the reply rate from the English local authorities was 40% with a success rate of recognition at 20%. Cumbria and Devon county councils had agreed to monitor the Irish.

The report stated that Southwark had launched a Federation of Irish Groups to increase their lobbying power and which had the support of the Council leader. The groups included the IBRG, the Irish Staff Group Cara, Irish Pensioners, The O’Brien family campaign, the McSwiney Society, Irish Forum Innisfree and others.

On 18th May the Irish Post had Wandsworth hedges on Irish ethnic status. Wandsworth was a Tory flagship borough based on its cheap council tax.  The Chief executive claimed that over 150 languages were spoken in the borough, and he argued the Polish community wanted to be included in ethnic monitoring. However, the Irish community was 30 times larger than the Polish community, and the Chief executive was being evasive on the real issue.

Heather Rabbatts, Chief executive in Lambeth, who used to come on Irish pickets at one time stated that the Irish response to the boroughs first equal opportunities survey showed that the number of Irish staff at the Council, far exceeded the estimated Irish born population. The IBRG described her claim as absolute rubbish and unfounded as she had an exact figure for the Irish born from the 1991 census, and the Irish were very poorly represented at the Town Hall.  The IBRG knew this from their own information from the Irish Workers group in Lambeth.

On 21st April the IBRG corresponded with St Mungo over their Equal Opportunities policies and the Irish. They replied back on 3rd May with a very defensive letter claiming they did recognise the Irish, and which did not address the issues, IBRG had raised, that their staff training did not take on board the Irish dimension.

The same month the IBRG corresponded with Pauline Green MEP over why the Irish were excluded from ethnic monitoring in the European Social Fund. Pauline Green  replied on 26th May to say she would raise the matter with Research International to find out why the Irish were excluded.

Diarmuid Breatnach had a letter in the Irish Post defending the right of the Irish in Merseyside to have their St Patrick’s day Parade on 4th May entitled A Right we must Defend.

3rd Irish Festival in Liverpool

The Liverpool Irish Festival took place form 28th May to 2nd June and was opened by Ted Barrington Irish Ambassador. It was the third Irish Festival in Liverpool organised by Neil Doolin and the IBRG. On 4th May the Irish Post had Greening of Liverpool and again on 11th May had Community Spirit on Merseyside and on 25th May and had Festive Spirit on Merseyside in  Irish World on 17th May had Merry on the Mersey for Third Irish festival.

On 7th June the Irish World had  a page full of photos of the Festival with photos of the Irish Ambassador Ted Barrington  and the Mayors of both Dublin and Liverpool. On 14th June the Irish World had another page of photos one of the Parade with the Festival banner with six photos of the Parade.

In May the IBRG attacked Des McHale of Cork University over his support for racist anti-Irish jokes.

The IBRG pointed out that the ignorant McHale that McAuley and Bryans were two Industrial tribunal winners who  didn’t get money because they were Irish, but because they were racially abused and racially harassed because they were Irish, with the result that both men lost their jobs, suffered ill health and lost financially.

On 11th May the IBRG put out a statement headed Gombeen Humour Condemned which stated the IBRG deplores the remarks of Professor MacHale of Cork University over his apparent support for the racial abuse of Irish people in the workplace in Britain. Employment laws in Britain right protect women in the workplace from sexist abuse and harassment and also protects Black Jewish Asian and Irish people form racial abuse and harassment in the workplace. MacHale attempt to justify such abuse is obscene and sick, when you read the case histories of abuse in the workplace. Most employers in Britain now include codes of good practice on the elimination of sexist and racist abuse in the workplace.

IBRG suggested that Professor MacHale should study the work of Dr Elinor Kelly of Manchester university, on the racialisation of Irish children in British schools and continue to tell us that the anti-Irish jokes is just good fun. There is clearly link between racial stereotyping and the subsequent abuse and harassment. That MacHale finds it funny that Irish people can be driven out of the workplace in Britain, and that they should have no redress against racial abuse is staggering. Machale would accuse the IBRG of being PC politically correct. Unlike him we are not PB politically backward.

The IBRG pointed out how British people living in Australia got anti-British jokes banned on Australian TV, and while British tabloids think anti-Irish jokes funny, while at the same time applauding English cricketers who walked out on a small comedy sketch about the English Queen. The IBRG salute Irish humour of which our literature is full of from Oscar Wilde and Brendan Behan to Maeve Binchley.

The Irish Post on 18th May covered this story and remarked how JAK of the Evening Standard seemed to agree with MacHale and stated ‘The IBRG enjoy Irish humour and wit and have great time at work, but it is not at the expense of women Black, Jewish or Irish people. We laugh with people rather than at them, and have learned much to appreciate in other cultures, rather than the narrow world of MacHale that ridicules and makes fun of others.’

 

The IBRG along with other Irish groups met with Herman Ouseley and the CRE on 23rd May. The meeting heard that the report on discrimination on the Irish would go before the CRE commissioners on July 23rd for approval and then on to publication. Herman Ousley remarked on the high success rate achieved by the IBRG in their ethnic monitoring campaign, The CRE received 30-60 complaints year on No Travellers signs in pubs. This was also an issue that IBRG campaigned on tearing down the signs from pubs in Irish areas.

The CRE had written to all relevant organisations in Britain regarding recognition of the Irish and their inclusion in ethnic monitoring.  The IBRG also raised with the CRE the issue of anti-Irish racism in the media, and the total failure of the Press Council to deal with this issue.  The CRE wanted copies of all these examples to take back to Lord Wakeham who was Chair of the PCC. The CRE would also write to all local health authorities on recognising the Irish. The IBRG also raised with the CRE the Derby Police leaflet which was racist against Irish people.

In terms of ethnic monitoring the IBRG announced that 23 of the 33 London boroughs now recognised the Irish, that 5 Metropolitan Boroughs did, four County Councils, three City Councils, 19 boroughs council outside of London, and 13 District councils overall 73 local authorities in Britain now recognise the Irish. Coventry had now recognised the Irish, and the Coventry paper reported it Irish join ethnic minorities Move could help target services. Cllr Cairns chair of Coventry’s Irish community advisory group stated ‘We are part of Coventry but nonetheless we are different. In many ways we are an invisible community because of this we are ignored. Being classed as an ethnic group means we will ensure that services will be earmarked to meet the needs of the community’.

On 1st June Bernadette Hyland and Pat Reynolds were speaking with Liam Greenslade at the Liverpool Irish Festival.

On 7th June the IRA shot dead Garda Gerry McCabe in Limerick which caused a huge anti-Republican backlash in the Irish Republic.

On 14th June the IBRG had a letter from the Department for Education and Employment stating they would look at whether to include the Irish in their ethnic monitoring in Employment  and Training programs.

 

On 15th June an IRA bomb in Manchester injured 200 people and caused over £300M of damages. Attitudes harden in Britain against Sinn Fein. The Irish Post on 22nd June had Manchester subdued in bomb aftermath.

Both Gearoid O Meachair National Chair of the Federation and Mike Forde vice Chair condemned the bombing yet neither were on record of ever having condemned a single British army killing of civilians in N. Ireland, and no sign of them ever on a Bloody Sunday march. They are one sided apologists for the British occupation of Ireland. Bernadette Hyland stated ‘the fact is that the only future is for there to be political talks with all parties sin N. Ireland including Sinn Fein’. The Liverpool Irish Centre was attacked the same evening and the bar smashed up.

 

Bobby Sands/James Connolly Event

On 16th June Pat Reynolds was speaking with Pat McKeown of Sinn Fein at the Booby Sands/James Connolly event at Conway hall in central London. Diarmuid Breatnach sang the Irish National anthem at the end of the meeting.

This was covered by An Phoblacht on 27th June. It states the main platform included speakers from the Irish community in Britain Pat Reynolds IBRG and Angie Birthill of the Camden Irish Forum. Both speakers talked about the need for the Irish community whose numbers over three million in Britain to be involved in the current political process to bring freedom peace and justice in all of Ireland. They asked that more pressure be put on the British political parties so that everybody is represented at all-party talks and that the Irish community in Britain bring pressure to bear on the Labour Tory and liberal parties before the next General Election.

 

On 29th June the IBRG Ard Choiste took place at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in Islington north London. Six delegates attended including Bernadette Hyland, Diarmuid Breatnach, Tomas MacStiofan, Neil Doolin Past Cullinane, and Maurice Moore.

It was agreed that Kevin Hayes and Pat Reynolds work on a General election leaflet for IBRG with four main issues for the Irish community, PTA, ending, all-party talks without preconditions, transfer and release of Irish prisoners, and the 2001 Census. The response from Scotland on ethnic monitoring was good with seven councils our of 32 now recognising the Irish.

The IBRG challenged Islington council over their failure to include the Irish in their Town Hall heard count report to Committee thus covering up on the Irish. On 1st June the Irish Post had Another five Councils to monitor Irish which showed the Braintree in Essex, Colchester an army town, Harlow and Epping Forest were going to monitor the Irish. Steve Cawley council leader in Colchester stated he was of Tipperary origin.

On 29th June the Irish Post had Ethnicity campaign moves to Scotland which showed IBRG were in correspondence with local authorities in Scotland. The same article detailed that IBRG had contacted the Department of Education and Employment asking them to include the Irish, and showed that the IBRG had challenged the Department in its stance against the Irish.

The Bolton Irish Festival was held from 14-16th June organised by Joe and Margaret Mullarkey and included two exhibitions.

The Festival had ben previewed in the Irish Post as early as 9th February with Bolton Irish festival for June., again on 26th April with Bolton all set for IBRG Irish Festival on 31st May it had Bolton stages two Irish exhibitions one on the Irish in Britain 1801-1821, alongside photographic history of the Irish in Bolton compiled by Bolton IBRG. Margaret Mullarkey stated that this would include a section of local Irish writer Bill Naughton author of Alfie, Neither use nor ornament, and on the Pigs back.

On 1st June the Irish Post had Irish emigrant exhibitions in Bolton, on 21st June Mayor gives Bolton Irish seal of approval. The report noted that the Festival was kicking off at the same time as the IRA bomb exploded in Manchester, but they made a decision to carry on with the music. Joe Mullarkey stated the Irish in Britain are here to stay and won’t be going away. We should be proud of our heritage and culture and don’t be afraid to show it. The Mayor and Mayoress of Bolton had turned up twice on the day and Margaret Mullarkey noted  ‘That was a nice gesture and a real bonus for us’. On 29th June the Irish Post covered several photos of the Festival; including the top one of Margaret Mullarkey with the Mayor and Mayoress of Bolton, Joe Mullarkey made the second photo with the Irish radio DJ. On 5th July the Irish World had four photos and a write up of the festival again with photo of main Festival organiser Margaret Mullarkey.

On 7th July the RUC banned an Orange March from going down the Garvaghy Road but on 11th July after the murder of a taxi driver in Portadown the Orange Order marched down the road. John Bruton accused the British government of giving in to force. David Trimble met with Billy Wright on 10th July during the standoff. Paisley and Trimble dance a victory jig   marching down the road on their imperial walk.

On 9th July IBRG members met with the CRE along with other Irish groups. They met again on 26th July,

Irish community protest Orange March being allowed down Garvaghy Road

On 12th July IBRG members along with other groups picketed 10 Downing St over the Orange March being allowed down the Garvaghy Road.  On 27th July the Irish Post ran a large photo from Birmingham of a protest on the issue and stated TOM and IBRG were involved in similar protest in London. The reroute the Sectarian orange Marches banner was displayed at both Lewisham people’s festival and the Southwark Irish festival, and received much support from the Irish community, who were shocked at how Orange marches were allowed to march through Catholic areas.

On 19th July IBRG members attended the launch of the Irish community’s experience of discrimination within the Criminal justice system with speakers Harry Fletcher NAPO and Fr Gerry McFlynn ICPO

On 22nd July Pat Reynolds had an interview with Waterford Radio on the Frank Johnson case.

Frank Johnson campaign sticker.

Bernadette Hyland had a letter in the British Independent on 3rd July entitled Anti Irish racism is still rife. It stated ‘the reality for the Irish in this city is that they are largely working class, working in the service industry, if at all, and facing discrimination and deprivation on a day to day basis Irish people walk the line every day in the city between acceptance and rejection. Anti-Irish racism is rife, although in recent years many people have refused to accept it and have mounted campaigns locally and nationally against discrimination …it is only when the political situation in Ireland is resolved in a just and peaceful way, that our community will be accepted’.

In London John Deegan won his case against the Metropolitan  Police after IBRG took up his case. He had been subjected to a terrifying ordeal when arrested at his home, and taken naked into a police van. He was kept in custody for three days, his house was wrecked, and his children threatened with being taken into care, He was cleared in court of any wrongdoing. The Irish Post on 10th August reported it Donegal man claims police overreacted.

In July IBRG drew attention to the high number of Irish in Britain prisoners with 621 prisoners from the Irish Republic 604 of these were male. The Irish Post reported this on 27th July with More Irish in British jails. The Post credited IBRG with eth disclosure of the figures.

The IBRG accused the BBC in Liverpool of censoring debate when they only asked the Orange Order representatives onto their programme  panel in Liverpool, despite the Irish community St Patricks day Parade being blocked by the Orange Order.  The BBC showed shocking bias towards the Irish community and towards democracy in Liverpool in its biased one-sided approach to the issue giving the Orange Order propaganda, and stacking the programme  against the Irish community.

The IBRG pointed out that seven local authorities in Wales now recognised the Irish. Coventry and Sheffield two important cities had now agreed to recognise the Irish. On13th July the Irish Post had Seven Welsh councils to monitor the Irish which showed the IBRG had won over seven councils in Wales including Swansea and Newport.

On 6th July the Irish Post had Redbridge’s lame excuse with a photo of IBRG Pat Reynolds. Redbridge is East London were arguing that they could not follow the CRE advice since the Irish were not in the National census. The IBRG described the Redbridge position as backward and negative and failing its Irish community. In the same article the IBRG had deplored the low number of Irish staff employed at Hammersmith Council  which was a very Irish area of London.

On 3rd August IBRG members joined others in a ceremony outside Pentonville Prison to commemorate Roger Casement the great Irish patriot.

On 9th August the Department of Education and Employment had written to Pauline Green MEP on why the Irish were excluded from their ethnic monitoring programs.  They came back with the lame excuse that the Irish were not in the 1991 census nor in the labour force surveys. Basically, they were arguing that they follow the National census.

 

On 16th August the IBRG issued a statement entitled Irish community concerned over Islington’s Council employment monitoring policies, where they had excluded the Irish community.

Pat Reynolds founder of the Irish in Islington project had written to Council Leader Alan Clinton who was a member of IBRG, asking for an explanation, as to why Islington were now backtracking after being the first local authority in Britain to recognise the Irish.  The Irish were the largest minority community in the borough, and Islington council were by far the largest local employer apart from the NHS with the Whittington and Royal Northern Hospitals. On 24th August the Irish Post had Islington has taken backward step.

IBRG stated that, in year in which the CRE had called publicly for the Irish to be included in ethnic monitoring, it was shocking that Islington Council should now be moving in the opposite direction. Dubliner Alan Clinton was leader of Islington Council and a member of IBRG. It was likely that council officials had decided on excluding the Irish rather than councillors. There were over 11,000 Irish born residents in Islington.

On 21st August Pat Reynolds Chair of the Frank Johnson campaign had an important interview with RTE radio. It was recognised that when RTE gave an interview on a case, it meant that the Irish government were ok with it.

On 30th August Ronnie Flanagan took over running of the paramilitary RUC.

The IBRG called on all members of the Irish community to register for votes before the expected 1997 General election and the IBRG call got covered on teletex, which was a first, and on the front page of the Kilburn Times for the Irish Youth Festival in Kilburn.

On 10th September Pat Reynolds had an interview with Talkback on BBC Radio Belfast on ‘Irish jokes.

On 12th September Pat Reynolds was in Sheffield to put on a one-day training course for community workers in Sheffield on Irish issues.

On 13th September the Irish World had Tipp Nurse wins case in which an Irish nurse had won her Industrial Tribunal case which the IBRG had supported.

 

On 14th September the IBRG Ard Choiste met at St Osburg’s in Coventry. Six delegates attended including Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Moore, Tim Logan, Kevin Hayes, Diarmuid Breatnach, and Pat Reynolds.  

The meeting heard that Eamonn O’Cuiv had been to visit Frank Johnson in prison. The  first TD to visit Frank in 21 years and him an innocent man.  His case had recently been covered by the Nursing Times, to find doctors or nurses who could remember Mr Sheridan in hospital and his employee Frank Johnson visiting him there. The South London Press also covered this story.

The Home Office were now conducting   a fresh inquiry into his case.  The Bridgewater Case had been referred back to the court of appeal. Kevin Hayes was working on a joint PTA card with Fuascaillt.  Only one Irish prisoner had been transferred back to the Republic. It takes the Irish government too long to pick up on innocent Irish cases, it took them over 13 years to become aware of the Birmingham Six.

The CRE were to produce a four-page flyer along with their report of the Irish and discrimination. The report was being kept secret because of the fear of the right-wing press trying to rubbish it, before it was even published. Pat Reynolds reported to the meeting that 78 local authorities now recognise the Irish.

Shooting by police of Diarmuid O’Neill in West London

On 23rd September young IRA volunteer Diarmuid O’Neill was executing by British agents in West London contrary to the Geneva Convention to shoot dead an unarmed prisoner. The IBRG called for a public inquiry into the shooting of Diarmuid O Neill in that his death was unnecessary and preventative, as the police knew he was unarmed. His shooting was an extension of the British shoot to kill via Gibraltar to London.

IBRG condemned the media including the quality press for running with police stories on the shooting. The Observer mentioned the IBRG in their article on the killing on 29th September.

On 29th September the IBRG issued a statement calling for a public inquiry into the shooting dead of unarmed Volunteer contrary to the Geneva Convention and British law that you should not kill captured prisoners.

The IBRG described his death as unnecessary and preventative with the room already bugged, and knowledge that he was not armed. The IBRG condemned the police misinformation and disinformation put out by the police similar to what happened in Gibraltar, where truth became the first casualty. The IBRG views the killing of O’Neill as an extension of British shoot to kill policy to Britain from N. Ireland via Gibraltar. The British media including the quality press acted like judge and jury on the case, and accepted without question whatever the police gave them. without asking any questions on human rights. The IBRG condemned the police dragging of O’Neill’s body across the pavement as an abuse of a badly wounded prisoner.

On 12th October the Irish Post had a photo of large picket of 10 Downing Street over the execution of Diarmuid O’Neill. Many of the placards had Stop Shoot to kill Now and No More shoot to kill. On 5th October the Irish Post had Executed without a trial and quoted the IBRG and others condemning the execution of an unarmed man.

On 3rd October An Phoblacht stated that Amnesty International had called for an independent judicial inquiry into the killing. The Amnesty statement drew attention to how O’Neill was dragged down the steps of the house to the pavement instead of being treated where he was shot. An Phoblacht quoted IBRG as saying the death was unnecessary and preventable and comparing the disinformation by the police as similar to how they operated in Gibraltar. The Irish World on 4th October covered the IBRG statement on the killing.

Closure of Green Ink Books

The Green Ink bookshop, which Pat Reynolds founded, lost its £32k grant and was  due to be closed  A great loss to the community, as it had sold over one-million-pound worth of Irish books and music over 15 years.

 

The IBRG took the Guardian to task for describing the GAA as an excuse for a punch up. The Irish News in Belfast on 23rd September had GAA punch up label racist says Irish group.  The Guardian stated that Gaelic football was a thinly disguised excuse for a punch up, when discussing Camogie which it described as a fast furious and downright frightening game not for the faint hearted.

The IBRG pointed out that Gaelic games were family friendly, and attracted large crows without any trouble whereas in Britain, there was a male dominated racist violent culture with a huge police presence with horses around soccer. Rugby also was a physical game but that game was British and therefore manly violence.

Southend and racist killing

The IBRG expressed their concern at the racist killing of an Irish man in Southend on Sea. The media mentioned he was killed for kicks by a gang of teenagers. The IBRG condemned the murder of a man who died from five stab wounds, from a group of teenagers, who killed him for kicks. Southend had 2,000 Irish residents and was also popular day trip for the London Irish.

The IBRG expressed concern at the high homicide rate against the Irish community particularly Irish males, and believe that anti-Irish racism was often a factor, but one which was never considered by the police. The long history of hunting lone Irishmen hunting the barney later turned into hunting Pakistani young men was often racially driven. Anti-Irish racism in the media along with anti-Republicanism led to some of these attacks and hostility towards Irish people in certain English towns.  There had been because of the recession in Britain a turning in of communities upon one another, and there had been a rise in racial attacks on Irish people in housing, which was reported in different London boroughs. In recent years the IBRG had made a submission to the British Home Office on this matter the report was placed in the Hansard records.

Bolton IBRG had persuaded their local Social Services to provide an Irish Sean chairde club in Bolton where Irish elders could meet for lunch and socialising. The Irish World on 27th September had Tonic for Elderly Irish which Margaret Mullarkey and Ruth Kneafsey had organised. On 28th September the Irish Post had Bolton Club for Irish Elders.

Haringey support Irish Census

 

On 13th September the Irish World had Council supports Irish census bid which stated that Haringey Council were supported the infusion of the Irish in the 2001 census after a debate at their EMJCC and their CEO was writing to the ONS on the issue. Haringey had over 10,000 Irish born residents.

On 28th September the Irish Post had Hereford and Worcester opts for ethnic monitoring. IBRG now had six county councils in England recognising the Irish. Luton and Leicester indicated that they already included the Irish in their monitoring. The Irish Post indicated that the ONS were shortly to make a decision on whether to include the Irish in the 2001 census.

On 24th September IBRG members along with other regroups picketed Paddington Green Interrogation centre over PTA arrests.

On 30 September Pat Reynolds had an interview with Vincent Browne on RTE Radio over the Diarmuid O’Neill killing.

On 6th October IBRG members along with other groups picketed 10 Downing St over the unlawful execution of Diarmuid O Neill contrary to the Geneva Convention.

On 13th October Pat Reynolds had an interview with Thames Valley Irish Hour over votes for emigrants.

 The IBRG expressed its alarm over the failure of the CPS to prosecute Officers  involved in the unlawful killing of Richard O Brien.

Richard O’Brien

O’Brien had 31 separate injuries to his body after his death in custody, when he repeatedly told his oppressor, that he could not breathe again and again. On 5th October the IBRG issued a statement Nothing done over Unlawful killing on the case of Richard O’Brien where the Inquest verdict was unlawful killing. The IBRG condemned the CPS for their ‘insufficient evidence’ excuse. A British jury finds that an Irishman is unlawfully killed and no one is held accountable in Britain. The slogan British Justice -No justice comes to mind.

The CPS decision in the same week and the PCA (Police Complaints Authority) decided to take no action in the case of Brian Douglas, an Afro-Caribbean man, who died in police custody shows that in Britain there is no justice for Black or Irish people. Are the police beyond the law and not accountable to the law, which they are meant to serve and uphold. O’Brien had 31 injuries to his body because he was waiting peacefully to get a lift home with his wife and family from an Irish social club.

IBRG called on the Irish Government to take up this case, and for the two local MPs Harriet Harman and Tessa Jowell to take it up with the Home Office. The question the Irish community in Britain are now asking what kind of justice exactly is available to Irish citizens in the UK, when young Diarmuid O’Neill is executed in his bedroom, an Irishman is murdered in Southend, and the CPS refused to prosecute even on an unlawful killing jury inquest verdict.

The IBRG welcomed the Government climb down over ID cards which the IBRG had opposed. The IBRG were the only Irish group to put in a submission on the issue. In a statement on 14th October the IBRG noted the climbdown by the British government over ID and saw it as a victory for common sense. The IBRG had strongly opposed the introduction of any ID in Britain and Nt Ireland as it had major implications for the Irish community, having to operate under British border pass laws under the PTA. The Irish Post on 19th October had Plans for identity cards scrapped with the IBRG lead on the story. The IBRG had put in a strong submission to the Home Office opposing any introduction of ID cards in Britain.

Irish Community not allowed to have heroes

The IBRG drew attention that the British media deemed Diarmuid O Neill be to be Irish although born and reared in England, but regarded Philip Lawrence who was born and reared in Ireland to be British because he was seen as a hero and the British claim all Irish heroes. The murder trial for the  Philip Lawrence the Head teacher coincided with the execution of Diarmuid O Neill.

In a statement of 21st October, the IBRG stated the Irish community not allowed to have Heroes, and asked the question, when is an Irishman not an Irishman, answer when the British media decide he is British because he is a hero. Thus, Philip Lawrence could be an Irish hero a role model for the 21st October, second generation, and an example of the dedication to duty of thousands of Irish people in Britain.

The Irish community are not allowed heroes or an image of a peaceful Irish man who gave up his life for the safety of his pupils. The British media had no problem describing Diarmuid O Neill as Irish despite the fact that he was born and reared in Britain. The IBRG reject the British media, and regard both men as being Irish. In Britain a person cannot be Irish and a Hero at the same time.

The IBRG condemned the increase in the price of Irish passports in October to £47 compared with £18 for a similar British one. The impact on second generation Irish and people from N. Ireland was obvious. In an IBRG statement on 17th October Outrage over price of Irish passports the IBRG deplored the increase from 1st October 1996 and its impact upon the Irish community in Britain and the second generation. The Irish government were fond of talking about parity of esteem in relation to Nt Ireland but the Irish abroad wanted parity of economics. The impact in N. Ireland could also be worse. What young person could afford £47 for something they can get for £18. The IBRG does not accept comparison with other European states which have different economics.

The Irish Government need to look at the needs of its Irish community in Britain, which is mainly working class and particularly its second generation. Having denied Irish citizens abroad the vote the Irish government now want to rip off its emigrants with overpriced passports. They have now abandoned the colour green for the Irish passports, and ignore that we live in a Common Travel area and where people living in N. Ireland, and the second generation in Britain will now be forced to make choices on which passport to use for travel.

The Irish Post on 26th October had IBRG slam rise in price of passports. Why should the Irish passport be two and a half times more expensive than a British one when wages in Britain are lower than Ireland.

The IBRG announced that over 100 local authorities in Britain now recognise the Irish with 23 of the 33 London boroughs now recognising the Irish, 12 of the Metropolitan boroughs, 7 of the 35 County Councils, 8 of the City Councils, 25 local boroughs, 15 district councils, 7 Scottish and 3 Welsh local authorities now recognising the Irish.

In an IBRG statement of 11th October the IBRG showed that the Irish community were winning the battle in Britain for ethnic recognition which augured well for the 2001 Census battle. The IBRG’s plan was to get the majority of democratically elected councils in Britain backing us, then the government would have to give in on the debate. It was a strategic tactical battle which the IBRG knew they could win, and snooker the British government into accepting our case. The IBRG had won 72% of the London boroughs to our side and with 100 of the leading councils in Britain backing us, our case had strength and energy and the IBRG were determined to continue this battle.

On12th October the Irish Post had Rochdale and Bury opt for monitoring. Bothe of these were Metropolitan boroughs in the greater Manchester area. Cllr John Byrne was the leader in Bury. Pat Reynolds was quoted as stating ‘How can the ONS not now recognise the Irish and the case for inclusion the 2010 census when over 100 local authorities in Britain with the highest concentration of the Irish do so. There is a huge demand for the Irish to be now included.

On 18th October the Irish World had Irish support on the rise in councils which detailed that over 100 local authorities in Britain now recognise the Irish.

On 26th October the Irish Post had Now Irish in Trafford win recognition. It had the highest number of Irish outside of Manchester city in the area. Sunderland City Council and the Wirral in Liverpool had also come on broad. Frank Prendergast leader of Liverpool City Council said they would look at the issue. Bradford city council were also looking at it. In the Metropolitan Borough of Sefton Brian Reynolds deputy leader stated I certainly agree with you that the Irish community are subject to discrimination in much the same way as other ethnic groups. He suggested bringing an Irish community representative onto their Race Committee.

The Irish Government had turned down the three Senate seats for Irish emigrants which the IBRG opposed. Pat Reynolds had a letter in the Irish Times on the issue.

 

The IBRG Ard Choiste took place on 2nd November at the Friends Meeting Place in Manchester. Five delegates attended namely Bernadette Hyland, Diarmuid Breatnach, Maurice Moore, Kevin Hayes and Joe Mullarkey.

The meeting heard that Patrick Kelly who was suffering from cancer and was close to death had been released from Portlaoise Jail. Frank Johnson had been 21 years in prison an innocent man. The newly named ONS (Office for National Statistics) had responded to the IBRG demand for inclusion in the Census. Pat Reynolds had informed them that over 100 local authorities in Britain now recognised the Irish. The meeting heard that 106 local authorities now recognise the Irish. The IBRG had given £100 to the Bloody Sunday march and Pat Reynolds was on the organising committee.

On 3rd November the IBRG picketed 10 Downing St over Irish prisoners.

On 21st November Pat Reynolds was speaking with Billy Power of the Birmingham Six, Maurice Quinlivan later a TD in Dublin, Pegeen O Sullivan and Shelagh O’Connor at the launch of the PTA card at the Camden Irish centre and later had an interview with Heart Radio on the issue. An Phoblacht on 28th November   covered the launch with “Fuascailt launches PTA card 22,000 arrested during cessation” with a photograph of all the speakers. The Irish Post on 30th November covered it with a photo of Billy Power and Shelagh O’Connor. The Irish World had Advice card to end rough justice on 15th November.

 

 

The IBRG condemned the Daily Mail over its anti-Irish rantings in November.

On 1st November Bruce Anderson was again having a go at the West of Ireland. Anderson wrote ‘Death of an Evil Man’ after the death of Sean MacBride winner of the Nobel peace prize some years earlier. On 3rd November the IBRG put out a statement Outbreak of Xenophobia at Daily Mail condemning Anderson for his attack on the Gaeltacht in Ireland. Anderson betrays a sense of siege about Ireland and things Irish whether it be the Michael Collins film, Irish economic success or successful Irish people abroad like Sean McBride. Anderson has a typical 19th century colonial mindset who lives in the past who can only see Ireland in terms of pigs and potatoes, and he belongs to the past.

A year after the Irish government had ratified the European Convention on the Transfer of Prisoners only two Irish prisoners had been transferred to the Irish Republic.

The IBRG were mentioned in the Sunday Telegraph on 19th November in an article on Irish theme pubs. The story Phoney Irish pubs leave a bitter taste by Andrew Gilligan. The IBRG called for more sensitivity in naming such pubs. Scruffy Murphy’s was more a colonial stereotype which could impact on Irish kids. They were selling fake Irishness which was plastic. and often replacing genuine Irish pubs and staff which often provided Irish music and culture.  It was Walt Disney meeting Fr Ted. The Irish theme pub was now universal and in over 100 cities in the world. There was more to Irish culture than plastic leprechauns and prefabricated Irishness and expensive beer.

On 25th November the German Government requested the extradition of Roisin McAliskey to face trial in Germany.

On 2nd November the Irish Post had Warrington opts for monitoring of Irish. This was significant in that Warrington had sought to find way forward for the Peace Process following an IRA bomb in the town. The move by Warrington was seen as a gesture of goodwill towards the Irish people. Brighton Council also confirmed that they recognised the Irish as did Bedford as did Basildon and Southend.

On 11th November the Irish Post had Call to include emigrants in census rejected, this time it was the Irish government rejected the IBRG bid to have a question on emigration included in the Irish census, to find out the level of recent emigration from Ireland.

On 16th November the Irish Post had Another four weigh in.  The report showed that four more English city councils had recognise the Irish in Portsmouth, Lincoln, Gloucester and Worcester. Both Portsmouth and Gloucester had sizable Irish communities. On 23rd November the Irish Post had Five More agree on monitoring. This included Leicester.

The IBRG now had 108 local authorises on board  in Britain on ethnic monitoring of the Irish. In a story alongside the Irish Post had Nottingham call to Irish which the IBRG had given the Post.  Nottingham City Council wanted to make contact with local Irish organisations and individuals to consult with them about the needs of the Irish community. There was a big Irish community in Nottingham which used to have an IBRG branch.

On 30th November the Irish Post had More ethnic monitoring in Scotland with two more local Councils on board. The IBRG stated that they had been encouraged by the response from Scotland the Scottish would make a separate decision on the ethnic groups for the census in Scotland as it was important for IBRG to get the majority of councils in Scotland behind recognition of the Irish in order to win the census debate there.

On 4th December IBRG member joined the picket of Bow St Court over Roisin MacAliskey and again on 13th, 20th and 27th December.

 

On 7th December IBRG London members met at the Roger Casement Irish centre with nine delegates present including Diarmuid Breatnach, Tim McNamara, Laoise de Paor, Danny Burke, Michael O Maolain, Jack Vance, Thomas MacStiofan, Pat Reynolds and Jody Clark.

The meeting discussed reports from Lewisham, Brent, Southwark and North London, recruitment, Bloody Sunday march, Prisoners, General election, census 2001, ethnic recognition, CRE, PTA and employment discrimination. North London, Brent, Southwark and Lewisham attended.

The meeting was a success with a full debate on many issue and full reports on branch activities, from pickets to prisoners where Danny and Laoise were always involved and Pat and Thomas were involved in the Roisin McAliskey campaign, while Pat chaired the Frank Johnson campaign. The branches had use of two Irish centres one in Lewisham and one at the Roger Casement, and IBRG had been instrumental in setting both up. Green Ink another local IBRG resource was losing its funding, but would alter continue until 2001.

 

IBRG members attacked on bus by plain clothes police

On 13th December the Irish World had Growing concern after bus attack which detailed two IBRG members were waylaid on a late evening bus by two plain clothes police officers. Danny Burke and Laoise de Paor both members of Islington IBRG were coming back from an Irish language class. The police tried to bundle Danny off the bus and began asking him questions about IRA bombings in London.

When at first, Laoise asked the bus driver to call the police, the driver responded they are the police. Other passengers intervened and stopped the police in their tracks. An Englishman on the bus stood up and intervened and defended the Irish couple, demanding to know why they were arresting an innocent man. Several middle-aged Black women on the bus also spoke up loudly and told the police to back off. Eventually the police took notice of the other angry passengers and got off the bus at Kings Cross.

The IBRG in a statement on 9th December condemned the targeting of innocent Irish people travelling on a bus. Both were elderly and retired.

The couple clearly got targeted because they had Irish accents and were speaking some Gaelic. The incident had one strange moment when the police eventually flashed their warrant cards, but Danny Burke flashed back his new PTA bust card. He was frightened that they would take him off the bus and beat him up around the corner. The IBRG put the couple in touch with a solicitor and with Liberty and advised him to inform the Irish Embassy of the incident.

Coventry IBRG had an open meeting with Coventry’s Irish community on 16th December. The Irish Post on 7th December had IBRG meet in Coventry. Maurice Moore was the leading IBRG figure in Coventry.

Maurice Moore

 

On 14th December the Irish Post had photos of a Colmtas night in Bolton with Margaret and Joe Mullarkey in the top photo. The paper described Joe Mullarkey as Bolton’s best known Irishman and a former GAA player with Shannon Rangers. Margaret Mullarkey was of course Bolton’s best-known Irish woman, and a prime organiser of festival Ceili exhibitions and much more.

Pickets for Prisoners

On 14th December IBRG members joined the picket of Belmarsh prison where Pat Reynolds spoke, and joined a picket of 10 Downing St on Christmas Day, plus a picket of the Home Office over Frank Johnson on 17th December.

On 24th December the IBRG organised a picket of Holloway Prison over Roisin McAliskey. On 27th December Roisin McAliskey was placed in the all-male Belmarsh Prison.

IBRG organised  the picket of the German Embassy on 30th December again over Roisin. Both Thomas MacStiofan and Pat Reynolds were active in this campaign to get justice for Roisin along with other IBRG members and people from the community.

At the end of the year 110 local authorities in Britain recognised the Irish.

15 people had died in the Trouble in 1996.

 

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

An excellent history of 200 years of Irish political activity in Manchester – including Manchester IBRG read “The Wearing of the Green” by Michael Herbert. Buy it here

Read previous posts on IBRG history here

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Killed in El Salvador 3 December 1980; the Murder of Maura Clarke and her Sisters.

Jean Donovan, Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel and Maura Clarke

Guest post by Geoff Cobb.

I am a high school history teacher and author of books on Brooklyn history I also write for Irish American magazine, The Irish Echo newspaper and the New York  Irish History round table journal. My research on Irish painter John Mulvany was featured in the NY Times

 Why did I write about Sr. Maura I had to stop and think because it was an unconscious choice. Those murders horrified the New York Irish Catholic community because we had such reverence for nuns and for the first time many people wondered aloud about our role in Central America if we were supporting people capable of such barbarity and cruelness.  The victims were our own people and beloved in the community.

 

Forty years ago, on December 3, 1980, the world was shocked to learn of the brutal rape and murder of three Maryknoll nuns and a lay missionary. Their bodies were found in a shallow grave near the town of Santiago Nonualco, El Salvador. They had been beaten, raped and their bodies mutilated. One of the murdered nuns was  Sr. Maura Clarke of Belle Harbor Queens. The others were Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel, and lay missionary Jean Donovan.

Americans learned in horror that  Clarke and the other women had been assassinated at the orders of the Salvadoran government. In El Salvador at this time, the Catholic Church was “the object of governmental wrath and Clarke and the other women were seen as dangerous, subversives.

Ita and Maura.

Sr.  Maura Clarke, a widely loved figure in Salvador, died serving the poor and oppressed people of Central America and her murder caused raised many troubling questions about American foreign policy in Central America.

Clarke was the daughter of Irish immigrants raised in “ The Irish Riviera,” The Rockaways. Her mother Mary, originally from County Antrim, while studying nursing in Dublin, met her future husband  John  from Sligo who was fighting for the IRA. In 1922, John brought a wounded comrade to a convalescent home where Mary was the nurse. They fell in love and  left for New York. They  married in 1930 and had  three children, Maura, Buddy and Judy. In 1934, the Clarkes moved to Rockaway, where Maura attended St. Camillus, St. Frances de Sales (SFDS) and Stella Maris High School.

Clarke decided to become a Maryknoll nun, stimulated  by a deep desire “to become closer to God and to serve him.” She joined the sisters in 1950, making her first vows in 1953 with the intention of becoming a teacher.

When Sr. Maura entered the order, novices lived by a strict code of individual and corporate prayer. Full habits were worn and visits from family were severely limited. When she had completed her two and a half years as a novice, Clarke was sent to teach school in a poor neighborhood in the Bronx and soon was loved for her warmth and deep empathy with the schoolchildren.

In 1959, Clarke was assigned abroad to Nicaragua. Her first assignment was in a booming, but impoverished gold mining town in the jungle called Siuna,  where her attitude towards the role of the Church slowly began to evolve.

Sr. Maura was profoundly affected by the changes brought about by the Second Vatican Council.  Clarke changed from seeing herself as ministering to people’s souls to tending to their social and economic concerns, believing  that when the fathers of families “were digging gold and their children were starving,” the solution was not for them to attend church more often.

Sr. Maura at work.

Clarke became one of the earliest examples of lived liberation theology, believing, “the Catholic Church ought not only to be concerned with souls, but also with engaging ordinary Catholics in building a world of justice and fairness … to bring specifically Catholic answers to social problems.” Clarke and the other nuns now did not seek to be figures of authority as much as facilitators who entered people’s homes, talked with them, and helped them deal with the struggles of their personal lives.

After the huge  earthquake in  Nicaragua in December 1972, Sr. Maura chose to live with victims of the earthquake in refugee camps, sharing hardships with the people. She saw that the poverty in which most Nicaraguans lived resulted from the unequal distribution of wealth to a few closely connected to the regime of Anastasio Somoza.

She also learned that the aid coming from the U.S. never reached those in real need. The center of Managua, left flattened after the quake, was not rebuilt because American aid was used instead to buy weapons for the government  to fight the leftist rebellion. Sr. Clarke helped the people to rebuild their homes, but also to establish truly Christian communities.

In 1977, Maura returned to the Center to serve on a Maryknoll Sisters World Awareness Team, working primarily along the East Coast of the United States. She explained her view of this work to a fellow nun, “I see in this work a channel for awakening real concern for the victims of injustice in today’s world.”

When her term with the World Awareness Team ended early in 1980, Maura made a period of spiritual renewal and mission updating. It was not easy for her to make up her mind to return to Central America, but Nicaragua needed her, so she went freely, gladly. She wrote, “My dream is that, with each of you, in Jesus our source of hope and joy, we may continue to give ourselves to bring about the new Kingdom of love, justice, and peace.”

She decided to take the place of a Maryknoll sister in El Salvador of a nun who had drowned in an accident. Clarke knew it was a dangerous posting.  By the time of her assassination  Sr. Maura was fully living the ideas of service and ministering that she had begun to develop in Nicaragua, which hearkened back to her Irish Catholic roots, where having a Catholic identity meant opposition to the  British state.

Eventually, Sr. Maura and the others she worked with were actively helping guerilla fighters and others targeted by the Salvadoran government. She had moved out of institutions into ever more authentic encounters with people striving for social, political and economic equity. In the end, despite the danger, she chose to help the oppressed and ultimately lost her life.

 

Stained glass window in St. Francis de Sales church Bronx New York.

Today  Maura Clarke is still a hero in Nicaragua and El Salvador. In Brooklyn, she and a fellow Maryknoll nun are memorialized by  the Maura Clarke-Ita Ford Center, a social/educational institution for immigrant women. Writer Eileen Markey recently published a book about Sr. Maura (A Radical Faith: The Assassination of Sister Maura Clarke) which has led to calls for her canonization.

Mass for four women  in San Salvador Cathedral 2005

Read more about the case here “Killed in El Salvador:An American Story”. Retro Report “The New York Times” here

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History of Irish in Britain Representation Group Part fifteen 1995

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 Officers before meeting with Mo Mowlam of Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 1995.

On 3rd January the IBRG put out a statement Growing Concern at treatment of Irish Prisoners in Britain.

The statement expressed concern at the growing pattern of harassment and discrimination against Irish political prisoners in Britain. This included  locking them up for 23 hours  a day in Full Sutton prison, the banning of the use of their native language on the phone to their families, the refusal to continue the transfer programme, the ill-treatment of the Whitemoor escapees, and a range of other petty harassment of prisons and their families.

The IBRG supported the fight of Feilim O hAdhmaill to be able to speak his native language and to teach it within the prison.It condemned the 19th century colonial schooling methods employed by the Britain on the Irish language, where they punished Irish children for speaking their home language.

IBRG considers the ban on Irish to be racist and discriminatory. IBRG supported the Christmas Day picket of Downing St which was called by Conrad na Gaeilge over the ban on the Irish language. The IBRG also supported the picket of Belmarsh prison over the treatment of the Whitemoor escapees who were moved to Belmarsh prison. The pickets reflected the growing anger in the Irish community over the political victimisation of Irish political prisoners, and the attempts by the British government to use the prisoners as peace barter.

IBRG condemned the use of Special Secure Units and supported the prisoner’s action in refusing to cooperate with this system and their protest which started on 15th December which led to the 23 hours day lock up at Full Sutton. IBRG stated that Michael Howard was abusing international Law on the rights  of prisoners. IBRG called on the Labour Party  and the Irish government to stand up for basic human rights of Irish prisoners.

In January Bernadette Hyland highlighted the case of Feilim O hAdhmaill who was prevented from speaking Irish to his family. She called for Irish prisoners to be transferred to Ireland. The IBRG in a statement condemned the use of SS (Special Secure Units) for Irish prisoners as provocative. The Irish World in an article IBRG slam Strategy of tension quoted Bernadette Hyland accusing the Home Office actions as being a dangerous strategy of tension, where they forced Irish native speakers to speak in a foreign English language, and stopped their family phone calls in mid-flight. Bernadette went on’ The IBRG sees the issue of Irish prisons in British prisons as crucial test of the British government good faith in pursuing the Irish peace process. By imposing fresh restrictions on republican prisoners and refusing demands for a speedy transfer to Ireland d the Home Secretary Michael Howard is creating a politically dangerous situation.’

 

On 6th January IBRG picketed Ashford Industrial Tribunal in Kent in support of Máiréad Hold a Kent trainee social worker who stated that she had been discriminated against by Kent County Council. It was an all Irish language picket as Máiréad was a leading Irish language activist.  IBRG members attending were Diarmuid Breatnach, Padraig O Conhconcur, Seamus O Coileann, Padraig Mac Rannall and Máiréad Holt.

 

On 14th January the Ard Choiste was held at Caxton House in North London. Six delegates attended in including Laura Sullivan, Padaigin Ni Nuallain, Terry Corbin, Bernadette Hyland, Diarmuid Breatnach, and Pat Reynolds. Apologies  Neil Doolin.

The meeting heard that Sinn Fein had not responded to the IBRG request for a meeting to discuss the Peace Process. It was noted that the Wolfe Tone Society had organised a meeting with Francie Molloy from Sinn Fein at the same time as a picket of Belmarsh Prison on 18th December.

Lewisham and N. London had met earlier in the day and had identified   five areas of work for IBRG to prioritise, the transfer of prisoners, the repeal of the PTA, the Irish language, anti-Irish racism, and framed prisoners. The meeting heard that Saoirse, a new campaign group, had been set to campaign for the transfer of Irish prisoners, which had already been agreed by the British Government, and for an amnesty for political prisoners which would only come with a political settlement.

The meeting felt that Sinn Fein had failed to address the Irish community in Britain and their concerns on the peace Process in any meaningful way.  Branches were asked to push for Irish ethnic recognition given that the CRE had made public their support of Irish recognition.

  1. London IBRG (made up of Haringey, Hackney and Camden) submitted three motions which were passed. The first rejected the proposal by Fine Gael/Labour Coalition government for three Senate seats for the Irish abroad, and called for full voting rights to be given to the Irish abroad. The second motion condemned the appointment of Sean Donlon former Irish Ambassador in America to the post of special advisor on N. Ireland to the Irish government. While in America Sean Donlon on behalf of the Irish government had tried to block the case of the Birmingham Six being put forward in the USA. The third motion condemned the withdrawal of funding to Meanschoil Firste and called for full Irish language rights in N. Ireland.

On 15th January the IBRG put out a statement Vote demanded instead of Token Senate Seats which rejected the plan by the Labour/Fine Gael Coalition to give three Senate seats to the Irish abroad. The IBRG wanted the vote for the Irish abroad and nothing less and called for all Senate seats to be elected by the Irish people. The IBRG drew attention to the situation where under British colonial rule in N. Ireland Irish people maintain their voting rights for 12 years after leaving Nt Ireland, and yet the Irish Republic deny their citizens abroad thew vote. The IBRG called for equal voting rights all over Ireland for its people.

On 25th January Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking with Billy Power at a Public Meeting at the Camden Irish Centre attended by over 70 people. It was a joint meeting between the Malcolm Kennedy and the Frank Johnson campaigns.

On 26th January Pat Reynolds was speaking on the Kilroy Show on the case of Lee Clegg. Ken McGuiness was also on the show. The show was later attacked by the Sunday Express which showed we won the debate on the day.

That evening Martin McGuiness, Clive Soley MP, Peter Bottomley MP and Gareth Pierce were all speaking at a Public meeting at Friends Meeting place at Euston London. Gareth Pierce made by far the best speech of the night on the issue of justice. Clive Soley and Peter Bottomley were both awful while McGuinness made some useful points on the Peace Process, but many remarked at the meeting that there was no speaker from the Irish community in Britain. IBRG members asked a number of questions from the floor on the PTA, Article 2&3, and on the Felim O hAdhmail case. IBRG members in Birmingham attended a similar meeting where Martin McGuiness spoke.

On 27th January Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking on BBC Radio Belfast Talkback programme on the Lee Clegg case.

Bloody Sunday March Manchester

Leaflet for Blody Sunday march Manchester 1995

On 28th January IBRG members marched with banners on the Bloody Sunday March in Manchester at which Pat Reynolds was speaking with Martin McGuiness. Pat  raised the question of Irish deaths in custody and the framed prisoners such as  Frank Johnson. Hackney and Haringey had their banners on the march and IBRG members also attended from Manchester, Coventry, Liverpool, Bolton, Harrow and North London. The police presence was small compared with London and because of the peace process and the crowd was quite large.

In January the IBRG condemned the London Evening Standard for an article on the Great Hunger entitled ‘attack of the killer Potato’ but praised another article on the same topic by Melanie McDonagh entitled ‘A year long guilt trip for the nation’.

IBRG condemned the first article for its racism and stated ‘The views expressed by Mr Pepys are the same old racist views which created the Great Hunger. The Irish community in Britain and throughout the world will be remembering the Great Starvation and the contribution made by those fleeing from Hunger in Ireland to world history. Their contribution was one IBRG slam of hard work, equality and justice along with a strong desire to support other people in similar distress whether in Somalia or Bosnia. We celebrate the courageous legacy left by our brace ancestors, a noble dignity, a spirit of struggle and a consideration for others. Something Mr Pepys will never understand’.

The second article by the Irish writer Melanie McDonagh was well argued. She quoted Sinead O’Connor on about the Great Hunger that “God didn’t sent the Great Starvation to Ireland, He sent the English”. The writer states’ the potato blight was an act of nature, one that devastated many European countries besides Ireland. But the fatal response to it, and the dreadful vulnerability of the people, was a result of the way the Irish had been viewed and treated. A million people died in the famine, not because of nature, but because of England’s politics. She ends by stating ‘remembering the sins of colonisation isn’t comfortable, but it may turn out to be redemptive’.

In a statement on 6th January the IBRG stated  ‘ Pepys is a stable mate of the racist anti-Irish cartoonist JAK and we say to them both, haven’t they got enough problems without carrying the Whiteman’s burden, had nobody told them the days of Empire are over and that this racism U Like journalism, belongs to the colonial mentality of the past, long past its sell by date’.

 

On 5th February IBRG members joined the Frank Johnson picket of Leman St police station in East London where the original investigation took place from. It was the 20th anniversary of the death of Irish shopkeeper Mr Sheridan for which Frank, his employee, was framed.

 

Meeting with CRE and research on discrimination and Irish Community

On 7th February the IBRG joined other Irish groups to meet with Herman Ouseley Chair of the CRE to discuss progress on the University of N. London research on discrimination and the Irish community which would be finished by August with publication date of Spring 1996.

The CRE were going to use the Trevor McAuley case as an example in the Racial Harassment at Work booklet. The CRE were shocked at the level of anti-Irish abuse in the English media over the Trevor McAuley case, which included five editorials calling for the CRE to be abolished. Thus, any organisation supporting the Irish community in Britain would be attacked by the English racist media.

The CRE would support the inclusion of the Irish community as a separate category within the 2001 Census in Britain and would raise the matter in meetings with the OPCS. Irish groups criticised the CRE because they failed to make public their recognition of the Irish, or to put any pressure of local authorities to implement their recommendation with the result, that not a single local authority in Britain had taken any notice of the CRE circular. The CRE agreed to send out a public notice to this effect which eventually went out in August 1995.

The IBRG raised the issue of Regional Health Authorities which were bringing in ethnic monitoring in April 1995 but were excluding the Irish, and asked the CRE to make representations on this given the hidden health needs of the Irish community in mental health and other areas.

On 7th February the Irish Government lifted the State of Emergency which was in place since 1976.

 

19th  Anniversary of death of Frank Stagg

On 12th February IBRG took part in a picket of Belmarsh prison in South east London for the 19th anniversary of Frank Stagg’s death.  Pat Reynolds PRO was one of the speakers at the picket calling for the transfer of Irish prisoners and for the repeal of the PTA. The picket was covered in An Phoblacht.

In February the IBRG expressed disappointment that the British Government had restricted the Mortgage Incentive Scheme to the UK which mean Irish Council tenants could not buy a house in the 26  Counties. On 12th February the IBRG put out a statement on the British government re Mortgage Incentive scheme which was to encourage Council tenants to move out by giving them a deposit or cash incentive to buy a house around £10K. The Government scheme was limited to properties in the UK so people from N. Ireland could accept the cash and put it down against a house in N. Ireland, but the scheme did not extend to the Irish Republic.

The IBRG stated that given that the Republic was within a Common travel area, and given that both British and Irish people enjoyed full rights in each other’s countries, the scheme should have been extended to the Republic. Common homelessness went across borders and Irish returnees made up 18% of the Homeless in the Republic while the Irish in Britain also made up a high number of the homeless here. Both Governments needed to look at schemes like Mutual transfer and other schemes to address this problem. In the past families from the Republic could take part in the Mortgage incentive scheme. The IBRG called for a Mutual transfer scheme to be   set up between Britain and Ireland.

On 15th February an IBRG delegation met with Mo Mowlam  (see headline photo) at Westminster and discussed the PTA, Irish prisoners, Frank Johnson, the police treatment of Sr. Sarah Clark, the case of Feilim O hAdhmaill the Peace Process.

The delegation was led by IBRG Chair Diarmuid Breatnach, along with Pat Reynolds PRO, Virginia Moyles and Laura Sullivan. It was the first ever meeting between the Labour Party and the IBRG and Mo Mowlam was the Labour Party Spokesperson on N. Ireland. She wanted reform of the PTA and the days reduced from 7 to 4 and an end to exclusion orders.

Later that day Mo Mowlam wrote to Pat Reynolds PRO to say ‘I am writing to thank you and your colleagues for coming in to meet Nigel and myself today. We found it a very useful and constructive meeting. If there is anything you would like us to do with regard to the cases of particular prisoners, please let us have a contact name and we will examine what appropriate action cane be taken. Look forward to seeing you again soon, Your sincerely Marjorie Mowlam.

The IBRG issued a statement on 16th February with details of the discussion.  The Irish World covered the story with Westminster meeting urges abolition of PTA. The Irish Post covered did with a photo of Mo Mowlam in conversation with Virginia Moyles and Pat Reynolds

On the same day the Ireland V England match in Dublin was abandoned because rioting by English fans including right wing groups after Ireland took the lead.

 

On 16th February Pat Reynolds was speaking at Kent University in Canterbury where students supported the case of Frank Johnson, who the students adopted as a prisoner. The film In the Name of the Father was then shown. The Irish Post covered it with Students rally behind Frank Johnson.

On 18th February IBRG members attended a moving celebration of the life of Nina Hutchinson who died of cancer. Pat Reynolds praised the Nina’s commitment not just for the people of the Six Counties but also for the local Irish community, where she had helped set up the Southwark Irish Forum, The Irish Teachers Group and helped organise the Ireland the Right to Know Exhibition at the South London Gallery. She had been stopped from going into the USA because of her work around Ireland.

In February the IBRG condemned the treatment of Sr. Sarah Clark an elderly blind Irish nun who worked with Irish prisoners in Britain. She had been visited at her home by the Special Branch who took her fingerprints at her house. The IBRG condemned the cowardly Special branch for their attack on the civil liberties of 76-year-old blind nun.

 

On 15th February IBRG put out a statement Anger in Irish community over police treatment of Irish Elder, whose only crime was supporting human rights in Britain and Ireland and the rights of prisoners. It was seen as a calculated insult in post ceasefire Britain to target a blind Irish nun of 76 without allowing her statutory rights, and fingerprinting her at her home.

Sr. Sarah Clark was revered among Irish prisoners both political and framed, and within the Irish community who for many dark years carried the torch of freedom for the Birmingham Six and other prisoners. Even after the ceasefire the British government can’t keep its grubby hands off our community.

IBRG raised the issue with Mo Mowlam in their meeting on 15th February and handed in a formal letter of protest at the British Home Office. The IBRG also complained to the Irish Government over her house arrest and finger printing,  and that  she  had been given no rights to legal advice and support. It was an act of state intimidation for all her work on Human Rights. The Irish Press covered it with British police fingerprint elderly nun and quoted the IBRG in the story. Sr. Sarah Clark was not cautioned before the police interview nor allowed to contact her solicitor Gareth Pierce. The IBRG called on the Irish government to stand up for its citizens abroad. The Irish World ran the IBRG statement as a letter.

British Government documents on future of Ireland

On 22nd February the British Government published two documents entitled Framework for the Future and a Framework for Accountable Government in N. Ireland. These included the Irish Government giving up its territorial claim to N. Ireland and a recognition of the Unionist veto in Ireland. John Mayor spoke of the Triple Lock. N. Ireland will stay British until the majority of political parties in N. Ireland want to change it, until the people of N. Ireland vote to change it and until the British government vote to change it.

On 25th February the IBRG issued a statement entitled Framework Document Rejigs Failed solutions. The IBRG stated ‘The Framework lacks any concept of self-determination for the Irish peoples a whole, and is totally lacking in putting forward any structures for a United Ireland. There is no acknowledgement of Britain’s role and responsibility for the creation of N. Ireland, the problem is now referred to patronisingly as parity of esteem, two traditions, thus letting Britain off the hook.’.

On 25th February IBRG officers met at the Lewisham Irish Centre to plan the Ard Fheis.

On 1st March IBRG members joined a midday picket of Belmarsh Prison and in the evening picket of Downing St over the arrest in Derry of Sinn Fein activists including Mary Nellis. The picket was called by the Colin Roach Centre in Hackney.

In March the IBRG made public the case of Norah Waugh sister of Jimmy Doyle, her husband and her son who had been cleared after wrongful arrest.

On 1st March the IBRG issued a statement where a wronged arrested Irish family were cleared by the court. The IBRG had complained publicly over the treatment of the family and the Southwark Irish Forum had written to Chief Supt at Peckham station over the incidents.

On Boxing day in 1994 Michael Waugh was leaving his parents’ home when he was mugged on the street. One of assailants went into the public house, and when he went in, he was attacked by youths from the pub.  When his father went in to investigate, he too was beaten. The mother frightened at what was happening to her husband and son being badly injured, dialled 999. But when the police arrived, they arrested the Irish father and son and took them to Peckham police station. At 3am the mother went to the police station to find out what was happening and was herself arrested. Because of a medical condition brought on by her arrest she had to be rushed to hospital where they put her arm in a sling the father and mother were charged with being drunk and the son with criminal damage. The father and son spent 14 hours in custody and the mother spend 11 hours in custody before appearing in court the next day. All charges were cleared at court. The father and son both worked with the Probation Service and were highly respected in the neighbourhood. The father could not even drink because of a medical condition. The IBRG expressed its alarm that an innocent Irish family could be    falsely arrested and charged, and an Irish mother racially abused, and as victims they did not get any protection from the law.

 

On 5th March Pat Reynolds attended a meeting in Brent with IBRG members in Brent to try and restart Brent branch with John Tymon and Tomas McStiofan. John Tymon was Branch Secretary of Brent Unison while Thomas MacStiofan was a leading Irish language teacher.

British Government renews attack on Irish Community

On 5th March IBRG released a statement headed British Government renews attacks on Irish community on the British government renewing the racist PTA laws, despite the IRA ceasefire and the lifting of the State of Emergency in Ireland. It was set for renewal on 8th March in the Commons.

IBRG stated the renewal exposes the real intention and purpose of the PTA at last, to politically silence the Irish community and to stifle debate in Britain on the Government’s failure to negotiate with all the political representatives of the Irish people. The British Government told us for over twenty years that the only reason for the PTA was the IRA, now the real reason is exposed to abuse the human and civil rights of Irish citizens in Britain.

IBRG deplored the feeble effort of the British Labour Party in opposing the PTA, when they would support the PTA minus exclusions orders and a reduction of 7 days to 4. Why does the British Labour party want to keep any section of the PTA, and why support the two new clauses in the Criminal Justice bill, which further target the Irish community and abuse their civil liberties. Rather than preventing terrorism the PTA has been used to terrorise the whole community, and was instrumental in keeping the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four in prison. More recently it was used to racially abuse a blind Irish elderly nun Sr Sarah Clark.

Death of Maire O’Shea

On 8th March Dr Maire O Shea former president of IBRG died in Dublin. The Guardian carried an Obituary as did the Sunday Tribune by Bernadette McAliskey. Maire had been attempting to set up a public inquiry into the framing of the Birmingham Six, when she herself became the victim of state terrorism.

She had spent a lifetime fighting for better rights for people in mental health. She was IBRG President for three years and had been a member of the IBRG NEC for many years. She was a founding member of the West Midlands PTA Campaign, had been in in the Anti-Partition League, the anti-Internment League, Troops Out and IBRG. Pat Daly, MI5 agent, had been involved in infiltrating IBRG and in setting up what was a state conspiracy to damage the IBRG.

Maire’s campaign gave rise to the campaign for the release of the Birmingham Six, she gave the community the inspiration to rise up against repressive laws and false imprisonments in Britain. As the IBRG stated ‘the burden of oppression is a bit lighter today on the Irish community because of brave women like Dr Maire OShea, and we owe it to her to continue our campaign and her vision of a free and united Ireland, and a free Irish community in Britain’.

In March Green Ink held the London Irish Bookfair which drew thousands of people including a capacity crowd on the final evening to hear Bernadette MacAliskey. Sr Sarah Clark  opened the Bookfair and spoke highly of Dr Maire O Shea and the struggle of Irish prisoners in Britain.

On 9th March Bill Clinton grants Gerry Adams, a visa to visit America and raise funds.

On 17th March Manchester IBRG organised the launch of the book “The Cause of Ireland” with Liz Curtis at Frontline Books in Manchester.

 

 

On 18th March IBRG members attended a lecture given by Gareth Pierce on The State of Criminal Justice at the Halkevi Kurdish Centre in Hackney in memory of all those people who have suffered and died in police custody.

On 23rd March IBRG members in London attended the launch of the  Service Needs of the Irish Community report at the ALA (All London Authorities). Herman Ouseley head of the CRE attended as did Bernie Grant MP and over 90 local authority staff. The main issue and purpose of the meeting was to push for Irish ethnic recognition among local authorities and in the 2001 National Census.

 

On 25th March the IBRG Ard Fheis was held at the KOKO Centre in Coventry. Eleven delegates attended from six branches including Neil Doolin, Marie Byrne McCann, Jonathan Richards, Peter Skerrett, Sean Hone, Tim McNamara, Bernadette Hyland, Kevin Hayes, Maurice Moore, Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds.

The following officers were elected;

Chair Pat Reynolds North London

Cisteoir Maurice Moore Coventry

PRO/Membership Bernadette Hyland Manchester.

Prisoners Officer Laura Sullivan North London.

Neil Doolin was thanked for his hard work as Runai over the previous three years and for his work on the Liverpool Irish Festival. Maurice Moore paid a moving tribute to Dr Maire OShea who had died earlier in March. Outgoing Chair Diarmuid Breatnach outlined the positives and negatives of the IRA ceasefire upon the Irish community in Britain, but highlighted the fact that the racist PTA laws were still in place, and that the conditions for Irish prisoners had not changed. He welcomed the decision of the CRE to recognise the Irish community, but the vote for emigrants in N. Ireland had yet to be won. Kevin Hayes gave an update on the PTA and highlighted the success of the Kate Magee campaign and also the work undertaken by IBRG in the McNulty family campaign.

The PRO had spoken at seven public meetings on behalf of the IBRG along with seven pickets on prisoners’ issues. He had been able to make a five-minute program on anti-Irish racism after the Trevor Mcauley case with the help of Channel Four, and had been speaking on the Kilroy show re Lee Clegg, and had two meeting with the BBC to assist their First Sight program on racial harassment on the Irish.

The PRO had spoken 10-times on Radio four-time on Mutual exchanges in Housing, and spoke on the Pat Kenny Show, Cork radio, Sligo radio, and Dundalk radio. He spoke also on Greater London radio about the Lambeth head count, and to Radio Eireann and Radio Ulster re the Trevor McAuley case and had a 30-minute debate with Ruth Dudley Edwards on greater London radio on ethnic status for the Irish, spoke with Radio Foyle re the vote in Ireland and on Radio Belfast re Lee Clegg.

IBRG stories were carried in the Irish Post, Irish World,  An Phoblacht, Irish Independent, Irish Press, Evening Press, Evening Herald, Irish Times, Irish News, South London Press, Cork Examiner, Sligo Radio, Radio Eireann, Dundalk Radio, Asian Times, Greater London radio, Channel Four TV, Radio Ulster, BBC TV, Sunday times, Independent, Yorkshire Post, Coventry Irish Hour, Radio Foyle, Central TV, London Tonight, London News Agency, Kilburn Times, Brent Chronicle, Guardian Saoirse and other Irish language outlets.

Motions passed included;

A motion calling for Irish emigrants to be given the vote in Ireland, and rejecting the offer of three senate seats,

A motion rejecting the framework documents as seeking an internal solution to Nt Ireland

A motion calling for outright opposition to MP who supported the PTA

A motion calling for inclusion of the Irish in the 2001 Census in Britain,

The Ard Fheis heard reports of IBRG work on the Kate Magee Campaign, the Frank Johnson Campaign, The McNulty Family campaign, work against the PTA, prisoners work on transfer and amnesty, along with language and cultural work.

Felim O hAdhmaill Case

In a letter to Manchester IBRG Mo Mowlam stated that she would visit Felim O hAdhmaill in Full Sutton Prison. This was covered in the Irish Post who quoted Bernadette Hyland that the proposed visit by Mo Mowlam was a breakthrough and showed that the resolution of Irish prisoners’ issues in British jails was an integral part of the peace process. Meanwhile Eamon O’Cuiv grandson of Fianna Fáil founder, Taoiseach and President of Ireland, Éamon de Valera,was coming to Britain to meet Irish prisoners and would meet Feilim.  O’Cuiv was a native Irish speaker and would speak with Feilim in Irish at the prison.

Manchester IBRG produced the 4th IBRG National Newsletter (see below) with an article on the Irish community and the peace Process, a review of 1994, news of various campaigns and news from branches. The front cover had a photo of Kate Magee.

On 6th April Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG took part in an hour-long debate on the Irish being an ethnic minority community on BBC Greater London Radio, Kent Radio, Oxford Radio, and Radio Bedfordshire along with Deirdre Robinson of the Camden Irish Centre and Irish Tory Councillor Tony Hennessy from Hammersmith, with members of the public ringing in with questions to the panel of three. It was a fascinating debate.

The same evening BBC TV carried a program The Irish A Race Apart which Pat Reynolds had two sessions with the producers on, giving them cases to interview. The programme  featured the Waugh family from Southwark and their treatment by the police. So, despite increasing censorship from the moving right Irish Post the IBRG were receiving excellent coverage on BBC TV, several radio stations in the south East and several Irish national papers. The IBRG were leading the national debate on issues like ethnic status, the PTA and Irish miscarriages of justice.

Joe Benson MP of Liverpool had put in an EDM (Early Day Motion) in the Commons on Frank Johnson which had received the support of 25 MPs with more to come.

On 19th April Brent IBRG held their first meeting.

In April the IBRG took up the issue of including the Irish in ethnic monitoring of European Funding programs. Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG wrote to Pauline Green MEP on 30th April on the fact that the ethnic monitoring for the European social funding did not include the Irish, so there was no way of knowing whether the Irish were getting any funding or not. The IBRG argued that given the CRE were recommending the inclusion of the Irish, and the fact of the 1976 Race relations act recognising the Irish, the European social Funding program should include the Irish.

In April Diarmuid Breatnach was called in to an Old Bailey trial to provide language translation for a man from the Gaeltacht, the first time since Fenian times that an Irish language translator was used at the Old Bailey. The Irish World reported this on 28th April with Irish Interpreter makes court history.

Lewisham IBRG marked Easter 1916 with a lecture by Liz Curtis author of the newly published book The Cause of Ireland. The Irish Post covered it with a photo of Liz Curtis.

 

On 29th April the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Working-Class movement Library in Salford Manchester. Nine delegates attended including Diarmuid Breatnach, Tim McNamara, Denis McGovern, Martin Connolly, Stobhart Matuieveicz, Pat Reynolds, Maurice Moore, Bernadette Hyland and Joe Mullarkey.

Apologies Neil Doolin, and Laura Sullivan.

The meeting heard that Saoirse had been launched in London in March and that Laura Sullivan was attending their meetings. A letter from Feilim O hAdhmaill was read to the meeting, he had won the right to communicate in Irish with his family. Pat Reynolds was collating information on ethnic recognition of the Irish across Britain. Bolton IBRG had organised a series of Irish programmes for Bolton Radio. Other issues discussed were, Frank Johnson, CRE meeting and recognition for the Irish, the Great Hunger anniversary, votes for emigrants, 2001 Census and the history of IBRG.

Haringey Council support inclusion of Irish in 2001 Census

On 25th April Haringey Ethnic Minorities JCC discussed the Service Needs of the Irish community in Britain with Pat Reynolds winning Haringey Council’s support for the inclusion of the Irish within the 2001 Census, the first Local authority in Britain to do so. Haringey CEO would write to the OPCS on the matter, and also write to Virginia Bottomley Health Minister about the getting the NHS to recognise the Irish. Former IBRG Vice Chair Seamus Carey now a Haringey councillor was there to support the Irish motion, along with Cllr George Meehan many times Leader of Haringey Council and from Donegal.

On 30th April the IBRG issued a statement entitled Haringey Council support for Irish Needs Report which stated that Haringey EMJCC had on 25th April heard a report on Developing a community response the Service needs of eth Irish community. Bill Aulsbury Vice Chair of the Federation addressed the meeting. Bill was also Chair of the Haringey Irish Centre. George Meehan, several times leader of Haringey Council and then Chair of Housing attended the meeting to give his support. Pat Reynolds IBRG Chair and member of the EMJCC proposed on the back of the report acceptance, that Haringey Council CEO write to the OPCS calling on them to include the Irish community as a separate category in the 2001 census, and further to write to Virginia Bottomley Minister for Health calling on the government to include the Irish in ethnic monitoring within the NHS. Cllr Toby Harris Leader of Haringey council and Chair of the ALA in London responded from the Council side supporting these two proposals, and called for reports to come back to the various committee like Housing and social Services, on ways to address the needs of the Irish community locally.

The Report was drafted by Action Group for Irish Youth and the Federation. Haringey had only two Irish councillors George Meehan and Seamus Carey former Vice chair of IBRG.

On 5th May the Irish World covered this with Haringey pledges support for Irish, the paper also covered the battle for ethnic status in London fought by the IBRG, and noted that nearly half of the 32 London boroughs now recognised the Irish with North London leading the way.

IBRG announced their results of their ethnic monitoring campaign in London with some 15 London boroughs out of 32 now recognising the Irish about half.

Merseyside IBRG Meeting on Peace Process

On 4th May Pat Reynolds was speaking with Una Gillespie of Sinn Fein at the Liverpool Irish Centre, the first time Sinn Fein had spoken at public meeting in Liverpool since the War of Independence. Over 200 people attended the meeting to talk about the Peace Process. The speakers included a speaker from the Connolly Association, but the Federation of Irish Societies failed to turn up.

The meeting was organised as part of the Liverpool Irish Festival organised by Merseyside IBRG. Nell McCafferty and Mary Dorcey also spoke on different evenings during the festival plus a Festival Parade was held.

The Festival got a two-page Photo spread in the Irish Post on 20th May with a large photo of the parade with its banner Liverpool Irish cultural community festival, and a photo of Neil Doolin and others, the Irish World on 19th May again had a whole page photo spread with eight photos including Neil Doolin outside the Irish centre with Marie Byrne McCann.

The Irish Post covered the political meeting with Irish in Britain have key role in talks process. Pat Reynolds stated that there were over two million people in Britain who identified as being Irish and that it was time to decommission Britain’s role in Ireland which was a colonial and repressive one.

In May the British government published its consultation paper on identity Cards which the IBRG opposed.

On 4th June IBRG members joined the first Saoirse picket in Britain of 10 Downing St before then it was just Cuman Cabrach and the IBRG who had kept the pickets going on Irish prisoners from 1981 to 1995 some 15 years.

On 11th June IBRG members attended the Bronterre O’Brien commemoration at Abney Cemetery in Hackney.See below. O’Brien was one of the leaders of the Chartist movement and was born in Granard Co Longford.

 

 

On 12th June IBRG members attended the Unison Irish fringe meeting in Brighton with Diarmuid Breatnach speaking for the Irish workers Group, Frank O’ Neill speaking for Saoirse and Joan O’Connor for Sinn Fein. The meeting drew over 70 people.

On 17th June the IBRG Ard Choiste met at Caxton House at Archway north London. Six delegates attended including Laura Sullivan, Pat Reynolds, Diarmuid Breatnach, Bernadette Hyland, and Maurice Moore.

It was agreed to affiliate to Saoirse for £25, and to the Bridgewater Four campaign for £10. Diarmuid Breatnach was elected Vice chair. A motion from North London condemned the proposed identity cards introduction by the British Government. The priorities for the year were identified, Great Hunger events, Prisoners issues, ethnic recognition, 2001 census and votes for emigrants. A meeting had been arranged with Mo Mowlam to discuss the PTA, prisoners and Nt Ireland policy.

On 20th June Martin McGuiness stated ‘in reality there is not a snowball’s chance in hell of any weapons being decommissioned this side of a negotiated settlement’.

In June the IBRG condemned the remark by Paddy Ashdown Leader of the Liberals about not giving ‘an Irishman’s answer’ to a question. The Irish World had the story on the front-page quoting Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG that his remark was racist and betrayed a colonial mentality, and reflected on the British establishment entrenched attitude towards Irish people.

Laoise de Paor of Nt London IBRG had painted a banner for the Frank Johnson Campaign which  was put on display at the London Irish Fleadh in Finsbury park.

Merseyside IBRG and rejected plans for Dublin/Liverpool Ferry

On 1st July the Irish Post ran a story Liverpool City Council’s blow to ferry Link about the rejected plan to restart a Dublin Liverpool ferry. Neil Doolin of Merseyside  IBRG was quoted as saying’ We are disappointed with the Liverpool City council’s decision not to go ahead with the ferry proposal, and see it as missed opportunity to strengthen economic cultural and social links with Ireland. Let’s not forget that Dublin is the nearest EU capital to Liverpool, and it seems ludicrous that links between the two are not being forged, especially now that millions of pounds of EU Objective One cash is available’.

On 3rd July Lee Clegg a British soldier convicted of murder was released after four years. This led to rioting in nationalist areas in the occupied territories. In London IBRG members joined with other human rights supporters in picketing the Home Office and then Parliament and getting on TV. This was  during John Major’s re-election as Tory Leader on 4th July. John Bruton stated that he  expects the British authority to apply the same rules to all other similar prisoner cases.’

On 3rd July Pat Reynolds was a key note speaker at a Haringey Education Conference on Racial Equality in schools.

On 9th July the Orange march was blocked from marching down the Garvaghy Road in Lurgan but the next day the Tory Government gave in to the right-wing marchers and allowed them to go through. The Irish government accused the RUC of bias in favour of the marches.

On 14th July after a meeting of John Bruton, John Hume, Gerry Adams and Dick Spring a joint statement called for all-party talks as soon possible.

By the end of July, the Irish government had released 33 republican prisoners while the British Government had transferred some 21 republican prisoners.

 On 15th July Coventry IBRG issued a statement condemning Coventry’s Lord Major Joe Clifford for refusing to meet with elected public Sinn Fein figure Joe Austin, who was in Britain to build up support for the peace process.

Joe Austin was met by representatives of the Christian churches in Coventry, leaders of the Irish community, trade unions and other city councillors, yet last spring Coventry had feted Cllr Hugh Smith PUP in their City, and the refusal to meet a Sinn Fein Councillor smacked of colonial racist attitudes.

Maurice Moore, Chair of Coventry IBRG, stated ‘by his actions the Lord Major has insulted Coventry’s Irish community and owes us an apology. We demand that Coventry City Council make clear their role and contribution, if any, to the Peace Process’.

The Irish Post on 5th August had Refusal still rankles which covered letters in the  Coventry Evening Telegraph on the issue. The Mayor, in taking office, stated that Peace was to be the theme of his year in office, yet as Maurice Moore pointed out, he refused to take part in a Peace Process meeting in Coventry  and showed bias by openly inviting Loyalist PUP to Coventry.

 

On 17th July Bernadette Hyland, PRO IBRG, issued a statement IBRG Condemns British government’s year zero policy on Irish prisoners in British jails. New prison regimes were imposing closed visits on Irish prisoners and going back on agreements such as Feilim O hAdhamill’s right to speak and write to his family in Irish Bernadette Hyland stated ‘these prisoners are part of our community over here, and we utterly condemn this new regime as vicious and repressive. Eleven months into the ceasefire we have yet to see a positive response from the British government on the treatment of Irish prisoners in British jails, republican prisoners are clearly being used as political pawns  in the peace process We call on the British government to transfer all Irish prisoners immediately and move quickly to all-party talks in which the early release of prisoners would be3 a crucial part of any settlement’.

Lewisham and recognition of Irish

On 22nd July the Irish Post story Breakthrough on monitoring in Lewisham covered Lewisham council moving to recognise the Irish in the autumn and were preparing a report for committee. The IBRG had made several representations to the Council on the matter.

The article also reported that Lambeth Southwark and Lewisham Health commission we relooking at the issue. The article reported that seminar on the issue was being held at Southwark Town Hall on 21st July at which IBRG Chair and Southwark Irish Policy Officer was one of the keynote speakers, and he would be recommending recognition of the Irish, and was working with the Health Commission to develop policies to address health issues in the Irish community.

IBRG oppose Identity Cards

On 30th July the IBRG issued a statement IBRG oppose use of Identity cards in Britain. The statement noted the publication of the British Government paper by Michael Howard Home Secretary. The IBRG at their Ard Choiste meeting of 17th June passed  a motion opposing the introduction of these cards in Britain.

IBRG pointed out that in  Dr Jock Young’s Study on Police stops in North London which showed that Black and Irish people were stopped many more times than English people, and that ID cards would make all Irish people more vulnerable given the existence of the racist PTA laws. Indeed, the Irish community had been subject to pass laws and identity checks for over 20 years going to and from Ireland, solely based on their racial background. It was noted that the four countries in Europe which had ID cards were all former dictatorships. The IBRG however welcomed the description of the UK as our island geography and hopes that the Home Office now believed in a United Ireland. The Irish World covered this on 4th August with Irish lobby group calls for opposition to identity cards.

IBRG Meeting with Mo Mowlam

On 3rd August an IBRG Delegation led by IBRG Chair Pat Reynolds along with Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Moore and Kevin Hayes met with Mo Mowlam at Westminster.

The IBRG argued for the total repeal of the PTA but Mo Mowlam stated, that Labour wanted to hold on to the PTA to deal with drugs fraud and international terrorism. The IBRG argued for all Irish prisoners to be transferred and released, Mo Mowlam agreed with transfer and would look at 30-50% remission. The IBRG wanted to know what percentage rule was used for Lee Clegg, there was no answer.

Mo Mowlam supported a Bill of Rights and wanted the Peace Process moved on, but would not reveal their position prior to the General election. The IBRG raised the question of Irish inclusion in the 2001 census which Mo stated Labour would look at, and Mo would raise it with Jack Straw Shadow Home Secretary.

The Irish Post on 12th August had a photo of the meeting with Mo Mowlam Maurice Moore and Kevin Hayes. See below. The Irish World on 12th August had Labour challenged on peace process stance IBRG delegation describes meeting with Mowlam as useful.

 

 

 

 

On 31st August IBRG members took part in vigil/picket of Trafalgar Square on the 1st anniversary of the IRA ceasefire to protest at the lack of progress on the Peace Process.

 

The IBRG condemned the Sun over its attack on an Industrial Tribunal award to Alan Bryan for discrimination at work where he was called Gerry Adams. The IBRG condemned an article in the Sun by Islington and ex Harriet Harman advisor’s Leo McKinstry who attacked the concept of anti-Irish racism.

The article entitled Taking the Mick was the usual stuff that Ruth Dudley Edwards peddles. He talked of the ‘absurdly politically correct campaign against so called anti-Irish racism in Britain’, attacked the Roger Casement Irish centre and the Irish women’s centre, and the Industrial Tribunal award to Alan Bryans. He attacked the CRE, Irish Lesbians and AGIY. He does not respect the law of law and its judgement when it come to the Irish. When you think that this right winger was an advisor to Harriet Harman, one wonders about the Labour Party and its attitude towards the Irish.

On 6th August the IBRG issued a press release defending Alan Bryan’s victory in the Industrial Tribunal. And condemned the politically correct Sun for its sour grapes. The Sun was spreading a very dangerous line in supporting such racial abuse of Irish people in the workplace, even after a legal victory over racial harassment and abuse. The Sun’s brand of political correctness won’t respect the work of Roger Casement after 80 years, his fight for equal rights for many oppressed peoples. A nobler name for an Irish Centre in Britain can hardy exist, than that that of Roger Casement, and it is fitting that it should follow in his footsteps and demand equality for the Irish in Britain.

Leo McKinstry and his like use their Irishness to attack the Irish community, but he is part of an old colonial history of Uncle Toms, gombeen men, quislings who always have pandered to reactionary forces in Britain and are in effect small minded whingers and begrudges. The term politically correct is now used by the right in Britain to describe anything, they do not agree with and is only used against those who stand up for social justice and equal rights. The white man’s burden rests heavily on the Sun. The PC represent by the Sun is the old WASP culture which supported slavery, genocide, the starvation of Ireland, dispossession of the people, violence and oppression. Women Gays, Irish Blacks are no all politically correct because they are winning through to a brighter future. It hurts the Sun and them irk to see the Irish community winning, and standing up for their rights.

McKinstry argues that the Irish in Britain have the same rights as their British neighbours, it is strange then that he does not extend then their rights to act like their British neighbours, and defend their right to take any case of discrimination to an Industrial Tribunal. It is quite clear that neither he nor the Sun accept that the Irish have equal rights in Britain. The Irish World covered the IBRG press release in full under The Sun’s commentary slammed as sour grapes on 11th August

Labour Party exclude Irish from ethnic monitoring

The IBRG deplored the Labour party for excluding the Irish from their ethnic monitoring in their document Active Labour Towards 2000 which listed eight different ethnic groups. Here Labour was not taking any notice of the Government Race body the CRE, who recommended the inclusion of the Irish.

On 9th August the IBRG issued a statement noting the publication of the Labour Party’s document Active Labour Towards 2000 the Regeneration project a 66-page booklet, on how to build the party in the community. Corbyn could have done this for them in no time, but this was the Blair method which was a slow burning one. The Labour party left the Irish completely out of their document despite including the other major communities in Britain.

Unless the Labour Party begin to take seriously the issues affecting the Irish community including the peace Process, Irish prisoners, the PTA along with equal rights, they can hardly expect the full support of the Irish community. The Irish community wants policies from the Labour party on Irish self-determination and on the needs of the Irish community in Britain. The Labour party, without specific Irish policies, would miss out on the Irish votes and Corbyn and Livingstone had shown how to mobilise the Irish vote.  The Irish World covered this on 18th August with Lobby group slams Labour for ignoring Irish ethnic status.

On 18th August Diarmuid Breatnach had an excellent letter   in the Irish World stating Prisoners transfer was not the only issue in the peace process, and that the first and main issue was the decommissioning of the British in N. Ireland. He argued that we should not forget why these prisoners took up the struggle that was to free Ireland of British rule. The letter was also in the Irish Post on 19th August under let’s not overlook the basic issues.

Coventry IBRG put a on a short film season from 21st-23rd August which included  films by Philip Donnellan including the Irishmen, one on Irish Travellers, and Passage West about emigration from Ireland. Maurice Moore led the group behind the Festival.

On 25th August the Irish World had Groups rally round to save Liverpool festival which reported efforts by Neil Doolin to secure the future of Liverpool Irish Festival. They were to set up a new formal committee with charity status to secure funding from the Council and Art bodies. 5,000 people had taken  part in that year’s festival.

Bolton IBRG  had a festival from 25th August to 2nd September which Bolton IBRG were involved din the Irish Post on 19th August had Bolton Irish making waves about its radio programme, and earlier on 12th August it had Keeping Irish on air in Bolton.

On 8th September David Trimble took over as Leader of the UUP.

Camden Council challenged over low representation of Irish in workforce

In September the IBRG took Camden Council to task over their low representation of Irish staff at their Town Hall. This was part of an ongoing IBRG campaign to ensure fair representation of Irish staff within Town halls in Britain.

On 8th September the Irish World covered an IBRG statement re Irish missing out on Council jobs about Camden council, where only 381 Irish staff worked making up 5.8% of the council’s workforce. Pat Reynolds pointed out that this figure did not even make up the 6.5% of the borough population who were born in Ireland, let alone the second generation. Haringey which had only 5.2% born in Ireland had some 10% of staff who were Irish.

There was for some reason a bias against employing Irish staff in Camden despite the Camden Irish Centre being in the borough. However, the Camden Irish Centre made no effort to represent the Irish community in the borough and stayed within a narrow catholic parochial mindset.

On 15th September the Irish World had Blair blasted for Sinn Fein snub where the IBRG slammed Blair for refusing to meet with Sinn Fein in Ireland on recent visit there.

On 16th September the IBRG Ard Choiste met in Coventry with six delegates attending including Diarmuid Breatnach, Bernadette Hyland, Laura Sullivan, Pat Reynolds Kevin Hayes and Maurice Moore.

The meeting agreed that IBRG should seek a position on the Saoirse national committee. It noted that Sinn Fein did not consult with other groups in Britain before setting up Saoirse. Other issues discussed included Prisoners transfer, PTA, CRE, ethnic monitoring and local authorities, Census 2001, Irish census 1996, the Peace Process, the Great Starvation, and votes for emigrants.

Manchester IBRG had written to the leader of Manchester City Council on the 2001 census, while North London IBRG would explore an EDM on the issue. Pat Reynolds had written to the 17 boroughs who did not recognise the Irish. The CRE had made it public in August by means of a notice to public bodies that they recognise the Irish. There was no response to the notice from any public body nor did the CRE seek any response.

That evening the IBRG Members attended a celebration of the life of Dr Maire O Shea in Birmingham at which Pat Reynolds spoke for the IBRG, and spoke of Maire’s contribution to opening up the way for the release of the framed prisoner sin Britain, by building a huge campaign on her own case.

On 26th September Pat Reynolds had an interview with BBC West Midlands over Irish elders being allowed to use residential care in Ireland.

On 27th September European court of Human Rights ruled the execution of three unarmed IRA volunteers in Gibraltar had breached the Human Rights Convention and ordered Britain to pay the families legal costs in the case.

In September the IBRG raised the question of Irish emigration in the 1996 census. Pat Reynolds, Chair of  IBRG had written to the Director General of the Irish census asking them to consider a specific question on emigration, e.g. does any member of your family live abroad, if so where and what year did they emigrate.

On 25th September the IBRG made a three-page submission making 14 separate objections to the British government over the proposed introduction of identity cards in Britain. One of the main objections of the IBRG, was the impact upon the Irish community given the existence of the racist PTA laws, which targeted the Irish just because they were Irish, and the ID cards could lead to an extension of PTA type stops within communities. Mass carding and computer indexing of the Irish had gone on in Britain over the past 25 years. In one case in1991 a Derby college gave the names and addresses of all Irish pupils attending their college after an incident in Derby. This does not happen with white English students. Ireland and Britain were Common Travel areas with no requirement for passports or other identification.

In early September the IBRG announced that Croydon council in South London had agreed to recognise the Irish community, while a meeting in Lewisham attended by the IBRG to discuss Irish recognition was inquorate. The Irish Post on 9th September had Monitoring breakthrough in Croydon. However, the Post added at the end Britain’s Irish community remains divided over whether or not expatriates should be classified as an ethnic minority. This was a clear false statement without any evidence.

The GLC and other conferences of all the Irish community groups 100% supported the inclusion of the Irish as a minority community and supported recognition. This was clear evidence of a right wing move by the Irish Post from its former editor Brendan MacLus who always supported the community. The Irish Post in particular had made millions form ethnic advertising form the GLC and mainly London Local Authorities yet here they go with one or two right wingers who represent nobody.

In September the Department of Health confirmed to IBRG that they would allow ageing N. Irish born elders to go back into residential care in N. Ireland, one reason was that it was cheaper there, but it held many positive things for Irish elders to be among their own people.

The Irish World on 15th September had Elderly Irish in victory over residential places and indicate that the IBRG would now campaign to allow Irish people to apply to go into care homes in the Irish Republic, as costs were lower, and there were other benefits of Irish elders being able to return home near their relatives.   The Irish Post on 16th September reported Breakthrough for the elderly covering the IBRG story.

On 23th September the Irish Post had Harrow Council accused of snubbing Irish Labour councillor which said that Harrow had slapped the Irish community in the face by failing to provide them with office space to work with the Irish community and the 30 Liberal councillors refused to support the Irish.

 

In September the IBRG took Hackney Council to task over its failure to employ a fair representation of Irish people. On 23rd September the Irish Post had Hackney’s failure on jobs for Irish. Pat Reynolds chair of IBRG had exposed a second borough after Camden, of failure on providing equality of employment for Irish people in the borough.  Hackney had only 4.9% of its workforce as Irish whereas the Irish made up 9% of the borough’s population. The report also found that Irish staff were concentrated in low manual type jobs with low wages. Pat stated the first principle of good local government is that they should reflect the communities they serve. 294 Irish staff worked for Hackney with 129 listed as officers.

In September the IBRG welcomed the victory of Alan Bryans in an Industrial tribunal in Newcastle on racial discrimination against him because he was Irish. He had been called Irish prat and Gerry Adams. His victory was attacked by Ruth Dudley Edwards, the Sun and the tabloids.

The Daily Mirror (Labour supporting) had £30K for being called an Irish Prat,

the Daily Star had Irish prat taunt wins sir £30K, Today had the £30K Prat,

the Daily Express had £30K for being branded Irish prat,

the Sun had the law gone mad £30K for being called Gerry Adams,

and the Daily Mail had An Insult to Common Sense.

All of these papers including the Daily Mirror, Labour supporting, all share the same anti-Irish racism with their readers, would they have done the same to a Black, Muslim or Jewish person. The issue here was about Irish people getting access to the law to challenge anti-Irish racism.

On 29th September the Irish World had College lecturer labelled an Irish prat receives £30k in damages. Some Tory Councillor had attacked the award for racial discrimination as being ‘stupidly high, thus showing his own stupidity. The Irish Post had College give deadline on racial abuse. Both papers covered the IBRG condemnation of the British media on racism, in how they covered the award. The British media across the board apart from the quality press were anti-Irish and extremely racist towards any rights of Irish people under the law

On 1st October the IBRG took part in a picket of Downing St over prisoners organised by Saoirse. These would now take place on the first Sunday of each month.

On 1st October the IBRG issues a statement ID cards Threat to civil Liberties based on the IBRG submission to the Home Office on the subject. On 6th October the Irish Post gave the story half a page entitled ID cards warning by IBRG. The Post covered the IBRG submission in detail and noted that the proposals would change the status of the Irish in Britain under the Common Travel area and also under the Ireland 1949 Act, whereby Irish citizens enjoyed equal rights in Britain in terms of voting and standing for political office in Britain. British people in Ireland now enjoyed the same rights since the mid 1980’s. The Irish World on 6th October had ID cards plan pose threat to Irish IBRG and again covered the IBRG submission.

In October and November, the IBRG highlighted the high number of Irish murders in London and called for action to address these attacks on our community.

On 6th October there was a letter in the Irish World entitled tackling violent crime against Irish community, which supported the IBRG call for more action to be taken against a high number of violent murders committed against member of the Irish community which required a public response. It seemed in Britain, in terms of policing and judicial decisions, that Irish lives were deemed of lesser value. There was a high homicide rate against the Irish community often because they lived in poorer areas, and had a late-night culture which made them easy targets for violent crimes. The homicide rate against the Irish was double that for British people. Despite being one of the most policed communities in Britain the Irish remained the most vulnerable and the least protected.

On 19th October Pat Reynolds spoke to the Hammersmith Irish Forum at Hammersmith Town Hall on the case of Frank Johnson.

On 20th October the Irish World covered on their front page Hounded to death by Hooligans a shocking story of a crippled wheelchair bound Irishman who had been racially targeted in in Camden Pat Reynolds IBRG stated that his death could have been prevented had the police and local authority attended to several pleas for help from the man

On 22nd October IBRG members attended the Terence MacSwiney commemoration at Southwark cathedral on the 75 the anniversary of his death. The issue then was around Irish prisoners as it was today.

On 25th October Mary Robinson President of Ireland met the English Queen at Buckingham palace, lucky she was not detained or beheaded.

On 26th October Pat Reynolds was speaking at the Camden Irish Forum AGM with Mo Mowlam and Jeremy Corbyn MP. Mo hoped that since she was speaking in the McNamara Hall that they would also name a room after her. Here she was advised wrongly as the hall was not called after Kevin McNamara and after Fr McNamara the priest who set up the Irish centre. Pat Reynolds knew Fr McNamara well as he was parish priest of St Gabriel’s and spent a lot of time at the Gresham Ballroom across the road. Over 100 people attended the meeting where Mo Mowlam got a roasting over the Labour Party’s position on N. Ireland.

 

In October Bernadette Hyland PRO had a letter in the Irish Post on 7th October headed Labour risks losing the Irish Vote taking Mo Mowlam to task over her piece in the same paper on Labour New policy on N. Ireland which was just the same as their own one. Bernadette called for the removal of all guns in N. Ireland including state guns, and noted that the British had not raised the issue of decommissioning of weapons during secret talks with republicans. Bernadette condemned Blair for not meeting with Adams and accused Labour of still backing a Unionist veto. A letter next to the IBRG letter was from Brian Behan brother of Brendan Behan who stated ‘how dare Herr Blair refuse to meet Adams. Clinton can meet him. Mandela can meet him’. He called the Labour Party the poor man’s Tory Party.

In October IBRG announced that Greenwich Council in south London would now recognise the Irish. On 21st October the Irish Post had Now Greenwich Irish to get recognition The large piece in the Post covered a letter from the leader of Greenwich Council to Pat Reynolds Chair of IBRG which stated ‘In line with the provisions of the Race Relations Act 1976 the London Borough of Greenwich has taken a policy decision which recognises the Irish as an ethnic minority group who make a valuable contribution to the life of the borough, but are disadvantaged and discriminate against both in employment and in provision of services’.

This statement was important coming from the Leader of a British Council. The leader stated that Unison in Greenwich had opposed the move which showed how trade unions in Britain often hindered rather than helped the Irish. Pat was reminded by a Greenwich Irish resident that the last Irish person to get any concession and recognition of rights in Greenwich was Grainne O Maile when she met Queen Elisabeth 1 there.

In October Harrow IBRG and Tony McNulty, later an MP, took Harrow Council to task over their neglect of Irish needs.

 

In October Joe Mullarkey of Bolton IBRG highlighted a chance for the Irish community to lobby local Town Halls over including the Irish in the 2001 census. Local Authorities were now being consulted by the OPCS over the ethnic categories for the 2001 census, and now was the time for the Irish to put pressure on their Town hall on this matter.

On 30th October Bill Clinton President of the USA visited Belfast and Derry the first serving President to do so.

On 2nd November Lewisham Council recognised the Irish community after lobbying from IBRG. On 4th November the Irish Post had A Lewisham breakthrough on monitoring reported on the IBRG London campaign for recognition. The IBRG reported that 18 London boroughs now recognised the Irish with about 11 holding out and three considering it. It had been a remarkable year in pushing the battle for recognition on in London.

In another article in the Irish Post on 18th November reported Chance for Irish category in next census and quoted Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG that getting more local authorities to include the Irish in ethnic monitoring would increase the chance of the Irish being included in the 2001 census.

The article also quoted at length Joe Mullarkey of Bolton IBRG who has started the process in Bolton by asking Bolton Council to write to the OPCS on the question. Now on the back of the request from Bolton, the OPCS had written to all local authorities in Britain asking for any proposed revisions to the census forms. Joe quoted a number of figures from the 1991 census which gave only those living in Irish headed households, with the result that many Irish were lost including the second generation. Bolton, Manchester and Haringey seem to be the only three areas who were pushing the census question.

On 4th November the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Working-class Movement Library in Salford Manchester. Four delegates attended namely Joe Mullarkey, Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds and Maurice Moore. Apologies from Diarmuid Breatnach and Laura Sullivan.

The meeting heard that the Irish Government had passed legislation to allow the transfer of Irish prisoners and that the British government had increased remission time from 30% to 55% so that political prisoners could be released earlier.

Joe Mullarkey reported that Bolton Council had following the Haringey example and had written to the OPCS supporting the inclusion of the Irish in the 2001 census. The Peace Process was discussed and the meeting felt that talks should continue with emphasis on self-determination, the keeping of article two and three, an end to employment discrimination, an amnesty for prisoners, and all emergency legislation to be repealed.  The meeting heard that both Lewisham and Greenwich councils in South London had now agreed to recognise the Irish after IBRG lobbying.

In November the IBRG made a submission to the OPCS calling in them to include the Irish in the 2001 Census as a separate ethnic category.

On 10th November Pat Reynolds had an interview with GLR radio on the 1986 Irish census and the IBRG call for a question on emigration.

Richard O’ Brien Case

On 10th November a jury delivered a verdict of unlawful killing in the case of Richard O’Brien who had been killed in police custody in front of his family. Richard repeatedly told the police officer that he could not breathe and that they won, you win you win I can’t breathe, let me up, but he was held down forcibly until life passed slowly from him in South London.

Both Pat Reynolds and Irish Policy Officer in Southwark and Cllr Jodie Clark provided the initial support for the family to get further support from Birnbergs and from Inquest. In November the CPS announced that it was considering criminal charges against the police officers involved in the killing of Richard O ‘Brien in South London. It was the first time that the Irish community had challenged the police as for over two centuries Irish lives in Britain had been cheap and at the end of heavy policing and many deaths.

 

On 17th November Pat Reynolds was speaking at a benefit for Frank Johnson at the Camden Irish centre which raised over £450 for the campaign.

In November AGIY launched their 1991 census figures on the London boroughs. The IBRG had already given these figures months earlier, but AGIY gave a much more detailed picture on the Irish in London in terms of housing and other areas.

In November the CSO in Ireland rejected the IBRG demand to have question on emigration in the 1996 census to spare the Irish Government shame.

on 18 November Maurice Moore of Coventry IBRG spoke at an MSF (Manufacturing, Science and Finance Trade Union) organised  Day School in Birmingham on The Irish Peace Process and the British Labour Movement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On 30th November The European Court of Justice ruled that the operation of the PTA contravenes European Union Law by breaching the freedom of movement guaranteed by the Treaty of Rome.

Censorship of TOM Meeting in Manchester

In November Bernadette McAliskey was invited by Manchester Troops Out Movement to speak in the city about the Peace Process. The venue was the Mechanics Institute, run by Manchester TUC and the building was owned by Manchester City Council. TOM were informed that the venue hire was withdrawn.

They rang Bernadette Hyland of Manchester IBRG who contacted the Manager, Josie White, who explained that the Police had visited them and told them that they would lose their licence if the meeting went ahead. Bernadette discussed this with Josie and one of the Trustees,an NUT officer, but they would not challenge or publicise why they were withdrawing the venue. Bolton Socialist Club stepped in and the meeting went ahead there with Bernadette.

In Manchester IBRG had got the support of Tony Lloyd MP for inclusion in the 2001 Census of the Irish.

On 2nd December Bernadotte Hyland IBRG PRO had a letter in the Irish Post welcoming the release of some Irish prisoners for Christmas and calling for support for Paul Magee a prisoner at Belmarsh.

On 6th December Pat Reynolds Chair IBRG wrote to the American Embassy in London on the occasion of Bill Clinton Visit to Ireland and Britain setting out the position of the Irish community in Britain both in terms of the Peace Process and Irish self-determination, and also about the social conditions of the Irish in Britain including the PTA.

Southwark Council and needs of  Irish

On 16th December the Irish Post had Southwark Irish worse off than native population based on a report passed by Southwark Council, which was put before the Council by Pat Reynolds the Irish Policy Officer. It showed that unemployment for the Irish was 22% compared with 16 for white British, 57% of the Irish working in manual jobs compared with 37% for the white English, 57% of the Irish lived in council hosing compared with 49% for white British, home ownership for the Irish was 19% compared with 29% for the white British. The figures for Irish mental health and disability were much higher than other groups. The Southwark Irish Staff Group expected the Council to now follow up on the report, and write to the OPCS for the inclusion of the Irish in the 2001 census.

Nine people died in the troubles in N. Ireland during 1995, the lowest  number because of the Ceasefire.

On Christmas day the IBRG held a picket of 10 Downing St over Irish prisoners both political and framed ones.

NE Lancs IBRG put on a free Irish pensioners dinner before Christmas.  The Irish Post on 25th November had a boost to pensioners and noted that this was the 10th annual free Christmas event. The Southwark Irish Forum did the same each year and also on St Patricks day with Town Hall support and funding. On 5th January 1996 the Irish World had four photos of the event entitled All smiles at NE Lancs IBRG Christmas Party Night

 

 

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

An excellent history of 200 years of Irish political activity in Manchester – including Manchester IBRG read “The Wearing of the Green” by Michael Herbert. Buy it here

Read previous posts on IBRG history here

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History of Irish in Britain Representation Group Part fourteen 1994

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.

Kate Magee Support Group – one of many successful campaigns. Photo by Kevin Hayes.

The IBRG Ard Choiste took place on 22nd January at the Sparkhill Cultural Centre, Birmingham. Eight delegates attended including Kevin Hayes, Pat Reynolds, Maurice Moore, Maire Kennedy, Terry Corbin, Neil Doolin,  Diarmuid Breatnach and Virginia Moyles.

The meeting discussed the upcoming Bloody Sunday march in London, the Ard Fheis in London on 26th March, the Downing St Declaration, the McBride Principles, the PTA, Prisoners and Travellers. The meeting heard that the IBRG had responded to the Downing St Declaration which had been covered in the Irish Post, Irish World and An Phoblacht.

The meeting heard that Southwark Irish Staff Group, which had a number of IBRG members, had taken up the case of Securicor discriminating against a young Catholic woman in Belfast where they had been fined £25,000.  IBRG wanted Southwark Council, to take action against Securicor under their equal opportunities policy, which allows them to take action against employers who have been found guilty of discrimination. However, it later turned out that because of a legal loophole, a public body in Britain cannot take action against a firm discriminating in Nt Ireland, as the law governing action only applies to Britain.

The meeting gave £100 to the Bloody Sunday March, £25 to the McNulty campaign and Merseyside IBRG gave a further £10, and £50 to the West Midlands PTA campaign. The meeting discussed the new Criminal Justice bill which would affect Travellers and the Irish community. The meeting condemned the racist attack on the Chair of the Bristol Irish Society. It was reported that some 200 people attended a lecture by the historian JJ Lee from Cork University in Hammersmith on 12th December on the Great Hunger in Ireland.

 

IBRG branches took part in the Bloody Sunday March in London with their banners from Hyde Park to Kilburn on 29th January. Haringey and Lewisham IBRG had their banners on the march. With members attending from Coventry, Hackney, Leeds and Brighton. Ken Livingstone was the main speaker along with Sinn Fein and Jeremy Corbyn MP.

Tim Smith Tory MP was appointed Minister of State for N. Ireland in January. The IBRG condemned the appointment given his opposition to Irish people in Britain having the vote. The IBRG put out a statement on 10th January objecting to his appointment. Following Tim Smith statement that votes for the Irish in Britain were unjustified, John Major was forced in Parliament to state, that his government had no plans to change the arrangements where Irish citizens can vote in Britain. British people living in the Republic were also allowed to vote there.

The Irish government lifted its Section 31 ban on Sinn Fein in January.

In Southwark Pat Reynolds Irish Policy Officer had drafted a report to the Education Committe with a series of recommendations including putting Irish culture onto the national curriculum including history and literature. Southwark Council should also recognise the Southwark Irish Forum as the main consultative body for the Irish community in Southwark.

 

Carlton TV in a letter to IBRG in January admitted that the Frank Carson jibe about the Great Starvation in Ireland was offensive and promised to be ‘more sensitive with our choice of material in the future’.

In a statement by the IBRG on 22nd January the IBRG objected to Carlton TV position where they stated that ‘Most communities enjoy a joke at their own expense and it would be a sad day in a difficult world if we cannot laugh at ourselves’. IBRG pointed out that Irish literature was full of humour and wit, but there was a huge difference between racism and humour. The racist anti Irish joke has been the main tool in the racialisation and abuse of Irish children within British schools, and had no place in fostering understanding between different people.

Again,  IBRG quoted the English critic Victor Lewis Smith from the London Evening Standard writing on comedians like Carson and Manning who appeared on the Royal variety show ‘After two and a half hours of frilly shirted comedians saying there was an Englishman, and Irishman and a Scotsman. The Dominion seemed to be not so much a theatre but as an zoo, a last refuge which for species which you thought had long ago become extinct, and which clearly could no longer survive in the wild’.

However, the Broadcasting Standards Council in a reply to Pat Reynolds PRO on 11th January found nothing wrong with Carson’s jibe about the  Great Hunger, and nothing wrong about a racist jibe about the death from forced starvation of over a million Irish people, after its Complaints Committee meeting of 6th December.

 

Gerry Adams was allowed into America in February despite opposition from Britain.

Dominic McGlinchey was shot dead in Drogheda on 10th February.

 

On 10th February over 70 people attended a Frank Johnson public meeting at the Camden Irish centre with Gareth Pierce speaking along with the McNulty family.

On 11th February the film In the Name of the Father opened in London based on the story of Gerry Conlon. The IBRG condemned the remarks of BBC 1 DJ Nicky Campbell who stated ‘who will be the biggest fundraiser for the IRA, that film or Gerry Adams.’

On 14th February Pat Reynolds was speaking on Anti-Irish Racism in the Workplace at Lambeth Town Hall organised by the Lambeth Unison Irish Workers Group. The second event was on 14th March with Mary Hickman speaking on Irish People and Emigration, and on 11th April Peter Moloney on Irish Outdoor Political Art on his collection. Irish workers in Lambeth had paid time off to attend these day time lectures. The Irish Workers group got an annual small grant from Lambeth Unison to spend on community events similar to Brent.

On 17th February the Home Affairs Committee of the House of Commons wrote to Pat Reynolds PRO with a Final Draft of the IBRG Memorandum on Racial Attacks and Harassment as it affected the Irish Community.

On 19th February Lambeth IBRG held their 6th annual Irish Welfare Conference at Lambeth Town Hall entitled Irish Perspectives on British Welfare- Caring for Our Community with speakers Gearoid McGearailt on Irish Elders, Phil MacGiollabhain on Mental health, Padraig Kenna on Housing and Homelessness, Marie Steadman on Women’s as carers, Alex McDonnell on Irish Travellers and an Irish language workshop on Community Care.

The guest speaker was Fr Des Wilson from West Belfast speaking on communities. The Welfare conference got much publicity with Caring for our Community Irish Welfare Conference in Irish World, and Irish Welfare Conference in south London and a week later London Irish Welfare Conference in the Irish Post with an advert for the event.

Merseyside IBRG put on Liverpool’s first ever Irish cultural festival from 22nd-27th February. The festival was given a message of support from Mary Robinson Irish President. The festival included a Cultural Parade on 26th February, Eamon McCann on 23rd February, Liam Greenslade on 25th February along with a range of Irish music and other events.

The Festival got considerable media coverage. The Irish Echo had Merry on the Mersey Hopes high for Liverpool’s first Irish Festival, on 29th January the Irish Post had Countdown to Liverpool Irish festival, on 5th February Liverpool set for feast of Irish culture, on 12th February Merseyside Irish in festive mood, on 19th February  it had Liverpool readiness with a photo of Neil Doolin, on March 5th with Another Liverpool Success  with two photos of the event, on 12th March  a large spread of photos of the event including the big parade with seven photos. The Liverpool Irish Cultural and Community festival produced thousands of their Green White and Orange programme  of events.

The CRE announced that Mary Hickman and Bronwen Walters had won the £50,000 research project on Discrimination and the Irish community. The Sun lost its racist temper and published a whole page of anti-Irish gutter racist jokes based on century old of colonial stereotypes when the British thought there were masters of Black and Irish people.

On 27th February the IBRG put in a detailed submission to the British Government over their Habitual Residence Test and how it would impact upon the Irish community. A number of IBRG branches also put in submissions. The British were later to exclude the Irish from this test, because it would have been impossible to implement it.

IBRG’s four page submission, drafted by the PRO, gave a background legal position of the Irish community in Britain based on the 1949 Ireland Act, the Immigration Act 1971, the British Nationality Act 1981 and the  Race Relations Act 1976. It  showed  that the position of the Irish community in Britain  with the British state,  was very different from that of citizens from the EU, in that  Irish rights in the UK predated  the EU and gave the Irish in Britain similar status in law as that of British subjects.  There was also a Common Travel Area under the 1971 Immigration Act between Britain and the Irish mainland. Leaving aside the racist PTA laws and discrimination the Irish had established rights in Britain. The Rights of EU citizens came from the European Communities Act 1972(Treaty of Rome).

Under the heading No Taxation without Benefits the IBRG argued that the Irish benefitted the British economy enormously as each Irish citizen entering Britain with an education saved the British state up to £100,000 which the Irish taxpayer had paid for.  The IBRG argued there could be no taxation of the Irish community without having access to benefits for those in need or in sickness within our community. The Irish were far more economically active than the British born population with very few students. The IBRG challenged the British government on their Sun/Daily Mail xenophobia around abuse of benefits, and there was no evidence of any extra Irish involvement in fraud than the British born population. The Irish were not benefit tourists but came to Britain to work. The real benefit tourist was the uninvited British army of occupation in the Six Counties.

The IBRG expressed it concerns over the provisions in the Criminal Justice Bill which would include new PTA clauses enabling police to set up roadblocks and arrests people for having a range of household materials. It also included the repeal of the 1968 Caravan Sites Act which was to have a huge impact on Travellers in Britain. It also proposed removing the right to silence which it did later.

On 5th March Pat Reynolds visited Frank Johnson in Swaleside Prison on Isle of Sheppey in Kent.

On 9th March the IRA mortar bombed Heathrow Airport and closed it down, and repeated the exercise on both the 11th and 13th March making idiots of British intelligence.

On 11th March Pat Reynolds gave a lecture on Reality versus Stereotypes Irish Images in the media  to over 100 people at the Museum of London at the Barbican as part of their Irish focus week, which also included Angie Birthill talking on Irish women in London, Now We Talking an Oral History and Exhibition on the Elderly Irish in Southwark completed by Morley College, Philip Donnellan  The Irishman an impression of exile, and the Green Ink Writers Group presenting their own short stories and poetry.

On 12th March there was a benefit at the Camden Irish centre for Frank Johnson.  It was reported that his solicitor was due to put in a submission to the Home Office to have his case reopened.

On 15th March the IBRG put in a five-page submission drafted by the PRO on Access to Local authority and housing Association tenancies. The new Government proposals would exclude the majority of Irish homeless people either arriving or already in Britain, and would institutionalise anti Irish discrimination within housing provision in Britain

IBRG called for the 1985 Housing Act to be retained and called on the Government to put forward genuine proposals to end homelessness in Britain. The IBRG pointed out that the Irish in Britain were the  least likely of any community, except the Bangladeshi, to own their own houses in Britain. Only the Bangladeshi and the Afro Caribbean communities were more dependent on public housing than the Irish. The Irish had the highest figures for private rented accommodation and live in accommodation with high rents, overcrowding, low security and high evictions rates with many having to share facilities like bathrooms and kitchens. The Irish were over represented in single homeless figures both on the street and in short term hostels, with alarming high rate of mental ill-health, and more likely to be in low paid low skilled work.

IBRG went on to make ten proposals to improve the housing position of the Irish community in Britain, and noted that the Irish community had made an enormous contribution to house building in Britain and in housing the British public. The mobility of Irish workers in construction work and of nurses in the NHS should be noted as many nurses were hospital based during training.

 

On 18th March Hugh Callaghan and Niamh Cusack opened the London Irish Bookfair at the Camden Irish centre. Pat Reynolds, as Chair of Green Ink, welcomed the large attendance who came for the opening of the bookfair, and welcomed Hugh Callaghan to the event.  Among the speakers at the Bookfair were Bernadette MacAliskey, Tim Pat Coogan and Robert Kee all drawing huge crowds with Bernadette drawing several hundred and standing room only. It was the largest Irish Literary event in the world with over 4,000 attending over three days.

On 19th March Neil Doolin and Maire Kennedy of Merseyside IBRG  got married.

On 21st March Southwark Council agreed in Committee a Mutual Transfer Policy with Local Authorities in Ireland.

 The policy was  drafted by their Irish policy Officer Pat Reynolds. It was a first of a kind whereby an Irish family in Southwark could swap their house with a family in Dublin or Cork.  It got huge media coverage in both Irish and British press – some hostile from the right-wing press. Tory Councillors in Southwark opposed the move with their usual rant. There were 8,203 Irish Republic born living in Southwark with 57% of them living in council housing. Southwark had one of the highest council housing density in Britain.

On 24th March Pat Reynolds gave a Presentation on the Irish Community to Lambeth Social Services Committee.

On 26th March Diarmuid Breatnach had the star letter in the Irish Post on celebrating 1916 entitled Rising worth Celebrating

 

The IBRG Ard Fheis took place on 26th March at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in Islington North London. Seven branches attended namely Manchester, Lewisham, Haringey, Birmingham, Harrow, Merseyside and Hackney/Camden. Fourteen delegates attended.

Those attending include the elected officers apart from Neil Doolin who was on his honeymoon in Donegal, and the following Padraigin Ni Nuallain, Siobhan ODwyer, Kevin Hayes, Nula Eefting, Val Deegan, Pat Cullinane, Maurice Cahill, Terry Corbin, and Maire Byrne-McCann attended.

Apologies from Neil Doolin and Maire, Maurice Moore. Apologies from branches in Coventry, Bolton and Blackburn.

The meeting took an emergency motion from Lewisham IBRG on the death of Brian McNulty who had died waiting to clear his good name after his arrest under the racist PTA laws, the motion condemned his treatment in prison.

 

The following officers were elected

Chair Diarmuid Breatnach Lewisham

Vice Chair Virginia Moyles Hackney/Camden

Runai Neil Doolin Merseyside

Cisteoir Maurice Moore Coventry

PRO Pat Reynolds Haringey

Membership Bernadette Hyland Manchester

Prisoners. Laura Sullivan Haringey.

 

Diarmuid Breatnach took over as Chair from Virginia Moyles who had completed a three-year term. The meeting thanked her for her long work both as IBRG Runai and then National Chair. Virginia spoke  about the proud history of IBRG in standing up for the rights of the Irish community and of IBRG being the cutting edge of the community against government attacks and censorship from Warrington the Warrington Downing St Declaration, the IBRG continued work for Irish prisoners, and that the IBRG had made that bit more safer to be Irish in Britain, and to be able to reflect pride in Irish culture.

The following motions were passed

A motion congratulating Merseyside IBRG on their pioneering work on behalf of the Irish community in Liverpool including organising the 1st ever Liverpool Irish Festival

A motion recognising that Frank Johnson was wrongfully convicted and calling for his case to be referred back to the Court of Appeal, and for his release and for his good name to be cleared,

A motion calling on the British government to close the legal loophole whereby firms e.g. Securicor in N. Ireland could discriminate against Catholics and yet apply for contracts in Britain with immunity,

A motion noting that the Downing St Declaration upheld the Unionist/British veto in Ireland, and rejecting the gerrymandering self-determination proposals of the declaration, and calling for the right of all Irish people to decide on their future without outside interference. The motion called on the IBRG to continue working for Irish self-determination, a motion condemning Peter Lilley’s proposal to cut Income benefit, Housing benefit, and Council tax benefits to the Irish community Irish with less than three years residence in Britain. The Motion called on IBRG to campaign against these proposals which attack the basic legal and civil rights of the community,

A motion deploring the proposals of George Young Housing Minister to attack the rights of Irish homeless people in Britain. The motion called on IBRG to campaign against the proposals which would deny Irish homeless people access to public housing,

A motion opposing the repeal of the Caravan Sites Act 1968 which removed the duty on local authorities to provide site for Travellers. The motion urges branches to fight for Travellers Rights to maintain their culture and lifestyle along with their right to proper sites and living conditions.

A motion condemning new clauses in the PTA which gave police more powers to stop and search vehicles and pedestrians, and new offenses of possession of any article or any information. The motion noted that these new powers in the Criminal Justice bill would lead to more innocent Irish people being arrested. The motion called on IBRG to intensify its campaign against the PTA including pursuing each individual arrest.

 

Bolton IBRG hosted Mary Nellis from Derry for their 5th March part of International Women’s Week.

The first meeting of Derby IBRG took place on 12th March.

Coventry IBRG held an Irish concert on St Patricks Eve.

Lewisham IBRG took part in the Lewisham Irish Festival from 11th -19th March.

Harrow IBRG held their Ard Fheis in March.

 

PTA Annual Debate

The PTA annual debate and renewal in the Commons took place on 9th March and the IBRG lobbied several MPs on the issue drawing attention to the film In the Name of the Father as one of the first cases under the PTA. The IBRG put out a statement on 5th March calling for total opposition to the PTA and condemned the new proposed measures  on the PTA under the Criminal Justice and Public Order act, which would give the police powers to use PTA laws inland in stopping cars and stopping pedestrians in the street, and criminalise  being in possession of ‘any article’ or ‘any information’ with the onus on the innocent person to prove their innocence.

 

On 31st March the IBRG took part in a picket of the Home Office over the case of Frank Johnson. On 9th April the Irish Post covered the event with a photo which included Billy Power of the Birmingham Six founder of the campaign, Pat Reynolds Chair of the campaign, Andy Parr, Laoise de Paor and many more.

The report stated that Gareth Pierce Frank’s solicitor had now submitted a request to the Home Office for full disclosure of the prosecution evidence in the 1975 case. She said that the Home Office should have great anxiety about the manner in which Frank Johnson was convicted, but warned that the journey to free him was a tortuously slow process. Frank was to spend 27 years in prison a record he shares with Nelson Mandela.

In March the IBRG put in a detailed submission to the Department of the Environment on their Consultation paper on Access to Local Authority and Housing Associations Tenancies arguing that the proposals were moving towards an English first policy on access to public housing, which did not take into account emigration and the mobility of Irish labour in Britain. The submission noted that the Irish had made an enormous contribution to building house for all communities in Britain and they should not exclude from the benefits of their labours.

On 3rd April Pat Reynolds was the key speaker the Home at the 1916 event organised by Lewisham IBRG at the Irish centre in Lewisham.

Richard O’Brien Case

On Easter Sunday 3rd April Richard O’Brien an Irishman was killed during an arrest by police outside the English Martyrs Catholic Club in Walworth south London. On 6th April Pat Reynolds Irish policy Officer at Southwark Council and Cllr Jodie Clark met with Alison O’Brien widow of Richard O’Brien to offer her support and advice and to put her in touch with Inquest, Birnberg solicitors and the Irish Embassy.

On 9th April over 100 demonstrators picketed Walworth Road police station over the killing of Richard O’Brien while in police custody. IBRG members attended the picket and provided a loudhailer for the demo which included many Travellers from London. It was the first occasion where the Irish community took up a death in custody in a big way and challenged the unlawful death.

On 21st April Paul Hill had his conviction of murdering a British soldier in Belfast in 1974 quashed in the Court of Appeal. The Lord Chief Justice for N. Ireland states that the inhuman treatment Hill suffered at Guildford Police station may have led him to confess to the murder.

On 21st April the IBRG met along with other Irish groups Herman Ouseley of the CRE.

On 23rd April Pat Reynolds was speaking at the Irish Consultative Conference in Sheffield at the University .Other speakers were Liam Greenslade, Patrick Buckland, Seamus Taylor, Bronwen Walters, and Brendan O Caollai of the Irish Embassy. It was the first national conference on Irish issues with two aims, to raise the national profile of Irish issues and culture in Britain, and to bring together professionals capable of having some impact on national initiatives to benefit the expatriate community.

Haringey Council and bad employment policies

In April the IBRG deployed Haringey’s council’s use of the Irish family name Brophy as an example of bad employment policies in their Equal opportunities policy paper Ensuring Equalities in Tendering Procedures presenting the Irish business as being stupid and anti-equal opportunities. On 4th April IBRG put out a statement deploring Haringey Council’s Equal Opportunities Policies for using a racist stereotype which was anti-Irish to demonstrate their policies.

IBRG called for an apology from the Council and asked, how many Irish companies had Haringey on their list of contractors used by the council, and what kind of contracts were offered to Irish companies. Pat Reynolds who was an Irish Community representative on Haringey’s Ethnic Minorities Consultative Committee raised the matter at a council meeting, and called for the council to address these staff prejudices against the Irish.

In April the IBRG welcomes Harriet Harman’s challenge to the government over their proposed cuts to Income Benefits to Irish people. Harman came out with her challenge after the Southwark Irish Forum raised the issue with her. Harman was the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury. On 20th April the IBRG put out a statement welcomes Harriet Harman’s intervention.

It marked one of the rare occasions in Britain when a front bench person of any party, raised an issue in the Commons on behalf of the Irish community. It also showed that the IBRG could move the Labour Party behind the Irish community on social issues affecting the community in Britain. Again, the IBRG pointed out that the Irish were more economically active than the British population and therefore contributed more to these benefits per head of population than the British.

In April the IBRG condemned the rantings of Paul Johnson in the Daily Mail about the Irish teaching the Caribbean how to fiddle the dole, who in turn taught the Nigerians. The IBRG remarked that perhaps the Irish had also taught the West Indies how to play cricket which was covered in the Irish papers. At that time the Irish community in London were supported the great West Indies team who were hammering the British in cricket, with Irish hurling fans admiring the great skills of the West Indian batsmen.

On 25th April the IBRG put out a statement condemning the xenophobia of the Daily Mail. The IBRG stated that Mr Johnson should stick to fantasy fiction writing. The opposite was the case in the Irish community where there was massive underclaiming by Irish elders and others, and Irish people came from a culture where reliance on state aid was frowned on, and Irish elders often went in want because of this cultural pride.

An Phoblacht covered the story along with several Irish papers and stated  ‘The IBRG rubbished this cheap attack on minority communities with some well-chosen arguments, but their most telling response and one that will cut the heart of Johnson and his ilk, will be the tongue in check point that ‘next Mr Johnson will be telling us that the Irish taught the West Indians how to play cricket’. Howzatt, umpire.’

 

 

Kate Magee hearing Sheffield

In April IBRG members joined others including Philip Donnellan in picketing Sheffield Crown Court for the Kate Magee hearing which set the trial date for 18th July. The Irish Post covered the event with a photo of the banner Justice for Irish People Support Kate Magee with over 10 supporters in front including Phillip Donnellan, Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Moore, Michael Herbert, Kathleen Wright and others.  The piece quoted Kevin Hayes stating ‘we remain firmly convinced of Kate’s innocence and we seriously concerned that it has been now over two years since she was arrested. Throughout this period Kate and her family have suffered considerate hardships and we now believe she should be allowed to rebuild her life with her children’.

During the trial the Kate Magee  Support Group ensured that  representatives from the Irish Embassy, trade unions and solidarity groups took part. The Sheffield Women and Ireland Group (see photo) were part of the  campaign group and looked after Kate and her children before and  during the trial.

 

Belmarsh Prison and access to Irish Language

In April the IBRG took up the ban on the Irish language being taught in Belmarsh prison in South east London where Sean McNulty and Hugh Jacks were denied access to the language.  Sean McNulty stated that the Governor told them they could not have Irish classes, but they could have classes in any other language they wanted.

In a letter to IBRG the University lecturer and prisoner  Feilim O hAdmaill stated that ‘this policy against the Irish language is vindictive, immoral and an example of racial discrimination’. His letters were being stopped because they were written in Irish and he had been banned from speaking in Irish to his family. Neil Doolin stated that the Irish language was seen as subversive both inside and outside the prison. Pat Reynolds PRO called   for a Charter of Rights and called on the Irish government to clarify the situation on the language with the British government, and also for the European Parliament to act against the discrimination against a community language. The Irish Post covered the story on 23rd April with the heading Irish language ban vindictive.

On 4th May Pat Reynolds had interviews with Sligo North West radio on Southwark Council’s Mutual transfer agreement with Irish local authorities. Later the same day Pat had a prime RTE radio interview with Pat Kenny show on the same issue and later on an interview with Cork radio.

On 3rd May the Daily Mail had an editorial with heading Cuckoo Council with ‘Southwark is a case in point. Despite massive debts, it has appointed a £25,000 a year Irish Liaison Officer and is now encouraging families from the Irish Republic to apply for council flats in the borough.’ This was a total lie by the Mail who also ran an article entitled Luck of Irish opens door to a home deal.

On 8th May the Irish Sunday Press ran the story Irishman at the centre of London swop row written by Rachel Downey who knew Pat Reynolds and had worked in London with Irish weeklies here. The article was balanced and fair and explained the background to the story. On 18th May Pat had an interview with Dundalk radio again on Mutual transfers. The report on Mutual transfers was covered in all the Irish daily papers and the Irish weeklies and made the front page of the Star in Ireland.

Local elections were held in London on 5th May and elsewhere in parts of Britain.

On 8th May Pat Reynolds was speaking at the Sands /Connolly rally at Conway Hall in central London to a capacity crowd.

On 11th May Coventry IBRG Coventry, Trades Council and the Socialist Alliance organised a public meeting at which Barry McElduff of Sinn Fein was the main speaker along with Fr Joe Taffe and chaired by Mary Pearson of TOM. An Phoblacht gave the meeting a big write up with photo with heading British obstacles preventing peace.

 

On 12th May the Labour Leader John Smith died suddenly and Tony Blair took over as Labour Leader.

 

On 14th May Pat Reynolds and Sean Sexton of IBRG attended the Opening of the Great Hunger Museum in Strokestown in Co Roscommon which the Irish President opened without mentioning the English, or the fact that Ireland was overflowing with food at the time with loaded ships leaving Irish ports daily loaded with cattle, pigs, butter, wheat barley, beer and whiskeys. Sean Sexton had donated a number of photos to the Museum.

On 16th May the IBRG were involved in the Unison Conference fringe meeting in Bournemouth at which Oliver Kearney of the Fair Employment Trust was speaking on the McBride Principles. Kevin Hayes was speaking on the effects of the PTA on the Irish community. A motion on the McBride principles from Southwark Unison had been blocked from Conference along with three motions on Irish self-determination. There was a high level of anti-Irish racism within Unison who operated a Unionist veto against progressive Irish motions even on framed prisoners and Human Right. Unison tried to bill the Unison Irish Workers with a huge bill of over one thousand pounds for using the main hall for the meeting after the days conference, but the bill was never paid. When Irish members put up our Unison Irish workers banner the Conference organisers called the fire brigade on us claiming that the banner was a fire risk. Many IBRG members were involved in the meeting.

Manchester IBRG welcomed Hugh Callaghan of the Birmingham 6 to launch his autobiography Cruel Fate and meet up with comrades who supported his case. The meeting took place at the  radical bookshop Frontline Books.

Bernadette Hyland (IBRG) and Hugh Callaghan

 

On 19th May the Northern Irish Office issued a 21-page commentary on 20 questions raised by Sinn Fein on the Downing St Declaration. The commentary again stated that any change to the constitutional position of Nr Ireland within the UK would be subject to the will of the majority there. But  Sinn Fein the had begun to swallow the bait already, and to sacrifice Irish self-determination in principle and in practice, and to adopt the Fianna Fail position on Irish unity.

On 21st May the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Working-Class Movement Library in Manchester with nine delegates present including Laura Sullivan, Denis McGovern, Tony Cantwell, Maire Doolin, Pat Reynolds, Bernadette Hyland, Neil Doolin, Joe Mullarkey and Maurice Moore.

Apologies from Diarmuid Breatnach, Virginia Moyles, Kevin Hayes, Terry Corbin and Pat MacAndrews.

It was reported that the CRE had given full recognition to the Irish and would publicise this decision soon. It took them over a year to do so in August 1995, and it had no effect whatsoever as they never asked anybody to do anything, with result that not one single local authority in Britain changed their ethnic categories, until the IBRG started their own campaign on the issue and forced the changes. The CRE research into discrimination and the Irish community was in full swing with interviews taking place in London Manchester and Glasgow. The issue of the 2001 census was raised with the CRE with Irish groups calling for including as a specific ethnic category.

The Federation had agreed to support  the Frank Johnson case which was a first for them. The meeting called for the release of Malcolm Kennedy wrongly convicted of killing another Irishman in Hammersmith police station. Malcolm Kennedy argued that Patrick Quinn was killed in the station by a police officer and that they framed him up for the murder.  The meeting also noted the statement of Patrick Hayes regarding Patrick Kelly’s innocence and called for Kelly’s release and an inquiry into his arrest and conviction. The statement was reminiscent of the statement of the Balcombe St IRA Unit and the IBRG called for no 14-year delay in this case, and called for immediate action. The Irish World covered the IBRG call with Inquiry demand into Irish convictions.  The meeting heard about the killing while in police custody of Richard O Brien in South London and agreed to support the case in any way they could.

Liverpool Irish Festival made a donation of £120 to the Irish Community Care Project in Liverpool.

Manchester IBRG began organising drama workshops in Manchester as part of the city Drama festival. The Irish Post covered this with IBRG drama workshops in Manchester

On 2nd June a Military helicopter carrying 25 senior British intelligence officers went down on the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland killing all on board. With them went most of the secrets of Britain’s dirty war in Ireland.

On 5th June IBRG members took part in the 20th anniversary of Michael Gaughan’s  death with a picket of Whitemoor Prison. Caitlin Wright, Pat Reynolds and Kevin Hayes were among the IBRG members attending. An Phoblacht covered this with a photo and a report entitled Tribute to Vol Michael Gaughan at English prison on the 20th anniversary of his death.

Over 120 people attended the event including three Pipe Band. Kathleen Wright recited Michael Gaughan’s words, Pat Reynolds spoke on the long struggle for freedom and justice in Ireland while Jackie Kay long-time activist for Irish prisoners spoke on prisoners why Michael died. The bands played a series of rousing Republican airs and marched around the prison so that the Republican prisoners inside could hear the music, and ended the event with Amhrain na bhFiann.

On 6th June Pat Reynolds PRO had an interview with Greater London radio about Lambeth Council recognising the Irish.

On 6th June Irishman Trevor McAuley won his Industrial Tribunal hearing at Nottingham tribunal after he was abused at work on a daily basis with taunts like ‘typical thick Paddy’. The Tribunal found that he had been dismissed from his job because he would not take anti-Irish jokes lying down. The case set a precedent on abuse of Irish people at work, that it was unlawful, and that the individual Irish person could take action against such abuse.

The case made banner headlines in the tabloids and quality press in Britain and Ireland. Pat Reynolds PRO went on RTE Radio and Radio Ulster on the issue and made a five-minute Channel Four TV slot on anti-Irish racism along with Smiley an Irish comedian. Channel Four helped Pat with the production which went out on 8th June at 8PM. The signs that Irish people were beginning to fight back against anti-Irish racism in the media and at work were showing.

The tabloids in Britain put out a lot of vile anti-Irish material because of the judgement including the Sun with anti-Irish cartoons and derogatory remarks in their leader columns on the case.

The IBRG pointed out the difference in what the British tabloids published in Britain compared with the same papers in Ireland. and accused them of speaking with forked tongues and using anti-Irish racism to whip up anti-Irish feelings in Britain. The Daily Mail had an anti-Irish cartoon which the IBRG condemned. Even the Guardian came out with poor material but John Little in the British Independent had a brilliant article on the issue.  David Frost also made racist comments on TV on the issue.

On 18th June the UVF murdered six men watching the World Cup match of Ireland beating Italy 1-0 on TV at Loughlinisland which was carried out by the Glenane gang and covered up by the British state.

On 24th June John Major British Prime Minister demands that Ireland remove its territorial claim to N. Ireland and recognise the legitimacy of N. Ireland. It was never legitimate as it was set up by pogroms against Catholics and against the will of the Irish people.

On 26th June the Irish Post had a story entitled Kate Magee faces July trial which detailed Michael Mansfield’s efforts to stay the proceedings. The report stated that the local Sheffield MEP Roger Barton had attended the picket of the court with the campaign group.

In June the IBRG welcomed the Home Affairs committee response to their inquiry into racially motivated attacks with a recommendation of a new offense of racially motivate violence. There were 38 new recommendations including monitoring of racial attacks which begun to take place. The IBRG had argued that the Irish be included in these statistics.

On 26th July the IBRG put out a statement on the publication of the Home Affairs Committee report on racial attacks and harassment on 22nd June. Both AGIY and IBRG had been included in over 30 selected memoranda published in the report.

The IBRG welcomed the Committee support for a new specific offense of racially motivated violence and the general 30 recommendation to tackle the increasing number of racial attacks in Britain. The IBRG pointed out that the Committee failed to address several central issues affecting the Irish community, such as the government institutionalised anti-Irish racism in its so called Prevention Of Terrorism Act, the lack of work contracts for many Irish building workers, the government unlawful banning of Irish workers from a wide range of jobs in Britain on ground of security, and the failure to deal  with anti-Irish racism in the British media, the repeal of the 1968 Caravan Sites act, the exclusion of the Irish language culture and history form British curriculum, and the failure to address the apartheid statelet of Nt Ireland which was built on supposed racial differences  by the British government.

Most of the anti-Irish racism in British society was fuelled by the government and the British media. The IBRG called for the Irish to be included in the monitoring of all statistics on racial attacks in Britain. The Irish World covered thus with Racial Report not addressing Irish issues and the Irish Post had Failure on Irish racism where both AGIY and the IBRG claiming the report although including the Irish submission failed to mention the Irish in the main body of the report.

On 30th June the British government announced that they will transfer over 40 Irish political prisoners to Ireland which showed that their detention in Britain was one of discrimination and punishment.

In June the IBRG condemned the attacks on the Battersea Arts Centre over their showing of Gerry Adams short story developed as a play. Local Tory MP John Bowis and the Tory leader of Wandsworth Council tried to withdraw funding because of the play. On 7th June the IBRG put out a statement headed Irish community rejects censorship of Irish writers. The Tories tried to attack the London Irish Bookfair in March on the same issue but the Irish community turned out in their thousands to the bookfair with over 4,000 attending. Green Ink never received one singe complaint about the performance of Adam’s play, which showed the Tory action was all about suppressing any alternative views on Ireland apart from state propaganda. Next the Tories will be calling for the   Mountains of Mourne to be banned because it promotes the beauty of Ireland. The IBRG would continue to support Irish literature and culture in Britain

On 13th July the IBRG put out a statement welcoming an Irish victory on Welfare Benefits in Britain, where Peter Lilley the Social Security Secretary had climbed down on the right of Irish people to claim benefits in Britain. This victory was due to a determined campaign on the issue within the Irish community led by the IBRG.

The IBRG also welcomed that refugees had also been left out from this discrimination on benefits on the Habitual Residency test proposed by the British government. Merseyside and Coventry IBRG had put in submissions along with the National IBRG on the issue. 42 of the 79-submissions came from the Irish community in Britain as the IBRG were able to get several other Irish groups to put in submission and supplied them with background facts on the matter. AGIY coordinate much of the work in this area. The Daily Star attacked the Irish exemption claiming that Tory MPs were furious because the Irish were getting special treatment, and the right-wing Terry Dicks called the exemption crazy, and he was writing to the Minister on the matter

Anti –Irish articles by Ruth Dudley Edwards

On the 5th June Ruth Dudley Edwards had an anti-Irish propaganda piece in the Irish edition of the Sunday Times headed Why become a minority when the majority treat you so well, one of the most ignorant pieces written on the subject. It was totally short of any facts or any research and ignored the mountain of evidence in Britain going back to the 19th century of anti-Irish discrimination and racism in Britain, and the mountain of further evidence  which had  come out if the 1980’s from researchers on Mental health, mortality ratios, GLC research, and even the evidence of the London metropolitan police on Irish disadvantage.

Her description of IBRG as ‘extreme left wing, anti-British republican sympathisers showed her true propaganda colours. Her claim that IBRG was funded by the Inner London Education authority was another made up lie, but why let facts disturb your propaganda rantings. According to Ruth the Irish were exceptionally well off in Britain which was a shocking claim given the well-researched position of the Irish community in Britain. Edwards attacked the University of N. London Irish Studies Unit as a notorious Irish grievance dissemination place without producing a single fact that the University had produced anything in this area.

What Edwards was opposing was research into discrimination against the Irish in Britain, which would not suit her propaganda stories.  Edwards was in total denial of the reality of life for Irish people in Britain, and in denial of several cases going through British employment tribunals of discrimination against Irish men and women in Britain. Edwards was unable to provide a single fact to support any of her assertions about the Irish in Britain, or to rely on one single report to support her cloud cuckoo land beliefs.

The IBRG put out a statement in July entitled Revisionist whinges to Sunday Times which noted Edwards attacked the IBRG The Commission for Racial Equality, the University of North London Irish Studies Unit, the Irish in Greenwich Project and the liberal wing of the Federation, with her main attack on the concept of the Irish being classified as a Minority community, and whether they suffered from Discrimination.

Edwards who was well known for her anti-Irish and anti-republican views and for her pro right wing Unionist views, offered not a single fact to support her bogus theory that the Irish were doing extremely well in Britain, were very well liked despite research shown  that the Irish were the most disliked in Britain among all communities. Edwards even attacked the forthcoming research on the Irish community in Britain commissioned by the CRE even before it has come out which is alarming, she represented the Militant tendency of Murdock press who earned he living by attacking any concept of Irish self-determination.

The IBRG noted that her right-wing views would go down well with the gin and tonic brigade. In a letter to the Irish Post Pat Reynolds the PRO demolished Edwards shallow arguments on the Irish in Britain. “Her story on based on anecdotes of a neighbour, of a right-wing councillor in Greenwich, and offered not one single piece of research or fact to support he arguments. Her main argument that the Irish do not suffer from discrimination or disadvantage in Britain was absolute nonsense and just a propaganda claim on her part. Edwards is unable to name a single Irish group or individual in Britain who supports her position, indeed at the Greater London Conference in the 1980’s every single Irish group in London agreed that the Irish were a minority community, that they should be recognised and monitored. and that they suffered from discrimination and racism in British society.  Pat Reynold quoted from the Metropolitan police Fair treatment for all document where they stated, Irish people have often been the recipient of racist behaviour based on ignorance and prejudice breeding false stereotypes. Would Edwards now describe the Metropolitan Police as an extreme left-wing group. On her views that the Irish were doing very well in Britain Edward could not produce one single piece of research. The former Chair of the British Association of Irish Studies showed herself to be bereft of any reason on the subject, preferring to revert to propaganda to puts her anti-Irish pro Unionist viewpoints.”

On 24th July Gerry Adams at a Sinn Fein Ard Fheis in Letterkenny states that the Downing St Declaration suggest a potentially significant change in the approach of the government to resolving the conflict in Ireland. Sinn Fein had swallowed the bait.

In July the IBRG welcomed the climbdown by British minister Peter Lilley over Irish people’s entitlement to benefits in Britain. The IBRG had put in its submission in February and took the battle to the community. The Irish and refugees were excluded from the government Habitual residency tests of three years. The Daily Star attacked the Irish community on the issue but the IBRG responded.

In Lambeth the IBRG along with Unison Irish members defeated a Tory/Liberal attempt to derecognise the Irish in Lambeth. The IBRG lobbied Lambeth council and got the decision reversed. The Irish Post refused to cover Lambeth Council employment figures but the Irish World, An Phoblacht the South London Press and the Greater London Radio covered the figures for the Irish working with Lambeth which were small compared with their size in the borough.

Sean McNulty’s trial started at the Old Bailey in London on 4th July with IBRG members attending as observers.

 

Case of John Leo O’Reilly

John Leo O’Reilly leaflet

 

In July the IBRG took up the case of John Leo O’Reilly an Irishman who died from neglect and discrimination in a Coventry police station, and called for an inquiry into all aspects of the case. Maurice Moore offered the family the support of Coventry IBRG in their demand for justice and the truth. This was a case where an Irishman was suffered from a head fracture but the police treated it as if the person was drunk which was not the case, and left the man to die without medical help in a police station overnight.

 

On 6th August Pat Reynolds had an hour-long debate with Ruth Dudley Edwards on Greater London Radio Irish hour where she became abusive after losing the debate. Edwards was hopeless in offering any evidence to her wild views on the Irish, and was a hopeless debater probably as she was not used to having her propaganda challenged in any way.

On 12th August Pat Reynolds PRO had a letter in the British Independent which challenged an article ‘mad Ireland should get real’ by Bryan Appleyard. The article was based on the Whiteman’s burden and had all the old colonial with statements like ‘the English still retain a startling level of affection for the Irish’.

Pat Reynolds stated ‘The article portrayed all the worst colonial stereotypes about Ireland and the Irish, and marks a rather sad repetition of the Whiteman’s burden. The article offers no real analysis of the past 25 years, and included every colonial cliché about the Irish, mad, violent, bloody, irrational, illogical, ignorant, drunken, can’t be trusted, while the English are tolerant, neutral, well meaning, peaceful, torn between two unruly children, and of course always knowing what is best for the Irish’….. Ireland is neither mad nor illogical but a reality for Irish and British people. The issue is not about teaching tolerance to the Irish, but of English understanding how they have contributed to the creation of what Nt Ireland is, and that history now demands a different and imaginative response in working out a political solution. Sadly, the 25th anniversary has so far ignored the British dimension and British politicians have been left off the hook. For the sake of the future, leave the White Man’s burden outside, while we seek a political solution based on equality and justice, and let the Irish people decide on their own future, without any outside interferences, as well as bringing all the British people into the debate as to the purpose of the British presence in Nt Ireland.’

On 13th August the IBRG marched with their banners on the 25th anniversary of the troops going into N. Ireland from the Imperial war Museum to Hyde Park where Tony Benn was the main speaker.

20 August  Laura O’Sullivan and Bernadette Hyland attended the Sinn Fein ArdFeis in Dublin as IBRG representatives.

On 21st August, on a Sunday, Sean McNulty was found guilty and the new mobile phones made its appearance to get news from the Old Bailey to the Southwark Irish Festival. Only the British would find a man guilty on a Sunday.

On 31st August 1994 the IRA announced a ceasefire after a 25-year war against the British forces of occupation in N. Ireland.

Kate Magee was found not guilty in  early August. Her campaign stated ‘this was persecution not prosecution’. On 6th August David Granville had a page long article in the Irish Post entitled The Nightmare she thought would never end on the experiences of Kate Magee and an interview with her. She went through a shocking experience during her arrest with her six-year-old son, being separated from her son and her long tortuous time in prison before the jury acquitted her in two hours.

Gareth Pierce her solicitor stated ‘The prosecutions desire to press ahead, knowing what they did, can only be described as deliberate, conscious and ultimately sadistic’. The case illustrated the shocking use of the PTA and the clause of withholding information, a catch 22 situation where the person had to prove their innocence of knowledge of possible future events of other people.

The first prisoner transfer to Ireland took place in August with Ella O’Dwyer and Martina Anderson along with the husband Paul Kavanagh and Patrick Mcloughlin all went home.

Neil Doolin  of Merseyside IBRG had an excellent article on the health of the Irish in Britain entitled ‘The luck of the Irish’ in the Nursing Standard in August. It had a huge impact among health professionals, in raising concerns about the health needs of the Irish in Britain. The Irish contribution to health in Britain had always been taken for granted, from the building of hospitals to the contribution of large numbers of Irish nurses and doctors plus hospital workers, who had made such a large contribution to building the NHS in Britain. It was a serious article well researched with references given on issues like mental health. It was a clear argument that the Irish should be included in all ethnic monitoring within the NHS both in staffing, and for health needs so that the specific needs of the Irish could be better addressed.

The IBRG produced a national newsletter in August which was circulated via the branches. It highlighted the McNulty case, the Danny McNamee case, Kate Magee victory, Frank Johnson and the transfer of Irish prisoners, which showed the enormous amount of work the IBRG were doing around Irish prisoners in Britain. It also highted the case of Leo O’Reilly in Coventry and Irish deaths in custody.

IBRG Newsletter 1994

 

 

IBRG Statement on Ceasefire

On 4th September the IBRG released a statement urging a British positive response to the ceasefire by ending all repressive legislation such as the PTA, EPA, the Broadcasting ban, and to remove Crown forces of occupation from Nationalist areas. The IBRG called for an All-Ireland Constitutional conference to decide on the way forward for all Irish people The IBRG noted that 70 years of constitutional British Unionist with its armed violence and 20 years of Direct Rule had failed to bring any form of democracy or equality to Nt Ireland.

The IBRG supported an All Ireland referendum on the issue and all Britain referendum on the matter to stop the Unionist veto where 2% of the population of the UK had determined lives on these islands for the past 70 years. The IBRG saluted the Nationalist community in Nt Ireland for having resisted British violent repression for the past 20 years. 99% of guns in Ireland were in the hands of British and Loyalists and these needed to be taken out of Irish politics. The IBRG calls for an amnesty for all Irish political prisoners, fair employment an end to all repressive legislation and for the Irish people to have self-determination without outside interference.

on 9th September The Irish World covered this with Irish Groups in Britain respond to Ceasefire which covered the IBRG response and the Irish Post on 10th September had Thoughts on the Ceasefire which included IBRG, Robert Kee, Bernie Grant and Roy Foster. An Phoblacht on 8th September had Irish exile groups welcome ceasefire which included the IBRG response.

On 16th September the IBRG in a statement called for a British referendum on N. Ireland and rejected a six-county limited referendum. 70 years of British and Unionist repression had not produced one single democratic structure in Nt Ireland. A referendum in Nt Ireland would ensure that the Unionist veto where only 2% of eth UK population decide the future of these islands. It was based on white Protestant supremacy and was set up with violent pogroms against the nationalist community with over 500 dead, over 500 Catholics business burst out and thousands of Catholic workers driven from their jobs in the shipyards and the Mills. The IBRG repeated its call that the vote on any referendum in Nt Ireland be extended to those driven out by violence and discrimination and that any referendum in the republic be opened up to emigrants.

On 10th September five IRA prisoners including Danny McNamee attempted to escape from Whittmoor Prison.

On 16th September the British Broadcasting ban on Sinn Fein was lifted.

On 17th September the IBRG Ard Choiste took place in Derby. Ten delegates attended including Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds, Neil Doolin, Maire Doolin, Terry Corbin, Pat McAndrews, Maurice Moore, Virginia Moyles Kevin Hayes along with Kate Magee recently acquitted. The meeting was addressed by the O’Reilly family whose father had died from neglect in a Coventry police station.

Apologies from Diarmuid Breatnach, Laura O Sullivan, Joe Mullarkey and Peter Skerrit.

The Ard Choiste noted the British government climbdown on Social Security legislation. The August 25th anniversary Troops Out march only attracted 1,500 people. The meeting thanked all those who worked on the Kate Magee campaign and those who worked on Sean McNulty’s case. The Richard O’Brien case was being investigated by the Police Complaints Authority. There had been an increase of Irish deaths in police custody over the years which the IBRG were challenging. The IBRG had highlighted four such cases, Patrick Quinn in Hammersmith, Leo O’Reilly in Coventry, Con Sexton Coventry and Richard O’Brien in South London.

Afterwards IBRG members attended celebration party for Kate Magee.

On 29th September Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking with Mary Mason of Troops out on the ceasefire a at a public meeting at the Green Ink bookshop in N. London.

On 30th September IBRG attended a Frank Johnson benefit at the Camden Irish centre.

In September the IBRG called for all Irish emigrants to be allowed to vote in the referenda in the Republic and in the Six Counties on any changes to the constitution.

In September Ruth Dudley Edwards attacked the IBRG call for the Irish abroad to be given the vote. The IBRG responded defending their position on the vote for emigrants. Her article in the Irish Sunday Times filling in for the right wing rabid anti Republican and anti-liberal Eoghan Harris, Dangerous nonsense of votes for emigrants. Her argument that ‘it does not take a genius to work out how emigrants with votes might unwittingly but dramatically destabilise the Irish republic. Yet Dublin seems committed to letting it happen’. Here Edwards is totally out of touch as Dublin never supported an emigrant vote in any way, Edwards fails to notice that emigrants from Nt Ireland retains the vote just like British people. On 17th October the IBRG issued a statement defending its position on votes for Irish emigrants. Over a quarter of a million Catholics were forced out of Nt Ireland by repression and employment discrimination from 1921-1968 and these were entitled to vote on any Nt Ireland referendum.

On 15th October Edwards had a letter in the Irish Post supposed to be a reply to the IBRG but was a Beal Bocht letter trying to portray her Irish origins.  It was a very weird letter which had nothing to do with the original article or the IBRG response. Her individual grievance fakery created cottage industry could not hide her cheap propaganda.

On 13th October the Combined Loyalist Military Command announced a ceasefire after receiving assurances and guarantees that the constitutional position of Nt Ireland within the UK would stay unchanged.

On 20th October Mo Mowlam replaced Kevin McNamara as Shadow spokesperson on N. Ireland which was a big improvement.

On 9th October the IBRG banner was on the Criminal Justice march from the Embankment to Hyde park where a large-scale riot took place between the police and marches. On this occasion the police lost the fight badly. Over 100,000 people were on the march with Paddy Joe Hill, Billy Power and Judith Ward leading the march.

On 19th October the IBRG took part in the evening lobby of Parliament over the Criminal Justice Bill, this time the police were seeking a rerun match fight with different numbers and were attempting to kettle the crowd.

On 30 October IBRG members attended the Terence McSwiney commemoration at Southwark cathedral.

In early October the IBRG drew attention to the denial of language rights to Feilim O hAdhmaill, an Irish language speaking political prisoner, at Belmarsh Prison in south London. On 3rd October the IBRG issued a statement calling for the rights of the prisoners and his family be protected and for them to be able to communicate in their own community language. The IBRG called on Michael Howard Home Secretary to immediately restore basic human rights to this family, to be able to communicate in their family language by letter and in person during visits.

Lewisham IBRG put on an Irish historical drama entitled Irish ways on 29th October with over 30 children involved in the production.The Irish Post covered it with Lewisham holds second festival.

In October the IBRG demanded an inquiry into the death in police custody of Leo O’Reilly in Coventry.

In October the Mayor of Clonmel Seamus Healy visited Frank Johnson in Swalesside Prison in Kent.

On 17th November Taoiseach Albert Reynolds is forced to resign and the Fianna Fail/Labour Coalition falls. Bertie Ahern is elected Leader of Fianna Fail and Labour join with Fine Gael and John Bruton anti republican in a new Coalition government.

On 14th November the McNulty family are all acquitted. See photo below of Dorothy and Kevin.

Dorothy McNulty and Kevin Hayes of West Midlands PTA Association.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On 17th November Nina Hutchinson, a great friend of the Irish in Southwark and of Ireland,  died early from cancer. She was an active member of Troops Out Movement.

On 18th November Gerry Adams addressed a capacity meeting the Camden Irish Centre.

 

The IBRG Ard Choiste took place on place on 19th November in Liverpool. Fourteen delegates attended including Bernadette Hyland, Maire Doolin, Terry Corbin, Barrie Wood, Michael Naughton, Denis Ashe, Marie Byrne-McCann, Pat Reynolds, Neil Doolin, Maurice Moore, Virginia Moyles, Diarmuid Breatnach, Laura Sullivan and Joe Mullarkey.

Apologies Virginia Moyles and Denis McGovern.

The meeting discussed the peace process and noted that Sinn Fein made no attempt to involve the Irish community in Britain in the process preferring British left groups. The meeting decides to request a meeting with Sinn Fein to discuss its lack of understanding of the Irish community in Britain, and to make a submission to the Forum for Peace and reconciliation in Dublin. The meeting decided to sponsor the Bloody Sunday march with £50 and to provide a speaker.

On 19th November the Irish Post had four photos of an IBRG Ceili in Harrow.

On 23rd November Pat Reynolds was the key speaker at the Chairde na nGael AGM in Newham in East London.

On 23rd November IBRG members picketed the Home Office over the transfer of Irish prisoners. The Irish Post on 1st December had a photo of the Picket with Laoise De Paor, Sr Maire, Eddie Caughey, Laura Sullivan, Pat Reynolds, young Quinlivan later a TD in Dublin. On 1st December An Phoblacht covered this with Repatriation decision welcomed with large photo. Albert Reynolds, Taoiseach, announced that legislation imminent to ratify the European Convention on the transfer of Sentenced prisoners after they had made the decision on 29th November.

ON 24th November IBRG members in South London attended the funeral of Nina Hutchinson in South London which Mary Nellis attended.

In November the IBRG protested against Bernard Manning and Frank Carson appearing at Millwall Football ground given that the club had signed up to the anti-racist football charter.

 Harrow IBRG condemned a Liberal councillor who told a Council meeting that the Irish should go home in a debate on services to the Irish community. On 26th November the Irish Post covered this with Irish Outburst ‘Harmless Fun’. John Knight, Liberal councillor, stated that the Irish should ‘go home’ during a debate on meeting Irish needs in Harrow which had an Irish population of 10,00. He was strongly condemned by Harrow IBRG and by the Council Race Racial Equality group.

Harrow IBRG had made representation to Harrow’s Community Liaison Consultative Committee while Harrow Social Services had indicated that Irish people were over represented in mental health services and underrepresented in elderly referrals. Only 2% of elder referral were Irish, whereas mental health had 6.8% of all referrals   4.9% of children and families, disabilities 4.7%. The Irish community were seeking a community centre where their elders could meet and where community advise could be given.

In November the IBRG condemned remarks by soccer manager Ron Atkinson when he stated after a player being stretchered off was sent in two directions by the bearers,  that the scene was like something you would see in Ireland. The Irish Press on 25th November covered the IBRG response.

On 1st December IBRG members joined a picket in Trafalgar Square over the peace Process. The Irish Post on 10th December had a large photo of the Demo with the banner Self-determination for the Irish people as a Whole

On 14th December Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking at the NUS anti-racist conference at the University of London.

On 15th December John Bruton was elected Taoiseach. There were 62 deaths from the troubles in 1994 despite the August ceasefire.

On 16th December IBRG picketed the Home Office over Frank Johnson. Christy Moore was supporting his campaign and Joe Benton Liverpool MP had put down an early day motion on Frank’s case.  Gareth Pierce was due to file case with the Home Office within days. The Mayor of Clonmel Seamus Healy later a TD went to visit Frank in prison. The Irish Post on 24th December had a photo of the Picket with John McDonnell MP, Billy Power, Andy Par, Sr Marie, Pat Reynolds and others.

On 18th December over 100 people were picketing Belmarsh Prison in south east London where Pat Reynolds was one of the speakers.

On 24th December Bernadette Hyland had a  letter in the Irish Post headed Making a significant contribution which detailed the work of IBRG around seeking a political solution in N. Ireland.

On Christmas Day IBRG members picketed 10 Downing St over Irish prisoners both political and innocent ones.

 

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

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