History of Irish in Britain Representation Group part thirteen 1993

 

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.

 

Leaflet was part of campaign to defend Irish community against PTA.

 

 

 

On New Year’s Day  IBRG held a public protest in Kilburn Square to draw attention to the British imposed border in Ireland at a time when borders were coming down all over Europe. The event was run to coincide with similar events in Ireland run by the Irish National Congress.

The IBRG statement read ‘IBRG calls for the dismantling of the British war machine in Ireland, which was protecting a sectarian statelet maintained by wholesale discrimination, violence, censorship, propaganda, and wholesale abuse of Human Rights and Civil Liberties. The responsibility for the war in Ireland should be placed at the door of the British government, and not on the Irish people. Britain’s purpose in continuing control in N. Ireland is the subverting of the whole island to follow British policy. Thus, we see campaigns in Ireland to drop Article 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution, massive censorship and the subverting of the Dublin government to jump at every British command like some junior colonial province’ and ‘the IBRG calls for peace talks without preconditions, and believe Nelson Mandela was right in calling for talks.’

On 16th January 1993 the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Working-Class Movement Library in Salford Manchester. Five delegates attended including Bernadette Hyland, Linda Ryan, Joe Mullarkey, Neil Doolin and Pat Reynolds.
Apologies from Kevin Hayes, Maurice Moore, Diarmuid Breatnach, Virginia Moyles and Majella Crehan.

The meeting discussed An Pobal Eirithe, Nalgo Irish Workers Group, the Ard Fheis, Travellers, Review of IBRG, CRE, PTA, Bloody Sunday march, Prisoners, Initiative ’92, and the Irish General Election. An Pobal Eirithe had not been published for over two years now. The Ard Fheis would be at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in Islington North London on 27th March.
Pat Reynolds PRO had put in a detailed submission on the Department Of Enviroment’s consultation exercise on Travellers urging the government to retain the 1968 Caravan Sites Act. Pat had also completed a Review of 1992 and had sent it out to the branches and to the Press. IBRG would be attending a CRE meeting in Derby on 23rd January, Virginia Moyles of Hackney IBRG would be chairing this year’s Bloody Sunday rally with Ken Livingstone as the main speaker. Frank Johnson’s case has been featured in the Guardian. Virginia Moyles had drafted a leaflet on anti-Irish racism.

On 21st January Pat Reynolds PRO attended a meeting at the CRE on Health and the Irish community.
On 21st January John Major stated that ‘those who were killed on Bloody Sunday should be regarded as innocent of any allegation that they were shot whilst handling firearms or explosives.

On 23rd January over 150 Irish women, including many IBRG women, attended an Irish Women’s conference organised by the Southwark Irish Forum and Southwark Council. Cllr Jodie Clark and an IBRG member was one of the key speakers.

The Kate Magee Campaign had a meeting in Derby on 23rd January.

On 25th January Pat Reynolds was speaking at a public meeting at Carlton Vale School in Brent on the issue of the Brent Irish Centre. There were huge concerns over the Brent Irish centre which had run into financial trouble which had reached the High Court.

Bloody Sunday Marches – London and Derry

IBRG branches with their banners attended the Bloody Sunday March from Hyde Park London to Kilburn with Virginia Moyles chairing the Rally. The march was held up for two hours because Combat 18 had mobilised to attack the march and the police arrested over 300 of them in a mapping exercise. It was one of the biggest mobilisation of fascists on the street for some time.
In March 1992 John Mayor British Prime Minister stated that his Government ‘does not think it would be right to review or reopen the Widgery Tribunal’ into the Bloody Sunday massacre”. The Bloody Sunday March Committee wanted the Government to acknowledge the innocence of those killed and injured on Bloody Sunday, to apologise to the people of Derry for the events of that day, to renounce the sham Widgery inquiry which followed it, and to bring those responsible for Bloody Sunday to justice.
The army officer in charge on Bloody Sunday Colonel Derek Wilford conceded that the Bloody Sunday victims were innocent and stated ‘I think we need to make a positive decision about ending the war in Ireland… British withdrawal would be a victory for common sense’. Shamefully the New Consensus had a tiny protest in Kilburn, strange that they should join Combat 18 in their objection to a march for Justice for the victims of Bloody Sunday.
Ken Livingstone called Bloody Sunday killings a slaughter and that there would be no peace in Ireland until Britain left. He said John Major’s recent announcement that the civil rights marchers were innocent, exposed the lies and whitewash of the Widgery inquiry. Gerry Duddy whose brother was the first shot on Bloody Sunday stated that the Widgery Tribunal set the precedent of judicial corruption that led directly to Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four the Maguire seven, Judith Ward, the Tottenham and Cardiff three, and Patrick McLoughlin.
In Derry on their Bloody Sunday March Paddy Joe Hill (Birmingham 6) was speaking and stated that the only way to send British troops back was in boxes, while another of the Six, Johnny Walker ,stated that Michael Mates the N. Ireland Minister should resign for his comments that ‘there would have been no murder of anybody if there had not been a bloody riot organised by those very Nationalists’.

In January IBRG made a submission to Initiative ’92 a commission of Inquiry into N Ireland. The IBRG submission called for British withdrawal, Irish reunification, disbandment of the RUC, financial compensation from the British for war and starvation damage caused to Ireland, and voting rights for the Irish abroad. Over 500 submissions were received and over 90 chosen to give further verbal evidence under Professor Opsahl from Norway a human rights lawyer. The report which came out later was called the Opsahl report. The Irish Post covered it with Submission by IBRG on North.

Response of Nalgo NEC to motions on Ireland

NALGO National Executive Council  reported back on three motions remitted from conference in 1992.

Motion 82 on the transfer of Irish prisoners and a call for the release of innocent prisoners.
They turned down a motion on Irish prisoners, despite the fact that Judith Ward, Dessie Ellis, and the Kilburn defence people had been acquitted and released, and the British Government had agreed on the transfer of Irish prisoners. Nalgo talked of crimes yet was silent  over 800 years of criminality by Britain against the Irish people.

Motion 116 on the Irish community
NALGO refused to recognise the disadvantage suffered by the Irish community in Britain where even the Metropolitan police had done so in their recent policy document. NALGO had refused to recognise the NALGO Irish workers group or the right of Irish workers to organise within the union. They would prepare a report before the next conference on the issue.

Motion 117 Irish language
They promised a report on the Irish language in due course, and would produce a report on whether they would recognise Irish workers with NALGO.

It was revealing that NALGO were on these Irish issues more right wing than the Metropolitan Police, more right wing than the British government, and more right wing than the British courts on their opposition to these three motions. It showed how much the Trade Unions in Britain’s were extremely right-wing and racist when it came to the Irish community in Britain.

IBRG took up the case of Patrick Murphy. He had been charged with bombing Downing St and was innocent he had been at an AA meeting the night of the bombing. Patrick, was later released without charge, and became famous for his innocent replies to M15 who came to interview him. When they asked him had he been seen by the intelligence people, meaning the Special Branch, Patrick replied in all honesty “No no they had no fucking intelligence at all, if they had any I would not be here”. His solicitor Gareth Pierce did her best to keep a straight legal face.

Conradh na Gaeilge was 100 years old and IBRG branches were asked to mark the occasion this year.

IBRG took up a case in Manchester where an Irishman was refused a government job because of his Irish background. The IBRG story was taken up by the Irish Post, the Irish World, the Cork Examiner, and GLR Irish hour.
Conor Hartnet was prevented from applying for a GCHQ job because his parents were Irish. In a statement on 31st January IBRG condemned the institutional discrimination practised by the British government, in refusing entry to a wide range of government jobs to people of Irish origin. These cases raised alarming concerns about equal rights for Irish people in Britain in that only Protestant British people from N. Ireland could get jobs in these occupations within a European single market. It was a clear racist policy which created the concept of suspicious community, and where public sectors led the private sector followed.
IBRG called on the British Government to take down its colonial No Irish need apply from its state corridors. It was evidence at the heart of the British government of racist practises, and an institutional unwillingness to accept that Irish people as having equal rights in Britain to employment.

Petition on lack of Irish access to Media.

Sean Sexton from the Irish Media Group and IBRG had a Petition accepted by the European Parliament on the issue of the lack of Irish access to the media.

The Petition 569/92 letter stated ‘I would like to inform you that the Committee on Petitions considered your petition at its meeting of 1st and 2nd of December 1992, and having decided the issues which you raise fall within the sphere of activities of the European Commission, declared it admissible. The Committee began its examination of your petition and decided to ask the Commission of the European communities to state its views on the various aspects of the problem. The committee will continue its examination of your petition as soon as it is receipt of the necessary information. Moreover, in order to enable your comments to be taken into consideration in any future deliberation of the European parliament on this matter, they committee decided to forward your petition for information to the Committee on Culture, Youth, education and the media’.
This was the only IBRG Petition ever to be put to the EU, and it was surprising that the IBRG never visited the European Parliament, or put in further Petitions on different issues affecting the Irish community in Britain.
IBRG did get Christine Crawley MEP to raise a question on having the Irish language included in the National Curriculum in Britain and got a huge supportive reply on the duty of European nations to address cultural issues affecting minority communities from other European states. All the more surprising that this avenue was not explored more as in the PTA debate in 1985 the European Parliament voted for an inquiry into the workings of the PTA, and the European Court had condemned the 7-day detention under the PTA as a violation of Human Rights.

On 23rd January Bernadette Hyland had a letter in the Irish Post headed War in the Last Colony which stated ‘the IBRG has never felt the need to apologise for the results of British colonial policy in the Six Counties. Our policy is quite clear. Instead of dealing with the politics of the last atrocity, we have always called for a British withdrawal and a negotiated settlement leading to a United Ireland. The continuing violence in Nt Ireland is a direct result of the refusal of the British government to resolve the war in Britain’s first and hopefully last colony. History teaches us that in previous colonial wars, such as Palestine, Cyprus, Aden Kenya, and Zimbabwe, the British government has eventually recognised the political reality of negotiating and withdrawal’.

On 24th February Patrick Murphy was released after being held for over a month and all changes of bombing Downing St dropped. The IBRG who took up his case stated that it was better to prevent people getting framed up than trying to get them released after trial.

First Irish victory under the new Press Commission.

On 27th February the IBRG won a Press Commission decision against the Evening Standard who had to publish the judgment. IBRG had previously won a Press Council victory over the News of the World when they claimed that the IRA had killed over 3,000 in N. Ireland. The Sunday Press on its front page, the Irish News in Belfast along with Irish weeklies covered the IBRG story The IBRG had also been involved in the Press Council victory over John Juror’s pig’s comment.
On 4th March the London Evening Standard carried the story Complaint against Standard upheld. The Standard article was originally headed ‘How World extremists set up havens in London’. The Standard were forced to include the Press Council judgment in their report that the Press Commission considered that the inclusion of IBRG in an article on organisations labelled extremist were not justified given the evidence provided by the newspaper. The Irish Post covered it with Rebuke for Standard over IBRG and the Irish World covered it with IBRG wins Press complaint.
The IBRG also challenged a racist piece in the Guardian on 18th February by Frank Keating who had four paragraphs of bigoted anti-Irish racism pieces like ‘that pale jug-eared leprechaun John Tracy’. John Tracy was World Champion cross country runner. Keating in the mid 1980’s had been challenged by IBRG when he came out with ‘their hale and purply faces, their big Kerrymans ears and feet’ talking about Irish rugby supporters.

Liverpool IBRG took up a case of a young Irish couple arrested under the PTA in Liverpool amid banner headlines in the media.

On 28th February IBRG members sponsored and attended a Kurdish and Miners benefit in Hackney at the Halkevi Community Centre. Diarmuid Breatnach (Lewisham IBRG) sang and the group Jacket Potatoes were also playing in an evening of International Solidarity with the Miners.

In February Harrow IBRG had five photos in the Irish Post from their Ceili in Harrow.

GMB research into Irish Unemployment in Britain

In February the GMB union released research which showed Irish unemployment in Britain with a 57% differential in the West Midlands, 46% in the East Midlands, 32% in Yorkshire and Humberside, 32% in the South West, 30% in London, 29% in Britain as whole, 22% in East Anglia, 19% in the South East, 17% in the North West, and 15% in Wales. However, in Scotland (7%) and the Northern (6%) the Irish were more likely to be employed than the natives.
This was the first time a British Trade Union had undertaken research into the Irish community and into discrimination suffered by the community. This showed that trade unions had power and money including the TUC to tackle issues affecting Irish workers in Britain.

Labour Party and PTA

In February the IBRG condemned Kevin McNamara for trying to barter with the Tories over the PTA. The rights of the Irish community were non-negotiable the IBRG said. Some 10 years earlier in 1983 Kevin McNamara in opposing the PTA in the House of Commons debate stated ‘Ordinary decent coppers using ordinary decent police methods apprehended those responsible for the Birmingham outrage.’ A shocking statement by McNamara who showed his ignorance of the Birmingham Six and seemed to condone torture, forgery and perjury as decent police methods used in Britain.

In an IBRG statement on 28th February we stated The Irish community in Britain must not be punished for Britain’s war in Ireland. Our demands are for travel without harassment, free speech without censorship, and the right to exercise our political and civil rights in Britain. The PTA is a vehicle for railroading innocent Irish people into false imprisonment. It can never be justified. There can be no consensus between the Tory and Labour party at the expense of our community based on racist legislation and the suppression of our rights in Britain. The Irish Post covered it with IBRG slams betrayal and the Irish World with Labour’s love of Irish called into question.
On 10th March the British Labour Party voted against the PTA while in the run up to the General Election in 1992 they abstained. This year they tried to do a deal with the Tories but the Tories refused them a deal.

IBRG officers met at the Roger Casement Centre in North London on 13th February to finalise plans for the Ard Fheis in March.

Nalgo and motions on Ireland

Both Greenwich and Lambeth Nalgo had passed motions on Irish self-determination and recognition for Irish workers but Metropolitan NALGO turned down the motion on recognition believing wrongly that it had been debated at last year’s conference.

Lambeth Irish Forum

On 19th February IBRG and NALGO Irish workers attended a Lambeth Irish Forum meeting at Lambeth Town Hall. The Irish Post had a photo of the Mayor of Lambeth Joe Callinan along with Gearoid McGearailt of IBRG speaking at the meeting. Over 80 people attended. Gearoid had a long letter in the Irish Post on 20th February setting out the long battle for recognition in Lambeth, who had refused to recognise the Irish. Linda Bellos a Black Councillor had always supported the Irish but the Council refused to recognise the Irish because they were a white minority community. The meeting decided to set up an Irish Forum to represent the interests of the Irish in Lambeth.

18th February IBRG condemned the London Evening Standard for an article on entitled Donkey Riddle with its usual anti Irish slant. The IBRG response was covered by the Cork Examiner, Irish Post and Irish World.

Pat Reynolds had a letter in the Irish World which read ‘The IBRG notes the Editorial of the London Evening Standard entitled ‘Donkey Riddle’. This referred to the missing racing donkey from Antrim which stated ‘There’s concern that the chestnut coloured star will end up in Dublin home of the Irish Parliament. Obviously, identification might then be tricky’ The Editorial is par for the course from the Standard who are obviously experts in donkey recognition. Given the English media’s habit of claiming Irish winners, we are surprised that the Standard didn’t recommend the said donkey for the House of Lords, or call for extradition proceedings against the cross-border escapee. To paraphrase an old Irish saying. It takes one donkey to know another, and the Standard stories and editorials these days have about the same value as a donkey derby. Another piece from the Standard last June was referred to the CRE when the writer talking about two visiting peregrine falcons to Dublin, diving for food stated,’ No doubt the odd fey Irishman disappears in this way too, and no great a loss there.
The Standard lost over one million pounds in the early 1980’s when the Greater London Council and a number of London Boroughs banned advertising with them, over their racist JAK cartoons. Even donkeys know the difference between carrot and a stick, but some take longer to learn the difference.

On 2nd March Patrick Mayhew N. Ireland Secretary stated the position of N. Ireland within the United Kingdom would only be changed by the will of a majority of the people after stating in December 1992 that Britain was neutral on N. Ireland.

Warrington bomb and major British propaganda exercise.

On 20th March an IRA bomb in Warrington killed a three year plus 12-year-old Tim Parry who died later on 25th from his injuries. The same day the UFF murdered four Catholics in Co Derry injuring four more, while in Belfast the UFF murdered a Catholic teenager.

Warrington began a major British propaganda exercise where Tim Parry became a household name yet no one in Britain can remember the name of a single one of the dozens of Irish children killed in N. Ireland by plastic bullets and others ways.

A screening of the Ken Loach film Hidden Agenda was cancelled by Channel Four over the Warrington bombing on 21st March. There were over 100 protests to the station and Channel Four had a Right of Reply on the issue. The Irish World ran the IBRG press release of 22nd March as a letter in their paper. The IBRG questioned as to when any British bishop or media had taken up the death on any Irish child in the Troubles, or the death of Iraqi children in the war.
On 26th March Pat Reynolds PRO was one of the key speakers on a Central TV programme in Birmingham, on the Warrington Bombing with Tim Pat Coogan who stated there would be a blood bath if the troops were pulled out, Harry Barnes the anti-republican, and Annie Maguire’s son Michael who defended British interests in Ireland. Pat was able to hold his own in the debate and put across the neglect of Irish child victims of the Troubles, with a plea to remember all the children of the conflict, where over 120 children had been killed, and called for all-party talks and a political settlement to end the war.

The 12th IBRG Ard Fheis took place on Saturday 27th March at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in Islington, North London. Nine branches were represented including Lewisham, Bolton, Merseyside, Haringey, Manchester, Camden/Hackney, Harrow, Coventry and Birmingham. 16 delegates attended.
Among those attending were Dermot Sadlier, Padraigin Ni Nuallain, Jack Jordan, Diarmuid Breatnach, Paddy Prescot, John Patterson, Maire Kennedy, Terry O Coirbin, Siobhan O Dwyer, Pat Reynolds, Bernadette Hyland, Neil Doolin, Virginia Moyles, Val Deegan, Maurice Moore and Kevin Hayes. Reports were taken from the Chair, Runia, PRO, Editor, Membership secretary, Prisoners Officer, and the Cisteoir.

The meeting heard reports from members on the opening of the new Irish Centre in Lewisham, Irish Festivals in Bolton and Blackburn, a film Festival in Manchester, the Bloody Sunday march, submission to Initiative 92 and to the DOE on Travellers, tackling anti Irish racism in the media including a victory over the London Evening Standard, work on the PTA arrest and on campaigns for prisoner including Kate Magee and Frank Johnson, organising seminars and public meetings, Irish language and dance class along with cultural evenings and socials.
Other work included addressing public meetings on a range of issues affecting the Irish community, putting the position of the Irish community across to the British and Irish media, and working with other Irish organisation across the community. It was noted that the Irish In Britain News had folded up during the years which left the Irish Post and the Irish World. The Irish News in Belfast and the Cork Examiner covered a lot of IBRG material as did the Andersonstown News along with An Phoblacht and the Irish language papers.

The following officers were elected;
Chair Virginia Moyles Hackney.
Runai Neil Doolin Liverpool
Cisteoir Maurice Moore Coventry,
Membership Bernadette Hyland Manchester
PRO Pat Reynolds Haringey
Prisoners Siobhan O’Dwyer Haringey
Editor An Pobal Eirithe Diarmuid Breatnach.
There were two nominations for the position of Chair with both Virginia Moyles and Diarmuid Breatnach receiving equal number of votes, in the circumstances Diarmuid withdrew his nomination and Virginia was duly elected Chair.
The following motions were passed;
That the Irish version of IBRG be adopted Cumann Ionadaiochta na nGael sa Bheatain
A motion defending Article Two and Three of the Irish constitution
A motion supporting the PTA telephone tree
A motion supporting Kate Magee.

On 27th March Bernadette Hyland was profiled in the Manchester Evening News, it was an in-depth article about her Manchester Irish upbringing, about Irish history, culture and politics, which set out the urgent need for an informed debate on Ireland and the Irish community in Britain. Bernadette spoke of the need for recognition for both Irish cultural and welfare needs and the important of tackling anti Irish racism including racist jokes.

On 31 March Pat Reynolds gave a talk on anti-Irish racism at the University of N. London.

Politics of Warrington leaflet

On 4th April IBRG gave out leaflets at the so-called Peace Rally which was in reality an Anti-Republican Rally with no interest in peace in Ireland which only drew 2,000 people. Cardinal Hume turned up, and many wondered why if he was interested in peace, why he never turned up for any Bloody Sunday March to protect at the murder of 13 innocent Civil rights marchers. Young Kevin Reynolds gave Cardinal Hume a copy of They Shoot children on the deaths of children in N. Ireland by Plastic bullets. Over 120 children had been killed by Britain’s war in Ireland, yet Tim Parry was being presented as the first child death of the war, because the death of Irish children did not matter to these people.

The IBRG PRO produced a leaflet entitled the Politics of Warrington for distribution to branches and in the community. Virginia Moyles of IBRG wrote to the Irish Post putting the whole matter in perspective. Her long letter headed Selective in Sympathy exposed the very selective manner of media reporting in Britain and Ireland, with its political agenda to demonise the Irish struggle. Siobhan Dwyer had a letter alongside Virginia’s from the Irish Freedom Movement putting the blame back onto the British government for events in Britain and Ireland, and drawing attention to Loyalist deaths squads operating with British support in Ireland. The Irish media and its politicians went on the angle ‘we are ashamed to be Irish’.
On 4th April the IBRG put out a statement saying that the peace this media campaign wanted was a Pax Britannia and was not a genuine peace movement like the peace movement in America to bring the troops home from Vietnam. This was a media attempt to shift the blame for N. Ireland onto the Nationalist community, and shift blame away from the British state and their loyalist’s followers, which in over 25 years had not produced one single job for the Catholic community.
The Politics of Warrington was based on British state propaganda with its message that Irish lives did not matter, and that English lives were everything. In Ireland 91% of killings by Loyalists were of innocent Catholics with no link to any group, 55% of all deaths by the British forces of occupation were civilians while the IRA civilian deaths were at 37%. There was as usual a complete lack of any analysis by the British media including the BBC which carried on a propaganda campaign. Mary Robinson Irish President attended the memorial service in Warrington, yet never attended the funeral of a single child victim in N. Ireland. Why did Mary Robinson miss the deaths of over 120 children in N. Ireland as did the 20,000-peace crowd who turned out in Dublin on the issue. Another speaker at the rally in London was Liam McNally Chair of the Federation of Irish Societies, so called non-political, who never once attended a Bloody Sunday Commemoration, or again spoke out on the death of any Irish child in the troubles.

On 11th April Lewisham IBRG held their 1916 event with Diarmuid Breathnach as the main speaker, Lewisham also organised an Irish children’s day themed around Irish myths and legends and an arts project, with a photo of the children in the Irish Post. In March Diarmuid Breatnach had a long letter in the Irish Post on the lessons to be learned from the from the attendance of 400-500 fascist to attack the Bloody Sunday March, and the failure of the British Left and the anti-fascist and anti-racist movement to mobilise against the known threat.
In the past the Irish community had stood shoulder to shoulder with communities under threat from Cable St to Bermondsey to Red Lion Square, where the young Kevin Gately a second-generation Irish student lost his life in the 1970’s, to action across the board.
Diarmuid called for solidarity from the left and and increased mobilisation from the Irish community so that any community did not have to rely on the police to keep the peace on the streets.

On 2nd April IBRG members attended the launch of Paddy Hillyard’s book Suspect Community on the PTA which exposed the workings of the PTA and its effect on the Irish community at the Camden Irish centre. Gareth Pierce also spoke at the launch detailing the experiences of Irish people arrested under the Act.

On 24th April an IRA bomb at the Nat West Tower caused 1 Billion of damage.
On 25th April IBRG members took part in the anti-fascist demo at Victoria.

In Liverpool IBRG were demanding recognition and resources to meet the needs of the Irish community. Neil Doolin had written to the Leader of Liverpool City Council with a submission on the Irish community asking for a Consultative Conference with the Irish community.
The Irish Post on 3rd April covered it with Liverpool pressure builds up detailing the battle in Liverpool to have the Irish recognised. Liverpool IBRG sent Liverpool City Council a copy of the Haringey document Agenda for Change which set out proposals for change, in recognising the Irish and addressing the needs of the community.

Department of Health refuses to recognise Irish as ethnic minority

The IBRG had received a letter from Virginia Bottomley who stated that the Department of Health would not recognise the Irish community despite the contribution the Irish had made to the NHS from building the hospitals to nurses. Merseyside IBRG had written to every Regional Health Authority in England asking them to recognise the Irish. The Irish Post covered this on 17th April with Losing out in health monitoring. The Department of Health told the Irish Post ‘We don’t consider the Irish as an ethnic community’.

IBRG took up the case of Mary Druhan, a Co Clare woman, who had been wrongly convicted of a double murder in a London squat. The IBRG were also involved in the Kate Magee campaign, the Casement Accused and the Frank Johnson Campaign.

On 4th May a Black Barrister and journalist Rudy Narayan had an article in the Caribbean Times which stated there will be no peace until you leave the Irish alone. He stated the IRA will never be terrorists as the Mau Mau in Kenya and EOKA in Cyprus never were. The IRA is comprised of Irish men and women who would give their lives and sometimes do for the liberation of their country. The second lesson that should be committed to memory is that the freedom fighters walk long that glorious trail of freedom and liberation that Gandhi, Martin Luther King and the Irish Martyrs died for, and this has to be recognised publicly by the Army of Occupation, guns and tanks will never subjugate the Irish and there will never be peace in Britain while the occupation of Britain’s last colony continues’.

On 5th May the IBRG along with AGIY met with the Department of Health about recognition for the Irish community.

The Ard Choiste met at the Roger Casement Irish centre in Islington North London on 8th May with nine delegates including Neil Doolin, Maire Kennedy, Val Deegan, Diarmuid Breatnach, Siobhan O’Dwyer, Kevin Hayes, Bernadette Hyland, Virginia Moyles and Pat Reynolds.
The meeting agreed a motion from Haringey IBRG condemning the racist killing of Black teenager Stephen Lawrence and offering IBRG condolences to his family and community. The Stephen Lawrence case was later to become a catalyst for change in race relations in Britain. The meeting passed another motion from Haringey calling on the British government to recognise the Irish community within the NHS. The meeting heard that John Matthews had been changed with a taxi bombing. The IBRG believed him to be innocent and had taken up his case with the Irish government. Kevin Hayes had recently spoken at a meeting in Kirby on the PTA. The Ard Choiste agreed to take up the case of Mary Druhan as wrongly convicted Irish prisoner. A motion from Lewisham IBRG called on the IBRG to be represented on the James Connolly March in Edinburgh on 5th June with a banner. Pat Reynolds ran a media workshop on how to deal with the media in Britain.

Southwark Council and employment targets for Irish

In Southwark the Council at its Central Services Committee on 11th May had agreed an employment target figure for the Irish of 10% being the first local authority in Britain to do so. Pat Reynolds was interviewed as Irish Policy Officer by BBC Radio Belfast and Radio Foyle in Derry on the issue.
There was an estimated 22,000 Irish living in Southwark with 9,792 of them born in Ireland. The last head count of staff in Southwark showed that 348 Irish staff worked with the council, or 4.9% of the total staff. Irish staff were twice as likely to work at manual type jobs as other council staff. Only one of the 32 senior staff at the Council was Irish. The unemployment rate for the Irish in Southwark was 20% compared with 13% for local English people. Source (1991 Census).
The Irish Staff group and the Southwark Irish Forum welcomed the move by the Council while the Irish staff group were to meet with the Director of Social Services in Southwark, to look at ways of improving services for the Irish community in areas such as recruiting Irish foster carers, Irish elders, mental health and other issues.

On 9th May IBRG members attended the Sands /Connolly Commemoration at Conway Hall in London.

On 12th May the IBRG put out a statement in response the Daily Star not only attacking An Phoblacht on 10th May but also naming its outlets in Britain thus putting community bookshops at risk of right-wing attack. The IBRG stated that the paper represented the view of Sinn Fein who had the support of 40% of the Nationalist community in N. Ireland and that the Star attack was one of free speech, and trying to supress any alternative view on the British occupation of N. Ireland.

On 18th May Virginia Moyles was speaking with Fred Holroyd a former British agent at the University of North London.

IBRG picket at National over Manning show

On 19th May IBRG members in London picketed a Bernard Manning appearance at the National in Kilburn. The Irish Post refused to cover the picket yet took advertising for the event. The IBRG condemned Irish venues for booking anti Irish racist comedians. The picket was organised by IBRG and the Irish Campaign against Racism in the Media. Members were able to verbally challenge Manning before he entered the National about his racism, while it was noted his audience was 100 % white and 99% male and mainly young males between 17-25. The picket got a lot of support from passing members of the Black and Irish communities who lived locally, and from women.
IBRG condemned the National for putting on racist comedians, when they were such a rich diversity of Irish and other artists around, and spoke out about the harm done to Irish children by this racial abuse of their heritage and culture. Manning represents the dregs of the British Empire in his views on Black and Irish people and pandered to white supremacy, and had no place in a multi-racial society. At a time of racial murders in Britain, it was offensive and wrong. The Irish World covered it with Protest as racist Comedians play Irish venues.

On 19th May three former detectives are cleared of the charge of conspiracy to pervert the cause of justice by manufacturing the interviews notes of one of the Guildford Four.

On 21st May Pat Reynolds chaired an Irish Evening for Justice meeting at the Camden Irish Centre at which Judith Ward, Kenneth Griffiths, and George Silcott spoke along with Laura Sullivan on the Casement Accused campaign and Siobhan O Dwyer on Kate Magee campaign and Frank O Neill on the Danny McNamee campaign. Over 100 people attended the meeting.

On 23rd May Pat Reynolds was speaking in Woolwich in South East London at a packed public meeting to protest at four racist killings including Stephen Lawrence in the Greenwich area. Gareth Pierce was also speaking on Irish cases at the meeting. The meeting was held under the banner of Racism, Law and Miscarriages of Justice Enough is enough Four Racist murders in Greenwich.

On 25th May the IBRG and other Irish groups met with the Commission for Racial Equality to put pressure on them to have the Irish included within NHS ethnic monitoring. The CRE was more positive which was due the IBRG believed to the new Chair Herman Ouseley former head of the GLC Ethnic Minorities unit.

In Liverpool the City Council said they recognised the Irish. The Chinese and the Irish were the two largest minority communities in Liverpool. On 29th May the Irish Post ran an article Liverpool’s commitment not enough. The Council had affirmed its recognition of the Irish but the IBRG wanted a consultative conference with the community to address issues affecting the community rather than a token recognition which did nothing to change things. In practise the recognition meant nothing without the Council spelling out how they would address Irish needs in the city.

On 27th May Mary Robinson President of All Ireland met the Queen of England the first Irish leader to meet the English Queen since the great Grainne O Malley who met the First Elisabeth In Greenwich in 1593 and refused to bow to her.

IBRG submission to Home Office Inquiry into Racially Motivated attacks.

In June the IBRG put in a very detailed submission to the Home Office Inquiry into Racially Motivated attacks and harassment which later appeared in a House of Commons Hansard report. Action Group for Irish Youth put in a bigger report using IBRG material and published their booklet on it which got large media and academic attention.

The Irish World on 18th June covered it with Better recognition for Irish Plea to Home Office.
The IBRG submission was later published along with other submissions by the Home Office and put before Parliament. The six-page submission called for tougher anti-racist laws and for racial harassment to be made specific offense, the tightening of press laws to prevent the racial abuse of minority communities in the media, and for more positive action in the media on addressing Irish issues. The British Press had been part and parcel of the frame up of Irish innocent people and went along with the state cover up of these frame ups. The IBRG also called for the repeal of the racist PTA laws which targeted the Irish community, the official recognition of the Irish community, the inclusion of the Irish language history and culture into the national curriculum to provide British and Irish children, with a better awareness of British involvement in Ireland and of their own colonial history. The IBRG quoted the Metropolitan Police document fair treatment for all which stated ‘Irish people have often been the recipients of racist behaviour based on ignorance and prejudice breeding false stereotypes.
IBRG also pointed out that the British Government were themselves the main discriminators against the Irish community with its racist PTA laws and racist deportations to internal exile, by failing to recognise the Irish within the National Health Service, despite the huge contribution Irish nurses had made to Britain and Irish builders had made to building hospitals in Britain. Those who contributed the most were the most discriminated against in housing and in health by the Government and Local Authorities. The only recognition the Irish got in Britain was police surveillance and racist jokes and stereotyping.
On 9th June the Opsahl Report on N. Ireland was published. The Report came out of Initiative ’92 to which the IBRG had made a submission.

On 10th June the IBRG had a meeting for Kate Magee at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in N. London.

On 16th June IBRG members went to Brighton for a NALGO Conference Fringe meeting on Irish issues with a social afterwards with the group  Jacket Potatoes. Pat Reynolds spoken on the Frank Johnson campaign, Siobhan O’Dwyer on Kate Magee, Patricia Campbell on the Irish Women’s defence campaign and Steve Sexton for the NALGO Irish workers Group. The event was to highlight motions going to Conference on Irish self-determination.

On 17th June Manchester IBRG organised the launch of Paddy Hillyard’s book Suspect Community People’s experiences of the Prevention of Terrorism Act in Britain on the PTA.

Arrest of McNulty Family in Tyneside.

Following explosions on 28 April and 8 and 9 June 1993 in the north east of England, which were later claimed by the I.R.A. there was a series of arrests amongst  both the Irish community and their many friends and relatives amongst the local English community in the North East. Between 24 and 26 June seven members of the McNulty family were detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Immediately the West Midlands P.T.A. Research and Welfare Association contacted the family and a support group was set up to ensure that the McNulty family did not join the long and sorry list of “miscarriages of justice”. See leaflet below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In June the CRE claimed that too few Irish people were complaining to them about discrimination. This was the fault of the CRE because few in the Irish community knew about the CRE or its work which generally excluded the Irish.

On 1st July the IBRG issues a statement deploring recent PTA attacks on the Irish community with raids in Tyneside. Unknown numbers of Irish people disappeared for up to seven days without anyone knowing what was happening to them, or they being allowed any access to legal aid and to contact their Embassy. It was a police state rather than a democratic one where Irish people arrested under the PTA had no legal or judicial rights. Section 18 of the PTA ,so called withholding of information, was now being use to intimidate Irish people being held and to threaten them, tell us everything you know or we will charge you, and then using this information to charge them. Yet the BBC, who the Attorney General in the House of Commons stated had breached s18 at Carrickmore, were not prosecuted as they were the Panorama team. The PTA had become a legalised system for the political and racial abuse of the Irish community in transit to and from Ireland, and had led to the creation of a community with second class legal rights under the policing and judicial system in Britain, with no redress for the abuse of Irish citizens only because of their racial origins.

On 3rd July Manchester IBRG held a Conference entitled ‘We are a River Flowing’ at St Brendan’s Irish Centre with speakers; Michael Herbert on Origins of the Irish community 1780-1880, Steve Fielding on researching the History of the Irish, Pat Reynolds on the Irish in the Post war era, Virginia Moyles on Second generation Irish women, Ann Rossiter on the Irish and the Feminist movement and Mary Nellis on Women in the Six Counties.
The Conference was reported with some details in the Irish Post with a photo of Ann Rossiter, Pat Reynolds, Virginia Moyles, Mary Nellis and Eileen Carroll. (see below) And previews with IBRG hosts day of Irish History and A proud Irish heritage and Question Time IBRG stage a day of Discussion and debate with the IBRG logo and Manchester celebration.

 

 

On 4th July Gerry Adams stated that Republicans might be prepared to accept joint authority as part of the process towards an end of partition.

On 6th July John Mathews was released without charges, the IBRG had earlier made representation to Dick Spring Irish Tánaiste on the case.

On 8th July AGIY launched their reports on Racial attacks and Harassment of Irish People and a leaflet Racial discrimination and Irish people and how to make a complaint against racial discrimination. The launch at the Camden Irish centre included speakers Marc Wadsworth secretary of the Anti Racist Alliance, Chris Boothman Director Legal Division CRE and Alison Stanley Director Racial Discrimination Legal Defence Fund.

On 15th July the UVF statement admitted responsibility for the bombings in Dublin and Monaghan in May 1974 in which 34 people died.

On 17th July the Ard Choiste was held at the Four Provinces Club in Coventry. Neil Doolin, Pat Reynolds and Maurice Moore attended.
The meeting heard that Initiative ’92 was one sided as expected, given the makeup of the inquiry body. Neil Doolin had written to all Regional Health Authorities in Britain to get them to recognise the Irish. Three regional Health Authorities in London had agreed to recognise the Irish, while the Mersey region stated they would include those from the Irish republic. Pat Reynolds reported on meetings with the CRE who were going to carry out research into discrimination and the Irish community and spend £34k on its research.
It was reported that the McNulty family had been arrested on Tyneside under the PTA with the women being held in Durham prison. Pat Reynolds PRO had made a submission on behalf of IBRG to the Home Office Inquiry into Racially Motivated attacks and Harassment. AGIY had produced a booklet on their submission and the IBRG had supplied them with many of the media case histories. Neil Doolin was working on a Merseyside Irish Festival for 1994.

In July John Mayor British prime Minister did a deal with the Unionists giving them a N. Ireland Commons Select Committee to get them to support him on the Maastricht vote, while Gerry Adams stated that Sinn Fein might accept ‘joint authority’ as a step to Irish Unity.

In July the IBRG had stalls at the London Fleadh in Finsbury Park on 12th June, at the Southwark Irish Festival on 9th July and at the Irish Youth Festival in Kilburn on 18th July. Members attended the London Irish Festival on 4th July where Green Ink, the cultural wing of IBRG, had a stall selling books music and videos, and getting the political message across to the community along with promoting Irish literature history music song and dance.

 

Coventry IBRG along with Coventry Socialist Alliance put on a public meeting on 25th August in Coventry at which Maurice Moore spoke on the work of the West Midlands PTA campaign, Pat Reynolds spoke on the effect of the PTA on the Irish community, and Laura Sullivan spoke on the Kate Magee campaign. Over 30 people attended.

In early August the Dublin Sunday Tribune gave Frank Johnson’s case the front page which was a breakthrough while the Sunday Press covered the Mary Druhan’s case with a full-page story.

Irish Language Project in London

The Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference announced that the Irish government were to fund a two-year Irish language project in three schools in South East London, two in Southwark and one in Lambeth.
Pat Reynolds who, along with Cllr Jodie Clark , had been involved with the Irish Embassy and Southwark education on the issue welcomed the new project. Pat Reynolds had an interview with BBC Belfast and Waterford radio on the matter. The Irish Press ran the story Irish to be taught in London schools, and quoted Pat Reynolds, Irish Policy Officer in Southwark, who welcomed the development on the 100 anniversary of the founding of Conrad na Gaeilge, and the fact that the Irish Literary Society had ben founded in Southwark over a 100 years ago, which had given rise to the Irish revival in Ireland. The Irish Post had Irish language pilot scheme. 36% of the pupils at Notre Dame were Irish, while at St Michaels 28% were Irish, while at Bishop Thomas Grant school the Chair of governors Canon Devane’s own father had been a Timire /organiser with Conradh na Gaeilge in Co Kerry.

In August the South London Press covered a Southwark Irish Staff Group statement over finding Irish foster parents for Irish children, where Southwark Council had advertised in the Black Press for foster carers for Irish children and yet did not advertise in the Irish Post. In Southwark the council did not have a single Irish foster family’s out of 368 approved foster carers in the borough, yet Irish children in need of foster placement made up about 10% of these children.

In August the IBRG welcomes the awards of £18,000 to three Irish people arrested assaulted strip searched, and detained for 15 hours under the racist PTA laws. The Metropolitan Police paid out before the case reached court. The IBRG attacked the PTA and called for the release of four members of the McNulty family.The IBRG put out a statement on 18th August to welcome the award paid out to innocent Irish people who were strip searched, assaulted, and detained for over 15 hours simply for being Irish. There were another seven thousand innocent Irish people who were similarly arrested for being Irish under these racist pass laws, where you were stopped and had to prove your innocence every time.
Political opposition to Britain’s role in Ireland was a perfectly legitimate activity but the British state again and again tried to criminalise the Irish community as a suspect community. The Irish government had totally colluded with the oppression of its citizens, and acted like junior provincial management team acting on behalf of the British government, and had a most shameful record of silence over the Irish political hostages all 18 of them taken into captivity in Britain in 1974, to silence the Irish community about Britain’s was in Ireland. It was to keep the Irish in their place and was a relic of Britain’s colonial history and should be confined to the dustbin of history.

The IBRG welcomed the Trades Union Councils AGM motion condemning the abuse of human rights in N. Ireland.
The motion stated ‘In the same manner that Trade Unionists have long condemned human rights abuse in South Africa, Palestine, China and El Salvador, we condemn the same denial of basic human rights by Britain in the six counties of the North of Ireland. Britain has been found guilty of more violations of the European Convention on Human Rights than any other remember state, and other measures such as the PTA have been found to violate Human Rights by the European Court, condemned by Amnesty and by the United Nations Committee against Torture, do not accept that such violations are done with the consent of the British people. We call on the TUC to publicly expose Britain record on human rights particularly on the issue of strip searching, plastic bullets, the PTA an the Diplock Courts’.
The motion came from Lancashire and was carried by 108 votes for with only two against at the 68th annual conference of Trade Union Councils in Birmingham. An Phoblacht covered the story with the IBRG logo
15th August the IBRG issued a statement “welcoming the actions of the Trade Union Councils’ in supporting the motion and in setting the standard for other trade union bodies, who were starting their conference season in September.
It was noted that many Trade councils in Britain had supported Dr Maire O’Shea, the Birmingham Six and other Irish and Black framed prisoners’ cases. The policy motion indicated that 98% of or British Trade Union Councils did not support the British government position and the Labour Party and the big Trade union positions on Ireland. It was a mandate for other trade unions to take up the fight in Britain, and support the Irish community in its fight against the PTA. The figure against of less than two per cent reflects that the Unionist population make up only 2% of the population of the UK. There were now Unison Irish worker groups in Lambeth, Southwark, Lewisham, Brent. Hackney, Birmingham, Bolton, and Hammersmith with trade union contacts in 20 other areas of Britain.

Bolton IBRG
On the 14th August the Irish Post had Busy Irish calendar in Bolton where Margaret Mullarkey along with IBRG and Ceoltas had organised a wide range of summer events and that Stockton’s Wing would be playing at the Bolton Festival on 29th August.

In August IBRG got Mary Druhan’s case onto the front page of the Irish Sunday World a popular Irish Sunday paper, linking it with the Taylor sisters, who had been released from jail calling for Mary’s release. The paper quoted Pat Reynolds as welcoming the campaign by the Taylor sister’s for Mary’s release. The two sisters were themselves wrongly convicted of killing an Irish woman in London. Mary’s case had been referred back to the British home secretary for a referral back to the Court of Appeal.

The Ard Choiste was held at the Irish Centre in Liverpool on 11th September. Nine delegates attended including Virginia Moyles, Neil Doolin, Maire Kennedy, Maurice Moore, Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds, Joe Mullarkey, Diarmuid Breatnach and Kevin Hayes.
Neil Doolin reported back on replies he had received from regional NHS authorities. Bernadette Hyland reported back on the McNulty family who wanted a campaign. Gareth Pierce had become their solicitor. The Meeting gave £25 towards the campaign. Pat Reynolds reported that the Sunday World front page, the Sunday Tribune, and the Irish World had covered Mary Druhan’s story for the IBRG. The Irish Post refused to carry her story. The Mayor of Clonmel Seamus Healy was now supporting Frank Johnson. The meeting gave £100 towards the 1994 Bloody Sunday march.
Pat Daly, ex Bristol IBRG, had now been exposed as an M15 agent in the McGonagle and Heffernan case. Pat Daly had been involved in the Peter Jordan/Billy Grimes case along with the Dr Maire O’Shea case back in 1985.

IBRG took up the case of a young Irish student son of a Donegal TD McDaid who was jailed for three months over a bomb hoax while an English man who caused a gun hoax on an Irish family got away free, evidence of a two-tier racist judicial system.
On 9th September IBRG issued a statement calling into question the arrest, detention and conviction of McDaid, his remand for three weeks and his three month sentence. It contrasted that with an Englishman who made a similar hoax call on the same day in the same area of Southwark by dialling 999, and falsely claiming that his Irish neighbour had a gun as part of an ongoing racial harassment campaign. Car loads of police surrounded the Irish house with at least 12 officer presents. The police did not even arrest the English man who was known to the police.
The emotional damage done to that Irish family was enormous. McDaid, an Irish student on his 19th birthday while intoxicated, made a hoax call from a phone box and is given the full force of the two-tier racist justice system. The recent published report Crime Policing and the Irish community raised serious questions about Irish confidence in the police force. The chair of the Tory Party advocated the bombing of Dublin in public and no action was taken. The Irish Press covered the story with London Irish groups angry over racist hoax call. The Irish World covered the story with Dial R for Racist fury among London Groups. The Southwark Irish Forum had taken up the case, and had made representations to Southwark Council and the Police Consultative Committee on the issue.

IBRG welcomed the extension of Section 11 funding to the Irish community.
The Tory Government, by amending the 1966 Local Government Act, had extended the funding to include the Irish community, but it remained to be seen how far local authorities would prioritise Irish bids and how the Home Office would look at them. The Irish community paid income tax, council tax and business rates and were entitled to have community needs met, where they existed in the same way as any other community. The research was now there to show Irish disadvantage across all area of British life from employment housing health to welfare.
On 10th September the IBRG issued a statement welcomed the proposal but with no great hopes that it would achieve much given the resistance to Irish need at local and national level.
Diarmuid Breatnach had a letter in the Irish Post in September outlining the work IBRG had done on the Irish language. The Irish Post had covered the Irish Government scheme to put the Irish language into Southwark schools but did not even mention IBRG in the article nor the Irish Policy Officer at Southwark, Pat Reynolds. Diarmuid listed the amount of work IBRG had carried out on the Irish language from putting on local classes to campaigning to have Irish as part of the language’s curriculum in Britain. Increasingly the Irish Post, which had moved to the right, were excluding IBRG even where the story was around IBRG work.

On 25th September IBRG members attended the Unison Irish Workers Group (NALGO, NUPE, and COHSE had become one Union) in July 1993 AGM at the Roger Casement Irish centre in Islington. The group changed their name from NALGO Irish workers Group to UNISON Irish Workers Group. Siobhan O’Dwyer was elected women’s officer and Pat Reynolds PRO for the group. The meeting decided to push for the McBride Principles this year at branch meetings in Southwark and Lambeth.

On 30th September some 20 Irish groups including Pat Reynolds of IBRG met with Herman Ouseley Head of the CRE. Herman agreed to take the case for full recognition of the Irish community to the Commissioners and that himself would be supporting recognition of the Irish. The tender for the Irish research would be decided in October.
On 1st October Pat Reynolds PRO joined a smaller number of Irish groups at a meeting with the Irish Embassy with Brendan O’ Caollain and Melanie Pine to get their support for ethnic recognition of the Irish. The Embassy line was that they could not be seen to be interfering in the domestic arrangement of other countries, but Pat Reynolds pointed out to them that the matter under discussion was not any proposed change, since the British government already recognised the Irish as a racial grouping under the terms of The Race Relations Act, and you could almost see the penny dropping at the Embassy. The Embassy would in effect be supporting the British government position and not in any way interfering.

On 3rd October Pat Reynolds PRO was the speaker on Ireland at the Kashmiri Freedom Day in Birmingham where the cause of Ireland got a standing ovation from the packed audience of several hundred.

On 7th October the trail of three former policemen accused of perjury and conspiracy to pervert the cause of justice in the case of the Birmingham Six is terminated, because of what the judge describes as the saturation publicity surrounding the trail. Again, another clear example of the two-tier racist justice available in Britain, when time and again Irish arrested were tried in advance by the British media, the judges stayed silent.

On 16th October Neil Doolin of IBRG had a letter in the Irish Post on the health needs of the Irish community, and stated that from April 1994 the NHS would introduce ethnic monitoring in all their services but excluded the Irish community. Thus, the Department Of Health marginalised the Irish community in Britain and their health needs. Neil urged all Irish community organisations and individuals to write to the DOH on the matter and to raise the issue with their MPs.
Trevor O’ Farrell had a letter in the same issue followed on from Diarmuid Breatnack letter re censoring IBRG. Trevor drew attention to an article on health and the Irish community, where the paper claimed the first conference on Irish mental health in Britain was last year, which was clearly wrong as the IBRG held the first Irish mental health conference back in in 1987 when over 200 people attended the conference in Camden. Trevor again detailed the main findings of that conference which had been forgotten by the Irish Post.

On 23rd October an IRA bomb exploded in a fish shop on the Shankill Road killing ten people including the IRA volunteer bringing in the bomb.

On 29th October the IBRG received a reply from Labour’s Anne Taylor Shadow Secretary of State for Education who stated that ‘the government’s failure to recognise the importance of the Irish language was discriminatory’. Her letter indicated that a Labour Government would not exclude the Irish language.

The IBRG Comhcomhairle was held at the Working-Class Movement Library in Salford on 30th October with ten delegates attending from seven branches namely Manchester, Birmingham, NE Lancs, Haringey, Bolton, Coventry and Merseyside.
There was a policy discussion on the N. Ireland document. Those present included Bernadette Hyland, Kevin Hayes, Lisa O’Brien, Sean Kirkley, Michael O Cnaimshi, Pat Reynolds, Joe Mullarkey, Maurice Moore, Maire Kennedy, and Neil Doolin.
Apologies Kevin Bean and Virginia Moyles, also Diarmuid Breatnach who was on a student placement at Limerick University for three months.

On 24th October IBRG members attended a Sinn Fein meeting at the Roger Casement Irish centre in Islington London where Sinn Fein Councillors Mitchell McLoughlin, Francie Molloy and Una Gillespie discussed the Adams/ Hume talks and proposals for peace.
John Hume and Gerry Adams had sent their peace proposals to the Irish government. Dick Spring responded in October with his six democratic principles for peace while Albert Reynolds later exchanged these with John Mayor. The IBRG took issue with the principles which were a betrayal of Article Two and Three of the Irish Constitution without Britain having to withdraw their territorial claim on Ireland.
27 people were killed in October in the troubles in N. Ireland the worst month since October 1976, the British push for peace by Kitson style squeezing the catholic population had started by supporting Loyalist murder gangs.
Heavy censorship by the Irish Post of IBRG activities had become concern to the organisation.
Mary Hickman and Bronwen Walters had won the contract from the CRE to carry out research into discrimination and the Irish community in Britain.

On 30th October the IBRG issued a statement on Albert Reynolds/Dick Spring Six Principles and rejected them. The IBRG noted that the Irish government had signed the 1985 Anglo Irish Agreement which promised much for Nationalist but delivered nothing. After 70 years of British rule and 20 years of Direct Rule Catholics were still twice as likely to be unemployed as Protestants. The statelet was an apartheid statelet with 93% of the police force being Protestant. In America the British government had spent millions trying to block the McBride Principles to bring equality in employment to N. Ireland. Here we had 2% of the population of the UK dictating both the British and Irish people what to do based on Britain’s colonial position on Ireland and the supremacy of one group over another.

On 7th November IBRG members in Southwark joined the celebrations to open the new Traveller’s site in Southwark a second official site in the borough the other two sites in the borough were given temporary status. However, in Islington Margaret Hodge Leader of Islington Council was writing to the Home Secretary Douglas Hurd back in 1987 to urge ‘a strengthening of the law to make it easier to move on Travellers’ which she put out in a Press release. Yet Hodge portrays herself as an anti-racist yet was prepared to urge stronger racist laws against Irish Travellers. (Source |Policing the Irish Community LSPU).

In November IBRG took Frank Carson to task over his anti-Irish great Starvation jibe. In an IBRG statement of 15th November the IBRG condemned Carson for his racist offensive remarks on Carlton TV London To-night as sheer gutter buffoonery. Would he have been allowed to say similar things about the Holocaust or the Famine in Africa. To Carson the forced starvation of millions of Irish people was funny and his British audience would also find it very funny to laugh at the death over a million people, when the land was overflowing with food and ships were leaving Ireland daily loaded with food. It was in extreme poor taste coming up to the 150 anniversaries of the Great Starvation of the Irish people. Carson reflects the dregs of the British Empire who now want to conveniently forget their role in the forced starvation of the Irish when within years they could spend millions fighting a war in Crimea.

On 15th November John Major stated ‘if the IRA end violence for good then and after a sufficient interval to ensure the permanence of their intent, Sinn Fein can enter the political arena as a democratic party and join the dialogue on the way ahead’.

Later in November the Sun newspaper cartoon Striker of 24/25th November engaged with racist stereotypes of the Irish, perhaps it was the fact that England had failed to qualify for the World Cup while Ireland had qualified that led to these sour grapes and stale stereotypes.

On 27th November the IBRG with their banner led a march of over 100 young Irish from the Cock Tavern in Holloway road to Hornsey Road police station in protest over the police storming the pub after an Ireland football match.
The Irish Post covered the march with a photo showing Laura Sullivan and Pat Reynolds leading the march with the Haringey IBRG banner followed by the banner of the University of North London Students. Placards on the march read Stop Police harassment of the Irish community.

On 28th November Patrick Mayhew stated that the British had received message from the IRA on 22nd February 1993 stating ‘the conflict is over but we need your advice on how to bring it to a close. We wish to have an unannounced ceasefire in order to hold dialogue leading to peace’. Gerry Adams denied this but the British Government published a track of ongoing messages between the IRA and the British over several months. Martin McGuinness stated that the message of 22nd February was a fake, and the Brits were counterfeiting their own documenst to meet their current demands, and Mayhew admitted that there were 22 inaccuracies in the British version of the contacts between the IRA and the Brits.

On 29th November Pat Reynolds PRO was a key note figure on the Kilroy Television programme and managed to get the Rev Willie McCrae MP to lose his temper over employment discrimination in N. Ireland. The Irish World covered the story with a picture of Pat Reynolds who challenged McCrea as to why the Unionist community had never afforded democratic rights to their Catholic neighbours but had discriminated against them in employment and in housing. McCrea lost his temper and exploded ‘I don’t know about your accent but you are not from the streets of N. Ireland.

On 1st November in a reply to Dennis Skinner MP John Mayor sated that it ‘would turn my stomach’ to talk to Sinn Fein.
At the end of November, it was leaked that the British government the IRA had been having secret talks through a go between for some time.

The Ard Choiste took place on 4th December at the Roger Casement Irish centre in Islington. Four delegates attended including Bernadette Hyland, Val Deegan, Tomas O Conlan and Pat Reynolds.
Apologies from Maurice Moore, Kevin Hayes, Siobhan ODwyer, and Neil Doolin.

The meeting discussed prisoners including the McNulty family, Kate Magee, Frank Johnson, and the transfer of Irish prisoners, the Peace talks, the PTA and the CRE research. The Kate Magee trial had been postponed until the new year, there had been a House of Commons meeting on Frank Johnson and a benefit at the Red Rose club which the IBRG had helped organise. There was a picket of the Home Office over the transfer of Irish prisoners to N. Ireland and a meeting at the House of Commons on Strip searching which Tony Benn had spoken at. The issue of the Peace talks was discussed with the Irish government putting article 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution on the table without any acknowledge of the British Government of Ireland Act 1920, which divided Ireland against the will of the majority of its people.

The IBRG led protest over the Camden Irish Centre booking of Bernard Manning for their Christmas show on 22nd December which resulted in the show being cancelled.

On 4th December the IBRG issued a statement entitled Camden Irish centre promotes anti Irish racism the final Insult when the Camden Irish centre now run by Saxon Inns were put on anti-Irish comedians Bernard Manning and Jimmy Jones. Both of whom make use of anti-Irish material to ridicule the Irish people and its culture.
Fr McNamara the founder of the Irish centre would turn in his grave if he saw what the centre was now being used for to mock their own people. Other halls in the centre were called after President Kennedy and Douglas Hyde whose lives reflected on the Irish at home and abroad. The Irish centre was funded by the Irish government and Camden Council both of whom are committed to the promotion of the welfare of Irish people in Camden. Manning was both racist and sexist and had no place there with is exclusive audience of white British males.
The English critic Victor Lewis Smith wrote in the Evening Standard  after such comedians appeared on the Royal Variety Show ‘after two and a half hours of frilly shirted comedians saying ‘there was an Englishman and an Irishman and a Scotsman..,the Dominion seemed to be not so much as a theatre but as an zoo, a last refuse which for species which you though had long ago become extinct, and which clearly could no longer survive in the wild. The London Zoo on the far side of Camden could do with a few new acts, but the welfare of the animals might prohibit it.

In December Bernadette Hyland spoke at TOM meeting in Manchester with Tony Doherty  from the Patrick Finucane Centre in Derry.See below.

On 1st December Pat Reynolds organised an Irish Education Conference in Southwark.
On 3rd December the Hackney Irish workers Group organised an Irish cultural evening in Hackney which drew over 400 people.
On 9th December Pat Reynolds was guest speaker at Southwark Unison AGM at a packed meeting where later he proposed a motion on the McBride Principles which was passed to go to on to annual conference.

In December the IBRG condemned the acquittal, of two British soldiers from the Royal Marines, over the murder of Fergal Caraher in Cullyhanna,
On 15th December the IBRG issued a statement over the verdict on the killing of Fergal Caraher. The verdict had raided fundamental questions about Britain’s shoot to kill policy in Ireland. Without justice there can be no peace. Despite the Reynolds /Mayor Downing St Declaration the real message of the British government remained the same. Within 24 hours of John Mayor’s talk of the gauntlet of peace the British colonial administration in occupied Ireland had delivered its own chilling gauntlet to the nationalist community. The acquittal of British soldiers involved in killing Irish civilians was nothing new. Compare this with savage sentences handed down to Martin McGonagle and Liam Heffernan, at the Old Bailey last week in London where they were enticed over from Ireland by M15 agent Pat Daly for a state commissioned crime for which Daly was handsomely rewarded with a new life.
IBRG notes that the Book Shoot to Kill had detailed that British forces of occupation had killed by 1985 over 155 innocent Irish civilians in the occupied territory. The present shoot to kill policy in N. Ireland appears to be sanctioned at the highest level of the British government, where those who carry out these killings can do so without fear of prosecution.

On 17th December IBRG issued a statement condemning the conviction of Martin Mc Monagle and Liam Heffernan who were enticed over from Ireland by M15 agent Pat Daly in a state-controlled exercise. IBRG called on the Irish government to take action against Britain for sending its spies into a friendly nation to entrap its citizens into fake actions abroad. Daly had previously been involved in the Liverpool Five where Peter Jordan got 14 years in prison and where Daly instructed by his pay masters tried to discredit IBRG and Dr Maire OShea. The IBRG had warned the Irish community of future frame up after Daly was named as Romeo in the Sunday Observer his role questioned in the case.

On 16th December Pat Reynolds, Virginia Moyles and Siobhan O’Dwyer took part in the Kilroy show over the Reynolds/Mayor Peace declaration. David Trimble was a guest. Pat Reynolds was able to contribute to the show.

Joint Declaration on N.Ireland
On 15th December in London Albert Reynolds and John Mayor issued a joint Declaration on N. Ireland which was largely based on the Hume/Adams talks. For the first time the Irish government publicly accepted the Unionist veto ‘the democratic right of the Irish people to self-determination as a whole must be achieved and exercised subject to the agreement and consent of the majority of people in N. Ireland’, thus breaking from the 1918 vote by the Irish people for a republic.
IBRG rejected the Declaration as forming the basis for a long-term solution to the British presence in Ireland. Dick Spring led the demand for guns to be given up even though there was no mention of guns in the declaration. He failed to mention the need to take British guns out of Ireland.
In the new Agreement Ireland would be subject to the Unionist veto, and the British would agree to a United Ireland only if the Unionist majority in N. Ireland wanted it. The British government stated it has no selfish strategic or economic interest in Nt Ireland. Its primary interest is to see peace, stability and reconciliation established by agreement among all the people of Ireland and they will work together with the Irish government to achieve such an agreement and will embrace the totality of relationships. The British Government agreed that it is for the people of Ireland alone by agreement between the two parts to exercise their right of self-determination, on the basic of consent freely and concurrently given, north and South to bring about a United Ireland, if that is their wish.
The Irish Government agreed that the democratic right of self-determination by the people of Ireland as a whole must be achieved and exercised with and subject to the agreement and consent of the majority of people in N. Ireland.
1993 thus marked the beginning of the road to peace in N. Ireland starting with the Downing St Declaration.

On 28th December over 400 republicans met in Tyrone, no one present supported the Downing St Declaration.
The IBRG never accepted the Hume/Adams agreement because we never saw them to debate them. It is clear that some of the Hume/Adams agreement were taken on board by the Irish government and amended to become part of the Downing St Declaration.

Des Wilson and action against stopping of funding to community projects in N.Ireland.
During the year Fr Des Wilson from the Springhill Community Centre in Belfast wrote to Pat Reynolds for advice on the possibility of standing against Douglas Hurd in the General Election who was the Minister responsible for stopping the funding to community projects in N. Ireland. The idea was to force Hurd to face up to what he had done to ordinary working people in Ireland.
Des Wilson expressed his thanks to IBRG for taking up human rights issues in Ireland and supporting the communities there as well as defending Irish rights in Britain. Hurd, according to journalist John Pilger, had condoned the arming of the Kymer Rouge, and yet could accuse innocent community groups in N. Ireland of being fronts for the armed struggle. Hurd was really attacking Irish culture and the Irish heart of the community in targeting these projects such as Glor na nGael. The idea was not followed up due to the difficulties in the voting system in England and first past the post. The Civil Rights Party stood in Irish community seats in the 1970’s against Labour and only got a few hundred votes.
There was at this time solid links between the IBRG and various community groups in Ireland like the Bloody Sunday March in Derry where the London march was often linked in with in terms of publicity, but also Glor na nGael and various campaigns like Plastic bullets, strip searching, Irish National Congress, ICPO in Dublin, Initiative ’92 Trade unions links.
IBRG materials were covered in An Phoblacht and the Andersonstown News plus the Irish language paper La, as well as IBRG getting interviews on BBC Radio Belfast and Radio Foyle. Employment discrimination was another huge link up where useful information was shared and action taken in Britain. The Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four cases had many links with N. Ireland, while the PTA was used in both Britain and N. Ireland and affected both communities when in transit. The IBRG marched in the anti-internment march in Belfast for several years and IBRG made two delegation visits to Nt Ireland during the 1980’s.

On 28th December Pat Reynolds was interviewed by RTE TV re Irish emigration and on 29th December by BBC Radio Belfast on the same issue.

 

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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My review of “The People’s Republic of Neverland The Child versus the State” by Robb Johnson

Books should be written by activists. Not by academics. Not by political commentators. Robb is a political songwriter whose day job is as a teacher. In this brilliant and inspiring book he reflects on his life on the frontline of the education system and the right-wing revolution that has taken place in our schools since the 1980s. He asserts ; “The state’s strategies of competition, outcomes and selection support the existence of a system of social privilege that not only serves the particular interests of the ruling elite but also creates a culture of stress and anxiety.”

 

Giving working class children the right to a free education was not altruistic in the 1870s. It was driven by the demands of the Industrial Revolution – the economy needed workers with some reading and writing skills. Over the years Governments have tried to shape children and  the education system according to their political ideology.

Robb became a teacher in 1980 and throughout his time in the job he has seen at first hand the way in which the education system has become the target of the right wing from Thatcher to Blair to Cameron to Johnson.  He says that the post war period and the role of educationalists meant that the underprivileged child benefitted from an agenda of libertarianism, of a child centred approach and of the concept of equality.

That has now  been  destroyed… “This “Prague Spring” of education, state education with  a human face has since been subjected to a ruthless attack by the right, and the future of education looks pretty much like Orwell’s vision of the future in 1984 – “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face –forever.”

But this is not a depressing book. Robb reminds us of how education has always been a minefield of debate and argument – even well before the 1980s.

In the 1970s teacher Chris Searle was sacked from his job at a teacher at a  Church of England  School because he published a book of poems by his working class students.  Supported by his students  who went on strike ((as well as  parents and the N.U.T.), Searle got his job back, and continued his work to “attempt to develop, through imaginative writing, the generous, empathetic and fraternal instincts of these children.”

Robb was lucky to be in education when educating the teacher, in its broadest sense, was seen as an important part of the job. In 1987 he went to East Berlin as part of a formal delegation of teachers. He chose to visit a kindergarten and it was a wake up call to him. “If you want to improve “our children”, improve the start they get to their learning by making it more like the experience of those children who go to children’s gardens till they are six or seven in “those countries” where “children do better”.

One of the inspiring aspects to this book is the way that Robb has learnt from other teachers or educationalists, as well as children,  and applied  that in his own practice. He has worked mainly  in schools where there are children who are deprived. In one school he used his song writing skills to write a song about them which would stop the kids punching each other. (The song is in the book. “6B go swimming”. )

Throughout the book Robb shows that  he is a good teacher because he respects his children. “Good practise consists of finding opportunities and ways in which the children you work with can like themselves. Good practise consists of giving children opportunities and reasons to smile.”

His motivation for writing the book is to bring back some sense to the educational debate. “To contribute a voice that has been increasingly sidelined to a debate that has been increasingly shut down by the state’s assumption of the inviolability of the agenda of “reform  ”. His aim is to put children back at the heart of schools and promote meaningful education.

He makes his case through using poetry, song and philosophy to sit alongside his own story and that of this country’s education system. The text is littered with my heroes/heroines Emma Goldman, Adrian Mitchell, Roger McGough and Billy (William)  Blake. Also I love his songs which are an important part of the story.

It is an intense, often depressing, often heartbreaking, often very funny hike through the history of this country over the last century. It is a great book for anyone who cares about the path that this country is now undertaking. It is an inspiring  book for anyone who wants to be a teacher or  work in any of the support services in schools. It will remind you of that great teacher that you still remember who always took time to listen to you or just give you a smile first thing on a Monday morning. It is a reminder of how important education is to social progress and to the future of this country. Over to Robb….

“In their exam factories, they try to stop up the ears and the eyes and the mouths of learning and questioning with “Right Answers”, like they would hold back the very hands of time.

And it hasn’t worked. It doesn’t work.

Our task is to let the clocks run forward again”.

 

The book finishes with a playlist of Robb’s Greatest Works, he also regularly tours, find out more here. 

Buy the book here

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The History of the Irish in Britain Representation Group part twelve 1992

 

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 arrested in 1992. Photo Kevin Hayes.

 

On 18th January 1992 the IBRG Ard Choiste was held at the Sparkhill Cultural Centre in Birmingham. Seven delegates attended including Diarmuid Breatnach, Pat Reynolds, Siobhan O’Dwyer, Mary Donnelly, Kevin Hayes, and Virginia Moyles.

Apologies from Bernadette Hyland, Majella Crehan and Maurice Moore.

 Employment Discrimination in N. Ireland and Britain, the vote for emigrants, the Bloody Sunday March, the Lambeth IBRG Irish Welfare Conference, the General Election in Britain, the Ard Fheis, An Pobal Eirithe, and prisoners were discussed.

On 25th January IBRG branches with their banners took part in the Bloody Sunday March from Hyde Park to Kilburn. IBRG were part of the organising committee with TOM and LCI.

Peter Brooke was in fine voice on the Late Late Show singing My Darling Clementine in a week where IRA action killed eight Protestant building workers in Tyrone, he offered to resign after much protest.

 

In January the IBRG welcomed the award of £18k to two Irish students at Wood Green County Court in London over their wrongful arrest, assault, false detention, and malicious prosecution. It created a marker; Irish people were beginning to fight back against an unjust racist criminal justice system.

 

Haringey Council and Irish Workers

In January the IBRG expressed concern at job figures from Haringey Council Social Services Department which showed that 68% of Irish staff employed by Haringey Council worked in manual jobs compared with an average of 46% for all council staff.

Only 18% officials staff worked in officer posts compared with 38% for UK staff. The Irish within Social Services were largely confined to social care as Home Helps and part time, but got few of the quality full time officer jobs.

While the Irish made up a reasonable number of employees at 13%, they were confirmed to the lower jobs of home helps and clerical staff.  Only 12 Irishmen were employed by Haringey Council in Social services out of a workforce of 1677. Clearly Irish men were not getting a look in from Haringey Council while Irishwomen were twice as likely to be in a poor job as White English, Caribbean or Asian women.

It showed clearly that Haringey Council had not extended their Equal Opportunities Policy beyond token recognition to the Irish community, despite having an Irish Liaison Unit and the Irish being on the Ethnic Minorities committee.

Yet Haringey Council had launched, in the House of Commons before Christmas, a positive report on the Irish with a good practice guide on EOP the Irish community, and had prided themselves on being the leading authority in Britain in addressing the needs of the Irish community.

 Overall Haringey employed 729 Irish employees making up 10% of Haringey councils workforce, with some 62% of all Irish staff working with Haringey being in manual grades compared with a Council average of 43% for all employees.

The Irish in Britain were often confined to jobs in the construction industry, in hospitals and in pubs, with poor access to quality jobs with pensions. Irish women empolyees in Town Halls  were likely to be confined to home helps and dinners workers and the men in manual type jobs. This had implications for service delivery to the Irish community in social services and in other areas, as it was important for minority communities to see their community reflected in the Town Hall across the board.

The Irish Post covered the story with Haringey fails Equality test. The Irish World had London councils face Irish discrimination probe.

The Irish in Britain News had a story about Emigrants Aid Crisis on the Dion funding for Irish groups in Britain. Pat Reynolds pointed out that then Irish government spent the same amount on funding the Irish community in Britain, as the amount Dublin Zoo spend on feeding  animals which was a half million.

 

In January three IBRG members were involved in producing the first edition of Irish Ways a Literary magazine funding by the London Arts Board with Pat Reynolds Steve Brennan and John Carty all IBRG members involved. They were to produce three issues of the magazine for a difficult market in Britain.

 

Irish Exam performance in Islington Secondary Schools

In January the IBRG expressed concern over Irish exam performance in Islington secondary schools.  Despite the two catholic schools in the borough producing the best results, the overall results for Irish pupils were poor. The results showed Irish girls performing poorly and the IBRG stated that the Irish community needed an explanation as to why Islington schools were failing Irish girls, and why overall they were performing below the National average, and below the figures for ILEA.

IBRG called on all Irish community groups in Britain to demand performance figures from their local authority as the 1980 Education Reform Act required all school to publish their results. While the Irish were excluded from the 1991 ethnic census of schools, there was a provision within the Act for schools to monitor other groups, where there were more than 20 pupils from that group attending the school.

On 28th January Pat Reynolds went with Jodie Clark to visit an Irish prisoner in Maidstone prison. Painful to think while visiting that they had hung a catholic Priest there in 1798 who was on his way to France and who was linked with the Irish rebellion.

 

In January Lambeth IBRG project dealt with several request and visits from students wanting help with research. In just one month the project had, a London student re -mental health,  a Loughborough student on anti-Irish racism, a Wandsworth student on Irish and education, one Enfield student re-education, one Margate student re Irish and discrimination, one North  London Poly student re- Irish groups, and one Belfast student on anti-Irish racism in the media, plus a request re an Irish student conference in Britain.

At the same time the Project had requests from other Irish projects in London,  from Irish in Islington re-education,  from Innisfree, Battersea & Wandsworth Irish society, BIAS, WMPTA, Green Ink, Glor an Deorai, and calls from both Fulham and Lambeth Social services,  plus the usual community cases on welfare and housing and employment plus running a  pensioner group every week. Thus, the project had a London wide if not country wide reach in terms of supporting the Irish community.

On 4th February an RUC officer entered the Sinn Fein Centre in Belfast and murdered three people and the next day Loyalists murdered five Catholics at Sean Graham’s bookie shop in Belfast.

Prevention of Terrorism Act  Arrests and press coverage

Pat Reynolds PRO wrote a letter to the Irish in Britain News to complain about their coverage of recent PTA arrests which had a headline IRA Trial Hears Hit List with a publication of two IRA bomb damage photos.

The letter argued that the press coverage was deeply prejudicial to the defendants and against the subjudice laws. In the public eye these photographs would attempt to link the defendants with similar actions, and would weaken the public presumption of innocence until proven guilty, and the changes of a fair trial. Given the history of Irish cases in Britain it was unhelpful to have the Irish media carrying out the rush to judgement of the British judicial system. 

The letter urged extreme caution in reporting such cases, and urged the need to defend the right to a fair hearing in a system which had vetted juries, high security, trial by media and trials often held in military towns, and where only the prosecution case was given to the British public. There were simply political shows trials.

Smash the PTA badge designed by Diarmuid Breatnach Lewisham IBRG.

 

 

On 6th February Albert Reynolds was elected Leader of Fianna Fail and Irish Taoiseach.

On 12th February Pat Reynolds PRO had an interview on Radio 4.

 

Judith Ward and release of William McKane

On 13th February IBRG members took part in a candle lit picket of Holloway Prison for Judith Ward. William McKane was released the same day and had a celebration at the Red Lion in Kilburn.

On 14th February the IBRG issued a Press release to state English Jury supports Justice for Irish people and stated ‘English juries are no longer prepared to believe circumstantial evidence used in Irish trials to convict innocent Irish people, or to go along with trial by media, and state propaganda surrounding such trials.’

 William McKane had spent 15 months in jail awaiting the hearing while his wife had spent 5 months in prison, and six Irish people arrested with McKane on Kilburn High Road were served with exclusion orders. A copy of An Phoblacht was used in evidence against McKane.

Again, the IBRG condemned the use of conspiracy laws against innocent Irish people and called for them to be abolished.

 

The Ard Choiste met at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in Islington North London on 15th February. Seven delegates attended including Diarmuid Breatnach, Pat Reynolds, Siobhan O’Dwyer, Robert Ryan, Tom Fitzsimons, Kevin Hayes, and Virginia Moyles. 

Apologies Bernadette Hyland, Neil Doolin and Majella Crehan.

The Lambeth Irish Welfare Conference, an Easter Rally, Bloody Sunday report back, the General election, the Ard Fheis, an Pobal Eirithe, Irish Prisoners and the review of IBRG were all discussed.  The Lambeth Irish Welfare conference was on 2nd February at Lambeth Town Hall, the Easter Event organised by Haringey IBRG was on 10th April, the Ard Fheis was planned for 28th March in Manchester. William McKane had been released. The review of IBRG recommended that officers meet at least four times a year, that IBRG set out two or three key objectives each year, and that each officer set out an action plan for their work and area of activity e.g. prisoners, women’s, education youth etc.

On 16th February Kevin Barry O’Donnell was executed by Crown forces along with three other volunteers in Co Tyrone.

 

1990 Exam results  of Irish Children in Inner London

On 20th February the IBRG issued a Press release on a published analysis of the 1990 exam results within the six LEAs in Inner London, which showed Irish children who were lumped in together with English Welsh and Scottish pupils doing very poorly in their results, with only Caribbean pupils doing worse.  All the other pupils African, Asian, Turkish, Pakistani and Bangladeshi were all doing better.

IBRG called for the separation of Irish pupils from English pupils in the survey  so that their true results and performance could be seen. The Irish were the only large minority community who were not monitored separately in London. The report was at odds with the community belief and expectations that Irish children do well at school with many attending catholic schools, and the report was at odd with a previous ILEA report before they were disbanded by the Tories, which showed Irish children doing better.

IBRG called for further research and noted a lack of Irish teachers outside the Catholic schools, and a wholesale denial of Irish culture even by the English Catholic church who were openly hostile to Irish culture. The recent example of anti-Irish material circulating at the leading Catholic Training college St Marys at Strawberry Hill had raised concerns. There was a need for Irish parents to become involved in the education process as school governors, and there was a need for Irish community organisation to ensure their local educational authority took on board the concerns of the Irish community. Seamus Carey used the example as to why Catholic schools did not put on an Irish evening, like they did with African, Caribbean and Asian evenings for parents. When they did at St Thomas More School in Wood Green it was extremely successful.

 

5th Irish Welfare Conference

On 22nd February Lambeth IBRG held their 5th annual Irish Welfare Conference at Lambeth Town Hall. Speakers included Angie Birthill from the London Irish Women’s Centre, Padraic Kenna from Innisfree Irish Housing Association, Siobhan O’Dwyer on Social Services, Pat Reynolds on researching the Irish, Liam Greenslade from the Institute of Irish Studies in Liverpool on mental health, Seamus Taylor on equal opportunism, and Noirin Ni Reardain on Disabilities and the Irish community.

Joe Callinan, the Irish born deputy Mayor of Lambeth, attended the Conference which in its plenary session called on local and national bodies to take on board the expressed needs of the Irish community in areas of welfare, health, housing and employment.

The Conference got wide publicity in the Irish weeklies in Britain with London Conference on Improving Welfare, Irish issues faced in Seminar, and IBRG hold 5th Annual Irish Welfare Conference, and Conference call for action on Welfare.

The IBRG condemned Gay Mitchell, Fine Gael TD, over his comments on Nessan Quinlivan and Pierce McAuley and called on him to uphold the right of any person, to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty by the courts. Pat Reynolds PRO wrote to the Irish papers including the Sunday Press condemning the remarks of Guy Mitchell TD. The letter stated ‘I find it particularly sad when elected members of Dail Eireann fail to maintain the public perception of innocence in relation to unconvicted Irish nationals. Long may the demand for justice and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and the demand for framed prisoners to be released be supported by Irish people at home and abroad.”

 

On 29th February the Irish Post had Bolton IBRG plans week of events which included an event for International Women’s Day and with a Ceili later in the month of March.

On 9th March figures from N. Ireland show that 93% of the RUC were Protestant.

On 13th March the Irish World had a feature entitled Exiled in the Media Changing Times in which it detailed the fight by the Irish community in Britain to be treated fairly by the British media. It showed  how  Sean Sexton of IBRG and the Irish Media Organisation had made  their bid for more Irish TV and Radio space in Britain.

Sean Sexton stated ‘given what we contribute  to this country in taxes and licence fees, and coupled with the number of Irish people who have made it in British’s society, both in professional and entertainment circles, the amount of airtime and treatment meted out in the media in general is a disgrace’. The article also detailed the work of IBRG in challenging the media over its fake made-up stories and its racism.

 

The Irish in Britain News carried a story IBRG face Eviction over Provo Storm where in Haringey a right-wing Tory councillor with links to hard-line Unionists, Ron Aitkin, claimed that IBRG had consistently supported the provisional IRA  and called for IBRG to be evicted from their offices in Hornsey library. He claimed IBRG had quite consistently apologised for Gerry Adams and defended thew IRA at every opportunity.

These remarks were clearly libellous and without any foundation. This was just before the General Election and Labour ran for the hills and later evicted IBRG even though IBRG were paying rent for a small office. Cllr Ron Aiken was the former researcher for the Reverend Martin Smyth who was head of the notorious sectarian Orange Order responsible over decades for most the racist sectarian violence in N. Ireland including the shocking programme  against Catholics in 1921.

His paranoid rantings about IBRG was not the first, but there were so libellous that no papers would carry his remarks. When challenged to provide any evidence, Ron Aiken despite his so-called research work,  could not come up with single piece of evidence to support his rantings.

Haringey IBRG pointed out that Pat Reynolds had been elected by the Irish community to serve on Haringey Ethnic Minorities consultative council, and was as entitled as Ron Aiken to use an office at the library for consultation with members of the Irish community and for Irish clients who wanted support with housing or employment.

On 21st March the Irish Post covered a story IBRG stalwart says it’s time to Go which was about Bernadette Hyland standing down as IBRG Chair after three years of service. Bernadette was the first woman to lead an Irish national organisation in Britain although Dr Maire O’Shea had earlier been President of IBRG. In the article Bernadette gave her background growing up in a working-class Irish family and paid tribute to Joe and Margaret Mullarkey for their work for the Irish community in Bolton where she joined IBRG. She talked of the position of the Irish community in Britain and of the situation in Ireland, and why IBRG had to speak out on these issues.

On 22nd March Irish community organisations met with the Commission for Racial Equality to persuade them to undertake research into the Position of the Irish community in Britain. Those attended were Seamus Taylor Chair, Pat Reynolds IBRG, Tom O’Connor, Brendan O Rourke, Dave Murphy, Mary Hickman, Paraic Kenna, Mary Connolly, Donal McGrath and Joan Flynn.

 

On 28th March the IBRG Ard Fheis was held at the Working-Class Movement Library in Salford Manchester. The following ten branches were represented Haringey, Merseyside, Manchester, Bolton, Lewisham, Camden/Hackney, Harrow, Coventry and NE Lancs. 20 delegates in total attended.

Among those attending was Siobhan O’Dwyer, Neil Doolin, Joe Mullarkey, Paddy Prescott, Bernadette Hyland, Linda Sever, Diarmuid Breatnach, Virginia Moyles, Pat Reynolds, Kevin Hayes, Denis Casey, Maurice Moore, Michael Murphy, Nigel Cook, Kevin Bean, Pauline Hughes and Jill Moroney.

Apologies from Caitriona Scanlan and Majella Crehan. A vote was thanks was given to Margaret Mullarkey for the wonderful food provided on the day.

The meeting adopted the Irish version of IBRG Cumann Ionadaiochta na nEireannach sa Bhreatain.

The following officers were elected

Chair Virginia Moyles Hackney/Camden

Runai Neil Doolin Liverpool

PRO Pat Reynolds Haringey.

Cisteoir Maurice Moore Coventry

 Membership/Internal coordinator Bernadette Hyland Manchester

 Regional coordinator Joe Mullarkey Bolton

Women’s Officer Majella Crehan Haringey

Education Officer Kevin Bean NE. Lancs

Prisoners officer Siobhan O’Dwyer Haringey.

 Welfare Office Michael Murphy Manchester.

 Editor an Pobal Eirithe Diarmuid Breatnach Lewisham.

The following motions were carried;

A motion calling on the Ard Fheis to examine whether the present structure of the Ard Choiste was the best way forward rather than an elected executive,

A motion calling on the officers to meet outside the Ard Choiste to progress issues in IBRG,

 A motion calling on the incoming Ard Choiste to allocate specific areas of responsibility to each officer and if necessary, to coop individuals for some issues.

A motion setting out the following priorities for the coming year, recruitment, finance raising, branch development, and publications.

A motion calling on the IBRG to seek full recognition by the CRE of the Irish community,

A motion condemning the price of Irish passports,

A motion condemning moves to delete Article Two and Three from the Irish Constitution,

A motion supporting the Declaration for Peace in Ireland which reaffirmed that there should be no change to the Irish constitution over Article Two and Three.

A motion supporting the Manchester Martyrs commemoration,

 A motion condemning the harassment of Irish students in Britain under the PTA and the media,

A motion urging IBRG to monitor discrimination against Travellers in access to state benefits in Britain,

A motion condemning the legal status of the UDA despite their involvement in several murders, (Of interest the British Government would ban the UDA later in the year).

A motion condemning the delay by the Irish government in granting justice and compensation to Nicky Kelly, Oscar Breatnach and another,

A motion welcoming the move towards independence in Scotland,

A motion condemning the Labour Party for moving from a position of repeat the PTA to one of reform,

An emergency motion welcoming the return of funding to Glor na nGael in Belfast

An emergency motion calling on the Irish government to conduct basic research on the results of the 1991 census on the Irish in Britain and to make that information available to the community.

A vote of thanks was given to Bernadette Hyland who was standing down as Chair and to Caitlin Wright a long-term officer who had stood down after many years of service.

 

IBRG Election Manifesto for Irish Community

At the end of March the IBRG published their election manifesto  for the upcoming British General Election calling for the ending of British rule in Ireland, and self-determination for the Irish people, the end of all human rights abuses and repressive legislation, the ending of the racist PTA laws,  the ending of censorship and propaganda on Ireland, the ending of employment discrimination,  the transfer of Irish prisoners, the ending of strip searching, the banning of plastic bullets, the ending of Diplock Courts, and a return to jury courts, and the ending of the British shoot to kill policy.

For the Irish community in Britain the IBRG demanded  an end to anti-Irish racism and discrimination in Britain, recognition as an ethnic minority community with full access to equal opportunities in housing, employment, education health and welfare, the provision of resources to meet the expressed needs of the Irish community, a fair share of media time including a radio station and access to TV programmes, along with work contracts and safety measures in the construction industry.

 

Green Ink held their annual London Irish Book fair in March  at the Camden Irish Centre and the Irish writer Jack O’Brien in a letter to the papers wrote about the wall of silence around Irish affairs, and he stated ‘The contribution which I found most interesting among a series of excellent contributions, was from Nadine Finch from the Irish in Britain Representation Group concerning the erosion of civil liberties in Britain. Much of what I heard at Camden came as shock to me. I was alarmed that the police state was so well established in Britain. Tom Paine must be turning in his grave’.

The British General Election was held on 9th April with Neil Kinnock snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Gerry Adams lost his West Belfast seat. The Tories won a minority government of 21 seats, which made them dependent on unionist votes to survive after anti-European Tories turned on Mayor. Patrick Mayhew took over as colonial master in the occupied territory.

On 10th April the day after the General election the IRA bombed the Baltic exchange in London killing two people and causing £800M of damage compared with £615 damage for the whole N. Ireland war damage since 1969. It sent tremors thought the city of London who told Mayor to sort it out or they would be off to Europe.

 

On 13th April N.E. Lancs IBRG held their AGM in Blackburn and spoke of a very successful year with increased membership They were now holding bi-weekly session of Irish traditional music song and dance in Blackburn.

 

Kate Magee Campaign

On 13th April the INLA killed a British soldier in Derby: an event which later led to the arrest of  Irish woman Kate Magee on the following day.

Kate was a single parent with two children living in Derby.  The West Midland PTA Research and Welfare Association was informed of Kate’s arrest by a local Irish builder, Pat McAndrew, who later went onto form the Derby IBRG branch. Kate’s son was taken away from her and it was only after 16 days and much lobbying by Irish groups that the Derby police revealed she was in Durham’s high security prison for women. After 66 days in prison the prosecution dropped the major criminal charge, leaving the lesser PTA charge of witholding information.

The documents of the  campaign to free Kate are held in the IBRG archive at the WCML.

 

On 18th April the IBRG released a Press statement condemning police raids against the Irish community in Britain. John Major condemned the London IRA target bombing but was responsible for the mass bombing of Baghdad which killed thousands of innocent men women and children when the Iraqi army were on the Kuwait border.

IBRG noted the contract in the British media between the three dead from the IRA bombing in London and the deaths at the Sinn Fein office by an RUC man and the deaths by Loyalists at a bookie office in West Belfast.Irish lives were hardy worth a mention in the British media whereas an English death was a huge propaganda issue.

IBRG again called for a political solution in N. Ireland based on justice and real peace, and one that tackles the cause of the war and not the symptoms. The British agenda was one based on war and oppression of the nationalist community, and IBRG wanted one based on equality and an ending of British imposed partition in Ireland.

On 19th April Pat Reynolds was speaking at the Sparkhill Cultural Centre in Birmingham along with a Sinn Fein speaker for their Easter Commemoration rally. The event was organised by the Republican Coordinating Committee along with Birmingham IBRG.

On 25th April the IBRG marched with their banner on the Kurdish march in London to the Ministry of Defence.

The IBRG in Haringey were to lose their office space later in the year after losing their funding and their two workers over a year ago. Lambeth IBRG remained the last of the three IBRG projects in London but lost their funding in March 1992.

On 6th May Neil Doolin, Runai Merseyside IBRG,  had a powerful letter in the Liverpool Echo  newpaper entitled An attack on basic civil liberties which stated ‘the remarks of James Sharpes Chief Constable of Merseyside that a tougher Prevention of Terrorism Act be proposed, so people can be detained at random, even if ether is no reasonable suspicion on which to hold them, are utterly condemned by the Merseyside branch of the Irish in Britain Representation Group. We find his proposal for new powers for police and customs and the introduction of national identity cards as particularly abhorrent and an attack on civil liberties’. Neil’s letter went on to give the history of the abuse of Irish people under the racist PTA laws.

Neil Doolin Merseyside IBRG

Neil Doolin Merseyside IBRG

 

Pat Reynolds in Haringey had a letter from his MP Barbara Roche which stated ‘The Labour Party is pledged to work towards a United Ireland achieved by peaceful means and on the basis of consent. We therefore would wish to defeat terrorism by all lawful means, but are committed to ending counterproductive measures such as the prevention of terrorism act, strip searching and plastic bullets. I strongly support this position’.

Which was the usual Labour Party policy  standing behind the Unionist veto and seeking the defeat of the Republican movement.  She failed to mention that N. Ireland was set up against the will of the Irish people, and it was set up by extreme violence including the Belfast pogrom of 1921, the  mass burning of Catholic businesses, the driving of Catholic workers from their  jobs and the murder of several hundred Catholics by Orange extremists, aided and abetted by the British government who put the Catholics of Belfast down in 1921.

On 10th May IBRG members attended the Sands/Connolly Rally at Conway Hall in London where Mitchell McLoughlin of Sinn Fein  was the main speaker. Their leaflet heading was Towards a Lasting Peace in Ireland with no mention of Troops out or Irish self-determination. It sounded more like Labour Party fringe meeting than a republican meeting.

On 16th May the Ard Choiste took place at the Four Provinces Club in Coventry. Nine delegates attended including Neil Doolin, Kevin Bean, Siobhan O’Dwyer, Pat Reynolds, Diarmuid Breatnach, Maurice Moore, Kevin Hayes, and Virginia Moyles.

Apologies from Majella Crehan, Nigel Cook, Bernadette Hyland, and Peter Skerrit.

The meeting decided to sponsor the Anti-Racist alliance, the Anti-Nazi league, and anti-Fascist action. It was noted that the police had been involved in trawling the Irish community under the PTA. The IBRG had condemned the raids and criticised the Irish Post for lack of coverage of these arrests. 33 Irish people were detained with 31 later released. Kate Magee was now in Durham Jail.  A motion from Haringey condemned the recent raids on the Irish community, and a further Haringey motion welcomed the release of Judith Ward after 18 years of false imprisonment on Dr Skuse evidence and other fake evidence. The meeting agreed to affiliate to the PTA Research Association for £100.

On 17th May IBRG issued a Press release which stated IBRG welcomes the release of the last 1974 Hostages. It went on’ The British state of which Labour were in power criminal conspiracy in framing 18 innocent Irish people was to shut up the Irish community. The conspiracy failed because of the courage of the prisons, their families and the fight back by the Irish community aided by concerned British people. The IBRG dispute that these were miscarriages of justice, they were special cases selected for a political purpose. The special factors in these cases was anti-Irish racism aided and abetted by the state, with many British establishment figures enhancing their careers on the backs of these innocent people’. The IBRG called for the release of Kate Magee and the dropping of all charges against her. The Irish World covered the story with Ireland Welcomes the release of the last 1974 hostage.

On 18th May Pat Reynolds was able to make a number of points on the  Any Questions programme  on RTE TV which was filmed in London for the first time. The panel were Jeffrey Archer MP, Clare Short MP, David Alton MP and Pro Life, and Sr Joan Kane a Haringey Irish community worker.

In Liverpool IBRG were pushing for an Irish radio programme on BBC Radio Merseyside, the Irish being the only large minority community not provided for in Liverpool.

In May the IBRG condemned the London Evening Standard over an article on N. Ireland by an ex-soldier who compared the Six Counties to a pig sty in Victorian style colonial stereotypes. On 19th May the IBRG released a Press statement entitled IBRG deplores Gutter Journalism of London Evening Standard. The article by an ex Para was full of praise for the notorious Paras and ended up by misquoting Joyce That Ireland is the old sow that eats her farrow. When she ceases to be and only then can the parachute regiment and others withdraw from the sty’. The London Evening standard had a shocking history of anti-Irish racism including the Jak cartoons after which the GLC withdrew all advertising from the Standard. The Irish News covered the story with IBRG Fury with  Sty analogy.

The IBRG called for the paratroopers to be withdrawn from N. Ireland following several attacks on local people in Co Tyrone which was covered in the Irish News. The Paras had a history of shocking brutality in Ireland including Bloody Sunday where they  murdered 13 civilians.

In Blackburn the IBRG put on their 2nd annual Blackburn Irish Friendship Festival, with several events including the showing of Mise Eire and a Curious Journey in a week-long Festival. The Irish weeklies covered it with Blackburn Friendship Irish festival and Friendship fete for Lancashire, with a whole week of song, dance, theatre, literature and films. The Irish News had North West Irish Unite Week-long Irish festival. The Irish Post had had four photos with heading of Blackburn’s Irish festival

 

The Bolton Irish Festival organised by Bolton IBRG was held on 14-16th June. It included a wide range of cultural events such as Irish music, games, an exhibition of the Irish in Bolton, Irish dancing, Irish stalls and much more.

 The Festival got considerable publicity in local and national Irish media.  There were several  pieces in the Irish weeklies, Scenes from Bolton Irish festival  with three photos including a Gaelic Mass  a Pipe band and a Gaelic football match, a photo in the Irish Post with Festive Bolton with Joe Mullarkey speaking with the Mayor of Bolton, another Irish Post piece with Weekend Festival begins in Bolton, and Stalls still available at Bolton Festival, a photo spread with heading A Bolton Revival with four photos including one of the main square, the Irish News had Grant problem but Festival will go Ahead,, and another with Bolton Irish festival and in the Irish World Bolton Irish festival and the last one Bolton Irish History exhibition which had been put together  under the direction of Margaret Mullarkey.

On 2nd June  IBRG had a stall at the Fleadh in Finsbury Park, North London which drew thousands of people and  we were able to display materials on IBRG, prisoners and other issues.

On 4th June Judith Ward’s conviction is quashed with judges accusing the forensic scientists involved in the case of having concealed evidence.

On 15th June IBRG members attended the Casement Accused Meeting at the House of Commons where Mike Mansfield QC and Tony Benn MP spoke.

On 16th June IBRG members attended a fringe meeting a the Nalgo Conference in Bournemouth where Pat Reynolds IBRG, Fr Paddy Smith ICPO, Siobhan O’Dwyer IBRG and Patricia Campbell spoke.

The Conference turned down a motion calling for Troops Out and Irish self-determination put forward by Lewisham Nalgo. Instead Nalgo backed the Connolly Association position and their Irish night at the end of the conference raised £1500 for the Connolly Association.

The Irish Post story was headed NALGO to step up campaign on Irish Unity. The Lewisham motion for Troops out and Self-determination was moved by Carl Reynolds of Lewisham Nalgo who stated that it was impossible to separate the abuses of human rights going on in N. Ireland from the British military present there. 

The NEC opposed the motion and claimed they already had a United Ireland policy and were working with TUIUI (Trade Unionists for a United Ireland) in Dublin.

It was announced that the Irish government were to fund an Irish language pilot scheme in Southwark to teach the Irish language in three secondary schools. The IBRG had identified Southwark as having a number of Irish language speakers, from a detailed Mori survey of the Borough. Southwark was of course the place where the Irish literary Society was born which gave rise to the Irish Gaelic renaissance at the end of the 19th century. It was also where Liam MacCarty the name on the All Hurling Cup final lived his life as an Irish republican and a borough councillor.

The Irish Post story was New Irish Language initiative. The idea behind the scheme was to fund an Irish language teacher teaching Gaelic in between six to 10 schools in Southwark. The Council Irish Policy Officer Pat Reynolds welcomed the project which would benefit Irish children in Southwark.

On 21st June Jim Gibney of Sinn Fein at the Wolfe Tone commemoration stated ‘We know and accept that the British government’s departure from Ireland must be preceded by a sustained period of peace and will arise out of negotiations involving the different shades of Irish nationalist and Irish unionist’. This hinted at a possible ceasefire to allow talks to begin.

On 29th June Liverpool IBRG held an Irish Perspective on British Welfare conference at the Irish Centre in Liverpool where Liam Greenslade was the main speaker on mental health and the Irish.

On 11th July the Ard Choiste took place at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in Islington North London. Twelve delegates attended including Pat Reynolds, Maire Kennedy, Padraigin Ni Nuallain, Tom Fitzsimons, Robert Ryan, Siobhan O’Dwyer, Bernadette Hyland, Neil Doolin, Kevin Hayes, Virginia Moyles, and Majella Crehan. Apologies Diarmuid Breatnach.

Kevin Hayes reported that 28 Irish people had been arrested in the recent wave of PTA attacks on the Irish community. Kate Magee had been given £20k bail. The meeting decided to affiliate to the Irish Women’s Défense campaign.

The meeting congratulated Diarmuid Breatnach on winning the Irish Post short story competition, and the meeting expressed its thanks to Siobhan O’Dwyer, London IBRG member, who was off to Australia soon.

On 19th July the IBRG had a stall at the Kilburn Irish Youth Festival La Feile na Nog.

On 25th July the Irish Post covered the Lewisham Irish community effort to find an Irish centre with Initial objective finally achieved, where it detailed how the Committee of the new Irish Centre chaired by Diarmuid Breatnach with Theresa Burke as Runai fought for their centre.

On 29th July Birmingham City Council had a report on The Irish community In Birmingham put to the Community Affairs Committee. In 1986 Birmingham had commissioned Dr Ita O’Donavan to prepare a study of the needs of the Irish community in Birmingham. The report proposed holding a Seminar/conference with the Irish community on 18th October.

On 31st July IBRG members along with Nalgo Irish Workers Group lobbied Nalgo HQ at Kings Cross London over getting recognition for Irish workers.

Lambeth IBRG and Irish working in Social Services

The IBRG highlighted a case where an Irish home help had been dragged through the courts for an offence she did not commit. The Crown admitted there was no evidence against her. The IBRG took up her case to get justice and support for an Irish woman, who had been left shattered by the experience. It was the second such case that Lambeth IBRG had dealt with where an innocent Irish woman working in social services ended up in court, without any support from the council or her union.

On 31st July the Irish Weekly covered the story with Irish Mum’s Life in Ruins IBRG take on Lambeth for Justice, where it detailed the work of the IBRG in forcing Lambeth council to rectify the situation by providing therapy and time off for what they had put this Irish woman through.

On 2nd August Pat Reynolds and Kevin Hayes attended a meeting in Birmingham to plan Birmingham first Irish consultative conference some 10 years after the GLC held theirs. Liam Greenslade Seamus Taylor, and Fr Taaffe also attended.

On 9th August IBRG members took part in the Anti-Internment March in Belfast with their banner with Caitlin Wright and Pat Reynolds among those present.

In August the Irish weeklies covered the opening of Lewisham Irish centre, the first article was The Lewisham Team with a photo of Diarmuid Breatnach and Theresa Burke, the other article was Lewisham We’re Opening Ours again with the same photo. The centre was due to open on 10th October.

On 10th August the murderous UDA were banned in N. Ireland many years too late.

In August IBRG condemned the arrest of five Irish people in West London under the PTA and the media hype surrounding the arrests including Secret Life of Terror Sisters by Today, and Mystery as Police release IRA group by the Evening Standard.

On 2nd August the IBRG released a Press statement IBRG condemning  police raids on Irish community. The raids appeared to be a propaganda exercise to lift the flagging moral of the British police in their failure against the IRA. The raids all had a similar character often during the holidays season, false stories given by the police to the media, fake banner headlines, unfounded claims of bomb plots, the labelling of innocent Irish people as terrorist, and silent release, and a shattering of lives. 

On 29th August the Irish Post covered it with Hysteria alleged in media PTA coverage which covered both the IBRG and the Repeal the PTA Campaign response to the arrests. The London Evening Standard had Mystery as police free IRA group. Nuala Kelly of ICPO also complained of the treatment of Irish people arrested under the PTA. The Police call for people to provide information of Irish people looking for accommodation was extremely racist and was targeting innocent Irish workers in Britain seeking work. The Irish World had IBRG condemn Arrest Publicity.

The IBRG condemned the London Evening Standard for a cartoon over a Channel Four programme on the Six Counties as the usual stereotype for the Standard. The cartoon depicted the Irish as drunk and stupid, the same old Victorian racism from the backwards Standard.

On 19th September the Ard Choiste took place at the Liverpool Irish Centre. Six delegates attended including Neil Doolin, Pat Reynolds, Patrick Doolin, Patrick Logan and Terry Coirbin and Diarmuid Breatnach.

Apologies from Virginia Moyles, Kevin Bean, Siobhan O Dwyer, Majella Crehan, Kevin Hayes, Bernadette Hyland, and Maire Kennedy. 

Among the issues discussed were An Pobal Eirithe, Review of IBRG, Travellers, PTA arrests, Prisoners, and the Manchester Martyr’s Commemoration. A motion from Haringey was passed condemning the government proposal to abolish the Caravan Site Act which gave  Local Authorities  the  duty to provide sites for Travellers. A further Haringey motion condemned the BBC for voice over used with Bernadette McAliskey and a motion deploring British government for retaining British borders within Europe.

IBRG condemns abolition of 1968 Caravans Sites Act

In September the IBRG attacked Tory government plans to abolish the 1968 Caravan Sites Act which required Local authorities in Britain to provide sites for travellers. There were 2,800 Irish travellers’ caravans out of a total of 13,477 traveller caravans in Britain in January 1992. The IBRG were making a submission to the DOE before the deadline of 13th November.

On 21st September the IBRG issued a press statement IBRG oppose Government proposals on travellers. The IBRG condemned the proposed government legislation relating to Travellers as being racist in intent and practise, and an attack on Travellers way of life and culture. 

The Merseyside Racial Equality Council condemned as racist government plans to change the law after representations from Liverpool IBRG and Conrad na Geigle.

 Mise Eire/ I am Ireland events in Manchester Festival

Michael Herbert had a feature article in the Irish Post on the Irish Arts input into the Manchester Arts Festival. The article entitled Irish Arts shine in City Festival gave a very detailed account of each of the planned Irish events. The Irish element was organised by  Manchester IBRG. It included the Hairy Marys, Ronan Bennett, Glen Patterson, Clair O’Connor, and a walk around Irish Manchester plus an IBRG social.

On 25th September Michael Herbert launched his book Never Counted Out the story of Len Johnson a Black Irish man a boxer and  communist  from Manchester.

 

In Haringey the IBRG took up the employment head count where 60% of Irish staff at the Town Hall worked in manual type jobs compared with an average of 41% for all staff. IBRG also pointed out that Haringey had increased the proportion of Black staff from 21% in 1985 to 44% in 1991 a lesson for the British government in tackling employment discrimination in Nt Ireland.

On 25th September the IBRG issued a Press release IBRG condemn employment discrimination in Local Government which drew attention to a recent headcount of Town hall staff in Haringey which had an Irish population of 22,000 or 11% of the borough’s population. 

Haringey Council employed 715 Irish staff out of a total of 7.110 staff making up some 10% of the workforce.  Haringey had increased their Black and Ethnic staff numbers from 21% in 1985 to 43.5% in 1991, despite huge cuts to public service. This contrasted strongly with N. Ireland where nothing had changed to employment discrimination against Catholics for over 20 years of direct British rule.  The IBRG made the point that if Haringey, Lambeth and other London boroughs could make huge improvements  in tackling discrimination in employment, there was something very fundamentally wrong in N. Ireland.

IBRG however expressed concern over Haringey figures in that there was a high concentration,  60%, of Irish staff in the poorer manual type jobs, compared with a Council average of 41% for all staff. This meant that Irish staff got far fewer of equality jobs in the Council. Haringey did not give a breakdown of part time staff where many Irish women worked in social care. 

Thus, discrimination in employment was a huge factor in the life of Irish people in London where they were denied equal access to quality jobs even in the public sector. The Irish were in effect paying taxes to people who were openly discriminating against them. That had to change.

The Irish World covered it with IBRG Blast London Job Discrimination. The Irish News covered it with Haringey Menial Jobs for the Irish.

First National NALGO Irish Workers Conference

On 26th September the first National Nalgo Irish workers conference took place in Birmingham, probably the first ever conference of Irish workers within a British union. The Irish World covered it with First National Conference for NALGO Irish workers to be held in Birmingham with a photo of Pat Reynolds their PRO.

The Group now had contact in 30 different areas of the country which covered some 20 NALGO branches in London, and across Britain with active groups in Brent, Lambeth Southwark and other areas. In a later edition it had NALGO Irish conference Breakthrough in Midlands.

 Diarmuid Breatnach was elected Runai along with Natalie Mills from Bolton, Pat Reynolds Membership secretary. Pat Reynolds with his experience of setting up groups in Brent, Lambeth and Southwark led a workshop of how to set up a local Irish group within the Union, while Diarmuid Breatnach gave advice of how to get Irish speakers for your event. Two motions were passed one for self-recognition for Irish workers in the Union and the second motion on Irish self-determination.

On 19th September Pat Reynolds IBRG had responded to a letter in the Irish Post attacking NALGO Irish workers for seeking equal rights within the Union, and the latter had also attempted to smear IBRG who fully supported the right of Irish workers in Britain to self-identify, and to organise as a distinct group within their trade unions.

On 9th September in Southwark Pat Reynolds, now Irish Policy Officer there, set up the Irish Staff Association to represent all Irish staff working in the council at Southwark Town Hall A number of IBRG members were part of this group, Maire Stedman, Pat Reynolds, John Carty, Steve Brennan while Cllr Jodie Clark. IBRG wished the group well.

 The Irish Post covered it with a large photo of 12 staff who attended the first meeting including Steve Brennan, John Carty, Maire Stedman and Pat Reynolds all IBRG members. John Carty was elected Chair, and Steve Brennan Publicity officer. The Irish World had Southwark Irish worker Unite had separate photos of Pat Reynolds and Cllr Jodie Clark who described the setting up of the group as a positive move. Some 45 staff members had joined the group which was across unions.

In September the IBRG complained to Channel Four over its showing of the All Irelands Finals at 2AM in the morning. On 13th October Channel Four replied to IBRG on the matter, and said the 2Am showing was due to Football Italia.

The IBRG also complained to the BBC over their voice over of Bernadette MacAliskey. On 1st October the BBC replied on behalf of the Director General to state ‘It is a matter of record that the BBC objected to the imposition of the N. Ireland Notice when it became law, and that it continues to object. Repeatedly we make representations about it.’ They went on to argue that they had to sub title or voice over any contributor whose words support or solicit or invite support for any organisations in the Notice. A person does not have to be a member of a proscribed organisation to fall foul of this injunction. They also addressed Irish representation in the audience for the program and the discussion on racist anti-Irish jokes

The IBRG took issue with the Reject Shop in Tottenham Court Road in London West End over their selling of racist anti-Irish materials including racist Irish joke books published by Maxwell.

On 10th October IBRG members attended the opening of the Lewisham Irish centre. Lewisham IBRG played a key role in getting the centre off the ground with Diarmuid Breatnach and Theresa Burke playing key roles. It was a big step forward for the Irish community in Lewisham to have their own centre where their Sean chairde club could meet, and where they could put on Irish cultural events and hold meetings. The IBRG invite read from John O’Shea Mayor of Lewisham ‘You are cordially invited to the opening of the Lewisham Irish centre on Saturday 10th October 1992. The Lewisham Irish centre is set to be a focus of the Lewisham Irish community. It is the culmination of a great deal of effort and the realisation of dreams of a group of people who would be delighted if you are able to be present to celebrate this opening’.

On 15th October the London Evening Standard had an article attacking IBRG and linking IBRG with Sinn Fein. The same day the IBRG issued a Press Statement Condemning the London Evening Standard Propaganda which was covered by the Irish Post. The Standard stated two other significant pro Sinn Fein groups have offices at Coldharbour Lane in Brixton, and the St Patricks Day March for Justice and Freedom. Troops Out who were also mentioned in the article were taking legal advice about the article. The Standard had included IBRG in its so-called extreme groups including TOM and ANC.

IBRG condemned the attack on Irish and Black solidarity groups and stated that the Standard was deeply embedded in the colonial white man’s burden, and overreached itself in trying to place guilt by association.  The Standard is right wing and pro Unionist is an anti-Irish propaganda paper which censors Irish issues, and distorts the real story of Ireland and her people. The Standard had a long track record of attacking the Irish community including the Jak cartoons upon which Ken Livingstone and the GLC, withdrew all advertising for the Standard because of their anti-Irish racism.

On 16th October IBRG members in London joined others in picketing the Standard over their attack on Irish solidarity groups in London including IBRG and TOM.

On 20th October Pat Reynolds, Andy Parr and Billy Power of the Birmingham 6 set up the Frank Johnson campaign. Frank spent over 27 years in prison, the same length as Mandela, another  innocent man. See leaflet below.

On 21st October IBRG members with their banner took part in a huge march and rally for the Miners in London.

 

On 24th October the IBRG Comhcomharle took place at the Sparkhill Cultural centre in Birmingham with six branches represented. They were Coventry, Haringey, Birmingham, Manchester, Lewisham, and Hackney/Camden. Eight delegates attended including Maurice Moore, Peter Skerrett, Majella Crehan, Pat Reynolds, Kevin Hayes, Bernadette Hyland, Diarmuid Breatnach and Virginia Moyles.

Apologies Joe Mullarkey, Neil Doolin.

Diarmuid Breatnach led a workshop on trade unions, and talked about Irish work in trade unions on issues such as the Birmingham six, TOA, strip searching, Irish unity, construction safety, TULINK, Nalgo Network on Ireland, NALGO Irish workers groups,  employment discrimination, along with links with trade Unions in N. Ireland.

 Virginia Moyles led a workshop on Travellers, and Pat Reynolds led a workshop on social services.

There was a motion from Manchester IBRG that IBRG recognises that abortion is a civil rights issue for Irish women, and calls on the Women’s Officer to send a message of solidarity to the campaign in Ireland with an offer to circulate their information to our branches in Britain. The motion was agreed.

On 25th November IBRG members attended the annual Terence MacSwiney Mass at Southwark Cathedral.

On 18th October the IBRG issued a press statement welcoming the decision of the National Association of Citizen Advise Bureaux (NACAB) at their AGM at York University to approve a motion to take action against anti-Irish racism.

The motion gave recognition to the disadvantaged position of the Irish community in Britain, and committed the association to combating racism against Irish people  as part of its anti-racist policy, and recommended that CAB amended its ethnic monitoring categories to include the Irish.

Lewisham IBRG organised an Irish children’s  Halloween party at the end of October which got a couple of photos in the Irish Post.

IBRG members attended the Birmingham Irish Consultative Conference on 1st November at which Pat Reynolds IBRG spoke on anti-Irish racism in the media, with Kevin Hayes speaking on the PTA. This was an important conference to put Irish needs on the map in Britain’s second largest city and one of the largest local authorities  in Britain with a huge Irish population.

Over  many years the Birmingham Irish took a huge blow from the IRA pub bombings of 1974, not just with the framed prisoners, but with community relations in Birmingham driven by a right-wing Tory Press. Both Pat Reynolds and Kevin Hayes had been involved in attending some pre meetings in planning for the Conference which was put on by the Birmingham Race Equality Unit

On 12th November Pat Reynolds was speaking a public meeting on Frank Johnson at the Camden Irish centre.

On 15th November the Southwark Irish Forum and the Irish Staff Group issued a statement after a report on Issues facing the Irish community in Southwark went to the Councils Social Services committee. The Southwark Irish Forum, the Irish staff group and the new Irish Policy Officer had not been consulted on the report, which found only two Irish foster carers in Southwark, and that 57% of staff in social services were Home Helps. The Southwark Irish Forum demanded a meeting with the Director of Social Services to discuss the issue and to find out what his department intended to do to address issues affecting the Irish community in Southwark.

On 25th November there was a General Election In Ireland with the Labour Party doubling its vote.

The 5th annual Irish Film Festival took place in Manchester from 5-19th November with Manchester IBRG involved in putting it on. Films like the Commitments, the Quiet Man, the Informer, the Ballroom of Romance and a film documentary of Dr Noel Browne were shown.

IBRG sponsored the Manchester Martyrs commemoration in Manchester where Diarmuid Breatnach IBRG was one of the speakers along with Fr Des Wilson from West Belfast. About 350 people were on the march and the IBRG had their banner there.

 

The IBRG condemned the remarks of Kilroy Silk in the Daily Express on 9th November as racist and offensive. . Kilroy remarked on 9th November in talking about EC farm commissioner Ray MacSharry who was negotiating with the USA over trade. ‘This is what being a part of the EU actually signifies in practice. It means that Britain’s interests abroad will be represented by a redundant second-rate politician from a country peopled by peasants, priests and pixies.’

On 10th November the Irish Ambassador Joe Small had a letter in the Daily Express in which he stated that the Kilroy Column had produced an unprecedented number of calls to the Irish Embassy, conveying their sense of outrage at the sentiments expressed. Mr Kilroy-Silk is perfectly entitled to express his misgivings about Britain’s membership of the European community. That constitutes fair comment. But to descent to what can only be described as gratuitously offensive and indeed racist remarks goes far beyond fair comments and in unacceptable’.

This was the first time that the Irish Embassy had responded publicly to anti-Irish racism in the media, and in this case called it what it was, a new and welcome departure.

The IBRG in a Press release on 10th November stated ‘His view and deep prejudice reflect a Victorian colonial outlook,  that imagines everything English to be naturally superior to everyone else. The IBRG were concerned that such a public figure with a BBC public debate show should hold such racist views, and calls on the BBC to look at this matter. The Daily Express on the same day as they published the Irish Ambassador letter had a generic description of Ulster as ‘the place where they will enter the home of a young woman and beat her to death with a baseball bat’.

On 5th December Diarmuid Breatnach had a letter in the Irish Post to congratulate Joe Small, the Irish Ambassador, for protesting at Kilroy-Silk racist remarks in the Daily Express. Diarmuid gave a history of how long IBRG had complained about the lack of action at the Embassy on many Irish issues.  The heading of the letters was Signs of life creeping in at Grosvenor Place with a photo of the Irish Ambassador.

IBRG put in a submission to the DOE in November calling for the 1968 Caravan Sites Act to be retained. Over 20% of Travellers in Britain were Irish. In their submission the IBRG argued that government proposals were racist, and an attempt at forced resettlement for Travellers and a criminalisation of their way of life. The IBRG called for the 1968 Act to be retained with its duty on local authorities to provide sites. The IBRG had led the Irish community response to the consultation and had persuaded a number of councils to support their position. On 13th November the DOE replied to the IBRG to say all the responses received will be taken into consideration and Ministers will announce their conclusions about the way forward in due course.

A row blew up in Brent at Arus na Gael in Brent where Frank Harington was expelled as a member of the management committee there, and a letter signed by a number of Irish language activists in London was published in the Irish World. The internal rows at the Brent Irish Centre would run on for many years.

On 3rd December two IRA bombs in Manchester cost over £3m,  injured a number of people and led to a media inspired backlash against the Irish community in Britain. The Irish Post reported it as Manchester Irish Anger with Kevin McNamara coming out with the usual platitudes, and nothing about the need for a political solution. An Irish born Mayor of Trafford again came out with the usual.

 Only Bernadette Hyland offered an analysis of what had happened because of the war in Ireland  and the need to work out a political solution. Liam McNally new Chair of the Federation of Irish Societies was interviewed on TV and came out with the usual one-sided condemnation of the IRA, but nothing about Bloody Sunday or shoot to kill policy.

On 5th December the Ard Choiste was held at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in Islington North London. Seven delegates attended including Pat Reynolds, Neil Doolin,  Majella Crehan, Diarmuid Breatnach,  Virginia Moyles, Tom Fitzsimons, and Maurice Moore.

The meeting decided to affiliate to the Danny McNamee campaign, and to give £20. Diarmuid reported back from his NALGO sponsored trip to Kurdistan.  Among the issues discussed were An Pobal Eirithe, the PTA, Prisoners, Nalgo Irish workers group, Initiative 92, review of IBRG, Border Controls, Travellers, and the Manchester Martyrs rally. 

The meeting decided to donate £100 to the Bloody Sunday March and to make a submission to Initiative 92 in Ireland. Diarmuid reported back from Manchester Martyrs rally where he had spoken with Des Wilson, and that members had attended from Lewisham, Manchester, Bolton, and NE Lancs. 

The British Government were now willing to return  Irish prisoners from N. Ireland back there, which they could always have done anyway. Pat Reynolds had been to see Frank Johnson at Swalesside Prison in Kent and had spoken at a public meeting on the case.

On 16th December Sir Patrick Mayhew N. Irish Secretary stated that British soldiers could be withdrawn from the streets and that Sinn Fein could be included in future talks if the IRA ends its campaign. The IRA had a three-day ceasefire over Christmas.

 

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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My review of “Five Days, Five Nights” by Manuel Tiago (Alvaro Cunhal)

 

 

 

Five Days, Five Nights,  was written by Manuel Tiago ( the pen name of Portuguese Communist Alvaro Cunhal)  in the 1950s, whilst he was a prisoner of the fascist regime that ran Portugal for nearly fifty years. The story only takes up fifty nine pages,  a story of a young man, Andre, and his escape from Portugal to Spain.

“Just short of turning nineteen, Andre was forced to emigrate. They raised money for him, they gave him an address in Porto, and they told him passage would be worked out for him across the border to Spain.”

Andre was now following  the path of many people who were forced to escape his homeland and find asylum elsewhere in the world.  In 1960 the author fled the country and lived in Moscow and Paris organising the Portuguese Communist Party  until he returned in  1974 after the fall of the fascist regime when  he became a Minister in the Government.

Reading Andre’s story I could not be untouched by that of the author. Alvaro was tortured in prison,  including enduring solitary confinement for many years. The story does not refer to Andre’s time in prison, maybe because if it had done it would not have escaped the regime’s censor, but there is an underlying sadness in the character of Andre.

Lambaca is the guide whose job it is to get Andre safely to Spain. But they  just don’t get on. Lambaca is used to taking more important people  across while  Andre has little faith in him. The ongoing tension between the two men runs throughout the book. The hazardous journey is reflected in the landscape as the two men trudge through the mountains.

Andre constantly asks Lambaca “when are we crossing?”.

Andre stood there alone, not knowing what to do, and waited a long time. On an unfamiliar mountain range, in a border zone, with no idea where he was, worn-out and famished – the dangers started adding up in earnest.

The novella contrasts vividly the lives of politicos such as young Andre and the peasantry on whom he becomes dependent for shelter and food on his journey.

The woman who quieted the dog brought him bread, sausage and a pot of coffee. In her animated face that showed traces of nobility, a pair of honest eyes looked at him with curiosity. “So   young!” she  remarked.

Stories about people crossing to Europe for sanctuary are not new in 2020. But this story is brought alive by the author’s powerful and sparse vocabulary. He leaves the reader to fill in the gaps, and  like Andre, to make one’s own judgements about the lives he observes  on his journey to freedom.

Before reading this novella I knew little about Alvaro Cunhal and I am grateful to translator Eric A. Gordon for  a fascinating introduction.   Ilse Gordon produced the beautiful illustrations on the front cover and for each chapter.

Buy it here

It was published by International Publishers see http://www.intpubnyc.com

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History of Irish in Britain Representation Group Part eleven 1991

 

 

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 and supporters in Dublin at the 75 Anniversary of the Easter Rising 1991

 

 

 

 

 

On 12th January. The IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Four Provinces Club in Coventry Five delegates attended including Maurice Moore, Diarmuid Breatnach, Linda Sever, Bernadette Hyland and Pat Reynolds.

It was decided to hold a two-day Ard Fheis at the Roger Casement Centre in Islington on 9th/10th March with Margaret Ward down as Guest speaker and with Haringey IBRG showing their video Building for Ourselves along with Thames TV’s report on the PTA. Haringey, Hackney, and Camden IBRG were to hold a meeting to decide on whether to become one large branch.

PTA work

 The meeting heard that Kevin Hayes had drawn up a telephone tree for IBRG branches to raise support for people arrested under the PTA. Thames TV had shown a positive programme  on the PTA while the Evening Standard had printed a brilliant article on the PTA, the Year of Living Dangerously. Both Thames TV and the Evening Standard had consulted with the IBRG PRO on the features, and had been provided a with a wide range of contacts.

IBRG had attended two pickets of Paddington Green Detention Centre over the PTA.

The Green Ink Bookshop had set up an Irish Prisoners Book club to supply Irish prisoners with books, for which there was a huge demand mainly from Republican prisoners who all seems to be studying hard.

Spirit of 1916 events

Plans were advanced in London, Birmingham and Manchester to celebrate the Spirit of 1916. London were organising a Spirit of 1916 March on 23rd March. Diarmuid Bretanach was working on 1916 badges. Birmingham was looking at putting on films and an exhibition, while Manchester were organising films and a book launch.

 

The 1991 TICC (Irish Census campaign) which the IBRG were part of, was discussed with all branches asked to get local Irish people to count themselves in by marking the other box and writing in Irish. The Labour Party in Ireland were to put a motion to Dail Eireann on the vote for emigrants. Dick Spring of the Irish Labour Party was involved in conducting an inquiry into the Irish community in Britain via the Inter-Governmental committee.

It was reported that Nalgo Irish workers Group, of which IBRG members were playing a leading role, were pushing for recognition within  NALGO. 

The British government had turned down the IBRG demand to have the Irish language included in the National curriculum in Britain. Anois, the Irish language magazine in Ireland, had covered the IBRG story about the Irish language in the British curriculum and covered the IBRG campaign. Increasingly IBRG were getting good publicity in Irish language outlets from LA, Anois, Irish Times Irish column and other places.

The Gulf War under John Major started on 16th January.

 

On 5th February Pat Reynolds PRO was the guest speaker at the Jewish Socialist Group meeting at Conway Hall where he spoke on the Irish community in Britain and on Nt Ireland, and discussed racist attacks on both communities in Britain.

On 7th February bomb mortars rocked 10 Downing St during the Gulf war cabinet meeting , and immediate thoughts of the Cabinet was that Saddam had hit them, but it was Seamus from their own little war that had hit them. Later they arrested a man called Murphy for the attack and when M15 came in to interview him, they asked him if he had been seen by the intelligence people.  No, he replied they were not in any way intelligent or I would not be here, no they were not intelligent people. He was later released without charge.

On 27th February Pat Reynolds PRO was the invited speaker at Cardiff University Student Union meeting as part of anti-racism week, where he was threatened was some right-wing students, but Black women from the student Union offered solid protection on the evening, and saw them off.

Campaign for the Irish Language in the National Curriculum

The deadline for submission on languages to be included in the national curriculum in Britain was 15th February. The IBRG and Conradh na Gaelige were the only two Irish organisations to put in submissions which was disappointing given the publicly and the public call for submission in the Irish Post. Where were the GAA, Ceoltas, Federation, Connolly Association and the various Irish projects and centres in Britain?  The IBRG got Christine Crawley MEP to ask a question in the European Parliament on the Irish language and the European Commission reminded Britain of its duty to promote the culture and language of its minority communities.

In February Anois and An Phoblacht in its Irish column and the Irish Times in its Irish column covered the IBRG campaign on the language.

The Irish Post covered it with Education chiefs set to ignore Irish plea. The Report covered the reply of the Commission to a question asked by Christian Crawley on behalf of IBRG ‘As far as the children of Irish migrants are concerned, member states  are of course required by council directive to take appropriate measures to promote the teaching of the mother tongue and the culture of the country of origin of these children’.

 

Success of discrimination case

A major article on the editorial page by Gabrielle Mullarkey under Case of Limited Options dealt with anti-Irish racism in the British media and covered the IBRG response to it. The article quoted Brian Hilliard editor of the Police Review which appeared in the London Evening Standard article on the PTA ‘The police  do tend to feel entitled to push just a little bit further with Irish people’ That entitlement added Hilliard  ‘was based on a perception  that the Irish are nowhere near as organised as other groups’.

On 1st March IBRG members attended the Dessie Ellis benefit at the Haringey Irish centre which drew a capacity crowd of several hundred people. The Irish community in Britain were mobilising on the issue of extradition, and wanted no more Birmingham Six and Guildford cases.

On 2nd March the Irish Post ran a supplement to its weekly paper with photographs from the Irish community over the past 21 years of the paper. It stated Rally and protest have been part of the pattern of Irish community activity throughout the past 21 years, latterly much of it organised by groups such as the IBRG, which since its foundation in the early 1980,  has provided a radical edge to Irish community politics.

Dessie Ellis picket at Irish Embassy.

 

 

 

 

 

In Salford Jim King was now Labour Party vice chair of Salford Equal Opportunities subcommittee and  invited the Irish community to a Friendship Day in Broughton

On 4th March the Birmingham Six appeal started at the Old Bailey. Pat Reynolds and other IBRG members attended different days of the hearing.

On 4th March Pat Reynolds and Liz Curtis were guest speakers at a day on censorship and the media Reporting Ireland at the City University post graduate journalist course of over 100 students.

 On 8th March the Irish World covered two separate letters from Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds on the IBRG March for Justice and Spirit of 1916 March 30th. The paper also reported that the Labour Committee on Ireland had dropped their support for Irish self-determination and unconditional withdrawal.

The Irish Post also carried the same two letters from Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds on the March for Justice and carried a photo of Breda Power and Gerry Conlon with it. In the same issue Gearoid MacGearailt had a half page letter on Bringing Humanity back to the Middle East and ended by saying ‘as it is people will tell me it is all over now, and that peace has been restored. But it is the peace of the dead. And history will tell remind us that such peace is usually of temporary duration. I fear the solution may eventually prove worse than the problem’. Which is exactly what happened there.

The IBRG Ard Fheis took place at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in Islington North London over two days on 9/10th March. Historian  Margaret Ward was guest speaker on the  Sunday speaking on Women and 1916.

Ten branches were represented at the Ard Fheis, Manchester, Camden, Harrow, Haringey, Lewisham, Coventry, Birmingham, Hackney, Lambeth, and Bolton. Twenty-three delegates attended.

Among those attending was; Bernadette Hyland, Trevor O’Farrell, Martin Connolly, Linda Sever, Nuala Eefting, Denis Casey, Maurice Cahill, Pat Reynolds, Diarmuid Breatnach, Caitriona Scanlan, Maurice Moore, Kevin Hayes, Virginia Moyles, Ann Fitzgerald, Gearoid MacGearailt, Siobhan Dwyer, Liz Fenton, Majella Crehan, Caitlin Wright, Robert Ryan, David Casey, and G Murphy.

The following officers were elected for the year

Chair Bernadette Hyland Manchester

Vice Chair Diarmuid Breatnach Lewisham

Runai Virginia Moyles Hackney

PRO Pat Reynolds Haringey.

Cisteoir Maurice Moore Coventry

Regional coordinator North Joe Mullarkey Bolton

Education officer Caitlin Wright Bolton

Women’s Officer Majella Crehan Haringey

 Membership/Internal coordinator Catriona Scanlan Haringey.

The following motions were carried on the day

A motion deploying the decision of the Dublin government in compromising Irish neutrality by allowing US war planes to refuel at Shannon

That a report on creating an Irish secretariat in Britain be written

That a total review of IBRG takes place taking submissions from branches and individuals to decide whether IBRG should reconstruct itself away from being a community-based branch structure to   individual membership of a pressure group, and whether the organisation should concentrate on two or three key issues each year.

 A motion condemning the Dublin government for extradition Dessie Ellis to Britain

A motion calling of the release of the Armagh Four wrongly convicted of murdering a Catholic in Armagh

 A motion condemning the murder of Fergal Carragher , the murder of two joyriders in Belfast and the murder of  three men at a West Belfast bookie office by Crown Forces, and calling on the UN, and other Human Rights bodies  to investigate war crimes committed by Crown forces in occupation in Ireland including the shoot to kill policy.

A motion condemning the Gulf war as an imperialist war to protect Western oil interests.

A motion condemning Fords for discrimination in West Belfast and calling for action against Fords in Britain

A motion welcoming the celebration of 1916 throughout the world, and condemning the Irish government for failing to mark the occasion in any proper manner,

A motion condemning the British government for failing to include the Irish language in the national curriculum and for withdrawing funds from Glor naNGael in West Belfast.

A motion condemning the trial of the Casement accused and calling for their release.

A motion condemning the detention of Arab people in Britain during the Guld War,

 A motion condemning the attacks on the Jewish community in Britain by right wing organisations,

A motion welcoming the Irish Labour party move to extend the vote to Irish abroad,

A motion to welcome the recent inquiry by the Irish British Inter parliamentary Body into the Irish community in Britain and call for the report be published and acted upon,

 A motion calling for the vote to be given to emigrants from Nt Ireland living in Britain,

Lewisham IBRG had produced eight new badges, four to promote the Irish language, two to commemorate 1916, one Smash the PTA, and the last one Fighting for the Irish community IBRG.

 

On 18th March IBRG joined the picket of Tottenham Police station for the Broadwater Farm prisoners. The same day a House of Commons Motion supported by 100 MPs called on the Queen to dismiss the Lord Chief Justice Lord Lane over the Birmingham Six case.

On 19th March Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking at Trent Park Middlesex University Students Union on the Birmingham Six case to a full House with a speaker from the Broad water Farm campaign.

On 25th March IBRG members attended a Press Conference at the House of Commons where the Directory of Discrimination in N. Ireland was launched. There IBRG pointed out at the Conference how Lambeth Council had increased the number of Black staff employed from 16% to 37% in seven years despite cuts in service, compared with N. Ireland where there had been no gain over 20 years of Direct Rule.

On 27th March fascists attacked an Irish pub in Kilburn because Ireland drew 1-1 with England in a football match.

On 30th March the IBRG held their St Patrick Day March from Whittington Park Holloway to Camden Town to the Camden Irish centre where Paul Hill of the Guildford Four was the main speaker. Several hundred people attended the march which was around the Spirit of 1916. The Rally ended with a performance of the Rose Tree a celebration of 1916 in song music and poetry.

On 30th March the Irish Post editorial was on 1916 with a heading Proud Legacy which stated ‘This Saturday in London there is a march with assembly at 12noon at Whittington park of Holloway road and a rally from 2.30 at the Irish centre in Camden’.  It further stated ‘the current violence emanating from Northern Ireland does not in any way invalidate the ideals of 1916. The concept of an All-Ireland nation will simply not go away. The hope remains that over a period of time it will be achieved. It is a natural order. A united Ireland can with justice and fairness accommodate all the diversities. Not to aspire for such a happy resolutions defeatist. Worse it is to bequest to subsequent generations a continuation of the tragic events of the past 22 years. Pearce and his colleagues should be remembered with pride. They were the heroic founding fathers of an Irish nation which has still some way to go before being fully attained.’

The Irish Post covered the march with a photo of the leading banner Spirit of 1916 Justice and Freedom for the Irish People carried by Kevin Hayes and Pat Reynolds with an IBRG banner straight behind it. See below.

 

 

Sadly, the Irish Post allowed letters in attacking the march and IBRG by an unknown man in Birmingham and another from Belfast with a heading What did 1916 really change.

 

Bolton IBRG condemned the booking of racist comedian Bernard Manning for the Lord Mayor’s annual charity ball in Bolton which was an insult to the Black and Irish people of the town.  This was covered in the Irish in Britain News with Uproar over booking of racist comedian for Mayor’s ball

 Joe Mullarkey stated ‘the involvement of Bernard Manning is offensive to minority communities and women in Britain, particularly the Irish community who have complained against racist abuse generally disguised as humour. Given the Mayor is the President of the Bolton Race Equality council, an organisation that has campaigned against racist abuse, one can only conclude that the Mayor is trying to sabotage community relations in Bolton.

IBRG were supported in their protest by the West Indian Community Association. Manning was found guilty later of discriminating against a Black woman waitress at one of his functions by telling racist offensive jokes in her presence. When IBRG picketed him at the National in London in a large Black Irish area, his audience was 100% male with not a single Black person attending.

The Minute Books of Bolton IBRG are lodged at the Working Class Movement Library in Salford.

On 6th April the IBRG marched with their banner in the 1916 Commemoration March in Dublin among those present were IBRG officers Bernadette Hyland, Laura Sullivan and Pat Reynolds. See headline photo.

On 13th April the Irish Post covered the IBRG submission to the Inter Parliamentary British Irish Body with a heading Sweeping change to emigrant provision urged.  The IBRG in its submission called for the Dion committee to be restructured to include women, and the wider community and called for a shift from welfare to community development, and called for Irish consulates in Manchester and Glasgow.  The IBRG also called for the Irish to be included in all equal opportunities’ programmes in Britain, for anti-Irish racism to be tacked, for free fares for Irish elders visiting Ireland and for a tightening of anti-racist laws in Britain to prevent abuse in the media.

On 18th– 21st April Manchester IBRG organised a series of events in Manchester as the Irish Post announced Manchester celebrates 75th anniversary with music with Poetry and songs of the Rising with also the story of Easter week plus a walk around Irish Manchester.

Manchester IBRG Easter Rising Social.

In Birmingham there was a Spirit of 1916 festival of films and music with a whole range of films put on, including, Hidden Agenda, Anne Devlin, Curious Journey Mise Eire, Hang out your Brightest Colours, Irish Rising 1916, the Cause of Ireland, Saoirse, and the Irishman. Both Conradh na Gaeilge and Birmingham IBRG were involved in putting on the program which had a bi lingual flyers.

The Ard Choiste was held in Manchester on 20th April. Eleven delegates attended included Bernadette Hyland, Linda Ryan, Siobhan Dwyer, Pat Reynolds Diarmuid Breatnach, Neil Doolin, Majella Crehan, Kevin Hayes, and Joe Mullarkey.

It was noted that Camden and Hackney had become one IBRG branch.  Neil Doolin agreed to start up a new IBRG branch in Merseyside. The idea of having a full-time organiser was debated with Majella providing a breakdown cost.

The Ard Choiste welcomed the release of the Birmingham Six and of Siobhan McKane. The meeting heard reports on the Dessie Ellis campaign which the IBRG was involved in with Pat Reynolds as Chair and Majella Crehan as Secretary.

The meeting heard back on the Spirit of 1916 IBRG March in London which was successful but received no support from TOM, Wolfe Tones, or Connolly Association. The meeting decided to affiliate to Construction Safety campaign, and the Repeal the PTA campaign. Pat Reynolds PRO had put in a submission on the position of the Irish community in Britain to the Irish British Parliamentary Body. The meeting heard of the IBRG input into the 1991 census campaign and of recent meetings with CRE over research into the Irish community. The IBRG had contributed to a meeting in London on the emigrant vote.

 

 

Irish and National Census

The National Census was held in Britain on 21st April with Trevor O’Farrell of Camden IBRG writing a major article on the issue for the Irish Post calling on the Irish in Britain to identify themselves entitled Equality for All. The same issue had another anti- IBRG letter about the 1916 March entitled Inspiring but so poorly attended which looked like it came from the left who failed to support the march, but used the Irish Post to attack the community. There was a photo of Cllr Jim King from Salford on another page on the Broughton Friendship day.

Maurice Cahill of Harrow IBRG had a letter in the Irish Post on 6th April, detaining a reply he had received from OPCS on the 1991 Census, which said the Irish lobbying had come too late to test an Irish question. Maurice called for an Irish secretariat in Britain.

On 22nd April Pat Reynolds PRO attended the Abbey National Building Society AGM and before several hundreds of people raised the issue of employment discrimination by Abbey National in N. Ireland by asking the CEO the question on his annual report. It was the first time in Britain that employment discrimination had been raised at an AGM of any major company in Britain. It showed that anyone with a mortgage could challenge any of the building societies over their discrimination in N. Ireland.

Michael Herbert had a two-page article in the Irish Post on Mna na hEireann on the neglected role of women in the making of the 1916 Rising.

IBRG called for the restructuring of the Dion committee on funding to the Irish community in Britain with a move away from welfare to community development and for Irish consulates in Manchester and Glasgow, free travel for Irish elders in Ireland, equal opportunities for the Irish in Britain, ethnic monitoring,  and the ending of the racist PTA laws, the release of Judith Ward and Danny McNamee, support for Irish studies in the submission to the Interstate body.
Gearoid McGearlailt had a letter defending the IBRG from an attack after our St Patricks Day March.

Manchester IBRG put on Poetry and songs of the Rising on 18th April along with a range of Irish events to mark the 1916 anniversary including the Story of Easter Week, plus an exhibition at the Working-Class Movement Library in Salford.

On 3rd May Troops Out Movement put out a letter calling for a network of groups working around Ireland to come together around the issue of withdrawal, and planned another meeting in Birmingham on 29th June on the same issue. They had held a meeting with LCI, Time to Go, and various trade union groups and individuals working around Ireland.

Interesting, the largest group working on Irish issues was the NALGO Irish Workers Group who were not invited. TOM also produced a paper to go with the proposed meeting. In it, they did not propose a New Broad Front but rather a linked network, but it seemed to exclude the Irish community and the British left, and were mainly Labour Party and trade union people. There was fresh hope because of the fall of the eastern bloc,  the war in the Gulf and the fall of Thatcherism that there was room to build again.

On 11th May Pat Reynolds was guest speaker at a May Day rally in Bridgewater in Somerset after a march through Bridgewater with an IBRG banner. Bridgewater was in Tom Kings’ constituency and despite several hundred people on the march there were no police present, with a traffic warden leading the march. Now if that was an Irish event, we could have provided employment for a few hundred police officers.

In his speech Pat criticised the local MP Tom King for his support for the shoot to kill policy in N. Ireland and for his wrongful intervention into the Winchester Three trial over the right to silence. Pat stated that English workers and Irish workers had no quarrel with each other but with the British government, and its army of occupation in Ireland where they sent working class soldiers to fight their dirty war. The release of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four was a victory not just for Irish people, but for the whole working class against an unjust corrupt system of justice. He welcomed the driving from office by the workers of Britain of Thatcher and her oppressive poll tax by the greatest campaign of civil disobedience seen in Britain for generations. He called Tom King to count for his time in Ireland, for his repressive shoot to kill policy and his wrongful intervention into the Winchester Three case. 

In ending he called for an end to the war in Ireland and for talks with Sinn Fein and a political solution to end the partition of Ireland, and to end a shameful history of British colonisation in Ireland, which preceded their expansion into slavery and oppression abroad. It is in the interest of the English worker to support the Irish struggle as it is a common enemy which oppresses both groups of workers. On this international day let us begin to build this solidarity to further our struggles and for the future for our children.

On 12th May Gerry Adams was the main speaker at the Bobby Sands/James Connolly commemoration at Conway Hall which was packed out.

In another article on 18th May entitled Amazing hypocrisy of DES the Irish Post highlighted Conradh na Gaeilge submission to the British Irish Body by Liverpool Conradh na Gaeilge. When the DES was challenged, they said there was no demand for the Irish language and when given evidence that the Irish language was taught in all the cities and major towns of Britain, the DES then said it was studied for mainly cultural reason. Conradh accused the DES of double speak and hypocrisy since their own  report stated  that among the purposes of foreign modern language  are to offer insights into the culture and civilisation of the countries where the languages are spoken, to encourage a sympathetic approach to other cultures and civilisations and to develop pupils understanding of themselves and their own culture’. Thus, the DES still held shameful anti Irish colonial mentality which was oppressive and racist.

On 18th May Gearoid McGearailt had a letter in the Irish Post Record of IBRG Stands Up to answer a few of the anti IBRG letters published in the Irish Post after the 1916 march. Again, the Irish Post used a photo of the march of just individuals rather than any of the banners. On 25th May Pat Reynolds PRO had a letter in also in reply to some of the letters on the march which appeared to come from the British left.

The fifth edition of An Pobal Eirithe was produced with articles ranging from the role of women in 1916, a visit to Palestine, a review of IBRG’s work in 1990 and a bibliography of the History of the Irish in Britain. See below.

Response to Mori Survey on languages

 IBRG published a statement on a London Mori Survey in Southwark South London which showed that English was the only language for 53% of the Irish population with a further 17% having English their main language. 3% of the Irish community did not use English at all, with 6% indicating that they can speak Irish with 3% as their first language.  The Southwark figures if produced nationally would give a figure of 25,00 Gaelic speakers in Britain whose first language was Irish, and a figure of some 50,00 who could speak Irish. The Southwark Survey put the Irish language question back on the education agenda, and indicates the needs for an Irish language rights body in Britain. How many more people also spoke Scots Gaelic and who spoke Welsh in England. Anois in Ireland carried the story on its front page.

On 23rd May IBRG picketed the Courts of Justice for the Dessie Ellis trial.

 NE Lancs put on an Irish Friendship Festival in Blackburn on 25th May. The Irish Post covered it with Blackburn offers lots to delight with a Ceili Mor and a street festival like a Fleadh Ceol In Ireland.

Michael Kneafsey of NE.Lancs comments about the Festival.

The festivals were a great success on many fronts. Organising them brought
us into contact with a wide range of Irish and non Irish
organisations. These included Community Art Groups, Local Authority
Culture Departments etc.
We always insisted that as a guiding principle, our festival events
would take place where possible in Local Authority premises. We wanted
to demonstrate that the Irish Community were as entitled to use those
premises as any other community. Another guiding principle was that
the festivals always include at one open air free event. Blackburn
Shopping Centre was the venue that we used for open/free element of
the festivals. One of the most pleasing aspect of those open/free
events was the number of asian women of all ages. When the wonderful
dancers the ” hairy Marys’ performed, the most enthusiastic audience
were Asian girls and young women.
I think that the early 90’s was a time when Irish people were
beginning to gain confidence about their identity, and there were
glimmers of hope that the political space was beginning to open up for
Republicans to put forward their political vision. But there was still
huge hurdles to overcome including trying to get innocent people
released from prison and political prisoners recognised.

N.E.Lancs Minute Books are lodged in the IBRG archive at the WCML in Salford.

IBRG members were involved in setting up a national Nalgo Irish workers Group to campaign on Ireland and on Irish issues in Britain, and they had a letter in the Irish Post signed by Diarmuid Breatnach, Virginia Moyles, Seamus Carey, and Pat Reynolds all IBRG members. It was letter appealing to all Irish workers in NALGO up and down the country to join the Irish workers Group.

The Ard Choiste met at the Sparkbrook Cultural Centre in Birmingham on 1st June. Nine delegates attended including Bernadette Hyland Chair, Linda Sever, Pat Reynolds, Kevin Hayes, Diarmuid Breatnach, Virginia Moyles, Neil Doolin and Maurice Moore.

Apologies from Joe Mullarkey, Majella Crehan, and Gearoid McGearailt.

The meeting heard that the first meeting of Merseyside IBRG would take place on 13th June. Haringey IBRG and Majella Crehan had produced and printed 6,000 IBRG membership recruitment leaflets.

It was agreed to affiliate to the Dessie Ellis campaign for £25. Haringey IBRG were planning to hold an Irish Prisoners Awareness Day in September to highlight all the different Irish campaigns and prisoners in Britain, along with the different issues like transfer and strip searching. There were over 40 Irish political prisoners in Britain. The meeting hear that Michael Bromell case had been referred to the Court of Appeal. Michael’s case had led to the disbandment of the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad. 

Linda Sever was elected editor of an pobal eirithe. The Commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Hunger strikes was in Birmingham on 12th October. The meeting discussed talking up a boycott of Ford in Britain as they were discriminating against Catholics in N. Ireland in Belfast.

On 31st May the Irish World had IBRG branch for Merseyside which gave a write up for the first meeting 13th June.

The Glor na nGael Tour of Britain was staring on 5th June with Majella Crehan and Caitriona Scanlan of Haringey IBRG doing most of the work with Pat Reynolds arranging London accommodation and transport to meetings. On 5th June Noirin Ni Cealaigh started her tour of Britain by speaking at Arus na Gael in Brent as part of her tour organised and sponsored by IBRG. 18 people attended the meeting in Brent.

On 6th June Noirin was speaking at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in Islington where 40 people attended with a benefit later at the Victoria in Holloway road which raised £150 for Glor na nGael. On 7th June Noirin was guest speaker at the Irish women’s centre. A meeting was held meeting was in Manchester which drew over 40 people. The Irish Post and the Irish in Britain News covered the Tour but made no mention of IBRG who sponsored and organised it.

The Irish Post had a feature In Defence of the Language and Lords likely to decide case two articles on Glor na Gael on 15th June and on 8th June had Glor nan Gael fighting back. The British government has slapped a Public Interest Immunity Certificate on the group in their search for document which had led to a Court battle. These were often used to cover up wrong doings by the state.

On 7th June IBRG members attended the Dessie Ellis benefit at the Camden Irish centre.

On 14th June IBRG members picketed the Old Bailey for the Dessie Ellis trail and later that evening picketed the Irish Embassy where Mary Robinson Irish President came face to face with her first picket.

Newham Council and homeless Irish

On 21st June the IBRG condemned the High Court decision which stated that Newham council had no legal duty to house a homeless Irish family after they had fled sectarian violence in Belfast. In a public statement the IBRG said ‘The IBRG are alarmed and very concerned at the decision of the High Court of 21th June 1991 that Newham council had no obligation to house an Irish family on the grounds that they had made themselves intentionally homeless. The family had fled Belfast after sustained Loyalist violence and now faced being put on the street by Newham Council. The IBRG finds the decision of the High Court unacceptable and in our view morally wrong. The decision has major implications for families leaving Nt Ireland because of intimidation and violence. The IBRG have written to Newham council asking them to reconsider their decision and rehouse the family, and have raised the issue with Tony Banks Labour MP the local MP who is from Nt Ireland. The IBRG maintain that families fleeing violence in Nt Ireland should be treated as homeless and rehoused in Britain. If the British government who are responsible for policing in Belfast cannot provide safe housing for families, then they should at least be willing to provide housing for the few families who flee to Britain because of immediate violence’.

The IBRG noted the publication in June of the Consultation paper on languages in the National Curriculum had again excluded the Irish language. The IBRG expressed disappointed that only Conradh na Gaeileg and IBRG had put in submission to the DES on the matter and in a public statement said ‘If the Irish community in Britain are to effect change in any public institution then they must at once make their voices heard and their demands known. The demand for equal cultural and language rights in Britain needs the full support of all the community and we call on all Irish organisations to make their views known to their public representatives on the issue. The exclusion of the Irish language makes a mockery of the equal opportunities policy statement of the working party, and it is clear that for them equal opportunities do not extend to Irish parents and their children’.

Aldershot Labour Party had proposed a motion to the Labour Party Annual conference calling for the Irish language to be included in the National curriculum. Pat Reynolds was working with the proposer of the motion offering support.

On 21st June the Irish in Britain News carried a page long feature on Jim King who had been selected by Labour to fight a Tory held seat in Southport Lancashire, after spending seven years as a Labour councillor in Salford. Jim said that he had been involved in IBRG in the early years and was national chair for three years, and that IBRG was one of the most radical Irish community groups that came on stream this century.’ The IBRG, he said, were a catalyst for many issues affecting the Irish like the PTA and cases like the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four.

On 26th June the Maguire Seven are finally cleared by the Court of Appeal in London after serving sentences from four years to fourteen years.

On 29th June the Ard Choiste met at the Labour Club in Lewisham with eight delegates present including host Diarmuid Breatnach, Siobhan O’Dwyer, Tom Fitzsimons, Teresa Burke, Neil Doolin, Virginia Moyles and Pat Reynolds. 

Apologies from Gearoid MacGearailt, Majella Crehan and Kevin Hayes.

There were 11 active branches.

The meeting heard reports back on the Glor na nGael tour of Britain, the Dessie Ellis campaign, and the campaign for the vote in Ireland.

 IBRG in London had met with Glor na Deorai in London over the issue of votes for emigrants.  Several branches were planning activities to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the hunger Strikes.

It was reported that the report on the Irish community in Britain produced by the Inter Parliamentary Irish in Britain Body was oppressive, dangerous and inaccurate and a white wash. Branches were urged to write letters of complaints. The report was seen as an effort by the Irish government to close off any work by the CRE or others to highlight anti Irish discrimination in Britain.

Lewisham IBRG were holding a day school on Ireland.  A message of sympathy was sent to the family of Donegal Sinn Fein Member Eddie Fullerton who was murdered by Loyalists in Donegal. Eddie had spent most of his life in Birmingham before he returned home.

 

Diarmuid Breatnach had a long letter in the Irish weekly about organising in Nalgo and getting motions to Conference.

On 28th June the Irish World carried a feature Public Meeting to Support Jim Moher who was the Labour candidate for Brent North and the Irish Interest group had organised a meeting with Jim speaking and Pat Reynolds PRO IBRG to talk about the needs of the Irish community in Brent.

On 2nd July Pat Reynolds PRO had an interview with BBC Radio 5 and that evening was speaking at a public meeting at Aras na Gael in Brent along with Jim Moher Irish Labour candidate for Labour in the General election.

On 3rd July Pat Reynolds was speaking at a full house at a Dessie Ellis public meeting at Central Library in Islington.

On 5th July IBRG members attended a welcome home meeting at the Haringey Irish centre for the Birmingham Six. Pat Reynolds had a letter from Michael Farrell who was considering a libel case against the Sun for some of its materials about the Birmingham Six after Pat had sent him coverage from the British media on the case.

On 7th July Nesan Quinlivan and Pierce McAuley escaped from Brixton and were later seen at the Irish Festival in Brent that afternoon.

On 8th July Pat Reynolds had an interview BBC TV South East on the Brixton escape, where he advised the escaped men to head for the Wicklow Hills rather than give themselves up to British injustice.

On 9th July the British Independent featured IBRG in a piece on the escape.

On 10th July Pat Reynolds PRO gave an interview to RTE radio on After 5 show on the same issue.

Trevor O Farrell had a long letter in the Irish Post on 27th July where he noted that 37 TDs could not even be bothered to vote on a Bill proposing to give Irish emigrants the vote. Trevor pointed out that in Britain a Party winning 42% of the vote can end up with a majority of 100 seats given the British voting system. He stated  ‘If no party is willing or able publicly to pledge themselves  to the cessation of British military and political interference in Ireland, or to provide definite proposals  for tackling the impasse inherent in the Unionist veto, then on this issue it is hard to see any reason for supporting any of them’. He argued against the two evils syndrome which the community had fallen for in supporting Labour.

On 29th July Pat Reynolds was a speaker at Brent Council full meeting on the needs of the Irish community in Brent, when the Tory Council cut funds to various Irish projects.

 

In July the IBRG condemned the so-called Peace Train into London by reactionaries’ forces in Ireland supported by Labour Harry Barnes. The IBRG called on them to go home and stop engaging in British propaganda stunts for a servile pro-British anti Irish media. IBRG stated that the Peace Train condemned the violence of the oppressed but ignored the violence of the British state in its shoot to kill policy.

TOM stated that ‘far from being a peace movement the group is made of politicians and interest groups with a clearly partisan approach to the future of Nt Ireland’ The Repeal the PTA campaign urged the event’s organisers to highlight restrictions imposed on Irish people under the PTA. The New Consensus were clearly anti Republican and pro Unionist. It was later revealed that the so-called Peace Train had been given £8,500 by the British government

On 11th August the IBRG banner was carried on the Anti Internment march in Belfast by Haringey IBRG members with Laura Sullivan and Pat Reynolds attending. The Andersonstown News had a central photo of the IBRG banner on the parade with another one from the Basque country.

On 12th August it was announced that the case of Judith Ward jailed for the M62 Coach bombing was to be reviewed raising hopes that she would be released.

On 30th August IBRG member picketed 10 Downing St over Glory na Gael funding.

On 31st August Lewisham IBRG held their 1916/Hunger strike commemoration event. The Poster for the event featured James Connolly and Bobby Sands.

 In August Margaret Mullarkey of Bolton IBRG had an article in the Irish Weekly about the history of the Irish in Bolton with Joe Mullarkey later calling for an Irish community centre in Bolton in another article published by the Irish in Britain news.

The Mullarkey family had a whole page to themselves. Margaret Mullarkey gave a potted history of the Irish in Bolton  and how they were in radical movements in Britain like the Chartist and trade union movements, but also involved in Irish issues  such as Home Rule and the Irish struggle for independence, and then she recorded the work of IBRG in Bolton since 1983,  and their involvement with other Irish groups in running a successful Bolton Irish festival and then helping to set up  BICA(Bolton Irish Community Association).

Joe Mullarkey article’s was headed Bolton Irish to get Organised. Joe argued that the Irish need an Irish community centre in Bolton. Joe stated ‘the Irish are a community in Bolton and are entitled to receive the same level of service and support as any other community. But unless it unites and presents its needs in a very structured and documented manner using the best members of the community, those needs will never be addressed’. Another article in the Irish Post on 31st August had IBRG Input at Bolton’s festival while another article had Irish input in Manchester about the Irish input into Manchester International Festival of Arts.

Joe and Margaret Mullarkey

Michael O’Cnaimhsi  of N.E.Lancs IBRG had a letter in the Irish Post with the headline  Blackburn success about the success of Feile Cardiuil Eireannach.

 On 7th September Bolton IBRG organised an Irish evening as part of Bolton’s 200 years celebrations.

On 7th September the IBRG Ard Choiste was held in Liverpool.

The Ard Choiste welcomed the actions of Amnesty International in issuing an urgent notice on the British government over its ill treatment of a Catholic youth in Castlereagh Interrogation centre. The meeting welcomed the action of Amnesty International in issuing an urgent notice upon the British government over the ill-treatment of a Catholic teenage boy in Castlereagh Interrogation centre.

IBRG condemned the British government for its systematic abuse of detainees over the past 20 years in Nt Ireland and condemned the sheer hypocrisy of the British Prime Minister,  using an Amnesty list of prisoners to berate the Chinese government while his own government, has been involved in widespread abuse of human rights in Nr Ireland from Shoot to kill policy to the ill treatment of detainees.

On 7th September the Southwark Irish Forum held their spirit of 1916 event at Elephant and Castle in south London an evening to celebrate the 75th anniversary of 1916 in music words and song with guest republican speaker who was Gerry McLoughlin of Sinn Fein. The Irish Post covered it with a number of photos with one including John Carty, Jodie Clark, Maire Steadman, Gerry McLoughlin, all IBRG members.

 

 Irish Input at Bolton’s top Festival in the Irish Post had a photo of Margaret and Joe Mullarkey with Labour Councillor Pauline Spencer at the final night of the Bolton Irish Festival.

On 14th September the IBRG held their Irish Prisoners Awareness day at the Camden Irish centre. Over 50 delegates attended from various organisations attended. The main item of the day was for Irish prisoners to be transferred back to Ireland.

The cases of Dessie Ellis, Judith Ward, Danny McNamee, Nick Mullen were all raised. The Irish Post had a photo of the speakers which included Nina Hutchinson from the Danny McNamee campaign, Annette Maloney from the Desie Ellis campaign, Majella Crehan, Von McCleary from the Nick Mullen campaign and Liz Leicester from the Kilburn defendants’ campaign, with the IBRG banner draped over the table with the headline IBRG conference highlights prisoners’ rights issues.

Jennifer McCann from Sinn Fein POW Department, called for full support for all prison related campaign in particular the transfer of prisoners.  The piece stated that the strongest call of the weekend was for the transfer of Irish prisoners. A pre meeting piece in the Irish Post had Prisoners demands in focus at Camden Meeting.

On 25th September IBRG members attended a meeting at Conway Hall on Dessie Ellis where Ken Livingstone spoke with Paddy Joe Hill.

On 30th September IBRG joined a picket of the Irish Embassy over Dessie Ellis.

In Manchester  IBRG along with the NW Labour History Group launched the 16th issue of their journal devoted to the Irish input into Labour History in the Northwest.

On 3rd October IBRG members attended a public meeting in Brighton to hear Martha Ellis Dessie’s sister, Frances McNamee (Danny’s brother) and Billy Power B6 speaking. The meeting British Justice No Irish Need apply was to focus on the Dessie Ellis and Danny McNamee campaign during the Labour Party Conference in Brighton. Other speakers were Jeremy Corbyn MP, Majella Crehan IBRG, and Pat Reynolds of Desie Ellis campaign, with chair by Dorothy Macedo National Co- Chair Labour Party Socialist Group at the Brighton Centre. There was also a joint social for the two campaigns on 1st October which Haringey IBRG had helped organise.

Haringey IBRG put on a series of Irish films during the Autumn/winder months with The Irishmen and Impression of Exile  on 2nd October with a speaker from the Construction Safety campaign,  Suspect Community about the PTA on 6th November with a PTA speaker, andon 4th December  and on 29th October Silent Scream about 17 people, eight of them children, killed by Plastic Bullets in N. Ireland which was commissioned but then censored by Channel Four.

On 5th October IBRG members with their banners were on the Broadwater Farm March from Haringey Civic Centre to Finsbury Park to hear Bernie Grant MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, and  Sharon Raghip who called for the release of Desie Ellis and Danny McNamee. Billy Power (Birmingham Six) who called for the release of Judith ward and the Bridgewater defendants. The Dessie Ellis Campaign had their banner on the march. Billy Power got a huge reception from the crowd and he gave a victory salute flanked by Bernie Grant MP and Jeremy Corbyn MP.

On 9th October Pat Reynolds was speaking at the Selby Centre in Haringey on racial harassment and the Irish community to over 100 people on a conference on racial harassment and Schools. Pat drew on the work of Dr Elinor Kelly on her work Anti-Racism After Burnage in Manchester which included the experiences of Irish children in schools which was often ignored and unrecorded.

On 10th October Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking with Duncan Campbell and Mark Wadsworth on censorship at the Cultural partnerships conference. The meeting drew a capacity crowd of students and media people.

 

On 18th October the Irish in Britain News ran a feature on Manchester which includes   a piece on Manchester IBRG and carried a photo of Mike Herbert’s Walk around Irish Manchester.

On 19th October the Comcomhairle was postponed because of travel problems faced by delegates from London getting to Bolton after 3PM.

 

On 27th October IBRG members attended the Terence McSwiney Memorial Mass at Southwark Cathedral. The Irish Post photo of 2nd November featured a number of IBRG members including Cllr Jodie Clark, Pat Reynolds, Sr Jean Marie, along with the Lord Mayor of Cork, Jimmy Doyle, Siobhan Ui Neill and others.

In Southwark efforts by Peckham Labour Party to name a housing office in Southwark after Terence MacSwiney was blocked after the South London Press attacked the idea. The IBRG attacked Labour for running scared of the right-wing press, and noted that Neil Kinnock was happy to be associated with James Connolly to win Irish votes. The issue was covered in An Phoblacht where IBRG criticised Labour for caving in to pressure from the right-wing press and drew attention to how Neil Kinnock was happy to appear with a plaque of well-known Irish pacifist James Connolly in his hands. If Neil Kinnock saw fit to be identified with  Connolly, the local Labour Party must honour another heroic Irishman from the same period.

The Irish Post had MacSwiney Row hits Southwark .IBRG member and local Labour Councillor Jodie Clark stated that the Council should recognise a nationally respected Irish historical figure. Southwark had a long historical Irish connection as far back as the 1540’s and now has an Irish population of 12,000.  Jodie Clark stated that other local minority communities had their own historical figures commemorated and it was right for the Irish to also be honoured.  MacSwiney was a cultured literary man with great insight into public housing and public services and was Lord Mayor of Cork and a member of the Irish Dail, who died in Brixton prison and his funeral mass was at Southwark cathedral. He was the only major figure of the Irish War of Independence to die in London. In the Irish in Britain News Pat Reynolds called on Southwark Council to reconsider the matter and honour MacSwiney and stated ‘The British Legion commemorate their dead, so they should show respect for our dead’.

On 30th October Dessie Ellis was acquitted of all charges. A successful campaign led by IBRG with both Chair and secretary being IBRG members which got widespread support across the community and from Irish solidarity groups. Dessie got his ticket back home paid for by the British state as he was excluded from Britain under the PTA.

On 31st October Lambeth Nalgo Irish workers group including IBRG members organised an Irish afternoon seminar at Lambeth town hall where Richard Balfe MEP and the Leader of Lambeth council spoke.

The IBRG deplored Marlow Council in Thameside which had taken the shamrock out of their two crests. The Liberal Party wanted to get rid of the crest which a former Irish Tory Mayor had included the shamrock as a mark of respect to his own father, and other Irish people who had helped to build Marlow town. The Irish in Britain news had Marlow in anti-Irish dispute. Only 370 people out of 15,000 people had signed the petition and at least 30 names had been duplicated on the list.

 

Virginia Moyles and Bernadette Hyland

On 23rd November the Comhcomhairle was held at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in North London. The following branches attended Manchester, Birmingham, Lewisham, Haringey, Harrow, Coventry, and Camden/Islington. Eleven delegates were present including Bernadette Hyland Chair, Kevin Hayes, Diarmuid Breatnach, Pat Reynolds Maurice Moore, Maurice Cahill, Tom Fitzsimons, Val Deegan, Siobhan O Dwyer, Robert Ryan, and Virginia Moyles.

Apologies from Linda Sever, Laura Sullivan and Majella Crehan.

Branches were asked to write to the Home Secretary demanding the release of innocent Irish prisoner Judith Ward. It was agreed to donate £100 to the Bloody Sunday Commemoration march and Rally.

The meeting called on branches to take up Judith Ward’s case. Mike Bromell had been freed while Martin Foran had escaped and had been rearrested. It was agreed that Kevin Hayes produce a new PTA leaflet.

On 30th November Lewisham Nalgo held an Irish conference.

On 30th November Pat Reynolds as a long-standing member of Haringey Ethnic Minority Community Consultative Committee was a guest at Freedom of Haringey Borough ceremony and celebration at Tottenham Town hall to Comrade Oliver Tambo and his wife Adelaide. Oliver was Vice President of the ANC, to recognise the contribution they had made to contribution the struggle for freedom in South Africa during his years of exile, and while living in Haringey that had provided an inspiration to many local residents. They were given the title of Honorary Freeman and Woman of Haringey. The evening was filled with many rebel songs from South Africa and Tottenham Town Hall felt at times to be like being in the Roddy McCorley Republican Club in Belfast with its rousing songs and music. The evening looked forward to freedom for all South Africans and in many other places where they were fighting for freedom.

On 2nd December Dolan in the Irish Post wrote in an article Linkage forged by injustice ‘In the early eighties the Irish in London learned a lot about community activism from Black organisations.  By the late Eighties, the Black community was learning from the Irish how best to campaign for the release of the Tottenham Three. How fitting that, on his release on bail, Mark Braithwaite should have singled out Billy Power for praise. At the press conference he held his hand and went on to say that this was the man who gave me hope and inspiration. But long before the Birmingham Six were released, Billy Power’s daughter Breda, was cooperating with the Tottenham Three campaign. She and Engin Raghip’s wife, Sharon, had become close friends. They first met as speakers at a rally in London organised jointly by the Broadwater Farm Defence Campaign and the Irish in Britain Representation Group. But it was while visiting the men at Wormwood Scrubs Prison that the two young women became friends. They had much in common including having experienced Lord Lane. We feel we have known each other for years. Breda Power told the Irish Post at the time. So, there was a joint campaign. And they won. Incidentally Sharon Raghip is of Irish descent, while his husband is of Turkish background’.

Manchester IBRG were involved in putting on Manchester 4th Irish film festival which started on 7th December and lasted a week.

In Manchester Bernadette Hyland met with the NW TUC Leader Alan Manning to discuss issues affecting the Irish in Britain and the situation in Ireland. The North West TUC were shortly to go on a fact-finding trip to both the 6 and 26 counties in Ireland. The Irish in Britain News covered this with Concern over Young Irish Homeless in Manchester which reported on the meeting between Alan Manning North West TUC leader and Bernadette Hyland National chair of IBRG. Bernadette called for more research and support for the young Irish arriving in Manchester

The IBRG welcomed the report by Seamus Taylor and Haringey Council entitled Equal opportunities the Irish Dimension an Agenda for Change. The report was supported by Bernie Grant MP, Kevin McNamara MP, Clive Soley MP, Harriet Harman MP and Clare Short MP. The IBRG called on the CRE to recognise the Irish as an ethnic community, and take action to address discrimination against the Irish community in Britain. The Irish in Britain News covered the event with Second Class citizens but in claiming it was the first report to show the conditions of the Irish community in Britain, it was wrong. The Greater London Council had published a number of reports relating to the Irish community in London and their social conditions and likewise had Islington Council, where Dr Michael Maguire of the Irish in Islington Project had done trojan research work on the Irish in Islington. Likewise, the IBRG conference in Camden on the mental health of the Irish and the annual Lambeth IBRG welfare conferences. The newspapers report gave the IBRG response to the report

In December the IBRG condemned Abbey National Building Society for using a ‘Paddy’ joke in their advertising feature. Kevin McNamara MP took up the issue.  The advert had a fictitious investor called Mr A Paddy from Cork Eire. This was the second time in two years that the IBRG pulled up Abbey National over their anti-Irish material. Abbey were also one of the Building Society’s which discriminated against Catholic workers in N. Ireland. The Andersonstown News gave it head billing with Abbey National gets the Paddy habit. And the Irish World had Abbey National apologise to Irish staff as Bad Habit is Blasted. Kevin McNamara was quoted ‘These people are right to be outraged. It is typical of the attitude held by certain sections of English society against the Irish It is proof if proof is needed of the hidden discrimination in our society by the use of the racist joke’. The IBRG forced Abbey National to withdraw the advert and apologise.

In December the new Press Complaints Commission turned down an IBRG complaint over the To-Day newspaper about lilywhites and the IRA claiming that Irish students were joining the IRA and that your quiet neighbour could in reality be in the IRA. So, watch you Irish neighbours.

IBRG had complained to the Press Complaints Commission over a Today front-page story of 18th November. Mr and Mrs Lillywhite who were Irish were now a danger to Britain alleging that Irish people in Britain were IRA sleepers.  The Commission now stated that they could not consider any complaints unless they were specific and identify individuals which was a clear licence to abuse the community at large. ‘They appear to be typical next-door neighbours, perhaps with a trace of an Irish accent.

IBRG stated that the new Press body was even worse than the old Press Council and that under the new regime, John Junor’s comments would not have been censured since he named nobody. Minority communities in Britain were now left without redress when under racist attacks in the British media. The Irish in Britain News took the side of the Today newspaper and the Press Complaints Commission and ended up by stating ‘We Irish should count ourselves fortunate that the English population in general is so tolerant’ probably the most shocking editorial by any Irish newspaper in Britain, which would have easily fitted into the Sun newspaper.

On 7th December Pat Reynolds Chair of the London Dessie Ellis campaign travelled to Dublin for the welcome home benefit for Dessie Ellis.

The Manchester 4th Irish Film festival was put on between 7th and 14th December and was covered in both the Irish Post and the Irish World. It had the Commitments, Pigs, Journey to Knock and The Grass Arena. The Festival was put on jointly  with IBRG and the Cornerhouse Arts Centre.  There was also a one-day event entitled Protestant and Irish with guest speakers Christina Reid and Cherry Smyth

On 11th December Pat Reynolds had an interview with BBC Radio Belfast about the CRE and the Irish community, and on 22nd December had a similar interview with BBC Radio Warwickshire Irish program.

On 20th December the Irish in Britain News ran a story Irish people innocent victims of firebombs backlash which detailed several firebomb attacks upon Irish people and Irish Centres including the Irish World Heritage site in Manchester. The report quoted Bernadette Hyland who spoke of increased police activity at ports and against students after any IRA action in Britain.

On 22nd December the papers reported Fury over Prince Andrews Irish tart crack where Prince Andrews stated at a Reception at the American Embassy in London that he had his own theory as to how Maxwell had died with some racist sexist joke about an ‘Irish tart’. Here we get Prince Andrew mocking the Irish and of course Maxwell made thousands selling racist sexist books about the Irish including the Irish joke book and the Irish Kama Sutra. Maybe Andrew got the racist sexist joke there. They say mocking is catching and both Prince Andrew and Maxwell daughter would be involved in an alleged case of the sexual abuse of minors in Britain and America. Jim King of IBRG was quoted as calling on Andrew to apologise to the Irish community for his so-called joke.

On 31st December Pat Reynolds was an invited guest at Paddy Joe Hill New Year’s Eve Party in Teddington to see in his first new year in freedom after 16 years in prison.

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 the Irish in Britain Representation Group Part ten 1990

 

 

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.

Victory day for Winchester Three. Campaigners celebrate at Old Bailey 1990 after hearing verdict. Front;Majella Crehan and London IBRG members.

On 13th January 1990 the IBRG Ard Choiste was held at the Four Provinces Club in Coventry. Ten delegates were present including Chair Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Moore, Caitlin Wright, Pat Reynolds, Peter Skerrit, David Kernohan, Diarmuid Breatnach, and Virginia Moyles. Apologies from Majella Crehan and Laura Sullivan.

The Ard Choiste donated £100 to the annual Bloody Sunday march which the IBRG along with TOM and LCI organised.

Coventry IBRG reported on branch work on the PTA in both Coventry and Birmingham, holding a monthly social of song music and poetry, work with the Trades Council who had held a meeting on the Birmingham Six, and work on the local Irish Festival.

The meeting affiliated to the Nick Mullen campaign and the Martin Foran campaign while continuing support for the Winchester Three campaign. The meeting decided to push Judith Ward’s case as she had been forgotten :  the PRO had got her case into the Irish weeklies, An Phoblacht and the American Irish Voice along with some Dublin papers.

The new ILEA (Inner London Education Authority) booklets on Ireland had a number of racist stereotypes about Ireland. Despite being provided to educate children about Ireland, the booklets showed the Irish being violent and the British always being peaceful.

The meeting decided to support the new Irish National Congress being set up in Dublin. The meeting heard that the meeting had been held with the CRE and that they were taking the matter of Irish recognition to the Commissioners.

On 13th January 1990 the SAS executed three young men robbing a bookies shop in Belfast. The incident led to claims of a shoot to kill policy as two of the men were shot between 10-13 times while the third was shot from two foot away

On 17th January 1990 Dr Maire O’Shea from the Birmingham Six Campaign, and Pat Reynolds IBRG addressed over 100 students at Cardiff University on the issue of Ireland and the Irish in Britain, particularly the framed prisoners and the PTA. Later Cardiff students came down to London for the Bloody Sunday March.

Bloody Sunday March London and Derry

On 27th January 1990 over 5,000 people marched on the Bloody Sunday march from Hyde Park to Kilburn under the banner of Support the Irish people’s demand for self-determination. Speakers included Jeremy Corbyn MP, Father Des Wilson, and Dodie McGuiness from Sinn Fein.  On the march there was a 100-foot-long banner from Derry with the heading ‘We are a people of struggle, ours is a culture of change’.

Paul Hill spoke at the Derry Bloody Sunday March and went on to pour scorn on the idea that the release of the Birmingham Six would mark a turning point for British justice, because the Prevention of Terrorism Act would remain in force.

He told the crowd that there were people fifty yards away capable of taking away sons, daughters, sisters, mothers and brothers, doctoring evidence and sending them to prison for fifteen years, simply because they were Irish.

Eamonn McCann, another speaker, condemned the Labour Party for its policies on Ireland. He said until the British labour movement and the Labour leadership take a decent stand on the Birmingham Six and other issues relating to Ireland, they will have one hand tied behind their back, even in their efforts to do something for their own people’.

On 29th January IBRG members attended a House of Commons meeting on the Transfer of Irish Prisoners where Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four spoke.

An IBRG meeting was held in Birmingham on 17th January to discuss working with other groups which was attended by five delegates and also Kevin Hayes, Eddie Caughey, Mary Donnelly,  Pat O Sullivan and Angela McAndrews,  all from Birmingham IBRG.

The meeting agreed that the focus of IBRG should around self-determination and issues affecting the Irish community in Britain.

The meeting found that non-alignment with the Labour Party was the source of much of the hostility to IBRG over the Time to Go Campaign, the PTA and other issues. It was felt that IBRG could work on single issues campaigns with other groups e.g. racism, PTA, strip searching, censorship, plastic bullets, frame ups, shoot to kill and prisoners.

It was agreed that priority should be given to Irish led initiatives. Most left groups had their own agenda and had little interest in the Irish community apart from recruitment,  work with other groups could be at IBRG expense.

 

On 20th January 1990 16 delegates from various groups interested in Ireland met in London to discuss setting up a broad front.  Diarmuid Breatnach and Virginia Moyles represented the IBRG. The meeting agreed to organise around withdrawal and self-determination and organise a conference on the issue. 21 people had attended an earlier meeting on 18th November 1989 on the same issue with four delegates from IBRG –  Virginia Moyles, Pat Reynolds, Laura Sullivan and Siobhan Hiers.

an pobal eirithe 1990

 

Irish Post and attack on IBRG

Bernadette Hyland,  National Chair of IBRG,  had a letter in the Irish Post on 13th January challenging Frank Dolan (aka Editor Brendan MacLua) of the Irish Post over his remarks that IBRG had “tremendous vitality initially , which appeared to be more about IBRG not supporting the Time to Go Charter, which he had written. In any case his argument was very false and without evidence as IBRG grew stronger from 1982 to 1989, and indeed was weak in the early years,  both in terms of policy, events and branches.

Bernadette Hyland’s letter triggered a fully-fledged attack on IBRG which went on for months.  It was proved that that a number of the letters were  bogus, and politically motivated. They were from quarters who had a vested interest in attacking IBRG with most of their claims clearly false and made up. Why Brendan MacLua should devote pages of the Irish Post week after week allowing it to be used for attacks on IBRG, the finest Irish organisation of its generation is puzzling.

He would not allow such attacks on the Catholic Church, the GAA,   Comhaltas  or the Federation. Many of the addresses used were clearly bogus and not one writer of any letter could be identified in the community, with  ten different letters appearing each week. The Irish Post had already sold out to Smurfit who moved the paper away to the right, even instructing its photographer not to photograph Ken Livingstone, as he was not held in the same esteem as he had been by “my predecessors” meaning MacLua.

It was a very nasty ongoing campaign against an Irish community organisation. The Irish Post were the only Irish papers to publish anti IBRG letters on a regular basis, and now the IBRG could get great  publicity in the Irish World, London Irish News, Irish People in USA, Irish language papers, Irish Press Sunday Press, An Phoblacht, Andersonstown News and in many other outlets, and could now get on TV and radio on a regular basis. The IBRG had secured thousands of pounds per month for the Irish Post by putting pressure on Local Authorities to advertise jobs in the Post.

The IBRG was founded in late 1981 and did not become a large organisation until 1983, and there was far more happening in IBRG in 1989 than in 1983-1985. IBRG now had two funded projects in Haringey and Lambeth and had lost Camden. IBRG pubished  a National magazine, had an annual Welfare conference and  an Eucation conference. We organised  a St Patrick Day march and  was now involved in the Bloody Sunday march. We were leading the campaign against anti Irish racism and  the campaign for Irish recognition. We were involved in campaigns including  the Dessie Ellis campaign ( including chairing it), the Winchester Three campaign,  and were heavily involved in the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four campaigns. Branches were involved in numerous activities from the language to culture, with Manchester putting on range of conferences and Film Festivals.  MacLua was also challenged by IBRG for his support for Kate Hoey a right-wing Labour Unionist, who opposed recognition of the Irish community.

 

The Irish National Congress was set up in Dublin in January 1990 with over 400 people attending. A message of support from IBRG was read out to the opening meeting and covered in the Irish Times on 22nd January 1990. The Congress would campaign for British withdrawal, full equality of opportunity, and full access to Irish culture.

Pat Reynolds PRO had a letter in the Irish Sunday Press supporting film-maker Bob Quinn’s  call for the Irish abroad to be given the vote.

In January 1990 the IBRG called for Limerick man Martin Foran to be released.

In January the IBRG called for a public inquiry into British forensics which had led to the conviction of several innocent Irish people like the Birmingham Six, Maguire Seven, Judith Ward and the Gillespie Sisters. The IBRG had highlighted a problem in this area after the release of Danny McBreathy after being held for three months on explosives charges.  McBreathy had been deported to Northern  Ireland after his release and the IBRG deplored this internal exile, which was contrary to the free movement of workers in Europe and called on the Irish Government to act on the matter. The IBRG called on the Irish government to stop extraditing its citizens to Britain as there was no justice for Irish people in these political show trials.

Friends of the Earth apologised to IBRG after their sponsored Irish Jokes book contained anti Irish racist jokes. It was another victory for IBRG on anti-Irish racism. The story was covered by Dublin and Belfast papers.  In a letter to Pat Reynolds PRO the Friends stated that they ‘profoundly regret the anguish this book has caused some people due to the offensive nature of some of the jokes’

On 24th January 1990 the Press Council turned down an IBRG complaint against the Sunday Express over its false story that Irish building workers on the Chunnel were collecting funds for the IRA. Channel Four Hard News had investigated the story and found not a single shred of evidence to back up the  story. The IBRG stated that it was a new low,  even by the low standards of the Press Council.

Haringey IBRG brought out a free magazine called Irish Voice. This  included articles on the Winchester Three, Judith Ward, Travellers and construction safety campaign . It was the 6th issue of the Irish Voice which had a circulation of over 1,000. On 9th February the Irish World ran a story on the magazine with a photo of its front cover.

Media and censorship of Irish cases

In the NUJ Journalist magazine  in January 1990 Liz Curtis had an article Learning from Guildford in which  she exposed the role of the British media in covering up the framing of these innocent men. In January 1977 when the Balcombe Street men refused to enter a plea at their trial, , because they had not been charged with the  Guildford and Woolwich bombs, all the media except the Guardian kept quiet on the reasons why  the men had refused to plead.  The Secretary of Justice, the British section of the International commission of Jurist,  replied to Paddy Hill ‘In a case like yours, so many reputations are at stake, that in my view, the obstacles to overcome are insuperable’.  Peregrine Worsthorne in the Telegraph actually supported imprisoning the innocent in ‘terrorism’ cases because it would have a ‘chastening’ effect on the Irish in Britain.

In 1987 when the Law Lords turned down the Birmingham Six appeal the Sun stated ‘If the Sun had its way, would have been tempted to string ‘em up’ and called Chris Mullins  MP a Falls Road “Fenian”.  When Paul Hill got married in prison and when there was public knowledge about his innocence  the Sun  wrote “IRA pig weds in prison’  and “Blood Wedding.”

In Dublin Dick Spring, Leader of the Irish Labour Party,  condemned the heading of the SunMictory “ when an Irish woman won her case against Boots at an Employment Tribunal which the IBRG had earlier taken up.

On 2nd February Pat Reynolds took part in the BBC Open Space program on racist jokes at the Hackney Empire,  on 6th February he had an interview with BBC Talkback programme in  Belfast on racism in the media, and on 7th February was the invited guest at Ealing Irish Women Group of over 50 women at Ealing Town hall,  speaking on the Irish community in Britain.

On 8TH February Pat Reynolds, an Irish community worker in Lambeth,  addressed   Lambeth Council before they passed a report giving recognition to the Irish community, thus adding to similar IBRG achievement in Islington, Manchester, Haringey, Hackney Bolton and Blackburn.

On 10th February Pat Reynolds was speaking to Lambeth Labour Party  on the Irish in Britain and Ireland. The Irish News in Belfast covered the story with a heading “Lambeth ethnic Irish ruling welcomed ‘. The article said: One of the largest Irish community organisations in Britain has welcomed the decision by a London Borough Council to recognise the Irish as an ethnic group… It is estimated that there are more than 20,000 Irish in the borough… Lambeth Council also intends to monitor the effects of the PTA on its Irish community.

Pat Reynolds addressed the councillors on the issue of job discrimination in Lambeth borough and the effects on the Irish community of the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four and other cases. It  was important for the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland to read how the Irish community in Britain were organising themselves and taking on the local authorities and winning recognition. Papers such as  Irish News, Andersonstown News and An Phoblacht and La regularly covered IBRG achievements in Britain.

On 11th February the Irish community celebrated the release of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. The Irish community in Britain had played an active part in supporting both the anti-apartheid work in Britain, but also the work of the ANC. IBRG members were active in these campaigns both in the trade unions and supporting demonstrations and pickets. In Haringey Oliver Tambo had been honoured by Haringey Council where he lived in exile for most of his life.

 

On 24th February the Ard Choiste met at the Working-Class Movement Library in Salford. Ten delegates attended,  including Caitlin Wright, Diarmuid Breatnach, Pat O’Sullivan, Martin Connolly, Sean Brown, David Vickers, Joe Mullarkey, Laura Sullivan, Bernadette Hyland and Virginia Moyles.

Apologies from Pat Reynolds, Joan Brennan and Kevin Hayes.

On building a broad front in the Irish community it was agreed to contact the GAA, Federation, Conradh, Comhaltas  and Glor an Deorai to meet them to discuss areas of common work. On building a broad front with the British left, it was decided that attend meetings organised to discuss this in London.

In February IBRG wrote to express concern that the London Boroughs Grant Scheme would no longer support funding the London Irish Women’s Centre.

In Harrow IBRG were approaching the local Tory Council with view to getting an Irish Centre in the Borough and the matter went to the Council’s Community Liaison Consultative Committee.

 

IBRG and media and new guidelines

The Andersonstown News featured IBRG in its campaign against trial  by media in Britain and around two events in Britain, one: the trial of the Winchester three and the other of five men arrested in Cheltenham ‘Thatcher Bomb Gang arrested’.

The IBRG had issued guideline to the British media on reporting PTA arrests and had sent them to the National Union of Journalists, the media and other bodies.

The CAJ (Committee on the Administration of Justice/the Northern Ireland Civil Liberties Council ) wrote to IBRG in response to the IBRG guide for Journalists and argued that IBRG could also use the Public Order Act 1986 which contained material relating to publishing material ‘which is intended or likely to stir up racial hatred, where intention need not be proved.

Racial hatred was defined as hatred against a group of persons in Britain defined by reference to colour, race, nationality including citizenship ethnic or national origins. This was very useful information and support which showed IBRG working with a range of solidarity groups across Britain and Ireland.

Challenging British media and PTA arrests

In February the IBRG launched a full-scale attack on the British media and its treatment of Irish people,  particularly over PTA arrests. The IBRG attack on the PTA had led to reduced arrests for some time  but after an IRA bomb killed  11 soldiers in Deal on 21st September 1989 a new campaign of terror was launched against the Irish community, with PTA arrests up 50% and more innocent people getting pulled in with the British media in full war cry.

IBRG responded by attacking the PTA and attacking the English media for their fabrications around arrests.  In November 1989 David Waddington, Tory Home Secretary,  continued to defy the 1988 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights by detaining suspects without charge for up to seven days when the court ruled the British government should not hold them beyond four days without charge.

The IBRG statement said ‘the release of the Guildford Four has not led to any let up of those attacks on our community, and 1989 saw an increase in media and police conspiracy in labelling innocent arrested Irish people and the ignoring of the presumption of innocence in Irish arrests’. Prejudiced and sensational accounts in the British press of PTA arrest led directly to further harassment of the Irish community, and dramatically reduce the change of a fair trial for any Irish person charged.

Haringey IBRG had responded in challenging the British media by producing two papers in support of draft guidelines on reporting PTA cases which was submitted to the NUJ. The report examined how the reporting of the arrest and detention of the Winchester Three, and the case of five innocent Irish people arrested in Cheltenham in October 1989.

The Andersonstown News on 10th February led the way with Irish group blast British trial by media with the mastheads of many of the offending press.  The IBRG had accused the British media as taking on the role of prosecutor and judge in Irish cases.

The Irish World on 9th February carried another IBRG story on the same issue with Press Council rejects Irish complaint. The IBRG had complained to the press council over the Sunday Express false story about Irish building workers on the Chunnel collecting funds for the IRA which had been made up. Channel Four Hard News had investigated the story on 2nd November 1989, and found no evidence whatsoever of what had been reported in the Sunday Express as fact. The IBRG stated ‘the appearance of malicious stories about Irish building workers collecting for the IRA, at the time of the release of the Guildford Four is no coincidence, as similar malicious stories appeared at the same time of the Birmingham Six appeal in 1987.

Louis Blom Cooper QC, chair of the Press Council, turned down the complaint from Pat Reynolds of IBRG over the story. In reply the IBRG stated that this was a new low even by the low standards of the Press Council. Blom Cooper came out later with inaccurate statements  about the Birmingham Six in a book, and was criticised by Gareth Pierce for his shoddy research.

The Press Council response to Pat Reynolds that he had not put forward a sufficiency substantial case to warrant adjudication by the Council was challenged by the Irish World who wrote to Kenneth Morgan OBE, Director of the Press Council, asking what a substantial case might be. He replied ‘I cannot respond to your question. Because it is very similar to procedure in court. The Court must first determine if it is a prima facie case. In any event the Press Council as a long-standing rule will not comment to the press’.

The London Irish News headed their story with Express Dirty tricks campaign exposed on TV which detailed how Channel Four Hard News had exposed the Sunday Express story as fake propaganda news.

Channel Four found no evidence from the police or the employers that there was any truth in the story. There was no evidence that any collection had taken place or that the crane driver who had cleared the rubble from the Deal bombing had to be moved after harassment by Irish workers.

Pat Reynolds in his submission to the Press Council stated that ‘Such false stories without a shred of evidence put many Irish building works and their families, under threat and fear of violence, and are an incitement to stir up anti Irish feelings among English workers, and lead to discrimination against Irish workers in employment.’

On 6th March 1990 Pat Reynolds attended a Home Office Conference on Racism in Prisons at Long Lartin High Security prison which was attended by prisoners and community organisations. Pat was able to challenge the judicial system in Britain which kept the Birmingham Six Guildford Four and many others innocent Black and Irish prisoners in jail. Senior Home office officials tried to dampen down the debate saying it was becoming political but the prisoners supported the issue.

Pat met with Hugh Callaghan and Johnny Walker, two of the Birmingham Six, during the break and was able to update them on efforts in the community to support their campaign. The BBC interviewed the two men at the same time which clearly showed that the Home Office did not see the men as IRA and subject to the ban on Republicans. The IBRG highlighted this point later to the Irish media. The Home Office later produced a report on the conference which included the IBRG contribution.

On 8th March IBRG attended a torch light Vigil on Waterloo Bridge  for Mairead Farrell and her two comrades murdered in Gibraltar on the second anniversary.   The event was organised by Women & Ireland group, IBRG and TOM. In Dublin over 90,000 signatures were handed in at the Department for Foreign Affairs calling on the Irish government take action against Britain in the European court over the breach of both the Geneva Convention and human rights law.  Among those signing it were Michael D Higgins later President, Bishop Eamonn Casey, Ruari Quinn and Neil Blaney.

On 8th March the Press Council turned down an IBRG complaint over media coverage of the five Irishmen arrested in Cheltenham under the PTA with the headline Thatcher Bomb Gang arrested.

The IBRG condemned the Press Council for failing to uphold an IBRG complaint against the Daily Express over its story Thatcher Bomb Gang Arrested where five innocent Irish men had been arrested under the PTA. The IBRG were joined by the West Midlands PTA campaign who stated that the judgement sets a dangerous precedent, in that the media can say anything they like about an individual as long as they do not name the individual concerned. The Express did admit that their heading should have been qualified. Meanwhile they had destroyed the lives of five men who had to leave Britain because of their experience, and would have difficulty finding work after such a public exposure of their arrests.

The London Irish News headline was Press Council No Sets Dangerous Precedent and covered the IBRG reaction to the Press Council Judgement to rule out the IBRG complaint.  The Thatcher Bomb Gang Arrested had a smaller headline which read Five IRA suspects held in swoop on hotel. Maire O Shea from the West Midlands PTA and Pat Reynolds IBRG had lodged complaints that the article failed to maintain any presumption that the Irish people arrested were innocent.   It was trial by media at its worst, and,  had the men been charged,  their right to a fair hearing would have been denied. The men were released the next day without charge.  The IBRG called on the Home Secretary to rein in the police to stop them using the media to publicly convict Irish people,

The IBRG statement was covered in An Phoblacht. The Express had given the registration number of the men’s car and their place of residence and  so the men were forced to leave the area,  the country and their employment.

The IBRG statement stated that the judgement raises serious questions about the role of the police and media in attempting to railroad Irish people into the same experiences as those of the Birmingham six and Guildford Four the Maguire Seven and the recent Winchester Three case.  Fifteen years on from the Guildford four and Birmingham Six arrests it is the same old story:  if you are Irish you are guilty, or innocent until proved Irish. IBRG called on the Irish Government, through its Embassy, to defend its Irish citizens against such abuses from the British police and media. No one in Britain would tolerate British people aboard being treated like this.  The price for being Irish in Britain remained high with the Irish government condoning the behaviour of the British police and press.

The Daily Telegraph published a story that Guinness lorries in Ireland had to put on a special message when reversing, as the Irish would not understand the English accent. Guinness confirmed that the story was completely made up and that their lorries,  like other lorries in Britain,  used a loud bleeping sound when reversing for safety reasons..

 

IBRG March for Justice took place on 17th March 1990. It  was sunny day of 75 degrees. It started  from Whittington Park in Holloway through Camden Town to Kings Cross calling for the release of the Birmingham Six and Judith Ward and the repeal of the racist PTA laws.

Article in press re-March for Justice

 

 

 

Speakers were Theresa Smalley, aunt of Paul Hill of the Guildford Four campaign, Bernadette Hyland National Chair IBRG and the Birmingham Six campaign.

The March got good publicity in the Irish weeklies,  both before and after. It started with a letter in January from the PRO in the London Irish News and a headline in the Irish Post IBRG Plan march for Justice. The Irish Post for some unknown reason had a Hands-Off Ireland photo as their main one instead of the Birmingham Six   or the IBRG.

The Birmingham Six speaker Nick Brown stated:  “We will no longer allow them the government, the police, and  the judiciary go on sacrificing the lives of innocent Irish people and their families. Your presence here today is only the beginning, we must make 1990 the year the Birmingham Six win their freedom. “

Theresa Smalley stated that the May inquiry was taking far too long. “We do not want a few scapegoats of junior officers. We want reform so that what happened the Guildford Four can never happen to anyone else. We want an independent body to look at cases like this and the ending of convictions based on confessional evidence alone.  We must keep the pressure up to get the Birmingham Six out and the PTA abolished”.

Bernadette Hyland, chair of IBRG, spoke of the distress faced by families of Irish prisoners in Britain, often spending days getting to a prison, waiting hours  to get into the prison, only to find their son or brother already moved to another prison.

On 19th March IBRG members took part in a picket of the Home Office over the Broadwater Farm prisoners who were innocent.

On 20th March Pat Reynolds was interviewed for 10 minutes in a detailed interview on the Pat Kenny shown on RTE on racism in the British media, and was able to demonstrate how banner headlines led to wrongful convictions and put innocent lives at risk.

On 26th March Pat Reynolds was speaking to Southwark Trades Council about Ireland and the Irish in Britain.

Media in Ireland and anti-Irish racism

On the same day the Irish Post heading read Anger over radio ad for racist paper which criticised several radio stations in Ireland, including RTE, for carrying ads for the Sun newspaper in Ireland, as the Sun was anti Irish and racist towards Ireland and the Irish community in Britain.

IBRG singled out RTE who were a semi state body and who had done very little to support the Irish community in Britain.

The Sun claimed to sell 90,000 copies of their paper in Ireland and it was common for them to speak with forked tongues with an anti-Irish editorial in Britain with the opposite editorial in Ireland. After the Birmingham Six appeal failed in 1987 the Sun suggested that the innocent prisoners should then be hanged. This article was taken out of its Irish edition. The Sun was happy to spread anti-Irish racism among the English and to stir up racist feelings towards the Irish in Britain. When in March a survey of school children in England showed Irish children to be performing above average, but the Sun, the IBRG pointed out,  had its own racist headline, We’re thicker than the Irish. Capital Radio director Martin Block stated that they had complained to the Sun about the way that story was presented, and that it would give serious consideration as to whether it would carry ads for that paper in future. But RTE stated that the ads did not contravene any industry regulations.

This was most shameful that an Irish semi state body would be endorsing a product which was abusive of Ireland and the Irish people, but worse was the indifferent attitude of RTE to the abuse of its fellow citizens in Britain. In this matter the IBRG had raised the debate in Ireland and exposed the Sun for what it was, and got a lot of support from the Irish people, who felt it wrong that their children in Britain should be subject to this racism and hatred. The Irish World put the story front page on 23rd March with the heading Call for end to anti-Irish racism.

IBRG and Mail on Sunday

Pat Reynolds IBRG had responded to an article by Sir John Junor in the Mail on Sunday where he called for a boycott of Irish goods and of holidays in Ireland because the Irish Supreme Court refused to extradite two Irish citizens for trial in Britain. The Mail sold 3,200 copies of their paper in Ireland each week.

John Junor,  as editor of the Sunday Express,  had a long racist record on Ireland and the Irish, his infamous racial hatred statement ‘wouldn’t you prefer to be a pig than to be Irish’ was found by the Press Council to be offensive. When President Reagan visited Ireland Junor’s racism showed again that he would prefer to visit a dung heap. It was noticed that Junor had a fixation with pigs and dung heap, and was sinking fast.

The IBRG stated that the Mail should practice what they preach, and withdraw their paper from Ireland and no longer take advertisements from Aer Lingus and Bord Failte for holidays in Ireland. The IBRG called on Bord Failte and Aer Lingus to stop advertising in the Mail and ask for a refund on their recent advertisement, as the Mail story had harmed their promotion.

 

New campaign against PTA

On 27th March IBRG members attended a House of Commons PTA launch of a new campaign which was broadly based,  including the IBRG. The campaign brought out a poster. Speakers at the launch included Clare Short MP, IBRG, Federation, GAA, Chaplaincy, Council of Irish Counties and the Guildford Four campaign. It was a clear example of IBRG working with a broad range of groups on a single-issue campaign in the Irish community.

Fr Paddy Smyth stated ‘We want all people concerned about civil liberties in Britain to join with us to get the legislation revoked. We want to break the silence around the Act. Concern was expressed over the arrest and detention of four miners’ wives for seven and a half hours with Kevin Hayes of Birmingham IBRG where any material with them was photocopied and Kevin had several rolls of film destroyed.

The IBRG Guidelines on Press Reporting on the PTA had gone to the NUJ, as current NUJ guidelines did not appear to relate to PTA arrest where journalists   just published what came from the police, and many of the pieces were just fake propaganda like Thatcher Bomb Gang Arrested. All just made up to spread anti Irish feeling in Britain and to silence the Irish community. This was not working as the Irish were fighting back and wining this battle with huge coverage in Ireland and abroad on the shameful behaviour of the British press.

Anti-Irish racism in student  magazine at St.Mary’s College Strawberry Hill

On 28th March Pat Reynolds was interviewed by BBC Belfast about anti Irish racism in a student magazine at St Mary’s College,  Strawberry Hill, which was used as a Catholic training college for teachers and had many Irish students. The IBRG had condemned the rag magazine at St Mary’s which included racist jokes, and an anti-Irish anti-gay AIDS letter.

The IBRG supported women at the University who made a complaint about the magazine. The IBRG objected to racism in a student magazine in a University which had many Irish students, and which prepared teachers to teach Irish children in Catholic schools. It  was shocking  to see such racism and sexism, which portrayed Irish people as stupid and ignorant about sexual matters. The author of the magazine tried to defend its racist content which was even more shocking.

IBRG called on the university to adopt an anti-racism program to tackle racism within the university. The IBRG wrote to the Principal of the University and the Students Union to take action on the racism shown in the magazine.  The IBRG stated ‘that future teachers should be involved in the promotion of such material raises serious questions about how racism is tackled within their teachers training college, and how the Union deal with the issue. To make fun of AIDS and Irish people can only be seen as sick behaviour. We are concerned that such people could soon be teaching our children and no child should have to hear such bigoted racist views and attitudes’.

On 23rd April Pat Reynolds had a reply back from the Principal of St Mary’s College who seemed more worried that students took the matter outside the college, than dealing with the racist homophobic materials in the college magazine. He then stated it led to deep division between students from Northern and what he called Southern Ireland (a Unionist term). He stated that they were starting an Irish Studies Course there in September 1990, a degree course, but he talked about the ‘mutual stereotyping of the people and culture of our two countries’ which showed him not to have a clue about England’s  colonial history  and oppression of the Irish people. Here he blames the victim instead of the culprit, like blaming Black people for racism and slavery.

Report showing Irish children progressing in London schools.

The IBRG welcomed a Report which showed Irish children did better than average in London schools. IBRG called for the Irish to be included in all ethnic monitoring of school’s performance in Britain and for the Department of Education and Science to recognise the Irish in their ethnic categories. The Irish Post headline was Irish pupils get better results.

The Report showed that Irish children attending catholic schools did much better than average in their GCSE exams. IBRG stated that the excellent results was due to a strong ethos within Irish families  to secure the best possible education for their children, allied to a strong Irish cultural identify where  many Irish children had access to holidays in Ireland, access to Irish music, song and dance along with Gaelic games, despite facing high levels of discrimination and  racism  in Britain. Because a majority attended catholic schools, they were often isolated from further racism and could find comfort in numbers. IBRG pointed out that even with good exams results the Irish were facing discrimination in employment in the public sector and called for full ethnic monitoring of the Irish across the board. It was the dedication of Irish teachers and parents that had produced these positive results. It was the IBRG who brought this study to the attention of the Irish community

On the same day the programme  Who Bombed Birmingham was shown on TV and named individuals allegedly involved with the bombing. The IBRG condemned the naming of individuals who had not even been arrested, thus giving rise to media coverage and unfair trials. Manchester IBRG put out a press release stating that IBRG were completely opposed to any such naming of alleged bombers and quoted Billy Power of the Birmingham 6 who stated ‘This program threatens to deny other people the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. That is what happened to us. Within hours of arrest it was being reported that the bombers had been caught. Our release should not depend on other people being fingered under any circumstances whether the people who did the bombing are named or not had no bearing with us. Our case stands on its own merits’.

 

On 31st March 1990 the IBRG held their Ard Fheis at the Sparkhill community centre in Birmingham with twelve branches sending delegates. Manchester, Haringey, Camden, Bolton, Southwark, Coventry, Lewisham, Birmingham, Hackney, Harrow, Lambeth and Leeds attended.

The following officers were elected;

Chair Bernadette Hyland Manchester

Vice Chair Laura Sullivan Hackney

Runai Virginia Moyles Hackney

Leas Runai Trevor Farrell Camden,

Cisteoir Maurice Moore Coventry

Membership Liz Fenton Camden

PRO Pat Reynolds Haringey

North regional coordinator Joe Mullarkey Bolton

Education Officer Caitlin Wright

Youth Officer Stefan Hannigan Camden

Women’s Officer Majella Crehan Haringey

Prisoners Officers Pat Sullivan Birmingham

It was agreed to raise annual membership to £5 for waged and £1 for unwaged. The Post of President and Vice President were deleted and the posts of Women’s Officer and Prisoners Officer were created and filled.

The following motions were passed;

That the IBRG prioritise two to four issues to work on each year,

That the IBRG welcome the release of the Guildford Four and demand the release of the Birmingham Six Judith ward, Martin Foran and the Winchester three,

That the IBRG calls again for an end of strip-searching,

That the IBRG welcome the release of Nelson Mandela and call for sanctions to be increased until apartheid is defeated,

That the IBRG condemn the killing of three young men at a bookie office in Belfast by Crown Forces

That the IBRG condemn the Irish government for its failure to tackle emigration and called for policies and programs to combat emigration.

Congratulate PRO on his work in combatting anti Irish racism in the media and ask the Ard Choiste to investigate the possibility of producing a pamphlet based on his work,

That IBRG seek meeting with Home Office to persuade them that the migrant Irish community be granted s11 funding.

That IBRG seek a meeting with the European Parliament Socialist Bureau in Dublin to obtain funding for the vital work IBRG does on behalf of the migrant Irish community

That IBRG meet with Alex McDonnell of Migrant Training Scheme and the MTS executive to discuss how all migrant Irish groups can work together so that we can have a combined strategy for the migrant Irish community.

The Irish Post covered the Ard Fheis with a photo of Bernadette Hyland, Laura Sullivan,  Majella Crehan and Virginia Moyles,  four leading lights of the IBRG. In February the Irish Post had covered the IBRG Ard Choiste meeting at the Working-Class Movement Library with a photo of those attending with Edmund Frow and showed Virginia Moyles, Caitlin Wright, Laura Sullivan, Bernadette Hyland,  Diarmuid Breatnach, Tracy Welling and Michael Connolly.

A photo from the Ard Fheis in the Irish World showed Laura Sullivan, Bernadette Hyland, Virginia Moyles, Pat Reynolds, Joe Mullarkey, Diarmuid Breatnach, Denis Casey, Majella Crehan, young Kevin Reynolds, Jodie Clark, Trevor Farrell and about six others but the quality of the photo with time is too poor to identify them.

The Andersonstown News on 21st April covered Pat Reynolds  to the Ard Fheis in full.  Changing Times for the Irish in Britain  which reached the Nationalist community in Belfast, and it covered all the major events of the previous year, the release of the Guildford Four, events in Northern Ireland on human rights and issues affecting the Irish community in Britain. ‘The release of the Guildford Four marks a historic point in the history of the Irish in Britain in that the prisoners, their families and the community have fought back and defeated British injustice against our community. We should not be grateful to the media and politicians for their support for their release, for if they were doing their rightful work, these innocent people would not have ended up in prison in the first place. The roots of this fightback by the Irish community lies in the heroic struggle of Bobby Sands and his nine comrades in 1981. And just as the struggle of Sands from his prison cell gave new energy to the struggle of the Irish people, the struggle of the Guildford Four and their release has uplifted our community in Britain. Not only was it a victory for Irish people, but a victory for all working-class people in Britain against   unjust laws and a corrupt legal system.’

The London Irish News also covered this speech with Irish people urged to take Pride in their Opposition which described the welfare money of half a million pounds  given by the Irish government for welfare in Britain as conscience money, when they were spending millions more supporting a colonial border in Ireland that forced its young to emigrate.

The three Irish papers in Britain covered the Ard Fheis and gave a list of elected officers plus the motions which were carried along with a photo.

Picket of Jim Davidson’s show in London

On 30th March the London Irish News headline  was “Comics show picketed over anti Irish humour”. The Campaign Against Racism in the Media had picketed   Jim Davidson’s show at the Theatre Royal in central London. It hit out at Thames TV for broadcasting the shows, which was watched by about 10 million views.

Trevor O’Farrell of Camden IBRG had an excellent letter in the Irish Post headed Time to bury the hatchets in response to the Irish Post editor using the letters pages to run bogus letters against IBRG each week in his paper.

The Irish Post, to its shame, had become an Irish community public laundry where the editor allowed individuals doing nothing for their own community to attack those working day and night to create better life for Irish people in Britain. It was a most shameful chapter in the history of the Irish Post, and appeared like a deliberate campaign, since there was a clear duty on an editor to ensure that letter writers were genuine, many papers often asked for a phone number to confirm identify, and checked the addresses to see if they existed at least.

On 3rd April the IBRG led a picket of the High Court in the Strand for the Winchester Three.

On 7th April Pat Reynolds was speaking at a public meeting at the Haringey Irish Centre on Black and Irish racist stereotypes at which Michael D. Higgins, future President, spoke.

On 21st April IBRG members attended an Irish Consultative Meeting on the Irish community at Camden Town Hall. Over 200 people attended the conference which came up with a range of recommendations including recognising the Irish. They later brought out a report on the conference entitled The Voice of the Irish. It was estimated that 15% of Camden population was Irish. Why did it take Camden with its Camden Irish centre 8 years to raise the question of recognition of the Irish community, when Islington and other places had raised it?  The IBRG had had their Mental Health Conference there a few years earlier.

Winchester Three Released

On 27th April the IBRG were picketing the Old Bailey on the day the Winchester three were released. An editorial in the Andersonstown News  on the verdict  on 5th May stated ‘ The most telling comment on the Winchester Three case  came not in the reams of esoteric legal considerations in the bewildering verbal volleyball that passes for legal debate, but rather on the T-shirt of an overjoyed young Irishman outside the Old Bailey which sported the legend ‘Innocent until Proven Irish’ That young man was the IBRG PRO, Pat Reynolds. See headline photograph.

The IBRG called on Tom King to resign because of his public comments at the time of the Winchester Three trial on the right to silence, since he was the alleged victim. Tom King the alleged victim stated during the trial ‘It is a very old saying by a distinguished jurist that innocence plead for a change to make its case, and it is silence that is offering an opportunity for the guilty’.  Lord Denning, ex Master of the Rolls, chipped in ‘It’s only the guilty person who says Oh I claim my right to silence, am not going to say anything’.

Following the decision to free the Winchester Three Lord Denning criticised the appeal court for being most unfair. Denning was known for his bigoted views on Irish cases, and appeared to condone the hangings of innocent Irish people.  The IBRG condemned the British media for their role in the case saying their collusion with injustice marks another shameful chapter of trial by media.

The IBRG asked the DPP to investigate whether there had been a direct attempt to pervert the course of justice in the case.   The Winchester Three should have been free to leave but were again arrested under the racist PTA and served with deportations orders.

The Andersonstown News in its editorial stated ‘the Three were convicted in the first place on the most circumstantial of evidence which would not have stood up in any court in the world. They were convicted on the new discredited charge of conspiracy which seems reserved for cases involving Irish people, in which no other evidence can be unearthed to warrant other charges. The Birmingham Six the Guildford Four and Judith Ward all stand testament to the crushing inhumanity of British justice in its dealing with Irish people and that is why it is incumbent upon all of us who believe in the inalienable right of every human being to a fair trial when accused of an offense to strive to keep as many people a possible out of the hands of this unjust system by vigorously opposing extradition’.

The IBRG called for action on a report which showed the Irish in Britain had the highest levels of mortality at an early age of life.

On 30th April Nick Mullen’s trial started at the Old Bailey. The IBRG sent an observer to the trial.

The Southwark Irish Forum had their AGM in April with IBRG members Diarmuid Breatnach, Steve Brennan, Jodie Clark and Maire Steadman elected to the Management Committee.  The Irish Post carried a photo of the gallant crew.

Haringey IBRG launched their Spring season of Irish videos with the Irish In England parts 1 and 2 being shown at the Haringey Irish Centre over two weeks.

The Dolan column in the Irish Post  had an article asking why more Irish did not stand in local elections like other ethnic communities.  IBRG has several who did; Jim King in Salford, Jodie Clark in Southwark, Seamus Carey and Brian Miller in Haringey, Arthur Devlin in Bolton, Sally Mulready and John Fahy of the Federation, and Gerry Lawless and others.  In addition, you had an Irish councillor group in London and Irish in Britain Parliamentary Group, the question is “what did they deliver to the community at any stage”.

Many of the best people on Ireland and the Irish community were not Irish, Ken Livingstone, Corbyn, Benn and others. As Islington IBRG found out all you needed were Irish constituents to persuade local councillors to do the right thing. Bernie Grant did more for the Irish in Haringey than George Meehan of the Federation who was leader of Haringey. Jim Murphy’s regular feature in the Irish Post that the Irish in each constituency should host a meeting before the   the General election, had no evidence behind it as such meeting did little to affect the local vote. In Vauxhall, Kate Hoey did not even turn up and still won with a landslide, despite over 100 turning up for a public meeting.

The voting system in Britain worked against communities having any power and Operation Black vote could not even manage this. It was another red herring without any evidence as IBRG showed late when IBRG won ethnic recognition in over 90% of local authorities in Britain.

There were far more effective ways of winning battles than public meetings. For example, why not attend another republic meeting and raised the question of Ireland as Dennis Healey’s father did when he floored his son when he asks what Labour would do about Northern Ireland.

Pat Reynolds, one person, attended an Abbey National Share Holders meeting of over 1,000 people and raised the question of employment discrimination in Northern  Ireland in the meeting, which had a tremendous effect and got media coverage. Most Irish people live in large majority constituencies where their vote has   little power. Best idea would be in each election to target marginal constituencies and  attend meetings organised by others and raise the question of Ireland.

In May two members of Bolton IBRG (Arthur Devlin and Noel Spencer) were standing in the local elections for Labour. The Irish Post asked “where are all the other Arthur Devlin’s in Britain”. Arthur was chair of the NW Birmingham Six Campaign. The Irish Post noted that very few Irish people were standing in local elections in Britain.

On 6th May the IBRG held a joint event with the Working-Class Movement Library on the Official Opening of the Irish Collection there which included the Desmond Greaves and TA Jackson library and collections, comprising thousands of items.

 

Birmingham Hunger Strike March

On 12th May IBRG branches took part in the Birmingham Hunger Strike March with Pat Reynolds being one of the Platform speakers. He described the 1981 Hunger Strike as the most significant event in Ireland since 1916 in terms of its impact upon Irish consciousness worldwide. He further called for no extradition to Britain where the dice was loaded against Irish people in political show and media trails.  The Sinn Fein speaker Brendan O Caolain stated that despite all the repression used in Northern  Ireland the Irish people remain unbowed, unbroken and undefeated. The photo in the Irish Post included the IBRG banner.

On 18th May IBRG member stood part in a picket of the Irish Embassy for Brian Keenan.  The Irish Post photo showed Pat Reynolds on the picket line there. On the same day Pat Reynolds heard back from the Home Office on IBRG representations on the Birmingham Six. The letter stated ‘as you may know the Home Secretary has recently received further detailed representations about the safety of the convictions, which he is examining. As a part of this examination, the Home Secretary has asked the Chief Constable of the West Midlands Police for a report on a number of specific points about the convictions, and the Chief Constable has asked the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary to carry out further inquiries. It will be in the light of the result of these inquires, that the Home Secretary will consider whether his further intervention in the case is justified’.

On 19th May the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in Islington (which was largely an IBRG initiative) with 13 delegates present including Caitlin Wright, Gearoid McGearailt, Diarmuid Breatnach, Stefan Hannigan, Aine Fitzgerald, Pat O’Sullivan, Liz Fenton, Trevor O’Farrell, Pat Reynolds, Majella Crehan, Laura Sullivan, and Virginia Moyles.

Apologies from Joe Mullarkey, Jodie Clark, Bernadette Hyland, and Maurice Moore.

Condolences were passed to Caitlin Wright on the death of her husband Reverend  David Wright who had been a hard-working member of Bolton IBRG for many years and  who went on one of the Dublin delegations. Condolences were also passed to the relatives of Cardinal O’Fiach who was a great language and human rights defender, who had intervened in the Hunger strikes to try an end it in a positive way.

The meeting welcomed the release of the Winchester Three which Haringey IBRG were involved in. Pat Reynolds reported on the campaign to have the Irish language recognised in the British school curriculum. John Bruton had written to the English Ambassador in Ireland on the matter, while the Irish Labour Party was supportive.  The European Bureau for Lesser Languages, the Irish Women’s centre, the Brent Irish centre, LACE, Cairde na Gael, Green Ink, Irish in Islington project and the Socialist teacher group supported the IBRG campaign.  The Irish Times, the Irish Post, the Irish World, the London Irish News, the Irish News, Andersonstown News, and An Phoblacht had given the issue full coverage for IBRG. The meeting decided to write to the five main Irish community organisations in Britain in terms of establishing a community broad front.  The left broad front on Ireland had broken down as expected.

On 24th May IBRG members attended  a public meeting of over 300 people in Haringey on the EEC report into racism and Xenophobia in Europe to which the IBRG had made a submission on behalf of the Irish in Britain outlining the racism and discrimination the Irish faced in the media, in employment, housing and in health.

IBRG also raised the issue of the Birmingham Six framed  because of their Irishness and the racist PTA laws. Paddy Cooney MEP one of the EEC party stunned the audience by trying to defend the racist British PTA laws, and got some boos.

On 22nd June the London Irish News carried the headline IBRG seek European Help on Racism and Discrimination. The report covered the IBRG submission to Europe which called for the repeal of the racist PTA laws, the release of the Birmingham Six and Judith ward, the ending of strip searching, the end of exploitative conditions on building sites which led to deaths of workers,  and for action on employment, health, housing, prisoners, language and culture education and judicial policies in the UK which led to many innocent Irish people being wrongly jailed.

The IBRG submission stated The IBRG pledge itself to fight against all forms of racism and discrimination and to campaign for equal rights for all communities. The political voice of the Irish in Britain must be heard in Europe as the Irish government would appear to restrict their interest in Europe to only those living in Ireland and have denied the Irish living abroad the votes as citizens of Ireland and of Europe. In Nt Ireland the IBRG wanted the European parliament to support the McBride Principles to end employment discrimination there, the use of plastic bullets the Diplock Courts, shoot to kill policy, and to support a political settlement there.

On 25th May the IBRG helped to organise a benefit at the Roger Casement Irish centre for the Falls Road Women’s Centre.

The Irish Post continued in May to run a sectarian letter writing campaign against the IBRG including   ’Not another IBRG empty threat on the question of recognition of the Irish language which was clearly nonsense, as there was a clear record of achievement there including holding a conference and gathering supporters in the community.  Another letter stated IBRG was anti catholic which was clear nonsense and made up. A third letter attacked a photo of in the Irish Post of four IBRG women’s officers as four pretty young girls wondering where the children were. This was clear nonsense as many parents and single parents were in IBRG, and this nonsense would not be spoken about regarding men. Why the Post published such sexist rubbish was shameful.

On 23rd May Pat Reynolds received a letter from the Managing Director of the Sun newspaper after the Press Council had sent  them the IBRG complaint about their Editorial on the Winchester Three. The Sun admitted and stated ‘I accept without equivocation that there was an error in our editorial of April 30th 1990.’

The Irish Liaison Unit of Haringey Council invited IBRG members to the launch of their report on the Social situation of Irish elderly in Haringey at the Haringey Irish Centre. A research Report which highlighted the discrimination suffered by Irish elders, and suggested ways of addressing it including special group housing for Irish elders. The speakers were Gurbut Singh, CEO Haringey, and later Head of the CRE, Paul Cullen Irish Embassy, Sr. Joan Kane who ran the Irish Welfare Centre in Haringey, and the Deputy Mayor of Haringey Frederick Knight. IBRG member  Maureen Higgins chaired the meeting.

Report on mortality of Irish

In May the Irish News covered a story Group urges more cash for the immigrant Irish. It covered the CPCS report on Mortality and Geography which showed that the Irish had the highest early death mortality rate of any immigrant group in the UK. Irishmen between 20 and 69 had twice the rate of the Italian community and Irish women were more than double that of Spanish or Portuguese women. The Scottish, many of whom were Irish, also had higher rates.

The IBRG in response called on the Irish Government to become more proactive in support of the Irish community in Britain with Pat Reynolds stating that the position of the Irish in Britain was compounded by poor employment, dangerous work on building sites, and as dinner women and home helps, poorer housing and much homelessness. Problems with mental health and alcohol misuse were added to by the social conditions, and the discrimination and racism faced by many working-class Irish in Britain.

At the end of May Pat Reynolds had a letter in the Irish Post as IBRG PRO to mop up all the anti IBRG letters published by the Irish Post over the preceding weeks. The letter stated ‘there has recently been a number of letters in the Irish Post from individual personal viewpoints on the IBRG. While we welcome that many recognise our efforts in terms of the cultural, welfare and Irish consciousness work that the IBRG engage in, we are surprised that some have sought to misrepresent the nature of our work. Constructive criticism is always welcome, and we are able to take it on board. However exaggerated claims and cheap innuendos without a shred of evidence to back it can hardly be taken seriously’.

It went on later to state”The 1980’s was a historical period of community building by the Irish community in Britain of which the IBRG were part of…. The IBRG reflects the struggle of the Irish community, it is part of that community. It is the combined efforts of all the community which is effective in achieving change…Contrary to claims of my imminent canonisation, my role within the IBRG has been a very minor one. It has been an honour to represent a hard-working team of officers and member throughout the country. The support given to the IBRG by the Irish community has been tremendous and it has been a humbling experience to receive their warm support. Cheap labels and anti-Catholic jibes are no substitute for political debate. The Irish people have shown little patience for such labels. The challenge of the1990’s is to build a better future for our community and other struggling community sin Britain, to continue the fight of all peoples for self-determination.”

The letter was successful in killing off the vicious anti IBRG letter writing campaign. Here the PRO referred to a support network which he did not go into. On every issue there was a network of support from IBRG officers and members,  branches,  other organisation and member of the public.

On anti-Irish racism,  Liz Curtis of Information on Ireland, carried out brilliant work and was supportive of IBRG, Sean Sexton of Waltham Forest ran a successful campaign for Irish representation in the media getting thousands of signatures, Green Ink performed a huge cultural role via the bookshop, its stalls at events and festivals and by the London Irish Bookfair which had the biggest political meeting of the year,  and the PRO had the support of two projects Haringey and Lambeth IBRG along with the Irish workers groups. On the Homelessness campaign in Camden Laura Sullivan and Diarmuid Breathnach supported it plus Camden IBRG and Brian Miller. Majella Crehan and Trevor Farrell and Caitriona Scanlon all worked wonders.

Individuals members of the Irish community volunteered out of their own pockets to monitor different papers, but no one would volunteer to buy the Sun, so one individual promised to visit the local library every day to scan it. Irish journalists helped out at times and were supportive. Without that supportive community the IBRG would have been a fish out of water.

Fleadh and challenge to Police over filming event.

On 3rd June Pat Reynolds challenged the Metropolitan  police uniformed officers who were filming inside the Fleadh in Finsbury, and despite threatening to arrest him, he challenged under the law that they were breaching the civil rights of the people attending. They were forced out of the Fleadh with a flea in their ear.  Other people present defending his right to challenge them included Sr Joan Kane.   They took out their little evidence notebook but had to put back in their little pocket without any names. The IBRG had a stall at the Fleadh with the banner and books for sale. The matter got huge coverage in the media.

The IBRG in a statement said ‘the enjoyment of Irish culture would now appear to be a subversive activity in Thatcher’s Britain. We would suggest that if they want to video festival they should start with Ascot where some frequent who were involved in judicial crimes against Irish people’. The Commissioner of the Met Police, later in writing, apologised to Pat Reynolds PRO for the conduct of his officers on the day.

The IBRG had made a formal complaint to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police over this infringement of Irish civil liberties, when the police were videos and taking photos of the Birmingham Six and IBRG stalls and Green Ink bookshop and the Irish Chaplaincy stall.

 

On 7th June Bolton IBRG screened the video by Phil Donnellan The Irishmen for the local community. Bolton IBRG were represented on Bolton Council’s Race Equality committee and the Ethnic Minorities Joint Consultative Committee. The video charts the experiences in Britain of Irish emigrants who worked on the construction of the Victoria Tube line in London and on motorways by Philip Donnellan.  Joe Mullarkey of Bolton IBRG stated There must be in Bolton, many who emigrated in the 1950’s, who will find it interesting and who would like to contrast their experiences with those of the Irish people featured in the film. The IBRG is doing extremely good work for the Irish in Bolton and have been accepted onto the local Race Equality Council and the ethnic minorities Joint Consultative Committee. The branch is keen to hear from new members who they have something to contribute to both of these bodies.

 

On 8th June IBRG members supported a Winchester Three benefit at the Brent Irish Centre with speakers from the Birmingham Six, Winchester Three and Tottenham Three campaigns. Haringey IBRG were involved in organising the Benefit and designed a poster for it.

On 12th June North London IBRG met with Virginia Moyles, Majella Crehan and Pat Reynolds present with apologies from Laura Sullivan and Catriona Scanlan. The meeting discussed producing a pamphlet on the Media and the PTA.

On 14th June the Home Office announced that the convictions of the Maguire Seven cannot be upheld because of the irregularities in the scientific evidence. Later on, 12th July the Maguire family case is referred back to the Court of Appeal.

On 23rd June the IBRG Ard Choiste met in Birmingham at Sparkhill Community Centre.

On 23rd June Nelson Mandela, when asked about the IRA  in a press conference in New York   stated that every community is entitled to fight for its right to self-determination, later in Dublin on 2nd July he states that there should be talks between British government and the IRA.

In Southwark the IBRG defended the exhibition Ireland the Right to Know which was attacked by the right-wing Tory press and was under threat from the Labour Party. In the end the Borough Solicitor had to vet every single picture going into the exhibition, and he had no knowledge of art.

Pat O’Sullivan, Pat Reynolds (30 posters from Irish community Campaigns) Joanne O Brien, Peter Moloney and Laoi Minto all put on materials. Southwark Borough Solicitor arrived, looked at all 88 items of art work very carefully, saying nothing. He decided not to remove any art work but wanted major changes to the catalogue explaining the work. The only reference left in to socialism was Oscar Wilde ‘the soul of man under socialism’, the Borough solicitor stating, I don’t want to go down as the Borough Solicitor who cut down Oscar Wilde’. Because of a small article in the South London press about IRA film show taken up by the right-wing tabloids and Labour panicked. The exhibition went on later at the Brixton Recreation Centre.

In June Trevor O’Farrell had a letter in the Irish Post advocating Votes in Ireland for the Irish abroad. His letter was headed Voting Rights Campaign Vital. Trevor challenged Jim Murphy on his idea of holding constituency meetings on Irish issues and its value, he argued that having the vote in Ireland would give the Irish in Britain much more power as the constituents in Ireland were much smaller and based on PR. It would give the Irish in Britain a bigger voice in Ireland and on N. Ireland and also in Europe and on Irish foreign policy. The Irish Civil Rights Movement had stood in the 1970s in a number of constituencies and only received a tiny number of votes in strong Irish areas. The voting system in the UK needs to be changed to a form of PR voting before any minority communities can wield any kind of power.

In July the Federation of Irish Societies had their annual conference in Limerick and highlighted a shopping trip for the ladies to Limerick during the   main conference session, where no doubt the men were taking the big decisions.

In July the IBRG welcomed  a Lambeth Council  Report on a review of their  Equal Opportunities Policy 1976-1989. Pat Reynolds IBRG community worker in Lambeth stated  ‘Its recognition of past failures to address the expressed needs of the Irish community, and its proposals to integrate  the Irish into all levels of their new Equal opportunities represents a step forward’. Lambeth IBRG had made a detailed written and oral submission to the review team and felt that many of the issues raised by IBRG were now included in the Review. The new proposals would include the Irish community in all Equal opportunities provision with specialist Irish staff, along with Irish representation on advisory committees by April 1991.

The Irish News in Belfast carried the story Lambeth’s ruling on Irish may help homeless.  A major London boroughs decision to make its Irish community an official ethnic group may make significant inroads towards alleviating the homeless crisis facing many Irish immigrants The Irish were four time over represented in Lambeth’s homeless figures with an Irish population of some 30,000 in the borough which included the notorious cardboard city on the South bank.

London Irish Festival and Birmingham Six protest

In July despite the ban on the Birmingham Six the IBRG took a Free the Birmingham Six banner made the night before on the Park Counties Parade of the LIF  carried by Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds, and got a great reception from the crowd. Outside the gates the Birmingham Six protested with their banner. The Irish Post put the photo of the banner on its front page.

The IBRG criticised the Irish Ambassador and Gerry Collins , the Irish Foreign Minister,   for lending their support to the Festival in its official programme. ‘The IBRG expresses deep concern that the Irish Foreign Minister and the Ambassador Andrew O Rourke should endorse and congratulate  the Festival committee  of the London Irish Festival, at a time when it has denied the Birmingham Six  a stall to publicise their campaign. While the Festival is in its 16th year the Birmingham Six are in their 16th year in prison. It is insulting of the Irish government to be unaware of the festival committees offensive and deplorable stand on the Birmingham Six. The IBRG feel strongly as do the community that the Irish Foreign Minister and the Irish Ambassador should not be endorsing this event but should be calling for the release of these innocent Irishmen.  The endorsement of the festival Committee is incompatible with the Irish government new support that the Birmingham Six case be examined’.

The Irish Post carried a photograph of the Free the Birmingham Six banner which was placed outside the main entrance by the Birmingham Six campaign Group. There were hopes that the case of the Birmingham Six would reach the floor of the Labour Party Conference for the first time. People had forgotten that it was the Labour Party who brought in the racist PTA to police the Irish community and Labour were in power when they put away the Birmingham Six ,Guildford Four, the Maguire Seven and Judith Ward, part of Labour’s shameful record on their treatment of Irish people in Britain. Now trade union support was coming behind the Birmingham with COHSE backing the campaign along with others.

Meanwhile John Morison a former deputy governor of Wormwood Scrubs Prison in London was ordained a priest and kept six seats empty at his ceremony in Edinburgh for the six men who,  having met,  he   believing to be innocent.

Southwark Irish Festival

On 14/15th July the IBRG members took part in the Southwark Irish Festival- the biggest festival outside of the London Irish Festival – but the Southwark one was free and sponsored by the Council to celebrate Irish culture in Southwark and raised funds via its programme  which carried local and Council advertisements. IBRG members Steve Brennan and Jodie Clark were involved in organising the Festival with Jodie just elected as a Labour councillor in east Dulwich.

It opened on Friday evening with Currachs on the Thames at Surrey Docks. Southwark was an old Irish settlement place and here the Irish Literary society was founded which later led on to the Gaelic renaissance. Here too Ronald Reagan family rested before going on to America in 1851 and here Liam McCarthy after which the All Hurling Final Cup is named after, is buried. Here too is Southwark Cathedral where Terence MacSwiney’s body came to before its journey to Ireland, and which Ho Chi Minh witnessed, and remarked that a nation with such brave people could never be defeated. The Irish too ran the docks on the river before they were closed in the 1960’s when it moved to Tilbury with containerisation.

In July Bernadette Hyland had a major article in the Irish Post on the Irish writer Kate O’Brien.

In July Coventry IBRG put on three evenings of traditional music in Coventry with Colmtas where Kevin Hayes was playing in one of the groups. In December 1988 Coventry City Council Leisure Services commissioned an audit of arts services in the city and their final report stated ‘Greater recognition is needed for the flourishing culture of the Irish community, which represents some 15% of the population of Coventry’.

 In July Pat Reynolds PRO took on Joe Haines of the Daily Mirror over a shocking article on the Birmingham Six it was headed,  Don’t say it, prove it   The article was accompanied by a cartoon with the heading ‘The Birmingham Six might be guilty OK.. This was shocking coming from the Daily Mirror and Joe Haines so associated with the Labour and yet Labour staying silent on the matter.

The London Irish News headed the story Mirror condemned on Birmingham Six issue. The IBRG had complained to the Ombudsman at the Mirror British Labour MP Peter Archer who rejected the IBRG complaint Pat Reynolds condemned these two Labour Party people as being living in a colonial age. He called the decision a ‘home town refereeing decision’.

The article was ill-informed, distorted and made several insinuations about the campaign for justice without a shred of evidence to back them.  It ignored all the established facts which favour the six men such as the forensic evidence of Dr Skuse. Haines tried to link six innocent men with the IRA in the article when he stated that the IRA maintained  the six were innocent ‘But they would do that wouldn’t they’ said the ignorant Haines who would have known the men to be innocent. Peter Archer was protecting his Labour mate rather than dealing with complaint. Haines also drew attention to George Davis campaign where an East End man had been released after a campaign only to be later  arrested  for a robbery.

The article ended by calling on the Six to prove their innocent. Pat Reynolds pointed out that this was a reversal of the presumption of innocence and it was for the state to prove guilt, not for the men to prove their innocence. It seems in Britain that when it comes to Irish people the onus is reversed and the Irish time and again have to prove their innocent not just in the court but in the media. Meanwhile Dr Skuse was being let go at work on grounds of limited ability, after his work on the Birmingham Six and Maguire cases, Judith Ward and the Gillespie sisters.

 On 30th July IBRG members attended a Public Meeting on British Justice  What Justice at the Haringey Irish centre. It raised the cases of the Birmingham Six and Tottenham Three. Speakers included  Breda Power, daughter of Billy Power, Sharon Raghip, wife of Engin Raghip,  of Tottenham three, Paul May Chair of B6 campaign, Bernie Grant MP and Paul Foot. The meeting was organised by Haringey Trades Council.

On 30th July the IRA killed  Ian Gow MP,  a personal friend of Thatcher.

On 31st July the IBRG received a letter back from Ray Burke TD Minister for Justice to say that the Irish government would not issue any stamps for the 75th anniversary of the 1916 Rising as they had in 1966. The IBRG earlier had asked the Irish community in Britain to come together to celebrate 1916 in 1991 and to start planning now, with the idea of putting on a month series of events.

On 30th July the IBRG received a report from Pauline Green,  MEP for London North,  which included the 77 recommendations of the European parliament work on Racism and Xenophobia to which IBRG had made a submission. The Parliament was due to debate the report on 10th September and Pauline wanted feedback from IBRG. The report and recommendation were very generic and did not mention any individual state just set out recommendations about rights for migrants from voting to language and culture, so very useful for Irish community. It also talked about far-right organisations and how to combat them.

In August Diarmuid Breatnach of Lewisham IBRG paid tribute to local member Kathleen Henry in the Irish World on her passing and her contribution to the Irish community, entitled Behind the scenes a tribute to Kathleen Henry, a page long article, on her lifelong contribution to the community. The Irish Post covered the tribute as a letter from Diarmuid Breatnach. In August the Irish Post ran five photos of a joint Lewisham IBRG/Greenwich Irish project lunch and Ceile at the local Amersham Arms

On 24th August Brian Keenan was  released after 1,600 day as a hostage in Beirut.

On 29th August the Home Secretary announced that the case of the Birmingham Six is to be sent back to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that fresh scientific evidence suggests that a crucial part of the evidence leading to the conviction of two of the men may have been fabricated.

The IBRG had a major success in its battle against anti Irish racism in the British media when the Independent (British) Ombudsman ruled that a report carried in the Independent on the London Fleadh was ‘clearly exaggerated and insensitive’.

The article claimed everyone at the Fleadh was drunk, with 15 different references to drink. Two other articles in the Independent by Stan Gebler Davies ‘clearly risked giving offense’ according to the Ombudsman for the Independent. This was an important victory which sent a signal to the quality press that anti Irish racism in the media would be challenged. The article on the Fleadh ‘thirst among equals’ and the IBRG found the article to be racist stereotypical insulting inaccurate, biased misleading and exaggerated’.

Stan Gebler Davis was well known for his anti-Irish material, and in this he  says “the easier way to learn Gaelic is to murder someone for the IRA’ and  ‘The Irish have decided to re-join the world, they are going to quit violence and murder No more bombs or slaughter. The IBRG called it anti Irish propaganda and that anti Irish propaganda in the media aligned with British and Irish censorship serves the purpose of promoting British political policies in Ireland.

IBRG condemned the Irish Government  for its silence and ineffectiveness  in challenging this anti Irish propaganda in the British media which was an insult to the Irish at home and abroad, and it is sad  that the defence of the Irish people and Irish identify and culture  has been left entirely to the  voluntary efforts on individuals and organisations in the community. The issue got huge coverage in Ireland from An Phoblacht to the Andersonstown News.

Funding cut to Haringey IBRG

Councillor  Seamus Carey of Haringey Council confirmed in a letter to the Irish Post that the decision by Haringey Council to cut funding to the IBRG project was political and was to reduce Tory scope for criticism. Fifteen councillors voted against the cuts to IBRG with 20 voting for the cuts,  including Irish councillor George Meehan and member of the Federation.

In the same month Haringey IBRG praised Haringey Council for its employment policies towards the Irish community with 10% of the Town Hall staff coming from the Irish community. The IBRG drew attention to the success of Local Authorities in London in recruiting minority staff compared with the situation in N. Ireland where nothing had changed in over twenty years of Direct Rule.

Mitchell McLoughlin of Derry Sinn Fein used the Haringey example to demand changes on equality in N. Ireland. Mitchell stated that the Haringey case study showed what could be done with political will power, but this was missing in N. Ireland.

In this  case the IBRG , by using equality issues in Britain, had an input into equality issues in N. Ireland where the story got good coverage. Haringey had increased the number of minority staff working with the council from 21% in 1985 to 39% by December 1989, which showed what could be done with determination even at a time in Britain of public cuts under Thatcherism. The IBRG statement said’ The British maintenance of a division of labour based on supposed racial characteristics of the two communities is geared towards the political control of both communities and to upkeep British colonial policies in Ireland.”

On 3rd September Pat Reynolds PRO had an interview with BBC  Belfast on the 1991 census and the exclusion of the Irish. The Irish Independent in Dublin carried story Irish seek ethnic status which covered a new campaign for Irish recognition led by Seamus Taylor of the Haringey Irish Liaison Unit where although excluded from the 1991 census, was urging Irish people to tick other and write in Irish. The CRE had stated that there is strong evidence of Irish disadvantage in Britain. There were over one million people in Britain who consider themselves as Irish.

On 12th September Pat Reynolds was speaking at Conway Hall at a public meeting on Irish culture in Britain.

On 15th September the IBRG Ard Choiste was held in Brighton at the Unemployed centre. Eleven delegates attended including Caitlin Wright, Diarmuid Breatnach, Pat Reynolds, Pat O Sullivan, Martin Connolly, Siobhan Hiers, Majella Crehan, Virginia Moyles and Kevin Hayes. Apologies from Bernadette Hyland, Laura Sullivan, Maurice Moore, Maude Casey.

Condolences were passed to Virginia Moyles on the death of her mother and to the relatives of Kathleen Henry in Lewisham.

The meeting decided to go ahead with a St Patricks Day March in 1991, and heard that the Comhcomhairle would take place on 20th October, the Haringey IBRG education conference on 13th October,  and the Lambeth Welfare conference on 3rd November.

It was decided to support the 1991 Bloody Sunday march with £50 and for Virginia Moyles and Majella Crehan to join the organising group, and to support the six demands of the Irish prisoners in Nr Ireland, on the Irish language and to support the O’Fiaich Principles on the Irish language which was launched in Belfast.

The meeting heard of the campaign on the Irish language and that Irish classes were ongoing in Haringey, Lambeth, Harrow, Bolton and in other areas and of plans for IBRG Irish language badges. The meeting heard reports from London Birmingham and the North West of plans to commemorate the Spirit of 1916 next year.

The meeting heard that the CRE had not been responsive to the Irish community at the last meeting. It was noted that Southwark IBRG had folded.

Diarmuid Breatnach has designed badges for the Irish language, 1916 anniversary, and the IBRG which he was having produced.

The meeting supported a Haringey motion demanding an end to the British ban on correspondence in Irish for prisoners and the ban on Irish being spoken during visits, the ban on the fainne, the non-recognition of Irish names, the censorship on Irish language publications, and the ban on Gaelic sports. These  were clearly racist and discriminatory.

Another motion from Haringey  was passed calling for the right of every Irish person to an education through the medium of Irish, the establishment of an Irish language TV station and radio station, the right to deal with public bodies in Irish, for all prisoners to be allowed full rights in the Irish language, that the ban on street signs in Belfast on Irish names be repealed,  that the ban on Irish in the City Hall be lifted,  and that the grant aid to the Irish language in N. Ireland be provided on a par with the English language and arts support.

On 18th September Pat Reynolds had an interview with BBC Radio Belfast.

 

Irish Language and funding of Glor na Gael in West Belfast

In September the IBRG condemned the withdrawal of £90K funding from Glor naGael in West Belfast and made representations that it be restored immediately. Roger Stott,  Labour’s spokesperson on N. Ireland,  also asked for a full explanation and for the money to be restored.  Glor na nGael had seven junior schools, in West Belfast and had 19 employees who were continuing to work without wages for the children. Mary O’Rourke the Irish Minister for Education had also raised the issue with the British.

On 29th September the Irish Post carried a major story Irish language schools win more support based on a motion from Aldershot Labour Party a constituency which had strong military bases. The motion deplored the decision to cut £90K from Glor na Gael in Belfast and called on Kevin McNamara to step up support for the Irish language.  The article wrote up the forthcoming IBRG Education Conference in Haringey which was featuring La, the Belfast Irish language paper.

Christine Crawley MEP, raised a question in European Parliament on behalf of IBRG on the Irish language being excluded from the National Curriculum of modern European language in Britain given the size of the Irish community in Britain. Pressure from IBRG also led to the Irish language question being put on the intergovernmental conference. The question read ‘ What is the Commission’s  response to the concerns expressed by many European citizens that the Irish language, which is a European Community treaty Language and one included in the Lingua program, is not, at present, included in the British Government’s  list of languages for the national school curriculum’

The Irish community in Britain are being denied equal rights in the recognition of their language, when all the major communities in Britain have their language recognised except the African and Irish people’.

The Department of Education and Science  had written to Pat Reynolds to state ‘Irish does not appear on the list of languages eligible to be on the National Curriculum modern foreign languages foundation subject in England and Wales because for this purpose, a modern foreign language has been assumed to exclude languages found only within the British Isles. It is also rarely if ever studied as the first modern foreign language in schools. This colonial view of Ireland being in the British Isles was never accepted by Irish people as Ireland is not British, but they can claim the Isle of Wight.

On 30th September the British army shot dead two teenage joyriders in Belfast and are accused of running a shoot to kill policy. Later in 1993 Private Lee Clegg was found guilty of murdering Karen Reilly,  one of the kids and was sentenced to life imprisonment. A second member of the parachute regiment was sentenced to 12 years  for perverting the cause of justice in the case. Within a short time, both would be released.

On 1st October Haringey IBRG put on Mother Ireland at the Haringey Irish centre the first of three weekly video showings. The Irish Question was shown on 29th October, and Moving Myths on 26th November, The London Irish News covered it with End of Myths and Censorship and earlier Film season devotes its theme to censorship.

On 6th October the IBRG won a victory against the News of The World over the figures it used over deaths in N. Ireland where it stated the IRA were responsible for all the deaths in N. Ireland and refused to correct it. The News of the World and Murdoch were forced to publish the verdict in their papers and  at last the PRO got his name into the News of the World. The IBRG stated ‘Far from being impartial on the issue of violence the British and Irish media often condones violence against the Nationalist community and uses propaganda to shift the responsibility for the primary violence from the British state onto the nationalist community’.

On 11th October the first meeting of the London Reclaim the Spirit of 1916  group was held at the Roger Casement Irish Centre. It followed on from a letter in the Irish weeklies calling on the Irish community in Britain to organise events all over the country to commemorate 1916.

On 12th October the Irish World covered another IBRG victory with Abbey National drops anti Irish advert “Back in a tick, Mick with a workbench, wood and a shovel”.

On 12th October the Irish World ran an editorial on trial by media in which it asks. Where is the voice of the Irish in Britain? The IBRG have protested but have others? They will tell you that they have protested. Silence is no good. Silence is consent’. Later it stated ‘Sections of the Irish community are quick to decry terrorism but they should realise that continued injustice is the incubator that produces all terrorists. Fairness evolves from strength of character and the leaders of the Irish community must unswerving loyalty and commitment to their own’.

Arrest of two Irish people at Stonehenge and IBRG response

An Phoblacht carried an article Trial by Media which covered the IBRG response to the British media over the arrest of two Irish citizens at Stonehenge. The IBRG stated that the British media had driven a coach and horse through any concept of subjudice. The Sun had IRA seized in Stonehenge with ‘a deadly IRA cell was captured in a dramatic ambush by armed police last night,’ while Today had 3 Held for Gow Murder IRA showdown at Stonehenge. The Star had Irish held in terror swoop, the Express proclaimed IRA cell trapped by police Armed police in IRA swoop.

Pat Reynolds stated that the presumption of innocence is not given to Irish people arrested in Britain. The Sun followed up by College Kids who kill for the IRA which put Irish students at risk in Britain. The alleged interview by the Sun had never taken place, and the story was invented.

Kevin Hayes of the West Midlands PTA campaign stated that anti Irish hysteria in the British media was responsible for the arrest of three students at Staffordshire Poly who were released after seven hours. Kevin Hayes called the Sun report irresponsible and unfounded. The National Union of Students had complained to the Press Council over the Sun article as did the Student Union in Ireland as Queens University Belfast  had been named as a  hotbed of recruitment.

 

On 13th October Haringey IBRG hosted the IBRG National Conference on Education at the Haringey Irish centre. Speakers included Dr Elinor Kelly author of Anti-Racism after Burnage which included racism against Irish children, and Eoghan O Neill of the Irish language paper La.

Over 80 people attended the conference which was later drafted into a report with  1,000 copies circulated. The report had some twenty recommendations regarding the Irish community and Education.

Siobhan Ui Neill led a seminar as Gaeilge on the Irish language, Maude Casey ran a workshop on Our censured Voice, while Catriona Scanlan ran a workshop in English on the Irish language,  Anne Rossiter ran a workshop on Irish women and British education, with Mike Carroll running one on Youth provision for a Positive identity, Brian Foster on Travellers a Right to education, Irish History Alan Clinton, and Brigid Loughran on Anti Irish racism. The report covered all the keynotes speakers and the workshops with all of the recommendations plus included at the end the IBRG Education policy, the IBRG Irish Language Policy and the IBRG Policy on Anti Irish Racism.

The Conference got huge coverage in the Irish weeklies with the Irish World headline  Conference calls for Irish Language support stated ‘resolutions calling on the British government to immediately restore its funding to Glor nanGael in Belfast and to give recognition  to the Irish language in the national curriculum were passed unanimously at the conference on Irish Perspectives on British education’.. The London Irish News had Irish language issue to dominate IBRG conference which was a preview of the conference. The Andersonstown News had London Irish Hear Gael which had also covered a preview of the conference.

The N. Ireland Office had responded to IBRG over its letter on the funding for Glor na Gael to say that ‘Irish language and culture continue to receive very substantial governmental support both through educational system and the voluntary sector’ but yet failed to explain why they had cut the funding to Glor naGaeil.

On 19th October the IBRG marched with the National Union of Journalists  over censorship on Ireland and the ban on Sinn Fein to the Dominion Theatre where Tony Benn was the main speaker. What a difference from Roy Hattersley of last year.

On 19th October the Irish World had a headline Embassy protest for Murray Two with a photo which showed Majella Crehan and Trevor O’Farrell of IBRG picketing the Embassy.

 

On 20th October the IBRG held their Comhcomhairle in Birmingham with 16 delegates. Among those attending  were  Diarmuid Breatnach,  Pat Reynolds, Majella Crehan, Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Moore, Caitlin Wright, and Kevin Hayes.

The meeting was given over to discussing the Spirit of 1916 and how IBRG could commemorate this in Britain by staging events in many parts of Britain. The meeting decided to campaign on getting a system of PR in Britain which would enhance the Irish vote, as the present system in Britain worked against minority communities

In the afternoon the meeting discussed recruitment and membership and a review of priorities

On 26th October the IBRG held their first picket of the Irish Embassy over the extradition of Dessie Ellis to Britain. This was the first of four pickets held weekly. Over 500 people had attended an anti-extradition rally in Glasgow to campaign against extradition of Irish people to Britain on political changes.

 

 

On 28th October IBRG members attended the Terence MacSwiney mass at Southwark Cathedral.

On 31st October Pat Reynolds was speaking to students at the North London University in Kentish Town, at a meeting organised by Irish students.

 

The IBRG in the North West organised a series of meetings on the PTA in Blackburn on 23rd October, Bolton on 24th October and Manchester on 25th October under the Repeal the PTA banner.  Speakers were Father  Bobby Gilmore and Kevin Hayes. An IBRG statement said The PTA has little to do with terrorism but everything to do with intimidating the Irish community. The Act does nothing to solve the problems of N. Ireland and should be abolished’. A photo in the Irish Post from Bolton Town Hall showed Kevin Hayes, Arthur Devlin, Caitlin Wright, Bobby Gilmore, Joe Mullarkey and Neil Duffield President of Bolton Trades Council.

 

Dessie Ellis Campaign

Ten MPs in Britain placed a letter in the Irish Post No Guarantee of a fair Trial doubting whether Dessie Ellis would receive a fair trial in Britain. These MPs included Bernie Grant MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Dave Nellist MP, Ken Livingstone MP, and Tony Benn MP. Above the letter was a photo of the IBRG picket of the Irish Embassy on Dessie Ellis with both Majella Crehan and Caitriona Scanlon in the photos with IBRG placards. The letter ended with ‘we appeal to the Irish people not to hand their citizens over to this system. You have a responsibility to protect your citizens’ rights as it has become clear time and again that the British legal system will not. Dessie Ellis will face such injustice unless you refuse to hand him over. Don’t extradite Dessie Ellis. Don’t risk becoming party to yet another injustice’

On 2nd November the IBRG led a picket of the Irish Embassy over Dessie Ellis.

At the beginning of November, the Education and Cultural committee of the Intergovernmental Conference met to discuss the Irish language which Mary O’Rourke of Fianna Fail had submitted.

 

On 3rd November Lambeth IBRG hosted their national Welfare Conference. Over 70 people attended. Speakers included Raymond Crotty who called on the Irish abroad to boycott Irish companies and Irish goods until the Irish abroad got the vote, Paul Cullen from the Irish Embassy, Liam Greenslade from Liverpool University, Traolach Brugha, grandson of Cathal Brugha on Mental Health,  and others speakers on AIDS, Travellers, Housing, Women, Construction Safety and Challenging racism.

The Conference was well covered in the news with An Phoblachtreporting Conference call for action on Irish vote where Raymond Crotty had called on the Irish abroad to boycott Irish goods until they were given the vote in Ireland. The Irish in Britain News had Boycott Irish goods Crotty urges the Irish in Britain.

On 5th November IBRG members joined the picket on Plastic bullets outside the Home Office.

On 9th November IBRG members led a picket of the Irish Embassy over Dessie Ellis.

On 9th November Mary Robinson is elected President of Ireland, the first female President, while on 6th November Cathal Daly was appointed Cardinal of Ireland.

On 9th November Peter Brooke states that Britain has no strategic or economic interest in N. Ireland and would accept the unification of Ireland if consent existed for it. He does not deal with the vote in Ireland the general election of 1918 which voted for a Republic.

On 10th November Pat Reynolds was speaking at a Public Forum in Brixton for the Terence Macswiney Commemoration lecture along with Peter Beresford Ellis.

On 12th November IBRG members joined a PTA picket of Paddington Green Police station which was probably the first picket of the PTA Interrogation centre.

 

 

Trade Unions and representation for Irish Workers

On  12th November IBRG put out a statement  calling for a strong voice in the new Union with COHSE, NALGO and NUPE joining to become a super union:Unison.  IBRG were concerned that their new union white paper  Equal Opportunities and Fair Representation made no mention whatsoever of the Irish in Britain.  Such an  omission was totally unacceptable.

All available evidence in Britain from the 1981 census, the GLC Irish in London documents,  Irish women in London,  Town hall staff surveys in Brent, Haringey, Islington and Hackney all showed  that the Irish faced institutional disadvantage an discrimination in employment in the public sector using any criteria of equal opportunism or the Race Relations Act the Irish qualify to be included  within the new union Equal Opportunities  programme. The IBRG argued that the Irish should be included in the Race Equality  policy of the EOP.  The deadline for submission on the document was 7th December and the IBRG urged all Irish trade unionists and community organisations to put in submissions.

On 13th November the Irish Times carried a large photo of Dr Maire O Shea protesting in Dublin against the extradition of Dessie Ellis.

On 14th November IBRG members led a picket of the Irish Embassy over Dessie Ellis.

On 15th November Pat Reynolds was speaking at the Central Library in Islington to over 100 people on the night Dessie Ellis was extradited to England. Dessie’s father spoke at the meeting that Dessie would not be going on hunger strike but would politically fight his case in Britain. Pat Reynolds was Chair of the Dessie Ellis campaign in Britain.

 

On 16th November Manchester IBRG in conjunction with Cornerhouse Arts Centre  put on a series of seven Irish films in their third Irish Film Festival. The aim of the Festival was to celebrate the work of Irish film makers in Britain and Ireland and to use some of the work shown as a starting point for discussion about the nature of Irish identity and contemporary social and political problems. There was massive publicity in the papers for the film festival which had its own programme;  Out of Ireland. The Irish World had Irish Film Festival expected to draw crowds. The Irish Post had Irish Film Festival in Manchester, the Irish in Britain News had After a sense of Ireland comes a sense of Irish Film and. The Irish Post’s headline was  Big screen delights in Manchester.

Manchester IBRG and Irish Film Festivals

 

 

On 18th November Pat Reynolds was guest speaker at the National NUS anti-racist conference at Newcastle University speaking to over 100 students on two different days. The conference agreed to oppose the PTA, support free speech on Ireland and organise conference for Irish students in Britain. The Irish Post covered the story with NUS agrees to lobby on behalf of Irish students to challenge anti Irish racism in Britain

On 27th November Thatcher is defeated in a vote by Tory MPs and John Major takes over as Prime Minister.

In November a substance motion was put in to Lewisham Nalgo  AGM  calling for the repeal of the PTA, calling on the council to recognise the Irish community, calling on Nalgo to recognise IBRG as an organisation of the Irish community in Britain, and to make donations towards the IBRG St Patricks day march and the Terence MacSwiney rally in Brixton.

On 30th November Pat Reynolds was speaking to Social Work and Community Work students at Goldsmiths College in South east London.

In November Trevor O’Farrell had a letter in the Irish Post advocating a vote for the Irish abroad.

 

The Ard Choiste was held in Manchester on 1st December. Virginia, Maurice Moore, Linda Ryan, Kevin Hayes, Joe Mullarkey,  Martin Connolly, Denis Casey, Linda Sever, Virginia Moyles Bernadette Hyland and Pat Reynolds were among those attending.

Apologies from Majella Crehan, Laura Sullivan, Diarmuid Breatnach.

The meeting heard that Kevin Hayes had set up a PTA telephone tree which could be activated when an Irish person got arrested under the PTA to get people to ring the police station asking about the missing person. The NUJ had come back over the IBRG media guidelines to say they were not practical. The meeting discussed plans for commemorating 1916 and Women in IBRG were planning pamphlet on women’s involvement in 1916

On 10th December IBRG members attended a picket of Paddington Green PTA interrogation centre.

On 13th December Haringey IBRG put out a statement on Haringey Council cutting their funding describing the decision as unfair, discriminatory and politically motivated. Haringey Council had created unwritten criteria to politically vet IBRG. While the Council had the right to cut funding it had to be according to set criteria and had to be fair to all. Haringey had also disbanded the Irish Liaison Unit which  was a big blow to the Irish community. Haringey IBRG were represented on the Council Ethnic Minorities Committee, the Irish Forum, the Irish Centre and the Travellers Group.

Bernadette Hyland had an article in the Irish World on the election of Mary Robinson in December.

The IBRG condemned proposals from the DES on languages in the curriculum which excluded the Irish language. Both Conradh and IBRG had made submissions on the Irish language to get a  Department of Education and Science working party. On 8th December  Tony Birthill in an article in the Irish Post entitled Exclusion of Irish in schools unfair put the IBRG position in reply to the DES claim that they were only including languages outside the British Isles, that Ireland is a sovereign country separate from Britain and her Isles and its citizens were the largest minority community In Britain. The DES then stated that the Irish language was practically non-existent. Conor Foley from the Connolly Association stated ‘they won’t acknowledge the fact that we have a language and literature that is far older than English., and their failure to recognise Ireland as a separate nation.

It was confirmed in December that Haringey IBRG Irish Project would lose its funding of £34k from 1st April 1991. Because of redundancies the project would close early in the New Year.

Haringey IBRG put up a great fight back against the cuts, but they still went ahead. Trevor O’Farrell and Majella Crehan had both worked for Haringey IBRG which had supported  a number of Education conferences, the St Patricks day march, the Irish Voice magazine,  had published  the Survey into Irish culture in schools and Irish Perspectives in British education They had organised a number of video festivals, had supported the Haringey Irish centre and provided its first Chair, organised Halloween and other cultural events for the Irish community, were on the Ethnic Minorities Consultative Committee, got Irish books into Haringey libraries, got Haringey to recognise the Irish community, organised  the Ireland/South Africa exhibition which panicked Labour who ran when the Tories  put pressure on them. Fought anti Irish racism in the media , supported campaigns  such as the  Winchester three, and supported the Irish Prisoners support group, held a Conference on prisoners,  had produced the PTA guidelines for the media and had monitored the British press coverage on the Winchester Three case.  Highlighted cases of Irish welfare neglect, and supported the Sinn Fein Tour of Britain which came to Haringey and organised the Hornsey Town Hall public meeting for Gerry Adams.

The local Branch did the political work, the project focused on education, welfare, employment, travellers, prisoners, and other issues.

Lambeth Nalgo Irish Workers’ Group chaired by Pat Reynolds criticised Nalgo, Cohse and NUPE’s  paper on Equality for the new super Union Unison  which excluded the Irish from their Equal Opportunity programme.

On 23rd December 1990 the IRA announced a three-day truce over Christmas for the first time in 15 years.

 

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 Mancheser – 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 the Irish in Britain Representation Group Part nine: 1989

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.

Third edition of an pobal eirithe 1989

 

 

 

The IBRG Ard Choiste took place on 14th January 1989 hosted by Harrow IBRG in Middlesex. Eleven delegates and officers attended including Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Moore, Laura Sullivan, Gearoid McGearailt, Henry Harron, Dennis Casey, Caitlin Wright Nuala Eefting, Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds.

Apologies from John Martin, Maire O Shea, and Virginia Moyles.

The meeting heard that Manchester IBRG had had  had a regional meeting with the CRE in Manchester. The meeting deplored the CRE for omitting the Irish from the 1991 census proposed ethnic grouping, which meant we could not find out, where the Irish were in terms of employment, health and housing. In a press release the IBRG stated that ‘it found it disturbing that given the disadvantage and discrimination faced by the Irish community in Housing, employment and other areas that the CRE should deliberately ignore the needs of the largest minority community in Britain’.

All branches were asked to write to the CRE regarding giving recognition to the Irish community for the 1991 Census in Britain. On the year of Action Haringey Brighton and Hackney were involved with other solidarity groups with public meetings planned for Brighton and Haringey. The Ard Choise agreed to sponsor the Bloody Sunday march which was jointly organised by TOM, LCI and IBRG and urged branches to support with banners flying in the cold January wind.

The Ard Choiste agreed a Haringey motion welcoming the ILEA education document and recommendations on the Irish dimension in the Education system, and urged IBRG branches outside of ILEA to use it, and seek meetings with their local education authorities. 

A second motion from Haringey welcomes the new Construction Safety Group set up to protect the lives of men in the construction industry and to improve working conditions. All IBRG were asked to support this initiative as so many Irish men were killed every year on building sites, and no one was held accountable. They often left partners and children behind often without support.

 It was agreed that Laura Sullivan attend the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis in Dublin as IBRG observer. The meeting deplored the production of mercury soap in Ireland in a government sponsored factory. The soap used as a skin lightener caused damage to women in Africa often affecting their unborn children.

On 21st January 1989 Pat Reynolds, PRO, was the speaker on Ireland at the Socialist Conference in Hounslow in Middlesex near Heathrow Airport, and on 25th January he spoke to the students at the Middlesex Poly (now University) on Ireland and the Irish in Britain.

On 25th January 1989 the video Off Our Knees was shown in the House of Commons as a  build up to the Bloody Sunday March.

On 28th January 1989 IBRG members marched on the Bloody Sunday March from Grange Park, Kilburn to the Bridge Park Centre in Brent. It was one of the coldest and wettest days of the year, and the longest ever Bloody Sunday March, through the wilds of Harlesden and Willesden. The march got attacked by the National Front as usual and the rally was also attacked later on.  The speakers were Ken Livingstone, Francie Molloy and Emma Groves.

In January 1989 Douglas Hurd Home Secretary referred the case of the Guildford Four to the Court of Appeal in London as hope grew for their release, and light at the end of a long campaign for justice.

In January Brighton IBRG organised an Irish ceilidh and drew a large crowd.

In February 1989 IBRG produced  the third issue of an pobal eirithe  with its famous cover British Justice which included the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four, the Winchester Three and also the Gibraltar Three and three victims of British “Shoot to Kill” policy  in a photo collage The edition had articles on the Civil Rights and the Irish community in Britain, IBRG Policy on Anti-Irish Racism, No Time for Love in the Morning (PTA), Irish lesbians and Gay men in Britain, Lifers, Women of Ireland Eva Gore Booth, the Banned Community, Mental Health and the Irish Community part 2 of Dr Maire O’Shea article, the Song Speaks, Irish Youth in Britain Squatting in London, activities in Bolton and a piece of Poetry by Deasun McGearailt.

On 4th February 1989 Hackney IBRG held a Housing Advice Day in Hackney for the Irish community and that evening took part in an Irish ceilidh at Hackney Town Hall which drew over 500 people.

On 8th February 1989 London IBRG members attended the unveiling of a plaque in Lewisham to the great Irish socialism and Republican Jim Connell.

Gordon Brown spoke and unveiled the plaque but had to be prompted to say Connell was Irish. Voice from the crowd came in ’And He was Irish’ until Brown at last mentioned it.  Lewisham IBRG had their bright banner there and, in the photo, taken for the Irish Post you can see Diarmuid Breatnach, Steve Brennan, Jackie Jolly, Del Thorogood, Pat Reynolds, Seamus Campbell and others. When Brown had finished and went off Diarmuid Breatnach jumped on the fence, and addressed the audience in Jim Larkin style, where he told the audience who stayed the Irish side of Jim Connell, that Brown ignored that Connell wanted freedom for Ireland as well as freedom for the working class. The event ended with the singing of the Red Flag.

Gordon Brown running away from IBRG….

 

 

 

On 12th February 1989 IBRG members attended the Sean MacBride Memorial lecture at Hackney Town Hall. The connection here was that Gerry Lawless, a Labour Councillor in Hackney, had been defended by McBride back in the 1960’s.

On 12th February Patrick Finucane a solicitor was murdered by Loyalists at his home in front of his wife and children the murder followed comment by Home Office Minister Douglas Hurd criticising’ a number of solicitors who are unduly sympathetic to the cause of the IRA’.

On 12th February 1989 IBRG members, mainly from Midlands branches including Birmingham, attended the 60 strong picket of Wakefield Prison to commemorate the 13th anniversary of the death of  hunger striker Frank Stagg.

On 15th February 1989 Pat Reynolds PRO was interviewed by Cork radio on the Irish in Britain and on 16th February was the IBRG speaker at the ALA (All London Authorities) Conference on Irish Women in London, where he spoke on anti-Irish racism in the media and the impact of discrimination on Irish families in Britain, including the deportation  of Irish families.

On 18th February 1989 Pat Reynolds was the opening speaker at the Haringey Year of Action  meeting to bring together Irish self-determination issues with issues affecting the Irish in Britain. An Phoblacht  attended and wrote it up under the title  Injustice the Price of Britain’s Rule.  Over 50 people attended.

Other speakers were Janet Clark of Broadwater Farm Campaign , Michael McDonnacha Editor of An Phoblacht and of Sinn Fein, Errol Smalley from the Guildford Four Campaign. The Video Off Our Knees was shown alongside workshops on the Irish war and British politics, Discrimination and the Irish in Britain, Guildford Four and Construction Safety.  Janet Clark welcomed the coming together of the Black and Irish community on the issue of civil rights and justice and called for support for the joint Broadwater Farm and  IBRG Justice March the following month.

On 18th February 1989 the IBRG delegation headed for Ireland where they had meetings in Belfast, Derry, Armagh, Dublin and Cork. The members of the delegation were Gearoid McGearailt, Virginia Moyles, Bernadette Hyland, Laura Sullivan, Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds.

The IBRG got a Civic reception in Derry City Council, and met both SDLP and Sinn Fein in Derry including Mitchell McLoughlin and Dodie McGuiness. In Ireland the IBRG met with Belfast Trades Council, Falls Road Community Centre, NUPE, SDLP, IDATU, NATE, Anti-Apartheid, ICCL, ITGWU, Combat Poverty, ICPO, USI, EETTU, IMETU, Ceoltas, Labour Party, Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Women’s Groups in Dublin and Belfast.

The issues raised included the PTA, Birmingham 6, Guildford 4, Maguire 7, Judith Ward, Irish self-determination, votes for emigrants, anti-Irish racism in media, anti-Irish discrimination, housing, employment, emigration, extradition, divorce, abortion, free travel for elders, Irish language, culture, transfer of prisoners, and travellers. The IBRG met with Peter Barry and Ruari Quinn.

The delegation produced a 20-page document on issues affecting the Irish community in Britain.

The delegation was huge success and a learning experience in that it was an all-Ireland delegation  and we met all the major parties in Ireland along with all the trade unions and the pressure groups.

The delegation organised a well-attended press conference while in Dublin which got press and radio coverage.  Pat Reynolds was able to give a talk on Racism in the English Media to media students at Rathmines College of Commerce, and later gave an interview on Both Sides Now a program for emigrants in Britain on RTE on Saturday evenings.

“Mother Ireland” screenings and Gibraltar Three

On 25 January  1989 Manchester IBRG put on a showing of Mother Ireland in Manchester which drew over 150 people, Bernadette Hyland Vice National Chair of IBRG spoke alongside Granville Williams of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting freedom. Mother Ireland had been banned by Channel Four because it had interviews with Máiréad Farrell of the Gibraltar Three.

Mairead Farrell speaking in “Mother Ireland”.

 

 

On 27th February IBRG members put on a showing of Mother Ireland at the Brent Irish Centre.

On 6th March 1989 IBRG London members attended the Kilburn Square protest in memory of the Gibraltar Martyrs. Pat Reynolds spoke for IBRG at the rally along with Terry Moore of Sinn Fein. Birmingham IBRG members joined a similar vigil in Birmingham.

 

On 7th March 1989 Pat Reynolds was speaking with Jake Ecclestone General Secretary of the NUJ at a student union meeting at the University of North London and in the evening was speaking at a public meeting on Lifers at Deptford town hall.

On 16th March 1989 the RTE programme the Pat Kenny Show was at the Haringey Irish Centre and IBRG members attended and Pat Reynolds was able to send a St Patrick’s day greeting to the Birmingham Six before the show ended. Bernie Grant the local MP also took part in the show.

On 17th March Lewisham IBRG joined in with Greenwich Irish Project to put on some events at the Albany at Deptford. The Irish Post covered it under the title Putting the Green into Greenwich with the Lewisham IBRG banner displayed.

Joint March for Justice; Irish and Black community

On 18th March 1989 the IBRG led the Irish community in a Civil Rights march for Justice from Whittington Park Holloway to Duckett’s Common at Turnpike Lane North London where we were joined by a Black community march from Broadwater Farm. A joint Rally then took place  where Breda Power and Sharon Raghip met and spoke together. The march was to link up with 1968 anniversary of civil rights and the Black civil rights movement in the USA and to bring together issues affecting the Black and Irish communities in Britain including framed prisoners and hostages taken from both communities , oppressive policing from PTA to stop and search, to death in police and prison custody. Fergal O’Hara was the guest speaker from Ireland.

On 19th March 1989 Pat Reynolds was guest speaker at Seven Sisters Labour Ward in Tottenham to speak on Ireland.

On 21st March 1989 IBRG member took part in the House of Commons Press conference on the PTA with Maire O’Shea the IBRG speaker with Bobby Gilmore.

In March the London Irish News printed Dr Maire OShea’s second article on Mental Health which they had copied with permission from an Pobal Eirithe, they also covered her first article in an earlier edition.

In March Diarmuid Breatnach had the headline letter in the Irish Post calling for the Irish to be included in the 1991 Census

IBRG challenged British Telecom  over an anti-Irish advert in their phone directories. The advert to promote display adverts had Blaney & Sons Builders at Paddy Fields Avenue. BT withdrew the advert and apologised.  Credit for chasing BT is due to Majella Crehan of Haringey IBRG who chased them up with two letters until she got the withdrawal of the advert and an apology. Majella had a letter in the Irish Post urging other people to write to BT at their head office.

Death of Donall Mac Amlaigh

Donall MacAmhlaigh, the Irish building worker and  writer died and Diarmuid Breatnach expressed the sympathy of IBRG through the Irish Post. Donall was a member of IBRG and wrote some fine articles in Irelands Own on the early work of IBRG. He wrote many of his books in Irish which described the conditions for Irish building workers in Britain and capturing a history that might have been lost.

Pat Reynolds remembers;  Donall was a very decent man. I knew him via Green Ink and IBRG. I came across a number of letters from him in my files. He wrote a number of important articles on IBRG in Ireland’s Own huge selling Irish magazine at home and here around 1983. He was more than willing to help out and we should have used him more for conferences and that. I think he was in the Connolly Association as well and lived in Northampton. He died young enough.He worked all his life as a labourer. To be fair he did speak out on the Birmingham Six and on Irish prisoners. He was a very humble unassuming man, but a good writer on ordinary Irishmen working in Britain and the conditions they worked under.

On 1st April 1989 the IBRG Ard Fheis met at Manchester Town Hall with 35 delegates and officers attending. Twelve branches were present namely Lambeth, Derby, Harrow, N.E. Lancs, South Yorkshire, Bolton, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Haringey, Hackney and Coventry.

Gearoid McGearailt stood down after three years as chair and was thanked by the meeting for his service to IBRG.

The following officers were elected Chair Bernadette Hyland Manchester, Vice Chair Laura Sullivan Hackney, President Gearoid McGearailt Lambeth, Vice President Joe Mullarkey Bolton, Runai Virginia Moyles Hackney, Midlands coordinator John Martin Derby, Education Officer Caitlin Wright Bolton, Cisteoir Maurice Moore Coventry and Pat Reynolds PRO Haringey.

IBRG Ard Feis Manchester Town Hall

 

 

 

Other delegates included, Denis Casey, Nuala Eefting, Nigel Cook, Mary Marken, David Wright, Noel Spencer, Jim McCarthy, Mary Donnelly, Pat O Sullivan, Robert Ryan, Sean Brown, Marcella Cronogue, Paul Sheehan, Deasun McGearailt, Mairin Carlin, David Kernoghan, and Jim King with apologies from Maire OShea and Eddie Caughey.

The following motions were passed

A Haringey motion calling on the Irish government to give emigrants the vote,

A motion condemning the high death rate on building sites in England and also discrimination against Irish building workers which left the majority of Irish men as labourer

A motion welcome decision of the European Court of Human rights to condemn Britain for its abuse of human rights inholding Irish people for 7 days without access to the courts,

 A motion condemning the Labour Party for colluding with the Tories in supporting racist and anti-Irish laws,

 A motion condemning Tom King British Minister intervention in the Winchester three trail over the right to silence, and also condemning the media for their treatment of the case,

A motion condemning the continued incarceration of the Birmingham Six, and Guildford Four and the failure of the Irish government to tackle the British government over the issue, the motion called on Amnesty international to treat these prisoners as prisoners of conscience, because the sole reason for their imprisonment was their racial and ethnic origin,

 A motion welcoming the stand taken by Irish teachers against discrimination in pay and conditions

A motion welcoming increased Dion funding calling for Dion to be reconstituted to represent the wider Irish community

A motion deploring the Irish government for failing to provide jobs for its young people and for failing to deal with emigration, and calling on the Irish government to take action along the line of the IBRG document on emigration

The Irish Post reported the Ard Fheis IBRG Rap for Dion Committee which gave out half a million in welfare grants each year.  The Dion committee had no women members despite Irish women being more involved in provided Irish welfare in Britain but also as the main carers for children, thus needed welfare services more. The Irish Government was still tied to Maynooth and the Catholic Church in trying to control Irish welfare in Britain. Thus, they had created a job for a priest to work with Irish prisoners, and the majority of Irish welfare centres were controlled by the church.

The London Irish News had The IBRG Makes History Irish in Britain get First Woman Leader. It went on to profile Bernadette Hyland IBRG chair and gave a list of the motions which were passed. The Irish World story ran IBRG Successful Ard Fheis and stated the 1989 Irish in Britain Representation Group had a most successful Ard Fheis at Manchester Town Hall on Saturday last.

In London Steve Brennan addressed a workshop on Ireland at the Green Party national Conference and raised the issue of the PTA, Birmingham Six and Guildford Four.

On 7th April 1989 IBRG members joined a picket in the London during the visit of Gorbachev, Russian leader to Britain. Nine people with the Birmingham Six banner were arrested while another group with Pat Reynolds and Catherina Scanlon who waited for Jeremy Corbyn MP to arrive at the station, arrived later and escaped arrest, and then went on to Snow Hill police station to seek the release of the others. They got Gareth Pierce Solicitor in to see those arrested. They were released at the end of the Gorbachev visit without charge and all successfully sued the Met police for wrongful detention

On 8th April 1989 IBRG attended the Construction Safety meeting at Kingsway’s College, Kings Cross London.

On May Day Pat Reynolds was one of the speakers for the May Day Workers Rally in Oxford which drew many car workers and public sector workers plus students.

On 6th May 1089 IBRG branches marched on the annual Hunger Strike Commemoration March in Birmingham

On 7th May 1989 Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking at the James Connolly/Bobby Sands Commemoration meeting at Conway hall which had over 500 people. His speech drew attention to the treatment of the nationalist community in N. Ireland and to the treatment given to the Black and Irish communities in Britain. Bernadette McAliskey, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Errol Smalley from Guildford Four Campaign, Niall Farrell brother of Máiréad Farrell and Francie Molloy Sinn Fein were the main speakers.

On 13th May 1989 the IBRG Ard Choiste met at Manchester Town Hall where nineteen delegates and officers attended. Among those attending were Bernadette Hyland Chair, Pat O Sullivan, Denis Casey, Mary Donnelly, Nigel Cook, Pat Reynolds, Laura Sullivan, Joe Mullarkey, Joan Brennan, Noel Spenser, Michael Murphy, David Kernoghan, Trevor O’Farrell, and Diarmuid Breatnach.

Apologies from Eddie Caughey, Virginia Moyles, John Martin, Gearoid McGearailt, and Janice McKnight.

The Ard Choise dealt with motions which were left over from the Ard Fheis.

The first motion called for an Irish unity Conference of all progressive Irish groups in Britain to pursue a common programme for the progress and wellbeing of the Irish community. Other motions were that contact be made with the GAA, Conradh na Gaeilge , Colmtas and the Federation of Irish Societies  to formulate a common programme  of priorities that we  all could work on and support each other on,  a motion condemning the British and Irish governments for censorship of Sinn Fein which had been extended to IBRG and other groups who voice any concern about justice or human rights in N. Ireland or Britain. The motion condemned the ending of the right to silence and viewed it as another Kitsonian racist device in their conveyor belt of injustice.

A motion condemning the horrific and wide scale searching of nationalist homes in the Six Counties which led to comparison with early Nazi Germany. The motion also condemned the new PTA which would institutionalise those searches and imprison whole communities for hours on end, a motion calling for the closure of mercury soap production factory in Arklow, and for the creation of alternative employment in the area. The production of this soap can only be seen as a racist and hostile action against Black countries and black people, a motion to welcome the proposed new Race Relations Act in Ireland but notes that travellers are now to be included within the remit of the Act.

The motion also welcomes the outlawing by the European Court of bigoted legislation against gay men in Ireland which was based on old colonial laws.

Further motions included -one calling on the Irish government to stop all extradition to British jurisdiction, since the British government has clearly shown that it has contempt for international standards of justice, and that Irish people charged with political offences are used as pawns in a British policy where the end always justifies the means, from Bloody Sunday to Gibraltar, a motion supporting the Lifers campaign and calling for an end of indeterminate sentencing. The motion condemned the Irish government for failing to facilitate the transfer of Irish prisoners and for their slavish obedience to the British Home Office.

Another motion condemned the murder of solicitor Patrick Finucane and noted the remarks of a junior minister which created a context and atmosphere for the killing, a motion noting the evidence given to the Gibraltar Inquest and the information withheld, and that the total picture would appear to indicate that the murders were premeditated. The motion called on the Irish government to take an interstate action against the British government for the judicial murder of three Irish citizens and for an international enquiry into the illegal death squads practices of the British government, a motion that IBRG should take part in the Time to Go march but march within the anti-imperialist contingent on the march, the meeting also decided to support an IFM march on Ireland in August.

Janice McKnight was re-elected Membership Secretary, and Stefan Hannigan was elected Youth officer.  A new branch was planned for Corby on 20th May and a new one in Peterborough on 17th June. There were currently 16 branches functioning but Derby was not running and Southwark was struggling.

The meeting had a report back from the very successful delegation to Ireland which including visits to Belfast, Derry, Cork and Dublin for meeting with political party’s trade unions and pressure groups. It put IBRG on the map in a real way where people in Ireland could put a face to the organisation they read about in the Irish papers. The meeting heard a report back on the St Patricks Day March for Justice and Civil Rights with a joint rally with Black community. The British left did not support the march yet expected  IBRG to support their marches.

Events planned for coming months included on 10th June a Justice conference in Manchester, and an Irish Language conference in Haringey on 1st July and a Sinn Fein tour of Britain in July.

Bolton IBRG put forward a motion calling on the NI Office to fulfil its obligation to education in Belfast by funding the 123 projects. The motion condemns the inflammatory statements about the project made by the British government which endangers the lives of people doing voluntary work in the area.

The Irish Post reported on the meeting with a headline IBRG Calls for Unity Conference with a major article which reported on the other motions passed.

The Irish Post reported on efforts by the Haringey Irish Liaison Unit led by Seamus Taylor to push the CRE to recognise the Irish which the IBRG had supported strongly. The Post reported that the arguments for inclusion had prompted some bitter exchanges with groups such as the Federation of Irish Societies who were opposed. Later the Irish Liaison Unit criticised the CRE for not including the Irish.  Seamus Taylor played a major role in getting the CRE later to recognise the Irish and he was also involved with Action Group for Irish Youth  and was able to bring the centre of the Irish community with him with most of the London projects supporting the demand. A detailed submission was sent to the OPCS from all Irish groups including IBRG drafted by Seamus Taylor of the Haringey Irish Liaison Unit arguing for the Irish to be included in the 1991 Census. While the Federation did not support it many of its affiliates did and Bernie Grant MP also supported it. AGIY Irish chaplaincy, BIAS, Cara, all supported it.

In May Pat Reynolds PRO had a leading article in the Troops Out Magazine entitled Racism, the Irish and Class Struggle a two-page article, which set out the issues around anti-Irish racism and the British state. The article traced the history of anti-Irish racism as being founded in the history of imperialism and colonisation and the appropriation of lands culture and language. It had a similar history with racism against Black people who had experienced slavery and the destruction of their languages and culture. The Irish struggle was part of the same struggle against all forms or racism and supremacy. ‘Anti-Irish racism has to be seen within the context of racism against all colonial people, and to fight anti-Irish racism means taking on all forms of racism. The effects of racism are there  for these communities, poorer housing, employment, health, welfare, education, political policing, racism in the media, discrimination and disadvantage, The Black and Irish struggles should be at the heart of the class struggle in Britain, as they are the communities who are in direct front line resistance against the institution of the British state’.

On 18th May 1989 Pat Reynolds was speaking at public meeting in Camden against the Poll Tax with Jeremy Corbyn MP and  Cllr. Angie Birtill

 

On 20th May 1989 Pat was in Corby for a meeting with John Martin to try and start up an IBRG branch in Corby. The house where the meeting was due to take place was fire bombed the night before along with the family car by right wing fascists. The town with its steel works had a strong Scottish Unionist community there.

In May the Irish Post had a heading Blackburn Irish an Ethnic Group which reported that Blackburn Borough Council had agreed to recognise the Irish community in ethnic monitoring. The N.E. Lancs IBRG had lobbied for this.

On 3rd June the members of the  IBRG delegation to Ireland members met in Birmingham to try and pull together a report on their journey to Ireland.

On 10th June the South London Year of Action had a Day School on Ireland at Lambeth Town Hall with speakers Mary Mason of  Troops Out on the Solidarity Struggle, Diarmuid Breatnach IBRG on Politics and Irish Culture, Geoff Bell on James Connolly The lessons for today, Pat Finnegan on Colonisation and Emigration and Bill Hamilton NALGO on Solidarity work in British trade unions.

On 10th June Manchester IBRG held their Justice for Irish People 20 Years on Conference at Manchester Town Hall. Over 80 people attended. The conference was introduced by Bernadette Hyland National chair of IBRG with Formal Opening by Graham Stringer Leader of Manchester City Council. Speakers included Michael Mansfield barrister on Irish People, British Justice, Tommy Walsh on the PTA, Virginia Moyles Secretary IBRG on Irish women in Britain, Joan O’Flynn on New emigration, Fr Des Wilson on Justice in Ireland, Fr Joe Taaffe on the Birmingham Six and Tony O’Brien on Construction Safety.

The Conference was sponsored by Andrew Bennett MP, Eddie Loyden MP, Bob Clay MP, Dawn Primarolo MP, Dennis Canavan MP, Alfred Morris MP, Christine Crawley MEP, Bob Clay MP, Dawn Newman MP, Michael Hindley MEP, Leslie Huckfield, MEP NALGO, AEU, and BETA.

The Irish Post ran a story on the conference entitled Britain to scrap trial by jury and focussed on the talk by Michael Mansfield at the conference. He stated at the meeting that the Irish in Britain were being used as ‘a testing ground for means of control that would ultimately be used against the rest of the population’. Fr Wilson was quoted as saying ‘If you find decent good people taking up arms against the government there must be a good reason for it’.

In a letter, dated 7/5/89, he wrote to Bernadette Hyland confirming his presence at the event ,Tom Walsh expressed his own concerns about the use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act at the port of Liverpool. “There is no doubt there is need for great concern about the level of justice for Irish people in Britain at the moment. It has been an extremely busy year so far, for detentions under the P.T.A. in Liverpool, with disturbing trends by Police in their treatment of families. They are regularly denying they are holding people so causing unecessary suffering for relatives.” The full letter can be read here…

 

On 13th June IBRG hosted a Vauxhall by- election public meeting called Britain in Ireland the Irish in Britain. at the White Horse in Brixton which drew over 100 people and was chaired by Diarmuid Breatnach of Lewisham IBRG. The meeting in Brixton was at the heart of the  London Black Community and scene of the 1981 Uprising against the British state.

Sharon Atkins, a Black candidate, was pushed out by Neil Kinnock and Kate Hoey was forced upon the constituency which greatly angered the Black and Irish community. Whereas, Sharon Atkins was great on Ireland, Kate Hoey was Unionist and hostile to the Irish community even opposing Irish recognition in London.

All candidates were invited including Black preacher Rev Hewie Andrew, Henry Bewley Green Party, Kate Hoey who refused to face the community, Michael Keegan Tory Party, Don Milligan RCP, Rudy Narayan Radical Black Barrister, and Michael Tuffrey Liberal.

Dolan who was Brendan MacLua, editor of the Irish Post, called it wrong and  criticised  IBRG for not backing Kate Hoey, saying Kate Hoey had stood up for the Irish community after Bloody Sunday, and was one of those charged after Bloody Sunday. This was when she was young and was into the British left but she moved very quickly to the centre and to the right of British and Irish politics.

The Guardian stated that ‘The Irish in Britain Representation Group has also condemned Ms Hoey’s candidacy in a constituency with a large Irish community’. The original favourite to stand was Martha Osamor a Haringey Councillor and a great friend of Ireland, who often spoken on Irish platforms, but she was excluded by Kinnock. Years later her daughter became a Labour MP in North London while Corbyn put Martha into the House of Lords while Leader of the Labour Party. Rev Andrew stated ‘If the Labour Party is serious about Black people it should make its candidate stand down and let the black representative stand’.

Pat Reynolds in his letter in the Irish Post took Dolan to task stating ‘the front line is always there for Irish people no  matter where individuals retreat from it.’ Kate Hoey opposed ethnic recognition for the Irish community, Irish sections in the Labour Party, supported the Anglo-Irish agreement, and where would she stand on the PTA and the framed prisoners.  How can Dolan criticise the Federation of Irish Societies over their position on Irish recognition and then support Kate Hoey who has the same position. In London at the GLC Irish conference every single Irish organisation in London supported the Irish right to recognition of their culture history and their position in British society. The IBRG were also taking a stand with the black community at their racist treatment by the labour Party in deselecting good Black candidates in a large Black constituency. There were over 14,000 Irish people living in Lambeth where Vauxhall was situated. Later in 2020 Boris Johnson Tory Leader would send Kate Hoey to the Lords where over 90% of N. Ireland members were Unionists.

In June an IBRG delegation met with the Labour Party in Lambeth to press their demands for ethnic recognition which was supported by Fred Taggart and Linda Bellos. Lambeth had been sitting on a report on the Irish community since 1985 on Irish recognition.

In June Diarmuid Breatnach had the top letter in the Irish Post on emigration where he stated ‘We don’t pay taxes in Ireland because we pay taxes here, to which country we are effectively exiled. We have been disestablished, disinherited, and since we have been disenfranchised, they think we can also be dismissed’. Diarmuid called for emigrants to be given the vote in Ireland

On 16th June Gearoid McGearailt spoke at the Family Service Unit Conference at the Camden Irish centre on the Irish community in Britain.

On 17th June Pat Reynolds was in Peterborough to try and start an IBRG branch there and on 22nd June he was speaking at a Celtic League meeting in London.

 

On 24th June Brighton IBRG held a conference in Brighton on Irish Culture with speakers Diarmuid Breatnach, Maude Casey and Jonathan Moore with a showing of Mother Ireland and a benefit at the Pavilion Theatre with the Hairy Marys and Jacket Potatoes.

 

On 24th June 1989 the IBRG had their Ard Choiste meeting at the Roger Casement Irish Centre in Islington in North London where   only seven delegates attended probably because there were too many others events on in June. Among those attending were Maurice Moore, Bernadette Hyland, Denis Casey, Pat Sullivan, Kevin Hayes, Virginia Moyles and Trevor O’Farrell with apologies from Pat Reynolds, Diarmuid Breatnach, Joe Mullarkey and Laura Sullivan.

The meeting heard that the Manchester Justice conference had gone very well and had got good publicity.

The meeting discussed the two marches on Ireland being organised for August, and about the Sinn Fein Councillors tour in July along with Haringey IBRG Irish language conference in July.

Birmingham IBRG stated they were working on issues around the PTA.

On 1st July 1989 there was an Irish Consultative Forum held by the Association of London Authorities which was chaired by Gerry Lawless from Hackney. Cllr Angie Birthill, Fred Taggert, and Mick Brenan from Southwark attended. The meeting identified the issues which needed to be addressed; Emigration, Housing and exploitation, employment and training opportunities, position of young Irish student, ethnic classifications, equality issues and Irish community, position of Irish women education issues, travellers, along with health and safety in industry.

 

On 1st July 1989 Haringey IBRG hosted a Teanga agus Cultur Conference at the Red Rose Club in Islington, North London. Over 30 people attended. The Conference decided to campaign for recognition of the Irish language in Britain, and called on the British government to give recognition to the Irish language as being the official language of a member state of the EU. It also called for all major community languages in Britain to be given equal recognition alongside European language.

The Conference called on the Irish government to recognise its consular responsibility for the cultural needs of the Irish community in Britain, and to recognise the damage the Irish government did to its own language   by their position with the EU in having Irish not as a working language. Dr Ken McKinnon of Hatfield Poly outlined the history of Scottish Gaelic and accused the British Government of language racism, and of trying to impose English on everyone, and he noted that English was now a minority language among 300m in the EU.

Liz Saville from the Welsh Language Society detailed the struggle of the Welsh language, and stated that it was essential for parents as well as children to be involved in any language struggle.

Dodie McGuiness spoke about the struggle in the Six Counties for language and culture, where the language was seen as subversive and a weapon against British domination. She talked of the street sign campaign, the street murals, Gaelic preschools, and Irish Language paper LA in Belfast. The Irish language had been taken into the prisons, and a battle for prisoners to receive and write letters in Gaelic. The workshops held during the conferences were bilingual.

Roundwood Park Irish Festival and clash with Young Irish

On 2nd July 1989 there was a major clash between the Met Police and Irish youth at Roundwood Park Irish Festival, where the police used dogs and horses to close down the Festival. The pitched battle went on for over an hour as the police tried to take the hill over the bandstand with horses, but the youth fought back and retook the hill a number of times. The police made 55 arrests and laid serious charges against the young arrested. Pat Reynolds who was present at the event witnessed it first-hand. The festival had no beer tent for the first time but the crowd had smuggled in large crates of beer and drink. It started with a simple dispute between a young man and a police officer where the youth had sprayed a police man with beer and he tried to arrest him. Within minute the police panicked and asked for horses to be brought in which led to horrible scenes with horses flying through families with little children and Irish elders.

It was a complete overreaction and uncalled for. The police were oppressive and excessive and police and dogs should not be used as a first option in policing. The IBRG called on Brent Council to conduct an inquiry into the police action on the day. The Festival Committee had denied IBRG a stall for the fifth year running and had also denied the Birmingham Six Committee a stall. In 1988 the GAA had boycotted the festival and refused to field teams because of this. In September Pat Reynolds received a letter back from Dorman Long Leader of Brent Council where he noted that ‘the Council shares your concerns, and to this end we are currently in discussion with the local police. After the conclusions of these discussions, we hope to convene a meeting of all interested parties to discuss the matters arising from the policing o this year’s Irish festival and clearly the demand for a public enquiry would form part of such a meeting’.

The British tabloids had a field day fed by police lies about the use of alcohol at the Festival which had run for 15 years without incident and where drinking on the day was very limited to small groups because of the lack of a beer tent. The IBRG suggested that the tabloids should go to Ascot or Henley if they wanted to see real drinking.

Sinn Fein councillors visited British cities in July on a speaking tour. On 3rd July Pat Reynolds spoke with Lily Fitzsimons and Cllr Angie Birtill at the Camden Irish Centre, on 6th July he spoke with Cllr Jim McAllister at the Albany in Deptford and on 7th July he spoke with Bernie Grant at Tottenham Town Hall.

On 12th July Pat Reynolds travelled to Oxford for a meeting to set up an IBRG branch in Oxford.

 

The IBRG called on the incoming Irish government of Fianna Fail/PD to publicly call for the release of the  Birmingham Six and Guildford Four, and to call for the repeal of the PTA, give the vote to the Irish abroad, end extradition at once, end forced emigration,  and get the Irish language recognised in Europe, and transfer Irish prisoners home.

 

On 5th August 1989 IBRG took part in the Irish Freedom Movement Anti-Internment march from Islington Town Hall to Whittington Park at Archway. After the march Pat Reynolds and Diarmuid Breatnach got attacked by 30 fascists near Archway while the police stood idly by.

 

On 12th August IBRG branches took part in the Time to Go march to Finsbury Park under the Irish self-determination Banner.

 

On 19th August 1989 IBRG had a banner on the Dublin FADA march with both Bernadette Hyland and Pat Reynolds present, Speakers were Gerry Adams MP Neil Blaney, George Galloway, MP. FADA (Forum for a Democratic Alternative) was set up to organise the march on the theme For a New United Ireland for British Withdrawal.

 

On 2nd September 1098 the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Sparkhill Centre in Birmingham with eight delegates present including Virginia Moyles, Kevin Hayes, Denis Casey, Maurice Moore, Diarmuid Breatnach, Maire O Shea Padraig Mac Rannall and Mary Donnelly, with apologies form Bernadette Hyland, Laura Sullivan, and Caitlin Wright.

The meeting nominated Pat Reynolds to be the IBRG delegate on the Free Speech on Ireland committee. The meeting discussed the Winchester Three campaign and how IBRG could support it. The Ard Choiste heard a report back on the Language and Culture Conference hosted by Haringey IBRG, and Haringey IBRG were leading a campaign to have the Irish language recognised as one of the modern European language within the British education system.  Haringey had raised it with Department of Educational and Science and LACE were also taking up the issue.

The Terence MacSwiney March would be held on 28th October and the IBRG Countrywide Irish Welfare conference would be held at Lambeth Town Hall on 30 September. An IBRG member represent outlined their recent experience under the PTA where they were held for over 7 hours before they saw a solicitor who knew nothing about the PTA. Branches were asked to write to the CRE and the OPCS demanding ethnic recognition for the Irish. It was agreed to donate £50 to the PTA Research and Welfare Association in Birmingham.

 

On 30th September 1989 Lambeth IBRG held their 3rd annual Irish perspective on British Welfare at Lambeth Town Hall. Speakers were Bernadette Manning on Child abuse and the Irish community, Bobby Gilmore on the Catholic Church and Irish Welfare, Breda Gray on Alcohol use within the Irish community, Padraic Kenna on Homelessness  and the Irish community, Bronwen Walters on Irish women in British society,  Frank Harrington on the Irish and Mental health, Dave Murphy on Emigration and Irish Youth, Gearoid McGearailt on Needs of Irish elders in Britain, Nolliag O Gadhra on Europe after 1992  and Paul Cullen Irish Embassy on the role of Dion.

At first the Irish Embassy claimed they were too busy to attend the  Welfare conference of the Irish in Britain and Pat Reynolds the organiser contacted Gerry Collins office in Dublin, and the Embassy changed their minds.  The Irish Post, the Irish World, the London Irish News, the Longford Leader, and the Sunday Press in Dublin covered the conference in some details.

Gearoid McGearailt,  President of IBRG and local Lambeth IBRG member, opened the conference. The London Irish News gave heading to Nollaig O Gadhra and the expected changes in Europe who would make the Irish in Britain citizens of Europe with a number of rights. The Irish Post gave the heading to the Irish Embassy representative Paul Cullen

In a statement on high emigration from Ireland the IBRG stated that if one Irish politician had to leave with every 1,000 Irish young people leaving, then emigration would be top of the agenda. An Phoblacht covered the story in some details and the statement ended by stating ‘We want our rights not charity, we want the vote now and we want a government that is not afraid to speak out for the rights of its citizens abroad. Its abysmal failure can be seen over 15 years in its lack of response to the Birmingham Six and Guildford and the PTA. It is time for the Irish government to get off its neo-colonial knees and start acting as responsible independent government’.

 

In September the TUC at long last called for the repeal of the PTA after 15 years silence on the abuse of Irish workers in Britain which included deportations.

Starting on 2nd October 1989 Haringey IBRG put on a weekly series of videos at Haringey Irish Centre including the Irishman, Suspect Community and Irish News, British Stories.

 

On 14th October 1989 the IBRG held their Comhcomhairle in Bolton where 14 delegates attended with four other delegates could not make it because of a serious car accident on the journey. Eight branches were present namely Manchester, Lewisham, Haringey, NE Lancs, Camden, Harrow, Bolton and Birmingham.

Among the delegates attending were Bernadette Hyland, Diarmuid Breatnach, Majella Crehan, Pat Reynolds, Michael Cnaimhsi, Trevor O’ Farrell, Denis Casey, Maurice Cahill, Joe Mullarkey, Caitlin Wright, David Wright and Mary Donnelly.

With apologies from Virginia Moyles Laura Sullivan, D Stewart and Stefan Hannigan all involved in a car accident, Maire O’ Shea, Gearoid MacGearailt and Maurice Moore.

A workshop was held on the idea of having a Unity Conference for the Irish in Britain. Bolton had suggested a secretariat for the Irish in Britain, but how would it be funded. There was a discussion around IBRG relationships with other groups and if we should meet the GAA, Comhaltas and the Federation and Conradh.

There was an Irish language workshop which discussed how we could promote the Irish language in Britain from adult education to the curriculum. Discussion was had on having an Irish studies pack.

There was also a discussion on N. Ireland and how we could work on issues such as self-determination and civil rights. Discussion also on working with different groups on the left like LCI, TOM, IFM and also with single issue campaigns like strip-searching and plastic bullets.  Discussion also on the B6 and G4 campaigns, in the North West IBRG were involved in the B6 campaign while in London Tom Baron of IBRG was involved in the G4 campaign.

The Guildford Four were released on 17th October 1989 to a huge crowd outside the old Bailey where Gerry Conlon told the world I was an innocent man, my father was an innocent man, the Birmingham Six are innocent men.

The Court of Appeal held that the convictions were based on confession fabricated by the police. Sir John May was appointed to look into the convictions of the Guildford Four and the Maguire cases which were linked together and for which Gerry Conlon’s father died in prison an innocent man.

The British State knew they were innocent all along, and the Balcombe St siege men gave a detailed account of their bombings of Woolwich and Guildford, but the matter was covered up for years. All involved in the Guildford Four trial were all promoted to the highest levels of British legal and policing systems.

Gerry Conlon of Guildford 4 and his sisters.

 

On the same day the IBRG marched with their banner on the Censorship March to the Dominion Theatre in Tottenham Court Road where Roy Hattersley was shouted down in a protest which started with IBRG members, because of his attack on Sinn Fein, who were not present at the rally to defend themselves. It was a shameful performance by Hattersley when he stated in his racist way ’No decent person would vote for Sinn Fein or be associated with them’. It was a most shameful statement about the nationalist people of N. Ireland. Why did Hattersley use a Free Speech on Ireland platform and one on Ending censorship to attack Sinn Fein, and the right of the Irish people to vote for a party that represented their views.

Pat Reynolds who attended the Rally and protested against Hattersley wrote a reply to the Guardian, which was not published. In it  he  drew attention to several recent events, one where Southwark Council got the Borough Solicitor to vet every single picture in an exhibition on Ireland the Right to Know,  and Town Halls where Black and Irish speakers were banned

On 20th October Pat Reynolds went on the program Time and Place on TV to discuss the release of the Guildford Four and that evening spoke at Lambeth Town Hall with Cllr. Sean McKnight of Sinn Fein and Martha Osamor over Ireland and free speech.

On 27th October for Halloween Haringey IBRG held a children’s  Party which drew over 100 children to the Haringey Irish centre all with an Irish theme.

On 28th October 1989 IBRG branches marched with their banners on the Terence MacSwiney March from Kennington to Brixton prison with a rally at St Mathews hall near Windrush Square in Brixton. Over 500 people attended the march and rally which IBRG helped to organise mainly Lewisham IBRG and Diarmuid Bretanach.

In October IBRG challenged the Daily Express over its story Thatcher Bomb Gang Arrested the story of five innocent Irishmen arrested in Cheltenham. The IBRG also took up the story in the press of Irish labourers on the Channel Tunnel collecting funds for the IRA when they were collecting funds for an Englishman who died working on the tunnel.

On 2nd November 1989 Pat Reynolds was on Channel Four Hard News programme  on racism in the Media speaking on anti-Irish racism in the media and how the media covered PTA arrests.

On 3rd November IBRG members took part in the Regents St Picket on Plastic Bullets to coincide with Guy Fawkes night.

On 4th November Pat Reynolds was speaking at the LACE Conference at London University.

On 6th November Haringey IBRG showed the video Suspect Community on the PTA to 15 people at the Haringey Irish Centre.

On 19th November Pat Reynolds was guest speaker at Selly Oak College in Birmingham to social work students talking about the Irish community in Britain and their needs.

On 24th November IBRG members in London attended the Guildford 4 benefit at the Haringey Irish Centre to welcome the Guildford Four home again.

On 25th November the IBRG Ard Choiste took place at Lambeth Town Hall with six delegates including Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds, Laura Sullivan, Caitlin Wright and Gearoid MacGearailt with apologies from Maurice Moore, Trevor Farrell, Virginia Moyles, Joe Mullarkey, Maire O Shea and Majella Crehan.

The Ard Choiste decided to affiliate to the Winchester Three campaign,  to support it in every way and gave a donation of £25. The meeting heard back from the very successful IBRG Welfare Conference in Lambeth which got wide publicity before and after. The meeting also heard back from the Terence MacSwiney march held in Brixton. Manchester IBRG reported that they had an input into the Manchester Irish  Film Festival and held a ceremony at the Manchester Martyrs memorial.

The Ard Choiste welcomed the release of the Guildford Four and decided to give £100 to the St Patrick’s  Day March for Justice. Haringey IBRG were drafting PTA guidelines for the NUJ in how to report PTA arrests. Branches were asked to support Nick Mullen who had been arrested abroad and taken back to Britain.

In November Bernadette Hyland chaired a meeting with Bernadette MacAliskey at History Workshop Conference in Salford University. Maude Casey was also speaking at this meeting. The Irish Post had photo of the two Bernadettes and one of Maude Casey from the event at which Steve Fielding also presented a history lecture on the Irish in Manchester.

Two Bernadettes

 

 

 

On the 15th anniversary of the PTA the British government introduced permanent legislation on the PTA which IBRG condemned. Neil Kinnock asked the Labour Party to abstain rather than vote for it. The Labour Party introduced the PTA and were in power, when they took hostages from the Irish community back in 1974 the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four Judith Ward and the Maguire seven. Eighteen innocent Irish people in total taken away from their families and communities including trade unionists were  taken away, and put away for no other reason than their Irishness. Peter Barry who claimed the Winchester Three got a fair trial appears to live in cloud cuckoo land, when they were tried in a British garrison town in the middle of the Tory Party conference, and when Tom King  equating silence with guilt in the middle of their trial, given they were charged with conspiracy  to kill him, they never had a change and got savage sentences of 25 years which Barry thought were a bit long. Defence barrister Michael Mansfield called the Winchester Three trial  the most unfair trial he had ever been involved in.

The IBRG statement on the PTA stated that the cornerstones of the PTA were the cases of the Birmingham Six, Guildford Ford and Maguire Seven and Judith Ward -18 innocent Irish people taken away in the night. The PTA was based on the systematic intimidation and harassment of the Irish community on its way to and from Ireland, and had made anti Irish racism a functioning weapon of the state, in controlling and abusing our community, to silence its voice on British abuses in Ireland.

The PTA created a Berlin wall of silence around the war in Ireland. The European Court had condemned the abusive PTA laws in holding Irish people incommunicado for up to seven days without access to the courts. Kevin McNamara stated last year that Labour would continue to oppose the PTA, and the TUC had since come out against it, yet now the Labour Party stabbed the Irish community in the back by abstaining.  IBRG stated that the new PTA would enshrine anti Irish racism into British policing, and that Irish people can now be arrested even without reasonable suspicion, they can be arrested now just because they are Irish.

In November the National Union of Journalists  brought out a new code of conduct for journalists which the IBRG found to be lacking in dealing with anti-Irish racism in the media, and how the media covered PTA arrests.

IBRG responded to the new code of conduct by stating that only Royalty could defend themselves against the British media. The new code would not protect Irish people from abuse in the British media and from headlines like Thatcher Bomb Gang arrested Five IRA suspects held, all five were released without charge but had to leave England for their own security.  Another heading IRA man in Chunnel cash swoop when they were collecting for an English man killed on site.

In November Peter Brooke N. Irish Secretary admitted that the British Army could never defeat the IRA and stated that if the ‘violence’ stopped the British government would talk to Sinn Fein.

On 2nd December 1989 Pat Reynolds PRO had an interview with RTE Radio in Dublin on media coverage on Irish cases.

On 4th December Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds attended a meeting with Seamus Taylor and the CRE: the first of a long series of meetings which was to lead over time to CRE recognition of the Irish and the Report on Discrimination and the Irish Community in Britain.

On 8th December Pat Reynolds spoke on the history of the Irish community in Britain since 1945 to the Irish pensioners group in Lewisham, which led to a lively discussion afterwards as most has lived during this time.

On 9th December the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Sparkhill community centre in Birmingham with ten delegates present including Kevin Hayes, Angela McAndrews, Denis Casey, Mary Donnelly, Eddie Caughley, Pat Reynolds, Laura Sullivan, Maurice Moore, and Caitlin Wright.

Apologies from Diarmuid Breatnach, Majella Crehan, Bernadette Hyland, Virginia Moyles, and Gearoid McGearailt.

Caitlin Wright was elected Chair for the meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the IBRG position on a possible broad front movement on Ireland. There was a wide-ranging discussion on our work within Bloody Sunday, the lack of support from British left groups for our St Patricks Day march, and how all the groups wanted our support but gave nothing back. Were the IBRG using their scare resources supporting the British left, and ignoring our own community e.g. time spent around Time to Go debate at the expense of community issues.

The decision of the meeting was a) that concentration on British left organisation should not be at the expense of community organisations, b) work together on specific issues where policies coincide rather than blank cheque, and c) focus on Irish self-determination and the Irish community. Diarmuid Breatnach had drafted a detailed account of solidarity work including an analysis of the Time To  Go campaign.  There were many divisions between groups on the left with TOM blocking IFM from the Bloody Sunday organising committee, Sinn Fein opposing IRSP speakers, and SWP backing the Time to Go campaign.

On 11th December IBRG members attended a public meeting on Democratic Rights where Lily Hill, Bobby Gilmore, Pat Reynolds and Maire O’Shea spoke to over 50 people. Bobby Gilmore stated that while one of the framed prisoners was left inside, all our freedoms are diminished. Lily Hill, Paul Hill’s mother,,got a standing ovation from the crowd. She said her son paid a heavy price for being Irish and asked the British media where were they 15 years ago. Her son was moved over 50-times in prison and spent five-year in solitary confinement all for being an innocent Irish man.

In December the Irish World covered the Judith Ward story in full with information provided by IBRG, An Phoblacht also covered this. The Irish World also carried a full page IBRG Reviews 1989 which detailed all the work IBRG had carried out during the year.

In South London Lambeth councillors had been on a delegation to the Six Counties in September 1989 and when they came back, they put a report in December to Lambeth police committee and affiliated to the United Campaign against Plastic Bullets.

On 14th December IBRG members attended a Birmingham Six benefit at the Camden Irish centre.

Editor of the Irish Post, Brendan MacLua in the Dolan column, reflected on the 1980s and stated ‘the effects of the Hunger strikes were profound. Soon the IBRG emerged a new Irish community organisation in Britain. Initially it had tremendous vitality’

This is not just the case. IBRG started off in a disastrous way  set up in October 1981  it modelled itself on the SDP and took ages to get to London, them messed up London completely with a  London  Regional council, and never got going properly until 1983 and took a long time to get a policy on N. Ireland.

IBRG’s  first position being: we condemn violence on all side without any explanation of where violence came from in Ireland. It was felt in IBRG that MacLua was annoyed because IBRG failed to join the Time to Go campaign whose manifesto he had drafted, and IBRG had clashed with him over Kate Hoey as well. History on Hoey shows IBRG to have been right about her Unionist politics. However, MacLua was right about Thatcherism when he stated that the lies about Gibraltar and then the Stalker exposure ‘confirmed the extent to which our policies and our legal system have been corrupted by Mrs Thatcher’s  obstinate determination to defend the indefensible division of Ireland’.

IBRG spoke out about employment discrimination against the Irish in Britain after two cases of discrimination by employers, one against  Boots which was found to have unlawfully discriminated against an Irish woman who was awarded £1,800 and another case where an Irishman was asked at his interview with Royal Mail whether he had a drink problem.

During 1989 Sinn Fein councillors in several parts of Ireland backed the IBRG campaign to make the Dublin government accountable for mass emigration.  In Monaghan Council Caoimhglin O Caolain put the motion to his Council and warned of the major crisis which the IBRG had identified in London and called on the Irish Embassy to become more responsive to the needs of the newly arrived Irish. The motion was later circulated to all county councils and Urban District councils in Ireland during them to support the motion, to tackle emigration and to provide better services for those forced to emigrate.

Looking back on the1980s the rising of the IBRG coincided with the Brixton Black uprising of 1981 and the rising of the GLC under Ken Livingstone, where you had both the Black and Irish communities on the move along with the Women’s movement and the Gay and Lesbian movement.

With the Guildford Four release, it felt like Fainne Geal an Lae. Bright ring of the day.

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 Mancheser – 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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Posted in anti-cuts, Bernadette McAliskey, education, feminism, films, human rights, Ireland, Irish second generation, labour history, Manchester, North of Ireland, political women, Salford, Socialism, trade unions, Uncategorized, women, working class history, young people | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

My review of “That’s How it Was” by Maureen Duffy

 

Secondhand bookshops are treasure troves,  but sadly they are in decline. They have been  defeated by Abe books and the lack of books bought generally. But in Hamburg I came across this great  English language bookshop   run by Rob who has lived in Germany since the 1980s. The shop was crammed with books everywhere – on the shelves and on the floor – and that is where I came across this hidden gem.

Originally  published in 1962,  the wonderful Virago Press put it out as a Virago Modern Classic in 1983. Written by Maureen Duffy it documents her working class upbringing and the tremendous impact that her mother, a single parent, and TB victim, had on her life. The novel includes an introduction in which Maureen discusses her life, the novel and its publication.

 It reveals a world that looks scarily similar to today Tuberculosis was the Covid 19  of its era. As Maureen says. “In the year that my mother died, 1948, she was one among nearly 23,000 recorded deaths from TB of the respiratory system.” This only told part of the story as the disease was often concealed in the  deaths of people with lung conditions.

Maureen was brought up in the 1930s – a time of no NHS or free education:  the book shows how her mother encouraged her to pursue education as a means of freedom from poverty and the escape into an independent life.  She quotes her mother on education as   “the one thing they can’t take away from you.” That is a phrase echoing in many working class families across this country – even today.

At the core of the novel is the relationship between Paddy (the daughter) and Louey, her mother. Paddy is “illegitimate” – a word that had life changing consequences for many children of that era -but not for Paddy. It is Louey who tries to ensure that she is sheltered from the harshness of that label and,  as Paddy says,  “I grew six inches under the light touch of her hand on my head”.

Running throughout the book is Maureen’s own experience of growing up in a working class community. Her mother came from an East End background: the people who were originally sucked from the agricultural areas of outer London into the industrial suburbs of the city.

Alongside Paddy and Louey is another character, the  TB which Maureen called la belle dame sans merci.  Her mother lived with it for nearly thirty years until she haemorrhaged and died in the street at aged just   forty-two.

There are harrowing scenes throughout the book when Paddy and Louey go for check-ups and there is always the prospect that Paddy may have inherited the condition. Unlike Covid 19, having TB was seen as shameful. When Louey meets a young mother in the hospital she explains the process and says “And if he sends you for an X- ray, as he probably will, don’t you worry. It doesn’t hurt, and if there is anything, they can see it and catch it in time, and even cure it.”

For me, the strength of this book is the portrayal of a working class community that is intelligent, brave and loving towards each other, even under the worst conditions. The lives of Paddy and Louey are quite tragic and nowadays would be seen as victims of their class, social position and health but that is not how Maureen creates their characters or tells their life story.

That’s How it Was is a novel about the 1930s, written in the 1960s, but its universal themes about class and sexual politics are as relevant today.

It is not easy to get a copy of the novel today, the only place I could find one was on Amazon UK.

Find out more about Maureen’s other books here

Maureen wrote one episode in the Upstairs Downstairs series (1971).

A great story of class and sexual politics.

Watch it here “The Mistress And The Maids

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted in book review, Catholicism, education, feminism, novels, TV drama, Uncategorized, women, working class history, young people | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

History of the Irish in Britain Representation Group Part eight: 1988

 
 

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.

 
 
 
an pobal eirithe 88

1988 was the 70th  anniversary of the Irish Peoples vote for a Republic and in each decade since then the Irish abroad have raised this banner high.

The IBRG policy on immediate withdrawal of British forces of occupation was not the first time that this  demand had been made.  In 1971 Senator Edward Kennedy brought a motion before both House of Congress  calling for the British to withdraw from N. Ireland and for an united Ireland as he stated  ‘The heart of the solution we offer today is to call for the immediate withdrawal of British Troops  from Nt Ireland and for the establishment of an United Ireland. Without a firm commitment to that withdrawal and unification there can be no peace in Ireland. The killings will go on and the intolerable violence will continue. Ulster is becoming Britain’s Vietnam Indeed it is fair to say that Britain’s stance towards peace in Nt Ireland today is where America was in SE Asia in the early 1960’s.’ What a tragedy that it took the British a generation to realise this.

On 13th January 1988 IBRG members Maude Casey, Diarmuid Breatnach, Brid Dooley and Pat Reynolds met with Hilda McCafferty of ILEA (Inner London Education Authority) to push for Irish recognition across the board in ILEA, ethnic monitoring of staff and students, an Irish dimension in literature, history and politics,  recognition of anti-Irish racism and steps to challenge it.

On 15th January 1988 Sean McBride dies. Both Jim King and Pat Reynolds had met him at the Irish American Unity Conference back in 1985 where Sean McBride got a standing ovation from the packed Conference.

On 20th January 1988 Pat Reynolds spoke at Cambridge College of Arts & Technology to several hundred students on Ireland and the Irish in Britain.

On 23rd January 1988 the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Trade Union Club in Blackburn with 11 delegates and officers present including Joan Brennan, Michael O Cnaimhsi Jim King, Joe Mullarkey, Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds and Virginia Moyles with apologies from Gearoid MacGearailt, Maire O Shea, Diarmuid Breatnach, Maurice Moore and Caitlin Wright.

The meeting heard that two meetings had taken place in Brent to restart Brent IBRG. It was reported that IBRG had challenged Camden Council over deporting Irish homeless families and that Laura Sullivan, Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds were working on the matter. Brent Council had agreed not to deport Irish families. Camden were being taken to court on the matter.  Islington and Manchester were looking at the situation.

It was felt that IBRG needed a housing policy, but IBRG were leading the fight against the deportation of Irish families.

IBRG had made a response to Lord Colville for his review into the PTA. In London the IBRG had acted over Christmas to protect several Derry young men who had been arrested including standing bail for one of them. The call had come from Derry to try and help them and get them a good solicitor. Pat Reynolds found hostility at Wood Green police station when he went to record the bail money, where the police tried to mislay his passport.

The meeting heard that IBRG had sold 650 copies of the first edition of an pobal eirithe and that it was on sale in community bookshops in London.

The Ard Choiste heard that an American High Court judge had described the Danny Gilbert McNamee case ‘an abomination of justice’. Branches were asked to take up the case of Martina Shanahan who was being strip searched on a regular basis.  Haringey IBRG would be holding an Education Conference in April 1988.

The meeting heard that NALGO head office had apologised for publishing in the Nalgo Insurance magazine  “Asset” –an anti-Irish article. The Manager of Nalgo Insurance based at Nalgo HQ at Kings Cross had written to Pat Reynolds PRO to say regarding  “What’s in a Wogan “an article on Terry Wogan which went on say  No potato head is he, that ‘We agree that the comments contained in this article were most unfortunate  and should not have been published. Certainly, Nalgo Insurance agree with equal opportunities and it is intended that any future issue of Asset will contain an appropriate apology’. 

Terry Wogan also made it known to the IBRG via his agent that he was disgusted with the article and disassociated himself from it, indicating that he was a proud Irish man. Manchester IBRG had taken up the issue through Manchester Nalgo who had passed a motion condemning the article as anti-Irish.

The meeting decided to send an IBRG delegation to Belfast to meet Sinn Fein and to look at cultural projects in the city. The meeting held a minutes silence for the late Sean McBride and acknowledged his fight across generations for Ireland’s  freedom.

The meeting agreed to get involved in the 20th anniversary year of action to mark 200 years of the Irish Civil Rights movement. Virginia Moyles reported back on her  attendance at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis in Dublin. The meeting agreed that all branches should write to the Home Office and to Brian Lenihan over the racist PTA laws in Britain.

Failure of Birmingham Six Appeal

On 28th January 1988 IBRG members picketed 10 Downing St over the Birmingham Six case and  their appeal being rejected. The British State knew these men to be innocent but decided to keep them in prison for longer. Lord Lane Lord Chief Justice ruled the convictions safe and satisfactory after the then longest appeal of seven weeks in British history. Lord Denning summed up the view of the British judiciary when in retirement he stated ‘if the men meaning the Birmingham Six had been hung, we would have none of this trouble’.

The next day IBRG members attended a Birmingham Six benefit at the Camden Irish centre. After a seven-week appeal hearing the Appeal Court rejected the Appeal with Lord Lane stating ‘the longer this trail has gone on the more convinced this court has been that the verdict was correct’ which says much for Lord Lane. The Labour MP Chris Mullin stated ‘it is a sad day for British justice’. The Irish Justice Minister says he is amazed and saddened by the decision, which had soured British Irish relations because the Irish government was under massive pressure at home on the issue, and the Anglo-Irish Agreement could not even deliver Irish hostages back to the community.

The IBRG in their statement on the Birmingham Six appeal being turned down restated Lord Denning 1980 verdict on the case the appalling vista view of British justice, it is so terrible to contemplate that it could not have happened, but it did happen. ‘If the six men win, it will mean that the police were guilty of perjury that they were guilty of violence and threats, that the confessions admitted were involuntary and were improperly admitted in evidence and that the convictions were erroneous.’

The Birmingham Six remain incarcerated because the British judiciary system acts totally in accord with British colonial political policy towards the Irish people.  The Birmingham Six is not a miscarriage of justice, it is the only kind of justice that the British colonial state has ever given the Irish people, and until the Irish people are free from British colonial rule, we will continue to receive the same kind of treatment. The Guildford Four, the Maguire Seven, Judith Ward, McLoughlin and McNamee cases all testify to the same political truth.

The British state strategy for policing the Irish community in Britain to render it inactive and silent, and to take political hostages from our community, to harass and intimidate the entire community under the racist PTA laws, and to use the judiciary to rubber stamp their political control. But we not be silenced or broken, we will speak out for our civil and political rights. Our sense of freedom is intertwined with the oppression of the nationalist community in Nt Ireland, and the only way forward is to fight politically for the total victory of the Irish people over British imperialism.

The IBRG will continue to fight British injustices and call for a fresh and vigorous campaign for the release of all Irish prisoners falsely convicted by the British state. While they stay in prison, we as a community are all imprisoned and our political rights shacked. We demand their release and for an end of the racist PTYA laws. The IBRG call on the Irish community to become politically active, to make their voices heard, and to resist the injustice and oppression of our people.

Bloody Sunday March January 1988

On 30th January 1988 there was a huge crowd on the Bloody Sunday March -a reaction to the decision on the Birmingham Six case. The route was from Whittington Park in Holloway to Islington Town Hall with several IBRG banners on the March. Haringey IBRG had their banner smashed outside of Islington Town Hall when the National Front attacked the march as they entered the Town Hall. Ken Livingstone was the key speaker.

The Guardian covered the march and quoted the IBRG PRO  who  stated that TOM had 1,200-members and that IBRG had 5,000 members.

Ken Livingstone stated that any politician allowing an Irish republican to be extradited to Britain would be denying every fibre of Irish nationhood. Livingstone condemned the decision of the Appeal Court on the Birmingham and sated that it was of the most shameful week in Britain history with Ireland.

Mitchell McLoughlin spoke for Sinn Fein, Jeremy Corbyn MP and Diana Abbot MP also spoke along with Emma Groves a plastic bullet survivor. The March and rally were the biggest in a decade, with between 5-7000 people taking part.

Diana Abbot stated there would be no peace in Ireland until British troops were removed. 27 members of the National Front were arrested for disorder after attacking the March.

It was noted that there was a sizable young Irish crowd on the March due to heavy immigration from Ireland in recent years. The Bloody Sunday March was again organised by TOM, LCI and IBRG with Virginia Moyles being the IBRG delegate to the committee.

In the USA the Irish People newspaper covered the IBRG statement PTA Review a Sham and covered the statement in full with the further headline of Racist and Anti Irish.

New Irish joke book disgusting was the Irish Post headline on 1st February 1988 about the IBRG challenge to the publication of racist books about the Irish.  Futura Publications owned it, and with Chair Robert Maxwell who owned the master company :MacDonald & Co. The company was based at Maxwell House in London.  In two years alone Futura had sold over 485,000 of the Official Irish joke books.

Liz Curtis and Information on Ireland joined IBRG in their protest. Futura published three anti-Irish books with the main purpose to denigrate and treat the Irish people in a very racist derogatory way. The books were the official Irish Joke Book, the Irish Perfumed Garden and the Irish Kama Sutra all vile and mocking of the Irish portraying them a stupid and ignorant.

The books contained virulent racist anti-Irish material and Pat Reynolds challenged Maxwell as to why as a well-known member of a minority  community, he should be making money out of racist abuse directed at the Irish community. Futura described their racist books as harmless fun. The books were on sale in Smiths and Menzies.

On 5th February 1988 John Stalker stated that he had been taken off the Shoot to Kill inquiry because his investigation was about to cause a political storm which would lead to resignations. He said his investigation showed that trained RUC squads had shot dead six unarmed republicans and then made up stories to cover up for their deaths.

On 6th February 1988 IBRG members attended a Conference on Emigration at the Brent Irish Centre.

IBRG Delegation meets Irish Embassy

On 12th February 1988 the IBRG sent a delegation to the Irish Embassy to meet the Irish Ambassador Andrew O ‘Rourke. The delegation members were Gearoid McGearailt Chair, Virginia Moyles Runai, Caitlin Wright Education and Pat Reynolds PRO.  Pat O’Connor Minister Plenipotentiary and Briefni O’Reilly  Third  Secretary and Ted Smith Press Officer attended for the Embassy. The meeting lasted three hours.

The IBRG statement after the visit stated ‘The IBRG express deep disappointment   with the meeting with the Irish Ambassador in that on every major issue affecting the Irish community in Britain which was raised with the Embassy, they appeared to have no clear policy for effective action.’

The issues raised include the Stalker Report on the British shoot to kill policy, Extradition, Transfer of Irish Prisoners, PTA, Emigration, Dion, Deportations of Irish families, Abortion, Anti Irish racism in the media,  and anti-Irish discrimination, free travel for Irish elders,  Manchester consulate, Irish lottery grant, and Irish nationality changes.

The Ambassador in response stated that Charlie Haughey would be making a statement to the Dail on the Stalker report, and on the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four Case the Irish government would not comment,  until after the case had been to the House of Lords, and refused to state publicly that they believed the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four were innocent. In this matter they were acting like provincial governors for the British government and lacked the bottle of an independent nation.

On the transfer of Irish prisoners, the Irish Government could give no indication as to when they would ratify the transfer agreement, probably wait until the British told them it was ok to do so.  The Irish Ambassador did state that the Irish government would soon be funding a full-time worker to deal with Irish prisoners in Britain. Again, they went to the Catholic church to do this, in an effort to head off the work the IBRG were doing in this area.  The Catholic church had a record of colluding with the British government and keeping silence over Irish  issues in prison like deaths in custody and their silence over Gerry Conlon being at a Catholic Church run hostel in Quex Road on the evening of the Guildford bombing, where they keep silent for 14 years on the matter, and then jumped on the bandwagon when the prisoners were close to release.

On the PTA the Irish Government wanted reform rather than repeal despite the fact that Haughey in opposition wanted it repealed. On Emigration the Irish government had no policy at all except to encourage it and keep it going.

The IBRG drew attention to Dion being all male and that it did not represent the wider Irish community.  On the deportations of Irish families, the Irish Embassy saw nothing illegal nor discriminatory in it, despite the clear evidence that it was anti-Irish discrimination as the Irish were singled out for deportation, and Ireland was treated as a provincial colony of Britain.

On abortion the Irish government had no comment until after the supreme court decision in Dublin. On the question of anti-Irish racism and discrimination and the various reports of the GLC and others the Irish government and Embassy had taken no action.

The Irish Embassy sems to think that the Irish in Britain were doing fine, but had no evidence to back up their fake claims.  On the question of anti-Irish racism in the media the Irish Embassy were out at sea and in a heavy fog, being clueless and ignorant.

Working towards Justice Key worker to press case of prisoners was the headline of the The London Irish News on 20th February 1988. It  covered the IBRG visit to the Irish Embassy in a large article. The Irish Post on the same day had Embassy not Doing Enough. The story was also covered by the Irish News in Belfast.

On 12th February 1988 Paul Hill of the innocent Guildford Four got married in prison, and the Sun headline read IRA pig weds in prison – despite them knowing that he was innocent.

On 14th February 1988 IBRG members attended a large conference on Strip Searching at Hackney Town Hall.

On 16th February 1988 the IBRG held a Press Conference at the House of Commons on the PTA at which Clare Short MP and Pat Reynolds PRO spoke. Afterwards Pat had interviews on the PTA with LBC and BBC radio, and later that evening he attended the debate in the House of Commons. What he found out at the debate was revealing is that the majority of Tory MPs who spoke in favour of the PTA all had financial links with companies supplying arms/equipment for use in N. Ireland, but none declared their interests.

On 20th February 1988 the IBRG Ard Choste took place at Birmingham Community Association building in Birmingham with 20 delegates and officers present including Michael Herbert,  David Wright,  Pat O Sullivan,  Mary Donnelly, Denis Casey,  Eddie  Caughey,  Liz Fenton, Trevor O Farrell, Jerry Osner, Bernadette Hyland, Pat Reynolds, Caitlin Wright, Diarmuid Breatnach, Gearoid McGearailt, Virginia Moyles, Maire O Shea, and Maurice Moore.

The Ard Choiste agreed a Haringey IBRG motion that the IBRG organise support and sponsor a St Patrick’s Day March on 19th March for Justice for the Irish Community over the framed prisoners and the PTA.  It was agreed that Pat Reynolds coordinate the march with help from Diarmuid and Lewisham IBRG.

The Ard Choiste condemned the harassment of members of Comhaltas because of their Gaelic names and would take the issue with the British and Irish governments.  A report back on the delegation to the Embassy was given. The upcoming delegation to N. Ireland was agreed. The meeting supported the ongoing IBRG campaign against the deportation of Irish families back to Ireland. It was agreed that IBRG co-ordinate a campaign on the transfer of Irish prisoners back to Ireland and on prison conditions.

The Ard Fheis would take place at Lambeth Town Hall on 5th March 1988. The Education Conference run by Haringey IBRG would take place on 25th June in Haringey. It was agreed to proceed with plans to send a delegation to Ireland and to the European parliament.

The Year of Action to commemorate 20 years since  1968 Civil Rights campaign  was discussed, and the meeting rejected the idea of having a front of famous English people. The point was made that the oppression of Irish people in Britain was part and parcel of Britain colonisation of Ireland.  It was agreed that the aim of the year should be self-determination for the Irish people and equality for the Irish in Britain.

In Community Care social work magazine in February 1988 Angela McAndrews of Birmingham IBRG had  challenged those who denied that the Irish suffered from racism . The middle classes in Britain, whilst prepared to accept that black people suffered from racism, always wanted to deny the Irish experience of racism and to deny them access to the Race Discrimination Act in employment and housing.

On 22nd February 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking with Ken Livingstone and Mrs Hill, aunt of Paul Hill, at the Marion Centre in Brent to a huge crowd. There was nearly an incident when an ex British undercover officer spoke up at the meeting but Livingstone defused the matter.

On 22nd February 1988 the Irish Government announced its own inquiry into the shooting dead of Aiden McAnespie by machine gun fire the previous day on the border.

On 25th February 1988 the Socialist Workers Party wrote to the Bloody Sunday organisers asking to   take part in building for the 20th anniversary in 1989 of the troops going into Ireland. Their letter stated ‘This year’s Bloody Sunday demonstration was both the largest and the most representative in terms of widespread labour movement support since the demonstration in August 1979 marking the 20th anniversary of the troops going in’.

On 28th February 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO had an interview with RTE about the Star newspaper being printed in Ireland given their racial abuse of the Irish in Britain.

Following a 1968 commemoration conference at Coalisland on 7th February 1988 a 68 Committee was set up to organise events to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Civil Rights movement with Bernadette McAliskey as Chair and Tom Hartley as Organiser. The 68 committee wrote to IBRG to advise them of the committee, and to inspire people in Britain to set up their own committee to hold events in Britain.

On 5th March 1988 the IBRG held their Ard Fheis at Lambeth Town Hall in South London with 34 delegates attending from11 branches. These branches were Hackney, Lambeth, Harrow, Lewisham, Camden, Brighton, Birmingham, Manchester, Haringey Coventry and Bolton.

Among those attending were Laura Sullivan, Deasun MacGearailt, Tom Fitzsimons, Seamus O Coillean, Virginia Moyles, Denis Casey,  Nuala Eefting, Maurice Cahill, Maire O Shea, Maire Stedman, Aine bean Ni Gearailt, Seamus Clerkin, Tom Kane, Harry Bourne, Mary Donnelly, Pat O Sullivan, Eddie Caughey, Bernadette Hyland,  Joan Brennan,  Diarmuid Breatnach, Janice McKnight, Maurice Moore, Kathleen Henry, Pat Reynolds, Kathleen Horan, Margaret Coffey, Brain Millar, Caitlin Wright, David Wright, Trevor O Farrell, Frank Downing, Seamus Campbell, Marie McLoughlin,

Press attending included: Paul Griffin Irish Post Una McGrory Irish World, and Rachel Downey London Irish News.

The following officers were elected: Chair Gearoid McGearailt Lambeth, Vice Chair Bernadette Hyland Manchester, President Maire O Shea Birmingham, Vice President Joe Mullarkey Bolton, Runia Virginia Moyles Hackney, Leas runai Laura O Sullivan Hackney, Cisteoir Maurice Moore Coventry, PRO Pat Reynolds Haringey, Education officer Caitlin Wright Bolton, Regional Co-ordinator Diarmuid Breatnach Lewisham, Membership Janice McKnight Haringey.

The Chair Gearoid MacGearailt recalled a year of much activity and campaigning by the IBRG giving the cases of the Birmingham Six and Guildford a higher profile, the campaign against racism in the media and noted three successes in the past year when  Staedtler apologised for a racist anti-Irish advert, as did Nalgo Insurance and London Transport.

He highlighted IBRG’s continued opposition to the PTA and the 59,000 computer checks done on the Irish in the last year, the IBRG campaign against Irish emigration, the conferences in Manchester Lambeth and Haringey on different issues, and promised IBRG another busy year ahead in fighting for the rights of the community. Motions included, to set up a single Irish Secretariat in Britain to represent the entire community, one on trade union rights and one on conditions facing Irish prisoners in Britain.

Gibraltar executions

On 6th March 1988 three members of an IRA Active Service Unit  were executed on the orders of Margaret Thatcher the British Prime Minister contrary to the Geneva Convention. The ASU were clearly unarmed but were still executed by the British colonial state in their colonial territory of Gibraltar.

IBRG took up the matter with Charlie Haughey, Taoiseach, Neil Kinnock, Leader of the Labour Party, George Robertson Labour Foreign affairs, and the Spanish Ambassador. George Roberson congratulated British Crown forces for the executions and the Geneva Convention violations.

Haughey was asked to  seek an independent enquiry into these events, and a review of the instructions given to British soldiers in such situations.

IBRG asked Neil Kinnock  whether the Labour party felt it was acceptable for unarmed people to be shot dead, on suspicion of having committed a crime in the light of the British Parliament  consistently opposing  the reintroduction of the death penalty, and to George Robertson in view of his statement in the Commons congratulating the security forces on the shooting of three unarmed  people contrary to the Geneva Convention, whether it was now Labour Party official policy to accept that unarmed people can  be shot dead in a shoot to kill policy.

On 10th March 1988 Hammersmith Nalgo passed an emergency motion condemning the Gibraltar executions, and agreed to send a message of support and sympathy to the relatives and community in West Belfast. The Branch motion noted that it was Branch policy to campaign for Irish self-determination and for the immediate withdrawal of British troops as the only basis for peace.

Hammersmith Nalgo on 10th March 1988 wrote a letter to the Sinn Fein Centre on the Falls Road with a copy of the motion passed by the branch. The letter went on to state ‘We salute you for the fortitude you have displayed throughout the longest war ever waged against the British state, waged in such desperate circumstances against such overwhelming odds. The courage and resilience you have shown for all time to those throughout the world, who want to struggle against tyranny and oppression. We want you to know that there are trade unionists in Britain who are not prepared to remain silent in the face of the sort of state terror which Gibraltar saw this week, and which Northern Ireland sees every day. We know despite the lying hypocrisy of the British government that there is indeed a war going on in Ireland. We are committee to campaigning for the immediate withdrawal of British troops as the only basis for a peaceful end to that war. We support you in your fight for national self-determination. Your fight is our fight and our day will come’.

The Sun newspaper on 28th March 1988 went ballistic over the  Hammersmith Nalgo motion and letter and Nalgo HQ followed the Sun loyally.   John Daly, General Secretary of Nalgo, issued a letter to all branches secretaries, claiming  falsely that only one member of Hammersmith Branch had taken this action, when in fact the motion was passed by the Branch.

IBRG condemned the actions of Nalgo on being dictated to by the racist Sun and wrote to John Daly General Secretary on the matter.

The IBRG statement ran Sun dictates Nalgo Policy on Ireland. And stated ‘The IBRG condemn the pandering of Nalgo NEC to the racist Sun newspaper and Nalgo failure to condemn the shooting dead of three Irish workers and citizens in Gibraltar, and condemn the divisive tactics of moving the focus from British state terrorism back upon the Irish people. The IBRG condemns the Nalgo support for the Unionist veto in Ireland, and of hiding behind the Nt Ireland Committee  of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, which had no right to dictate to Irish or British trade unions  what to do when they themselves were part of the problem in N. Ireland, in a long history of racial and sectarian discrimination against Irish citizens and Catholics. The IBRG deplored how Nalgo NEC at the 1987 National Conference blocked the Irish workers group motion on self-determination for the Irish people, by giving their own NEC pro Unionist motion priority and forcing the Irish workers motion to be put as an amendment. Pure racism in action, afraid to let their own membership decide on a motion put from the heart of the Irish community in Britain. Nalgo NEC fear an open debate on Ireland and have always interfered with any democratic debate on Ireland trying to stifle any Irish debate.

The N. Ireland Committee’s position, which Nalgo support, is nothing but meaningless verbiage, the fact being that they have done absolutely nothing on employment discrimination in N. Ireland, and use their vote to block any debate on an United Ireland.  IBRG pointed out that in the setting up of the sectarian statelet of N. Ireland British military might had been used to put the Catholics down. Out of 93,00 Catholics in Belfast 11,00 were driven out of their jobs because of their racial and religion origins, with 23,000 Catholics burned out of their homes by Orange state sponsored mobs, over 450 dead the majority of them Catholics and over 500 catholic business shops destroyed. In 1988 Catholics were still two and a half times more likely to be unemployed and that is the system that Naglo supports in N. Ireland.

IBRG accused Nalgo of distorting the issue which was one of British state violence which was the primary source of the conflict, and accused Nalgo in a racist way of trying to blame the Nationalist community, for the violence instead of trying to educate their members on the racist nature of the Sun, claiming for its boycott and ending Nalgo policy of supporting British interference in Ireland.  Nalgo had no problem supporting the struggle in South Africa, or the struggle in Chile or Nicaragua but when it came to Ireland Nalgo supported British imperialism and the Unionist veto.

Pat Reynolds, PRO, wrote to John Daly General Secretary in protest at the Nalgo attack on British trade unionists showing solidarity with the Irish people, over a brutal shoot to kill policy in Gibraltar contrary to the Geneva Convention.  Nalgo should be calling for a full inquiry into the shooting of these Irish workers and citizens, who were unarmed in Gibraltar Does Nalgo now support a shoot to kill policy despite passing a motion on 1987 conference for a full inquiry into the Stalker affair and the publication of that report.  Nalgo should not be taking their instructions form the racist Sun newspaper, if the Sun is wrong about trade unionist how much more wrong are, they on Ireland. The Irish Post covered the IBRG statement with IBRG slams National Executive of NALGO

On 10th March 1988 Dr Noel Browne opened the London Irish Bookfair run by Green Ink at Camden Town Hall.

On 11th March 1988 Gearoid McGearailt and Pat Reynolds appeared on Thames TV show Time and Place to condemn the Gibraltar executions.

On 16th March 1988 Pat Reynolds, PRO, gave the Terence MacSwiney lecture in London on the topic of Building the Irish Community 20 years after the Civil Rights Movement. Over 100 people attended the lecture.

On 17th March three people were killed by Loyalist killer Michael Stone at the Gibraltar funerals at Milltown cemetery.

On 19th March 1988   during a republican funeral two British Intelligence officers were trapped by the people who thought they were under another loyalist attack, and the two disarmed agents were later executed by the IRA.

On 20th March 1988 the IBRG March for Justice went   from Hyde Park to Kilburn with over 1,000 marchers. The speakers at the rally were Conor Foley from the Guildford Four campaign, Paul May from the Birmingham Six campaign, Diarmuid Breatnach from the IBRG, and Teresa McCann from the Strip Search campaign. Alf Lomas sponsored the march as did TOM, LCI, IFM, Labour Party Irish sections, Irish republican POW, SWP and the Irish Women’s Group. L’asociation Irlande in Paris sent a message of solidarity.

IBRG March for Justice

The March called for the release of the Birmingham Six Guildford Four and for the repeal of the PTA, the release of Judith Ward, and the exoneration for the Maguire Seven.

Diarmuid Breatnach speaking for IBRG at the Rally opened his speech in Irish and noted the huge contribution the Irish community in Britain had made to the rebuilding of Britain after the war. Irish nurses had made a huge contribution to building the NHS in Britain, and   the Irish had built up the Trade union movement in Britain giving it much leadership, from the Chartist movement down to the present times. He spoke of how the voice of the Irish in Britain had been silenced, ignored, ridiculed and imprisoned because it challenged Britain colonial policies in Ireland and ended his speech by calling on the   labour movement to listen to the voice of the Irish community.

The IBRG called on the International Irish community to make the theme of their St Patricks day Parades all over the world, the release of the Birmingham Six and Guildford and to carry their banners on their parades. The IBRG reminded the international Irish community that in one year alone 1974 18 innocent members of our community in Britain were framed by the British judicial system as political hostages to silence the Irish community in Britain. On the PTA over 6,500 Irish people had been arrested  under the racist PTA laws for no other reason than their Irishness and the fact that they were travelling to or from Ireland, over 300 Irish people had been internally deported under these racist laws to internal exile away from their families and communities, and 4,000 women had been striped searched in Armagh and Brixton prison because they were Irish.

The message from L’Association Irlanaise in Paris read ‘The Irish Association in Paris in solidarity with the Irish in Britain Representation Group calls for freedom for the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four and Judith Ward and for exoneration for the Maguire Seven. We view with special concern the British government’s introduction of increasing repressive legislation aimed at the Irish community, in particular the introduction of the new permanent PTA laws in direct contravention of a recent ruling by the European Court of human Rights.’ IBRG branches with banners on the march were Birmingham, Camden, Hackney, Haringey and Lewisham but members marched also from Brighton, Bolton, and Lambeth. It was however the first time IBRG organised a march on his own, but as usual the British left while expecting the Irish community to support their marches did not support the community marching.

There was in addition an international outcry by the international Irish community over the British government  rejecting the appeal of the innocent Birmingham six and holding them as hostages from the community. Protests took place  in New York, Dublin London Manchester and Birmingham with vigils prayer meetings and protests.

The Irish News in Belfast quoted Pat Reynolds PRO as saying “We can no longer stay silent while members of our community spend their lives in prison based on false convictions, and daily see innocent Irish people being harassed under the racist PTA laws. As the international Irish community, we must stand up and seek the freedom of these innocent and victimised Irish people.’

In Dublin there was a picket of the British Embassy with Ulick O’Connor reading poems by Richard McIlkenny and  with relatives of the Six travelling to Dublin for the event. The Dublin based Birmingham Six  Committee was holding a meeting at the Mansion House with Chris Mullin  who had written Error of Judgement on the case, Gareth Pierce solicitor for the Birmingham Six, Alistair Logan solicitor for the Guildford Four and Michael Farrell.

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Manchester IBRG was accused by the Council of Irish Associations Officer Tom McAndrews of offering covert support for Sinn Fein in the Manchester Evening News. Joe Mullarkey replied and accused McAndrews of trying to smear IBRG for cheap publicity. Shamefully McAndrews in the Manchester Evening News article of 10th March 1988 had accused the IBRG of holding a debate on the Birmingham Six case and the role of the British Press. McAndrews stated ‘debates on the Birmingham Six and the role of the British press formed no part of the festival’ and added that IBRG gave covert support to Sinn Fein and ‘I don’t want our festival tainted’. Bernadette Hyland responded by stating that the McAndrews and his clique had tried to exclude Irish women andthe innocent Birmingham Six from the Festival.

Read more about Manchester IBRG vs the C.I.A. here

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One of the events that really upset the C.I.A.

N.E. Lancashire IBRG in March 1988 brought out a very professional four-page newsletter giving details of Irish activities in that area. One story in it slammed Blackburn College’s  rag magazine for publishing  a number of racist anti-Irish jokes/insults, and had raised the issue with Blackburn Community Relations Council. Rag magazines in Britain were notorious each year for publishing anti-Irish material which was offensive to the community and put pressure on Irish students to be silent. It was a national virus in Britain which needed to be rooted out from the National Media to rag Magazine to children comics to army magazines. The Lancashire Irish News gave many  details of Irish culture, music ,dancing ,language and GAA plus Comhaltas news in the area.

The IBRG Internal Coordinator brought out Cogar a six-page internal Bulletin for IBRG which covered the IBRG march for Justice, and highlighting the successful Manchester Hearts and Minds conference, and how it was organised with good tips for other branches attempting similar events.

On 15th March 1988  IBRG were invited to attend the Socialist Conference meeting in Sheffield on 11/12 June 1988 to take part  in a discussion of the Irish community and the  struggle for self-determination. It was   based on a paper drawn up by Nadine Finch.  The aim  being to bring forward a comprehensive policy around the  issue of Irish self-determination and  the rights of the Irish community in Britain.

IBRG Delegation to Belfast

The IBRG sent a delegation to Belfast to meet Sinn Fein and to visits cultural and community groups there for five days from 31st March -6th April 1988.  Nine members attended including Virginia Moyles, Laura Sullivan, Sean Brown, Seamus Cronogue, Neil Duffield, Pat O Sullivan, Paul Salveson, Del Thorogood and Pat Reynolds. Delegates came from Manchester, London, Birmingham and Blackburn.

The group stayed with local families in Belfast. The delegation met with Tom Hartley, Alex Maskey, Mairtin O Muilleoir and ex IBRG member now back home Brid Keenan.

The delegation took part in the Easter Parade to Milltown cemetery, where Martin McGuinness spoke.  As this was after the Gibraltar executions, the attack on the funeral as at Milltown and then the execution of two British undercover agents, there was still an air of tension around with people on their guard against any further attacks.

The delegation visited the Davis flats, Bunscoil NaBhfal, the Falls Road Women Centre and had discussions on housing, education employment culture, prisoners and Irish self-determination.

The delegation were able to see at first hand the  effect of the British military occupation of Belfast Nationalist areas with big forts and regular armoured Lorries with guns pointed at civilians.Shocking housing and the effects of employment discrimination and poverty, but also observed the fighting spirit of an unbroken people in their fight for equality and justice.  The visit also showed how two border economies had ruined Ireland and whilst  the Irish Republic were now paying millions to support a British border in their own country, and thousands of Irish people had been driven out by these divided failed economic states.

Cllr Alex Maskey and Gerald McGuigan spoke about how Sinn Fein were engaging in political life at Belfast City Hall, where they had to overcome Unionist opposition to their presence there. Sinn Fein had a twin strategy one of support for the armed struggle, and the second one of engaging in local politics. Danny Morrison quote sums it up ’with a ballot in one hand and an armalite in the other’.

Sean Keenan spoke about housing in Belfast and how despite Planning for Poleglas  having plans for 6,000 houses only 3,000 were built as it might affect the Unionist majority in Lisburn.  Housing planning was subject to military planning and control, and was based on British military control of areas.

Tom Hartley spoke of Sinn Fein broadening their activity since the 1981 Hunger Strikes to take on political representation including going into Dail Eireann – a new departure for the republican movement which had led to a split. Martin McGuinness, in a rousing speech, rejected the rabid Fleet St venom against the people of Belfast who had been portrayed as savages in old colonial style, they were a brave people and had every reason to be proud of their identity and their resistance to British occupation and oppression.

Martin O Muilleoir spoke about cultural imperialism and the role of language in that. England had realised in their colonial oppression that they had to break the Gaelic language and culture to break the people, but they always met with Irish resistance. Anti-Irish racism was part of this to portray the Irish and their language a culture as inferior and to attempt to destroy it.  He notes that the Irish in Britain knew the value of culture for their children.

Jimmy McMullin of the Prisoner’s Department spoke of the campaign for transfer back to N. Ireland and for a repatriation transfer treaty to the Irish Republic, and about conditions suffered by Irish prisoners in Britain. The families were active in these campaigns.

Brid Keenan, ex Haringey IBRG, stated that Colleges of Further Education were always put in Unionist areas and West Belfast had 150,000 people without one college.  While 39% of children got A levels there was a 34% illiteracy rate in West Belfast. The ethos of state schools was Unionist and it would be difficult to have integrated schools because the ethos was Unionist.

The Women’s  Centre on the Falls Road was independent of Sinn Fein and they stated that the Women’s movement in N. Ireland had not bridged the  loyalist/ republican  divide, and it was still a male dominated culture across the board, including the political parties, where women were now raising their voices in Sinn Fein and in other movements.

Gearoid McGearailt had a letter in the Irish Times on 6th April challenging Irish Minister Des O Malley on his perception of the Irish in Britain. Des O Malley Leader of the Progressive Democrats argued that ‘In Britain Irish people had reached the pinnacle of success in every walk of life.’ Gearoid proceeded to demolish this claim completely by pointing out the recent research, which showed huge problems in housing, health, employment homelessness, social conditions and earlier death, and for good measure threw in the racist PTA laws and anti-Irish racism in the media.

On 23rd April 1988 the Ard Choiste met at the Telegraph Hill Centre, New Cross,Lewisham where 15 delegates and officers attended including Gearoid McGearailt,  Denis Casey, Pat O Sullivan,  Henry Barron,  Tom Kane,  Jackie Jolley, Treasa de Burch Laura Sullivan, Jodie Clark, Diarmuid Breatnach, Pat Reynolds and Caitlin Wright with apologies from Bernadette Hyland, Virginia Moyles, Eddie Caughey, Arthur Devlin and Maire O Shea.

The meeting heard a report back on the successful St Patricks Day March for Justice which was the first march in years to be organised by the Irish community itself.  There were discussions on new branches in Islington, Brent, Southwark, Bristol, Oxford, Preston and Liverpool.

Year of Action/Time to Go

The year of action regarding  1968 was discussed. The meeting heard that an undemocratic House of Commons Committee had been set up without any consultation with the Irish community and that they had drawn up a charter again without any consultation with the community, who were now supposed to become cannon fodder for their campaign. The LCI ,LWI, TOM, Irish sections and the Wolfe Tones had decided to join the Committee. The IBRG decided to draft their own position paper and circulate and called for the present undemocratic committee to be disbanded to be replaced by a democratic structure accountable to its constituents.

The IBRG statement on the Year of Action read ‘The IBRG cannot take part in a process which has no basis in democracy and no accountability to the Irish community and IBRG cannot endorse the Charter produced by the House of Commons committee. The undemocratic nature of the current working arrangements for the Year of Action was noted. The IBRG called for the House of Commons committee to be disbanded and a democratic structure set up to organise the Year of Action. If a democratic structure is not established, the IBRG will have no alternative but to withdraw from involvement in the Year of Action recognising it, as being organised by the British left with no basis in the Irish community.

The proposal for a Year of Action was first discussed on 29th November 1987 at a National Labour Committee on Ireland meeting which IBRG attended as observers. A further meeting was held on 13th January 1988 where there was discussion on how it would be set up, and what activities would carry out. On 13th February 1988 at another meeting IBRG was informed by LCI that a steering  committee had already been set up in the House of Commons, and that it included John McDonnell, Clare Short, Peter Hain Liberal MP and others, and were called the House of Commons committee.

On 7th March 1988 another meeting was held which IBRG did not attend but the meeting took no notice of any of the concerns raised by the IBRG.

At a further meeting of 21st March 1988  which IBRG attended  and at which John McDonnell MP was present, IBRG tried to reinstate democracy into the group  but were unsuccessful. John McDonnell told the group that Brendan McLua of the Irish Post had drawn up a charter for the Year of Action based on the vague title of Time to Go. John McDonnell said he had talked with Clare Short MP who agreed that equality for the Irish in Britain should be included in the charter.

At a meeting of 11th April 1988 John McDonnell informed the meeting that the Charter now included the word “equality” and had been signed by over 70 people. It was clear to the IBRG that House of Commons Committee was still operating autonomously without any accountability to the Irish community with Clare Short now Chair of the Year of Action.

On 18th April 1988 the Strip-Searching Campaign expressed similar views to the IBRG around the lack of accountability.

On 23rd April 1988 the IBRG Ard Choiste took the view that the undemocratic House of Commons Committee was trying lend Irish credibility to what was in reality a British Labour solidarity-based event. It was a failed opportunity to build a solid year of action on democratic lines.

Manchester IBRG on 18 March took part in the Manchester Irish Week and in a co-promotion with arts venue Green Room they put on a performance of “Kavanagh of Inniskeen” by Sean O’Neill and Company. It was an evening poetry, prose and songs based on the work of the poet and devised by the Company.

Hackney IBRG were to host an IBRG conference on Anti-Irish racism on 4th June at the Centreprise Bookshop in Hackney.

Haringey IBRG were hosting an IBRG Education Conference on 25th June 1988 in Haringey.

Lambeth IBRG were hosting their annual IBRG Countrywide Conference on Welfare and the Irish community on 9th July at Lambeth Town hall.

The Ard Choiste decided to affiliate to the United Campaign against Strip Searching with a £15 donation and to sponsor the Irish Hunger Strike Commemoration march in Birmingham with a £15 donation, and to affiliate to the 68 Civil Rights 20 years on committee with a donation of £25.

The Ard Choiste condemned Exeter City Council for sponsoring the William of Orange celebrations which was linked to anti-Catholic hatred and abuse. The meeting welcomed the Amnesty International response to the Gibraltar executions of three Irish volunteer soldiers who were unarmed. The IBRG agreed to support the March for Palestine on 15th May in London.

A campaign of letter writing had started in the Irish Post against IBRG in April 1988 led by Tom McAndrews and a ‘Mary Henry’ in Manchester. These letters were clearly politically motivated and encouraged by the Irish Post, and were not in the interest of the Irish community to have the right wing of the community, who were doing very little, attacking Irish people who were standing up for their rights in Britain.

On 28th April 1988 the Foreign Secretary failed in an attempt to ban a Thames TV documentary on the Gibraltar executions  “Murder on the Rock”. On 4th May Maggie Thatcher also failed to prevent BBC N. Ireland documentary on the Gibraltar inquests.

The Bobby Sands/James Connolly Commemoration took place at Conway Hall, London on 8th May 1988.

On 10th May 1988 IBRG leafletted the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith at which Bruce Anderson of the Sunday Telegraph was speaking. He was challenged in the meeting by the IBRG over his anti-Irish articles in the Telegraph including a shocking one on the death of Sean McBride entitled Death of an Evil Man when McBride had won both the Nobel Prise for peace and the Lenin Prize. Anderson represented a classic hangover from the days of the evil British Empire which they though the sun shone out from their imperial posteriors.

On 14th May 1988 IBRG branches took part in the Hunger Strike March in Birmingham. The March was organised by Birmingham IBRG and Cumann Cabrach. The March commemorated the 12 hunger strikers including Frank Stagg and Michael Gaughan.

On 19th May 1988 IBRG members joined the picket of 10 Downing St over the deadly use of Plastic bullets being used in N. Ireland which had led to the death of several children.

On 20th May 1988 IBRG members attended the Birmingham Six Benefit at the Haringey Irish centre.

On 21st May 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO had a letter on the Birmingham Six in the Irish People paper in the USA. In it he stated ‘The British state knows well that these men are innocent, but it arrogantly used the methods of colonial repression to intimidate the Irish community on Britain. The arrest beatings and incarceration of these men indicate the extent of Britain’s barbaric methods of political control used to silence the community. The British Justice system is an integral part of Britain’s war effort against the Irish people, where the ends justify the means, whatever the consequences.  The IBRG once again calls on the Irish government to get off its knees and start defending the civil rights of Irish nationals against vindictive British policing and political control. The IBRG calls on the Irish government to demand the release of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four and to publicly state their belief in the innocence of these prisoners.’

On 5th May 1988 the Irish People also covered an IBRG letter attacking an agreement between the Dublin government and the British authorities that people with Irish Gaelic names would not be harassed if they could produce a passport with their Irish names. The IBRG class this shameful and allowed the British authorities to target Irish citizens who might us their Irish names as many were bi lingual, and the Irish constitution allowed Irish people to us their own language. Later in the year the IBRG had another letter in the Irish People on Britain’s Shoot to Kill policy in Ireland.

In May Joe Mullarkey, Michael Herbert, Gearoid MacGearailt, Paul Sheehan and Bernadette Hyland all had letters in the Irish Post defending the IBRG from attacks from the right wing of the Irish community. Bernadette Hyland replied  and listed some of the things that Manchester IBRG had done, a successful Hearts and Minds Conference which drew over 150 people to Manchester, joint work with Green Room venue to put on Irish cultural events,  putting on an Irish Film Festival in Manchester,  take up civil rights issues like the Birmingham Six and PTA supporting issues around Irish travellers, speaking at  the Culture and resistance  conference on anti-Irish racism, working to set up an Irish studies course, campaigning against anti-Irish material in books and in the media  and much more.

Gearoid McGearailt, in his reply in challenging John Fahy of the Federation stated ‘John Fahy urges us to condemn violence. What he means if course is that we should join the British propaganda machine and indulge in selective condemnation of violence. He wants us to condemn republican violence regardless of the causes of that violence. He would like us to attack the symptoms instead of the cause of the problems in Ireland’. Gearoid went on to say that Manchester IBRG was a source of pride to the organisation and to the Irish community.

The IBRG Ard Choiste took place on May 28th 1988 at the Socialist Club in Bolton with twelve delegates and officers attending including Maire O Shea, Maurice Moore, Virginia Moyles, Pat Reynolds, Bernadette Hyland, Michael O Cnaimhsi, Joe Mullarkey and Laura Sullivan with apologies from Gearoid McGearailt, Caitlin Wright, Pat O Sullivan and Diarmuid Breatnach.

The meeting agreed to donate £10 to the Strip Search campaign, £15 to Cuman Cabhrach for advert in their annual magazine, £50 to the West Midlands PTA research and Welfare Project, and £15 to affiliate to the Birmingham Six Campaign in Birmingham.

The Ard Choiste heard that the Mental Health Forum in London had a successful AGM and that a new Irish Social Workers Group had been set up in London, with the aim of making local authorities more aware of the needs of the Irish community.

The meeting heard that the Bolton Irish Festival was taking place from 8-12 June with input from IBRG. Plans were discussed for a delegation to the European Parliament in the autumn with support from Christine Crawley MEP.

The meeting heard that IBRG had to withdraw from the Year of Action campaign as it was not representative of the community, but had been set up in the House of Commons who then expected the community to back it without question.

On 1st June 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO had an interview with BBC Radio in Belfast on the effects of the PTA upon the Irish community in Britain.  Over the years the PRO had to get coverage for IBRG activities in the newspapers in the Republic  and in  N. Ireland from An Phoblacht, to the Irish times Irish Press, Irish News Belfast, Andersonstown News  and in the Irish People in the USA. Also in Irish language papers, while in Britain we had the Irish Post, the Irish World, and for a number of years the  London Irish News.

Internal Conference on Anti-Irish Racism

On 4th June 1988 Hackney IBRG hosted an internal IBRG conference on anti-Irish racism to develop up a policy on the issue which could go out to branches and to the community. It was held at the Centreprise Bookshop in Hackney ,east London. It produced a powerful document in setting how Irish people are affecting by racism and set out a strategy for challenging it. Anti-Irish racism was thus part of racism against many minority and ex colonial minorities in Britain.

The document states ‘Racism is a practise which assumes innate superiority by a dominant people or nation towards a subject or formerly subject people of nation, and also assumes the innate inferiority of the subject people. Racism can be seen as system based on power relationships between the oppressor the oppressed groups’. IBRG recognises that the imperialist and colonial policies of Britain have been and continue to be the primary determinant of racism in the country. In Britain this racism is endemic and is interwoven into the culture, history and traditions of Britain. The structures arising from this ideology have been created by Britain both at home and in its colonies, to maintain its colonial domination, and have developed forces intended to divide and thereby rule those subjected to its colonial ambitions.  This racism and division are also reflected in the policies and practices of the labour and trade union movements in Britain from whom oppressed groups should be able to expect complete support in their struggle for equal rights’.

IBRG campaign against new PTA Bill

On 4th June 1988 the Irish Post front page covered the newly launched IBRG campaign against proposals in the new PTA bill which would make it permanent. The IBRG statement stated that the PTA is a direct threat to every Irish traveller going to or from Britain, because of their Irishness and their destination being Ireland. The IBRG called on the Irish government to insist that its citizens be allowed to travel unhindered between Britain and Ireland as guaranteed by the Irish passport promise. The new PTA was proposing searches of Irish home which would unleash untold level of harassment in the early morning of innocent Irish families.

The IBRG quoted Lord Ferrers a Home Office Minister who refused to introduce a random breath test despite there being over 1,000 deaths a year from drunken driving, stated ‘we must be careful not be to be seen as  carrying out a witch hunt against drivers We will be stopping delaying and infuriating ordinary law abiding citizens going about their business. What effect is that going to have on them and their attitude toward the police’.

IBRG pointed out that the Irish in Britain had not caused one single political death in Britain yet was singled out for this very treatment. The IBRG urged Lord Ferrers to inform his colleagues Douglas Hurd and Lord Colville of his sensible views on these matters. The IBRG further called on the Irish government to get off the fence, and start defending the rights of its citizens to travel unhindered to and from Britain and for its citizens abroad, to be able to live without fear of harassment under the   PTA. The IBRG statement was covered by An Phoblacht and the London Irish News.

On 8th June 1988 the IBRG held a picket of the Irish Embassy in London over the Irish government’s policy on extraditing Irish citizens to Britain.

In an IBRG press release issued it stated ‘The British judicial system has a long- and well-established history of meting out injustice to the Irish people. It cannot be right to extradite anybody to a country which allows the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four to remain in prison, with the sole purpose of hiding the corruption within its own judicial system.  That judiciary acts as hangman for the British establishment where the end always justified the means. The judiciary lacks any independence and is deeply rooted in a biased colonial racist class structure, and acts as a consistent weapon of injustice against Irish people. The Birmingham Six and Guildford Four had spent over 140 years in prison when the Britain establishment at its highest level knew that they were innocent, when the Balcombe St siege men  gave a very detailed statement of their involvement in Guildford and Woolwich, and a Catholic priest and nun knew that Gerry Conlon was at an Irish government sponsored hostel in Quex Road, on the evening of the Guildford bombing and could not have done it. The IBRG statement went on ‘Extradition to Britain is a complete betrayal of the Irish people and their history, it reduces the Irish courts to mere district courts serving the interests of British imperialism, and once against makes the Irish judiciary subservient to the British Crown.  It taints Irish justice with evils perpetrated by the British courts and colludes with the shameful cases of Human Rights abuses such at the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four, Maguire Seven and Judith Ward. As it stands the Irish government decision will be seen internationally as a vote of confidence in the British judicial system, and is rubber stamping the continued imprisonment of the Birmingham Six a Guildford Four’. TOM also supported the picket of the Embassy.

On 25th June 1988 Haringey IBRG hosted an IBRG Education conference at the Red Rose Club in N. London where Maude Casey and Michael O Riabaigh spoke. There were seminars and workshops on Language and Culture, Youth Service and the Irish Community, the Oral History and Video Project, developing local strategies on education, delivering Irish teachers’ groups, Irish equal opportunities and Catholic schools and Irish culture. The Irish Post reported on the Conference which stated that a working group had been set up from the conference to promote Irish studies in Britain.

Maude Casey from Brighton stated that the Irish in Britain must publicly declare pride in their identity and cultural background, and detailed her own childhood and how she felt the British education system denied her an Irish identity.

Micheal O’ Riabaigh, a probation officer, from Liverpool called on British schools to incorporate Irish history and traditions into the curriculum, and outlined the large number of Catholic run schools with the potential to do this.

In June the Tory government published their proposed new PTA bill which the IBRG condemned and called for a full campaign against it. The Government planned to make the temporary act permanent.

In June the IBRG again called for the release of Judith Ward who had been wrongly convicted for the M62 bombing. Her case was often neglected because she was a single person without a campaign but the IBRG raised her case at every opportunity.

In June the Letters Page of the Irish Post continued to be used by the right wing in the Irish community to attack the IBRG with John Fahy of the Federation leading the pack. Paul Sheehan and  Seamus O Coillean responded defending the IBRG. Shamefully John Fahy of the Federation and one time Labour Councillor and full trade union officer should attack IBRG again in the Irish Post, he stated  that the IBRG ‘should abandon its role  of giving the IRA credulity, it should condemn violence’ which was a shocking libel on an Irish organisation, and simply felon setting. Here Fahy is acting like the British racist media in linking anyone who speaks out on Ireland with the IRA. Fahy left himself with an appalling record on this matter and a very shameful one.

London Irish Festival refuse stalls to framed prisoners

The IBRG condemned the Organising Committee of the London Irish Festival in Brent for refusing stalls to the Birmingham Six Campaign, the Guildford Four campaign, and the IBRG. Both Paul May of the B6 and Gearoid McGearailt of IBRG had letters in the Irish Post condemning this pro-British censorship.

Paul May of the B6 campaign deplored the keep your heads down of the Festival committee, as the B6 campaign was a welfare issue, the release of six innocent men to their families. The London GAA board also expressed its concern at the ban on the B6 campaign as they supported the B6. Ironically the MC at the festival was Senator Pascal Mooney from Leitrim who had called for the release of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four and had attended much of the B6 appeal last year. The AGM of the Irish Counties Association had condemned the refusal of the B6 appeal, yet their Chair Seamus Troy was Chair of the festival committee. Fr Bobby Gilmore who was in the USA raising the case of the Birmingham Six called on Mr Troy and his Committee to reverse their decision, while the B6 campaign had written to all the Chairs of the 32 counties calling on them to reverse the decision.

On 2nd July 1988 IBRG members attended a conference on Broadwater Farm on Justice for the Black Community.

On 8th July 1988 IBRG members attended a benefit at the Haringey Irish centre against Strip Searching.

On 9th July 1988 Lambeth IBRG hosted a Countrywide Irish Welfare Conference which drew a large attendance. Speakers were Mary Connolly on Homelessness, Clare McElwee on the Abortion Trail, Sr Joan Kane on Irish Travellers, Liam Clarke on Community Care and the Elderly, Clare Doherty on Mental Health and the Irish, Nuala Kelly on the transfer of Irish Prisoners, Eamon Summers on Clause 28 and Pat Reynolds on Irish children in the care system.

Simon Hughes MP stated in his key note speech that Irish people were unjustly singled out under the PTA and stated there was no justification for this. Tom O Connor author of the Irish Youth in London was a key note speaker on the young Irish abroad.

Gearoid McGearailt in his remarks stated that social services departments in Britain did not in most cases recognise the Irish, with the result that Irish needs went unmet very often. Mary Connolly called for recognition of the Irish in housing, and Simon Hughes promised to lobby the Housing Corporation on the issue.

The Irish Government came under sustained attack from delegates at the conference,  on the lack of adequate funding for the Irish in Britain, the denial of the vote to the Irish in Britain, the extradition of Irish citizens to Britain, while the Birmingham Six and Guildford four were being held as political hostages, and the lack of any concession for Irish elders form Britain travelling in Ireland.

David Donoghue Press officer at the Embassy came under sustained fire from the audience after his speech. Diarmuid Breatnach stated that the only choice open to the vast majority of Irish people was between unemployment at home, and emigrating to make a living. Diarmuid described Ireland as an open shopping market for multi nationals, who repatriate their profits leaving Ireland poorer and emigration had deprived people of their right to live in their own country, disenfranchised emigrants of the rights to vote in their own state, and disinherited Irish children of their nationality. This in relation to the Irish government ending the automatic right of Irish children born in Britain to Irish passports.

The Irish Government was also criticised for their failure to ratify the Transfer of Prisoner’s international Agreement and Nuala Kelly of ICO stated there would be about 25 transferred in the first year with it falling to 15 per year afterwards.  There were 1,055 Irish born prisons in Britain but only a few would want to transfer home because of the shame in Ireland around imprisonment.

Liam Clarke   stated that racist attitudes in institutions compounded the problems facing many Irish elders who were afraid to ask for services, due to a mistaken impression that they might be deported like the homeless families in Camden.

Irish are singled out unjustly was the  Irish Post headline which covered the conference and focussed on the speech by Simon Hughes Liberal MP.

The Conference was also carried in the Andersonstown News in Belfast. The London Irish News gave a whole page in reporting on the Conference with Government under fire for poor response to emigrant problems.

On 16th July 1988 the IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Unemployed Centre in Birmingham where 18 delegates and officers attended including Maire O Shea, Pat Reynolds, Maurice Moore, Caitlin Wright, Joe Mullarkey, Diarmuid Breatnach, Denis Casey, Pat Sullivan, David Wright, Margaret Mullarkey, Henry Herron, Eddie Caughey, Maureen Carlin, Gearoid McGearailt, Virginia Moyles and John Martin. 

Diarmuid Breatnach stood down as internal coordinator and John Marin was elected as internal coordinator for the Midlands. Discussion was had on setting up branches in Brent, Southwark, Bristol, Oxford, Preston, Liverpool and Wolverhampton.

Bolton Irish Community Association wanted to terminate Bolton IBRG membership because Bolton IBRG were selling Birmingham Six badges, which they called “collecting for the IRA”.  The meeting had a discussion on how the right wing in the Irish community were doing the work of the British colonial  service, by internally trying to police the Irish community with same weapons of oppression right wing attacks in the media, and felon setting and putting Irish people at risk by deliberately  falsely accusing them of links with the IRA.

B6 badge

While it was mainly Manchester and Bolton IBRG who were under attack it could happen to any branch as John Fahy had attacked Brighton IBRG.

It was agreed that Diarmuid Breatnach, Gearoid McGearailt and Pat Reynolds should comprise the editorial board of an pobal eirithe which had now produced a second edition.

It was agreed that IBRG support the Lifers campaign and that IBRG oppose the Poll Tax. The meeting heard of the very successful Lambeth Irish Welfare Conference.

On 17th July 1988 IBRG members marched with their banners flying high on the massive Anti-Apartheid march from Finsbury Park to Hyde Park with the IBRG bring up the rear. The front of the march was entering Hyde Park before the end of the march left Finsbury park at least half a million people spread out the length of London. The music was great and the atmosphere was electric as people felt that there would be movement on South Africa soon.

On 22nd July 1988 Hackney IBRG held an Irish night at Chat’s Palace in Hackney to raise some funds.

At the end of July IBRG members including Virginia Moyles, Laura Sullivan and Pat Reynolds went to Glencolmcille in Donegal of the Language and Culture week run by Liam Cunningham who was active in Ireland on the issue of emigration.

The Irish Post letter space continued to be used to attack IBRG. Bernadette Hyland, Chris Walsh and Paul Sheehan had replied to defend IBRG against these right-wing attacks. Steve Brennan a former GLC Irish Policy Office took John Fahy to task over the GLC and the Irish Cultural Committee which had split down the middle.

Meanwhile Pat Reynolds PRO had the leading  letter in the Irish Post relying to Maurice Barnes on the report on the Irish homeless in Camden which the IBRG described as whitewash.

IBRG were to the forefront in defending the right of Irish people to housing in Britain without discrimination. The letter stated IBRG policy ‘The IBRG takes serious issue with the report over their position on intentionally homeless, which we consider to be a whitewash. The IBRG does not accept that a person who leaves his or her country because of economic, political or social pressure can be deemed to in any way to be intentionally homeless.  We deny the right of British authorities to exercise British laws beyond Britain, after a history of transporting people to various colonies and maintaining intentionally homeless armies in these countries for centuries’ the report fails to look at the colonial relationship between Ireland, Africa, India and the Caribbean, and Britain and how  people were encouraged to come to Britain after the second world war, and are now being made scapegoats for Britain’s economic ills, and are subject to deportations. The IBRG calls for the abolition of intentionally homeless for overseas persons, and a for a move away from the traditional White British first policy to an equal opportunities policy in housing based on needs.’ We call on Camden and on all local authorities to implement an equal opportunities policy to tackle and redress the institutional racism and discrimination which has left the Irish community in Britain among the worst housed in Britain’.

It is of interest here that the IBRG were aware of institutional racism and discrimination many years before the British state recognised it even among the Metropolitan police.

The IBRG welcomed the London Housing Forum report Speaking Out which pointed out that up to 120 young Irish men arrived every day in Camden from Ireland and a similar number of young Irish women, many were living in hostels or in squats or sleeping rough or with friends. The Group called on the ALA to start implementing the report as policy that Local Authorities ensure that no one is regarded as intentionally homeless, or without local connection who has come from abroad. Irish people should not be sent to Ireland nor anybody else to any other country.

ILEA (Inner London Education authority) published their account on Working Party report on Irish Perspectives in Education in July 1988. The working party was made up of the IBRG, the Federation, Irish teachers/Parents, Irish Commission for Culture, BAIS Irish studies in Britain and Irish women In Wandsworth, and attending members were  Diarmuid Breatnach for IBRG  Dr Alan Clinton N. London Polytechnic Irish Studies and member of IBRG, Mary Hickman North London Poly Irish studies, and member of IBRG,  Brendan Mulkere,  John Fahy, Ivan Gibbons, and was chaired by Hilda McCafferty.

The report gave examples of practical work carried out in ILEA school’s on Irish issues and included various individual strategies  by teachers and schools plus people like Dipak Basu who was supportive. One example cited was Diarmuid Breatnach giving a talk on aspects of Irish music.

The Working party was set up after a report by the Education Officer of 5th December 1986 and this working report was put before the Education Committee Policy Sub Committee Equal Opportunity section. The report ended up with a wide range of recommendations to be put to various ILEA committees, Equal opportunities Committee, Staff committee, school’s subcommittee, Youth further and higher education and General Purposes. The proposals included recognising the Irish community as a minority community, for both staff and children to be included in ethnic monitoring and an Irish input into a range of subjects including history and literature. The report was a significant achievement although ILEA was due for closure. Why did it take ILEA seven years to agree what Ken Livingstone and the GLC agreed in 1981?

On 10th August 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO had an interview with RTE radio on the Irish in Britain.

On 12th August 1988 IBRG members attended a Benefit for the Guildford Four at the Haringey Irish Centre.

On 30th August 1988 the SAS killed three IRA volunteers in Co Tyrone.

In September 1988 the IBRG welcomes the Appeal Court in London to recognise that Travellers are a distinct racial group as defined by the Race Relations Act.

In response  IBRG called for the total elimination of the No Travellers signs displayed in many pubs in London and elsewhere. The IBRG called for an active community campaign to end the display of these racist signs and for such cases to be actively pursued. In many cases IBRG had taken down these signs from pubs and called for a boycott of these places and taken the matter up with the owners, and the local Community Relations Councils.

On 2nd September 1988 IBRG members picketed 10 Downing St on the 40th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights. 15 people attended the picket. The picket called for the release of the Birmingham Six, Guildford Judith Ward and the Winchester three plus the exoneration of the Maguire Seven.

On 3rd September 1988 the IBRG held their Ard Choiste with 9 members attending in Brighton. There was only one member beyond London which because of the double journey Brighton was difficult to reach.  Diarmuid Breatnach, Pat Reynolds, Pat O Sullivan, Siobhan Hier, Margaret Coffey, Maude Casey, Gearoid McGearailt, and Virginia Moyles were among those attending.

The meeting heard that there was a lot of harassment around Brighton in the lead up to the Tory Party Conference.

On 9th September 1988 IBRG members picketed 10 Downing St over the Gibraltar executions to co-inside with the opening of the Gibraltar inquiry on 6th September.

On 21st September 1988 Pat Reynolds challenged John Hume at the Brent Irish Centre about his expressed views on the British being neutral on N. Ireland, and this time he agreed that the British were not neutral in Ireland which was later picked up by the media.

In his question Pat quoted the 1949 British cabinet paper which stated ‘So far, as it can be foreseen it will never be to Great Britain’s advantage that Northern Ireland should form part of a territory outside Her  Majesty’s jurisdiction. Indeed, it seems unlikely that Britain would ever be able to agree to this, even if the majority of people in N. Ireland wanted this’.

On 30th September 1988 the results of the Gibraltar Inquiry were 9-2 for ‘lawful killing’ even though it broke the rules of the Geneva Convention.

At the end of September 1988, the IBRG slammed the Labour Party document ‘Towards a United Ireland because it enshrines the British/Unionist veto and was a rehash of their peace by consent policy. The Federation welcomed the new document. The Irish World headed the story Towards an United Ireland The IBRG slams the Labour Party’s latest Irish policy.

The IBRG stated that the new Labour policy offered nothing and this was just a rehash of their peace by consent. The IBRG noted that the Labour Party Black sections, Irish sections, Women in the Labour party, LCI, TOM, IBRG the London Labour Party and the Irish communities in the USA, Australia and worldwide supported the right of the Irish people to self-determination and Irish unity, and called for the withdrawal of British troops from Ireland.

It was a missed opportunity by Kevin McNamara and the Labour Party to put something constructive forward. Constitutional nationalism could not even get the Birmingham Six or Guildford Four released and the Labour Party document only supported the British war machinery in Ireland and the attacks upon the Irish community in Britain.

Fr. Ryan of Conway House attacked Cara Irish Housing Association over their Homelessness Report where they stated the Irish should be an ethnic group.  Fr Ryan did not believe that the Irish were an ethnic group. It was the clergy who had kept quiet for 14 years on the fact that they knew that Gerry Conlon was at Quex Road hostel on the evening of the Guildford bombing, and could not have been involved, the Church kept quiet on this for 14 years.

John Martin had a letter in the Irish Post in September calling for the promotion of the Irish language and for Irish centres to become cultural centres, and on the idea of setting up a Gaeltacht in Britain.

In October Camden IBRG felt that their grant funding had been put under threat because of their opposition to Camden’s policy of deporting Irish families which Camden IBRG had opposed vigorously.

At Camden Race Committee meeting the Chair, in ignorance, equated sending back families to Birmingham with Ireland as if Ireland was a province of Britain. She claimed that Irish people got better treatment. Councillors at the meeting called for a special meeting to examine Camden’s policy.

Ken Livingstone MP attacked Camden’s policy of deporting Irish families and said they we were turning on a group of people with no justification, and described their policies as outrageous. According to Camden they only issued nine travel warrants to send families back to Ireland but families were vulnerable in such situations without knowing their rights in law.

Later it was disclosed that Camden were seeking 20% cuts in funding to voluntary organisation and threats to IBRG the Irish centre, Conway House, Camden Irish youth Group and Camden Irish pensioners groups would all lose some or all of their funding. The inquiry into anti-Irish racism at Arlington House was also axed somehow convenient for Camden around their own racist policies towards Irish families. Both Angie Birthill and Kate Allen opposed the cuts. Lucky enough, Camden Council had recently given £15k to the Guildford Four campaign a few weeks before the cuts were announced.

On 2nd October 1988 the Evening Standard attacked Brent Nalgo for their trip to Belfast and their motion on Gibraltar. The Standard condemned Brent Nalgo for calling for the release of several convicted IRA bombers namely the Birmingham Six and Guildford which the branch had called for.

On 14th October 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking at the Haringey Irish Centre at Civil Rights meeting before 500 people on a platform with Bernie Grant MP, Michael Farrell ,and Bernadette McAliskey, Theresa Smalley, aunt of Paul Hill. The meeting was organised by the Haringey Irish working party made up of TOM, LCI and IBRG and the event was to commemorate 1968: 20 years on.

On 19th October 1988 IBRG members attended a picket of 10 Downing St re the government ban on Sinn Fein. Many attending wore gags to protest at the media ban. Douglas Hurd, Home Secretary, announced a ban on Sinn Fein and others in the House of Commons with actors now speaking the words of Adams and others. The next day Tom King announces the end of the Right to Silence.

A new IBRG branch had been set up in Derby on 15th October, and they had called on Derby City Council to recognise the Irish.

Laura Sullivan resigned as Leas Runai and Bridgit Loughran of Camden IBRG was elected as Training Officer.  Haringey IBRG proposed a motion condemning the British government gag on Sinn Fein and the ending of the Right to Silence in the Six Counties.

The Ard Choiste agreed a policy on homelessness. The anti-Irish racism policy drafted at the internal conference in June was agreed as IBRG policy, and urged that it be circulated widely. The meeting sent its condolences to the Connolly Association on the death of Desmond Greaves, father figure to their organisation, who had made a huge contribution including writing a life of James Connolly.

On 25th October 1988 the London Evening Standard attacked the IBRG exhibition on Ireland South Africa One Struggle. The rest of the English media followed in a frenzy. The exhibition was closed before the Standard found out about it, and Haringey Council had not received one single complaint about it. The exhibition was by Derry Camera Workshop and had been sent to two libraries over five weeks.

Haringey and the IBRG got attacked across the media from Daily Telegraph, Mail, Sun Evening Standard, Hornsey Journal, and the Express. Bernie Grant local MP stood up for the Irish and stated He knew it was right to treat Irish culture and traditions with dignity.

Most of the attacks by the media was about Haringey IBRG getting 27K funding each year for two workers. The IBRG hit back at the bigoted Tory Press who got their facts all wrong on the story in their rabid attack. The Hornsey Journal, in its political ignorance, stated that had the Haringey crowd been in power they would have welcomes EOKA and the Mau Mau, without seemingly knowing that the English Queen had indeed welcomed both of these to London. Mararios of Cyprus and Jomo Kenyatta were honoured by the English Queen. The storm of protest the rabid Tory press talked about was all in their own minds, as not one single complaint had been received in Haringey over the five weeks of the exhibition.

IBRG pointed out that the vast majority of comments left in the daily log were positive as it opened people’s eyes to what was happening in South Africa and in N. Ireland and the similarities between the two on funerals, censorship and on civil liberties. The exhibition sponsored by Haringey IBRG was part of their contribution to 20th anniversary of the N. Ireland Civil Rights movement, which had huge support in Haringey with over 500 people attending a public meeting on the issue in Haringey.

Contrary to Tory Press reports the exhibition had not been closed down but had finished before they found out about it. An Phoblacht Irish Post London Irish News and other Irish papers covered the IBRG response to the rabid Tory press attack, which was about censorship on Ireland. The exhibition was a major success and the IBRG stated that it should be put on in every Town Hall in Britain to educate the people about Ireland and South Africa. During the exhibition Haringey IBRG put on a range of videos including Building for Ourselves, PTA, media censorship, and the use of plastic bullets which many people stayed and watched.

On 27th October 1988 Martina Anderson, Finbarr Cullen, and John McCann are found guilty of conspiracy to kill Tom King and given 25 years each. They became known as the Winchester Three and were released on appeal.

On 27th October 1988 Brent Nalgo Irish Worker Group led a delegation from Brent Nalgo to visit N. Ireland. The Evening Standard tried to attack the visit because Brent Nalgo had passed a motion stating this AGM condemns the murder of three IRA volunteers by the SAS in Gibraltar earlier in the year. According to the Standard the Branch also called for the release of several IRA bombers meaning the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four. Brent Nalgo felt close to the Guildford Four because three of the Four had local links to Brent and were living in Brent at the time of their arrest.

On 28th October 1988 IBRG members attended the Plastic Bullets demonstration in Regents St. in London.

On 30th October 1988 IBRG members in London attended the Terence MacSwiney memorial mass at St George’s cathedral in Southwark. The Cathedral was rebuilt after the Second World and large sums of money were collected in Ireland for it. The reason Southwark was set up as separate from Westminster diocese was that in the 1800 the English Catholics of Westminster did not want the Irish in their diocese.

Diarmuid Breatnack took part in Slogadh in Dungarvan Co Waterford with a session in the Irish language on emigration.

Manchester IBRG won an apology from Manchester Equal Opportunities Commission over the use of anti-Irish material to illustrate equality for women. Bernadette Hyland had raised the complaint over the depiction of ‘two ignorant Irish labourers’ in a cartoon.  The Irish Post ran the story IBRG wins slur apology. The cartoon featured a woman seeking a job on a building site and as Bernadette pointed out, the Commission were using racism to challenge sexism. The Commission stated that the cartoon was a most regrettable instance.

Camden IBRG funding was under threat because of their criticism  of Camden Council over the racist deportations of Irish homeless families.

Lewisham IBRG organised an Oiche Shamhan for children in Lewisham with Irish dance music games and dressing up. Lambeth IBRG organised a Failte Eireann evening in West Norwood with a ceili band and folk music.

On 2nd November 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking in Brighton at  a Civil Rights meeting to over 200 people, a meeting the Tory Party wanted banned, at the Pavilion Theatre organised by the Brighton Year of Action on Ireland group. Cllr Geraldine Richie from Sinn Fein was also speaking along with the People’s  Democracy. The meeting was entitled Civil Rights in Ireland the Long March. IBRG, TOM, LCI and Women and Ireland organised the meeting to expose Thatcher propaganda about Ireland. The Irish community had as much right to speak in Brighton as did the Tory Party.

On 12th November 1988 Manchester IBRG with Cornerhouse Arts organised the first Irish Film Festival in the city. It promoted new community and commercial Irish films, invited speakers and opened a debate on Irish issues.

Films shown included Building for Ourselves a video made by Haringey IBRG about the Irish community and its new Irish Centre. Pat Reynolds PRO spoke about how the film was made and the community and people behind it. Mother Ireland was also shown with a debate on Ireland.  The film had been banned by Channel Four.

Authors of a new book on Irish women took part in the Festival. A unique history of the role of Irish women in Britain was published  in  1988: Across the Water Irish Women’s Lives in Britain.  It was produced by three women, none of whom were academics, all of them had been  born and brought up in Dublin, and came to London in the mid-70s: Mary Lennon, Marie McAdam and Joanne O’Brien. At the Festival Mary and Marie spoke about the book and the lives of Irish women in Britain. Read more here

across the water

 

On 16th November 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO was keynote speaker at the Family Service Unit Residential Conference in Swanwick in Derbyshire where he also ran a workshop on anti-Irish racism and how it impacted in social work practice.  The Conference had their own small group of Irish language speakers. Family Service Units were involved in poorer areas of Britain and often worked with Irish families.

ON 19th November 1988 Southwark Council held their own Consultative Conference on the Irish community which was later put into a report, and put before the various communities to try an improve services for the Irish community.

Steve Brennan IBRG member and ex GLC Irish officer was one of the key note speakers at the meeting. Pat Reynolds led a workshop on Irish children in the care system, and how they were not recognising in child protection or their culture recognised, and it was wrongly assumed that the Catholic church catered for all their needs.

Jodie Clarke, an IBRG member and later Labour Councillor, was also involved as was Nina Hutchinson from TOM who was also an activist in the Irish community.

The Failte Report  was published by Southwark Council Race Equality Committee. Anne Mathews, Leader of Southwark Council ,expressed her concerns that the Irish community suffers the oppression of the state which allows strip searching, loss of the right to silence, a shoot to kill policy and the PTA.  She said that the Irish community in Britain not the House of Lords should be encouraged to discuss and have an input into the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

John McDonnell Chair of the ALA Irish subcommittee spoke about the need for an independent forum for the Irish community in Southwark, with a right to input recommendation to the council. He repeated his call for the withdrawal of troops from Ireland.

The report made recommendations to the Personnel Committee to recognise the Irish, to the Housing committee, community Rights committee, Health and Community Affairs committee Women’s Committee which later called their own Irish women’s conference, Social Services Committee, leisure and Recreation committee which led to the famous Southwark Irish Festival, an the education committee plus  had recommendation from the Travellers workshop, which later led to Southwark setting up their own Travellers sites.

People at the conference were reminded that it was in Southwark in the 1880 that the Irish Literary society was set up which later led to the Gaelic revival and much more. Liam McCarthy, after which the All Ireland hurling Final cup is named, is buried in Southwark and was a leading Irish figure there during the war of independence. Terence Mac Swiney died on Hunger strike in Brixton prison and his remains passed through Southwark cathedral in 1920, and where Ho Ch Minh observed his funeral, and remarked that no people with such brave people could ever be defeated.

Southwark was one of the original Irish settlement areas after the Great Hunger in Ireland. Southwark Council had also supported the making of Now We are Talking an oral History Project of Irish elders in Southwark along with an exhibition which IBRG members Mary Hickman and Cas Breen were involved in. Ronald Reagan family settled for a few years in Southwark before leaving there for the USA around 1851.

The Irish were involved in building Southwark cathedral because the English Catholics of Westminster did not want the poor Irish south of the river to be part of their diocese. Later money raised all over Ireland after the 2nd World war helped rebuild it with its now St Patricks chapel, where every year people say the Gaelic prayers for McSweeney.

On 26th November 1988 the IBRG Comhcomhairle was held at the Four Provinces Coventry where 18 IBRG delegates and officers attended representing 11 IBRG branches namely Bolton, Coventry, Harrow, Camden, Haringey, Leeds, Manchester, Lewisham, Lambeth, NE Lancs, and Hackney.

Among those attending was Caitlin Wright, Peter Skerrett, Maurice Cahill, Denis Casey, Maire O Shea, Brian Miller, Pat Reynolds, David Kernoghan, Noirin Riordan, Bernadette Hyland, Diarmuid Breatnach, Gearoid McGearailt, Aine Fitzgerald, Michael Cnaimhsi, Joan Brennan and Virginia Moyles.

A motion from Hackney called for support for the Broadwater Farm picket of Wormwoods Scrubs Prison on 11th December, and stated the IBRG belief that the men had been framed.

A motion from Haringey called for pickets of Downing St during Gorbachev’s visit to Britain to draw attention to Britain’s’ record on Human Rights in Britain and N. Ireland.

Four workshops were held on organising the Irish community, IBRG the way forward, Education, the Irish community and class politics, and human rights which looked at the Birmingham Six Guildford Four and the PTA and strip-searching.

There was a motion from Haringey IBRG about Fr Ryan being on hunger strike for 22 days in a Belgian prison and called for his release, but as Fr Ryan had been flown to Ireland avoiding British’s airspace, the motion was noted.

The delegation to Ireland was agreed with 8 delegates going, Gearoid MacGearailt, Pat Reynolds, Laura Sullivan, Caitlin Wright, Diarmuid Breatnach, Maurice Moore, Bernadette Hyland and Virginia Moyles. The delegation would have a total of 56 meetings in Belfast Derry, Cork and Dublin.

On 29th November 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking at a meeting at The Camden Irish centre on the Irish and Housing. He stated again that no Irish family should be deported back to Ireland and that Camden should fulfil its duty to the Irish community. The Irish, he stated, had made the greatest contribution to building homes in Britain, yet because of racism were the most likely to be homeless or living in poorly rented accommodation. In health, it was the same, mainly Irish  women had made the largest contribution the NHS yet often endured the worst health conditions which was linked to their poor employment and housing conditions. It was time for Britain and Camden to recognise this Irish contribution with a real effort to provide equal opportunities to the Irish in Housing, health and employment.

On 29th November 1988 the European Court of Human Rights condemned the PTA as a violation of Human Rights as  people were detained without reason,  held incommunicado without access to legal aid  their relatives knowing where they were. The breach was for holding four suspects for four days without charging them. Britain then on 2nd December derogated from the Convention and retained their seven-day detention operations.

On 6th December 1988 Clare Short MP resigned from the Labour Party front bench over the second reading of new PTA legislation.

On 7th December 1988 Southwark IBRG was relaunched with Gearoid McGearailt,  Pat Reynolds and Diarmuid Breatnach attending.

On 7th December 1988 the CRE published their recommended ethnic classifications for the 1991 census which excluded the Irish community.

IBRG expressed their deep concern at this exclusion. The IBRG restated their 1984 demands that 1) the CRE recognise the Irish as specific ethnic group 2) that the CRE recognise the disadvantage suffered by the Irish in Britain based on existing research in employment housing and other areas 3). That they draw up a report on the Irish in Britain based on existing research  4)  that they include the Irish in any further research 5) that they investigate areas of discrimination suffered by the Irish 6) that they support the Irish community demand to be included in the 1991 census as an ethnic group and 7) that their officers take on board issues affecting the Irish community in Britain.

IBRG pointed out that the CRE was out of touch with the major authorities in Britain including the GLC, Birmingham, Manchester, ILEA, Islington, Haringey, Southwark, Lambeth, Brent, Leeds, Bolton and many more had recognised the Irish community as a distinct racial and ethnic group.

IBRG took part in a lobby protest during Gorbachev visit to Britain to highlight the cases of the Birmingham Six and Guildford and had briefed the Soviet Embassy in London on the matter and took part in the picket of Downing St on the issue.  Chris Mullin stated “I welcome the news that Gorbachev may raise with Thatcher the case of the six innocent men wrongly convicted for Birmingham and a total of 11 people wrongly convicted over the Guildford /Woolwich bombings.”

On 11th December 1988 London IBRG members attended the Broadwater Farm picket of Wormwood Scrubs prison over their framed prisoners.

On 13th December 1988 the Irish Attorney General, John Murray refused, Britain’s request for the extradition of Fr Patrick Ryan on the grounds that he would not receive a fair trial. Maggie Thatcher called the decision a great insult to the British people.

On 14th December 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO was speaking on the Kilroy ITV programme about civil liberties including the PTA.

On 15th December 1988 The British government brought in their new Fair Employment Bill for N. Ireland which made compulsory the religious monitoring of workforces in N. Ireland. Catholic Male unemployment in Nt Ireland was double that for Protestants and that Catholics were over represented in the low skilled jobs, despite 12 years of the earlier 1976 fair employment legislation. The campaign in the USA for the McBride Principles and its impact on investment in N. Ireland drove this new bill. The IBRG had also taken up the issue in Britain and were putting pressure on building societies and others over discrimination in employment.

On  21st December 1988 the IBRG condemned the conduct of a British trial where an English man had murdered an Irish woman where the defence barrister stated ‘The sense of public outrage at the loss of this particular life will be a very great deal lower down the scale than other cases, and the prosecuting barrister stated’ there might indeed have been some sympathy towards the killer and none for his victim’.

The killing was a racist killing, where the killer used the killing of two English undercover armed soldiers at funeral in Belfast as an excuse to murder an Irish woman. The murdered woman was Marie Kane (52) and the husband was also stabbed in a second murder attempt near Birmingham. The Crown accepted a plea of guilty of unlawful killing rather than going for murder which it was. Even stranger was the fact that the murderer an ex British soldier had given evidence in the Birmingham pub bombing case where six innocent Irishmen were wrongly convicted.

Around the same time a Galway man, James Connolly, was murdered on 20th March in Camberwell which the local police believed to be a racial killing linked with the death of the two British agents in Belfast the day before on 19th March. The English media which had called the people of West Belfast savages and animals, and at least two Irish people in Britain were murdered because of this media coverage. Irish lives did not matter then.

The IBRG press statement said ‘the case raises serious questions about the standards of justice given to Irish people, that an Irish life in Britain would appear to be of lessor value than an English one’. The killing was political and racist, and we find the remarks of both barristers to be offensive and racist, and remarkably similar. Such Irish deaths are invisible without any media coverage, and become silent deaths. Even in death Irish people are deemed responsible for provoking their own deaths.’ Irish trials which are deemed suitable by the British state for propaganda purposes are given the full works, while trial exposing the vulnerable position of Irish people in Britain are censored.

On 28th December 1988 Pat Reynolds PRO had a letter in the Irish Times putting the case against the PTA. In the letter the PRO challenged Brian Lenihan over his changed position on the PTA as when in opposition he stated ‘this Act is absolutely indefensible by reference to any national or international canon the Convention of Human Rights because of its discriminatory nature’.

The IBRG said Full marks to Brian Lenihan on anticipating the European Court recent decision on the Act, but why didn’t Lenihan publicly call for the repeal of the Act now. The flagships of the PTA were the arrests of the Guildford Four and Maguire Seven.

The Irish Government concern at the implementation of the Act was pure tokenism, and  IBRG asked why the Irish government had kept silence for 14 years on the abuse of its nationals abroad. The Irish community in Britain was now depending on the European Courts to protect its rights rather than the British or Irish governments and were now calling on other governments to assist the release of the Birmingham Six and Guildford. It was never too late for the Irish government to redeem itself.

In December 1988 Virginia Moyles had a letter in the Irish Post defending  Ken Livingstone who had come under attack from Annie Maguire of the Maguire Seven who came over as being anti-republican.

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 Mancheser – 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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Posted in education, feminism, films, human rights, Ireland, Irish second generation, labour history, Manchester, North of Ireland, peace campaigns, political women, Socialism, trade unions, Uncategorized, women, working class history, young people | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

History of the Irish in Britain Representation Group Part seven: 1987

 

 

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.

APR 1987-1

First edition December 1987

On 3rd  January 1987 the Unionist leaders launched a petition in Belfast against the Anglo-Irish Agreement which got over 400,000 signatures and was handed in to Buckingham Palace on 12  February.

Anti-Irish Racism and Community Care Magazine

On 7th January 1987 Gearoid McGearailt, chair of IBRG,  had a letter in Community Care the social work weekly headed Hierarchy of Oppression. He was responding to a black Social worker in Brent who  had attacked Irish travellers, and placed them in opposition to her own community.

In the same issue  (and in the previous issue)  two Irish  social workers  had letters in which they   denied that the Irish suffered from racism, arguing that that they may only be discriminated against, and that racism was  fundamentally a black and white issue, that it is  the colour of a person’s skin which is the main constituent upon which racism is built.

This limited view of racism would completely ignore the Irish and Jewish experiences, and showed total ignorance of the history of racism, imperialism and colonisation. When Pat Reynolds, also a social worker, wrote a letter in reply to Community Care, they refused to publish it.

In it he stated: ‘The history of racism is the history of imperialism colonisation and slavery and the history of Ireland is such a case. The Irish experience does not negate the Black experience nor does the Black experience negate the Irish experience, neither does it collapse the Black and Irish experience into the same thing. The liberal multi-cultural approach has moved away from the state to having individuals takes responsibility for institutionalised racism. This approach denies the role of Britain as an imperial power and offer no analysis of the economic, political; and ideological origins of racism. In this matter the rights of oppressed community to self-determination is vital, and it is for each community to define their own resistance. The struggle of the Irish community is an anti-racist and an anti-imperialist struggle which is supportive of all other communities and nations in similar struggles.

The IBRG Ard Choiste met at the Van Zult centre,  Arlington Road, Camden North London on 10th January 10987 (1) where 12 delegates and officers attended including Gearoid McGearailt Chair, Virginia Moyles, Pat Reynolds, Peter Murray, Kathleen Henry, Jacqueline Jolly, Maurice Moore, Peter Millar, Steve Brennan education officer, Trevor O’Farrell, Tom Barron,  Brian Millar and Diarmuid Breatnach. The following branches were present: Islington, Haringey, Lewisham, Coventry, Lambeth, Camden, and Hackney.

The Ard Choiste agreed that Diarmuid Breatnach (Lewisham IBRG)  would be the IBRG speaker at the Bloody Sunday rally in Sheffield. Diarmuid  was voted in as new Internal Co-ordinator for the IBRG. It was agreed to produce a quarterly IBRG internal newsletter.

lewisham mag Nua Gael

Lewisham IBRG Magazine

The Ard Choiste agreed to book a room via Clive Soley MP at the House of Commons to mobilise opposition to the PTA,  and also agreed that the Prisoners Subcommittee meet on a regional basis because of travel difficulties. It was agreed to take up the case of Danny McNamee who was held in Brixton prison.

The Ard Fheis would be held in Coventry on 21 March 1987.

The meeting noted that the first Irish Mental Health Conference organised by Camden IBRG would be held the next day in London with over 150 delegates booked in for it. (Arising from the conference  Camden IBRG were to set up an Irish Mental Health Forum)

The meeting agreed that Steve Brennan arrange a meeting with ILEA (Inner London Education Authority) to discuss education issues relating to the Irish community.

Gearoid McGearailt reported back on his policy document on Emigration which had been sent to all TDs in Dublin.

Diarmuid Breatnach proposed,  and the meeting agreed , that IBRG write to the British Home Office calling for the Irish community to be included in the 1991 ethnic census question and to lobby MPs on the issue.

It was reported to the meeting that the Bank of Ireland had investments of over 31 million invested in South Africa, but Allied Irish were not involved there.

Virginia Moyles created an action sheet of all the decisions made at the Ard Choiste something Nessan Danaher had proposed some years earlier.

Camden IBRG and first Countrywide Irish Mental Health Conference

Camden IBRG held the first ever Countrywide Irish Mental Health Conference at the Camden Irish centre on 11th January 1987. The Conference got media coverage from the Observer with an article on the day entitled A Suitable case for Treatment which stated that over 80 delegates would be attending.

The paper quotes Raymond Cochrane who stated that the Irish were more likely to suffer from mental ill-health than any other community in Britain, and that there had been little interest because the Irish are not really seen as immigrants. Indeed, the Irish community were totally unaware of the Irish mental health figures until they were discovered by the IBRG a couple of years earlier.

Another speaker Ronald Littlewood stated that:  Nobody is examining the problem because the Irish do not have the exotic appeal of other immigrants, and there is the English block about Ireland. The lack of research is a case of singular neglect.

The Observer seems to go for an explanation that lay  in the traditional Irish culture and Irish Catholicism but adds in Dr Cochrane’s  remark that English colonisation  may have played a part.  It is present day English prejudice that accounts for today’s  neglect the IBRG believe. Dr O’ Shea stated ‘we hope to campaign for more resources and encourage more specific research into the mental health problems of Irish immigrants and their children’.

On 17th  January 1987 the Irish Post had an article on Emigration and Mental Illness, a report on the IBRG conference. They quoted speaker Father  Bobby Gilmore of the Irish Chaplaincy that  ‘emigration uproots people placing them in an alien environment where they find it difficult to cope. Many do so successfully, but numerous others find the strain of forging a new life for themselves too much.’ Dr Ronald Littlewood stated ‘traditional neglect and misunderstanding of Irish people, and the widespread use of stereotypes to help cope with a large minority group, caused much of the distress and mental ill-health in the Irish community.

The Irish Press stated Irish exiles more prone to mind disorder. The Kilburn Times column   Irish Scene headed the story Break through which focussed on the Brent Irish Mental Health Group, who were active locally on the issue, and had a speaker at the conference.

Diarmuid Breatnach had a letter in the Irish Post in January setting out issues over emigration and life in Britain,  stating that  our poverty in Ireland is a direct result of centuries of colonisation with the Irish economy being stifled or moulded to British advantage. “Irish people have in this country been victims of racism and exploited for their labour, and our elderly are largely uncared for. Our children are denied access to their culture and history and constantly subjected to attempts to make them ashamed of being Irish. Now in organisations like IBRG we are standing up as a community and beginning to take some ground’. In the same issue the Frank Dolan column praised Lewisham IBRG for their Greetings from Derry London Christmas card.

On 20th  January 1987 Douglas Hurd, Home Secretary, referred   the case of the Birmingham Six back to the Court of Appeal. On the same day the Irish government of Garrett Fitzgerald fell because Labour Party  withdrew its support. A feud broke out between the Irish National Liberation Army and a breakaway group which led to 13 deaths,  including the wife of Dominic McGlinchey.

Complaint by IBRG Rejected On 24th January 1987 the Irish Post carried this  heading.  The notoriously  right-wing Press Council rejected a complaint by the IBRG against the Sun for identifying the nationality of homeless Irish family of 13 who were dependent of welfare services.

IBRG complained that the Sun improperly mentioned the family’s ethnic background in a manner likely to stir up anti-Irish feelings. The Press Council ruled that the Sun had no case to answer.

Pat Reynolds PRO in response stated ‘the Press Council’s  own annual report condemned newspapers which encourage racial prejudice by referring to the race or colour of people in news report. It is ironic that the Council has now itself condoned such behaviour towards the Irish community’.

Kenneth Donlan, second generation Irish man and Managing Editor, replied to Pat Reynolds stating that  the Sun ‘believes in the best possible relations between the Irish and the British. The best contribution to that would be an end to the Fenian activities that sickens all decent people in Britain and Ireland’. Pat wrote back to state ‘I was born a Fenian, live my life as best I can as a Fenian and hope to die an unrepentant Fenian’.

IBRG called for a boycott of the Sun for its racist reporting against Black and Irish people, and noted bias against Irish complaints from the right-wing British press council.

On Saturday 31st January 1987 the IBRG took part  in the Bloody Sunday demonstration and Rally at the City Hall in Sheffield. The March was organised by the Committee for British Withdrawal from Ireland made up of LCI,  TOM,  IBRG and the  Women and Ireland Network.

Meeting and lobby on P.T.A.

On 11th February 1987 IBRG organised a public meeting and lobby in the House of Commons to oppose the PTA with a showing of the PTA Video Suspect Community made by Haringey IBRG. Speakers were invited from NCCL, West Midlands PTA Research and Welfare Association, Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas (ICPO), Joan Maynard Labour Party NEC, Jeremy Corbyn MP, SWAPO and Sikh community representatives because of the arrest of recent delegations.

haringey video porject

Suspect Community was made by Haringey Irish Video Project

The Haringey IBRG flyer quoted Michael Holden PTA detainee ‘The police were more interested in my trade union activities and my political activities. They  knew as well as I did that it was an information gathering exercise’.

Haringey IBRG had sent a letter out to all MPs with large Irish constituents in Britain while Lewisham IBRG/Diarmuid Breatnach had also sent a letter out to IBRG branches inviting them to attend.

Irish and Education Conference ; from Irish Dimensions in British Education to Anglo Irish Education

On 14th February 1987 Nessan Danaher held his 4th National Conference on Irish Dimensions in Britain Education at Soar Valley, Leicester.  While the Conference was started off by IBRG Education Officer Nessan Danaher he had moved away in 1986 from IBRG and in 1987 held the Conference in conjunction with BAIS (British Association for Irish Studies) with its emphasis that the British bit comes before the Irish bit, and was set up  by the British and Irish government, to move away from any radical approach to the teaching of Irish culture and history in Britain.

Many IBRG people called it the new Anglo-Irish Education conference as it reflected this duality and more revisionist than addressing anti-Irish racism and discrimination in Britain, and moving away from the colonial agenda in education that the Empire was good as was the British presence in Ireland.

The central issue promoted at the conference was that all the problems between Britain and Ireland were due to unhappy misunderstandings, and a new level of understanding would sort it all out. The theme which ran through the 1986 and 1987 conferences was to  oppose the idea that British imperialism was the cause of Irelands problems and to see this as a myth, which needed to be destroyed. The power relationship between Britain and Ireland was never examined, and no challenge to the existing order.

The second lecture of the day was by Roy Foster who concluded that it would be difficult to find an acceptable form of government in Ireland, but he failed at all levels to explore the impact of British imperialism and the unequal power relations between British and Ireland.

The central theme was total revisionist but the plenary question and answer led to problems for the organisers who were challenged from the floor.  Dr Austin was told by a member of the audience, that he should call  his University “The New University of British Occupied Ireland”, which the audience seem to agree with.

The workshops were led by Sean Hutton and Jonathan Moore.  The Conference organisers were now dominated by revisionists who were in direct opposition to IBRG yet the audience rejected much of this revisionism from the floor. The revisionists had most of the power since they were all teaching in universities and well supported by the establishment, while the IBRG represented the grassroots of the community and had little resources.  There was a need for alternative Education Conferences which would more reflect IBRG and the community’s position.

On 19th February 1987 a Fianna Fail minority government led by Charlie Haughey was elected.

On 2th  February 1987 the Irish Post reported the Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP would be attending a ticket only meeting at Hornsey Town Hall on 4th  March which was jointly organised by LCI, IBRG and TOM although Haringey IBRG had booked the hall.  Adams was due to speak at the Oxford Union the following evening at the Oxford Union debate but Lady Jane Ewart Biggs had withdrawn, so much for free speech when she would not appear with a Member of her own Parliament.

Lambeth Nalgo call for British withdrawal from N. Ireland

On 14th  March 1987 the Irish Post reported that Lambeth NALGO at their AGM had passed a motion calling for British withdrawal from Northern  Ireland and the right of the Irish people to self-determination, the repeal of the PTA,  the disbanding of the Diplock Courts and the ending of super grass trials and strip searching. The resolution also called for the release of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four, and a publicity campaign by the union to highlight the true situation in Northern Ireland.

The meeting was addressed by Sean O’Murchu of Lambeth IBRG and the resolution was carried by a two to one majority. We see here, like in Brent, Irish workers beginning to organise within British  trade unions to raise issues around Northern  Ireland but also about issues affecting the Irish community in Britain.

The 5th  IBRG Ard Fheis was held on 21st March 1987 (2) At the KoCo centre,  Spoon End, Coventry. 14 branches attended from Bolton, Birmingham, Bristol, Camden, Coventry, Haringey, Harrow, NE Lancs, Manchester, Hackney, Islington, Lambeth, Leeds and Lewisham. 

Ten officers, four of them women,  were elected,  with Gearoid McGearailt elected Cathaoirleach, Leas Cathaoirleach Jackie Jolly, Uachtaran Maire O’Shea, Leas Uachtaran  Joe Mullarkey, Runai Virginia Moyles, Leas Runai, Trevor O’Farrell, Cisteoir Maurice Moore, Membership Marie Wynne, Internal Coordinator Diarmuid Breatnach, PRO Pat Reynolds.

Forty two delegates,  officers and observers attended the Ard Fheis  including Joe Mullarkey,  Tom Barron, Pat O’Sullivan, Tom Kane, Maurice Cahill, Denis Casey, Virginia Moyles, Pat Daly, Michael O’ Cnaimhsi, Trevor Farrell, Seamus O’Coileann,  Caitlin Wright, Elaine Scott, Gearoid Mac Gearailt, Maurin Higgins, Janice McKnight, Diarmuid Breatnach, Bernadette Hyland, Tom Fitzsimmons, John Martin, Eddie Caughey, David Kernoghan, Maurice Moore,  Pat Reynolds, Jackie Jolly, Michael Herbert, and Marie Wynee

Policy motions passed included regionalisation into  five areas : southern, midlands, Northern England,  Scotland and Wales, the holding of an IBRG Education conference,  and one on prisoners to highlight  issues affecting Irish prisoners,  the publication of an IBRG bulletin, a motion calling for the  Irish government to demand the repeal of the racist PTA laws, the release of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four, the ratification  of the international treaty to repatriate Irish prisoners, and that the Irish government implement a Race Relations Act to outlaw the publication of racist material in Ireland.

Policy motions passed included congratulating Manchester IBRG on their actions in contesting and opposing the use of anti-Irish materials in local schools, and instructed the Ard Choiste  as a matter of priority to activate the IBRG anti-racism subcommittee.  Congratulating Haringey IBRG in the production of their excellent education document, and request them on behalf of the whole organisation and with all branch support, to circulate this document as widely as possible throughout educational and local government authorities in Britain. This motion refers to the Haringey IBRG A4 printed document Survey into the Promotion of Irish culture within Haringey School Curriculum including Travellers’ children.

Haringey Survey into Irish Culture

It was a major document which drew on the work of  Professor Mary Hickman and Dr Philip Ullah. The document referred to Dr. Ullah’s  study of 800 British born pupils in British secondary schools where the Irish were perceived as the least liked group of all children of seven racial groups including English, West Indian, German, Indian, Jewish, Irish and Pakistani. The Irish were seen in negative terms with no positive attributes.

What was shocking was that other ethnic minority pupils had negative views of the Irish with 56.4% of West Indian pupils seeing the Irish as violent, as did 48.6% of Indian pupils, and 52% of the English group.

The report stated ‘What they are faced with therefore is an ongoing problem,  a negative portrayal of their cultural identity due to racism, which itself springs from the original denial of a culture for indigenous people in the colonial relationship. Thus, Irish children in Britain, in fearing rejection are forced to assimilate, outwardly denying their Irishness, while inwardly feeling alienated from the host culture. What often follows is that the child renounces its Irishness in public, while maintaining an Irish identity within the family circle’.

It further states in its section on Catholic schools that Catholic education has advocated the integration of Irish children into British society   at the cost of sacrificing an Irish identity.

The document placed the teaching of Ireland within the context of anti-racist policy. The report had 11 sections including; anti-Irish racism, travellers, History and politics, Literature, Language, Art, Music, Sports/games and dance /Theatre.

The report had a major section on Travellers and issues affecting Travellers’ children in schools. It had been  assumed that Catholic schools, because they educated the majority of Irish children, would have a more Irish based education, which was not true, the emphasis at these schools was on Instilling Catholicism rather than Irishness, which was left to the home and family and community.

The report of the survey and the recommendations had been approved by Haringey Education Authority on 18th June 1985 Irish studies within the Curriculum and on 19th November 1985 Educational Needs of the Irish Community.

Other motions passed at the Ard Fheis included congratulating London branches on their initiative in challenging ILEA policies towards the  Irish community and instructing  the IBRG Education officer to convene an education working group to draw up proposals for an organisation wide strategy to further the objectives of our education policy as a matter of urgency. Facilitate the implementation of IBRG education policy over the broadest possible area, and work in conjunction with the PRO for maximum publicity for and promotion of IBRG initiatives in this field.

That IBRG set up an Education Subcommittee to pursue IBRG education policy, that the Education Officer as a matter of priority organise a seminar, primarily for northern and midland branches, and to exchange information within the organisation as a whole on the following, the theory and practise of equal opportunities, definition of racism, sources of funding, extracting and using statistical information, and approaching and negotiating with statutory bodies.  That the education officer revive  the IBRG Education Conference entitled Irish Dimensions in British Education with the same format and style as our 1985 conference, and for the Education Officer to schedule the conference for January 1988 and in advance of any other conference of a similar nature, and that the conference highlight IBRG policies on Education.,

That IBRG set up an IBRG journal  to be published  four times a year, that the IBRG organise a conference to highlight issues affecting Irish prisoners in Britain, congratulated the Ard Choiste for setting up the Women’s subcommittee, and instructed the Ard Choiste to assist the Women’s subcommittee in providing material which can be used to inform women both inside and outside the organisation of the existence of the women’s subcommittee.

That IBRG build on the recent response to the PTA, by actively campaigning  throughout the year by lobbying MP’s and getting a commitment from them, to vote against the renewal of the Act, given the recent elections in Ireland  that IBRG put pressure on TD’s to raise this in the Dail,  and having it included in future negotiations with the British government, looking at future strategies to bring this Act to the attention of the public at large, and building links with other minority groups who are now suffering under the Act.

That IBRG produce a policy booklet outlining IBRG policy in various areas e.g. N. Ireland, education, PTA and that this booklet be used to promote IBRG aims and objectives throughout the  wider community.

That the term, “British Mainland,”  when used in an Irish context, is a propaganda term and in direct contradiction to the full title of the UK, and gives rise to the preposterous notion that the six counties of  Northern Ireland are not part of the Irish mainland, but somehow relegated  to an offshore British status.

The Ard Fheis recognised the right of the Scottish and Welsh people to self-determination and self-government, that IBRG recognises the close historical links between all Celtic peoples and that IBRG have discussion with the SNP and Plaid Cymru to establish common ground for future progress.

That the Irish Government draft and implement a Race Relations Act to ban the printing of racist literature in Ireland which is being distributed in Britain and Europe.

IBRG branches give full assistance to Camden IBRG to make available a digest of the IBRG Mental Health Conference held in London in January 1987.

The Ard Fheis heard reports from its officers of a year of hard work and progress and an increase in membership, clearly emerging as the leading Irish community organisation in Britain in taking up all the vital issues affecting the Irish community. IBRG had held successful conferences on N. Ireland, Education, and on Mental health and the Irish community.  The IBRG document on Emigration started a debate on emigration, and the IBRG lobby of the House of Commons over the PTA showed that on the big issues affecting the IBRG community in Britain, the IBRG had successfully represented the interest of the community.

Success of IBRG’s campaigns was how The Irish Post wrote up the Ard Fheis, stating  ‘There is a new air of confidence amongst the Irish community in Britain in social cultural and political issues, IBRG chairman Gearoid McGearailt told his organisation’s Ard Fheis at the weekend in Coventry.

He said that “Irish people are now prepared to speak out publicly on matters on which, a few years ago, they preferred to stay silent.  Furthermore, the Irish in Britain are now rightfully calling for recognition throughout the country as an ethnic group.  He attributed much of this to the IBRG’s campaigning since its formation in 1981 and he reaffirmed reorganisation’s commitment to representing Irish interests at all levels. We have recognised that the priorities of our community change rapidly , and we have developed the ability to change our priorities similarly, all of the time keeping our eyes fixed on our long term objectives, namely to have the Irish community in Britain free from oppression and discrimination, and participating as equals in a multi-cultural society’.

The article went on to give the Chair’s list of achievements by IBRG,  tackling anti-Irish racism in the media and in shops,  calling for British withdrawal and Irish unification, condemning the Anglo Irish agreement as being worthless towards sorting out a political solution in Ireland,  lobbying the Irish government on emigration, opposing the PTA, taking up issues from education to mental health, putting on Irish language classes all over the country, organising sean chairde groups,  taking up strip-searching and issues re- prisoners, the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four cases,  and being the progressive side of the Irish community in Britain.

An Phoblacht covered the Irish in Britain Ard Fheis with the IBRG logo on top of the story which was important for the nationalist community in Ireland to know that the largest Irish community organisation in Britain were taking up issues around their oppression including the repeal of the PTA, repatriation of Irish prisoners,  release of  the framed prisoners, ending of strip-searching and the call for a new Race Relations Act in Ireland.

Census and the Irish

On 31st  March 1987  Runai, Virginia Moyles, had written to Douglas Hurd MP via her MP Brian Sedgemore regarding the inclusion of the Irish in the 1991 Census as a separate ethnic group.

The letter stated:  ‘The lack of accurate, reliable and detailed statistics on the true size of the Irish community in Britain, including British born children of Irish parents and grandparents, is currently presenting the Irish community with great difficulty in identifying and meeting the needs of their members. The Irish are a sizeable part of our community. There is much evidence to indicate that the Irish community suffers disadvantage in housing, education, employment, health and social services. The extent of this disadvantage is unclear because of the lack of reliable data and disadvantage among second and third generation Irish people is virtually unrecognised.’

Irish Mental Health Forum

The first meeting the Irish Mental Health Forum took place on 4th April 1987 as a follow on to the successful IBRG Mental Health Conference held in January 1987. The meeting attracted 50 people,  mainly Irish professionals working in the fields of mental health and social welfare.

The meeting discussed some controversial points made by the speakers at the Conference about the mental health figures of the Irish in Britain. It was felt that  the research done in Britain was minimal, superficial and carried out by academics unfamiliar  with Irish history and culture, and concentrated on incidence and diagnosis, and failed to understand the cultural and historical roots of mental problem e.g. the colonial aspects of Irish life and the impact of over 800 years of oppression  and imperialist racist  domination.

It was decided to get a research student to draw up a bibliography of research undertaken in Ireland, USA and Australia, and that identification of service provision and funding needed to be sorted out.

It was agreed to set up a steering group making up of all the interested parties and individuals to take the group forward. The next meeting was planned for 9th  May 1987 at Caxton House North London.

ILEA and the Irish

On 6th  April 1987 Virginia Moyles, Runai, wrote to Councillor Hilda McCafferty at the  Inner London Education Authority  in response to a request to join in a consultative party on Irish affairs within ILEA. One of the issues flagged up was that in London IBRG had several branches and represented several different Irish communities.

IBRG set out their demands for the recognition of the Irish as distinct  ethnic/racial group, and as targets of anti-Irish racism within this society, the need for equal opportunities  monitoring of Irish employees and students, and the need to effectively counter anti-Irish racism including re-evaluating the curricula for this purpose.

She asked for details of any steps which ILEA has taken or is planning to take in the near future to put these policies issues into effective implementation. We would be interested in any ILEA documentation intended to ensure a recognition by all staff and students that anti-Irish racism is included within the terms of ILEA Equal; Opportunities policy.  The results of various conferences which the Irish community has organised over recent years to articulate its needs provide a sound foundation on which to base the work of the consultative group. The IBRG looks forward to sharing this information with ILEA and to working productively with you as part of the consultative group.

On 8th April 1987 there was a huge confrontation between police and mourners at the funeral of Larry Marley who ha been killed by the UVF and who had organised the 1983 Maze escape.

Haringey Teach In on Ireland

On 11th  April 1987 there was a one-day Haringey Teach in on Ireland organised by LCI, TOM and IBRG.   Bernie Grant chaired the morning session.

The purpose of the day school was to launch a Haringey Delegation to Northern  Ireland of Labour Councillors and community people and  to find out at first hand what it was like to live in British occupied Ireland.

Speakers from Sinn Fein and IBRG attended as the day wanted to look at issues affecting the Irish community in Britain, such as the PTA framed prisons the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four, strip searching and plastic bullets which were stock piled at Wood Green Police station and were brought to Broadwater Farm  but not used during police storming of the estate.

On 23rd  April 1987 Peter Archer, Labour spokesperson on Northern  Ireland, expressed his support for the McBride Principles which were themselves based in the Sullivan Principles based on Amerith can investment in South Africa.

On 25th  April 1987 Lord Justice Gibson, the second highest judge in N. Ireland, was killed by a IRA bomb to face a higher court based on his own controversial judgement on army killings.

On 1st  May 1987 Camden IBRG along with Camden Rights Unit and LSPU opened an exhibition on the PTA with speaker Gareth Pierce Solicitor and John McDonnell on Surveillance and the PTA and on Saturday 2nd  May showed the video Suspect Community and had a workshop on the PTA.

On 8th  May 1987 the British Colonial army in breach of the Geneva Convention executed eight IRA volunteers when they had the capacity to arrest them at Lough gall. 40 members of the SAS were involved in a pre planned execution plan. The incident was the highest IRA casualty in one single incident in the recent war.

The Ard Choiste met on 9May 1987 (3) at the Socialist Club in  Bolton with delegates and officers attending including, Diarmuid Breatnach, Gearoid McGearailt Pat Reynolds, Maire Wynne, Laura Sullivan, Arthur Delvin, Bernadette Hyland, Joe Mullarkey, Caitlin Wright, David Wright and Maurice Moore.

The Ard Choiste held a minute’s silence for the  volunteers who lost their lives at Loughgall.

The Ard Choiste heard that Haringey IBRG were holding an open Prisoners Conference in Haringey on 19th  September 1987. The Ard Choiste donated £20 to the Anti Strip Search Demo to be held in Durham on 13h June 1987. Notice was given of the James Connolly/ Bobby Sands Commemoration at Conway Hall on 16th May 1987.

The editorial committee of an Pobail Eirithe (The Risen People) was agreed, Virginia Moyles, Pat Reynolds, Diarmuid Breatnach, Del Thorogood, Kevin  Campbell, Caitlin Wright, and Peter Murray. The Ard Choiste were informed that Brighton wanted to set up an IBRG branch and that Maude Casey was helping to organise a first meeting. Pat Reynolds and Diarmuid to oversee the setting up of this new branch.

Southwark IBRG took out an advert supporting Southwark’s Council 10 days of action against Apartheid from 16-16 June 1987.  Southwark IBRG wished  to assert their whole hearted support and solidarity with the people of South Africa in their struggle for self-determination and majority rule.

Maurice Moore had a letter in the Irish Post in support of  Dave Nellist, Labour candidate in Coventry and exposed that an  Irish man Frank Devin was standing for the SDP whilst  the SDP voted for the use of the racist PTA laws against the Irish in Britain.

Festival Committee censors In June 1987 the Irish Post carried this story in relation to the London Irish Festival on 5th  July 1987 which had refused stalls to the Brent Nalgo Irish Workers Group and the IBRG. Both organisations condemned the organisers for their political discrimination which was a breach of Brent’s Equal opportunities policies.

On 11th June 1987 the Tories led by Thatcher won the British election. Bernie Grant got elected in Tottenham and in the run up to the election the IBRG were involved with other groups on organising a support rally meeting for Bernie Grant which drew in  over 300 Irish people. Bernie had given the Irish community their Centre and they would repay him with a huge vote. Bernie Grant was committed to Irish unification and supported civil rights for the Irish community in Britain.

The Irish Post also stated that the IBRG were writing to the three SDLP members of Parliament, led by John Hume, asking for their support on the PTA, strip-searching and plastic bullets. The IBRG were also contacting Labour MPs in strong Irish areas asking for their support on these issues and other issues affecting the Irish community in Britain.

The Ard Choiste met in Coventry on 20th June 1987(4) with delegates and officers attending including Tom Barron, Pat Reynolds, Caitlin Wright, Gearoid McGearailt, Brian Miller, Maurice Moore, and Kevin Campbell.

The Ard Choiste noted that Labour had lost the General election but that Bernie Grant, Jeremy Corbyn, Dianne Abbott, Clare Short and Ken Livingstone and many other had been elected who were good on Ireland.

The Ard  Choiste heard that the first issue of an Pobal Eirithe would be out by December 1987.

The meeting noted that Lambeth IBRG were hosting a National IBRG Irish Welfare Conference on 4th July at Lambeth Town Hall.

The London Irish Festival again had turned down IBRG for a stall as they were afraid of us being able to reach the Irish community.

The Labour Party Irish Sections had asked to meet IBRG which was agreed,

The Ard Choiste heard that Lord Colville was conducting another review of the PTA for the British state, and the PRO would  draft an IBRG response and all branches were  asked to write  in opposing the Act. The meeting heard  that the IBRG prisoners conference’s main focus would be on Repatriation of Irish Prisoners. The IBRG had a letter back from Brian Lenihan on the issue stating that the Department of Justice was responsible for drafting any ratification agreement on the matter. The meeting noted a large meeting had taken place in Dublin on the Birmingham Six case with Tony Benn and Chris Mullin speaking.

An Emergency Ard Choiste meeting was held at Green Ink Bookshop North London on 29th June 1987 to discuss the issue of the Mental Health Steering Group which was set up following the IBRG Mental health Conference. Delegates attending  included Laura Sullivan, Pat Sullivan, Brain Miller, Pat Reynolds, Gearoid McGearailt, Diarmuid Breatnach, Trevor O’Farrell, Tom Barron, Noreen Donoghue, and Virginia Moyles.

The issue was whether the Mental Health Forum should be independent of IBRG or whether it should have an IBRG chair. The problem being that IBRG had only five members present when 50 attended the first meeting of the Forum. The Ard Choiste could not take a decision as Camden branch had not met to discuss the situation and the matter was put off until the next London Ard Choiste on 1st August 1987.

Conference on An Irish Perspective on British Welfare

On  4th  July 1987 the IBRG held a conference on An Irish Perspective on British Welfare which was the first countrywide conference to look in-depth at the various needs and problems of the Irish living in Britain.  More than 125 people attended.

Topics covered included: Irish government welfare policy, emigration, the effects of racism, the role of the catholic Church, the needs of Irish elderly, Irish women and disadvantages, Young Irish offenders, Double disadvantage and Irish Travellers, and Welfare work and the Catholic Church.

Speakers included an  Irish Government representative from the Irish Embassy, Fr Des Wilson of West Belfast, John McDonnell ex deputy GLC, Tom Connor research worker at LSPU, Alison Norman for Policy Studies on Ageing, Mary Lennon Grainuaile Collective, Michael O Riabhaig Merseyside Probation Service, Tony Lee Outreach worker at LSPU, Liam Clarke Lecturer in Social Work and Elderly, Clare Keating of the IPA and Maire Higgins of Irish Prisoners Support Group. The conference was oversubscribed and had full workshops.

Read Gearoid’s account of the conference below.

The IBRG Ard Choiste met on 1st August 1987 (5) at Centreprise Bookshop in Hackney East London with delegates and officers attended including Gearoid McGearailt, Maire Wynne, Denis Casey, Nuala Eefting, Maurice Cahill, Tom Barron, Elaine Scott, Jackie Jolly, Virginia Moyles, Laura Sullivan, Diarmuid Breatnach,  Deasuin MacGearailt and Pete Millar.

The Ard Choiste congratulated Lambeth on the great success of their Welfare Conference. The meeting heard that the Birmingham Six appeal was coming up in November. It was noted that a new Irish Ambassador had been appointed and the meeting agreed to seek a meeting with him.

It was reported back that the IBRG, despite their ban, had taken a banner on the Roundwood Park Parade.  Carried by Diarmuid Breatnach and Pat Reynolds they were very well received by the thousands of people attending.  It was agreed that the IBRG raise the ban on IBRG and the Irish Workers Group with the Chair of Leisure in Brent. The Ard Choiste heard that the Women’s Sub committee had met a few times and had held successful meetings, and had decided to create their own banner for marches and meetings.

 

IBRG on TOM Delegation to Belfast 7-10 August 1987

IBRG members joined the Troops out Delegation to Belfast from 7-10th August 1987 and took  part in the Anti-Internment march. There were 120 people from Britain on the delegation which included TOM, LCI, IBRG, AUEW, Welsh Language society, Durham miners, Broadwater Farm Youth Association, Leicester Asian Youth Project and various trade unions bodies. Laura Sullivan was quoted in the Irish Post report on 23rd August 1987 ‘We were shocked to have guns pointed at us while being questioned, but it made us all the more determined to go on. On the day itself the march was a powerful experience and with so many people on it we didn’t feel intimidated’.

Read Laura and Virginia’s report on the delegation at the bottom of this post

On 14th  August 1987 Margaret Mullarkey of Bolton IBRG received a reply from Barbara Castle MEP who wrote a supportive letter,  but stated she could not agree with IBRG policy of immediate withdrawal of British troops from Ireland.  She supported the Anglo Irish agreement, but stated that she believed in the reunification of Ireland and the withdrawal of troops as soon as possible, and had opposed the use of plastic bullets and strip searching. She  will always fight for justice for Irish people and will be happy to help the IBRG meet the needs of Bolton Irish including their cultural needs.

IBRG urges Express Boycott was the headline on 29th  August 1987 in the Irish Post story in which the IBRG called on Irish trade unionists not to print the Express newspaper in Ireland given their anti-Irish racism in Britain. They said the paper were openly racist and anti-Irish, and continually denigrate Ireland and the Irish people. The IBRG called on the Irish print workers to support their brothers and sisters in England in fighting anti Irish racism. We do not believe that they will accept 50 pieces of silver and betray their own people by printing newspapers, that call them pigs and their country a dung hole. Even when Stephen Roche won the Tour de France the Daily express printed a racist cartoon on the victory.

First meeting of Brighton IBRG

On 3rd September 1987 Gearoid McGearailt and Pat Reynolds went down to Brighton to speak to the first meeting of Brighton IBRG. The meeting was around the many issues affecting the Irish community from PTA Framed prisoners to anti Irish racism in the media. One of the new Brighton IBRG members, Maude Casey, brought out a new children’s fiction book in September called Over the Water dealing with the experience of a young second generation Irish girl growing up in Britain. It was published by the Women’s Press and was widely welcomed by the Irish community.

over the water

The IBRG Ard Choiste met on 12th September 1987 (6) in Manchester where delegates and officers including, Laura Sullivan,  Michael Cnaimhsi,  Joe Mullarkey Bolton, Caitlin Wright, David Wright, Bernadette Hyland, Majelle Barr- Kamkar, Kevin Campbell, Michael O Riabhaig, Maurice Moore, Maire O’Shea, Pat Reynolds, Gearoid McGearailt, Diarmuid Bretanach, Seamus O Coillean and Virginia Moyles.

Laura Sullivan was elected Leas Runia and Caitlin Wright was elected Education Officer. Laura and Caitlin would give the organisation greater strength.  The Ard Choiste heard that Brighton IBRG had now been set up. It was agreed that IBRG meet with TOM and LCI. It was decided to send two delegates to the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis in Dublin. It was agreed to hold the Comhcomhairle in Leeds on 24th October 1987. The Ard Choiste was interrupted for an hour and a half by a bomb hoax. Ard Choiste  agreed to support the Broadwater Farm march on 3rd  October and to make a donation of £20.

The issues to be raised with the new Irish Ambassador were agreed, extradition, repatriation of Prisoners, Birmingham Six and  Guild ford Four, PTA, trial by media, Racism in the media, Travel concession for elderly, Emigration, Dion and lack of funding, Abortion trail, 26 countries Race relations act, Schools and culture, qualification discrimination.

The Ard Choiste agreed to write to Charlie Haughey and Brian Lenihan urging them to state publicly that the Birmingham Six are innocent. The Ard Choiste agreed to sponsor and support the LCI Conference on Discrimination in Employment in N. Ireland Conference on 28 November in London.

The Ard Choiste condemned the interference of the American Ambassador to the UK for his political interference and his attack on the McBride Principles, and condemned his silence on discrimination in Northern  Ireland and for allowing himself to be used as a small pawn in a British propaganda exercise.  The Ard Choiste condemned the Irish government for their conspiracy of silence over the years on the framed innocent Irish hostages held in Britain.

The Ard Choiste further condemned the hysterical and racist manner that both the British police and media threated three Irish people alleged to have being involved in a conspiracy.

The Ard Choiste  stated that they did not believe that any Irish person charged with a political offence could receive a fair trial in Britain at the present time. Irish people arrested are publicly tried by the British media in direct contravention of the sub judice laws and noted the difference with British football supporters charged with serious offences in Belgium. The assumption of being presumed innocent until proved guilty is not extended to Irish people in Britain, it is innocent when proven Irish instead. The story referred to the three young Irish people Martina Shanahan, John McCann and Finbar Cullen, who became known as the Winchester Three. They  were arrested camping near Wiltshire and the estate of, Secretary of State for N.Ireland Tom King’s.

The Irish Post also reported that the IBRG had challenged Professor  Davies to a debate after his total failure to see the difference between racism and humour. The IBRG statement said: Racist jokes like sexist jokes are about the power relationship and domination of one group by another. Jokes on race colour and ethnic background are based on racist stereotypes that have their origins in British and European colonisation of Black and Irish people. They attack the self-identity and self-definition of a people and are a direct attempt to marginalise and render them powerless.

IBRG pointed out that  Professor Davies had also attacked Islington Council for funding an  Irish welfare project in the borough. IBRG had sent Professor  Davies a copy of Liz Curtis book “The Same Old Story; the history of anti-Irish racism” to try and educate him out of his ignorance.

US Envoy slammed by IBRG on 19th  September 1987 the Irish Post ran this story. IBRG slammed the American Ambassador for supporting the British government in opposing the McBride Principles and of ignoring the discrimination faced by Catholics in employment in N. Ireland. The argument that the McBride Principles would prohibit American investment in N. Ireland was nonsense and without evidence as American companies should not be funding racist and sectarian discrimination in employment. Americans were far more likely to invest in companies with equal opportunities programmes. The IBRG in addition were sponsoring a conference in London in November on employment discrimination in Northern  Ireland.

Haringey IBRG Conference on Repatriation of Irish Prisoners

On 19th  September 19876 Haringey IBRG put on a countrywide Conference on repatriation of Irish Prisoners in order to put pressure on both the Irish and British government on the issue. Key note speakers were Gareth Pierce and Harry Fletcher of NAPO. Over 100 people attended.

Harry Fletcher stated there were over 1000 Irish born prisoners in British jails including about 45 category A political prisoners. He stated that NAPO supported repatriating prisoners as it would improve contact between the prisoners and their families, as it costs a fortune to travel from Ireland to Britain and get accommodation and food for the trip, He also argued that Irish prisoners should be transferred to N. Ireland when  they were born there which was allowed under Home Office rules. He cited the European Repatriation of Prisoner treaty which the Home office had endorsed and only discrimination was stopping transfer of the Irish prisoners.

Gareth Pierce spoke about Frank Stagg who died in Hunger strike in 1976 for the right to serve his sentence in Ireland. At the time of the hunger strike the British government took out adverts in Belfast papers stating that Stagg could be transferred to a prison near his home and wife in Coventry,  implying that the only reason that he could not go to Ireland, was that he could not prove it was his  home at the time of his arrest.

The afternoon session was opened by four women from the Relatives Support Committee. They  spoke of their experiences of travelling to Britain for visits and the extreme hardship involved, which included the PTA and strip searching being used against them. At the end of the day, a motion was passed called on the Dublin government to ratify the convention for the repatriation of sentenced prisoners and that the British government adheres to its own prison policy and transfer Irish prisoners from N. Ireland to prisons near their homes.

The Conference was given full coverage  in An Phoblacht and in Hands off Ireland  which carried interviews with the women speakers. The London Irish News highlighted Gareth Pierce’s talk  on how Irish prisoners were often ghosted before visits, and how many relatives were held up under the PTA when trying to visit their relatives in prison in Britain.

Haringey IBRG puts case for prisoner transfers was how the Irish Post covered it and reported how Haringey IBRG had written to the Home Office Minister for prisons arguing that Irish prisoners born in N. Ireland should be transferred home. The report stated that Ken Livingstone MP had also written to the Minister who replied ‘There is no element of unfair discrimination in our policy on these transfer…Our experience has been that prisoners who retain links with paramilitary organisations are unlikely to satisfy this condition’

It was clear that Irish political prisoners were being penalised for their politics. Marie Higgins of IBRG pointed out that Britain soldiers convicted of crimes were given the automatic choice of serving their sentence in Britain. It was clear that the British government was racially discriminating against Irish prisoners because of their racial origins and their politics and the rest was lame excuses without merit.

On 1st October 1987 Haringey IBRG  presented an evening of Irish Culture at Hornsey library in North London. The Haringey IBRG Video on the Irish in Haringey  was shown which had been made by Haringey IBRG and included material on the new Irish Centre in Haringey., Taking part also was Green Ink Writers Collective, The Hairy Marys  plus traditional music with a Green ink bookstall and an exhibition on Guildford Four. The event was free and packed, and was part of Haringey multi-cultural bookfair.

hARINGEY 1987

On 2nd  October 1987 the IBRG received  a letter from TOM outlining recent discussions between TOM, LCI and IBRG and Sinn Fein which agreed that the CBWI(Committee for British Withdrawal from Ireland) would be made up of TOM, IBRG and LCI and their main responsibility would be the organisation of the annual Bloody Sunday March in Britain and other activities it decides on regarding British withdrawal from Ireland.

On 15th  October 1987 the Irish Post gave Maude Casey a full page in the Irish Post on her new book Over the Water where she was able to explain the thinking behind the novel based on second generation experience. Maude was one of the founding members of Brighton IBRG.

The Comhcomhairle was held at the Woodpecker Public House, Leeds on 24th October 1987(7). Delegates and officers attending included Kevin Campbell,  Bernadette Hyland, Maurice Cahill, Caitlin Wright, David Wright, J McCarthy, Diarmuid Breatnach, Pat Reynolds, Gearoid MacGearailt, Elaine Scott, Virginia Moyles, Maurice Moore, Deasuin McGearailt, and Sam Stewart.

It held  workshops on the Education system and the needs of Irish People led by Education officer Caitlin Wright, Internal Education/Training led by Runai Virginia Moyles, Emigration arrival in Britain led by Gearoid McGearailt. The minutes of the meeting included full reports on these workshops with a large number of recommendations.

On 26th  October 1987 the Rev Martin Smyth, Unionist MP, released a press release to Southampton Orange Lodge headed Undermining the Integrity of the Nation How public funds Finance terrorist Sympathisers. The press release would seem to libel the IBRG which is why no news agency would touch it, but a copy was forwarded to the IBRG by a journalist.

The press release stated: One of the first things I intend to do when Parliament resumes is to probe government ministers about public funds which are flowing into republican groups and left-wing organisations who act as apologists for terrorism… One of the main organisations involved is the Irish in Britain Representation group or IBRG which obtains funds from several left-wing London boroughs including Haringey, Hackney, Islington and Camden. They recently sent groups from five of their branches in London to a Bobby Sands commemoration march organised by the Booby Sands commemoration Committee… IBRG member took part in the internment commemoration in Belfast in August along with the Troops Out movement Gerry Adams and the Labour Committee on Ireland. IBRG also promotes the cause of Irish sections within the Labour Party and the teaching of Irish in schools. The organisers of an Irish Festival in Brent during the summer banned the local IBRG from taking park along with a number of Irish political prisoners’ groups. I believe this was because of the consistent apologies for republican actions. 

In fact  Islington IBRG never received one penny from Islington Council. Martin Smyth was lucky this statement was not published as he might have ended up a much poorer man as he fails to evidence any connection between IBRG and IRA military actions. Indeed, the London Evening Standard had to retract a similar false allegation. Martin Smyth does not indicate his own position as regards Loyalist Terrorism, nor does he condemn British state terrorism in Ireland like the Bloody Sunday massacre and the Ballymurphy massacre, nor the killing of children by plastic bullets. He represents a colonial mindset.

IBRG had a meeting with Sinn Fein at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis in Dublin on 31 October 1987 on the issue of Irish prisoners in Britain along with TOM, Labour Party Irish Society, IPA and London Armagh Women.

The meeting noted that much work was done in Britain on prisoners but that it needed to be better coordinated and focused to be more effective. The meeting noted the success of the recent IBRG conference on repatriation.  Groups were asked what they thought their involvement in a coordinated campaign should be how it could be organised, and what resources were required.

Groups were asked to write to Sinn Fein Prisoners Department with responses who would collate the responses into guidelines, for a possible strategy which could be put to the groups involved as a way of mounting a concerted campaign.

There was a difficulty in running political prisoners together with the framed prisoners and the ODC (ordinary decent prisoners), there were a lot of different issues like transfer to N. Ireland was already there under Home Office rules but transfer to Republic would depend on ratification on Prisoners Transfer Treaty.

There were also separate issues like the use of PTA against visitors to Britain, strip searching, the criminal justice system and  its racism and discrimination plus the racism of the media regarding  arrested persons. There were also the  separate organisation Cumann Cabrach for Republican prisoners.

Solidarity with Black Marches was the Irish Post headline on 1st  November 1987.  The paper reported that a number of Irish organisations had sponsored the Broadwater Farm March from Tottenham to Hyde Park  via Downing St – a huge distance of over 12 miles which was called under the Civil Rights banned on the second anniversary of the death of Cynthia Jarrett.

The wrongly convicted prisoners from Broadwater Farm echoed what happened the Irish community in the Birmingham Six and Guildford cases. In the police raid on Broadwater Farm, similar to N. Ireland, over 400 were arrested and over 271 homes raided. 69 people were charged but in the process many of their human rights were abused where they were kept for days without a solicitor. TOM, LCI and IBRG brought a large Irish contingent on the march with their banners. It was noted that the Labour Party Black sections had recently visited N. Ireland as guests of Sinn Fein and that Broadwater Farm Youths had visited Belfast as part of the August Delegation.

The Birmingham Six Appeal started at the Old Bailey on 2nd  November 1987 and Pat Reynolds was able to observe some of the appeal which went on for days.

On 8th  November 1987 an IRA bomb in Enniskillen killed 11 people at the annual Remembrance Day ceremony and was a disaster for the Republican movement and caused real damage in Ireland and abroad. Gordon Wilson, father of one of the dead,  nurse Marie Wilson, came out of the incident with a forgiving mind and hopes for a better future.

Manchester IBRG Hearts and Minds Conference

On 14 November 1987 Manchester IBRG held a countrywide conference entitled Hearts and Minds the Irish in Britain held at Manchester Town Hall which was opened by Cllr. Eileen Kelly Chair of Manchester City Council. The morning keynote speaker was communist and historian  Desmond Greaves and the key note afternoon speech was by Gearoid McGearailt chair of IBRG.

Manchester IBRG with Eileen Kelly, Mayor of Manchester, 1987

Manchester IBRG with Eileen Kelly Chair of Manchester City Council

The morning seminars were  on; Irish Politics in Manchester 1890-1914 by Steven Fielding, the Work of the Irish in Manchester History Group, Aspects of Irish women’s emigration by Mary Lennon, The needs of Irish Elderly by Liam Clarke, Working with Irish Travellers by Sister  Anna, and Members of Frontline Culture and Education discussed a new play No Irish Need apply. The afternoon seminars were; Fighting anti Irish racism by Pat Reynolds, Irish Dimensions in British Education by Mary Hickman, The Irish and Mental Health by Dr Maire O Shea, Growing Up Irish in Liverpool Moy McCrory and Tiochfaidh Ar La and Then What by Michael O Riabhaigh.

The Conference was sponsored by Barbara Castle MEP, Eddie Newman MEP, Christine Crawley MEP, Bob Parry MP, Eric Heffer MP, Alf Morris MP, Cllr Jim King, Cllr.Mary Kelly, Cllr Luke Kearns Irish in Britain History Centre, UCATT NW Region, MnaNhEireann,  Manchester City Council, Merseyside Irish Studies, Centerprise and Green Ink Bookshop.

The Conference received much publicity in the Irish papers in Britain with the Irish Post carrying photos and a large write up. The Post reported that 140 delegates had attended the Conference from all over Britain and particularly the North West, Midlands and Central Britain.

The Chair of Manchester City Council,  Cllr Eileen Kelly in opening the Conference stated ‘The City Council shares basic policies with the IBRG. We are seeking to defend the rights of the Irish people in Manchester and elsewhere and we are working towards redevelopment of a multi-cultural city’. She said one of her own priorities was combatting anti Irish racism in the city’s schools.  It quoted Bernadette Hyland ‘We are absolutely delighted with the way the conference went. It was a most successful day and it is bound to make a significant contribution to the development of the IBRG and the pursuance of Irish community interest in the North West.’

The London Irish News carried Gearoid McGearailt’s speech quoting it at length. He described the long term aims of IBRG was to have an Irish community which was free from repression in Britain and participating equally in this society. Britain has given us many things one of which was racism, we were one of the first people to suffer from deliberate derision of our morals and intelligence so that the British could justify the invasion of our country. Structured  integrated  racism has been one of its roots from  the time of the Anglo Normans of the 12th century. They knew what they were doing to justify invasion and expansion in Ireland. Colonial repression in the British Empire was the direct result of their invasion of Ireland. Part of the stereotyping of the Irish was that this racism was ignored. Because of the absolute belief in superiority of British intelligence this racism became part of the civilising process for the Irish people who were made out to be violent stupid and dull. The Irish in Britain were given a choice, defend your Irishness or assimilate.

Gearoid spoke of the No Irish No Blacks need Apply which faced the parents of today’s children. The oppression of the Irish community left it introverted. Today there was a new spirit around and the IBRG was a key component of this new drive for respect and recognition, and were sending out a clear message that we would no longer tolerate being second class citizens, and no longer tolerate the racism for the sake of our children and future generations. The Irish government had a problem because we told them they had a clear duty of care to the Irish in Britain as their citizens. The race relations environment in Britain had been built by the  sweat and tears of the Black community and we should ally ourselves with them against British oppression.

On 21st November 1987 the IBRG Ard Choiste met in Coventry (8) where delegates and officers included Diarmuid Breatnach,  Maurice Moore, Bernadette Hyland, Majella Barr Kamkar, Caitlin Wright, David Wright, Denis Casey, Laura Sullivan, Pat O Sullivan, Pat Reynolds, Maire O Shea, Gearoid McGearailt, Seamus O Coilean, and Eddie Caughey with apologies from Joe Mullarkey and Maire Wynne.

Bernadette Hyland was elected Leas Cathaoirleach as Jackie Jolly had stood down for health reasons. The Ard Choiste heard that the Northern region of IBRG had held a public meeting on Birmingham Six and Guildford Four and had raised over £500 for the Birmingham Six Appeal. Maria Higgins had resigned from IBRG taking the correspondence of the Irish Prisoners Support Group with her.

Lambeth IBRG had launched a leaflet on the new Nationality Act and had received over one thousand letters from Irish members of the public on the issue.  In 1981 the British government passed an Act which had an effect on every Commonwealth citizen or Irish citizen who settled in Britain before 1st January 1973 who had until the 31st December to register for British citizenship. The problem for Irish people was whether to register as British citizens or retain their Irish citizenship.

The Irish Embassy had replied over the Winchester Three stating they would only intervene or act if approached by a relative of these detained.

The meeting expressed concern and condemned Camden Council for deporting 11 homeless Irish families back to Ireland in clear cases of discrimination in that checks were made in Ireland which were not made in relation to emigrants from other countries. A motion from Haringey IBRG was agreed stating “that this meeting deplores the racism of Camden Council in deporting Irish families back to Ireland and demand that they stop immediately their racist policies against Irish people and implement their housing policies without racial bias’.

The meeting heard  of an invite from Sinn Fein for an IBRG delegation to visit Belfast on their own without the pressure of being part of a large British delegation, and being seen as a foreign delegation.

A motion from Haringey IBRG was passed which stated ‘This meeting congratulates Manchester IBRG on their successful conference Hearts and Minds held recently in Manchester. Their conference set a leading example to other branches in their organisation and presentation of important issues within our own community”.

Another motion from Haringey IBRG was passed which read’ This meeting deplores the political and media attacks on Ken Livingstone for speaking out for Irish unity and support his stand on Irish self-determination and unity and British withdrawal’.

The Ard Choiste decided to donate £200 to the Bloody Sunday March which IBRG were part of the organising committee. Laura Sullivan was nominated to be the IBRG rep on the organising committee. The meeting was told of upcoming events: picket of the  Home Office in Friday 27 November on the PTA, Sat 28 November Conference in London on Employment Discrimination in N. Ireland and on Saturday 5 December 1987 LSPU Conference at Lambeth Town Hall on Strip searching.

On 28th  November 1987 IBRG delegates attended a trade union conference “Ireland the Cause of Labouron employment discrimination in N. Ireland at the Camden Centre Camden Council Building at Kings Cross London which the IBRG had sponsored. The conference  included a full discussion of the McBride principles and have key note speakers along with workshops to look at how trade unionists in Britain could support the battle against employment discrimination in N. Ireland.

On 2nd December IBRG published the first edition of an Pobal Eirithe with over 1,000 copies published which could be sold in branches and at Irish community events.

The IBRG ARD Choiste met on 12th December 1987 (9) at the Haringey Irish Centre in North London. Delegates and officers included the following Laura Sullivan, Pat O Sullivan, Nuala Eefting, Denis Casey, Pat Reynolds, Deasun MacGearailt, Marie Wynne, Gearoid McGearailt Chair, Maurice Moore, Diarmuid Breatnach , Brian Miller, Siobhan Hier, Virginia Moyles Runai, Kevin Campbell. Apologies Maire O Shea, Bernadette Hyland and Eddie Caughey.

The Ard Choiste agreed the delegation to the Irish Embassy as Sam Steward Leeds, Caitlin Wright Bolton, Maurice Moore Coventry, Gearoid McGearailt Lambeth, Virginia Moyles Hackney and Kathleen Henry Lewisham to include three women and three men with Pat Reynolds as a fall back if needed.

The meeting noted that decision on the Birmingham Six was reserved until the New Year. The case of Danny McNamee was discussed and support offered. A motion from Hackney That IBRG work with other groups to mount a concerted campaign for the repatriation of political and non-political prisoners who wish to be repatriated to the 26 countries and for prisoners who want to be moved to the Six Counties under Home Office  rules was passed and for the abolition of strip searching.

Another motion from Hackney was passed That IBRG accepts Sinn Fein invitation to send a delegation to the 6 counties, that we learn all we can about Sinn Fein, including spending some time on cultural issues such as language and dance, and that we arrange a broader based  visit to meet other groups in 1988.

The Ard Choiste discussed the racist deportation by Camden Council of homeless Irish families and agreed to send a delegation to Camden’s  next Race Relations Committee to raise the issue, that Pat Reynolds Brian Miller and Laura Sullivan prepare a  submission to the ALA on the issue and that along with Diarmuid Breatnach they would form a London steering group on the issue, that Shelter be asked to take a test case to the European court, and that IBRG meet with Shelter on the matter.

The Ard Choiste  rejected the recommendations from Lord Colville on his review of the PTA. His main recommendation was for exclusion orders to N. Ireland be dropped as it was like South Africa with Internal exile, and his second; to make the PTA permanent rather than temporary provisions. The Government turned down his recommendation on exclusion orders.

IBRG condemned the PTA with its main aim to terrorise and intimidate the Irish community with its primary function being to politically neutralise and harass the Irish community. The IBRG calls on the Irish government to stand up for the Irish community in Britain and publicly condemn the PTA and called for its appeal.  The PTA is a totally discredited piece of legislation, a relic of vindictive colonial policing methods, based on punishing a whole community. The IBRG will continue to fight the PTA with every means available. The IBRG called the report a cosmetic smokescreen to cover up the injustice of the act. The PTA was a blatant piece of political engineering designed to silence any political views or activities around Irish unity or Britain’s role in Ireland. To make the PTA permanent is to entire anti Irish racism into British law, and as a permanent feature of British police to harass Irish citizens travelling to and from Ireland. The extension of embarkation cards was a George Orwell 1984 approach designed to target the Irish and reflect early Nazi system in Germany where they recorded minority communities. Colville exercise was a sham propaganda exercise and to increase detention times from 12 hours to 48 hours was dangerous as people were held incommunicado and without legal help.

Notes.

  1. Ard Choiste 10/01/1987
  2. Ard Fheis 21/03/1987
  3. Ard Choiste 9/05/1987
  4. Ard Choiste 20/06/1987
  5. Ard Choiste 01/08/1987
  6. Ard Choiste 12/09/1987
  7. Comhcomhairle 24/10/1987
  8. Ard Choiste 21/11/1987
  9. Ard Choiste 12/12/1987

1.

Gearoid’s speech from the “Conference on an Irish Dimension to British Welfare 1987” – note not 1984.

IBRG Welfare Conference 1987

Laura and Virginia’s report on the TOM  Delegation to Belfast 7-10 August 1987

Troops Out 1987

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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 Mancheser – 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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Posted in education, feminism, films, human rights, Ireland, Irish second generation, labour history, Manchester, North of Ireland, political women, Socialism, Socialist Feminism, trade unions, Uncategorized, women, working class history, young people | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment