Irish in UK ‘have a responsibility to other immigrant communities’

New Irish in Britain trustees Mairead, Breda and Ann

The common experience of the Windrush generation and Irish people in Britain in building “resilient” and “cohesive” communities should be a model for all in the UK, a Labour MP has said.

Janet Daby, a Labour MP for Lewisham East, hailed the many similarities between the Windrush generation and the Irish community here.

Speaking at the AGM for charity Irish in Britain, Ms Daby provided examples of traditions of volunteering and community activism that are interwoven throughout both communities.

The Windrush scandal which unfolded earlier this year saw members of the Windrush generation – many of whom had been born into the Commonwealth and had arrived in the UK before 1973 from Caribbean countries – were wrongly detained, denied legal rights, threatened with deportation, and, in around 63 instances, wrongly deported from the UK by the Home Office.

Just last week The Irish World reported how legal academics were warning that Irish citizens in the UK should not rely on the Common Travel Area – a longstanding policy arrangement which ensures reciprocal social and movement rights between UK citizens living in Ireland and vice versa – as a means of safeguarding legal status here.

Prof Aoife O’Donogue, a law lecturer in Durham University, along with Prof Dagma Shiek, a Professor of EU law in Queens University, both said that Irish citizens should register as EU citizens under the UK’s proposed settled status scheme to avoid a scandal like Windrush reoccurring.

“We all saw what happened with the Windrush generation; we know how quickly things can happen and things can change with your status,” said Prof O’Donoghue.

“For [the Irish World readers], the normal recommendation from the United Kingdom is that Irish citizens don’t need to use the new settled status because of the Common Travel Area,” Prof Shiek told the Irish World. “I think what is really important is to say that this is incorrect.”

Brian Dalton, Irish in Britain CEO, told the AGM that the charity will zero in on their commitments to inclusiveness and said it recognises that it has a responsibility to support and amplify the voices of other immigrant communities.

“The Irish community hold a unique place in the story of immigration to this country. We are the community who have the longest history as immigrants in Britain – with that comes our mandate to campaign to ensure our voice is heard,” said Mr Dalton, “but I would argue that within the unique story that is the Irish experience here is a requirement – in fact, an obligation – to lead and to show leadership.

“By that, I mean a solidarity with and the celebration of other immigrant contributions at a time when those contributions are under attack in the public forum.”

Delegates from Irish organisations across Britain gathered in London last week for Irish in Britain’s AGM. Diversity and equality were, according to the charity, a primary focus for the meeting.

Citing the presence of younger members, one delegate told the meeting that it was good to see such a diverse AGM.

It was also revealed at the AGM that ten new organisations had joined Irish in Britain in 2018.

Another subject addressed at the meeting was digital inclusion, with guest speakers, Dina Rickman, Go Fund Me, and Sharon Tynan, Age UK London.

They described how vital it was to ensure an older generation who grew up in a pre-internet age “master the tools of access that are vital for online services”.

Among the motions put forward by members included the campaign for the right of Irish citizens in Britain to be able to vote in referendums and elections in Ireland.

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