Representatives from Irish organisations across Britain met together in Manchester on Saturday 26 October for Irish in Britain’s AGM. The meeting was a celebration of the contribution that Irish groups make in their local communities, as Irish in Britain CEO Brian Dalton told delegates “That’s where we can make the biggest difference: by community activism and organisation.”
Brian also laid out his vision for taking the national charity forward and announced new initiatives, including a plan to develop a new generation of community leaders to be launched in the spring. He said, “Our community interests are best served through collaboration, by making common cause, through partnerships, and where values meet in shared interests… As a membership coalition we will take these issues on for and on your behalf – we are not going to be passive around them nor will we shirk from our wider civic responsibilities.
“We are united in what those responsibilities are: the values that inform these responsibilities are there on page three of our annual report – to build shared understanding of our community, our history here, our future, our culture, and most importantly our potential as contributors and indeed voters.”
Two local MPs, both with Irish roots themselves, attended and addressed delegates. Mike Kane MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East and Shadow Minister for Schools told how he was born to Irish parents who met in Manchester in the 1960s having grown up in two villages 30 miles apart in Ireland. He paid tribute to the work of Irish in Britain and all the organisations represented in the room.
Rebecca Long–Bailey MP for Salford & Eccles and Shadow Secretary of State for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy spent the afternoon at the AGM. Her parents also came over to Britain in the 1960s, from Galway and Belfast. She spoke to delegates about her pride in her Irish heritage and said, “I will do everything I can to make sure we don’t go back to those days of suspicion and mistrust.”
Brian introduced as a guest speaker Bob Singha, a Youth Coach and Trainer and CEO of Community Coaching Academy. Bob initiated the workshops and project featured in the powerful BBC documentary Imagine, Eastside Story and he talked to delegates about the impact local community action can have.
Irish in Britain’s team laid out the achievements of the charity’s health projects, the Green Hearts campaign on physical and mental health as well as the Cuimhne project supporting people living with dementia and memory loss. They were joined by guest speakers, Karl Wilson and his brother Junior, who founded the Pearl Dementia Support Network following the death of their mother, Pearl.
The Pearl Network aims to create culturally–sensitive resources and memory boxes for people of many different backgrounds after they felt that the Caribbean culture of their mother, was not catered for when she was living with dementia. Irish Britain announced that it will be teaming up the Pearl Network to provide online resources for people with from Irish backgrounds.
A motion proposed by John Lloyd of the London Irish LGBT Network to support campaigns opposing all forms of hate crime was unanimously supported by the delegates.
Christy Evans Chair of Coláiste na nGael announced this year’s winner of the Irish Language Irish in Britain prize as Ryan Hyde, who was born in London but raised in Derry and Essex.
Patrick Morrison, Chair of Irish in Britain’s board of trustees said, “Irish in Britain will continue to work with our members as the lifeblood of our community and make sure the Irish community is neither marginalised, overlooked or forgotten in the times ahead … showing the Irish community as an empowered, inclusive and positive force for good.”