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The new London Overground names help connect us to London's history

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Our letter to the Telegraph in response to Camilla Tominey’s piece last week, which argued that some of those recognised are less worthy than Irish workers, outlines why this initiative should be celebrated. It invites us all to learn more about the migrant and activist histories that have shaped Britain.

  • Photo Credit: TfL

Dear Editor

Camilla Tominey is right to highlight the Irish contribution to the construction of British infrastructure and Britain’s rich cultural heritage. It is also true that many Irish immigrants to Britain faced discrimination.

But these are experiences that the Irish share with other migrant groups, rather than something setting them apart. While some of the experiences of Irish and commonwealth migrants were common, many were distinct. We do not believe in creating the hierarchies of recognition outlined in her piece.

Indeed, the commonalities between Irish nurses and construction workers on the one hand and their African-Caribbean and commonwealth colleagues featured in our recent exhibition marking the 50th anniversary of the national charity Irish in Britain.

As a national body representing migrants, we applaud the recognition of minority groups reflected in the new names given to the London Overground lines.

We celebrate the contribution of the Irish diaspora to the textile industry (Weaver line), nursing (Mildmay line) and the political activism of Irish women such as Eva Gore-Booth (Suffragette line).

Recent initiatives, such as the naming of Navigator Square in Archway in recognition of the Irish ‘navvies’ who built so much of Britain’s transport infrastructure, are welcome.

They demonstrate that the contribution of Irish migrants can be recognised today in London without stoking division or competition with other minority groups.

Irish Londoners will not have forgotten the anti-Irish racism that until recently was commonplace in British newspapers, and the discrimination that Irish people – particularly Travellers – still face today.

Recognition of our shared history in Britain should not be a zero-sum formula. This initiative can instead be a timely prompt for us all to learn more about the diverse stories of origin in Britain today.

We should celebrate this act of remembrance by London Mayor Sadiq Khan that honours the contribution of these pioneering groups.

Brian Dalton CEO, Rosa Gilbert Policy Manager

Irish in Britain