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Comhar Bulletin November 2022
The Irish in Britain policy team shares updates covering recent policy and public affairs work. We welcome updates from our members on policy, research and public affairs. If you have any further questions, contact us via e-mail.
The Irish language will be officially recognised as a language in Northern Ireland after the bill has received Royal Assent (date yet to be announced). The bill also includes clauses to "deliver measures to promote and respect Northern Ireland's diverse national, cultural and linguistic identities".
The bill establishes the formation of a new body, the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery. The UK Government intends this to be the primary authority when investigating reviews of Troubles-related deaths and cases of specified serious injury.
The amnesty clauses and many other aspects of the bill are controversial. Shared concerns around the bill have been raised by victim groups and political parties in Northern Ireland. Amnesty International is leading a campaign against the bill.
Irish in Britain has continued to monitor the progress of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which has been debated inside the Houses of Parliament and scrutinised widely within the media. Despite the changes in government since our last Comhar bulletin, it has remained a stated priority for the current government's programme.
As of 14 November 2022, the bill concluded its second reading at the committee stage in the House of Lords – and subject to line-by-line review. It will now enter the report stage within the House of Lords.
The amendments proposed by the Lords present a more positive outcome for UK/Irish/EU relations. These have included
- Setting conditions on ministers' powers created by the bill.
- Setting conditions on the limitation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
- Approval of the Northern Ireland Assembly before the measures contained in the bill can be used to limit the general implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
- Parts of the bill contain inappropriate delegations of power.
- The dual regulatory scheme.
Previous statements by Irish in Britain on developments around the Northern Ireland Protocol can be found here:
Before the former Prime Minister's resignation in October 2022, Irish in Britain drafted a letter to Liz Truss. This letter outlined: the importance of the Good Friday Agreement, the opposition of the Northern Irish Assembly to the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, and a request for the UK Government to acknowledge the unique political and constitutional context in which Northern Ireland exists.
We sent an updated letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak shortly after he was appointed.
Irish in Britain's representations to House of Lords on Protocol Bill
Irish in Britain recently wrote to 68 Peers in the House of Lords around the government's Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, urging them to seek dialogue to solve their dispute with the EU and reiterating previous statements:
- The Northern Ireland Protocol Bill threatens decades of progress from the Good Friday Agreement.
- The bill undermines agreements between the UK, Ireland and the EU.
Northern Ireland Protocol Sub-Committee call for evidence
The chair of the House of Lords Northern Ireland Protocol bill sub-committee, Lord Jay, has requested Irish in Britain to submit evidence to the committee. The submission will be shared on our website when public. Sub-committees regularly facilitate public stakeholder engagement so interested organisations and individuals can submit their views and expertise on the issue. We welcome the opportunity to participate.
Parliamentary rules mean this information cannot be shared until made publicly available by the sub-committee.
Update on Census 2021
On 2 November 2022, we published our findings from the first release of census information, 'demography and migration'. Alongside our team of researchers at the University of Nottingham, we highlighted a reduction in the Irish-born population in England and Wales compared to the 2011 Census. The number of people born in Ireland and living in England and Wales in 2021 was 523,014, representing a decrease of over 99,000 people (-16 percent) since a decade ago. We have published a full explainer of this data, available to read here.
Following the Office for National Statistics (ONS) staged release of data, Irish in Britain has commissioned a bespoke analysis of this data and will be publishing reports on the Irish community in England, Wales and metropolitan areas of Britain over the coming months. Future analysis will include in-depth reports on health disparities, demographic data about the community, and regional breakdowns to understand patterns and changes from 2011.
We plan to release complete reports on this data in the spring of 2023 and to use them to inform the work of Irish in Britain and our partner organisations. Scotland completed their census in 2022 – it was delayed due to COVID – we will commission this data analysis later next year.
- Urgently deliver meaningful financial support to those in greatest need.
- Target financial support for charities and volunteer organisations on the frontline supporting people.
- Ensure that charities, voluntary and community organisations are included in any plans to provide support for businesses.
In August 2022, Irish in Britain conducted interviews with CEOs and managers of diverse Irish community organisations throughout Britain on the cost of living. In doing so, we captured important information on how organisations were preparing for the rise in operating costs and general inflation. The resulting report has undergone significant changes since then and will be released shortly.
We await a response from the Pensions Policy Institute since sharing our letter.
Northern Consulate Conference
On the 30 September 2022, Irish in Britain attended the Conference of Community Organisations North of England, hosted by the Northern Consulate General of Ireland for North of England at The Irish World Heritage Centre in Manchester. Irish in Britain's team ran three workshops for conference attendees:
- Policy and Public Affairs
Included in the conference was an address from Ambassador Martin Fraser and two panels: Exploring the Irish community and Irish culture and cultural promotion.
Traveller Movement conference
On 17 November, Irish in Britain was kindly invited to the Traveller Movement’s Intersection of Poverty, Inequality and Mental Health conference. Christian Zik Nsonwu was a facilitator in the “Making Ends Meet” workshop, exploring how people from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller backgrounds were navigating the cost-of-living crisis, and utilising deep community links to develop systems of mutual support, solidarity and resilience.
Sarah Hughes Appointment
Irish in Britain would like to extend congratulations to Sarah Hughes, who is currently the Chief Executive of the Centre for Mental Health. She has been appointed as CEO of one of the UK’s leading mental health charities, Mind, starting her post in early 2023. Sarah is a strong advocate of community-led mental health initiatives and supported the development of Irish in Britain’s Mental Health Charter in 2020,
Sarah holds several board roles: The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Integrated Care Board, the Football Association Inclusive Advisory Board and a Trustee of the International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership.