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Comhar Policy Bulletin April 2022
I am Christian Zik Nsonwu, the new Policy & Public Affairs Manager at Irish in Britain. I would also like to introduce George Ingram our new Policy Intern. With a new policy team in place, Irish in Britain will be broadening our policy engagement and activities in the coming weeks and months
Please see below our latest Comhar policy bulletin for April 2022 and some of the work we have already started.
This edition covers Irish in Britain’s work with:
APPG on Ireland and the Irish in Britain
Irish Diaspora Debate
St Patrick’s Day Events
Recent Bills/Policy Announcements in Parliament
Anti-GRT racism: new reports
This is my first Comhar bulletin, as I started working with Irish in Britain in January. It has been a great start to the year, and I look forward to getting to know you all and your organisations better in the coming months. Your feedback from last year’s consultation has helped to inform our focus for these policy updates – I hope you find these updates useful, it is our intention to publish bi-monthly to accurately reflect a busy policy environment.
In January, Irish in Britain participated in the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ireland and the Irish in Britain. This meeting was the first of the new year and commenced Irish in Britain’s new role acting as the secretariat for the group. Members of Parliament and peers from across the UK came together to discuss issues regarding the Irish community in Britain, community events and plans for supporting the growth and wellbeing of our community.
Irish in Britain shared the results of the member consultation we undertook last year. This was our largest and most comprehensive consultation to date and allowed us to measure and evaluate the interests and concerns of the Irish in Britain. APPG members found this data to be useful and we will continue to serve as a resource, ensuring feedback information from community groups and wider community interests is strong and dynamic. This group allows us to remain an active link between the Irish community, the Irish Embassy and our work in parliament.
In recent weeks, Irish in Britain has been developing individual briefings for MPs and Lords on constituency data and updates on IiB membership activities. This information will be regularly updated , particularly post census 2021 to inform their understanding of our community profile.
IRISH DIASPORA DEBATE
Irish in Britain assisted APPG members in introducing a debate in the House of Commons on Irish contributions to Britain. The debate took place on St Patrick’s Day at 2pm and was introduced by Tony Lloyd MP and supported by Conor McGinn MP. The entire debate can be watched here. IiB informed and assisted MPs by providing policy briefings on Irish community data local to each MP’s constituency. We acquainted MPs of recent events (both online or in-person) organised by our members to understand the activity of the Irish community in their area. We also provided summaries of our members’ various missions, campaigns and purpose, informing them of their work and hopefully priming MPs with relevant allies in their constituencies.
We were especially pleased to see engagement from so many MPs from both sides of the aisle and utilising our briefings to form their statements.
We are proud of this moment as it was the first debate to take place on this subject in 24 years and only the second to date. We are also pleased to see MPs highlight so many of our member organisations in their comments. Irish in Britain sees this as a positive stepping-stone to building relationships with MPs and prioritising solving issues faced by our members.
ST PATRICK’S DAY EVENT
CHAMP hosted a St Patricks Day event on the terrace of Westminster on 16 March. Irish in Britain was in attendance with other members of the APPG. The event was organised in partnership with the Irish Embassy and APPG on Ireland and the Irish in Britain. Sponsors of the event were Tourism Ireland, Queens University Belfast, The Irish Post, and Betting & Gaming Council.
We heard speeches from Baroness Harris, Conor McGinn, Ambassador O’Neill, Sec. Michael Gove, Minister Paschal Donohue. This was a great opportunity to continue to cultivate relationships with our partners around Westminster and beyond.
The Border and Immigration Bill initially has created a sense of unease since its first reading in July 2021. The bill is set to significantly alter the process for asylum seekers to remain in the UK. Additionally, the Home Secretary’s ability to revoke citizenship will be expanded with new reasoning and the power to do this without notice.
The bill is currently in the “Consideration of Amendments” stage, meaning it is soon to receive royal assent. Specific areas still may change but are unlikely to. However, we continue to monitor its progress.
Irish in Britain recognises the concern the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill has caused for our members, specifically around the new legislation regarding limitations to peaceful protesting and its effects on GRT communities. It currently sits within the final stages of approval, however, there are still some minor amendments to be made.
Specific areas may change but are unlikely to – however we continue to monitor its progress.
LEVELLING UP AGENDA
The Levelling Up Agenda is an enormous project, which is going to have an impact across nearly every sector. The priority of this initiative is presented using four key strategies by the UK Government.
1. Boost productivity, pay, jobs and living standards by developing the private sector, especially in those places that are lagging.
2. Spread opportunities and improve public services, especially in those places where they are weakest.
3. Restore a sense of community, local pride and belonging, especially in those places where they have been lost.
4. Empower local leaders and communities, especially in those places lacking local agencies.
The Levelling Up agenda is likely to have an impact on the charity sector in various ways once it is fully established and in effect. The full extent to this strategy’s impact has yet to be understood but it provides potential opportunity for third sector investment, whether that be in the short-term, long-term or both. The NCVO have developed an analysis on how the proposal will affect the charity sector.
Irish in Britain is working to best understand these new priorities and what course of action best serves to support queries from our our members. This is a large and complex topic that will be relevant to our sector’s health and resilience for many years to come.
SPRING BUDGET ANNOUNCEMENT
The rising cost of living will present challenges to all our members and the communities that they serve. It is also poised to make life more difficult for those who live on their own, don’t have a reliable income or are struggling to return/enter the labour market and those on fixed incomes. These issues, among others, are set to be exacerbated during this crisis.
During the Spring Budget announcement, the government released its proposal for alleviating concern for those affected by these hardships – a summary of key points by the BBC can be read here.
Irish in Britain continues to follow this topic closely. To gain a better understanding of the challenges our members face during the current cost of living crisis, Irish in Britain has released a survey of our members. This is aimed to gauge the effects of this crisis and help inform grant decisions for this year and inform the case for resources.
After the recent Jimmy Carr controversy, two new reports provide timely context on the scope of discrimination faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities in Britain.
Read more in our piece on the research: Words matter: Jimmy Carr, public attitudes and a community maligned HERE.
The Census is one of the most important administrative undertakings of any government, as it helps inform political representation, funding for constituencies, and gathers useful data that will be used to shape policy positions for the next decade. The Census ran for England and Wales in 2021, with Scotland’s set for this year. The first results of the 2021 Census are set to be released in late May 2022.
Having this updated information will in turn, help shape the advice we provide to our Members and external bodies.
Irish in Britain is currently developing a new tender for research on this data, looking at publishing reports on the Irish community in England, Wales, Scotland and metro areas of Britain. This data will include in-depth reports on health disparities, demographics of the community, and regional breakdowns to understand patterns and changes from 2011. Read the reports published in 2012 HERE.
We plan to release data in conjunction with the ONS’s staged release schedule over the next year.