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Comhar Policy Bulletin – September 2021

Consultation for strategic plan

Thank you to all members and Friends who took part in our summer consultation to inform our next strategic plan for 2021-24. The consultation included surveys and offered a series of focus groups, which were well attended and very engaging. We will be sharing the headline findings from the report shortly. Some of the key takeaways are:

·         100 percent of member organisations and 95 percent of Friends said that they believed our current mission statement and vision were appropriate.

·         The focus group discussions featured widespread support and engagement with our work to create a diverse and inclusive network that represents the different groups, people and experiences that characterise the rich plurality of the Irish in Britain community.

·         The member focus groups highlighted concerns about what the crisis will mean in terms of mental and physical health needs and funding challenges, as well as the longer-term future for community groups, who feel neglected and forgotten by local authorities despite acknowledgement of their crucial work over the last 18 months.

·         Our consultation feedback has broadly endorsed our focus areas of support, capacity building, and representation and our model for delivering them. However, we must recognise the recent and enduring challenges brought about by the covid crisis, such as mental health and digital inclusion and continue to engage with the ongoing questions surrounding identity and what it means to be Irish in Britain.

APPG on Dementia

Irish in Britain’s Cuimhne team attended the online launch of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia’s latest report last week. The report – Fuelling the moonshot: unleashing the UK’s potential through dementia research – argues that the UK government must continue to invest in dementia research and fulfill its commitment to funding a ‘dementia moonshot’. It also builds on a consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, including Irish in Britain and representatives from other cultural and ethnic groups. While we welcome the report’s recommendations, we are concerned that specific cultural needs and ethnic health inequalities are not addressed, particularly after this was raised by Irish in Britain and others during the consultation process.

Our Cuimhne coordinator asked about the lack of ethnic minority inclusion in the final report during the launch and we will continue to make representation to the APPG and the Alzheimer’s Society, who provide the secretariat to the grouping.

N.B. it was announced earlier this month that a new body is to be launched on 1 October to tackle health disparities and inequalities – the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities.

Irish Language Act

A coalition of organisations launched a campaign last week to encourage Westminster MPs and peers to pass an Irish Language Act for Northern Ireland, if the Act is not brought forward or passed by Stormont politicians in the coming weeks. These organisations make up Comhdháil na Breataine (the Irish Speaking Groups of Britain) and include Conradh na Gaeilge branches in London, Liverpool and Glasgow, as well as the My Mum’s Voice campaign started by Margaret Keane’s family.

The groups want an Act to recognise the status of Irish along similar lines to Welsh in Wales and for the UK government to fulfil commitments to implement an Act.

An Irish Language Act for Northern Ireland is supported by Sinn Féin, the SDLP, the Green Party and the Alliance Party, but is strongly opposed by the Democratic Unionist Party and other unionist groups. The New Decade, New Approach agreement of 2020 between the major parties in Northern Ireland committed to implementing elements of the Act, but this has not been delivered. The UK government has offered to legislate for language provision by October if Stormont does not ahead with any legislation on the issue.

Keane case discriminatory

Irish in Britain has closely followed the successful appeal of Margaret Keane’s family to have an untranslated Irish language phrase on their mother’s gravestone, including meeting with her daughters who led the campaign. The Church of England’s Arches Court confirmed that the initial decision to deny the untranslated phrase, because it may be “regarded as some form of slogan”, was unreasonable and discriminatory. Other untranslated languages appear in the graveyard of St Giles’ Church, Exhall, including Latin, Hebrew and Welsh.