Changing times and attitudes for irish community in britain

 Our Deirdre Gormain addressing the Irish in Britain AGM

Our Deirdre Gormain addressing the Irish in Britain AGM

The Crown in Cricklewood, west London, has been immortalised in song as one of the places at the heart of the Irish emigrant experience from the 1950s onwards.

We found ourselves at the iconic venue for the Annual General Meeting of Irish in Britain, a membership organisation which aims to improve the lives of the Irish community. The London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign joined the group in 2017, because we are part of the community of Irish and Northern Irish people in Britain.

As described by Ann Rossiter in “Ireland’s Hidden Diaspora: ‘The Abortion trail’ and the making of the London-Irish underground” traditionally London-Irish organisations were not felt to be comfortable places for those of us who were Irish in London and feminist, pro-choice, gay or just did not fit in.  

How times have changed.

At last year’s Irish in Britain AGM, our motion for information to be publicised about the Repeal the 8th campaign was supported by the majority. This year we again proposed a motion about sharing information, this time about the campaign to legalise abortion in Northern Ireland.

  “The craic was good in Cricklewood and they wouldn't leave the Crown,” sang the  McAlpine’s Fusiliers.

“The craic was good in Cricklewood and they wouldn't leave the Crown,” sang the McAlpine’s Fusiliers.

Perceptions and fears

Win Lawlor of Irish Community Care Merseyside responded with a powerful and emotional statement of support. She highlighted the need to help all Irish people travelling to Britain for abortion services, from both sides of the border, from all backgrounds and ethnicities. 

It was recognised that few of the women who travel to Liverpool would think to approach local Irish community organisations, because of their perceptions and fears about how their requests for help would be received.

Sally Mulready, founder of the Irish Women’s Survivor Network, head of the Irish Elderly Advice Network and a longstanding champion of many Irish causes in Britain, gave her wholehearted agreement. The motion was passed with overwhelming support. 

The conversations about #Repealthe8th and #NowforNI continued after the meeting. They reflected the themes of diversity and inclusiveness, which had been a focus throughout the Irish in Britain AGM.

It felt serendipitous that this expression of support was given six months after the referendum to Repeal the 8th. The results showed that the Repeal campaign had a broad base of support in Ireland.

There were as many votes cast in favour of Repeal by those aged 65 and over, as by those aged 25 and under, proving change is no longer solely the preserve of the young.

Hannah Little