The independent London newspaper

Irish legacy shows positive effect immigration has had

22 March, 2019

• IRISH people in Islington, and across London, have made an enormous contribution over the decades.

Many of my residents remember the Irish nurses who worked at the Whittington Hospital who attended Mass every Sunday morning on Highgate Hill and the many labourers and construction workers who built houses, roads and the Barbican, which my father worked on.

Irish culture was thriving through music, dancing and socialising. People still remember fondly the Gresham, the National and the Galtimore and all the Irish pubs across the borough where people went after a hard day’s work or at weekends.

There was always a great sense of looking after your own and making sure new emigrants settled in. All gave a helping hand.

Many remember the old way of travelling to Ireland – getting the bus to Euston, train to Holyhead and then the boat to Dublin, travelling on from there to their home county. There was no Ryanair in those days and Air Lingus, I’m told, was far too expensive.

Irish legacy was not just a cultural one but also a political one and had a major influence on politics, public sector and trade unions.

The campaigning culture over the decades fed into better housing, health and social care policy and workers’ rights. That progressive campaign for a better quality of life and better services made Islington one of the best boroughs and continues to this day.

It’s why I became a councillor and work hard to continue that legacy and make a real difference by tackling poverty, social injustice and the housing crisis, along with my fellow Irish Labour councillors Diarmaid Ward (Holloway), Mick O’Sullivan (Finsbury Park), Osh Gantly (Highbury East) and Una O’Halloran (Caledonian) and all the brilliant Labour councillors on the council.

I am always proud to be an Irishman in Islington, to continue that legacy of tackling poverty, social injustice and improving services and opposing discrimination and racism in whatever form.

The legacy of the Irish community shows the positive effect that immigration has had on the borough. My own late father, along with other people I know, had the awful experience of seeing the “No Blacks, No Dogs and No Irish” signs. My dad felt this very keenly and would often talk about it with others.

The days of those signs are gone, thank God. Irish people should tackle racism in whatever form wherever they see it, having experienced it first hand, and that’s something also to celebrate.

Labour, Bunhill ward and chairman of London Irish Councillors Network


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