To mark St Patrick’s Day, Kane Emerson from Labour Party Irish Society highlights the work that their socialist society does to strengthen the links between Britain’s Irish community and the Labour Party.
St Patrick’s Day for Irish people at home and abroad is a day for celebration of friendship, community, and nationhood. For us at the Labour Party Irish Society (LPIS) it is more than a single day as we spend the surrounding weeks travelling up and down the country to bring our members together in Manchester, Birmingham, Luton and London for community events.
The Labour Party Irish Society exists to provide a voice for Irish communities in Britain within the Labour Party, and to advocate for the Labour Party within Irish communities. St Patrick’s Day and the events around it provide a space for us to reflect on the fantastic hard work that the society does in strengthening the links between the Labour Party and Irish communities in the UK, between Ireland and Britain, and between our party and our sister parties on the island of Ireland.
Over the course of the past year, we have run the Labour Party’s most successful education programme, ran campaigning days for Labour candidates, and supported campaigns on key issues impacting Irish communities. The Good Friday Agreement Education Programme was attended by thousands of Labour members and provided a terrific insight into some of the historical and live issues in Northern Ireland with sessions on Women, Trade Unions and Civil Society; brokering the agreement; and the Peace Generation. It featured incredibly interesting stories from the key players in the GFA from Lord Alf Dubs to Monica McWilliams. The Programme and all its sessions are publicly available to all here.
Central to our society’s mission is supporting Labour election campaigns and we have mobilised our members to canvass thousands of homes to get great candidates elected. Most recently, to honour the late great Jack Dromey we have campaigned in Birmingham to ensure that his seat remained Labour and to support the fantastic local candidate, Paulette Hamilton. Of course we practiced traditional LPIS hospitality and hosted other socialist societies and activists at the local GAA club, Erin go Bragh, following a super Saturday.
We are proud to have supported the ‘My Mum’s Voice Campaign’ ran by the family of Margaret Keane. The case of Margaret Keane being denied an Irish language epitaph on her headstone highlighted some of the enduring institutional prejudices that Irish people still face in Britain today. The campaign also highlighted the resilience of the Irish community and the importance of solidarity between the Labour Party and diaspora communities like our own. We are proud to have awarded the Gerry Ryan Community Award to the Keane family and wider legal team who fought so hard to right an injustice and honour Margaret’s legacy.
The Labour Party Irish Society continues to be a strong advocate for our party, our communities and our nations’ friendship. We continue to campaign on issues surrounding Brexit; reproductive rights in Northern Ireland; and against discrimination of GRT and Irish communities.
The Irish Ambassador, His Excellency Adrian O’Neill, said in September: “Through their hard work, the Labour Party Irish Society plays a vital role in ensuring the issues which matter to Ireland and the Irish community are always top of the agenda in the Labour Party”.
This week at LPIS’s St Patrick’s Day Reception Keir Starmer reflected on the story of Irishness and what can be learnt as we witness the invasion of a sovereign nation. He summarised “At the heart of the conflict in Ukraine is a simple thing: the wish of a country to decide for itself its own future.”
This St Patrick’s Day, the society and Irish community reflect on the horrors in Ukraine and are using our platforms to support Ukrainians in their fight for those values of friendship, community, and nationhood that we too hold dear.
Kane Emerson is the Treasurer of Labour Party Irish Society and Youth Officer of Islington South Constituency Labour Party. He tweets at @KaneEmerson. You can find out more about Labour Party Irish Society here.