Liverpool’s Irish community under attack
February 14, 2013 — Review
Written by Ryan Erfani-Ghettani
A new report by an Irish community group based in Liverpool is a call for help against growing far-right and Loyalist attacks.
In 2012, members of the far Right attacked three commemorative marches organised by the Liverpool Friends of Ireland and other Irish community groups. Among those taking to the streets in opposition were the British National Party, the British People’s Party, the Infidels, Combined Ex-Forces, National Front and the English Defence League. This loose collection of far-right supporters is stark evidence that, although splintered and fragmented, with no obvious leadership to speak of, the far Right is as capable as ever of mobilising in defence of the Union Jack. Last year, it stoked tension in Merseyside by accusing the organisers of the commemorative parades of being IRA fronts, and garnered support from Liverpool’s Loyalist Orange Order. Consequently, Liverpool’s Irish community was subjected to sustained abuse and hit with missiles.
The details of the attacks can be found in a new report by Cairde Na hÉireann Liverpool (CNE), a Liverpool-based Irish community group that engages with the Labour and Trade Union Movement. CNE is proud of its history of involvement in local anti-racist and anti-fascist struggle – it has marched in defence of detained asylum seekers, with the Black community after the racist murder of Anthony Walker in 2005, and has been involved with Liverpool Friends of Palestine.
The report, Under Pressure, provides an account of recent anti-Irish racism in Liverpool, linking it to a history of institutional racism and far-right and Loyalist activity in the city. The activity of the British security services in the 1970s had led to the Irish being treated as a ‘suspect community’ through measures such as stop and search, and intimidating visits to the homes of activists who spoke against British government policy in Ireland. This was coupled with a hostile media campaign. This, according to CNE, effectively stamped out Irish community activity on the streets of Liverpool until the ‘90s, when, despite the best efforts of local Loyalists and Orange Order members, the Irish community fought back and its parades were re-established. Now, says CNE, that revived tradition is under attack.
CNE raises concerns about the resurgence of anti-Irish far-right activity, which shows every sign of growing apace with the recent involvement of Jim Dowson, an ex-BNP official, in the Loyalist flag dispute in Belfast. These disturbances have been mirrored in Liverpool in the past year, with UKIP also entering the fray. In January, it issued a press release in support of Unionist protests in Liverpool, describing the removal of the Union flag from Belfast City Hall as part of the ‘continual cultural attacks against Britishness in Northern Ireland’.
CNE’s report attempts to show that anti-Irish racism has been dangerously under-acknowledged and little understood by those who should be responsible for addressing it – the police and the press. Under Pressure comes as an attempt to remedy this, by pointing to the failures of Merseyside police to keep the far Right from Irish parades, the failure of its officers to recognise anti-Irish racism when they are confronted with it, and the failure of the local and national media to show much interest in the new threat.
The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.