By Conor McGinn
St. Patrick’s Day is a very special one for Irish people, particularly the large diaspora across the world. Here in Britain, it is celebrated with great pride by the large emigrant community that live in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and the many other cities and towns that the Irish have helped build and shape.
For the Irish in the Labour movement, St. Patrick’s Day gives us the chance to mark the contribution we and previous generations have made to the party and trade unions throughout the years. Last night the Labour Party Irish Society hosted a packed reception in the House of Commons, attended by MPs, trade unionists, party members and friends and supporters from the Irish community in Britain. It was a great affirmation of our Irish and our Labour identity, and a demonstration of our openness and accessibilty as a community, with large numbers of friends from other ethnic minority communities in attendance.
The Irish in Britain haven’t always had it easy. During the dark days of the Troubles, there was a strong sense of keeping your head down and your mouth shut. So last night was also about saying that our community here supports the peace process and never wants to go back to those bad times. And as the London Irish Pensioners choir shook the walls of the Jubilee Room with their rendition of the Fields of Athenrye, we most definitely thought: isn’t it great to be Irish! Beannachtaí na Féile Páidraig!
Conor McGinn is the Vice-Chair of the Labour Party Irish Society.