Bernie Grant MP
The Irish community in Haringey and beyond is saddened at the loss of Bernie Grant, MP for Tottenham. Bernie was a real champion for the rights of black people in Britain and his loss at the early age of 56 is a great blow. Bernie was also a great supporter of a united Ireland and a great supporter for equality for Irish people in Britain. During his time as leader of Haringey Council, Bernie was instrumental in ensuring that the Irish community got their Irish community centre in Tottenham. When he stood for parliament in 1987, every Irish community organisation in Haringey supported him and put on an Irish evening in his support.
As MP, Bernie gave strong support to wrongfully convicted Irish prisoners, opposed the PTA, and supported a united Ireland. He spoke along with Michael D Higgins TD at an Irish Caribbean evening in Haringey about the Irish in Monserrat. He also spoke, along with Bernadette McAliskey and Michael Farrell, at the Civil Rights rally held at Haringey Irish Centre on 14 October 1988, which over 500 people attended, to mark the 20th anniversary of the fight for civil rights in Ireland. Speaking at that meeting, Bernie drew attention to similarities in the experiences of black and Irish people through colonisation, wrongfully convicted prisoners such as the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four and Broadwater Farm Three, strip searching, and the similarities between employment discrimination in the Six Counties against Catholics and employment discrimination against black people in Britain.
Speaking that night against the unionist veto, Bernie said: ``The unionist minority in Ireland is going to have a veto, and I think that that is extremely dangerous. It is dangerous because a veto means precisely that; it will stop any progress. To continue to give the minority - the unionist minority - a veto, I think is a very dangerous road to go down indeed; it's undemocratic and it's giving that particular section of the population far too much power in the explosive situation in the Six Counties.''
The IBRG, which held a joint March for Justice with the Broadwater Farm Campaign, salutes Bernie Grant's life as a giant step for freedom and equal rights for the black community in Britain and hold that we have a duty to follow in his footsteps in demanding nothing less for all the peoples of these islands. Let his example be our inspiration.
BY PAT REYNOLDS
IRISH IN BRITAIN REPRESENTATION GROUP