Liverpool Irish and Scouse
There was a debate in Facebook group about Liverpool being cosmopolitan and anti racist because of the large numbers of Irish people here, descended from emigrants who came to Liverpool during and after the famine of the the 1840’s. The idea was that a city based so heavily on immigration must be anti-racist. I thought it was worth looking at the reality.
There have always been racists in Liverpool, not significantly more or less than other places.
It is quite well known that three of the Beatles John, Paul and George had direct and recent Irish ancestry. As the following from the Daytripper site explains.
“In summary, as we raise our glasses to Ireland, we can also toast to John, Paul and George’s ancestral homes, which are located up and down the eastern coast of Ireland. John Lennon’s Irish ancestors, from both the Lennon and Gildea lines, were the furthest north, in Northern Ireland south of Belfast. Paul McCartney’s Mohin ancestors from Tullynamalroe were 50 miles southwest of Lennon’s ancestral home of County Down. George’s French ancestors lived the furthest south along the eastern coast, 150 miles south of Paul’s in Corah, Wexford.
Both John and Paul reconnected with their Irish heritage later in life.
But growing up in Liverpool despite the huge size of communities of Irish descent. Irish culture and nationality were largely absent. It is widely accepted that in alliance with City fathers the Catholic church and the schools they controlled promoted catholic, rather than Irish culture.
Liverpool has always had an ambivalent relationship with its Irish population. Anti catholic and or anti-Irish movements have been common in its history. The combination of recurrent rebellions and political movements for independence and Home Rule in Ireland, with a protestant, established church in England meant there was always friction between the growing Irish population of Liverpool, and its English/Protestant city fathers, and population.
Next to a caricature of an Irish family newly arrived in Liverpool John Belchem the professor and author on Liverpool history noted.
“The influx of arrivals from Ireland during ‘black 47’ at the height of the famine led to a hardening of attitudes readily discernible in cartoons….portraying migrants as benefit fraudsters moving back and forth across the Irish Sea at the expense of Liverpool’s hard-pressed ratepayers.”
Liverpool 800 page 329
That could the Sun or Daily Mail of today. In fact the same phrases used against Muslims were previously used against the Irish- foreign religion- responsive to foreign leader – the Pope- terrorist. Liverpool had both Irish a Nationalist MP and a Unionist MP until well into the 20th Century. So divisions along lines of race, religion, and nationality are nothing new in Liverpool. Pretending otherwise means we are not facing up to reality.
Many have documented Liverpool’s role in the slave trade, so although Liverpool has always had people from Africa, the Caribbean, Scandinavia, there has also always been racism and bigotry.
The examples are many, too many to go into detail, including movements to ‘send the Irish home’, anti-german riots. The 1919 riots, in which an innocent black man Charles Wooton was killed by drowning in a dock. The post WW2 deportation of hundreds of Chinese seamen. Most recently the racist murder of Anthony Walker in 2005. These are the notable events recorded in the history books, they do not speak to the thousands of daily insults and injustices meted out to people of colour or difference in Liverpool.
Alongside this, the growth of the trade union movement among dockers broke down the division of labour between Catholics and Protestants on the docks. The development of a community in Liverpool’s Toxteth that among other things provided social, and cultural support to immigrants from many nations. Creating a wealth of nightlife and social clubs for every nationality, (that were largely closed by the police in the 90s).
So Liverpool like all UK cities has its share of racists, including the organised English Defence League and Britain First, but much more dangerous is the idea that ‘people are coming here to steal off us.’ Unfortunately descendants of Irish immigrants are not immune to these sentiments. In the UK at least it can be honestly pointed out that the the only people who are stealing off us are the government who use taxpayers money to bail out the banks while denying benefits to unemployed and disabled people. They point the finger at immigrants to shift the blame, unfortunately, some Scousers go along with them.
The truth is that immigrants contribute in taxes, youth and culture to the society they join. Without Irish immigration Britain would never have had its most famous musical export.