Give Ireland Back to The Irish-Fear and Loathing in Liverpool.

Paul McCartney’s first single with Wings in 1972 ‘Give Ireland Back to The Irish’ shortly after the Bloody Sunday shootings of innocent demonstrators in Derry in Northern Ireland, was an act of protest, and built on the musical legacy of Liverpool.

https://jackbyrne.home.blog/2020/03/19/do-you-know-liverpool-lou/

Liverpool Lou written and performed by Dominic Behan is an expression of this complicated legacy. Dominic’s brother Brendan the famous playwright and author was arrested in Liverpool in 1939 as he prepared an IRA attack.

Give Ireland Back to The Irish- Fear and Loathing in Liverpool sum up the split in Irish Liverpool, a split ever-present, but heavily weighted to one side. The English government, Conservative or Labour, the military and media, the BBC, the newspapers, the city council, education authorities, the catholic church, everyone was active and vocal in their opposition to Irish independence. On the streets and in communities there were Orange parades, the Lodges, and Legions. In the midst of this fear and loathing lived an Irish community often historic from the times of the famine, but also a very recent post-WW2 community especially in Garston from Wicklow. My novel Under The Bridge draws on this history as in the passage below. 

From the novel ‘Under The Bridge’. Anne a reporter is talking to a retired Garston Docker in the Noah’s Ark pub in Speke.

“The docks, love, all kinds of things came in and out, not all of it was supposed to go in or out if you know what I mean.”

 “Not sure I do,” she said.

 “Come on, a few crates go missing, and maybe a few things go the other way that shouldn’t. You’ve got to remember they were all Paddies as well.”

Anne raised an eyebrow. 

 “It was the fifties and sixties, so not as bad as later. In the ‘70s it was worse obviously. But don’t think it didn’t exist before then.”

 “What didn’t exist?” she asked, not following his logic and shaking her head. 

 Billy’s voice took on a harsher tone. “The fucking IRA, what do you think? Remember, we all knew about the attacks on the pictures. You don’t forget that kind of thing, and these Paddies were in and out, we had ships from Wicklow, Arklow, Dun Leary, like it was the 82c bus to Speke. That’s how often they were in.” He sat back.

 Anne was processing the information. She asked, “What pictures? You said attacks on pictures.”

 “You haven’t done your homework, have you, love?” Billy said. “It was before my time, but we all heard about it, the IRA gassing pictures. Cinemas, not one mind you, but quite a few of them, The Gaumont, the one in Woolton, all over. Well, all over Liverpool. Can you believe that? But they did.”

 “No, I had no idea, that sounds crazy,” Anne admitted.

 “Yeah, so you know, we kept separate, even when people worked together, we knew who was who.” He nodded to add emphasis. 

****

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Fear and loathing in Liverpool by Eddie Bryce* looks into an IRA campaign in the UK including Liverpool in 1939. The campaign was extensive with bomb explosions in and around Liverpool. The anti-Irish sentiment that grew was not new and had existed in the city since the days of the emigration and the famine in Ireland. As long as Ireland was controlled, occupied, or governed by England it has resisted and that resistance drew opposition.

“Liverpool City Councillor David Rowan held a city centre meeting at a packed Picton Hall to demand closer surveillance of Liverpool’s Irish community. Rowan argued that an ‘Irish Bureau’ should be established to monitor the city’s Irish immigrants and expel troublemakers. In a raucous and demagogic meeting from which two people were ejected for heckling, the 1500-strong crowd cheered a succession of men invited on to the stage by Councillor Rowan all of whom, he claimed, had lost their jobs to Irish immigrants.”

“August 1939, Liverpool’s Irish Immigration Bureau, now successfully established following its founding in February, made its first report.”

“The Immigration bureau welcomed the arrest and deportation of ‘several men and women’ in the Merseyside area. It warned, however, that Irishmen were still undercutting British labour by ‘working in conditions no Englishman would tolerate.” (* see below)

Change the Irish Community to Pakistani or Bangladeshi in the 70s, 80s and then, Muslim Polish, Romanian or Somali in the 2000s. Blaming other workers has been the first port of call for Tories and their working-class supporters even some in the Labour Party since the labour movement began. WW2 rapidly dominated everything culturally and politically from 39 on, but these sides were to re-emerge from the 1960s. 

The two headlines exist side by side in this article because they existed side by side in the streets of Liverpool.

*Bryce Evans‘Fear and Loathing in Liverpool: The IRA’s 1939 Bombing Campaign on Merseyside’Published in Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Historical Society volume 162 (2013)

Published by jackbyrnewriter

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3 thoughts on “Give Ireland Back to The Irish-Fear and Loathing in Liverpool.

  1. Nice page! Thank you! Frustrating to deal with the iconoclastic Irish who call us plastic paddles. Thank you for the way you explained it to them, not that they will get it……. Leaving my email as requested, hope to follow you. Thanks so much! Slan

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