On the 12th March 2012 the British Prime Minister David Cameron and An Taoiseach Enda Kenny issued a joint statesman stating their view on how British-Irish relationships during the next 10 years should develop. Within the statement there was recognition of the Decade of Centenaries, that period of Irish history between 1913-1923 that saw huge revolutionary change and would now be remembered a hundred years from 2013 onwards:
“2012 also marks the beginning of a decade of centenary commemorations of events that helped shape our political destinies. This series of commemorations offers us an opportunity to explore and reflect on key episodes of our past. We will do so in a spirit of historical accuracy, mutual respect, inclusiveness and reconciliation.”
Today Merseyside Police literally tore the joint statement to pieces by its use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (2000) which was used to place restrictions on this afternoons march and rally through Liverpool City centre to remember the Liverpool Irish women of Cumann na mBan (League of Women) who participated in both the Easter arising of 1916 and the Irish War of Independence1919-1921. Organised by Cairde na hEireann Liverpool, the event had been advertised for several months and clearly stated its intention to remember in a dignified manner those women members of the Irish community in Liverpool who dedicated their lives to the cause of Irish independence and freedom between1913-1923 (statement).
Cairde na hEireann Liverpool as an Irish community organisation, dedicated itself in 2013 to ensuring that when forthcoming Centenaries were being commemorated in Liverpool, anniversaries of historic importance to the Liverpool Irish community would not remain untold and hidden but would be commemorated and remembered on par with both official and unofficial commemorations in Liverpool that have involved remembering the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force (a proscribed organisation under the PTA), formation of the Liverpool Pals and start of World War 1.
On the 29th September we received correspondence from Assistant Chief Constable Martland (see below).
In the meeting that followed between Merseyside Police and Cairde na hEireann Liverpool we reiterated the following:
“General theme: To support the campaign for the reunification of Ireland by solely peaceful political means. This year’s specific theme: ‘’To celebrate the centenary of the formation of Cumann Na mBan (League of Women) in 1914, and in particular its members from the Liverpool Irish community.
This themed event is being held solely to remember the role of the specific historic organisation known as Cumann Na mBan (which is no longer in existence), during the time period known as the ‘Decade of Centenaries (1913-1923)’ of events in Irish history.
These events are being commemorated by all traditions, including here in Liverpool. Such commemorations are recognised as being significant and legitimate by both UK and Irish governments, as part of international agreements integral to the cementing of the peace process and the promotion of shared understanding).
The event on 11th October is NOT being held in relation to inviting support for ANY contemporary proscribed organisation under the terms of The Terrorism Act 2000.
The event on 11th October is NOT being held in relation to inviting support for ANY contemporary proscribed organisation going by the name of ‘’Cumann Na mBan’’, or indeed any other name contained within the list detailed in the Terrorism Act 2000.”
However, Cairde na hEireann Liverpool received a final piece of correspondence from ACC Martland stating that:
“I am writing to advise you that the CPS has confirmed that, by wearing an item of clothing or wearing, carrying or displaying an article in such a way or in circumstances as to arise reasonable suspicion that they are a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation commits an offence, contrary to Sect. 13(1) of the Terrorism Act, 2000.
I must advise you that, in light of the above, if there are grounds to believe that an offence has been committed at the procession, then Merseyside Police will take action that is appropriate in the circumstances.”
Cairde na hEireann Liverpool believes that Merseyside Police’s stance is a deliberate attempt to restrict the Irish community’s rights to commemorate our heritage and history. We view Merseyside Police’s stance on this matter as vindictive, disproportionate and criminalises a whole generation of Liverpool Irish women and men who contributed to the foundation of an independent Irish state. We are left with no other opinion than to believe that the actions of a few senior Merseyside Police officers in dealing with this matter could be seen in the context of institutional racism by effectively denying the Irish community the right to remember and commemorate while other communities in Liverpool and public bodies are allowed to do so. Cumann na mBan is an organisation that exists only within the text books of Liverpool Irish history and poses a threat to no one in the community.
Merseyside Police’s decision to threaten march organisers with arrest and prosecution now sees the likes of Nora Thornton, Kathy Doran, Francis Downey, Peggy Downey, Anastasia MacLoughlin, Kathleen Murphy and Rose Ann Murphy, Liverpool Irish women who participated in the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin as being a threat to the British State on par with the threat posed by Islamic State and Al Qaeda.
Cairde na hEireann Liverpool thanks those marchers today who remembered with pride the brave Liverpool Irish women of Cumann na mBan and reluctantly agreed to adhere to the restrictions set out by Merseyside Police. Cairde na hEireann Liverpool will launch a campaign to challenge Merseyside Police’s attempts to both criminalise us as an Irish community organisation and the Irish community as a whole. Cairde na hEireann Liverpool will challenge any future attempt by Merseyside Police to demonise the Irish community as they have attempted to do so today. The right to be Irish in Liverpool/Merseyside and the right to express pride in our heritage and history will be central to our campaign.
Despite the actions of Merseyside Police today’s event was a huge success with several hundred in attendance and led by 6 flute bands through the city with a rally at Pier Head. The rally was dressed by Jennifer McCann MLA and Junior Minister for the Office for the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of the Northern Ireland Assembly.