Successful community effort see’s O’Donovan Rossa remembered in Liverpool

It took months to plan but in the end a unique aspect of Liverpool Irish history was successfully re-enacted in Liverpool yesterday when hundreds marched behind a replica funeral casket that held the coffin of Irish patriot Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, on the centenary year of the original landing of his body in Liverpool.

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Organised by Irish community campaigning group, Cairde na hEireann Liverpool (Liverpool Friends of Ireland), yesterdays event retraced the exact steps taken by the men of A and B Company’s of the Irish Volunteers in Liverpool in 1915, when they carried on their shoulders the funeral casket of O’Donovan Rossa from Princes Landing Stage to Nelson Dock nearly 2 miles away. The coffin escort was led at the time by Captain Frank Thornton, who along with many of the men of that day, was to later take part in the 1916 Easter Rising against British rule in Ireland.

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The day was made more special by the participation of members of the Irish community who dressed in period costume and replica Irish Volunteer uniforms.  The participants led the parade from Holy Cross in Liverpool, an area with strong Irish connections, through Liverpool city centre to meet the replica funeral casket at Pier Head, close to the original Princes Landing Stage. In line with the statement made by Captain Frank Thornton following the landing of the funeral casket in 1915, O’Donovan Rossa’s funeral casket was then carried on the shoulders of the re-enactors on the 2 mile journey to Nelson Dock supported by the 4 flute marching bands. At Nelson’s Dock the re-enactment was ended by the playing of Amran Na bFhiann (Irish national anthem).

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A function held later at St Michaels Irish Centre heard speeches from Seanna Walsh, Belfast Sinn Fein Councillor who outlined the crucial role that O’Donovan Rossa played in the fight for Irish freedom at the time and how his death and burial inspired a generation of Irish women and men to re-double their efforts to achieve Irish self-government and Irish sovereignty. Also heard was a reading delivered by local music artist Ian Prowse of the graveside oration given by the executed Easter Rising leader, Patrick Pearse during O’Donovan Rossa’s burial.

Yesterday’s successful re-enactment shows the important role that the Irish in  Liverpool played in Irish political history. It also shows the entitlement of todays Irish community in Liverpool to play its part in remembrance of its history and its heroes. As the Decade of Centenaries proceeds it is important that the rights of the Irish in Liverpool and the Irish across England, Scotland and Wales to commemorate its history is respected. In the coming years, Cairde na hEireann Liverpool plans further innovative projects with community participation to commemorate and remember key Irish historical events that involved members of the Liverpool Irish community.

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Liverpool Good Friday Agreement meeting a success…

Thanks to everyone who attended last nights meeting discussing 15th Anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement at St Michaels Irish Centre. A great turnout from the Irish community and beyond.

Special thanks to our speakers, Francie Molloy, Member of Parliament Mid-Ulster; Nick Taylor, Chief Executive of The Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace Warrington; Dr Kevin Bean, Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool and Martin Collins, Parliamentary Officer, Federation of Irish Societies for providing excellent insights into the Agreement itself and more importantly what needs to be done to maintain the peace.

Was also great to see Paul Maskey MP and Dr Kevin McNamara former Shadow Secretary of State for the North of Ireland at the meeting.

Cairde na hEireann Liverpool realises the important role that the Irish community in liverpool and Merseyside has in promoting dialogue and supporting the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. We pledge ourselves to continue to organise public events that contribute towards reconcilliation and dealing with the legacy of the past.

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Census 2011 shows dramatic increase in Irish-born population in Liverpool but recording of ethnicity only marginally up…..

During late 2010 through to March 2011 several Irish community organisations across Merseyside, including Cairde na hEireann Liverpool, ran a ‘Tick The Irish Box’ (TTIB) campaign in order to increase Irish community participation in the 2011 census and to ensure that Irish ethnicity was properly represented in the census figures throughout the Merseyside region.

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This week the Office for National Statistics published the results of the 2011 census relating to ethnicity, country of birth and national identity. The results showed mixed results as to the success of the TTIB campaign across Merseyside compared to the figures of the 2001 Census:

Ethnic Group: White Irish

Region/Local Authority

2001

2011

Percentage -/+

Merseyside Region

13,005

13,342

+2.5%

Liverpool

5,349

6,279

+20.5%

Knowsley

872

747

-16.7%

Sefton

2,665

2,312

-15.2%

St Helens

1,054

887

-18.8%

Wirral

3,065

2,667

-14.9%

Despite the TTIB campaign there was only a minimal increase of 2.5% for those who declared their ethnicity as being Irish for the Merseyside region as a whole. Four local authority areas saw a decrease in Irish ethnicity being declared, while Liverpool stood alone and saw a dramatic increase of just over 20.5% compared to the 2001 census. So was the TTIB campaign more successful within Liverpool compared to the other Merseyside Local Authorities? A look at the table below which shows ‘Country of Birth’ would suggest that the increase in Irish ethnicity being recorded had more to do with a new influx of immigrants from Ireland as opposed to any consciousness raising due to the TTIB campaign:

Country of birth (Northern Ireland & Republic of Ireland combined)

Region/Local Authority

2001

2011

Percentage -/+

Merseyside Region

15,254

16,545

+7.8%

Liverpool

5,663

8,242

+31.2%

Knowsley

1,048

873

-20%

Sefton

3,288

2,888

-13.8%

St Helens

1,235

1,093

-12.9%

Wirral

4,020

3,449

-16.5%

Clearly, Liverpool has seen a massive jump in the numbers of Irish-born settling in the city with a 31.2% increase since the 2001 census, while Irish-born amongst the 4 other local authority areas has seen drops of between 12-20%. This is likely to account for the 20.5% increase in Irish ethnicity recorded in Liverpool. The Merseyside region as a whole has seen an increase in Irish-born of 7.8% which is remarkable considering the 2011 census found that numbers of Irish-born residents living in England and Wales has dropped by 24.5% since 2001.

While it is debateable if the TTIB campaign had any impact in increasing the recording of Irish ethnicity, it is clear from those organisations involved in the campaign that it significantly raised the profile of the Irish community in the local media and amongst local politicians. The last 4-5 years has a seen a huge increase in Irish community activity on Merseyside which has included the setting of up of two Gaelic Football Teams and the continuation of Irish culture through St Michaels Irish Centre,  Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, several Irish dancing schools, Liverpool Irish Patriots Flute Band, Liverpool Irish Festival and Conradh na Gaeilge, which continues to hold Irish language classes across Liverpool. In short, Irish presence on Merseyside remains strong and has increased. This is not only evidenced by the increased Irish-born population across Merseyside, particularly Liverpool, but also in the cultural and sporting life of the Irish community which continues to prosper and grow…..