29 April 2010 Edition
ELECTIONS: Irish Community Manifesto - 'Irish Votes Count' - launched in Britain
Irish in Britain urged to use political clout in general election
THE ‘Irish Community Election Manifesto’, Irish Votes Count, was launched in the House of Commons in Westminster last week in front of an audience including British Government ministers, MPs, peers and election candidates from the three main parties.
The manifesto is another initiative of the Federation of Irish Societies (FIS), the umbrella group for Irish groups and centres in Britain, in encouraging Irish people to register to vote in their local area and making sure their votes are not wasted.
Explaining the initiative, Federation Chief Executive Jennie McShannon said:
“There are so many ways that people can be active in raising the voice of the Irish, as organisations or as individuals – writing letters or sending e-mails to candidates and local newspapers; raising issues when candidates appear on the doorstep; phoning in to local radio debates; attending hustings and, after the election, asking to meet the local MP and councillors.
“I have also written to every candidate urging them to meet the Irish community through our member organisations to understand some of the key issues facing Irish people, what is important to them and also understand how our clubs and community care services respond to those needs.”
Minister for Sport Gerry Sutcliffe and the Secretary of State for the North, Paul Goggins, both attended the launch to give their support, with candidates Dawn Butler (Labour MP for Brent), Peter Bottomley (Conservative MP and former Stormont minister) and Irala Kilbane-Dawe (Lib Dem candidate for Edmonton) each pledging their support for the campaign.
Further messages of support came from Conservative candidate Damien Collins and Simon Hughes, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats. Also in attendance were Lord Cope (Conservative), Lord Dubs (Labour), Kelvin Hopkins, Labour MP for Luton, and Gerry Ryan, Labour hopeful for Croydon.
The London launch was attended by Sinn Féin representatives Seán Oliver and Jayne Fisher.
Sinn Féin MP for West Tyrone Pat Doherty has congratulated those involved in the manifesto initiative and described as “very encouraging” this visible sign of increased cohesion and activity from groups representing the Irish in Britain.
The West Tyrone MP said:
“The role of the Irish community in Britain was a major subject of discussion at Sinn Féin’s recent conference in London on ‘Putting Irish Unity on the Agenda’, and this launch signals the beginning of a programme of work, not only taking in the general election but also a campaign to ensure maximum participation by the Irish in Britain in next year’s Census, which provides an opportunity to quantify the numbers who make up that community and to ensure that they are recognised as a significant ethnic minority in England, Scotland and Wales.”