WHEN I was a kid growing up in Birmingham we used to have three regular newspapers in the house.
The Daily Mirror, The Observer, and The Irish Post.
The Mirror in those days had the likes of Paul Foot and John Pilger writing for it.
This was the days before every tabloid became purely an extension of the entertainment industry. The Observer, which I still get to this day, brought in-depth international news coverage to our inner city streets.
And The Irish Post was our newspaper talking about us.
I think The Irish Post must have been fundamental in many a second and third generation sense of identity because here was a newspaper talking about that very life.
Sitting in a house in England, belonging to an Irish family, reading The Irish Post, was as natural a part of our life as Coronation Street on the television and the Sacred Heart on the wall.
In those days the Post was campaigning on behalf of the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six.
In those days the Frank Dolan column was the page I first looked for and it was full of such depth and such insight into Irish life in Britain, and in Ireland, that it gave me the fundamental knowledge I’ve built my own flimsy understandings on.
In those days the pages of The Irish Post detailed in pictures and in words the vibrant social life of the Irish in Britain.
All over Britain the Irish living a life of such vitality and exuberance that, for those of us that experienced it, lives still in our memories.
There it all was in the pages of a newspaper. Proof of it.
I grew up in it and I lived it. But when I first brought English people to it, people I’d met whilst away studying, I saw it through their eyes and saw in their eyes that this brilliant world was unknown to them.
This Irish life in Britain was invisible to the British. They’d never seen anything like it.
It was so full of life it was bursting at the seams. I’d almost think now, at this distance, that I’d imagined it. Those clubs and those pubs, those afternoons and those nights.
But it was all recorded there in the pages of a newspaper. In the pages of The Irish Post.
The Irish Post, so full of living that it actually died and came back to life.
My father bought The Irish Post religiously and not just because I was in it.
It was more that for him and my mother, back here in Ireland now, that the paper was an enduring connection with that intrinsic part of their life.
That life where they were Irish in Britain. In the confident decades we’ve had recently, and watching my own children grow up now secure and unapologetic in their Irishness, it is difficult to explain how being Irish used to be.
Ireland was not in any way a ‘cool’ country and being Irish was not anything anyone aspired to.
The Irish Post flew the flag in days and in places where being Irish was difficult.
It came out of a community that wasn’t full of the hipster swagger that constitutes a lot of today’s Irishness.
It came from a people who had no choice but to be emigrants, who had, by and large, left school early because that was the only option, and who experienced the cold winds of hostility and prejudice.
The Irish Post helped people like my parents to keep their heads up when being Irish was something you might be wiser to be silent about.
I hope younger and future generations remember that. They should.
A newspaper that comes out of a community and survives for fifty years is something to be celebrated.
In the New Year we can, at least, be proud and positive about that.
With English nationalists now in charge in Britain it might be a comfort greatly needed to have this paper around.
How newspapers themselves survive in the digital world we are busy building, with all of the recklessness of those who think the world has just been invented, I don’t know.
But here The Irish Post still is. I know it’s January but that’s worth raising a glass for, isn’t it?
So, for everyone Irish and everyone a friend of the Irish. And everyone else too. Happy New Year.