WESTMINSTER MPs have commended the Irish community across Britain for its “solidarity” and “togetherness” shown in the face of the pandemic over the past 12 months.
Speaking exclusively to The Irish Post this week, Jack Dromey, the MP for Birmingham Erdington, and Liam Byrne, MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill, praised the strength of the community despite the “desperately sad” times we have experienced over the past year.
In a message to Irish Post readers marking St Patrick’s Day, the Labour MPs, who are both “proud” sons of Irish immigrants, said: “This St Patrick’s Day will not be like any other in generations.
“When the country went into a national lockdown on the day before St Patrick’s Day last year, none of us could have foreseen that we would still be living under restrictions for the following year’s celebrations too.
“However, in spite of the tragedies we have all witnessed over the past year, our communities have come together to show support and solidarity. None more so than the Irish community in Birmingham, the city we represent, and Britain.”
They added: “The Irish in Britain can be rightly proud of the rock in tough times that they have been.”
Mr Dromey, who has been the MP for Birmingham Erdington since 2010, was born in Britain to parents who hailed from Tipperary and Cork but came to England in the 1940s.
Mr Byrne, who has been an MP since 2004, was born to parents from Dublin and Sligo, who followed in the generations that came to rebuild Britain in the post-War years.
“Growing up, we both saw the great solidarity and cohesion of the Irish community in Britain,” they explain.
“It is heart-warming to witness this togetherness reaffirm itself during the desperately sad times we are living though.”
Commenting on the huge efforts made by Irish community organisations to support those most in need during the pandemic, the MPs highlight the work of GAA clubs and NHS staff in particular.
“Over the past year our GAA clubs, for so long the bedrock of Irish communities, have transformed themselves to support the community through coronavirus,” they explain.
“The Erin go Bragh club in Erdington has worked tirelessly to deliver food parcels to the elderly and vulnerable.
“So too have the other GAA clubs in Birmingham - Sean McDermotts, John Mitchels and St Brendan’s – risen to the challenge at a time of need, providing food and friendship.”
“And of course, who could forget the 14,000 strong Irish workforce in the NHS,” they add.
“I’m sure all of us will have personally seen the tremendous dedication of our nurses, doctors and all workers in the NHS during this terrible year. Their efforts will never be forgotten.”
In a poignant closing message, the pair call on the community to reflect on its achievements during the pandemic as we celebrate a very unusual St Patrick’s Day this week.
“This St Patrick’s Day, we can reflect on what the Irish community has achieved during the past 12 months,” they state.
“And the story of the Irish in Britain and those generations – the men and women who built Britain – will forever be a source of great pride to us all.
“This year, we can add to that story the dedication and care of younger generations of the Irish in Britain, who cast aside fears for their own safety, to come together and care for the elderly and vulnerable at our moment of greatest need, also helping children and young people to return to school.”
They add: “This St Patrick’s Day, after an awful year, let that vision be our focus as we look to brighter months ahead: a proud Irish community, rebuilding a stronger Britain.”