The Irish in Britain in 100 moments
Robert Mulhern compiles a list of the 100 moments which define the history of the Irish in Britain
1. “It’s a sell-out to Dublin,” says Ian Paisley. But Taoiseach Albert Reynolds and British prime minister John Major believe it’s about self-determination and sign the Downing Street Declaration on December 15, 1993.
2. “It wasn’t an ordinary boxer that beat him that night but a world champion.” Loftus Road on June 8, 1985. Barry McGuigan beats Eusebio Pedroza to win the WBO World Featherweight Title and pays an emotional tribute to Young Ali who died from injuries sustained in a bout with the Clones man in 1982.
3. “It was Christmas Eve babe…” Shane MacGowan and Kirsty McColl duet and Fairytale of New York by the Pogues reaches Number 2 in the British charts. The song goes on to become one of the greatest Christmas hits of all time. It’s December 1987.
4. “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM!” Rises the chant from the ranks of striking British miners following an IRA bomb attack on the Conservative Party Conference in Brighton. Five people die in the blast and 34 are injured. It’s October 12, 1984.
5. “One cannot expect the London proletarians to allow themselves to be blown up in honour of Fenian emissaries.” Karl Marx, then living in London, reacts to the hanging of Fermanagh man Michael Barrett for his part in the Clerkenwell bombing. Barrett is the last person to be publicly hanged in Britain on May 26, 1868.
6. “People are dying NOW. Give us the money NOW.” Live on the BBC, Bob Geldof appeals for donations to fight African famine as the great and the good of the music industry comes together for Live Aid on July 13, 1985.
7. “You’ll never beat the Irish.” The Republic of Ireland soccer team beat England 2-0 in a friendly international and become the first foreign side to beat England at home. September 21, 1949.
8. “You must not laugh at me, darling, but it has always been a girlish dream of mine to love a man named Ernest.” The Importance of being Earnest by Oscar Wilde is performed for the first time in London’s St James Theatre in February 1895.
9. Ireland divided: The family of a 14-year-old girl who falls pregnant after a rape attack, travels to Britain for an abortion after being cleared to do so by a Supreme Court ruling. The X Case establishes the right to an abortion if a woman’s life is believed to be at risk because of pregnancy, including the risk of suicide. It’s 1992.
10. “I’m feelin supersonic, give me gin and tonic, you can have it all but how much do you want it?” Born and raised in Manchester to Irish parents, Liam and Noel Gallagher have ambitions for more than just cigarettes and alcohol. The brothers release their first single as Oasis. It’s April 1994.
11. “It’s a stepping-stone.” Michael Collins justifies signing the Anglo-Irish Treaty, December 6, 1921.
12. “Before, I would see lovely T-shirts and not be able to put them on the boys because they were conjoined.” Angie Benhaffaf, the mother of conjoined Irish twins Hassan and Hussein ponders future fashion detail. Her boys were separated after 14 hours of surgery in Great Ormond Street hospital. Oh, and the surgeon was Irish too.
13. Liam is coming err, home! London, yes LONDON, win the 1901 All-Ireland Senior hurling championship. Liam McCarthy, whose name still adorns the cup, was born to Irish parents in the British capital in the 1850s.
14. Health Kick: Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) is formed in July 1948 and goes on to become a pillar of employment for emigrating Irish nurses.
15. The fashion police might have been after him for wearing his glasses upside down…but then like the rest of us, they were probably too busy watching the drama unfold. In front of a record television audience of 18.5 million, Denis Taylor beats Steve Davis to become the 1985 World snooker champion. His finger wagging celebration becomes the stuff of legend.
16. Come on over to my place: Tony Blair invites Gerry Adams to a meeting in Downing Street – the first for a Sinn Féin leader since Collins visited in 1921.
17. “Burn everything British but their coal.” Ireland and Britain agree to abolish high trade tariffs created by the Anglo-Irish Economic War. The Anglo-Irish Trade Agreement is signed. It’s April 1938.
18. “I am deeply sorry.” British prime minister David Cameron apologies for Bloody Sunday killings in June 2010.
19. “Who put the ball in the English net? Houghton. Houghton! Not this time. It’s March 1991 and the diminutive midfielder misses a great second-half goal opportunity against England in Wembley. Earlier, Niall Quinn scored a much-celebrated equaliser during the countries Euro ’92 qualifier match.
20. Have one on me! David Cameron commits to a £6 billion bailout loan for Ireland. November 2010.
21. “And as I went home on a Monday night, as drunk as drunk could be…” The Dubliners perform Seven Drunken Nights on Top of the Pops in 1967.
22. Get your head down John. February 1991 and the IRA launches a mortar attack on Downing Street as prime minister John Major meets with his cabinet to discuss the crisis in the Gulf.
23. Exiles Abú! Cheers fly and tears fall as the final whistle sounds in Dr Hyde Park, Roscommon. London have held off Leitrim’s second-half fight back to win through to the 2013 Connacht final.
24. “He’s a national treasure.” But to which country does this treasure belong? Terry Wogan takes over the Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 2 in April 1972 and so begins an institution.
25. “The menace of the Irish Race to our Scottish Nationality” says a 1923 report sent to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
26. “They race to the line…and the mare’s beginning to get up…and as they come to the line…she’s made it!” Dawn Run and jockey Jonjo O’Neill win the 1986 Cheltenham Gold Cup. The mare becomes the first in history to win the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup.
27. Baby steps soon become Boy after U2 travel to London to perform their first ever gig outside of Ireland. December 1979.
28. Lazarus wouldn’t have done it better… had he played golf. Padraig Harrington wins the 2007 British Open in Carnoustie after surviving a calamitous finish which saw the Dubliner hit twice into the Barry Burn. “A huge amount of it was genuine shock,” he said afterwards.
29. “I’m going out the front door with Gerry.” Is the line made famous by the hit move In the Name of the Father but Paul Hill did go out the front door with Gerry Conlon after the convictions against the Guildford Four were reversed in 1989.
30. “When boyhood’s fire was in my blood, I read of ancient freemen.” A Nation Once Again, written in the 1840s by Thomas Davis, and made famous by the Wolfe Tones, is voted the greatest pop song of all time by listeners to the BBC’s World Service in 2002. An act of sabotage? Never!
31. Winged wonders: Simon Geoghegan scores the winning try as Ireland record a famous rugby victory over England in Twickenham. February 1994.
32. Sometimes winger swervin’ Girvin Dempsey scores in the opposite corner 10-years later as Ireland beat then world champions England in Twickenham. They were 10-1 outsiders to do so! Not many had them backed.
33. Chasing down Elvis. Irish boy band Westlife score their 14 British Number 1 with their hit single Rose. But they are still seven behind the King. November 2006
34. “Where did it all go wrong George?” The Belfast winger scores in Manchester United’s 4-1 victory over Benfica in Wembley and beats a promiscuous path that brings sport into the world of celebrity. So where did it all go wrong George! It’s May 1968.
35. READ ALL ABOUT IT: New Irish Post Editor Brendan McLua appears on a talk show with Roy Hattersley MP and duly celebrates the arrival of a newspaper for the Irish in Britain. The year is 1970.
36. “Ehhhhh, can you take the 8 o’clock mass Father?” for the first time, Dermot Morgan, aka Father Ted, welcomes the world the living room of Craggy island parochial house and laughter echoes beyond the island for three cheery years and 25 Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews inspired episodes. First broadcast Channel 4, April 21, 1995.
37. “Reid has been brought down by Kevin Moran and it has to be a booking at the very least.” But even commentator John Motson was surprised by the referee’s decision to send the Irish international off. The decision was the first of its kind in an FA Cup final. Manchester United go on to win 1-0. It’s 1985.
38. “It was agony to write.” Edna O’Brien reflects on her ground-breaking first novel Country Girls which tells an Irish story of repression and sexual liberation. The book was first published in Britain in 1960.
39. “Read the Bible. The Bible is always right.” July 2003 and Father Neil Horan gets out among the traffic at the F1 Grand Prix in Silverstone holding aloft a placard emblazoned with the above message. Police on duty contest his message and arrest the dancing priest.
40. “No Irish. No Blacks. No Dogs.” Sex Pistol’s frontman and Irishman John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, sheds a bit of light on the Irish working classes in North London in his autobiography published in 1993.
41. “It makes me feel that you’re the only girl in the world…” Rihanna provides the soundtrack and Katie Taylor provides the punches as the Bray girl boxes her way to Olympic Gold in London’s Excel Arena in August 2012.
42. “Can you give me a lift across the river, Mr Frog asks Mr Scorpion?” British soldier Forest Whitaker gives IRA captor Stephen Rea an insight into the human condition in Neil Jordan’s controversial thriller The Crying Game released in October 1992.
43. Pop pop, pop music, everybody let’s talk about pop pop pop pop music: 2001 and Music mogul Louis Walsh appears on UK TV talent show Popstars and well, he’s been a fixture of Britain’s entertainment landscape ever since.
44. “It would be unfair to describe this as a failure of security. It was a failure of humanity.” Met Police Commissioner Paul Condon reacts to the IRA attack on London’s Docklands in 1996. A 500kg bomb is detonated killing two people and causing £100m worth of damage.
45. “He was a brilliant fighter, in fact an excellent fighter, and he was a gentleman outside the ring as well.” Boxer James Degale mourns the loss of Olympic bronze medallist Darren Sutherland who is found dead in his flat in Bromley.
46. “THIS IS YOUR LIFE.” How many times did Irish broadcaster Eamon Andrews say that between 1955 and his death in 1987?
47. OH AHH… The Black Pearl of Inchicore, Paul McGrath wins the 1993 PFA player of the year award with Aston Villa. Who said anything about dodgy knees?
48. Hold 2010 for a minute in the London Olympics of 1908, 17 Irish athletes won 21 medals competing under foreign flags. Chalk it down.
49. Roddy Doyle Ha Ha Ha, the Dubliners Novel Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha wins the prestigious Booker Prize award in 1993.
50. We’re all part of Jackie’s army. The 1966 England World Cup winner Jack Charlton succeeds Eoin Hand as Republic of Ireland football manager…Que Sera Sera… The Year is 1986.
53. The Birmingham Six see their convictions quashed by the Court of Appeal
51. “I am confident that my death will do more to smash the British Empire than my release.” Lord Mayor of Cork Terence MacSwiney assesses the impact of his demise while on hunger strike in Brixton Prison. It’s 1920.
52. Green Gunners: Which English soccer team is best associated with Ireland? Liverpool or Manchester United? What about the Arsenal team of the early 1980s, you know, the one with Liam Brady, Frank Stapleton, David O’Leary, Pat Rice, Pat Jennings, Sammy Nelson and John Devine. Forgotten! Not around the green part of Archway.
53. Error of Judgement: The title of Chris Mullin’s ground-breaking book which supported the claims of innocence made by the Birmingham Six. Two years later on March 14, 1991, Hugh Callaghan, Patrick Hill, Gerard Hunter, Richard McIIkenny, William Power and John Walker had their convictions quashed by the Court of Appeal.
54. The Bhoys arrive in town: It’s November 1887 and an Irish Marist Brother called Walfrid organises a meeting in Glasgow to form a charitable club…79 years later Celtic become the first British football club to win the European Cup. It’s 1967.
55. “That one million people should have died in what was then part of the richest and most powerful nation in the world is something that still causes pain as we reflect on it today. Those who governed in London at the time failed their people.” June 1997 and Prime Minister Tony Blair issues a statement of apology for Britain’s part in the Great Irish Famine.
56. “Six minutes into the game the referee came to me as captain and said get the players off the pitch.” Liverpool FC’s Ronnie Whelan recalls the moment a football match became one Britain’s greatest peacetime disasters claiming 96 lives. It’s April 1989, Hillsborough.
57. Daring Dev: Often characterised as devious or divisive, the future Irish Taoiseach Eamon De Valera displays another trait beginning with the letter D. He makes good on his escape from Lincoln Jail in 1919 and pushes through the Irish Constitution.
58. Low lie the Fields of Anfield Road: Irish supporters descend on Liverpool for the 1995 European Championship play-off match against Holland. Paddy Kluivert hits the net twice and it’s all over for Ireland and manager Jack Charlton.
59. “My father had a profound influence on me. He was a lunatic.” In his own imitable style, Terence Alan Patrick Sean ‘Spike’ Milligan explains that the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. The comedian becomes a household name after creating the Goon Show in the ‘50s.
60. Cup of the old Rosie Lee please Mam – Buckingham Palace in 1993 and Mary Robinson chats with Queen Elizabeth II over a brew. The President becomes the first Irish head-of-state to meet a British monarch on an official visit.
61. “It’s not a matter of life of death it’s more important than that.” The immortal words of Bill Shankly but it was Irish professional footballer turned author Eamon Dunphy who got to the nub of just how important in his critically acclaimed Only A Game, a personal diary of Millwall’s 1973-74 season.
62. “Twas in the year of ‘thirty-nine when the sky was full of lead, when Hitler was heading for Poland and Paddy for Holyhead.” Contractor Sir Robert McAlpine becomes part of Irish folklore in Dominic Behan’s 1960s ballad McAlpine’s Fusiliars. McAlpine said on his deathbed in 1934: “If the men wish to honour my death, allow them two minutes’ silence; but keep the big mixer going, and keep Paddy behind it.”
63. O Sister Where Art Thou? Irish lesbian ex-nun Anna Nolan rocks the establishment when she appears in the first ever series of the hit reality TV show Big Brother. The following year Kildare man Brian Dowling goes one better and is crowned the winner.
64. “Iceberg dead ahead.” After leaving Southampton in April 14, 1912, The Belfast built Titanic sinks in the North Atlantic causing the deaths of over 1500 people.
65. Nice little Par 3: Ronan Rafferty, Des Smyth and Eamon Darcy win golf’s Dunhill Cup in St Andrews in 1988.
66. Mayfield on Manchester: It’s 1993 and Roy Keane joins Manchester United for a British transfer record of £3.75m. He goes on to become the most successful captain in the club’s history, winning nine major honours. Oh, and there was that infamous tackle on Alf-Inga Haaland.
67. “I would not say he was slurring his words but he was on his way to being very drunk. He was getting louder and louder.” A guest at a Christmas reception in the Irish Embassy in London recalls the hours before the Bishop of Southwark hit the headlines for the wrong reasons. The next day it was reported that the Rt Revered had clambered into a stranger’s Mercedes after leaving the reception. He faced his congregation the next day sporting a black eye. It’s December 2006.
69. Charlie’s an angel: There’s no slurring of words when Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall make an historic first visit to the Irish Embassy in London November 2010.
70. “Where did you meet her? I met her in the Galtymore.” The venue on Cricklewood Broadway was famous long before Brendan Shine sang those words. But they would never again leak from the walls of the old building. The Galtymore closes its doors for the last time in May 2008.
71. Happiness is home-made: Father and son, Ted (trainer) and Ruby Walsh (jockey) steer their racehorse Papillion safety around the 4.5mile Aintree Grand National circuit and into the record books. It’s 2000.
72. “To disagree with three-fourths of the British public is one of the first requisites of sanity.” Oscar Wilde, telling it like only he can.
73. “People say the customer is always right, but you know what – they’re not. Sometimes they are wrong and they need to be told so.” The ideology that changed modern air-travel. Michael O’Leary is appointed chief executive of Ryanair in 1994.
74. “It wasn’t an act of God but an act of Guinness.” Brendan Behan generates huge publicity when he appears drunk on the Malcolm Muggeridge TV Show to promote his new play The Quare Fellow. Irish American actor Jackie Gleeson was a guest on the show too, and made the above observation. The year is 1956.
75. Last call for alcohol: After almost 70 years, the Guinness brewery in London’s Park Royal rolls out its last barrel of the black stuff. All future kegs will come from St James’s Gate in Dublin. It’s 2004…Stout and About has yet to land in Britain!
76. “It’s unbelievable. I’ll probably be talking babble for the next five minutes.” Normally demure coach Declan Kidney reacts to Ireland first Grand Slam victory in 61 years. There were moments: Tommy Bow’s searing try, Brian O’Driscoll’s scrambled effort, Ronan O’Gara’s super-cool-match-winning-dropped-goal…there had to be.
77. “We don’t have stars in this game, Mrs Weaver, that’s soccer.” Richard Harris assumes the role of uncompromising Rugby League star Frank Machin for one of the greatest sport’s movies of all time – This Sporting Life (1963).
78. Long before Big Bob Casey: 75 years after William Webb Ellis stuffed a ball under his arm and high-tailed it down a sport’s field, the Exiles of London established their own rugby club in Sunbury on Thames. They’d noisy neighbours – London Welsh and London Scottish.
79. “I’m an atheist, thank God.” David Tynan O’Mahony, aka Dave Allen built a much of his reputation as a comic on his disdain for religion. The Dubliner first appeared on New Faces in 1959 and was regarded as Britain’s most controversial comedian at the height of his career in the ‘80s. He died in 2005.
80. “The world owes me a living…” Dublin Band the Boomtown Rats perform on Top of the Pops for the first time with their single: Looking after No. 1. The year was 1977, but the band had changed their outlook by the time Live Aid rolled around in 1985.
81. “What keeps me here is the reek o’beer, the ladies and the craic…” The Crown Pub on Cricklewood Broadway was a focal point for the Irish in Northwest London. But after pints there was work to be done on jobs up and down the country.
82. The Gorgeous Gael Jack Doyle misses out on the British Heavyweight title to the holder, Jack Petersen from Wales. Spectators later claimed that Doyle had done most of his warming up in a pub not far from the bout. It’s 1933
83. The King of Camp: Corkonian Graham Norton appears on BBC Radio 4’s Loose Ends in the early 90s before breaking into the mainstream as Father Noel Furlong in the hit comedy Father Ted. “Now let’s see who can screech the loudest!”
84. “I played in their once. What, in a band or something Gerry?” Some find it hard to believe, others still don’t know about the GAA matches which graced Wembley Stadium annually. The first contest took place in 1958.
85. “Most pop stars have to be dead before they reach the iconic status he has reached in his lifetime.” So said The Independent newspaper of the Smith’s lyricist and solo artist Morrissey. The Mancunian Irishman is widely credited with launching indie music. His 1988 solo album Viva Hate entered the UK charts at No. 1.
86. King Ken: Gardai in Dublin report one of their quietest nights and for explanation, point across the Irish Sea at the exploits of Irish snooker ace Ken Doherty at the Crucible in Sheffield. The Dubliner defeated Stephen Hendry to be crowned world champion on May 5, 1997.
87. They came from the planet Zog. Zig and Zag, one of Ireland’s most famous double acts, find fame on Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast show in 1992.
88. “One thing she had in abundance was physical courage; with that she was clothed as with a garment.” Playwright Sean O’Casey celebrates Countess Markievicz, the first woman elected to the British House of Commons. She abstained of course, as per Sinn Féin’s policy. It’s 1918.
89. Here’s Johnny! Don Revie builds a team around John Giles and Leeds United are officially crowned Division 2 champions on Saturday April 25, 1964. Don’t mention Brian Clough.
90. “Give Ireland back to the Irish.” Nationalists find an ally in Paul McCartney who wrote the aforementioned song to draw attention to the plight of Northern Ireland. The single is released in February 25, 1972 and sneaks into the British Top 20. In Ireland it goes straight to No. 1.
91. It’s not just about Katie! Boxers John Joe Nevin, Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlon are presented with silver and two bronze medals at the London Olympic Games. Over in the Equestrian Arena, Cian O’Connor is awarded bronze, but there’s no medal for his horse Blue Loyd. August 2012.
92. April 10 1998: Prime Minister Tony Blair flies into Northern Ireland to sign the Good Friday Agreement.
93. “Now is the time to bet like men.” Racing commentator Richard Baerlein encourages punters to back Shergar for the Derby after the colt wins the Guardian Classic Trail by 10 lengths. He’s backed from 8-1 to odds-on favourite come race-day in Epson, 1981.
94. “I don’t know how people can hate two nice young kids from Ireland.” Louis Walsh asks: where is the love? John and Edward Grimes begin their rise as Jedward in 2009.
95. Third time lucky: Scrumhalf Peter Stringer breaks down the blind-side from a five-metre scrum; a packed Patrick Street in Limerick flashes up on the big screen of Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium…Munster win the European Cup, May 2006, having suffered two previous final defeats.
96. “While I couldn’t keep up with their chord shapes I could keep up with their drinking and we got on well.” Folk-singer Christy Moore plays Hampton Court with Dominic Behan, and some of his friends, in 1968.
97. Pion-air! Denys Corbett-Wilson takes the skies from Pembroke in Wales and lands in a field near Enniscorthy, Co Wexford 100 minutes later, making him the first aviator to cross the Irish Sea on April 22, 1912.
98. What a hoot! Dubliner Patrick O’Connell joins Sheffield Wednesday, aka the Owls, and later, winds up Barcelona manager. Did I say Patrick? I mean Don Patricio…
99. The men who built Britain: Murphy International are awarded the first building contract in London’s Olympic Park in June 2008. It’s probably only fitting after all that spade work don’t you think?
100. We leave it to you to decide…
This article was amended on January 9th to correct factual errors.