Supporting Opinion

What would the words be on Ireland’s sign of the times?

World of Politics with Harry McGee

My colleague in The Irish Times, Joe Humphreys, wrote a fascinating article some weeks back about an infamous poster that has often been used to signify the experience of Irish people in Britain.

No Black, No Irish No Dogs, it read.

It was reputedly placed in hundreds of windows in British cities, telling prospective tenants or guests who was, and wasn’t, welcome.

The narrative was that England was a cold place for Irish immigrants, that they were treated like second-class citizens, and that they faced discrimination and prejudice.

However, as Joe revealed in the article, the existence of that famous poster has been called into question.

There is one single photograph in existence of a sign in a window, but nobody knows where it was,

In other words, it might have been made-up and then latched onto by those who had an argument to make about the lot of the Irish in England.

Or then again, it might not have been.

As Joe wrote, absence of proof is not proof of absence.

It got me thinking of the narrative of the Irish in England, and the sense among some they were second-class citizens.

Until the country started to become rich in the 1990s – and then a generation of young, educated and confident Irish people emigrated to London and other cities, and suddenly being Irish was cool.

Following up on Joe’s article I began to read a little about the Irish in Britain and the attitudes of British society to them.

I came across a very interesting article on a website called Revising History. Written by John Draper it gave a fascinating insight into the views of British people on Irish living in Britain throughout the 20th century.

What was surprising is that it was largely positive, even through the darker days of the Troubles.

Draper referred to a local newspaper in London that in the late 1950s suggested that there be immigration controls placed against Irish people.

One newspaper that sprang to the defence of the Irish was, of all publications, Action. It was owned by Sir Oswald Mosley, who was Britain’s best-known fascist.

Pictured: Sign of the times…the infamous sign on the window of an English boarding house.


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