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We are proud of the multicultural and diverse nature of Islington

10 September, 2021

Aneurin Bevan visits a ward on the NHS opening day in 1948

• I WRITE in response to the letter (Irish nurses being written out of history of the NHS, August 6).

I would like to start by saying that, as the first Mayor of Islington from the Republic of Ireland, I completely agree with the author on the importance of the Irish community in Islington and in particular the role Irish nurses and navvies have played in the formation of our great borough.

The Whittington is a wonderful hospital that has saved so many lives throughout the recent pandemic. Staff there come from all backgrounds, with either them or their families making this borough their home and making a life for themselves in Islington.

I am immensely proud of the contribution the Irish community has made to our borough and I am delighted by all the work we do to celebrate this.

Navigator Square in Archway, around the corner from the Whittington, celebrates the Irish “navvies” who built canals, railways and roads across our borough.

During my year as mayor I have been keen to celebrate our Irish community as much as possible, including working with the Irish embassy to host a special event for the Irish in Islington, working with key Irish organisations to showcase the ongoing contribution the Irish make to the borough and how the role and view of the emigrant has changed from the nurse and the navvies to being leaders within IT, politics, medicine, construction, creative and media industries and, of course, the hospitality sector.

I am looking forward to working with a variety of Irish stakeholders including the Irish embassy, the London Irish Centre and the Whittington Hospital among others to organise a three-day programme of events over St Patrick’s week 2022, celebrating the Irish contribution to developing and shaping this great borough over the past 100 years.

I am equally keen to celebrate the other migrant communities which have settled in Islington. I was delighted to attend the recent flag-raising for Windrush Day and I am looking forward to attending the unveiling of the statue at the Whittington celebrating the contribution of nurses from the Windrush generation.

However, I disagree with the author that this statue “appears to deny and erase the history of Irish nursing in Islington…”. We know that the Irish community continues to face difficulties in the UK but the treatment of the Windrush generation by this Tory government has been truly shameful.

It is right that we celebrate the contribution they have made to our borough and should not make it a zero-sum game which counteracts the celebration of other cultures.

We are all immensely proud of the multicultural and diverse nature of Islington. It is what makes Islington what it is and we will continue to celebrate everyone who lives in our borough and those who make it their home.

Mayor of Islington


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