MPs form “Friends of Ireland”

Posted By: November 18, 2014

Irish News (Belfast).Tuesday, November 18, 2014
A special parliamentary group which will have as its object the promotion of friendly
relations between England and Ireland was formed at a private meeting in a committee
room of the British House of Commons.
About thirty Labour MPs are joining the group. Their chairman will be Dr. H. B. Morgan
with Mr. Hugh Delargy as secretary aand two treasurers—Mr. R.R. Stokes and Mr. H.G.
McGee. The PA lobby correspondent writes, “I am informed that it is the intention of the
group to study Ireland ‘as a whole,’ and to make contact with both north and south and
with all parties. Deputations from the group are expected to visit Ireland in the near
future. Regular meetings to discuss Irish problems will be held at the House of
Dr. Morgan, who has Irish antecedents, said: “What we want to do is to try to restore the
friendly relations which should always exist between Great Britain and Ireland as a
whole—not necessarily the present artificial division between North and South. To do
that we propose to get into touch, as we are a Labour group, with the Labour movement
in Ireland, both on the political side and the industrial side and in North and South. Then
in order to enable us to get at the real facts, we propose to visit both parts of Ireland, not
as guests of any particular governments or groups, but independently and at our own
We have been assured of considerable support of the Irish population in GB if we do that,
because they are anxious to see that
The good relations between the two countries as a strategic unity shall be maintained.
We think the present ‘stand-offishness’ is quite unnecessary and much too artificial , and
that Ireland is simply thinking of past relations while we are thinking, really, of future
relations in an entirely different light.”
(The national strategy in 1945 was based on the hope that Labour’s return to power at
Westminister would lead to a reversal of Westminister’s traditional support for Ulster
Unionism. There were hopes that the new Attlee government “enjoying strong Irish
support in Britain—would respond sympathetically to the minority’s grievances. Such
optimism was encouraged by the formation of the Friends of Ireland group of around
30 Labour MPs under the chairmanship of H. B. Morgan. The new pressure group
was committed both to Irish unity and the implementations of reforms in the north. Its
leading figures included Hugh Delargy, a journalist and Manchester MP, R.R. Stokes
and Lurgan-born Dr. Henry McGhee, a Lurgan businessman and a former Protestant
Nationalist MP.
In alliance with Nationalist MPs each as Anthony Mulvey and Cahir Healy in the late
40s and early 50s the ‘Friends’ attempted to breech the ‘1923 Speaker’s Convention’
which ruled Northern Ireland matters—out of court at Westminister. Perhaps the most effective spokesman for the group was the Labour MP for Hornchurch, Geoffrey Bing
KC born in North Down, he rigorously exposed discrimination and gerrymandering.
Overall, however, as their historian Russell Rees notes, the Friends
‘led to some scrutiny of Stormont’s treatment of the minority but hadlittle impact on
the Labour government.)
Eamon Phoenix