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Birmingham Tradfest Launch

Birmingham Tradfest launches another successful Irish music festival! 

Birmingham Tradfest launched another successful year with a launch party this evening in The Spotted Dog. For those that don't know (and everyone should know) Trad Fest is The UK's newest Traditional Irish Music Festival, and it's based here in the Irish Heart of Birmingham; Digbeth. It's a weekend full of top class concerts, instrument workshops and trad sessions. 

The festival is a colourful celebration of Irish culture, with sessions, concerts, workshops and ceilis. Tickets for events are available from their website starting at £10 or £65 for the weekend!

The festival plans to draw on widely acclaimed artists from across the UK and Ireland, giving the festival an exciting brand of sounds that will appeal to a variety of people's tastes whether they be rooted to core traditional or whether modern fused traditional takes their fancy. 

 The festival will also celebrate the contributions that influential members of the city, both bygone and still present, have made to the upkeep of the traditional values of Ireland and it's music.

The Birmingham TradFest was awarded the Young Innovation Award 2016 in recognition of the enterprise of four young Birmingham-born Irish individuals establishing the organisation, aiming to promote Irish Traditional Music and foster greater levels of engagement with young Irish people in Birmingham and right across the UK and beyond.

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"Dan Mulhall Poetry Competition" and Penpal Scheme

We have launched a Poetry Competition and a Pen Pal Scheme!

The poetry competition is open to 11-16 year olds and the deadline is 18th January, pupils can write about any topic and the competition is judged by the previous Irish Ambassador to the UK, and now Irish Ambassador to the United States; Dan Mulhall. Email to enter.

The pen pal scheme is open to Primary and Secondary pupils, where we will pair up pupils from the UK with partner schools and pupils in Ireland as pen pals.

Full details on both are available here:

Poetry Award

Pen Pal Scheme

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John McNally ‘Emerald Heart’ Centre

‘Emerald Heart’ centre named after Irish Head Teacher John McNally.

The John McNally ‘Emerald Heart’ centre has been launched in Yardley by Birmingham Irish Association, close to St Bernadette’s primary school where John had been head teacher for 23 years. The centre aims to support elderly members of the community suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s.

In November this year, clients of the John McNally centre and pupils of St Bernadette’s Primary school met for an afternoon of tea, cakes, games and a sing along. Organised by Head Teacher Miss Cowings, Year 6 Teaching Assistant Mrs Kerrigan and Year 6 Class Teacher Miss Nugent, the afternoon was a huge success and enjoyed by everyone.

John McNally had dedicated over half of his life to teaching; he was the youngest head teacher of his day, and had been the head teacher of St Bernadette’s RC school for 23 years. In a fitting tribute to the well-known Irishman, clients of the John McNally centre and pupils of St Bernadette’s shared an afternoon of talking, singing and playing games to mark the launch of the centre.

John McNally was a highly regarded figure in the Irish community, he was on the board of Birmingham Irish Association and was a champion for their dementia centre at St Anne’s. He saw some of his old friends were suffering from dementia, which lead him to become the driving force behind Birmingham Irish Association’s focus on providing support of older adults.

In early 2014 John was diagnosed with Bowell Cancer, although surgery was a success a further rare condition was discovered; Cardiac Amyloidosis. There was no further treatment available for this condition, however John remained positive and in fine spirit until peacefully passing away at home in Moseley on 16th March 2015.

Trustees of Birmingham Irish Association had been trying to find a way to mark John’s memory and initially launched a fund for children in his name, when they realised their new centre in Steel Grove was only a few hundred yards from John’s old school, St Bernadette’s. They contacted John’s sons; Anthony and Simon, who agreed that naming the Centre after John would be a great tribute.

“We are honoured that the Birmingham Irish Association are dedicating a Centre within the close community that he served so well” said Anthony, “it is a fitting tribute to both his commitment to the City, and to his Irish roots.”

“John dedicated over half his life to the city of Birmingham, both personally and professionally where he was a leading member of the educational community. As an extremely proud Irishman he never forgot his heritage and played an active part within the Birmingham Irish Community.”

Maurice Malone, CEO of Birmingham Irish Association said “the McNally’s have been long standing supporters of Birmingham Irish Association and their dads work. We hope that the John McNally Emerald Heart Centre is the first of many community based centres provided to support people in their later years (or with dementia)”

Miss Cowings and St Bernadette’s have invited Birmingham Irish back over the Christmas, to another get-together and to their Christmas Play rehearsals, likewise Birmingham Irish have invited St Bernadette’s to visit the St Anne’s Centre in Digbeth. It looks set to be a meaningful partnership between the young pupils and the older Irish community.

If you would like to support the centre or maybe know of someone who could benefit from the support of the organisation please contact 0121 604 6111 or email

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Barriers faced by returning Irish emigrants

Following concerns raised by citizens returning to Ireland to live in recent times  the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade has launched a detailed independent economic report on the barriers faced by returning Irish emigrants.

Please find attached a survey which will inform a government report which will work to assist Irish people returning home. If you or anyone you know is planning or considering moving home, please fill out this survey so that the government is informed about how it can help in this process. It will only take two minutes!

The report will focus on identifying solutions to address any disproportionate or unnecessary administrative burdens that negatively affect people wishing to return to Ireland. The assessment will focus and inform the Government’s efforts to ensure that Irish citizens living abroad, who wish to return to Ireland to live and work, are facilitated in doing so and that their socioeconomic reintegration process is as simple as possible.

As part of our assessment, the Irish government are very keen to learn about the experiences of individuals and families who have recently returned, or are planning to return to Ireland in the near future. To assist in this, they have prepared a brief survey, at the secure link below.

Click Here to Continue

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Feeding the Homeless on Christmas Day

Trudy McGrogarty from Birmingham Irish Association is planning to open St Anne's on Christmas day to feed the homeless. She will need volunteers for a couple of hours to help with preparing dinner etc, and will also need donations of food, puddings, crackers etc. Any support will be greatly appreciated!

You can now donate to Trudy and St Annes through her 'Just Giving' page here!

Trudy is also looking to give the homeless some hats, scarfs and gloves as by then the weather will be freezing. She said "We would also like Christmas cards, wrapping paper and if anyone out there sings or plays in a band that can spare an hour that day I would be most grateful If you can help in anyway please please get in touch". 

To get in touch, call Trudy at Birmingham Irish on 0121 604 6111 or email

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John's Story


John initially came into our front office after a recommendation from another Irishman in his multioccupancy house: He had turned 65 several months before and, due to literacy issues, did not know how to apply for Pension. His landlord was threatening eviction as Housing Benefit had stopped. He was extremely anxious as he had already experienced periods of homelessness, and was now much older and did not know how he would cope.

John had come to England in his late teens and, due to literacy and alcohol issues, had lost touch with his family; he had no support here. For the last few months he had spent the days walking to various Catholic parishes and a convent for handouts of food and change. He was very thin and frail and had neglected his personal hygiene. He was also very hard of hearing, which made it hard for him to communicate, and had very poor vision.

I supported him to get his Birth certificate from Ireland and then apply for his State Pension and Pension Credit. I liaised with his Landlord to explain that his Housing Benefit would be sorted once his pension was in payment and he agreed not to serve notice which gave John some stability. Through several office visits to sort out the paperwork he began to trust me and agreed to address some of the other issues.

He agreed to let me visit him at home and I saw the conditions he lived in: The house was in a poor state; damp, cold, in disrepair with no proper washing or cooking facilities. The other occupants were much younger than John and he appeared to spend most of the time sat in his room. The dampness was affecting his chest and he appeared breathless and was constantly coughing.

John had not seen a GP since arriving in Birmingham, so with encouragement and support, he registered with the local surgery. After a few appointments and tests he was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and was prescribed inhalers. He was also referred to the Hearing Centre and Eye Hospital. For every appointment he needed much encouragement and support. He was given 2 hearing aids, which increased his quality of life greatly. He said he felt much safer when he was out, in the past he had had issues with crossing roads because he couldn’t hear or see properly. This meant he could now go out more. Due to his frailty and learning difficulty I asked the district Nurses via the GP if they would come out to do his drops and they go out twice a day to do this.

I eventually encouraged John to move to a sheltered housing scheme. Through other local charities we furnished his flat and moved him in. He had never had a tenancy of his own and now had to pay bills (there were meters in his shared house). John also struggled with using a PIN number to get his pension due to poor vision and memory issues. I supported him to open his first bank account and set up Direct Debits for utilities. With ID and bank card he was able to get cash over the counter to buy food etc. Prior to this his Post Office card was consistently blocked due to him putting the wrong number in, had no access to money and became very anxious.

John settled in quite well but, unfortunately after 12 months, he began to exhibit mental health issues; he appeared quite paranoid about his neighbours and started breaking items in his flat. Eventually this cumulated in John breaking windows and trying to barricade himself in his flat. I encouraged him to go into hospital, and he was sectioned and admitted to a ward at the Juniper Centre.

John was diagnosed with late onset psychosis and responded well to medication. I visited him regularly as he was very frightened in hospital. I attended all the case reviews, was part of the discharge planning and sorted the practical support needed for this. Following his discharge I liaised with the CERT team and the District Nurses to ensure he took his anti-psychotic medication when they administered his eye drops.

Following his discharge from the CERT team I liaised with his new CPN and contact them if I have any concerns about his behaviour to request a home visit. I also sit in on 3 monthly home visits by his psychiatrist, at John’s request.

I take him for 6 monthly Eye Hospital and Hearing aid appointments and reviews at GP re COPD and weight management. I also take him for 6 monthly podiatry appointments. None of this he would do without support.

He was still very isolated, but had started attending the local Catholic church – so through this I encouraged him to attend the Christmas dinner put on by the parish. This was the first time he had sat down to a Christmas dinner for many years- and because he enjoyed it, has now started attending a lunch club- and occasionally coffee mornings put on by fellow residents. This is a huge step for him and as a “knock on” he has taken more care of his personal hygiene and requested support to buy new clothes.

He is physically much more robust, and does not need home care, but needs support to “join up” the services to keep him out of residential care.

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Father and Son Team Brave Yorkshire Peaks in Storm Brian!

Not even storm Brian could deter father and son Mick and Deaglan from their goal!

Over £1800 raised so far!

The inspiration for their charitable efforts came from our video, "Patrick Brogan". Mick O'Brien Said "I've been aware of the Birmingham Irish Association for some years and their work within the community. Recently a friend directed me to a video on the news section of the associations website about a gentleman called Patrick Brogan and it made me shed a tear or two. I sat back one night and thought about how I grew up in our community, those who inspired me and above all, I knew quite a few Patrick Brogan's."

The challenging walk consisted of walking 24 miles and scaling 3 peaks; Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough (each one 700m or higher) within 12 hours. Having recently done 10 miles of the walk with sons Deaglan, Fionn and Tomas, Brian was sure he would conquer the 3 peaks within 12 hours.

(Above) The team after conquering Pen-y-ghent. Storm Brian has arrived and they face the long walk across to Whernside.

(Above) Mick and Deaglan setting pace across country.

(Above) Storm Brian kicks in.

(Above) Mick and Deaglan on top of Whernside through torrential rain and hardly any visibility.

After the ascent of the Whernside, with storm Brian sending down 50mph gusts, Mick and Deaglan made for the treacherous descent and following ascent to Ingleborough. However, at the bottom of Whernside they were advised by the locals not to walk Ingleborough. They said it was "simply to treacherous and dangerous".

Disappointed, but with no alternative transport, Mick and Deaglan decided to walk back to Horton in Ribblesdale (7.5 miles). Mick said "It wasn't pleasant, with blinding rain, cars flying past us, floods and darkness came in about 17:30."

"The fitbit tells us that we have walked a total of 24 miles and 50,000 steps. The walk was completed, and even though we didn't walk Ingleborough we know that we have achieved our objectives."

(Above) (Left to Right) Declan, Deaglan and Mick

"We were warmly welcomed and congratulated back by our hosts at the B&B and we shared our day with the locals who really are fantastic people. At this point we are all aching. Really aching. It's been a fantastic 48 hours and for Deaglan he really knows how much this fundraising will do to help the Association.

A BIG thank you to Armac Demolition, Teresa Pattinson, the Sweeneys, Kellys and McDermotts Families for your fantastic donations. My last post will be in a couple of weeks."

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Legal Advice Clinic

Caroline Brogan will be attending the next Legal Advice Clinic on Thursday 26 October 2017 with colleague, Richard Sweetman. She specialises in Medical Law & Patient Rights and Richard is a Trainee Solicitor in our Abuse Team. Richard advises and represents vulnerable people who have been the victims of child abuse. Richard’s team specialise in assisting victims of physical and sexual abuse in bringing claims against perpetrators and organisations that have failed them. The links below explain a bit more about the work that they do.

Caroline and Richard will still be able to meet anyone who has a query that falls outside of Medical Law & Abuse (such as Employment, Conveyancing or Wills etc…) but if you have medical / abuse enquiries, they do specialise in these areas.

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Martin's Story

The clients name and some details in this case study have been changed to protect their identity and privacy.

Martin was an elderly Irish gentleman living in a council property. He had become threatening to his elderly next door neighbour, as a result, the police, housing and social services became involved.

Martin was difficult to engage with due to this threatening behaviour, he also had issues with alcohol and memory problems. It was clear that there was no straightforward way to deal with his situation.

I wrote to Martin notifying him of a home visit, but this failed. I eventually managed to gain access to the property with a colleague, where we found things were very chaotic and it was evident that he was something of a hoarder.

Martin found it difficult to tell me how he was coping. He was unable to tell me anything about his family or support network, and he had little information regarding bills or any documents that might give me an insight into how he was managing financially. He would often carry large sums of money out in public, and he had constant issues losing his electricity key; so there was often no light or heat in the property.

He also had a much loved dog, which had a large tumour. Often on visits I would find he was out walking the dog and had put unsuitable locks and padlocks on the front door, so I would have to return several times at different times of the day.

I eventually managed to engage with Martin, and worked with his surgery to get him to appointments. This was hit and miss as he wouldn’t remember if I was coming, but thankfully the surgery was flexible. Martin was diagnosed with dementia.

I managed to talk Martin into letting the RSPCA take the dog for investigation. The dog was found to have an operable tumour, which needed to be treated. This was very upsetting for Martin as he and the dog went everywhere together, and I knew it was likely that he would forget where the dog had gone.

I went with a colleague to collect Martin’s dog after the operation. I have a real fear of dogs so it was necessary to have some support! I had kept Martin up to date on his dog’s progress, but when we came to return the dog, Martin was nowhere to be seen. We eventually found him in one of the pubs he frequents, where he told me his dog had been stolen. When I took his dog out of my car there was a truly happy reunion!

I came across an old store calendar from a place near to where Martin said he had come from, and managed to place an enquiry through the store resulting in finding his brother, sister and niece. They were all glad to hear about him, and I managed to get his brother to speak to him on the phone which was good for both of them.

I arranged for Martin’s property to be cleared, so that a care package could be put in place for him. He was eating properly, medication was regular and personal care was maintained. A keysafe was fitted to ensure everyone had the best chance of gaining access, and I made an arrangement to leave an agreed sum in the keysafe for weekly shopping. We managed Martin’s cash from a safe in the office; I would give him enough to last a few days at a time and he would come to the office when he needed more.

Eventually it became clear that the care package wasn’t working. The team would arrive when Martin wasn’t in, and despite my instructions, one of the carers had given him the electricity key and he had lost it. This had happened a week previous but I was not informed, and to make matters worse this was during winter time.

I was in the process of getting Martin into a residential home where he could have a flat of his own, but it was not due to happen for a week or so, however after discussing (pleading) with the manager, she agreed that Martin could move in right away. The home took over managing his finances and care, and he settled in well.

6 months later the home was being closed down for refurbishment. All residents had to move out, and while Martin’s social worker did her best to find somewhere suitable for him, he was eventually rushed into a home outside of the area he knew. Everything was alien to him, there was no time for a proper assessment and the new staff were not prepared for the behaviour he would exhibit. Martin’s behaviour deteriorated and he attempted to escape multiple times. It was clear this wasn’t the right place for him and his behaviour was frightening other elderly residents.

Martin eventually went missing overnight, and it was decided he should be sectioned under the mental health act, which was very upsetting. He was taken to hospital, and sadly separated from his dog. I found a kind surgery who agreed to check over his dog for free. They found that the dog was in surprisingly good health. The care home had initially agreed to look after the dog while I found him a permanent home, but the people there had become so fond of him that they decided to keep him!

Martin’s sister in law came to visit him from Ireland, to get a clear insight into how he is. His brother had initially wanted Martin to return home, but it was clear that they would struggle to cope, as his physical care needs are such that he would need specialist care that isn’t available close to where they live.

Martin remained in hospital for about 6 months, and although he couldn’t remember who I was when I went to visit, it was clear that he was happy to see me. He eventually moved to another residential home, where he remains now. Martin is much more settled now.

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Do you know anyone over 100 years old?

The Centenarian Bounty

Do you know anyone who's a centenarian?

People born on the island of Ireland and who have reached their 100th birthday receive a special message from the President of Ireland, wishing them a happy birthday and congratulating them for their longevity. The letter is accompanied by an award made by the President of Ireland.

This scheme, often referred to as "the Centenarian Bounty", is open to people living in Ireland who have reached 100 years, as well as to Irish citizens born on the island of Ireland who have reached 100 years and who are living outside of the State.

Do you wish to speak to someone about the Centenarian Bounty?

Please call Eileen on +353 (0)16171024

For more info click here, or fill in the application form here.

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