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Festive Visit from Year 5 Choir

Festive Visit from St Bernadette's School Choir and musicians gets Christmas season started at John McNally centre.

Clients of the John McNally centre were treated to a musical visit from the Year 5 Choir of St Bernadette’s Primary School, Yardley, and musicians Vince Jordan and Graham Alexander from Reel Note.

The choir and musicians joined staff and clients of the John McNally centre for their Christmas celebrations. A traditional Irish buffet was provided with a plentiful amount of pork pies, ham sandwiches and sausage rolls!

The school choir sang a few of their Christmas songs they had been rehearsing for their Christmas play, and with the help of Vince and Graham, they gave a belting rendition of the Galway Girl (the original one by Steve Earle, not Ed Sheeran!) much to the delight of one of the centre’s clients, who was a Galway man himself.

The John McNally Centre is run by Birmingham Irish Association, and aims to work with elderly Irish people in the community, many of whom suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s. Staff at the centre provide a cultural experience for clients, engaging them with memory games, physical activities, Irish sing-alongs and other activities, while giving the client’s family or carers a chance to take a break.

The pupils were a credit to their school and had no difficulty in talking to and engaging with the people at the centre, as some have family members affected by these conditions. The visit was part of an ongoing partnership between the John McNally Centre (named after the previous head teacher of St Bernadette’s) and St Bernadette’s School, long may it continue.

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Celebrate Mothers Day with The Birmingham St Patricks Parade

Celebrate Mothers' Day on Parade Day!

Birmingham St. Patrick’s Parade & Festival Calls on Community for mother day celebrations!

The Organising committee of the city’s much St. Patrick’s Festival and Parade are calling on to Birmingham’s community to wish their mums a happy mothers day, whilst helping to support the parade!

This year the Birmingham St Patrick’s Festival and Parade have joined forces with Kiely Bro’s Limited to present the Birmingham St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which will fall on Mothering Sunday, March 11th 2018

As part of this years theme, and due to the parade taking place on Mothers Day, the organising committee wish to celebrate ‘Iconic Women of Birmingham and Ireland.’

The committee would like to invite Birmingham to celebrate the most iconic women in their lives as for the first time ever the public will have the opportunity to spoil their mums with special messages and well wishes which will be on display throughout Parade day.

There are a variety of options available with parade route banners, spots on the big TV screen (in the festival area) and places in the official magazine all available, allowing attendees to show off their mum to thousands of people in attendance!

The parade will take place on Sunday 11th March 2017 in the spiritual home of the Irish, Digbeth, to find more details about mothers day wishes please visit our website

If you have a story of an iconic woman that you’d like to share,or any photographs which could be featured in the Birmingham St. Patrick’s Day exhibition, please email or please visit

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Win £100 in our Poetry Competition!

The Dan Mulhall Poetry Competition!

Our "Dan Mulhall Poetry Competition" closes on 31st January 2018 and is open to ages 11-16, with the chance to win £100 or a runner up prize of £50! 

The poetry competition is in recognition of Dan Mulhall’s work for the Irish in Britain, and Birmingham in particular

Poetry expresses emotion through verse on all matter of subjects, from current affairs, religion and identity to love, loss and everything in-between. It's a chance to voice opinion, share a memory or dilemma, impart advice, or indulge in writing about something you adore. From ballads and odes to rhymes and free verse, what inspires you?

The competition is open to young writers between the ages of 11-16. Entries are welcome on any topic and written in any format. Entries must be submitted by 31st January 2018 with the winner being notified on 17th March 2018. Entries can be submitted by post or by email to

The winning entry will be chosen by His Excellency the Irish Ambassador to the United States Daniel Mulhall and will receive £100 in book or E-Vouchers, and the Runner up will win £50.

"A man of genius makes no mistakes; his errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery." James Joyce - Ulysses

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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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