by Jim Redmond
THE LAST number of years have been particularly difficult for the Connolly Association in Britain. We have struggled to keep the Four Provinces Bookshop and the Irish Democrat going, which has taken a considerable amount of effort.
Inevitably, whilst the focus of the Connolly Association's executive committee and members was on saving the bookshop and the paper, our real goal - campaigning for a united and independent Ireland was going to suffer.
Since the summer of 2003 the Four Provinces Bookshop has been under threat of closure from Camden Council, which, after being 21 years in the property, gave us notification to vacate 244 Grays Inn Road.
After lengthy negotiations with Camden a six-year commercial contract was signed with the Council.
Although Camden's structural renovation of the building is taking considerably longer than anticipated, I am happy to report that the issues with the bookshop have nearly all been resolved.
We have refurbished and refitted the shop and it is presently open for business from Wednesday to Saturday. It celebrates sixty years in existence this year.
In our present financial circumstances, if we continue as we are, we can probably support the bookshop until the rental break clause in three and a half years time. After that we will probably be forced to say goodbye to the shop, unless we can turn around our financial situation. It will be a sad day for the Irish community and the many friends of Ireland if the Four Provinces were to go under. We provide an invaluable service and it would be a real shame if the shop no longer existed. I would encourage you all to make maximum use of the shop and its facilities and to highlight its political and cultural importance at each and every opportunity.
The Irish Democrat newspaper is going from strength to strength with each new issue. The recent redesign of the paper and its first rate political analysis and reporting ensure that it is essential reading for anyone interested in campaigning for a united and independent Ireland.
Whilst every effort must be made to ensure the Irish Democrat is widely distributed and read and that we make a success of the Four Provinces Bookshop, we must refocus our efforts on our political campaign work.
The biggest obstacle in the way of Irish reunification remains the British government's policy of pandering to unionism, led by Ian Paisley's DUP, and their hesitancy to implement the full terms of the Good Friday Agreement and the establishment of all the institutions.
The challenge for the Connolly Association members and friends must be to set about reversing this policy.
Connolly Publications Ltd, 244 Gray's Inn Road, London, WC1X 8JR
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