Ian Macdonald QC 1939-2019

It is with great sadness that we heard of Ian Macdonald’s passing in November 2019. The ‘Father of Immigration Law’ was an anti-racist defence lawyer who worked his whole life to promote justice and equality in the UK.

Black and white scan of a newspaper article, with a photograph of Ian Macdonald

Article from The Guardian, 1990, held in our archive in the Legacy of Ahmed collection.

Ian first published the textbook Immigration Law & Practice in 1983. Now in its ninth edition, it remains the leading work on this subject. Many of the anti-immigration campaigns he supported are represented in our archive, including that of Cynthia Gordon, Nasira Begum, Jaswinder Kaur, and Nasreen Akhtar.

For those unfamiliar with Ian Macdonald’s life and work, the causes he championed and the ideas he promoted are now mainstream in society. For example, Ian’s work with the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination (CARD) was instrumental in the enactment of the 1968 Race Relations Act and the establishment of the Race Relations Board, which laid the foundations for the Equality and Human Rights Commission we have today.

red front cover of Ian Macdonald's book

Ian Macdonald’s monumental book, Immigration Law and Practice, now in its 9th edition.

Ian Macdonald was also counsel in many high profile cases relating to prejudice within the criminal justice system. These include the trial of the Mangrove Nine (a group of British black activists tried for inciting a riot at a protest, in 1970) and the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry (representing Stephen’s friend Duwayne Brooks).

This year marks 30 years since the publication of Murder in the Playground. Ian Macdonald was commissioned by Manchester City Council to conduct a public inquiry into racism in the city’s schools, following the murder of schoolboy Ahmed Iqbal Ullah in 1986. The report identified patterns of institutional racism that contributed to the circumstances surrounding Ahmed’s death. The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre is named in Ahmed’s memory. The legacy of his death and the investigation that followed will always hold an important place in the work that the Centre does.

black front cover of book with white and blue writing and a black and white photo of ahmed iqbal ullah

This book can be found in the Manchester Local History section of the AIU Centre library.

Ian Macdonald was also a trustee of the George Padmore Institute (GPI) in North London, which was founded in 1991 by political and cultural activists. The GPI is an archive, library, educational resource and research centre which, much like the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre, houses material relating to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) experiences in the UK.  Ian was actively committed to the development of this Institute until the last.

We send our condolences to Ian’s family and friends. He was an inspiration to us all and will not be forgotten.

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