• February 14, 2016


The second part of the Celtic History Review history of Manx Nationalism published over in the early 1990s covered the period from the 1970s to the late 1980s and charts electoral ups and owns and also the direct action groups Fo Halloo and FSFO. Phillip Gawne who has recently articulated views calling for greater autonomy or independence was active in the latter part of the period covered.

The history omits mention of the shadowy Irree Magh group which also operated for a period and also does not cover the short-lived feminist nationalist group EVE which was established in 1978 almost one hundred years after women’s suffrage on the Island to highlight continuing injustices.

“The Development of Manx Nationalism Part II

Diarmuid O Breasláin looks at Manx nationalism from 1970 onward in a follow up article to that by Bernard Moffatt in CHR Volume2 Issue 1

By 1970 Mec Vannin had raised the level of Manx consciousness so that a debate on Manx identity was beginning to take place in a way which called into question the whole position of Manx sovereignty and identity.

Another factor at this time which raised the debate was the issue of Newcomers, immigrants attracted in by the tax incentives available on the island. The early `70’s saw a campaign by Fo Halloo (Underground) to highlight all these issues through slogan painting, posters etc. By the mid 70’s this campaign had faded out. Ironically as the issue of Manx identity started to finally be addressed, the basis of Manx national identity, the language, was at its lowest ebb. The death of Ned Maddrell in 1974, the last native speaker, came at a period when the language movement, `Yn Cheshaght Ghailckagh’, was less than active and the 1971 census had returned a mere 281 people as capable of speaking Manx.

1976 Election

In this atmosphere Mec Vannin entered the electoral fray and had missed taking a seat in the Keys by 25 votes. In November 1976 they fielded 10 candidates for the 24 seat House of Keys. The party took 13% of the vote and Peter Craine took South Douglas to become the first nationalist to enter the Keys.

Ironically this could be said to mark the height of Mec Vannin’ s triumph, for in 1977 an internal row on the issue of an anti-militarist grouping in the party, led to a split, and resignations by those opposed to it, including that of MHK Peter Craine. Those who left founded the Manx National Party but in the 1981 General Election Peter Craine lost his seat and Mec Vannin, standing only one candidate saw the vote fall.

1981 and this election, however, mark a turning point, for although Mec Vannin were not to stand for election for another 15 years Yn Cheshaght Ghailckagh used this election to canvas all candidates on their attitude to the language, marking a re-activation in the movement which would see remarkable progress throughout the 1980’s with conferences, films, publications and a increasing use of Manx signs by both private and government organisations.

Politically the 1980’s can be divided into three main areas of interest for there was no electoral activity to warrant. Mec Vannin were to focus their attention through actions in the format of pressure group, and they were joined in this from 1982 on by a group entitled Publish Soshialliagh Vannin (PSV – Manx Republican Socialist) who led a leaflet and pressure campaign, in particular focusing on industrial discontent in this period. In 1984 Mec Vannin declared its aims to be the establishment of an independent Manx republic and subsequently PSV activity declined.

The 1980’s saw a highlighting of issues related to Manx identity and Manx life in general. Iii 1984 the Manx branch of the Celtic League launched a campaign to have the English National Trust return the Calf of Mann, an island off the Manx coast paid for by the Manx National Trust but not owned by it! The campaign was remarkably successful with the return of the Calf of Mann to the Manx National Trust one year later. This raised the issue of national identity and gave a success to build on

FSFO Campaign

The issue of Manx national identity was also fuelled by the upsurge in newcomers to the extent that by 1989 only 33% of Manx people were born on the Island. The tax haven policy of Tynwald and the lack of any policy on immigration were blamed and in late 1987 the FSFO campaign began.

This underground campaign targeted the financial sector in particular, with slogan painting and other minor sabotage. It culminated in November 1988 with the arrest of three men following the burning of luxury homes at Tromode. The three stated their reasons as defending the Manx nation. Many looked on them sympathetically and the media looked into the issues of immigration and the ideas of Manx nationalism and identity. In the end the three men received sentences ranging from 2 years to 16 months, again showing a compassion necessitated by the support given the men by the public.

The Manx government had previously addressed this and other issues when they set up the Social Issues Committee of Tynwald to look at immigration and the Manx ceiling population of 75,000. This was a squandered opportunity. In 1990 they undertook a Gallup survey on Manx quality of life and found considerable support for the teaching of the Manx language in the schools. This led in 1992 to the opening up of the schools to Manx and 1,949 children opted for it. This figure, following on the 1991 census return of 643 Manx speakers, was encouraging. Since then the language has enjoyed considerable development and a Manx language playgroup has opened to compliment a Manx Stream in one of the Island’s schools.

These positive moves encouraged Mec Vannin and in 1995 they stood in their first election for 10 years taking a seat on Braddan Commission and topping the poll. Buoyed by this Mec Vannin looked to fight the General Election but in the event, much like similar happenings in Cornwall, few people were prepared to fight on a party ticket and eventually two MV members came forward as independent nationalists. In the 1996 General Election one of them received 16% of the vote while the other failed to take the seat by just 41 votes.

At this stage the Manx national movement can be said to have made some remarkable progress, in particular considering the constant shifting of campaign policy. A breakthrough, squandered in 1976, now appears a distinct possibility yet again.”

Note: Additional information on the Manx National movement over the years is available in the Manx section of Carn copies of which are held by all significant Libraries in the UK , Ireland and Mann (Please note copies are withheld from the British Library because of the Chronicles of Man dispute with that body).

In addition there are also useful references in Peter Beresford Ellis’s book “The Celtic Dawn”:

ISBN-10: 0862436435
ISBN-13: 978-0862436438”

Photo: Phillip Gawne prominent in the activism of the late 1980s interviewed at Hando hill by Granada TV


Issued by: The Celtic News



The Celtic League established in 1961 has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It promotes cooperation between the countries and campaigns on a range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, military activity and socio-economic issues


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