NEWS FROM THE CELTIC LEAGUE
Following discussions between Samuel Farmer of the Kernow Branch Celtic League and Cornwall Councillor Bert Biscoe and others, the Branch has been asked to submit a report outlining its call for the appointment of a specific Cornish Liaison Officer and Department very possibly but not necessarily within Cornwall Council empowered to deal with matters of concern to Cornish people.
A specific race relations officer or similar offering a service similar to that offered to other national and ethnic minorities and groups would be of substantial benefit to the Cornish national minority.
The report is as follows:
Call for Liaison Officer – Liaison Department for the Cornish National Minority
1.2 The Government announced in 2002 that it recognised the Cornish language under Part II of the Council of Europe’s European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.
1.3 On 24 April 2014, the then Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Rt. Hon. Danny ALEXANDER MP, announced that ‘the proud history, unique culture, and distinctive language of Cornwall will be fully recognised under European rules for the protection of national minorities’.
1.4 That decision to recognise the unique identity of the Cornish, now affords them the same status under the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities as the UK ’s other Celtic people, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish and indeed others identifying with other minority groups.
1.5 A letter dated 22 January, 2015 referenced 528420 written by Stephen WILLIAMS MP, then Minister for Communities at the Department for Communities and Local Government and sent to Cornwall Councillor Bert BISCOE informed, ‘…I am delighted the Government’s decision to bring Cornish people within the scope of the Framework Convention has been so well received in Cornwall. I can also confirm that there is no further ratification process. The inclusion of the Cornish people under the Framework Convention took immediate effect following the Government’s announcement in April 2014.’ This letter then outlined issues relating to the submission of the Government’s next report to the Council of Europe.
1.6 The United Kingdom’s Fourth Report pursuant to Article 25, Paragraph 2 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCPNM) dated 8th April, 2015 includes material relating to the provisions of the FCPNM in respect of the Cornish minority as well as the Scottish, Welsh, Irish and Gypsy and Travelling Community, the Black Minority Ethnic community and the Muslim community.
1.7 Cornwall Council has policies in place and officers appointed to deal with many issues arising from people of specified minority status.
1.8 As an example, there is a Gypsy and Travelling Communities Strategy and a Gypsy and Traveller Liaison Officer in place.
1.9 Further, Cornwall Council also maintains resourcing and signposting for people identifying with other minorities.
1.10 There are many organisations other than Cornwall Council whose sole purpose is to represent minority groups and to offer support and assistance to those who have suffered or been discriminated against because of their identity.
1.11 Despite the fact that the Cornish have now had National Minority status for over a year, no such representation is available for those of the Cornish minority either within Cornwall Council or without.
1.12 A Freedom of Information Request was made of Cornwall Council by the Cornwall Branch Celtic League by email on 19 February, 2015 requesting as follows, ‘Taking account of the above references and drawing your particular attention to the said Framework Convention and sections and articles contained within, we request and require Cornwall Council to provide or otherwise make available the minority impact assessment on the Cornish minority by the Council’s existent, ongoing and proposed development plans’.
1.13 A response was received by email 27 days later on 18 March, 2015 under Cornwall Council reference IAR-101001976311 informing as follows, ‘The information you request is all a matter of public record. For your convenience we have provided the relevant web links’.
1.14 Examining the said links all contained on the Cornwall Council website, it was extremely apparent that there was no specific minority impact assessment in respect of the Cornish minority.
1.15 This has since been confirmed by others making almost identical requests.
2. CASE STUDY 1
2.2 This matter relates to an article written by journalist Chris RUNDLE and published in the Western Daily Press on Wednesday 11th March, 2015.
2.3 In the article bearing the sub headline ‘Cornish is not worth the prop’, Mr. RUNDLE, described a fellow colleague named as ‘Steve’ as having ‘to put up with quite a bit of stick, one way and another, for the fact that he hails from Cornwall . Nothing personal, of course. Not his fault he was born in Bude, after all’. He further described many Cornish people as having been born looking ‘blank’. He went on to inaccurately report that there were only 11 speakers of Cornish. He then reported that many of those who had moved to Cornwall were ‘assorted hippies, second-home owners and antiques dealers’. He added that Cornish was at danger of dying out ‘mainly because we have moved on a long way when individual tribes spoke on their own grunted codes and a bloke from one valley would find it difficult to understand what they were saying in the next’.
2.4 It was further suggested that the Cornish should stop asking for money which would be of no practical use, Mr. RUNDLE appeared to completely overlook the fact that Cornish people pay a number of taxes. As a further swipe, he concluded that the Bretons had ‘grants frantically shovelled into Brittany to appease the rebellious population who still regard themselves as a race apart’ and suggested that Cornish language students should go to Brittany .
2.5 Mr. RUNDLE appears to be vociferously anti Cornish. In the same newspaper, this South West Columnist of the Year for the Western Daily Press (based in Bristol ), wrote an article dated 28 November 2007 entitled ‘Saints alive! Pasty eaters demand new bank holiday’ and went on to describe his contempt for the ‘pasty eaters’, their Cornish indigenous language, Saint Piran’s day and describes Cornwall as ‘one of the most depressing places one can find oneself, with an economy barely more buoyant than that of Romania’. The article begins with the question ‘When is someone going to put the Cornish in their place?’ and describes the Cornish language as sounding ‘like someone speaking Urdu with a mouth full of nails’.
2.6 The Cornwall Branch was contacted by many outraged members of the public and immediately wrote with a complaint to the Chief Editor of the Western Daily Press and as the newspaper is based in Bristol , formally reported a crime of stirring up racial hatred against the Cornish National Minority to Avon and Somerset Police.
2.7 In response, the newspaper’s Chief Editor, Rob STOKES apologised stating ‘I am sorry that you and your colleagues were upset by Chris Rundle’s column. As a columnist Chris is often provocative and stirs debate. However I certainly felt the tone of his article yesterday was more tongue-in-cheek than an attempt to be deliberately offensive. However, I do appreciate that safeguarding the future of languages is important and it really wasn’t our intention to undermine you’re ……. purpose or intent’.
2.8 Mr. STOKES then allowed a rebuttal of the article to be made in his newspaper which was written by Cornish historian, archaeologist, author and speaker Craig WEATHERHILL. The fact based response was published in full on 18th March, 2015 with a front page headline asking, ‘Why do you dislike Cornish Mr. Rundle?’
2.9 The Cornwall Branch was in receipt of over 30 emails of support from members of the public many of which had also been sent to the Western Daily Press.
2.10 Avon and Somerset Police have formally recorded a report received from the Kernow Branch of the Celtic League as a hate incident in the Force’s crime records under reference number 25522/15.
2.11 In discussions with Detective Inspector HIGHWAY and Detective Sergeant JAY of Bristol police, officers of the Cornwall Branch were pleased to be informed that the content of Mr. RUNDLES’s article had been recorded as a hate incident and in view of the fact that the newspaper’s Editor had apologised and allowed a very full and well publicised response, were content to leave the matter rest being reasonable but that it would be resurrected should there be any further racist insults written by the journalist. As Detective Inspector HIGHWAY pointed out in his communication, ‘I completely accept that these comments are something that you find unacceptable and motivated by hate, which is why it is appropriate that it is recorded it as such on our crime recording system’.
2.12 A briefing note has also been lodged with the Independent Press Standards Commission.
2.13 The Daily Mail subsequently contacted the Convener of the Cornwall Branch and arranged for an article he had written about this matter and other related issues together with a photograph of the Convener taken by a London based photographer to appear in the Daily Mail published on 19 March, 2015.
2.14 The Western Daily Press is owned by ‘Local World’ which also owns ‘The West Briton’ and its sister newspapers ‘The Cornishman’ and ‘The Cornish Guardian’ as well as the ‘Western Morning News’ and many other papers. Local World is owned by Daily Mail and General Trust, Yattendon Group, Trinity Mirror and others.
2.15 A telephone call made to Cornwall Council regarding this matter resulted in the caller being informed this was not a matter of interest to Cornwall Council.
3. CASE STUDY 2
3.2 Bishop Bronescombe Church of England School is situated in Boscoppa Road, St Austell, Cornwall PL25 3DT and the Head Teacher is Mrs. Katie DALTON NPQH.
3.3 On 22nd April, 2015, an article appeared in the ‘Cornish Guardian’ newspaper entitled ‘Mum set to defy ‘Obby ‘Oss ban by school’ and several concerned members of the public contacted the Cornish Branch of the Celtic League as it has been widely noted that our NGO played an acknowledged role in the formal recognition of the Cornish National Minority.
3.4 In summary, a parent Anna JAMES, who has her children at the school and who originally came from Padstow was forbidden to take them out of Bishop Bronescombe Church of England School during term time in order that they could attend the centuries old May celebration in Padstow the ‘Obby ‘Oss Day’.
3.5 In schools based in the Padstow area, it is the norm that pupils are given the day off to celebrate this ancient festival. Anna JAMES is a native of Padstow and therefore encouraged to take part along with her children. Bishop Bronescombe School is approximately 21 miles from Padstow.
3.6 In Cornwall , this is a commonplace occurrence. For example and in addition to Padstow’s ‘Obby ‘Oss day’, natives of Helston often return to the town and participate in the internationally known ‘Flora Day’ and its ‘Furry Dance’ and ‘Hal an Tow’ again a festival the roots of which are lost in time. Similar festivals in Cornwall have these arrangements.
3.7 Such traditions and their uniqueness are referred to by the The Rt. Hon Danny Alexander MP during his announcement made on 24th April, 2014 and form the basis of many differences between the Cornish and the English peoples and Cornwall and England .
3.8 As a result of public concern, and taking into account the aims and objectives of the Celtic League, the Convener of the Cornish Branch wrote to the Head Teacher, Mrs. Katie DALTON on 23rd April, 2015.
3.9 In our letter, we reminded Mrs. DALTON that Head Teachers are given discretion under the current rules to grant up ten days leave, whilst reminding her that the Cornish people had been granted National Minority status and incorporated into the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities which afforded the Cornish certain rights. In particular, we felt that Articles 5(1), 6(1), 8, 12(1) and 15 were relevant in this case and their contents were outlined in our letter.
3.10 As a very pertinent aside, the recent Fourth Report submitted by the United Kingdom pursuant to Article 25, paragraph 2 of The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities dated 8th April, 2015 and submitted to the Council of Europe in respect of the Cornish National Minority places great emphasis on the importance of Cornish culture and traditions including St. Piran’s Day as well as the Cornish ‘Sense of Place’ initiative taken up by many schools in Cornwall.
3.11 A reply from Mrs. DALTON was received dated 30th April, 2015. In this she refers to the ‘The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2013’ which allows for ten days leave but informed that she did not consider the attendance at annual festivals to fall within those regulations which have an ‘exceptional’ clause.
3.12 Of course, the Cornwall Branch had already acknowledged the existence of that legislation although it is now increasingly recognised that the inflexible Anglocentric ‘top down’ legislation is entirely unsuitable to non English National Minorities and ethnicities and is perhaps regrettably causing citizens from those groups to defy the law. Increasing numbers of parents whose children are increasingly identifying in PLASC surveys as ‘Cornish’ and other do take their children out of school to attend festivals such as Padstow’s ‘Obby ‘Oss’. Most report their children ‘sick’. In this case Anna JAMES felt that she has no option other than to defy imposed restrictions.
3.13 In view of the protections afforded by the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities as well as certain United Nations provisions, and taking into account our Constitution, our organisation fully backs the actions of parents in these cases.
3.14 Accordingly, we wrote Mrs. DALTON on 30th April, 2015 by email to inform her that sadly, we believed the actions of her school to be a case of direct discrimination against those identifying as Cornish and that we would be compelled to take the matter further. This is no fault of Mrs. DALTON who is merely complying with inflexible top down rules.
3.15 The rules created by an overly centralised government are placing unfair restrictions on local school heads and others who are much more in touch with their communities than a legislature based over 250 miles away.
3.16 Thousands attend the Padstow ‘Obby ‘ Oss ‘ festival each year.
3.17 The public interest in this matter has been considerable. Several have written to the newspapers. The overwhelming number are in support of Anna JAMES and confirm many of the points covered in this report including our assertions regarding unsuitable, over centralised laws and out of touch legislation and the fact that parents are prepared to break the imposed laws. Interestingly, only one member of the public supported the status quo.
3.18 Our report was posted out in print form on 7 May, 2015 to the Council of Europe, the United Nations where the Celtic League has roster consultative status with ECOSOC, to the Diocese of Truro, to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to the Secretary of State for Education, to the Chief Operating Officer Office for Standards in Education, to the Chief Executive Cornwall Council, to the Head Teacher Bishop Bronescombe Church of England School and to the parent, Mrs. Anna JAMES.
3.19 Mrs. JAMES has thanked our organisation profusely for our support stating that she felt ‘frightened and alone’ in making her stand and that she had felt ‘picked on for being Cornish.’
3.20 Thus far, the Cornwall Branch has received a letter from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government informing that this matter should be dealt with by the Secretary of State for Education and from the Secretary of State for Education suggesting the matter be dealt with by the school as a complaint. The United Nations and Council of Europe have acknowledged receipt of the report informing of their intentions to make further inquiries with the United Kingdom government.
3.21 No acknowledgement has been received from the Bishop Bronescombe Church of England School, the Diocese of Truro or indeed Cornwall Council.
3.22 A telephone call made to Cornwall Council regarding this matter resulted in the caller being informed this was not a matter of interest to Cornwall Council.
4.2 The two case studies outlined above are neither unique nor rare. There are others and they are surprisingly frequent.
4.3 The Cornwall Branch has been in receipt of other complaints where individuals who have identified as Cornish have been discriminated against and even mocked.
4.4 Necessarily, we have offered general advice and guidance as the numbers involved have been more than could be fully coped with by our NGO. Similarly, we have always applied the ‘reasonability test’ as was the case in study 1. Sometimes, we are forced to accept that a declaration of Cornish identity results in discrimination, abuse, heckling, bullying and name calling.
4.5 The author of this report has personally been called ‘in bred’, ‘thick’, ‘dependent on English hand outs’, ‘a f_____g Cornish twat’ and worse even since the inclusion of the Cornish into the FCPNM but has made nothing of this in the name of reasonability.
4.6 These things said, it is strongly felt by many that in view of the support and protections, bodies, agencies and organisations in place to assist and guide people who are members of or who identify with various national, ethnic, religious or other groups that the time has come for similar support to be afforded to the Cornish.
4.7 Whether this is a role which can be taken on by Cornwall Council, perhaps even sharing the additional responsibilities with a pre existing officer of department is uncertain. Such an individual would need to be able to act with authority and empowerment.
4.8 There is also a possible role here for a support organisation or group similar to that in existence and available to other groups and minorities.
4.9 It is strongly recommended by the Cornwall Branch of the Celtic League that such action is taken at the earliest possible opportunity.
Michael J Chappell
Cornwall Branch of the Celtic League
(Business: Unit 1, Jewell House, Tolgus Wartha, REDRUTH, TR15 1DG Cornwall
Home: 3, Edwards Apartments, Gweal Pawl, REDRUTH, TR15 3AE Cornwall)
27 May, 2015
References and documentation held
2002 Recognition of the Cornish language
24 Apr 14 Cornish granted minority status within the UK
Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
Letter 22 Jan 15 ref 528420 Stephen WILLIAMS MP, then Minister for Communities at the Department for Communities and Local Government to Cornwall Councillor Bert BISCOE
8th Apr 15 United Kingdom’s Fourth Report pursuant to Article 25, Paragraph 2 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCPNM)
Cornwall Council Gypsy and Travelling Communities Strategy
19 Feb 15 Freedom of Information Request Cornwall Council by the Cornwall Branch Celtic League
18 Mar 15 (27 days later) response to FoI request Cornwall Council reference IAR-101001976311
11th Mar 15 article by Chris RUNDLE published in the Western Daily Press