Political freedom for the Celtic countries is one of the fundamental aims of the League because without this freedom it would be extremely difficult to secure our other aims. This freedom can only be achieved if the Celtic countries become independent states in their own right. In turn, the Celtic League believes that all peoples have the right to pursue self-determination should they so wish. This is one of the reasons why the League shows solidarity in its work with other peoples of the world who are also striving for that freedom e.g., Basques, Catalans, Tibetans, Maoris, etc. and are congratulatory of those people who finally obtain it.
Article 1. of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) recognizes that all peoples have the right to self-determination and just like the UN, the Celtic League opposes attempts by state governments in stifling movement towards self-determination. The League made submissions in the 1960s to the UN on the right to self-determination of Scotland and Wales (which have now been vindicated by the setting up of a Scottish Parliament and a Welsh Assembly).
Despite the fact that the British and French Government are signatories to and have ratified the ICCPR, successive governments make attempts to obstruct and actively and unfairly discourage moves towards self-determination by the Celtic peoples. Part of the Celtic League’s work is to expose and work against such corruption by the state authorities. In 2009, the release of secret UK government files showed that up to the 1970’s both Labour and Conservative governments worked behind the scenes to discredit the Home Rule movement in Scotland. There has of course been similar government and political interference and manipulation in the north of Ireland too and no doubt within the other Celtic countries to varying degrees also.
The Isle of Man is a crown dependency of the UK, even though it is not part of the UK or the European Union. The Queen of England continues to play a part in the political make-up of the Island’s government in her role as the Lord of Man and head of state. The League continues its campaign to urge the Manx government to limit the role of the Queen of England in the Island’s affairs, even though they are primarily ceremonial and also to declare independence, which it has the power to do.
There is little doubt that the Duchy of Cornwall has a direct influence in certain areas of development within Cornwall, in particular the economy and the law. The constitutional status of the Duchy is a complex matter and has rights over a wide range of areas, including its own (Stannary) parliament and court system. A growing number of people however are questioning the constitutional status of the Duchy. The League campaigns in many areas to highlight the abuses of power of the Duchy in Cornwall and also supports groups like Cornwall 2000 and the Stannary Parliament, that aim to expose and publicise the role of the Duchy in constitutional affairs.
The Celtic League is supportive of the campaign for a Cornish Assembly and does not believe that the creation of a unitary authority council in Cornwall has any benefits for Cornwall at all. If anything, the new Cornwall Council ties the country further into the administration of the artificial Southwest of England region and will make it more difficult for a Cornish Assembly to be formed in the future.
In respect of Breizh the main stumbling block is the stifling attitude of the centralized French State to Breton linguistic and political aspirations. French hostility to Breton nationalism is from another era that most other Celtic countries had now left behind. The French are also hostile to the inter-Celtic solidarity demonstrated by groups such as the Celtic League towards Brittany. This was illustrated during the Celtic League 2007 AGM in Brittany, where police maintained a presence outside the building during the meeting.
The reunification of the Loire Atlantique region into the traditional national area of Brittany, as supported by the majority of the people of Brittany and the Breton Regional Council, is a long-standing bone of contention for the League. Its political and administrative separation from Brittany by Vichy France in 1943 and its continued partition runs contrary to the sentiment of the ICCPR. The League supports groups that work for the reunification of Brittany through peaceful means and campaigns for the reunification of Brittany to within its historic boundaries.
The Celtic League is not party political and non-government but supports the work of all parties that work towards our aims. Our members may or may not be members of political parties across the entire spectrum, but in view of the Celtic League’s aims and objectives, this is unlikely. In the past, the League has given coverage and support to many of the progressive and environmental nationalist political parties operating in the Celtic countries e.g., the Scottish Nationalist Party, Plaid Cymru, but as our nations move closer towards self-determination this of course is changing and will continue to do so.
The Celtic League supported the campaigns of the Irish Branch against the Nice and Lisbon treaties although there was opposing opinion within the League on the latter. (It may be noted Isle of Man is not in the EU). With Lisbon now implemented it will focus on the campaign for greater democracy in the EU. The Celtic League is also against the current set up of the EU constituency boundaries, which has meant that neither Cornwall nor Brittany are represented under their historic boundaries and Ireland is split between the north and the south.
The Celtic League is currently campaigning to establish a Celtic Youth Council so that the voice of young people within the Celtic countries is better heard. Currently, there is a British Youth Council and French Youth Council with representation on the European Youth Forum, which speaks on behalf of the Celtic countries, with no such equivalent in the other Celtic countries, with the exception of Éire (Ireland).
The League continues with its long-standing opposition to the military recruitment of children in the school environment in the UK state by the Ministry of Defence. This is a long-standing campaign by the League and has focused in particular on school recruitment in Mannin (Isle of Man). The League has also encouraged governments in the other Celtic countries to oppose the military from visiting schools. On a related point, the League has also called on the Irish Government to discourage the recruitment of its nationals from joining the British military.
Language rights are such an important aspect of the work of the Celtic League that it is contained in Article 1a of the League’s Constitution, which states that the organisation will work:
“…. towards the restoration of the Celtic languages, which are essential characteristics of nationality for each Celtic country, as ordinary means of communication.”
The League regularly reports on the development of the Celtic languages to this end and campaigns for their return as a community language in all areas of national life but particularly for support and further development of the language in the existing Celtic speaking community areas. The League takes part in various government and organisational language consultations to this end and is supportive of groups who have the aim of promoting and protecting the rights of the different Celtic language communities. We have always been supportive of the various Celtic language movements in the Celtic countries and have criticised openly and welcomed decisions by various governments and local authorities that have reduced or increased support for such schools. The League has lately been instrumental in supporting the setting up of a bilingual preschool movement in Cornwall.
Over the last forty years, the Celtic languages have seen a massive period of revival in the Celtic languages, especially in Alba (Scotland), Cymru (Wales), Kernow (Cornwall) and Mannin (Isle of Man). However, none of the respective languages has managed to completely reverse the language shift from English and French and there is still a huge amount of work to do. Recently however the League submitted evidence to the House of Commons Welsh Affairs Select Committee, which was discussing a proposed Language Competence Order from the Welsh Assembly Government. If this is agreed to this would give the Welsh Government full control over Welsh language legislation and would give a real boost to the Welsh language in Wales.
We continue to campaign for an Irish Language Act in the North of Ireland and were represented at the last march organised by the Irish language organisation POBAL in 2009.
The League has also been campaigning for the greater use of bilingual road signs in Scotland.
Of all the Celtic languages the development of the Breton language remains the biggest worry for the League. The French Government has still not ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in respect of Breton and successive governments have been antagonistic at best to the rights of Breton speakers. The Breton language consequently is in decline, even though it could have been one of, if not the strongest, Celtic language in existence today, in terms of speakers, even if minimal support had been given.
The French Government has told the League that the wording of the French Constitution makes it impossible for any other language other than French to be recognised. However, the French Constitution, like any other, can and has been modified regularly in the past. In 2008 the French Government made a limited concession in regard to the other languages of France, by slightly amending the Constitution to recognise the fact that ‘regional’ languages were spoken within its territory, including of course Breton. The League is concerned that this concession could be too little too late and will continue to campaign hard for the rights of Breton speakers.
The League has been and is campaigning for the official recognition of the Celtic languages at a European Union level. We have subsequently seen the full official recognition of the Irish language in 2007 and the partial recognition of Welsh and Scottish. The League will continue to campaign in order to push for the full recognition of all the Celtic languages.
The Celtic League were signatories of the Universal Declaration for Linguistic Rights (UDLR) in Barcelona in 1996 and on 17th June 2008 a resolution proposal was presented at the United Nations headquarters (Palais des Nations) in Geneva, Switzerland, to promote this within the United Nations as a future UDLR for its adoption as an International Convention.
Since 2008 the League has sought to determine the commitment of the various police constabularies and forces that serve the Celtic countries to the respective Celtic languages. The League has contacted all the police forces to date, with the exception of those that serve Brittany. All the police forces have been generally positive and constructive in their responses, and some have said that they would pursue the matter further in certain areas e.g., in 2008 the Isle of Man police constabulary said that it would add Manx Gaelic to all its police vehicles as a result of the campaign.
In many ways, linguistic rights are indistinguishable from cultural rights, but because the League’s remit and campaign agenda is fairly broad already, it makes sense to treat these issues separately, although in reality there are many crossovers.
The Celtic League does nevertheless still campaign on issues that are more cultural than linguistic. One obvious area here is sports and our organisation endeavours to promote sports that are indigenous to the Celtic countries.
Over the last 12 months, the Celtic League has campaigned in a number of different areas related to sport in Alba/Scotland, including campaigning for the word ‘Alba’ to be written on the Scottish rugby kit, promoting the Scottish sport of Shinty, campaigning against the singing of racist and sectarian chants and songs at football matches and supporting separate Scottish teams in all areas.
The League also takes part in various sports consultations in order to raise the profile of traditional sports e.g., the Scottish Government’s ‘Pathways into Sport’ consultation in 2008.
The League supported the right of the Irish Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) to make its own decisions without political interference with regard to the use of its stadium, Croke Park, for other sporting codes. The League is also currently campaigning for the GAA to recognise Scotland as a country in its own right rather than a county for the purposes of the GAA league.
Another sporting campaign by the League is to pressure the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to accept a team from Wales and Scotland in the 2012 Olympic Games in London, as has happened on previous occasions. The League also pressured the IOC to move the 2009 Olympics out of China if the Chinese authorities did not stop their persecution of Tibetans.
The League also promotes cultural diversity in the Celtic countries and the Kernow (Cornwall) Branch of the League recently became members of an organisation that helps to promote equality and diversity in Cornwall. The move is part of a general campaign by the League against racism, prejudice and discrimination.
Cultural symbols such as flags and signs also play a big role in the cultural identity of the Celtic nations. Due to the close geographical proximity and colonisation of the Celtic countries by two imperial, influential and powerful nations i.e., England and France, these flags and symbols from these nations will always create a feeling of cultural assimilation among the Celtic peoples. The Celtic League will continue to campaign for the right to fly our national flags and non-use of flags and symbols from our non-Celtic neighbours in an effort to avoid a feeling of being overwhelmed culturally and aggravating political and cultural tensions.
Recognition of our cultural heritage and history plays an important part in the role of our organisation. The League campaigns for the traditions of each of the Celtic countries to be recognised by the authorities and appropriate funding made available for their celebration e.g., recognition of national patron saints, teaching an appropriate decentralised school curriculum, plotting of ancient battle sites on maps.
The Celtic League continues to pursue its long-standing campaign of the return of artefacts that are held outside of the Celtic countries to their original homes e.g., Chronicles of Man, Lewis Chessmen, Gold cape of Mold etc. Many of these artefacts are held within the same political state and international laws pertaining to the return of these artefacts to their place of origin should not be an issue. In the past, a common argument was that appropriate facilities did not exist to keep the artefacts properly maintained, but today this argument is largely superfluous.
The protection and promotion of human rights runs through much of the work of the Celtic League. Over the last few years, we have campaigned heavily for the rights of prisoners from the Celtic countries, in particular, Breizh (Brittany) and Ireland. Two current campaigns that are active are the repatriation of Noel Maguire from Whitemoor Prison in England to Portlaoise Prison in Ireland and the welfare and repatriation of Michael Campbell, who is being held in a prison in Lithuania. The League is also still currently campaigning for the rights of seriously ill and terminally ill prisoners.
The League also has a long-lasting concern about the human rights abuses by the French police and judicial system in their treatment of Breton political activists. In 1999 the French police rounded up numerous Breton activists without charge and put several of them in detention for many years. The League has been involved in the campaign to get the prisoners released and to clear their names.
In addition, the League also works, in a limited capacity, for the human rights of other peoples in the world who we express our solidarity with e.g., the Tibetans, Maoris and the Basques. Over the last few years, the League has been particularly concerned about the abuse of political human rights by the Spanish state authorities in their banning of numerous Basque political parties and political publications. In connection with this, the League has been highly concerned about Spanish anti-terrorist legislation and court judgements, which has seen the arrest, prolonged detention and illegal dispersal of hundreds of people. Irish members have visited the Basque country on a fact finding mission.
The League has also actively campaigned against anti-terrorist legislation and the subsequent infringement of freedoms in countries as far apart as Mannin (Isle of Man) and New Zealand. This encompassed actively campaigning against the CIA rendition flights, which made stopovers at airports in Ireland and Scotland.
The League has been in regular communication with the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) for a number of years and we have been invited to present our views, on a regular basis, by the CPT on a number of topics related to human rights.
Another long-term campaign by the League that is still active has been the fight for justice for the families of the 61 people lost in the Aer Lingus Viscount Flight EI-712 crash in 1968 and to discover what went wrong.
Current environmental campaigns by the Celtic League have not been as wide ranging as campaigns under other topics, but some of the environmental campaigns that have been pursued have been ongoing for many years, to the extent that the League has developed something of a specialism in certain areas.
Environmental campaigns are currently being pursued in all of the Celtic countries and in many cases there are overlaps. One issue of great concern to us is the presence and pollution caused by the numerous nuclear power stations throughout (Alba) Scotland and the remaining one in Cymru (Wales). The League has also undertaken heavy campaigning on the pollution caused by the Sellafield site in England. The Irish Government has consulted with the League about the work that the organization has undertaken concerning Sellafield over a number of years and the pollution risk that the plant has for Éire (Ireland), not to mention the other Celtic countries. In addition, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a United Nations body, has dealt cooperatively with us in the past and continues to do so.
Related to the nuclear issue, the Celtic League has monitored the environmental effect of nuclear submarine bases in Alba (Scotland), Breizh (Brittany) and Plymouth, England (the latter because of its close proximity to Cornwall). The Celtic League continues to campaign for their closure and/or the removal of the submarines to bases elsewhere and/or their compliance with stringent environmental standards and their independent monitoring.
The League is opposed to the use of nuclear power in all the Celtic countries and is in favour of the use of sustainable, environmentally sound renewable energy, within reason. The League believes that the exploitation of our limited natural resources such as oil and coal by multinational companies that have no or very little interest in our national heritage should stop.
This is one of the reasons why the League is supportive of the Shell to Sea campaign currently being undertaken in County Mayo Eire (Ireland). The League has campaigned itself for the reassessment of the Shell financed and Irish Government backed liquid gas pipeline that has seen huge local, national and international opposition to the project. The dangers inherent in the use of liquid gas being piped under high pressure close to communities of people in the Celtic countries is cause enough for the League to oppose any such development. This is also one of the reasons why the League continues to oppose the South Wales Gas Pipeline Project that is under development by the ‘National grid’ across the width of Wales.
The potential devastating pollution that can be caused to our coastline and inshore waters by oil leaks by tankers and oil refineries, in general, has led the League to highlight and campaign against the possible threats and actual spillages that could and do occur by the industries directly linked to oil companies and their associated businesses. The League has campaigned against the spills caused by the ship to ship transfer of oil in the Firth of Forth in Scotland, the leakages and spills that have occurred in the Saint Nazaire oil refinery in Brittany and more recently the potential threat of anchored oil tankers along the coast of the UK that are waiting for the price of oil to increase.
The Celtic League has also pursued a lengthy campaign about the pollution of the marine environment and coastlines of the Celtic countries by munitions that have been dumped or discarded at sea by the Ministry of Defence. Over many years munitions from the largest of these sea munitions dumps – Beaufort Dyke between the southwest of Alba (Scotland) and the North of Ireland – has polluted the coasts of (Eire) Ireland, Mannin (Isle of Man) and England and the League have consistently pressured the MoD and the UK Government to put together an effective strategy to clean up the Beaufort Dyke dump before someone is killed.
The campaign to stop the mining of seabed aggregate from the floor of the Celtic Sea by the Manx Government has also spanned many years. The Celtic League have successively campaigned to prevent the Manx Government from issuing new licences to companies to mine the seabed off its coast, but the issue continues to be occasionally discussed. The International Maritime Organisation, a United Nations body, also continues to consult with the League in different areas.
The Celtic League also campaigns for the proper preservation of its natural environment. The League is against unsustainable and unnecessary development in general and aims for the natural environment to be monitored and managed by local or national bodies within the Celtic countries. In such cases, the League works alongside its national branches and local groups that have been set up to campaign against particular local issues. In this way, the Celtic League supports Tara Watch in its campaign with regard to the prevention of the development of land near the Tara site that the new M3 motorway building would attract.
The Celtic League is also supportive of the plan by Tara Watch to have the site designated as a United Nations site of World Heritage and has lobbied the Irish Government to support the plan also. In a similar vein, the League worked in conjunction with Carlyon Bay Watch in Cornwall and the national Celtic League branches of Cymru and Kernow in opposing the development of Carlyon Bay for a luxury second home complex. In this latter campaign the League successfully drew on its links with the Welsh housing and language group, Cymuned, who also opposed the plan.
The League has had a number of successes in such campaigns in the past. For example, the campaign initiated by the Celtic League to have the Calf of Man (a small island to the south of Man) returned from the English National Trust to the Manx nation. This collaborative venture between the Manx and London branches of the Celtic League was ultimately successful.
For many years the Celtic countries were economically and socially abused, so that today, with the exception of 26 Counties of Ireland and possibly the Isle of Man, social and economic deprivation is rife in many areas of our respective nations. Often this deprivation goes unnoticed by many visitors to our countries who often choose to visit the scenic coastal areas for holidays or have an idealised picture of the Celtic countries where people lead a quiet and rural traditional way of life.
However, since the beginning of the industrial revolution many of our natural resources have been exploited and the money generated from them drained away and invested elsewhere. Despite economic and social improvement, there is still a huge divide today between the rich and the poor in all our nations and unemployment remains high and our standard of life and health are generally low. The situation has not been helped by the economic crisis that is affecting the world’s economic climate, which in turn is having a direct effect on the economy of our countries.
The Celtic League campaigns on socio-economic issues, because one of its aims is the strengthening and development of the economies of the Celtic countries and in turn an improvement of the social well-being of the people of the Celtic countries. Statistics show that smaller nations in Europe consistently perform better in socio-economic indexes than larger ones. The ‘secret theft’ of Scotland’s North Sea oil reserves by the Westminster government is just one example of the current theme that goes back to the way that the Westminster and Paris governments have exploited the natural resources of all the Celtic countries for England’s benefit over many years. The Celtic League has helped to highlight this injustice and continues to campaign for the natural resources of the Celtic countries to be used sustainably and in a way that allows the economy of each Celtic nation to use them for their own benefit.
Limits to the economic powers imposed on most of the Celtic countries mean that they are prevented from raising and retaining their own taxes for use within each respective nation and a large chunk of the money sent to London and Paris is not reinvested back into the economy and society of the Celtic nations. The 26 Counties of Ireland and to a certain extent the Isle of Man are an exception to this rule and the economic result is obvious. A lack of fiscal control consequently has a negative impact on the development of our nations and as a result, most of the Celtic countries are condemned to remain ‘periphery’ to the centre in many areas.
On the other hand, a lack of control of the fiscal and business dealings of some companies and individuals based in the Celtic countries can and does lead to corruption. The League actively campaigns to highlight these abuses of power and to call for the implementation of government strategies that will ensure that it makes it as difficult as possible for such activities to occur.
Many of the decisions and policies that affect the economies and societies of the Celtic countries are made outside of our nations, by government administrations and systems that have little understanding, care or knowledge of what the impact on the Celtic nations will be. A good example of this is the decision by the Southwest Regional Assembly to build thousands of homes in Cornwall in areas that will not be able to cope with the increased infrastructure and in some instances changing the face of entire villages. Similarly, proposals were made for massive developments in Ceredigion. The Celtic League has campaigned for the sustainable building of new houses and increasing the allocation of affordable homes in the Celtic countries for over a decade, especially in Cornwall, Wales and the Irish-speaking areas (Gaeltacht) of Ireland. The housing issue became such a worry for the Kernow Branch of the League in the early years of this century that it asked the Cymru Branch to call on the expertise of the newly established and highly successful Welsh housing and language campaign group, Cymuned, to come and speak at a public meeting in Penzance in 2001 to highlight the real risk that unsustainable housing development could have on the Cornish economy and society in 2002. Cymuned was also invited by the Irish Branch to a very successful seminar in the Galway Gaeltacht to share experiences of the detrimental effect of encroachments of English speaking developments and immigration into Celtic language community areas and how best to deal with them. The League continues to be occupied with the sustainable development of housing throughout all of the Celtic countries, including the use of housing as second or holiday homes.
A lack of affordable homes and rented accommodation is only part of the wider problem that the League finds itself up against in the Celtic countries. Low minimum wages, unemployment, uneven distribution of wealth, insufficient and inappropriate care for vulnerable members of our society e.g., children, abuse victims and young offenders are all areas that the League currently endeavours to work on in various ways to improve. For example, the League has been asked in the past for its views regarding the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and is currently campaigning for a retrospective childcare audit in all the Celtic countries.
In August 1982, the Mannin branch having enjoyed some local success with the AMA campaign urged the Celtic League Annual Meeting, held in Dublin, to adopt a general policy to “monitor the development of military activities and installations in the Celtic countries”. The remit was also to include monitoring of the environmental impact (see Environment Protection topic).
The League’s military monitoring campaign has become one of the organisation’s great success stories. Often ridiculed, in the early days, our claims about the problems caused to fishermen by submarine operations and our concerns that large quantities of military chemical weapons had been disposed of at sea, have been vindicated by the passage of time. In certain areas, the League’s varied military monitoring campaigns have been as deep as they have been as broad, and it would be difficult to include all campaigns here. For More Information see: