• September 5, 2015


The Daily Mails obsessive rant about the fact that two words in Gàidhlig (Scottish Gaelic) had been used on the Police Scotland helicopter got me thinking about just how high the various Celtic languages are flying these days and attitudes towards them by State bodies which use ‘choppers’ (helicopters) for both police, ambulance and coastguard work.

You will recall the Mails story was a bit ‘unbalanced’ because the letter count for the words in Gàidhlig on one side of the ‘POLICE SCOTLAND’ helicopter were actually less than the English so the Mails rant about excessive costs did not stack up (see link).


The Mails item also followed an equally xenophobic diatribe from the Mirror some weeks ago about a few words in Cornish outside a Police station. The Mirror didn’t seem to have caught up with the fact that the UK had extended the Charter for Regional and Minority Languages to Cornwall (ECRML).

The Charter is quite extensive and specifically promotes the use of multilingualism by public bodies (see link):


Anyway back to the ‘choppers’:

Well you wouldn’t think there would be a problem in Ireland (26 counties) and sure enough the GARDA helicopters display their credentials prominently. When it comes to the Irish Coastguard however it seems they have become a bit more bashful recently. The old S-61 helicopters had Garda Cósta na hÉireann displayed clearly along the upper fuselage with the words RESCUE displayed (appropriately) more prominently below.

The new S-92 helicopters have the words IRISH COASTGUARD displayed prominently on both sides. The word RESCUE is moved to the rear fuselage panel (not quite as prominently) on a red background. So where’s Garda Cósta na hÉireann gone? Oh there it is on a tiny panel (red background) again at the front below the pilots window – you could say the language has been downsized! Anyway here’s an illustration of the new layout and a very positive story about the work Garda Cósta na hÉireann helicopters do:


As for air ambulance work in the 26 Counties a great deal is done by the Air Corps and their Choppers have standard Defence Force makings and insignia.

For the rest of Ireland (6 Counties) forget any concession to the language on PSNI machines despites the Good Friday Agreement and the ECRML it seems the a ‘flying bill-board’ for the Irish language is just to much for Martin and Gerry’s Unionist chums in the Assembly to countenance.

In Britain Police and Air Ambulance helicopters in Wales have sported a variety of signage types with HEDDLU alternating with Police on the two sides of some machines or being displayed jointly on some older types (i.e. HEDDLU POLICE).

The situation may change as the National Police Air Service (NPAS) which operates police choppers throughout England and Wales rationalises its service but for now HEDDLU will be flying high for sometime. Here’s a link to a couple of stories about the closures and the pics gives a good indication of the variations of bilingual signage on the choppers:



Similarly with Welsh Air Ambulance Services AMBIWLANS AWYR CYMRU is displayed on machines in an artistic swirl down the rear of the cabin.

HM Coastguard on the other hand despite having its S-92 helicopter fleet based throughout the UK with many sited in the Celtic Countries adopt an English only strategy. This seem s strange given, as we point out above, although NPAS a centralised organisation operate police choppers in England and Wales they seem to have had no difficulty accommodating the words HEDDLU for some of their fleet based in Wales.

Does it matter? Well probably not! If you need the Police an Air Ambulance or the Coastguard you’re probably unlikely to have minority language concerns at the front of your thoughts!

However I suppose it does give a slight pointer about what level of HIGH (sorry couldn’t miss a good pun) regard officialdom in various critical States agencies have for the Celtic languages.


Issued by the Celtic News



The Celtic League was established in 1961and has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues


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