Mannin (the Isle of Man) claims over 1,000 years of self- government, but history shows that the independence has been barely visible at times. The post-war governments have concentrated on creating an English tax anomaly based on English / British immigration with the result that the native Manx are now severely minoritised both numerically and economically.
The Isle of Man is notionally self-governing and is neither part of the United Kingdom nor of the European Union. For many years Mannin has been part of the Commonwealth of Nations, however, Crown Dependencies are not sovereign states, and the British Government is responsible for representing them internationally. Crown Dependencies are not, therefore, members of the Commonwealth in their own right, they are ‘associate’ members, and decisions, we are told, will be made by the UK in consultation with the ‘associated’ nations.
Uniquely, then, it is the only National Celtic territory that is ‘independent’, although the independent status is compromised by the British Crown as head of state, with the title Lord of Mann and is represented by a Lieutenant Governor. The United Kingdom is also responsible for the island’s military defence.
Wrongly the British Crown is thought to have the same status in Mann, however, this is incorrect as the title is simply Lord of Mann and it has no relationship to historical longevity, but simply came about via a property transfer between the earlier Lordship of Mann and the English Monarchy.
Speaker of the House of Keys and champion of the Island’s campaigns for constitutional reform to increase independence for the Island.
An attempt was made to form Manninee Dooie in 1947, an organisation of patriots. Indeed, the organisation’s founders were certainly ‘fundamentalist nationalists’ prepared to pull their weight in any task which may be undertaken no matter how heavy, to campaign for Manx Freedom.
Twelve people attended a meeting and formed the new society whose aims were threefold:
Concluding with the rallying call. ‘Become a Manninagh Dooie and help us preserve our birth right as Manx Gaels!’
Manninee Dooie was short-lived and seems to have sunk without a trace.
Despite his shaky start with Mec Vannin and being targeted by Fo Halloo ((Manx “Underground”) for his involvement in The New Resident Policy
Kerruish later became a campaigner for greater Manx self-determination. He was the longest-serving Presiding Officer in the Commonwealth and the first President of Tynwald.
Mec Vannin was formed in 1962, as an informal group, consisting of Manx speakers and Republicans. The Manx organisation, Mec Vannin, was later set up in 1964, campaigning to change the government’s economic strategy, which it believed would see a decline in the number of the ‘native’ Manx population and for the need to break away from the Crown. Mec Vannin also concentrated on furthering the Manx language. Since the 1980s, Mec Vannin officially became a Republican Party.
The Celtic League Mannin branch works extremely closely with. Mec Vannin, campaigning vigorously for an end to the link with the Crown. The Celtic League Mannin Branch complements this goal. Both Mec Vannin and the Celtic League Mannin branch have concentrated over the past four decades to abolish the role of the Lord of Man as the representative on the Island (the Lt. Governor). This was broadly successful; he has been stripped of his power to interfere politically and no longer presides over the Legislative Council nor the Tynwald Court. Nevertheless, the malign influence of the Crown remains in the background.
In the Special Issue of Carn 180 -181, 2021, pg. 39, Bernard Moffatt, Director of information, and Chairman of the Mannin Branch, discusses the situation concerning Manx autonomy today.
“The situation in the Isle of Man politically has evolved over the last 100 years with the Isle of Man parliament, Tynwald, and the government drawn from it, having more power than at any time since the island fell under the dark cloud of Westminster following the Act of Revetment (1765).
“When the Celtic League was founded, there was a chance that of all the Celtic League countries, most likely to follow the example of the Twenty-Six Counties of Ireland and go it alone, Mannin might be the first. There were decades of constitutional progress, but now the pendulum has started to swing the other way.”
He concludes that whilst some earlier governments faced up to Westminster, recent governments have gone cap in hand to Whitehall. Depressingly, but in reality, he argues that the opportunity to achieve full independence has been lost.
The Celtic League was founded in 1961 at the Welsh National Eisteddfod in Rhosllanerchrugog, North Wales. The following year in Cardiff representatives from all six Celtic countries were present. Mr. Jolly, representing Mannin, would endeavour to find a Manx Secretary. Several notable figures from the Isle of Man took on the role, the longest serving of which was Jack Irving, Manx speaker and member of Mec Vannin. However, during the first few years, there was no Mannin Branch set up.
The first Mannin Branch of the Celtic League was founded by Patricia Bridson in 1974 following an appeal from the then General Secretary, Alan Heussaff. A committee of five met together to plan a strategy to create an awareness of the Celtic League in Mann that would bring us closer to the other Celtic nations and our shared histories.
• This was achieved by selling Carn magazine at Manx events – music sessions, and meetings of like-minded groups., and at all Inter-Celtic gatherings such as Yn Chruinnaght, Celtic Congress, etc.
• Selling Carn in several book shops. This was successful as a membership base of some 70 members was established.
In 1975, the Mannin Branch hosted its first Celtic League AGM at the
Viking Long House in Peel. A local newspaper ran an article entitled ‘Manx Militants Shake a Leg’. The article expressed concern that the Manx Branch would come into contact with Irish nationalists. Without naming the threat one could conclude that it was the IRA the newspaper was referring to. The meeting opened with an introduction to Mann, with speakers David Keggin (politics) and Bernard Caine (language). Then the AGM got down to Celtic League business. An Inter-Celtic night of music was arranged for Saturday evening. Celtic League members, Colin and Cristl Jerry brought together several Manx musicians. Since the early 1970s, the Jerrys had ensured that Manx music sessions were held every week at The Central Hotel and later in The Whitehouse. They also voluntarily facilitated music nights arranged by MecVannin. The sessions also became the meeting point for nationalist enthusiasts to meet and discuss political/language matters. For some twenty years Colin and Cristl organised trips to the Lorient Festival in Brittany (Festival Interceltique de Lorient).
Delegates visited Cregneash Village and also participated in a Manx language service in Marown organised by Committee member, Audrey Ainsworth.
Following the AGM links with the Irish Branch were established and a group of Irish Branch members travelled to the island shortly after for a brief period. They were taken around the island to some of the main tourist attractions and enjoyed a night of Manx music. Mannin Branch members took the opportunity of the IoM Steam Packet’s Day trips many times, traveling to Dublin to enjoy music sessions in Club an Conradh, Harcourt Street, Dublin.
In 1979 Bernard Moffatt became Mannin Branch Secretary and within a few years the membership increased to well over a hundred, and the Celtic League became known internationally. Currently, the Celtic League website carries many of his news items and Mannin’s Facebook is highly successful with 23,104 followers, including some Members of the House of Keys. In addition, Bernard built up links with MPs, TDs, and other bodies in the international arena and had contact with many sympathetic reporters in the media. At the Celtic League 1998 AGM in Dublin, the Military Monitoring Campaign ended. However, Bernard has continued to monitor military activity worldwide.
This had a knock-on effect on the Celtic countries. For example, Irish Language radio stations, Raidió na Gaeltachta (RnaG) and Raidió na Life contacted the Éire branch relating to statements released on behalf of the Celtic League. The Celtic League Chairman, Cathal Ó Luain, was interviewed on many occasions.
Bernard had built up a comprehensive dossier about submarine activities in the Celtic Sea. When the Dáil began to look into this matter, it approached the Celtic League for the dossier for reference, which was duly handed in by the Éire Branch.
Branch members have undertaken roles on the General Council, Bernard Moffatt has occupied the positions of Assistant General Secretary, General Secretary, and Director of Information. Mark Kermode was for many years Assistant General Secretary and in this role attended many conferences overseas on behalf of the League, not least the conferences which led up to the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Linguistic Rights. Pat Bridson held the post of Editor of Carn Quarterly for twenty-eight years and is currently Treasurer of the Celtic League.
The branch holds regular monthly meetings and an annual AGM. It sends delegates to Inter-Celtic AGMs and has hosted several of these (in rotation) over the years
The current Branch Officers are:
Convenor: Bernard Moffatt
Secretary: Allen Moore
Treasurer: Cristl Jerry (also formerly a Branch Secretary)
Annual Illiam Dhone Commemoration – held in conjunction with Mec Vannin, (Successful).
Campaign against the extension of the NATO Jurby Sea Bombing Range, (successful).
Campaign to have the Calf of Man returned to Manx ownership from the UK National Trust – in conjunction with the London branch, (Successful).
Campaign over decades on various aspects of the Manx Language, (ongoing)
Campaign against the Island’s offshore status and the use of the Isle of Man for arms trading. (Ongoing)
Campaign for Commemoration of National Figures, (ongoing)
Campaign for extension of the territorial sea – and seabed, (ongoing).
The Branch currently focuses on issues surrounding poverty, and the struggle for Manx people to buy affordable housing,
The Branch has worked with the Climate Coalition for some years.
Celtic League calls on the Manx government to prohibit Saudi pilots from training at Ronaldsway Airport.
Below are a number of the Mannin Campaigns with Background
The callous murder of a twelve-year-old girl by the British Army in South Armagh was to lead to one of the longest-running and most successful campaigns the Celtic League has ever undertaken.
Majella O’Hare was walking with friends near her local chapel at Whitecross in South Armagh. Initially, military sources blamed the IRA, but eventually, it was admitted that she had been killed by a burst of fire “accidentally” discharged by a British army patrol, she and her friends had just walked by. As recently as July 2020 Amnesty International called for a further inquiry into her death,” Manx nationalists in Mec Vannin and members of the Mannin Branch of the Celtic League had watched developments in the North of Ireland, particularly concerning the use made of the Isle of Man as an Army base to support operations in the six counties in the north of Ireland. However, no campaign of opposition had been started, The Majella O’Hare killing altered all this, and the nationalist grouping, the AMA (Anti Militarist Alliance), was set up in September 1976 (at this time it was not part of the Celtic League)
It first campaigned against Army recruitment and slogans Armee Magh (Manx for Army Out) were painted on the wall of Jurby Army Camp in the north of the island. and pledged to campaign until all bases had been removed from the Isle of Man.
Under the leadership of Bernard Moffatt, the Celtic League AMA, the group included Dee Moffatt, Pat Bridson, Cristl Jerry, and Lynda Williams (Ramsay).
The AMA produced the news pamphlet the AMA News (which later became the AMA and Celtic League News) Copies of all issues related to AMA are lodged in the Manx Museum (Thie Tashtee Vannin) Link: https://manxnationalheritage.im/
It later campaigned against the NATO sea bombing range this campaign started in late 1978. The first serious media attention was from BBC TV (Northwest) over the AMA’s protests.
In August 1982, the Mannin branch, having enjoyed some local success with the campaign, put forward the motion at the Celtic League Annual Meeting, held in Dublin in 1982, 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.
In 1963 several nationalists gathered at Hango Hill to lay a wreath to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the death by execution of Manx martyr, Illiam Dhone. This was a one- off event.
A small group of Mec Vannin/Celtic League members decided to celebrate the start of 1979 by paying tribute to Manx Patriot, Illiam Dhone, no more than a dozen people attended. Several apologies came in from people who had to work, which prompted the call for the 2nd January to become a Public Holiday.
To mark the 40th Anniversary of the Annual Commemoration Bernard Moffatt refers back to the 1979 event.
The evolvement of the Annual Illiam Dhone ceremony can be connected directly to the announcement, in 1977, by the government, stating that ‘Tynwald is of Norse origin and over 1,000 years old, and is thus the oldest parliament in the world with an unbroken existence.’ This statement in itself angered nationalists across the island. More so, as the timetable of the events was revealed, which did not include any mention of any Celtic events being planned.
A lot of pressure was put on the government to recognise our Celtic heritage by Mec Vannin and the Celtic League. Several academics also successfully opposed Tynwald’s claim, presenting clear and convincing evidence that the Celts held similar ceremonies predating the Viking invasion. Mec Vannin produced a booklet of academic research in 1978 (no longer available) and the Celtic League’s quarterly magazine, Carn, also carried many articles against the government’s statement and its actions.
Link: Carn 26 Summer 1979.pdf (pg. 18-19)
Also: Tynwald: a Manx cult-site and institution of pre-Scandinavian origin? Author Dr. George Broderick https://web.archive.org/web/20130221090120/http://dbweb.liv.ac.uk/manxstudies/sm/articles/gbct.htm
This pressure led the Millennium Committee to organise a small number of Celtic events:
Since 1979, Manx nationalists have gathered at Hango Hill on the 2nd January to salute the Manx martyr, Illiam Dhone, the man who was the first to establish the Isle of Man’s independence. The ceremony is organised by the Mannin Branch of the Celtic League and Mec Vannin and is conducted in both English and Manx.
It has been held annually even during the Covid period, adhering to the restrictions, the ceremony went ahead with one member from each organisation in attendance. In later years, there was some TV coverage of the ceremony in the late eighties and nineties, for Border TV, BBC NW, and Channel 5 News (1999). Paul Moulton started coverage of the ceremony in the 2000s and has covered it for the past fifteen years, first for MTTV and then IOM TV a fair bit of his material is online.
Nationalists now happily gather at Hango Hill to harangue the government of the day as they have for over 40 years– so the Millennium spin-off has been positive.
The Calf of Man Manx: Yn Cholloo is a small island and bird sanctuary off the southwest coast of Mann that was gifted to the “National Trust” in 1939. But this was not the Manx National Trust, it was the English National Trust.
When a Manx National Trust was eventually established in 1951 nothing was done to rectify the anomaly, so the Calf continued to be owned by the English.
The Celtic League in the early 1980s was aware of this and vowed to recover the territory for the Manx people and a resolution to launch a campaign was adopted by the Mannin Branch in 1984.
However, the greatest impetus to our campaign came from an unlikely quarter when the London branch (now called the England branch) of the Celtic League decided to swing into action.
Unannounced and uncoordinated by Mannin Branch they turned up outside the London HQ of the English National Trust with the paraphernalia of demonstrators such as a loud hailer, leaflets, and the memorable see below.
Faced with this unexpected manifestation of a demonstration “about a faraway country of which they knew little” the Trust did the archetypal British thing and invited the protest leaders Séamas Ó Coileáin and Pádraig Ó Conchúir in “for a cup of tea”!
Calf of Mann was returned to the Manx Nation by the National Trust (Mannin branch and London branch) in the 1980s for a nominal £1 in 1986.
In his book The Celtic Dawn: a History of Pan-Celticicism the author and historian Peter Beresford Ellis records the events as follows (see related link below):
“The League has had some successes with several of its political campaigns… However, the League was instrumental in persuading the English National Trust to hand over the island bird sanctuary known as the Calf of Man to the Manx National Trust in 1986. The English National Trust had owned the small island off the south coast of Man for fifty years, despite the constitutional position of the Isle of Man and the fact that a Manx National Trust had come into being in 1951. The League began demonstrating outside the London National Trust Offices and took part in talks with the Trust, which immediately persuaded them to hand over the ownership of the island to their Manx counterparts.
“Rather than show gratitude to the Celtic League, the Manx National Trust was highly embarrassed by the fact that since 1951 they had done nothing to urge the return of the Calf of Man from the English National Trust. They blamed the League for
‘interference’ and refused to invite representatives of the League to the ‘handover’ ceremony. This only provoked more publicity for the League and showed the Manx National Trust in a bad light.”
The sale was, after our campaign on the issue, definitely a ‘win’!
The Celtic Dawn by Peter Beresford Ellis (Page 131) published by Constable ISBN 0 09 4727708
Carn 60 Winter 1987_88.pdf (celticleague.net) Séamus Ó Coileáin and Pádraig Ó Conchúir – enjoying their day out on the Calf on the 1st anniversary of the Calf’s return.
The Mannin Branch campaign for the return of the Chronicles started in the mid-1980s, writing to the British National Library and the Manx Government but received no positive response from either. Bernard Moffatt picketed the British Library in the early 1990s when they were running an ‘Adopt a Book’ campaign saying that Mann wanted to ‘adopt the Chronicles’. The British Library refused on the ground that it was part of ‘The Cotton Papers’ collection that was gifted to them. As far as we can ascertain the MNH (Manx National Heritage) did not enter into any negotiations for the permanent handover of Chronicles, although periodically MHKs and MLCs have raised the issue.
Of major concern to the Mannin Branch was the continued retention by our ‘neighbours’ in London of the Chronicles, secreted away in the British Library, which is of little value or relevance to English history but of huge value to our own.
“The Chronicles are the longest surviving document written on the Isle of Man. As such, they have great significance here, much more so than languishing in a cupboard in the British Library in England. The British Establishment thinks that we in the colonies are not up to looking after such an important old document…
“While the Chronicles might be deemed safe in the British Museum, and we only have their word that they have not been misplaced… – they can be housed securely in the Manx Museum.
“The Chronicles and the period of our history that they cover are part of what made us a nation. The institution Tynwald is part of the Norse legacy of the Isle of Man, and so are the Chronicles.”
In 1997, the Manx Museum invited the President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, to open the new multi-million pound “House of Mannanan” heritage centre in the Isle of Man. Pride of Place in the exhibits will be the medieval Latin text, “The Chronicles of the Kings of Mann and the Isles”. This was somewhat like showing the President of Éire the Manx equivalent of the Book of Kells. Securing its “loan” from the British Library leaves the unresolved issue of the Chronicles. The loan by the British Library is however just that – a loan, in this instance it was for four months. There seems little doubt that the issue of the Chronicles and their ownership will surface again.
The Manx government should initiate serious discussions to resolve matters. In the long term if the issue remains in contention all Manx interest groups should work to ensure their permanent return. Nationalists will continue to campaign for the circumstances surrounding its “theft” by the English to be resolved.
Link: MTTV archive: Chronicles of Mann return 9.11.2012
“Following a query from the Celtic League Mannin Branch to the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the MoD confirmed that Ronaldsway is one of many ‘local airfields’ used by personnel at the RAF Valley airbase on Anglesey in Wales. The MoD stated that international trainee pilots use the civilian airfields to practice ‘visual approaches and departures’ (non-touchdown) with their British colleagues.” Large numbers of personnel from the Saudi Arabian military have been trained at RAF Valley. Ronaldsway Airport is not provided with information on where the air force pilots are from when training flights are arranged with RAF Valley.
Former Chief Minister, Howard Quayle, replied to a letter from the Mannin Branch claiming that the Manx Government does not have the power to stop Saudi pilots from being trained here. He also said: “As a British Crown Dependency, the UK is constitutionally responsible for the Island’s defence and international relations. The relationship with Saudi Arabia in respect of defence and other matters is, therefore, a matter for the UK Government”. The Chief Minister remarked that ‘the situation in Yemen is ‘very sad’, and the government has donated more than £270,000 to charities responding to the crisis.’
Members of the international community have condemned the Gulf State for targeting civilians during the campaign, including children and aid workers, whilst some have accused the country of committing war crimes. Denying Saudi pilots, the use of Ronaldsway airport will not stop the war, but it would send a symbolic message to the international community that the Isle of Man will not accept breaches in international law” The UN describes the current situation in Yemen as the ‘world’s worst humanitarian crisis and others clearly condemn it as genocide.
The Mannin Branch submitted the following resolution at the Celtic League AGM in 2019. This AGM
• Calls upon the other branches of the Celtic League to assist and support the current campaign by the Celtic League Mannin branch in its opposition to the training of pilots of the Royal Saudi Air Force at bases in North Wales and their use of Ronaldsway Civil Airport in the Isle of Man. (passed unanimously.)
As far as defence goes the UK insists it is not at war with Yemen. Although it supplies weapons and aid to the Saudis, no UK troops are involved directly in Yemen, we are told! Therefore, this situation cannot be linked to matters of ‘defence’ which the UK jealously guards and implements all decisions for the Crown dependencies.