Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Letter From A Cornishman

A Alan Jones ker

I am a Penryn born Cornishman from the United Kingdom and a growing Cornish and Breton speaker. I have been raised by a family and community that has endowed me with what can be best described as a Cornish national identity, another way to look at it would be of Cornish ethnicity. Like many Cornish folk I left my home to find work. I now live in Paris and I am involved with a number of different organisations that work for the rights of national and linguistic minorities.

The Cornish are a Celtic ethnic group and nation of the southwest of Great Britain. We have our own lesser used Celtic language (Cornish), sports, festivals, cuisine, music, dance, history and identity. Cornwall also has a distinct constitutional history as a Duchy with an autonomous Stannary Parliament. This Celtic Cornish identity was recognised and described in the April 2006 edition of National Geographic.

The results from the 2001 UK population census show over 37,000 people hold a Cornish identity instead of English or British. On this census, to claim to be Cornish, you had to deny being British, by crossing out the British option and then write Cornish in the others box. Additionally the decision to collect information on Cornish identity was extremely badly publicised.

How many more would have described themselves as Cornish if they did not have to deny being British or if there had been a Cornish tick box? How many people knew that it was an option? How many ticked British but feel themselves to be Cornish British?

Cornwall Council's Feb 2003 MORI Poll showed 55% in favour of a democratically-elected, fully-devolved regional assembly for Cornwall, (this was an increase from 46% in favour in a 2002 poll). The Cornish Assembly petition was signed by 50,000 people, which is the largest expression of popular support for devolved power in the whole of the United Kingdom and possibly Europe.

A recommendation by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on the 'concept of nation' has been backed by the European Parliament regional and minority language Intergroup. The PACE recommendation stated that, "Everyone should be free to define themselves as a member of a cultural 'nation', irrespective of their citizenship". In response, the Intergroup commented that "Council of Europe member states should avoid defining themselves in exclusively ethnic terms, and should do their utmost to help their minorities, a source of enrichment, to flourish". Today, both the French and the British Governments still deny people from some of the Celtic countries to legally describe themselves in terms of their Celtic national identities in all areas of life. Intergroup leader Dr Csaba Tabajdi, Member of the European Parliament, said that, this recommendation is of utter importance, representing a paradigm change in the protection of minorities in Europe. It contains a new, elaborate concept of nation. The recommendation states that: The term 'nation' is deeply rooted in peoples, culture and history and incorporates fundamental elements of their identity. It is also closely linked to political ideologies, which have exploited it and adulterated its original meaning.

Furthermore, in view of the diversity of languages spoken in European countries, a concept such as nation is quite simply not translatable in many countries where, at best, only rough translations are to be found in certain national languages.

The UK government has so far failed to recognise the Cornish people under the Council of Europe's framework convention for the protection of national minorities.

The UK government has failed to give the people of Cornwall the democratic referendum on greater autonomy and a devolved assembly that they have shown a demand for.

In fact the UK government has refused to release information on its decision making process concerning the above two issues even when requested under the freedom of information act.

I would like to know your opinion on the subject of national and linguistic minorities in the UK. I would also be interested to know if you have any contact with civil and human rights organisations that work with national minorities such as the Celtic League, Federal Union of European Nationalities, Cymuned (the Welsh language and community pressure group), Eurolang or Eurominority.

Further information on the Cornish question can be found on the website of the Cornish Stannary Parliament (CSP): Please note the CSP website now carries a link to your website.

This includes details of the case they have logged with the European Court of Human Rights that will examine the unwritten constitution and the absence of a statutory guarantee of equality before the law in English law:

I look forward to your response and please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like any further information on issues raised above.

Yours faithfully

Philip Hosking

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