Saturday, January 5, 2013

New Year Review by Celtic League



News from Celtic League

Following some of the major changes and announcements that were made
during 2011 affecting the Celtic countries, the last year has been
relatively quieter generally, with the exception of Alba/Scotland,
where the referendum on independence has been the focus of national
and international media attention for significant periods of the year.

The General Secretary (GS) outlines below some of the more significant
developments that have taken place in the Celtic countries over the
last year, including those that have relevance to Celtic League
campaigns. In addition, the GS discusses these developments in
relation to the impact that they may have within the Celtic countries
over the forthcoming year.

"In Alba the Edinburgh Agreement was signed on 15th October 2012,
between First Minister Salmond and Prime Minister Cameron, setting out
the terms of the referendum, which will be held no later than 31st
December 2014. Under the Agreement, it was decided that there would be
one question on the ballot paper and 16 and 17 year olds would have
the opportunity to exercise their right to vote. Importantly the
Agreement has given the Scottish parliament responsibility for the
referendum. In the May 2012 local elections in Alba both the SNP and
Labour Party claimed victory, while the Liberal Democrat vote
collapsed. Support for independence is growing, but predictions are
that support currently falls short. Another interesting development in
2012 was the announcement that six pieces of the Lewis Chessmen will
be repatriated to Scotland on permanent loan to the Museum and Archive
at Lews Castle when it opens in 2014. The Scottish referendum on
independence campaign remains one of the most exciting future events
for all of the Celtic countries, even if the referendum is in 2014,
because of the impact that Scottish independence could potentially
have for each nation. The build up to the referendum will intensify
over the next year with some commentators saying that by the time the
referendum vote arrives people will be bored to death of it (but I
think not!). The Yes campaign has printed over one million leaflets,
which are being delivered to homes in Alba at an incredible rate. The
campaign will continue with the second march and rally for
independence taking place in Edinburgh on 21st September 2013 (with
the first rally held in September 2012), which the League will be
attending. Critics of the Gaelic language in Scotland, will no doubt
continue their call for funding to be reduced to language
organisations, especially as the media draw attention to the fact that
there is a severe lack of qualified teachers and especially head
teachers who can work through the language (although I would have
thought that this situation would have had the opposite effect!).

Elections in Breizh on 10th and 17th June 2012 for the French
legislative elections, resulted in the UDB announcing that they had
their first Breton nationalist representatives elected to the French
Parliament in the form of Paul Molac, who was elected as a Deputy
(Member of Parliament) in Brittany on a joint Socialist, Green and UDB
list. Jean Luc Bleunven was also elected - a Breton speaker and a
parent of children attending a Diwan Breton language school - who some
Breton nationalists hope will do something favorable for the language
as an incumbent. The French presidential elections preceded the
legislative elections in April 2012 and May 2012, where F. Hollande
was elected, who had stated twice during his campaign trail that he
was supportive of the French ratification of the European Charter for
Regional and/or Minority Languages. To date though nothing much has
happened and Breton nationalists need to lobby hard once again to
persuade the French President to deliver on his promises. Wirth the
addition of Breton ‘nationalists’ in the French legislative assembly,
who have a tenuous allegiance to the French Socialists, there is an
increased possibility that this time the French Government could take
the hugely significant step in recognising the linguistic rights of
the Breton people.

Political controversy in Cymru has been rather low key, in comparison
with 2011, but what the year has shown is that the Welsh government’s
commitment to the Welsh language, like their five year ‘A Living
Language: a language for living’ strategy, is not ambitious enough for
the effective protection and promotion of the language. The first
figures released from the 2011 Census in December 2012 show that the
number of Welsh speakers is falling (despite a previous gain as shown
in the 2001 census results), in what the Welsh Language Commissioner
described as a ‘shock’. The fall has prompted the Welsh language
campaign group Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg to launch a manifesto in an
attempt to combat what they describe as a Welsh language crisis. The
organisation’ s ‘Maniffesto Byw’ (or ‘Living Manifesto’) is an attempt
to combat this disappointing reversal and a quadrupling of funding for
the promotion and protection of the language is being demanded.

It was announced earlier in the year that the HD version S4C will be
removed from Free View from 1st December 2012, as the S4C channel cuts
take effect. Jamie Bevan - the Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg campaigner
and Welsh Teacher – was sentenced to a month in jail for refusing to
pay his fines for breaking into the offices of a Conservative MP in
protest over the S4C cuts, calling his sentence ‘a privilege’. Other
news included some Welsh football players causing a commotion by
joining in with the controversial GB Football team in the Olympics and
then refusing to sing the English national anthem. Plaid Cymru did not
seen gains either, with the May 2012 local elections seeing the Labour
Party brushing off Plaid’s political challenge. The local elections in
2012 demonstrate the long hard haul that the new Plaid leader Leanne
Wood should be preparing herself for in time for the 2015 general
elections, especially in view of her announcement that in that
election she will be standing for a hotly contested constituency seat,
gambling her current regional safe seat in the Welsh Senedd/Assembly.
Apart from the local election in Ynys Mon/Anglesey Council, which was
delayed in 2012 until 2013, no other elections are planned for this
year in Cymru.

In Éire, the country is still being squeezed by taxes in an attempt
for the government to fully pay back their bail out loans in a way
that the other EU members who have also received bailouts – Portugal,
Spain and Greece – are not. The austerity measures have affected the
financial provision to large sections of the economy, with cuts in
public spending and the Irish language, including `far-reaching
implications’ for Irish-medium education. The League’s Convener has
stated that there is great anger on the austerity being imposed on
vulnerable sectors of society to pay senior bondholders and there have
been many calls to repudiate these and to separate bank debt from
sovereign debt. The Council of Europe has called on the Stormont
Assembly to implement Irish language legislation in the latest in a
series of international judgments that have recommended that the Irish
language is protected and promoted in the north of Ireland. There is
some optimism among campaigners over the next year that the Stormont
Assembly will introduce some form of Irish language legislation that
will help protect and promote the language. In 2013 there is the
‘global Irish homecoming’, which is hoping to attract an extra 400 000
visitors from around the world to take part in a year long programme
of events and cultural activities in what is being billed as the
country’s biggest-ever tourist initiative; an opportunity for the
Irish Branch to pick up a few more members perhaps.

In Kernow there have been a number of interesting low level
developments. Mebyon Kernow has picked up three more councillors and
their numbers now stand at 6 Cornwall councillors, with the hope that
they will get a few more elected in the elections in May 2013,
provided they can find the candidates. A new Council Leader – Jim
Currie – was appointed to replace Alec Robertson following his swift
departure after a vote of no confidence in his leadership in October.
It is hoped that the new Lys Kernow/Cornwall Council Leader, who is no
proponent of the Cornish language, will not jeopardise the progress
that the language has been making over the last few years. A
commission to discuss the progress and development of the Standard
Written Form of the Cornish language over the last five years will
meet in 2013. Another significant development has been the approval of
a library to be built in Redruth to accommodate the record and
manuscripts that are currently being held at Lys Kernow and the books
and documents held in Kresenn Kernow, Redruth. Match funding is still
needed to bring the project to fruition, but it is hoped that in 2013
the money will be secured. The library is already being described as a
Cornish national library and archive centre. Another success was the
overturning of the so called ‘pasty tax’, which came about soon after
a public demonstration and rally in Falmouth that attracted 600

In Mannin the Manx language primary school Bunscoill Ghaelgagh
celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2012, but there is still a shortage
of qualified Manx language teachers on the Island. However, childcare
and education practitioners began intensive Manx language classes at
Braddon School last year, with the aim of providing more Manx language
teachers for the future. Public funding cuts have plagued Mannin in an
attempt to save £35 million over the next year, with the announcement
that child benefit is likely to be axed for higher earners from 2014.
Ed Milliband, the UK Labour Party leader caused some controversy
earlier in the year by demanding that the UK government force the Manx
government to tell them who is avoiding paying tax by ‘hiding’ money
on the Island. To date the Manx government has not cooperated with the
UK government in such requests. Whether the people of Mannin will be
influenced by the growing intensity of debate about the independence
referendum in Alba remains to be seen, but the question of
independence for Mannin is more likely to have its roots in attempts
at fiscal interference by the UK, rather than it stemming from any
major political will from the Manx on the Island. It is likely that
the beginnings of criminal justice reform will go ahead over the next
year, to bring the system "into the 21st century" .

Internationally, with Catalunya’s parliament deciding to hold a
referendum on independence in 2014, the Basque people voting
overwhelmingly for two different Basque nationalist parties into their
regional government and far outstripping the Spanish socialists and
conservatives and with Belgium nationalists gaining an even greater
lead in their municipal elections, it seems as though we are living in
an European political climate where self-determination is going to

Bloavezh Mat deoc’h-c’hwi Holl!

Bliadhna Math Ùr!

Blein Vie Noa!

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!

Bledhen Nowyth Da!"
For comment or clarification on this news item in the first instance contact:

Rhisiart Tal-e-bot,
General Secretary,
Celtic League
Tel: 0044 (0)1209 319912
M: 0044 (0)7787318666
gensec@celticleague .net

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