Archive for the ‘civil rights’ Category
The Government has released the results of its deliberative assessment of our constitutional future. The document can be found here (pdf): People and power: shaping democracy, rights and responsibilities.
In modernising such an archaic democracy as the UK it is good that the government consults the public on what should be their rights and responsibilities. Citizens have rights and states have responsibilities. I would argue that one key responsibility of any state is to properly accommodate and ensure the well-being of its own internal national minorities.
Now the above document does treat the Scottish, Welsh, Irish and, to a lesser degree, English identities, but what mention is there of the Cornish? Less than none is the jaw dropping answer. I’ll explain. In the text we are treated to some babble about Geordie and ‘Arsenal fan’ collective identities yet zero on the Cornish. It’s perfectly acceptable and correct, in my view, to discuss the regional identities of England -Yorkshireman, Geordie, Cumbrian etc-, but to do so without a mention of the Cornish seems almost deliberate.
Lets just remember that 37% of Cornish school children prefer Cornish rather than English or British when describing their identity (see latest PLASC Cornish schools ethnic monitoring data). Cornwall has its own recognised lesser used brythonic language – Cornish. Both the Council of Europe and the old Commission for Racial Equality suggested that the Cornish could be recognised under the framework convention for the protection of national minorities (something Labour refuses to do). The Cornish have their own code for national identity (06) for the 2011 UK census (but no tick box as both Tory and Labour MPs voted against).
Can any of the English regional identities -(Geordie!)- say the same? Clearly the answer is -no- yet football fans and Geordies get a mention whilst the Cornish get forgotten.
Did the government simply overlook the Cornish when considering identity questions in the UK? I find that hard to believe, and I know at least one Cornishman contributed to their consultation, so why are we ignored?
Cornish – the inconvenient identity for the state?
The What Price Modern Liberty debate organised in Truro on the 23rd of January produced a sell-out event.
We were taking part in What Price Liberty? at Truro and Penwith College in Cornwall, which was among the most impressive day-long discussions that I’ve attended. The sell-out confirmed another conviction of mine – that there’s a great appetite for live events and intelligent public discussion, which is not being satisfied in the country.
Which country? England, UK or Cornwall which Mr Porter must know has its very own constitutional arrangements.
The popularity of this event is reassuring and lets hope it’s the first of many that will occur across our little country and around the rest of the UK. As successful as it was I can’t help feeling it could have been much better and far more inclusive of actual grass roots Cornish human rights and civil liberties campaigners.
Some of my, perhaps too acidic, comments left on the OurKingdom site are as follows.
A ‘great sucess’? That remains to be seen and is quite relative to ones point of view. For middle class down shifters from Padstein perhaps.
Did they address any of Cornwall’s constitutional conundrums that allow the Duchy to fiddle in public affairs without concern?
Did they mention the unacceptable manner in which the Duchy can escape the Freedom of Information Act?
Did they discuss the governments totally unreasonable refusal to recognise the Cornish as a national minority under the Council of Europe’s framework convention for the protection of national minorities? A status that would clearly empower the Cornish and thus threaten the current feudal arrangement between the Duchy and UK government.
A big ‘NO’ to all of the above.
Blow-ins from up the line who love nothing better than telling the Cornish what they need to do.
Guy Aitchison wrote:
So, your basic criticism of this event is that it didn’t manage to organise the Cornish proletariat into overthrowing their English oppressors.
Sorry you see it like that Guy and I’m equally as sorry that you don’t think the working class Cornish and their opinions matter.
Is it that you really think that groups such as the Stannary Parliament and Celtic League, who have been working on human rights issues for decades now, really have nothing to say and no place at such a conference?
My comments have nothing to do with the Cornish proletariat overthrowing the English oppressor. My point is simply that the Cornish were, without doubt, poorly represented at this conference as were Cornish human rights organisations.
Let me turn the issue around Guy. If you organised such a conference in a territory that has a very specific constitutional history, a strong identity and a very noticeable social fracture between the rich coast and poor interior what would you do?
Would you totally blank local grass roots human rights organisations and campaigners? Would you organise the event in the least local most middle class part of the territory?
“Everyone says it was an interesting event” Was everyone there? Sadly no.
Shortly after the conference and in response to a short e-mail Oliver Bains of Groundswell contacted me with the following wise comments:
Thanks Philip.. not sure whether you were there. Interesting comments.. all else aside I did try to give an opportunity for Cornish delegates to get stuck in with the following..
‘I have no claim to Cornishness myself although my antecedent Walter Borlase, vicar of Madron, did raise an army of 250 men in Penzance to keep out John Wesley. Well done him I say, fighting for lost causes is a characteristic I recognise instantly.
‘In those days the great creative spirits were fostered by the most liberal society in the world. Our own Cornish inventors were amongst them. The brilliant portrayal in Nick Darke’s play Laughing Gas, completed so admirably by Carl Grose – of Humphrey Davy, giving his first lecture at the Royal Society at the age of 22, friend of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, James Watt and the seditious Joseph Priestley, is a demonstration of how we are enriched by those whose freedom allowed free rein to their inventiveness and creativity – a true example of John Stuart Mill’s ‘collision of ideas and intellect’. Remember that many of these people were from here, from Cornwall. This is not an abstract discussion we are having.
‘And for many Cornish people a sense, and for some a reality, of oppression has existed down through the centuries, a sense of oppression under the English yoke. It reminds me that while Cornish is a minority group in the UK, so many migrants, from France, the Iberian peninsula, travellers from other parts of the kingdom, and now the EU and outside the EU, are minorities within Cornwall. We must be careful that in asserting our freedoms we also protect the freedoms of others.’
Unfortunately no-one did!
Intelligent and and well placed comments indeed, but perhaps the lack of response was due to the lack of Cornish participants and certainly due to the total lack of any input from Cornish human rights campaigners. If another event of this nature is planned then my advise, for what it’s worth, is cast your nets widely. “Remember that many of these people were from here, from Cornwall”, exactly and you don’t need to go further afield to find some very well informed individuals with much to say about constitution and rights.
To finish I’ll just take this opportunity to plug another up-and-coming talk in Kernow. John Kirkhope, Public Notary and Solicitor, will be presenting his research on the –Laws of Cornwall– in Falmouth at 2pm this Saturday the 30th of January.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has responded to the Celtic League’s complaint of anti-Cornish abuse in the UK media.
The letter is included below.
No promises and the wording of the response can be left open to interpretation, but a meeting has to be welcomed as a positive step
Re: Complaint of use of derogatory terms against the Cornish
Thank you for your e-mail of 22 November 2009 and subsequent communications regarding the above complaint and the reference to the Cornish as “inbred” by the media and other individuals.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (“the Commission”) was established under the Equality Act 2006. It works to eliminate discrimination on the grounds of age, disability, race, religion or belief, gender and sexual orientation. The Commission also has mandate to protect and promote understanding of human rights.
The Commission condemns the use of any derogatory words or comments to describe a group or individuals on account of their race, colour, nationality or ethnic origin. In the Commission’s opinion, negative comments regarding racial groups are offensive and reinforce the stereotyping of those particular groups.
Racial discrimination provisions are contained in the Race Relations Act 1976 ,where s.3(1) defines a “racial group” as a group of persons defined by reference to colour,race,nationality or ethnic or national origins, and references to a person’s racial group refer to any racial group into which they fall.
To date, case law has not established the Cornish as a “racial group”, for the purposes of the Race Relations Act, so currently, it is not clear whether any claim of racial discrimination against Cornish people would be successful.
It is worth noting the position under the Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities. This is an international treaty whose aim is to protect the existence of national minorities by creating appropriate conditions enabling them to preserve and develop their culture and to retain their identity. However, although binding on the UK government, it has not been implemented into domestic law and does not therefore provide a right to bring any legal proceedings.
In October 2007, the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities considered that there was “scope for covering further groups within the scope of the framework convention”, mentioning the Cornish and religious groups, such as Muslims, in particular. It found that it would be possible to consider the inclusion of persons belonging to these groups in the application of the Framework Convention on an article-by article basis. It took the view that the UK government should consider this, in consultation with those concerned.
More importantly, the Advisory Committee noted that even though the UK government does not consider the people of Cornwall to constitute a national minority, a number of persons living in Cornwall consider themselves to be a national minority within the scope of the Framework Convention. In this, the Committee claimed to have received substantial information from them as to their Celtic identity, specific history, distinct language and culture.
The former Commission for Racial Equality also recommended that the Cornish could be considered a national minority under the Convention by removing the narrow criterion attached to its meaning by the government, which applied the definition of “racial group” under the Race Relations Act. However, as mentioned above, in order for any remedy to be available in domestic legal proceedings, the Cornish would need to be recognised as a “racial group” under the Race Relations Act.
The Commission would like to look into this issue further as part of our Good Relations mandate. In this regard I would welcome an opportunity to meet you and discuss this matter in more detail. With respect to a comment on the issue I wish to make clear the Commission does not condone any derogatory or insulting conduct against any group, whether or not they have been recognised as a “racial group” under the Race Relations Act.
Equality and Human Rights Commission
The new Celtic League Kernow Branch Secretary, Michael Chappel, can be seen talking here on CelticLeagueTV about the Cornish insults, amongst other things, in the build up to his interview on BBC Radio Cornwall.
A very quick post here to highlight two developments.
The first is from the Cornish Stannary Parliament. The CSP, it seems, have taken a step up the ladder, away from European institutions, and are now trying to open a dialogue with the United Nations. Their latest letter (to the UN) detailing the plight of the Cornish national minority can be found here on the One Cornwall blog site.
The second is a conference called -What price liberty?- that is being held in Truro this Saturday the 23rd of January. The aim is to debate the future of civil liberties, their protection and enlargement in the Duchy and UK. More can be read here on the OurKingdom blog site.