One of the most ominous comments in relation to the emergence of reawakened direct action in Cornwall recently was the statement from Devon and Cornwall Police that they are to set up 'a task force to investigatethe threats'.
What substance there is to the statements from the body which issued the direct action statements, the Cornish National Liberation Army, remains to be seen. However, nationalists throughout the Celtic countries do have experience and a proven track record of 'British Police Forces' adopteding a heavy-handed approach to Celtic nationalism generally, particularly when they have no real leads to pursue.
In Mannin when (the third spate of) direct action occurred in the late 1980s local police actively assisted by incompetents from theUnited Kingdoms Special Branch invariably 'swooped' on the wrong people. Indeed at that time they initially targeted Irish expatriates unsure, or perhaps unable to accept, that Manx people were so frustrated by the sell-out of their country that they had decided to act.
The same scenario unfolded in Cymru were despite the sustained harassment for more than a decade of activists in both the constitutional nationalist and language scenes little progress was ever made by Police (againassisted by British agencies such as Special branch and MI5) to apprehend those involved with Meibion Glyndwr.
These examples are worth recalling at this time because if the weight of publicity which the recent CNLA statement has generated (primarily due to the so-called celebrities threatened) leads to 'Devonwall' police harassing political and language activists then we need to ensure that there is sustained scrutiny of the police actions from the other Celtic countries.
We don't have to look far outside Cornwall to find examples of the activities of 'heavy handed plods'. Across the Channel in Brittanythe French police have been running amok harassing nationalists for years.
The Bretons appreciate the targeted support they get from the other Celtic countries and we must ensure that similar support is available to any in Cornwall unfairly targeted if Devon and Cornwall Police overstep the mark. Perhaps prior to launching its task force the Devon and Cornwall Police should consider its own position. In relation to Cornwall and the problems the indigenous population are aggrieved about, is the 'Devonwall force' part of the problem rather than the solution? We referred to the situation in Wales (above). However since the days when the North Wales force (with their little helpers from MI5) went round bugging phone kiosks things have moved on. The current Chief Constable, Richard Brunstrom, is a breath of fresh air, he has identified and more crucially spoken out about the threat to language and community in his force area. Perhaps it is too much to hope that the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall might look behind the recent statement by the CNLA to ascertain the depth of anger that many good Cornish people feel at the way their country is being treated. Finally, Cornwall has a separate national identity. Why has it not got its own distinct police service? Indeed when the 'county' forces were merged to 'Devon and Cornwall' why was alphabetical precedence ignored?
J B Moffatt
Director of Information Celtic League