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3.12.09

Cornish rights trampled under Labour votes.

It comes as no great suprise that the UK parliament -dominated by MP's from England- voted against the inclusion of a dedicated Cornish tick box for the 2011 UK census.

The amendment to include a tick box for Cornish national identity was proposed by MP Dan Rogerson. More on this and how MP's voted can be found here. The vote was rejected by 261 votes to 49.

Dan Rogerson writes on the Cornish Tick Box Facebook group: "The Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru supported me. Labour opposed it. The Tories sat on their hands". Labour MPs voted 261 against and 1 in favour and are thus the only party to pro-actively vote against. Equally not a squeek could be heard from Tory 'Shadow Minister for Cornwall' Mark Prisk. So there we go, if you were wondering who not to vote for.

The UK's democracy shows its limits. Would the world community be happy if a similar question concerning an unrecognised minority were given over to the state majority to decide? Within a multinational state such as the UK (plus Crown protectorates) where one nation, England, has the vast majority of elected representatives, as well as the administrative and financial capital, it's no shock that the interests of the other nations are sidelined to the point that one of them, Cornwall, even has its existence denied.

Devolution to Scotland, Wales and the Six Counties has started the process of redress but Cornwall finds itself still buried within the English political system with its specific needs and national identity ignored.

However as noted on Cornwall 24 a critical point to bring to all Cornish residents attention is that it will still be possible to register Cornish in three separate categories in the 2011 Census:

National identity
Ethnic Group
Language.


All three will have the 06 code, and all three will be counted throughout Britain.


Not enough has been made of the 100% recognition given by Parliament of Cornish as both a National Identity and as an Ethnic Group. Even the FCNM Draft Report call the Census categories 'standard'.


There will not be a dedicated tickbox, which would have made things clearer, which is regrettable, but everyone can write, and it will not be difficult to fill in CORNISH on the line.


Publicity to inform and encourage people to write in CORNISH will be funded by the ONS, and organised by Cornwall Council. There will be an undercount, but nevertheless, if many thousands record that their National Identity is Cornish and many thousands record that their Ethnic Group is Cornish and thousands record that their 'first' language is Cornish, then much can be done with the data, especially as Cornwall Council is going to start encouraging institutions and businesses to make use of the information available from the next Census.

The importance of the above information  cannot be overstated. We should all do our utmost to ensure everbody knows what their Cornish options are for the 2011 census both in the Duchy and wider UK.

On a different but closely related note, below can be found a letter from the Celtic League to the UK government concerning the UK's application of the Council of Europe's framework convention for the protection of national minorities (FCNM). The governments handling of the FCNM has been described as duplicitous malpractice and its hard not to agree. Of all the UK's national minorities why are the Cornish the only ones to have been singled out and refused recognition under the FCNM? Of course if the Cornish officially recognised  as a national minority under the FCNM then the above tick-box fiasco would never have been allowed to happen. The recognition and protection of minorities should not be simply thrown to the mercy of such brute majority lead democracy. Would the future of Tibet be secure if voted on by the rest of China?

CELTIC LEAGUE PRESS INFORMATION

FRAMEWORK CONVENTION REPORT

The General Secretary (GS) has responded to the UK government's draft report to the Council of Europe (CoE) on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.


The report – the third of its kind since the government ratified the Convention in 1995 – sets out what it has done to promote equality and diversity across a range of different areas relating to culture and language. However, as the gs argues in his letter to the department of Communities and Local Government (CLG), the report is failing in its duty to the CoE by excluding the Cornish and "are being treated as virtual pariahs by the very state that is supposed to protect them".


The GS says that he looks forward to a revision of the draft before it is presented to the CoE. The full text of the letter can be found below.


"The Rt Hon John Denham MP
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government


Dear Rt Hon John Denham MP


Draft UK Government Third Compliance Report to the Council of Europe on the Framework Convention for the protection of National Minorities


I am writing to express my utter disappointment at the exclusion of the Cornish and their language from the draft third compliance report to the Council of Europe (CoE), published in October 2009.


The document covers activities and issues relating to language, culture, equality and society in Wales, Scotland and the north of Ireland throughout the report, but no mention was made of Cornwall or its people. There was not even an outline of the work undertaken with the Cornish language, which the UK Government recognised in 2002 - and has subsequently funded since - under part II of the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages. The Cornish Language Partnership – set up as a direct result of government funding – has done excellent work in helping to revive the Cornish language, but was not consulted as part of the report. It is most unusual that the only mention in the report to do with the Cornish language is that it is one of 25 "UK and foreign languages" in which a qualification is available.


In addition, in view of the fact that the UK Government recognised the `separate identity and distinctiveness' of the Cornish in its second compliance report, it is surprising that no mention is made of the Cornish people in its subsequent report.


The CoE's Advisory Committee's ruling that the UK Government's `racial group' criterion is too rigid to accommodate the Cornish has been completely ignored.


It is my belief that the UK Government is failing in its duty to the CoE in producing this report, because of the omission of the Cornish people and language. I would go so far as to say that in excluding the Cornish in this way the UK Government is showing a total contempt for the Cornish and actively discriminating against them.


The Cornish are one of the ancient peoples of Europe and are recognised as such throughout Europe. They have a language that is actively supported and funded by the UK and local government structures and yet are being completely ignored in this draft report. It would probably be fair to say that the Cornish are the largest unrecognised minority living in either Cornwall or the UK and are being treated as virtual pariahs by the very state that is supposed to protect them.


We look forward to an immediate revision of the report before it is presented to the Council of Europe.


Yours sincerely


Rhisiart tal-e-bot
General Secretary
Celtic League

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