Friday, August 27, 2010

Why have the signs gone?!

Second Cornish story in 24 hours, this time from the Celtic League (it's not yet online hence I've typed in full the original press release):



The General Secretary (GS) of the League has written to Camborne police station at the request of the Kernow branch, following complaints regarding the use of the Cornish language.

The branch had been contacted after it was discovered that bilingual Cornish/English language signs used at the station had been removed this month to be replaced by English only signs. It was communicated to the League that a complaint about the signs had been made and that the complainant had said that the signs had caused them offence.

The League is led to believe that under new legislation it is enough for a person who makes a complaint to perceive it as such for it to actually be an offence. The branch were informed that there have been instances in the Devon and Cornwall constabulary where this has been applied to issues relating to Cornishness.

The full text of the letter sent by the GS can be found below.

"Superintendent Martin Orpe
Camborne Police Station
South Terrace
Cornwall TR14 8SY

Dear Supt Martin Orpe

Cornish Language Signs

It has been brought to our attention that the Cornish/English language bilingual signs that were on display at Camborne police station have been removed. I have therefore been asked to write to you on behalf of the Kernow Branch of the League to enquire why this has been done.

As you will be aware the Cornish language is a fundamental part of the heritage of Cornwall and the language has been recognised under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. The European Charter places an emphasis on public institutions to promote the Cornish language. Consequently a number of organisations now use the Cornish language on an everyday basis, including on the use of signs. You will be aware that in November 2009, Cornwall Council decided to adopt a bilingual road sign policy throughout Cornwall. In addition, in March 2010 Cornwall Council also published their Equality and Diversity Framework document which stated:

"Cornwall has a unique and special culture heritage. An increasing number of people describe themselves as Cornish and it is important in all our equality and diversity work that we actively recognise Cornish as a minority group and continue to support the Cornish Language and the Cornish indigenous culture." (see link).

In 2007 the Celtic League wrote to all the police forces that served the Celtic countries of Cornwall, Ireland, Isle of Man, Scotland and Wales to ask them to consider using more in their work the Celtic language and culture of their particular nation. The suggestions that were made by us as to how this could be done were received very positively by the different forces and a number of changes were made, including the use of the Manx language on all police vehicles in the Isle of Man.

We were consequently very encouraged to hear of the Camborne police station decision to use the Cornish language on signs in their premises, but are now equally disappointed that that decision seems to have been reversed for some inexplicable reason. I would therefore like to urge you, on behalf of the Kernow Branch and the Celtic League, to reconsider using the inclusive bilingual Cornish/English language version of the signs that you had up previously.

The area of Cornwall that Camborne police station serves is very proud of its Cornish heritage and I am sure you would like to reflect a part of this heritage in your work at the station.

We look forward to hearing your views on this matter.

Yours sincerely

Rhisiart Tal-e-bot
General Secretary
Celtic League"
It interested me for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, as far as I know, Cornish is not the symbol of divisive "communal" identity politics as the Irish language is sometimes perceived to be in Northern Ireland- why then would anyone have taken offence over the bilingual signage in the first place?

Secondly, with this: "under new legislation it is enough for a person who makes a complaint to perceive it as such for it to actually be an offence" where is the line drawn? Does it apply solely to the use of Cornish in Cornwall; if someone were "offended" with the use of Urdu, Polish, Chinese etc in the same circumstances, would the same criteria apply?


tony said...

Someone has undoubtedly ballsed up, I wonder why the polis acquiesced with those offended and no-one thought to ask why they were offended. After all they are in Cornwall and the language is native to Cornwall. A bit like the Irish who are offended by the use of the Irish language in Ireland.

Surely we won't have Cornish nutters complaining that since Cornish nationalists use Cornish then it must be a weapon directed at them. Surely they couldn't articulate nonsense as flimsy as that and be believed?

Well done on all the typing btw!

Dilettante said...

I was in Cornwall a fortnight ago for a long weekend - and I've been most years since I was a small child - and there certainly isn't any kind of anti-English or anti-Union air in day-to-day practise. It is certainly curious seeing so many Cornish flags about - but normally from talking to the shop and pub owners who put them up this isn't representative of any kind of separatist nationalism, which is a nice change.There are also a lot more British flags flying in Cornwall than I've seen anywhere else in the UK - I tihnk there is just a taste for pageantry down there you don't see in many other areas of the country.*

I am an opponent of linguistic resurrection, of course, so the removal of bi-lingual signs in a language hardly anyone speaks is not something I disapprove of. Nonetheless, it was done for the wrong reasons. Nobody has the right not to be offended - that would be a direct contradiction of freedom of speech (which some of my leftist friends are happy to acknowledge).

*A bit weird when you see a Cornish flag with the Union Flag in the canton though - it isn't the official flag of anything as far as I know so someone had it specifically made for reasons unknown.

Frank said...

Languages wax and wane since the fall of the Tower of Babel.

Interest noncorparal carbon based entity said...

At the end of the day, the 'offensive' line is the dominant one in N. Ireland.

One leading unionist once said that if the Gaelic language was cracked down upon then 'the very dogs would bark in Irish.'

The state policy is mostly based on that principle, it is hard to say, from a unionist point of view, which policy truely would damage Gaelic the most and complete anglicisation.

Anglicisation itself is not as sellable an idea as it once was.

What will be very interesting is what will happen when Sammy Wilson is ed minister, will he follow the letter of the law and recongise gaelic schools? The TUV will have a field day.

Or will he go down the 'offensive' line and simply refuse.

Forcing Sinn Féin to either pull out of stormont or to simply put up with it, splitting their movement - great for unionism but it would reset the process and allow nationalism to protray their culture as being effectively banned.

Interesting times ahead as usual.

O'Neill said...

"What will be very interesting is what will happen when Sammy Wilson is ed minister, will he follow the letter of the law and recongise gaelic schools? "

Yet another reason why the DUP wont touch "Education" with a barge-pole.

noncorparal carbon based entity said...

"Yet another reason why the DUP wont touch "Education" with a barge-pole."

And so more and more nationalists will revert to Gaelic culture.