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PostPosted: Fri Apr 16, 2010 7:54 pm 
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Cornish 'should be an ethnic minority'
Friday, April 16, 2010, 10:00

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The bid to have the Cornish officially recognised as an ethnic group took a major step forward after winning backing from Cornwall Council.

In a letter seen by the Western Morning News, the authority's Chief Executive Kevin Lavery urged the Government to include the Cornish as a National Minority in an important European framework document.

"Cornwall Council firmly believes that the UK Government should recognise the Cornish as a national minority," said Mr Lavery.

He added: "The Council believes that the Government's current restricted interpretation is discriminatory against the Cornish and contradicts the support it gives to Cornish culture and identity through its own departments."

The news was greeted with delight by campaigners who have long called for Cornwall's unique heritage and culture to have formal recognition.


Cornish teacher Rhisiart Tal-e-bot, General Secretary of the Celtic League, which passed the letter on to the WMN, said he was "very encouraged" by the declaration, saying: "This would be good for the Cornish. It means legal recognition and status.

"I am Cornish and I am proud of it. It should be recognised in law."

Bernard Moffatt, Director of Information for the Celtic League, which campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters, was enthusiastic about the new wave of support.

"It is something we have been anxious for the UK Government to recognise that Cornwall should be given status as National Minority.

"It is an interesting development that now seems to be an establishment view.

"That is it becoming a mainstream view is something that we find very hopeful"

Professor Philip Paynton, Director of the Institute of Cornish Studies at Penryn's Tremough campus of the University of Exeter, hailed what he saw as a "step change."

The campaign has been ongoing for some time and many Cornish were tired of getting the brush off from national Government, he said.

"What is different now is the attitude of Cornwall Council.

"For some years there has been a determined effort for the Cornish to be recognised, but it didn't have the sanction of the then Cornwall County Council so it didn't have weight with the Government or Europe.

"Cornwall Council recognises that something needs to be done."

Prof Paynton said the Cornish had "status" to gain by being recognised as an official ethnic group.

"When you start to have a legal existence it can have all sorts of implications."

The letter from Mr Lavery was sent to the Communities and Local Government Department late last year in response to an invitation for comments of the drafting of the third UK report on the Council of Europe Framework Convention For The Protection of National Minorities.

It calls as evidence the recognition of the Cornish language and the achievement in 2006 of World Heritage Site status for Cornish mining, as well as the spread of Cornish migrants around the world.

Mr Lavery also cites the "growing acceptance" by the Government, through the Office of National Statistics, of the value of providing the opportunity for people to register their nationality as Cornish in the national census.

Finally, he highlights the strong Cornish identity and culture.

"These four cases should leave you in no doubt of the council's determination to promote and celebrate Cornish culture which is derived from the long and distinctive history of the Cornish," he says.

Underpinning his argument Mr Lavery says is the creation of the new unitary authority in April last year which means "the council's views have added democratic legitimacy which I urge you to acknowledge."

However, despite the passionate argument the Government did not comply with the request and its draft report, forwarded to the Council of Europe in February, made no mention of the Cornish.

Prof Paynton said he was not deterred and after the General Election next month, called for Cornwall Council to "redouble their efforts."

Joan Symons, the Council's Cabinet member for Customer First and Culture said the authority had made a number of representations for Cornish ethnicity to be recognised.

"Cornwall has a rich and unique heritage with its own language. It is essential that the Council is sensitive to the unique culture of Cornwall and to those people in the community who describe their culture as Cornish."

She said the council was "actively supporting" the continued use and promotion of the Cornish language and the development of Cornish heritage and culture.

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