Celtic League (political organisation)

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Not to be confused with the Celtic Congress.
Celtic League
Official languages
 -  general secretary Rhisiart Tal-e-bot
 -  Editor of Carn Pat Bridson
 -  Formation 1961 
 -  First publication
of Carn

The Celtic League is a non-governmental organisation that promotes self-determination and Celtic identity and culture in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany, Cornwall and the Isle of Man, known as the Celtic nations. It places particular emphasis on the indigenous Celtic languages. It is recognised by the United Nations as a non-governmental organisation with "Roster Status" and is part of the UN's Economic and Social Council.[1]


The Celtic League presents its aims as including:

  • "Fostering co-operation between Celtic peoples."
  • "Developing the consciousness of the special relationship and solidarity between them."
  • "Making our national struggles and achievements better known abroad."
  • "Campaigning for a formal association of Celtic nations to take place once two or more of them have achieved self-government."
  • "Advocating the use of the national resources of each of the Celtic countries for the benefit of all its people."[2]

"Each Celtic nation is conditioned by a different history and so we must not expect uniformity of thought, but instead allow diversity to express itself within the Celtic League. In this way, we may better recognise those areas of possible co-operation and eventually formulate a detailed common policy. With this we can work out which kind of relations between our communities will enable them to enjoy freedoms and liberties at both individual and community level."[2]

Politically, the Celtic league seeks to create six sovereign states from the six Celtic nations it acknowledges as existing, unified in some way. There is some variation in the understanding of these aims, which ranges from general meetings, to an actual federation along the lines of the Nordic Council.[citation needed]



There are six national branches of the Celtic League in the six Celtic countries, generally known by the Celtic language names of their countries: Ireland is known as Éire, Scotland as Alba, Wales as Cymru, Brittany as Breizh, Cornwall as Kernow and the Isle of Man as Mannin.

There is also an International Branch, and others based in the US and London, England. There used to be a branch in Cape Breton Island, Canada, where a small Gaelic-speaking community still exists. Attempts to set up branches in Australia, and the Chubut Valley, Patagonia, (the location of y Wladfa, a Welsh colony) have failed until recently. At the end of 2009, a branch was set up in Patagonia with the help of Welsh-speaking Patagonian enthusiasts led by Mónica Jones.


The Celtic League publishes a quarterly magazine, Carn, which highlights political struggles and cultural preservation issues. The articles are produced in the six Celtic languages in addition to English. The cover of the magazine is a map of the six Celtic countries with their respective Celtic-language names beside them. In the past, articles have appeared in French as well. For many years, Carn claimed to be the only regular publication carrying all six Celtic languages. The Celtic League, American Branch (CLAB) prints its own quarterly newsletter, Six Nations, One Soul,[3] which provides news of Branch activities and events within the Celtic communities in the United States, publishes letters from members, and reviews books and recordings of Celtic interest. It also produces its own calendar each year, with art from members, appropriate quotations and anniversaries.[4]

Other Branches have published their own magazines from time to time, but few have been very long-lived.


Founded in 1961, the present Celtic League grew out of various other Pan-Celtic organisations, particularly the Celtic Congress, but with a more political emphasis. Previously, the likes of Hugh MacDiarmid and others had suggested something along the same lines.

It was started at the 1961 National Eisteddfod of Wales, which was held at Rhosllannerchrugog near Wrexham in northeast Wales. Two of the founding members were Gwynfor Evans and J E Jones, who were respectively president and secretary-general of Plaid Cymru at the time. Interest was expressed by Scottish parties, and also by two prominent Breton exiles, Yann Fouéré and Alan Heusaff.

The Celtic League, American Branch (CLAB) was founded in New York City in 1974. It plays little part in AGMs.

Notable members and former members[edit]

Some of the more notable past and present members of the Celtic League have been Plaid Cymru luminary Gwynfor Evans, Alan Heusaff, the historian and writer Peter Berresford Ellis, writer Bernard Le Nail, Manx language revivalist Brian Stowell, and Winnie Ewing, Robert McIntyre and Rob Gibson of the Scottish National Party.


The Celtic League also campaigns for a united Ireland, and the return of the Loire-Atlantique department to Brittany. Over the years, the Celtic League has campaigned consistently in support of the languages in Celtic nations, and for the return of ancient artefacts, removed from Celtic countries to museums outside of these areas – amongst these are the Lewis chessmen and the Chronicles of Mann. These campaigns have been conducted in various ways.

The Manx branch of the Celtic League successfully campaigned for the Calf of Man (island) to be transferred from the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty in England to the Manx National Heritage.[citation needed]

In the mid-1990s, the Celtic League started a campaign to have the word "Alba" on the Scottish football and rugby tops. Since 2005, the Scottish Football Association have supported the use of Scottish Gaelic on their teams's strip in recognition of the language's revival in Scotland.[5] However, the SRU is still being lobbied to have "Alba" on the national rugby strip.[6]

The Celtic League has also passed a motion to support the general aims of Independence First, which aims for a referendum on Scottish independence.[7]

In 2010, the Celtic League sought to prevent retailers selling the flag of England in Cornwall, criticising it as 'foreign'.[8]

Political status of countries[edit]

The political status of the Celtic League's suggested six Celtic nations varies widely. Both the UK and France were traditionally very centralised states (although France more so).

The following Celtic nations have some degree of autonomy, although Ireland consists of the territory of two sovereign states:

  • Ireland:
    • Republic of Ireland (26 counties) – independent.
    • Northern Ireland (6 counties) – devolved assembly. Was ruled directly by the United Kingdom from 1972-2007. From 1922-1972 Northern Ireland had had its own parliament, but due to the worsening political violence of The Troubles the British army was deployed to the region and direct rule established. Under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement some autonomy and various provisions were granted on a power-sharing basis. Until 2007 various controversies between Unionists and Republicans had caused the government of the United Kingdom to rule directly. Northern Ireland now has its own devolved Assembly since 2007.
  • The Isle of Manhome rule, a British Crown Dependency outside the UK and European Union, arguably the oldest continuous parliament in the world.
  • Scotland – has had its own devolved Parliament since 1999.
  • Wales – has had its own devolved Assembly since 1999.

There is also a campaign for a Cornish Assembly. In 2000 the Cornish Constitutional Convention launched the Declaration for a Cornish Assembly campaign. In less than two years, more than 50,000 people signed the Assembly petition and Lord Whitty, in the House of Lords, recognised that Cornwall has a "special case" for devolution. On a visit to Cornwall, John Prescott said "Cornwall has the strongest regional identity in the UK."

Thus three of the countries are completely within the United Kingdom, one partially, and another is a British dependency. Brittany is part of the French state, and does not have any legislative autonomy, but four départements have some financial autonomy as one of the Regions of France, whilst the fifth département is in another French region. The Republic of Ireland is completely independent.

Posts within the Celtic League[edit]

Nationality is indicated by letters after their names as so:

B – Breton, C – Cornish, I – Irish, M – Manx, S – Scottish, W – Welsh

An arrow indicates the editor relocated to one of the other Celtic countries.

General secretaries of Celtic league[edit]

Alan Heusaff: (1961–84), B→I
Bernard Moffatt: (1984–88), M
Davyth Fear: (1988–90), C
Séamas Ó Coileáin: (1990–91), I
Bernard Moffat: (1991–2006), M
Rhisiart Tal-e-bot: (2006 – present), W→C

Editors of Carn (Established 1973)[edit]

Frang MacThòmais: (1973–74), S
Pádraig Ó Snodaigh: (1974–77), I
Cathal Ó Luain: (1977–81), I
Pedyr Pryor: (1981–84), C
Pat Bridson: (1984–present), M→I

Other posts[edit]

The presidency and vice-presidency ran from 1961 to 1971 and were then abolished. They were held by Gwynfor Evans (W) and Dr Robert McIntyre (S) respectively for the entire duration of the posts.

Pádraig Ó Conchúir (I) was chairman between (1972–78).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Cornwall's Celtic League branch welcomes UN approval". BBC News. 15 June 2010. Retrieved 11 October 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Aims and Objectives". The Celtic League. Retrieved 11 October 2012. 
  3. ^ 'Six Nations, One Soul'[dead link] published by The Celtic League, American Branch. Retrieved 7 December 2007
  4. ^ The Celtic League Calendar[dead link] published by The Celtic League, American Branch. CLAB website. Retrieved 7 December 2007
  5. ^ "Gaelic added to Scotland strips". BBC News. 24 August 2006. Retrieved 31 December 2009. 
  6. ^ "Gàidhlig air lèintean rugbaidh na h-Alba" (in Scottish Gaelic). BBC Alba. 24 June 2008. Retrieved 11 October 2012. 
  7. ^ "Celtic League Supports Independence First"[dead link]. Independence First website. Retrieved 7 December 2007
  8. ^ "Cornish nationalists protest against World Cup England flags". Metro. 13 May 2010. Retrieved 11 October 2012. 


  • Ellis, Peter Berresford The Celtic Dawn
  • Tanner, Marcus Last of the Celts

External links[edit]