Wednesday, September 29, 2010
THE CASE FOR WELSH SOVEREIGNTY
SIR ROGER DAVID CASEMENT
1 September 1864 – 3 August 1916
‘Self-government is our right, a thing born in us at birth, a thing no more to be doled out to us, or withheld from us, by another people than the right to life itself - than the right to feel the sun, or smell the flowers, or to love our kind.’
Speech from the court dock after being found guilty of high treason, 29 June 1916
‘It is only from the convict these things are withheld, for crime committed and proven and Ireland, that has wronged no man, has injured no land, that has sought no dominion over others - Ireland is being treated today among the nations of the world as if she were a convicted criminal. If it be treason to fight against such an unnatural fate as this, then I am proud to be a rebel, and shall cling to my “rebellion” with the last drop of my blood…. Where all your rights have become only an accumulated wrong, where men must beg with bated breath for leave to subsist in their own land, to think their own thoughts, to sing their own songs, to gather the fruits of their own labours, and, even while they beg, to see things inexorably withdrawn from them-then, surely, it is a braver, a saner and truer thing to be a rebel, in act and in deed, against such circumstances as these, than to tamely accept it, as the natural lot of men…’
Casement, an Irish nationalist, poet and diplomat was stripped of his knighthood when executed at Pentonville Prison. The hangman Albert Ellis recalled: ‘He appeared to me the bravest man it fell to my unhappy lot to execute.’ A former British consul, he had tried to smuggle arms from Germany for an Irish uprising in World War I. The government could find little legal basis upon which to convict him, so the seemingly forged ‘Black Diaries’ were discovered and published, making Casement out to be a homosexual and weakening his support from all strata of society. His body was buried in quicklime, but in 1965 his remains were repatriated to Ireland for a state funeral, when over half a million people filed past the coffin.
The above is from ‘Immortal Last Words’ [Terry Breverton 2010]. Casement’s statement is germane to the case that achieving Welsh sovereignty has to be a long-term goal for every true Cymro.
The reason that the Sinn Fein MPs do not attend Parliament is that, unlike the Plaid Cymru MPs, they will not swear the Oath of Allegiance to the sovereign. In the House of Commons, after election, an MP must swear an Oath of Allegiance before taking his or her seat. Members who object to oath swearing may make a Solemn Affirmation instead. In the House of Lords the Oath of Allegiance must be taken, or Solemn Affirmation made, by every Lord, on introduction and at the beginning of every new Parliament, before he or she can sit and vote in the House of Lords. While holding a copy of the New Testament (or, in the case of a Jew or Muslim, the Old Testament or the Koran) a Member swears: “I¦..swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law. So help me God.” The text of the affirmation is: - “I ¦¦ do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors according to law”.
Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a territory. It can be found in the power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided. The current notion of state sovereignty was laid down in the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia which codified the basic principles of statehood to include territorial integrity, border inviolability, and the supremacy of the state (rather than the Church). A government which exercises de facto administrative control over a country, and is not subordinate to any other government in that country, is a ‘sovereign state’ and its government is the supreme lawmaking authority. Membership of the European Union and lack of border controls have severely weakened the ability of the United Kingdom both to have an effective constitution and to call itself a sovereign state. Furthermore, its move towards European integration has severely disenfranchised the democratic rights of its citizens. A legitimate sovereign state will make its own laws and control its own borders, with the democratic agreement of its citizens. To be recognised as a nation-state, Cymru (Wales) would have to be recognised by other nation-states. The major problem will be that other European states have had their sovereignty circumvented by European statutes and powers, and would be unwilling to recognise a nation that wished to regain sovereign powers.
To claim sovereignty, therefore, Cymru (Wales) would have to ally itself with other aspiring nation-states such as Catalonia, and with existing nation-states outside the European realm of dominance. Cymru (Wales) is the main remnant of the Celtic nation of Britain, with its own leaders since before recorded history began. As various invaders – Saxons, Vikings, Irish and the Normans conquered Britain by force, Cymru (Wales) remained independent until 1282, when Prince Llywelyn was murdered by English forces. Throughout the 14th and 15th centuries, Wales was never properly conquered, and for around a decade in the early 15th century Owain Glyndwr was Prince of Wales. With the coming of a Welsh dynasty, the Tudors, supported by a Welsh army, to the English crown in 1485, it was hoped that over 1500 years of independence would be guaranteed. However, Henry VIII destroyed the Welsh legal system in the sixteenth century and power was transferred to London. English sovereignty over Cymru has never been legally established. By itself, that does not help the Welsh case for independence and sovereignty.
However, the Welsh people have never agreed to English rule, and even less to undemocratic European central rule. The replica House of Commons in Cardiff Bay is no answer to Welsh desire for sovereignty. Those elected, like all politicians, have no interest in anything but lining their pockets. The whole basis of democracy, accountability, law and responsibility needs to be altered in Cymru. It will be incredibly difficult to achieve sovereignty as a nation-state – well over a third of people living in Wales were not born in Wales, and the sense of nationhood is constantly being diluted. Wales, as a sovereign state, can show the world what democracy means, but there will be incredible obstacles to any progress.
Wales is quite possibly the only nation never to have declared war on another nation. It has fought against invaders, which is the only reason it retains a sense of nationhood. The Isle of Man exists as a sovereign territory outside the European Union. There is a place for Wales as an independent sovereign territory outside Europe also, with control of its own borders, its own economy and more importantly its own future. Wales has no future if it continues to exist in its current form, with the highest unemployment in the British Isles, and heavily dependent upon bureaucratic jobs which create no wealth for the nation. With cuts in civil service and local government employment, the future for Wales is miserable. It is bleak for most of Europe and America, as the power-houses of India and China come to control the world’s economies. To do nothing is to accept sinking into debt and mediocrity, with no hope for future generations.