• February 14, 2016


This week my outside left column in the Manx Independent deals with the campaign by the Celtic League over the environmental impact etc of look-out towers used by the British military in South Armagh, the campaign arose from the general monitoring of military activity and impact in all the Celtic countries including Brittany.

A very substantial quantity of files on this is deposited and accessible at the Manx Museum Library (MNH) and also at the National Library of Wales.

Many of the monitoring campaigns were successful and for example the MFV/Submarine monitoring campaign led to the adoptions by the International Maritime Organisation Resolutions applicable to all submarine operating powers.

Our military bases environmental impact campaign was also successful and in the 1990s the MOD were forced to admit pollution at over 600 sites in the UK both used and disused and instate remedial work.

The Celtic League military monitoring campaign gained wide coverage. The photo illustration with this article taken in the MNH library is a still taken from a French TV5 (Monde) documentary. The file is open at a cutting from a Japanese newspaper report on the campaign – you could say the campaign got global coverage!

“Outside Left: ‘Sorry’ after 35-year wait

‘Don’t worry, you can walk up to the perimeter wire but not beyond’ said my host beckoning me forward.

I was on a mountain top in South Armagh in February 1999 gazing at one of the numerous fortified military bases that at that time littered the hilltops in that area.

As I took photographs something moved at one of the slit windows in the concrete walls of the post. ‘Now they’ve a snap of you as well,’ said my host laughing!

Later that day I addressed the largest meeting I’ve ever spoken to at another fortified road checkpoint where the South Armagh Farmers and Resident Committee (SAFRC) had arranged the demo.

Later, from the back of a trailer various speakers including myself spoke to a crowd of well over 2,000 local people who were campaigning for the bases and fortifications (as promised in the Good Friday agreement) to be removed. The British government were dragging their heels so people power was trying to give them a shove. At the conclusion of the demo a mock up of the observation tower was torn to pieces by farm tractors.

Through my involvement in the Celtic League I had spoken at many conferences about Ireland from Skibbereen to Ballycastle and Dublin to Liverpool. The South Armagh demo was the most moving however because it was clear that I was talking to a vast group of people who had lived with the conflict for too long and they wanted to move on.

It’s hard for us just 45 miles from the Irish coast to realise what ‘The Troubles’ meant but for people just wanting to get on with their lives without the clatter of helicopters incessantly or the ominous watchtowers on every hill those 30 years must have been a nightmare. A generation of children grew up knowing nothing else.

The situation in Ireland was the catalyst for my involvement in the Celtic League. I had been a Manx nationalist since the day Mec Vannin was founded but although many Mec Vannin members were members of the Celtic League or Celtic Congress I eschewed any interest in those bodies.

Then in 1976 a 10-year-old girl was killed Majella O’Hare walking along a road near Whitecross in South Armagh when a machine gun was discharged by a British soldier and she was mortally injured.

It wasn’t the first child death in the conflict and would not, sadly, be the last but the circumstances moved me and with some others I set up the Anti Militarist Alliance to campaign to have the British military that used Mann for R & R from Ulster excluded.

The campaign was eventually absorbed by the Celtic League and became the Celtic League Military Monitoring Campaign and broadened considerably to include all the Celtic countries and eventually focusing on both military activity and other related factors.

There is a vast archive of material from that campaign and others over a 40 year period held at both MNH Library and in the National Library for Wales. Did we achieve success? Well I like to think we did but as I say you can judge for yourself if you have a year or so to spare to go through the archives!

From being a member of the Celtic League I moved to Manx secretary and eventually general secretary taking the director of information role when I stood down as GS.

In March 2016 I finish as DOI of the League and will be a plain member again after 40 years. I have enjoyed every minute!

The event that kicked it off? In March 2011, almost 35 years after the killing of Majella O’Hare, an unprecedented apology from the Ministry of Defence was handed to her elderly mother at a ceremony in Belfast. The letter, signed by the UK Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, belatedly corrected the army’s account of the incident and acknowledged that the soldier’s subsequent courtroom explanation was ‘unlikely’! It’s only the second apology given for a British Army killing in Northern Ireland.”

Link: Manx Independent article:



Issued by: The Celtic News



The Celtic League established in 1961 has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It promotes cooperation between the countries and campaigns on a range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, military activity and socio-economic issues


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