Yann Fouéré: Breton militant and European federalist

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The Independent Online

Yann Fouéré set out on a collision course with the centralist, unitary French State from the moment he began taking an interest in Breton affairs as a schoolboy during the inter-war years.

The crash came in 1945 when he had to leave Brittany in a hurry, first for Wales and then Ireland, to escape a sentence of 20 years' hard labour handed down for his part in the Emsav (as the Breton movement is known).

He was accused of collaboration with the Germans when all he had done was take part in the activities of Breton cultural circles in Paris. Before the war, however, he had been one of the founders of Ar Brezhoneg er Skol, a society for the teaching of Breton and Breton history, and Vice-President of L'Union Régionale Bretonne. He also launched, in 1942, two newspapers, La Bretagne and La Dépêche de Brest, in which he argued for a greater degree of autonomy for Brittany.

It was this latter activity, partly funded by the collaborationist Vichy regime, that was held against him: to have questioned the concept of the Republic as "une et indivisible" was enough to condemn him. He was tarred with the same brush as nationalist leaders who had actively collaborated with the Nazis and who, as the Allies advanced, had returned with them to Germany.

In Wales, where he assumed the alias Dr Moger, suggested by his wife's maiden name, he was given refuge at the home of Gwynfor Evans, the leader of Plaid Cymru. After being deprived of his job as a French tutor at University College, Swansea, and at a Catholic College in Llandeilo, he moved to Ireland to avoid arrest, and there settled with his wife and young children, assuming the name Sean Mauger. In Connemara he set up a successful lobster farm, and continued writing, editing and organising for the Breton cause. The French Government exonerated him of all charges in 1958, after which he was allowed to return to Brittany.

A prolific writer, he wrote an influential book, L'Europe aux Cents Drapeaux (1968), translated as Towards a Federal Europe: Nations or States? (1980). He argued eloquently in favour of "a third Europe" or "a Europe of the peoples", in which Bretons, Basques, Catalans, Occitans, Galicians, Flemings, Frisians, Scots and Welsh would be among the minorities granted self-determination in a federal Europe.

Jean-Adolphe Fouéré, as he was known to the French civil state, was born in 1910 at Aignon, in Gascony, the son of a Breton senior civil servant. He was educated in St Brieuc and the Lycée Montaigne and Lycée Louis-le-Grand, two of the best secondary schools in Paris, later taking degrees in Law, the Humanities and Political Science at the Sorbonne. His passion for all things Breton was awakened when, as a schoolboy, he read Breiz Atao ("Brittany for ever"), the newspaper of the Parti National Breton which commanded the support of many nationalists and was later to be accused of collaboration. He followed his father into the Ministry of the Interior but, with his political opinions constrained, soon opted for the life of a journalist in Brittany.

After the war hewas Secretary General of the Comité Consultatif de Bretagne and edited its newspaper, La Bretagne, which later became L'Avenir de la Bretagne, the organ of the Mouvement pour l'Organisation de la Bretagne (MOB). I first met him in 1961 shortly after he had co-founded the Breton branch of the Celtic League. Innocuous though this initiative was, he still had a reputation as a militant and, in the eyes of the authorities, he was a dangerous separatist. In October 1975, together with some 50 others, he was arrested on suspicion of involvement in preparations by the Front de Libération de la Bretagne (FLB) for a bombing campaign against building nuclear power stations in Brittany. He spent 105 days in La Santé prison in Paris but was released under a general amnesty.

In 1972 he founded Strollad ar Vro (SAV) and in 1981 led the formation of Parti pour l'Organisation d'une Bretagne Libre (POBL), both groups on the right of the political spectrum, neither of which met with any electoral success. His autobiography, one of a dozen books he wrote over the years, appeared in two parts: La Patrie Interdite in 1987 and La Maison de Connemara in 1995. But his most important initiative was the creation in 1999 of Institut de Documentation Bretonne et Européenne, which now houses his invaluable archive of material relating to the history and social life of Brittany. In the absence of a Breton national library it will serve as his monument.

Yann Fouéré (Jean-Adolphe Fouéré), Breton activist and European federalist: born Aignan, Gers, France 26 July 1910; married 1939 Marie-Magdeleine Mauger (two sons, three daughters); died Saint Brieuc, Brittany 21 October 2011.

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