Prominent Breton nationalist who found refuge here

 

YANN FOUÉRÉ: YANN FOUÉRÉ, who has died aged 101, was a prominent Breton nationalist, journalist, writer and businessman. He came to Ireland seeking political asylum in 1948, having left France to avoid being tried as a wartime collaborator.

He was sentenced in absentiato penal servitude for life by a French military tribunal. However, in 1955 he returned to France where he was exonerated by the courts.

Thereafter he remained politically active, advocating Breton autonomy and espousing a form of European federalism while dividing his time between Ireland and France.

Born in Aignan, Gers, in 1910, he grew up in Callac. While studying law and political science at the Sorbonne he launched a campaign for the teaching of Breton in Brittany’s state schools. Elected vice-president of the Union Régionliste Breton, he also joined Comité de Minorités Nationales and became editor of the publication Peuples et Frontières.

After graduating he joined the ministry of the interior.

During the second World War he served as a public official in both Vichy and occupied France. Denied leave of absence, he broke with the civil service to edit the newspaper La Bretagne.

It has been alleged that La Bretagnewas seldom critical of the Germans and that this stance brought it rewards, including subsidies.

Fouéré denied he was pro-German, and claimed he was the victim of a political witch-hunt. He told this newspaper in 1976: “About 2,000 of us were arrested on the pretense [sic] of collaboration with Vichy, which was partly true, or collaboration with the Germans, which was not true.”

After his arrest following the Allied invasion in 1944, he was held in custody for a year. Released on parole and facing trial as a collaborator, he went into hiding and made his way to Wales where he was sheltered by Welsh nationalists. Tried in his absence, however, he received a life sentence.

In 1948 he was ordered by the authorities to leave Britain and moved to Ireland. With the assistance of future president Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh and lexicographer Tomás de Bhaldraithe, he secured Irish citizenship.

After a stint teaching French at Glenstal Abbey, in 1950 he joined fellow-Breton Marcel Samzun as a partner in Cleggan Lobster Fisheries which exported shellfish to France and Spain. He later took over the running of the company, having changed his name by deed poll to Seán Mauger, taking his wife’s surname.

In 1955 he sought a retrial in France and was acquitted by a military court. He founded the Movement for the Organisation of Brittany, and also became an advocate of the rights of national minorities in a federal Europe. He envisaged a federation of nations, including Basques, Bretons and Alsatians, rather than a union of states. “We must prefer natural man to organisation man: the citizen to the Eurocrat,” he said.

In 1973 he stood unsuccessfully in the French legislative elections. Two years later, against a background of bombing campaigns by Breton and Corsican separatists, he was arrested and charged with offences related to state security.

His family and supporters campaigned for his release. The Irish government said it could not intervene as he was a French citizen arrested on French soil.

In February 1976 he was granted a conditional release and later allowed to return to Ireland. A leading article in The Irish Timesput the question: “If Dr Fouéré can now be allowed to return to Ireland on the premise of presenting himself again in France for further interrogation, why could this course not have been followed months ago?” In May 1977 the French authorities stated there was no case against him.

However, in 1979 he was charged in absentiawith security-related offences and tried with 22 members of the Breton Liberation Front – described by the prosecutor as a “coupling of Nazis and Red Brigades”.

All defendants were found guilty, and he was sentenced to eight years imprisonment. But in 1981 newly installed president François Mitterrand declared a general amnesty and Fouéré was at liberty to travel freely between Ireland and Brittany.

Retired from business, he remained active in politics, and in 1999 formed the Party for the Organisation of Free Brittany which he led until 2004. A Knight of the Sovereign Order of Jerusalem, he was a founding member of the Celtic League. He is survived by his wife Marie-Magdeléine, daughters Rozenn, Benig and Olwen and sons John and Erwan.


Yann Fouéré (Seán Mauger): born July 26th, 1910; died October 20th, 2011