First language protester locked up in 11 years

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Feb 15 14:24:07 UTC 2006

First language protester locked up in 11 years Feb 14 2006

By Hywel Trewyn, Daily Post

THE granddaughter of ex-Plaid president Gwynfor Evans yesterday became the
first Welsh language campaigner to be locked up in 11 years. Aberystwyth
student Gwenno Teifi Ffransis was sent to a prison's young offenders wing
for five days. The 19-year-old refused to pay court-imposed compensation
to a Welsh radio station. She damaged Radio Carmarthenshire's Narberth
studio in protest over its lack of Welsh broadcasts. Yesterday her dad
Ffred Ffransis - jailed in Welsh language protests in the 1970s with wife
Meinir - warned Gwenno the first three days of her sentence would be the

"I campaigned so that my children would not have to," he said.. Cymdeithas
chair Steffan Cravos has invited Assembly first minister Rhodri Morgan to
visit Gwenno at HMP Eastwood Park Prison near Gloucester to discuss a new
Welsh language act. Gwenno from Llanfihangel-ararth, Carmarthenshire -
whose mum Meinir is Gwynfor Evans' daughter - is studying Welsh and
international politics at Aberystwyth. She was sentenced at Carmarthen
Guild Hall - where her grandad famously won Plaid's first Commons seat in
a 1966 by-election.

Last April Haverfordwest magistrates found her guilty of causing damage to
the radio station and ordered to pay 150 compensation and 50 costs for
criminal damage. Yesterday she was jailed for refusing to pay compensation
to the station - the subject of an Ofcom inquiry last year over its lack
of Welsh. Gwenno told magistrates: "This radio station bears the name of
the county in which I was brought up and their disregard of the Welsh
language is deplorable. "If the Welsh language is to live then it must
become central to everything relevant to young people such as the local
radio station." Plaid politicians were yesterday criticised for lending
their support to Cymdeithas.

But party president Dafydd Iwan said: "When Peter Hain was digging up
rugby pitches, I was painting road signs."Gwenno's grandfather Gwynfor
Evans threatened to starve himself to death in the campaign for a
Welsh-language TV channel. Her parents Ffred and Meinir Ffransis spent
years in prison for carrying out peaceful direct-action protests for a
Welsh language TV channel and language act.  The last Welsh language
campaigner to be locked up was Sioned Elin, in 1995.

Plaid: Welsh a political football

PLAID Cymru accused Labour of turning the Welsh language into a political
football when it put its policy out for review yesterday. Language policy
will be the first in a series of Plaid policy commissions in the run up to
the 2007 Assembly elections. Senior party figures said there was no
significance in the fact language was the first to come under examination.
Commissions on health and education will follow. Plaid's deputy Assembly
leader Rhodri Glyn Thomas said the Assembly government failed to deliver
its language policy - Iaith Pawb (Everyone's Language) - which would
increase the percentage of Welsh speakers by 5% by 2011.

He said: "It was the first time a national government had made a categoric
statement that they were committed to Welsh language growth. "That policy
hasn't been implemented by the government of Wales." Opposition AMs
complained about comments made by a spin doctor to a newspaper about the
soon-to-be-abolished Welsh Language Board. Mr Thomas said culture minister
Alun Pugh seemed to have a spokeswoman "who is out of control and making
dogmatic statements about the Labour government". "The Welsh language has
once again become a political football which is something that none of us
want," he added..

Plaid's shadow culture minister Owen John Thomas will sit on the
commission with party president Dafydd Iwan. The other members of the
commission were not finalised yet, they said. Owen John Thomas said the
study would focus on the lack of Welsh-medium education. "The cornerstone
of creating a bilingual Wales will be through the Welsh-medium schools
across our nation," he said.. "The Labour Assembly government's approach
to the Welsh language is fatally flawed by not giving the leadership
necessary to local authorities to ensure the demand for Welsh-medium
education is met." More than 1,000 children are "lost" to the language
every year when they leave primary school, he said. Plaid said the Welsh
language was under threat in its heartlands, despite an increase in the
number of Welsh speakers at the last census.

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