Wales: Labour worker ’s brain-dead slur against Welsh

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Fri Sep 14 12:44:06 UTC 2007

Labour worker's brain-dead slur against Welsh Sep 14 2007

by Martin Shipton, Western Mail

A LABOUR AM was at the centre of a political storm last night after
she refused to condemn her researcher for referring to Welsh as a
"brain-dead language". Vale of Clwyd AM Ann Jones yesterday refused to
comment on the row surrounding the comments of her researcher David
Collins, who stated on a blog, "Personally I share the view of [early
19th Century politician] Daniel O'Connell when he said, 'I can witness
without a sigh the decline of the Irish language'.

"One aspect that doesn't seem to have received much attention so far
is consideration of the language as a class issue. To what extent does
the requirement to teach Welsh at all key stages and the right to
access all public service provision through the medium of Welsh assist
or hinder the prospects of the under-privileged?" He added, "Moreover
it isn't an issue simply in terms of all the time that is wasted on
it. Compulsory Welsh may also diminish young pupils' enthusiasm for
education and their confidence in their ability to master a subject.
You cannot successfully teach a practically brain-dead language to
young children whose families don't want it revived or couldn't care
less about it."

Mr Collins, 33, is a primary school governor who has been selected by
Labour to stand for Cardiff Council in next year's local government
elections. When asked about his comment by the Western Mail he said,
"I made a brief comment on a blog which appears to have been blown out
of all proportion. While phrasing one sentence I neglected to delete
the word 'brain' from the previous formulation. I regret any offence
caused by my careless typing. The comment was made in my own time and
is not a reflection of the views of Ann Jones AM or the Wales Labour

Ms Jones refused to comment.

Aran Jones, chief executive of the Welsh language communities group
Cymuned said, "This is an utterly unacceptable public comment from a
key adviser to a Labour member who represents a constituency where the
Welsh language is a thriving part of community life. "Slurs like this
simply cannot be accepted in a modern Wales which is being built on a
positive approach to our language and culture, and Ann Jones should
request an immediate public apology from the misguided David Collins.
"If he is not willing to apologise, it is clear that he is not
fit-for- purpose as an Assembly researcher, and he should be sacked

When it became clear that Mr Collins was not apologising and that Ms
Jones was not commenting, Mr Jones added, "It is quite shameful that
by default she is effectively condoning his comments. This raises very
serious questions about the Labour Party's commitment to the language
policies outlined in the One Wales agreement with Plaid Cymru."Welsh
Conservative Shadow Heritage Minister Paul Davies said, "I think these
are disgraceful remarks. He should apologise unreservedly to the Welsh

"Welsh certainly isn't a dead language. According to official figures
the proportion of Welsh speakers rose from 20.8% in 2001 to 21.7% in
2003. That is excellent news for those of us committed to furthering
and safeguarding the Welsh language."I think Ann Jones should consider
his position. If she's not prepared to comment, it is a reflection on
her." Caernarfon Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams said, "Clearly he has
not talked to English-speaking parents who send their children to
Welsh-medium schools. Perhaps they know something that he does not.

"I understand he is a governor of a Cardiff school which is
responsible for implementing the national curriculum. Perhaps his
fellow governors should consider whether he can contribute anything
positive to the running of the school." Eleanor Burnham, Welsh Liberal
Democrat Welsh language champion, said, "These comments are typical of
the appalling attitude of many Labour activists towards the Welsh
language. Many of them resent the prominent and growing role that
Welsh plays in Welsh life.

"That's why they've opposed our calls for a new Welsh Language Act and
to give greater rights to people wishing to use the language as part
of their everyday life. "Their antagonism – as illustrated by comments
like these – is one of the reasons why Labour have largely been driven
out of Welsh-speaking areas in all parts of the country." First
Minister Rhodri Morgan said, "Our policy is to promote a healthy
bilingual Wales where the rights of people to speak Welsh and English
are guaranteed. We want to see a bilingual future for Wales." You
cannot successfully teach a practically brain-dead language to young
children whose families don't want it revived or couldn't care less
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