Anniversary of One Wales is a time to shout about success

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sat Jul 5 14:04:02 UTC 2008

Anniversary of One Wales is a time to shout about success
Jul 4 2008 by David Williamson, Western Mail

SHARING power with Labour has given Plaid Cymru the opportunity to
turn bilingual policy into action for the first time, Heritage
Minister Rhodri Glyn Thomas has claimed. Speaking just days ahead of
the first anniversary of the One Wales coalition pact between Labour
and Plaid, the veteran activist said the Assembly Government now had
the power to protect and promote the Welsh language.
He said: "The One Wales Government has taken on board the need to
ensure there's a political driver from Government now. It won't happen
just because you have a policy."

Mr Thomas – who as a teenager was arrested for dumping
English-language road signs outside a police station – confirmed that
the party would still consider sharing powers with the Conservatives
after a future election. He said: "That would always be a difficult
option for me, not impossible... the one thing which I think is
important in politics is you never, ever turn down the opportunity to
be in power, because it's only when you're in Government you have the
opportunity to do things." A key goal is seeking the transfer from
Westminster of power to make laws relating to the Welsh language.It is
expected the Assembly Government will request the ability to pass
legislation affecting the private sector.

Mr Thomas believes a transformation in attitudes to the Welsh language
has taken place during his lifetime and that Government leadership is
essential for further progress to continue. He said: "Not only has the
language stopped being a political football, I don't think it is
divisive any longer in Wales as it certainly was at one time. You can
understand the tensions and the confrontations.
"There were people, me amongst them, who were actively campaigning to
save the language at the time." Now, he said, the Assembly Government
was battling to keep up with demand for Welsh-language provision.

He continued: "It's a matter of giving people opportunities. The one
area where the demand for provision through the medium of Welsh cannot
be met at the moment – and we're facing that challenge now – is
Welsh-medium education. "Everywhere you look in Wales at the moment,
the demand for Welsh-medium education is greater than the provision."
He is a former chairman of CND in Wales whose political roots are in
the protest movement, but he insists his motivations remain the same.
Mr Thomas said: "In terms of my own journey, you have to adapt to what
you're doing at a certain time. Your feelings for the language don't

"It's just the way you take advantage of opportunities which are given
to you to promote the language. "In those early days it was an
opportunity to be part of the protest movement. There were people who
did a great deal more than I did... "Obviously, if you have a criminal
record there are certain things which you can't do in terms of
employment." Now, he argued, enthusiasm for the language and a sense
of nationhood had spread across Wales.

He said: "I was born in 1953 so when I was growing up in Wrexham in an
Anglicised areas of Wales – more Anglicised then than it is now –
there was certainly an issue of 'them and us'; very much in terms of
Welsh-speaking and non-Welsh-speaking people.
"But what I think we've seen over the years – the most encouraging
aspect of what's happened to the Welsh language – is more and more
people feel ownership of the language. "Some of the people who feel
most enthusiastic about promoting the language, and offering people
opportunities in the language, are not people who actually speak Welsh

The challenge now, he argued, is building on goodwill to make it
possible to use Welsh in every aspect of life. "There is certainly no
opposition in the Assembly these days to any of the policies we have
now as a Government to promote the Welsh language." The greatest
moment in the past year, he said, was sitting down with Labour
colleagues to begin drafting a programme for government which would
work towards such an aim. Mr Thomas had floated the idea of a deal
with Labour months earlier, but the prospect moved closer to reality
in the aftermath of the Assembly elections.

He said: "One very prominent member of the Labour Party came up to me
and he said: 'I've just been to the Labour group – I can't believe it,
there's no real opposition there to a coalition with Plaid'. Then we
just sat down and put together our programme. "That was groundbreaking
in terms of Welsh politics. Welsh politics will never be the same."
N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to
its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner
or sponsor of
the list as to the veracity of a message's contents. Members who
disagree with a
message are encouraged to post a rebuttal. (H. Schiffman, Moderator)

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list