Plaid Cymru President in Belfast

Plaid Cyrmu President Dafydd Iwan was in Belfast today speaking at a POBAL organised debate, ‘Moving forward: protecting language; developing society,’ in conjunction with Féile an Earraigh.

Iwan, a folk singer and former political prisoner spoke in favour of an language legislation but reminded listeners that campaigning and legislation go hand in hand, and that one was not more important than the other.

As an admirer of Plaid Cymru I was keen to hear Dafydd on Talkback and I must say I was quite impressed, articulate and reasoned and more than a match for those of an opposing view. He stressed the parallels between Northern Ireland and Wales in contrast to unionists who were stressing that a critical difference was the fact that there were ‘two nations’ here. Dafydd explained that similar oppostion, for similar reasons existed in Wales ’20 or 30′ years ago.

The debate also featured Neasa Ni Chinnéide, President of the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages.

Nuacht 24 has the scéal.

I’ll update this thread if and when I get more information.

  • Catholic Observer

    Political union with England has been very damaging for the Welsh language (as it has been for Cornish and Irish/Scots/Manx Gaelic; likewise Breton with France). For example in the 1960s the English Parliament ordered the town of Capel Celyn (‘Holy Chapel’), one of the last remaining monoglot Welsh-speaking towns, to be flooded in order to create a resovoir for the city of Liverpool. This was despite the fact that all Welsh MPs who voted opposed the proposal. Even the town’s cemetory was destroyed. While I heartily applaud all endeavours to protect and promote our Celtic languages, a true restoration will never occur so long as our ancient nations are subservient to a foreign parliament in London. We should form our own Celtic Union.

  • William

    Gael gan Náire states. ‘…..Iwan, a folk singer and former political prisoner spoke in favour…..

    What do you mean by POLITICAL PRISONER? Was this lifted and thrown into jail for his beliefs or did he commit an offence for which he was sentenced to prison? As I suspect the latter, then he was NO political prisoner. Just as there were no political prisoners in Northern Ireland, neither were there any in Wales.

  • Gael gan Náire

    “Was this lifted and thrown into jail for his beliefs or did he commit an offence for which he was sentenced to prison?”

    Both. He broke the law, he was sent to prison.

    He was motivated by his political beliefs and was carrying out political inspired acts.

    I make no moral judgements and I respect your view, but I am not writing in a legal register here, legally there is no such thing as a political prisoner in English law, but a political one. Therefore I would hold it as a valid description.

  • Gael gan Náire

    Of course ‘Special Category Status’ prior to 1976 could be interpreted as a ‘political status,’ but I would have to research interpretations of it which I am not prepared to do today, and besides, it is off topic.

  • William

    NO IT IS NOT OFF TOPIC…..If you chose to cite this Welsh warbler, who in the Christy Moore bent, also uses his music to further a political cause, as a POLITICAL PRISONER….then I am merely pointing out to you the error of your post….He was NO political prisoner….he broke the law for whatever reason and got thrown in the nick….hell rub it up him.

    I should point out (courtesy of Wikipedia]

    Iwan escaped a driving ban (for speeding offences) in October 2003 on the basis that he needed to drive for his musical and political duties. This incident led the satirical Private Eye magazine to question “Is Plaid Cymru a political party or a racing team?”

    So the Law hasn’t been too sore on him…. the electorate have however, they chucked him out at the May 2008 local elections!!!

  • Whatever about Dafydd’s past transgressions, it’s worth making the point that the Welsh Language Act and the protection and support given the Welsh Language in Wales during the reign of Margaret Thatcher are exactly what’s required in Ireland, north and south, for Irish. That rather than a version of the bureaucrat’s wet dream which is the Official Languages Act of the 26 Counties.

    While the Welsh language has a well funded TV channel and extensive protection and support in terms of signage and educational resources, the OLA in the 26 hasn’t contributed one iota to the resurgence of Irish. It’s sole purpose appears to be to provide gainful employment for Irish language translators who would be better off – and the language too would benefit – if they were to use their considerable skills in writing fiction, journalism, poetry, film scripts, anything, rather than translating unread documents from English to Irish.

    The Official Languages Act and Official Status as a Working Language for Irish in the EU have, to my mind, been disasters for the Irish language and its community. I’m all for Bairbre de Brún speaking as Gaeilge in Strasbourg – but not not at the expense of practical support for the Irish language in Ireland. This I discuss in greater detail in Irish on my own blog….

  • picador

    it’s worth making the point that the Welsh Language Act and the protection and support given the Welsh Language in Wales during the reign of Margaret Thatcher are exactly what’s required in Ireland

    That came about as a result of the hunger strike she did give in to.

  • willowfield

    This guy was not a “former political prisoner”. The statement should be deleted.

  • blinding

    We in Ireland must look to the way the Welsh have preserved and promoted their language.
    They have done a marvelous job and we must learn what we can from them.

  • Seimi

    It took to post number 2 for this to be hijacked Amazing!

    Dafyyd, whatever he was imprisoned for, is a highly respected man, and his talk today in the Cultúrlann was very interesting. Both his and Neasa’s points on language legislation were extremely useful, and there should be more of this type of debate happening.

  • Gael gan Náire

    Blinding,

    Problem is, in my experience, that even the most radical activitists here would simply not be up for mass civil disobience, direct action, and ending up in jail.

    I do believe however that we do have alot to learn from Wales.

    Séimí,

    Tell us more! Was it recorded?

  • William

    I am a pragmatist who is interested in the preservation of minority languages. However, we can’t have Millions thrown at them….why do we need a specific TV station with a few dozen viewers or specific broadcasting stations with like numbers of listeners.

    Listen to the Irish programmes on Radio Ulster and Lynette Fay and her colleague on TV…..they use English nearly as much as Irish, thus defeating the need for any of these programmes.

    Perhaps the need is so that the pigeon Irish speakers of Sinn Fein can grab control, the way they have with so many of the Irish language groups.

  • Bruno Spiro

    It is at best disingenous to claim a valid comparison vis-á-vis language in the situations in Northern Ireland and Wales now or in the past.

    Although the Irish language lobby would like to wish it away, or claim that it is merely a unionist construct, that fact remains that agitation for Irish is closely linked in the public perception with militant republicanism. A republicanism responsible for many deaths in the unionist community.

    Having lived in Wales for a period of some ten years I know no such baggage ever burdened Welsh.

  • picador

    that fact remains that agitation for Irish is closely linked in the public perception with militant republicanism.

    I would like to suggest the following edit to your statement, Bruno.

    that fact remains that agitation for Irish is closely but incorrectly linked in the public perception with militant republicanism.

  • picador

    Well-known law-breakers of the 20th century:

    Nelson Mandela
    Mahatma Ghandi
    Eamon deValera
    etc.

    Not so well-known law-breakers of the 20th (and 21st) century:

    Margaret Thatcher
    Tony Blair
    etc.

  • dear oh dear

    picador you are repitive. try and pick up a new script. you pozt by rlte. boooorrrrriiiinnnngggg

  • I am a pragmatist who is interested in the preservation of minority languages.

    The Conservatives in both Scotland and Wales have played it quite clever- keeping their unionist credentials to the fore whilst still promoting their respective *minority* languages. In NI, how do we, as Unionists, replicate that trick?

  • Reader

    oneill: In NI, how do we, as Unionists, replicate that trick?
    Make a deal. Volunteer to preserve, not promote, the language. Direct funding to voluntary, local, organisations without political baggage. Funding for local groups, or 6 county groups, or shared funding with the RoI for 32 county groups. Don’t fight state participation in e.g. broadcasting; instead, generate a certain level of public service broadcast traffic to earn state funding – e.g. new voiceovers for drink-driving adverts on Irish language channels.
    Once SF see that the language is no longer a bullet in the republican armoury, the majority of *them* will lose interest – adult learning is hard work.
    And once the baggage on both sides has gone, then relax and re-appraise the matter.

  • Seimi

    GGN – the entire discussion was recorded. Both Dafyyd and Neasa’s talks were broadcast this afternoon on Raidió Fáilte, and will be again.

    ‘In NI, how do we, as Unionists, replicate that trick?’

    Might I suggest that it’s not really a trick? It’s merely embracing and recognising and celebrating your indigenous language. Don’t be put off by all the rubbish about Irish being a ‘Republican’ language for a start. See it as ‘Our’ language, something to be proud of, not something to be scorned. Enjoy it. 🙂

  • Dewi

    yma o hyd

  • picador

    A bit of education for you, ODOD

    Gwynfor_Evans

    Contrary to what I stated above he only threatened to go on hunger strike. But it was enough to make Maggie cave in (which goes to show that the Irish have a lot to learn from the Welsh).

    Back to the topic:

    Will Mr Iwan be visiting Stormont? Or meeting any unionists? It certainly would be useful for them to learn about the protection of minority languages within a British context.

    Speaking of which, did anyone see Ran C Nesbitt tonight?

  • picador

    I meant Rab C Nesbitt of course

  • Dewi

    Seimi – is there a link to hear the talk?

  • Jeremy

    “However, we can’t have Millions thrown at them”

    2006 Ulster Scots Agency Programme Expenditure
    Strategic Themes Indicative Budget per

    Corporate Plan Re-profiled Budget
    Linguistic Development 90k 195k
    Culture 670k 493k
    Education 360k 547k
    Public Understanding 210k 180k
    Staff/Running Costs

    ASLC 490k 672k

    45k
    Total 1.82m 2.132m

    Quite!

  • Just passing by

    @ Catholic Observer

    “While I heartily applaud all endeavours to protect and promote our Celtic languages, a true restoration will never occur so long as our ancient nations are subservient to a foreign parliament in London. We should form our own Celtic Union.”

    Celtic languages are rather ‘useless’ because unlike Portuguese or Spanish, they are unintelligible to one another and the populations that speak them are rather small.

    The problem with people like you is that you’re too busying trying to protect these languages rather than promoting them. For example, sensible people would have demand that Welsh be taught in every corner of England since the union was England AND Wales (not England and sometimes Wales or England and Wales when it’s convenient). Other British languages such as Cornish or Scots Gaelic should have been pushed as well. The idea is not as daft as it might seem. In the schools, foreign languages such as French, Spanish, Chinese, etc. are offered. Why not one of the languages from the land that you stand on? It really should have been compulsory with the goal of everyone having a rudimentary understanding of the British languages you mentioned above.

    As far as languages dying out, every linguist I’ve spoken to states that languages are alive, ever changing mechanism. Well if we accept that languages are alive, we must also accept that languages do die out (for a myriad of reasons they die out; and not by ridiculous examples such as flooding a town that you mentioned above). A language dying out is NOT a tragedy, just merely evolution.

  • dewi

    Just passing by – strangely enough Dafydd El suggested teaching Welsh in schools in England a decade ago on Question Time.

  • borderline

    William worries about people like me breaking “the law”.

    Your law, William, not mine.

    I don’t agree with your laws, I don’t agree with the way you gerrymandered me into your country, so I am not loyal to your law and , if the truth be known, rather enjoy breaking it.

    The way your treacherous political antecedents threatened to do when faced with Home Rule.

    So give up your oul’ guff about ‘the law’ as if it were an agreed law like the laws of football.

  • Bruno Spiro

    picador,

    I am more than comfortable with your edit and would happily add ‘incorrectly’ to my post.

    I do still feel there is an issue to address and simply asking unionists to ‘jump first’ and embrace, for example, an ILA will not succeed.

    Unionists I fear have had a less than ideal response in the past to taking the first leap.

  • picador

    Bruno,

    I suggest one further edit:

    that fact remains that agitation for Irish is closely but incorrectly linked in the unionist perception with militant republicanism.

    Now that the Provos have disarmed and SF are in the Executive and upholding the rule of (British) law it can be seen that the militant republicanism of which you wrote is a dead duck.

    Fortunately that is not the case with the Irish language which is undergoing somewhat of a revival at present. There is nothing at all to be feared in a language which – given commitment and perseverance – anybody can learn, no matter what their political or religious beliefs.

  • Lidl Richard

    Only the British language should be spoken in the British province.