Apr 132018
 

A guest post by Aled Gwyn Jôb

‘Tri chynnig i Gymro’ (Three tries for a Welshman) is a very old and much-loved Welsh saying.

Where Leighton Andrews and Mark Drakeford ultimately feared to tread, the Welsh Government’s own inimitable attack dog, Alun Davies, is now all set to get his teeth into Local Government re-organisation.

But, if this to mean anything other than a tokenistic tinkering with the map of Wales once again, surely the process has to involve meaningful change this time round.

It’s an opportunity to look afresh at what local democracy should actually mean today, and how it can manifest itself anew in different parts of Wales. The long neglected link up between health care and social care should definitely be on the agenda, as well as democratic control of social housing, a sector which has grown exponentially over the past few years with little or no local scrutiny attached to it.

With Cardiff having a disproportionate slice of the political and economic cake, there is also a strong case for the creation of perhaps no more than 6 regional authorities to counter-balance the Cardiff-centricity of modern Wales, and those authorities imbued with real powers. Which could even perhaps include some element of tax-varying powers of their own, as is the case with local authorities in the thriving Basque Country.

It’s also high time for some radical thinking where the Welsh language and local government is concerned.

It presents a golden opportunity to implement the idea proposed by Adam Price, the Plaid Cymru AM – i.e. to create ARFOR, a single authority for the Welsh-speaking areas of Ynys Môn, Gwynedd, Ceredigion, and Caerfyrddin, which would operate through the medium of Welsh.

The much-maligned nationalist thinker, Saunders Lewis predicted that the Welsh language would decline faster with a Welsh Government in situ in Cardiff than it would under Westminster control, unless local government first conducted its work through the medium of Welsh in Y Fro Gymraeg.

With less than 5 per cent of deliberations at Y Senedd conducted in Welsh (well below the national 21 per cent of Welsh speakers), Saunders Lewis’ prophecy seems to have been borne out.

Every single party at Y Senedd (even UKIP) pledges strong support for Welsh in public: but the harsh truth after 20 years of devolution is that English has become the governing language in our national parliament. With the best will in the world, this is not going to change any time soon.

A cultural and political counterpoint is sorely needed to provide Cymraeg with real status and power- located in those areas where it remains an everyday living language.

Socio-linguists agree that a minority language requires some form of territorial integrity in order to thrive. Increasing use is now being made of environmental metaphors with a minority language imagined as a plant or flower which has to have a secure habitat in order to be able to breathe, grow and flourish.

If we continue with the environmental metaphor, most of us are all aware that Welsh’s natural habitat has been eroding on a frighteningly fast rate over the past two generations.

click to enlarge

At the time of the 1961 census there were areas within sight of Stradey Park and Llandudno promenade where over 80% of the population spoke Welsh, and the whole of the west apart from south Pembrokeshire was mainly Welsh speaking.

By the 2011 census however, this former solid bank of Welsh speakers across these western counties had dried up alarmingly with Gwynedd down to 64% of  Welsh speakers, Ynys Mon 59%, Ceredigion on 48% and Caerfyrddin down to 44%.

The calamitous retreat of Cymraeg in these heartlands since 1951, has been virtually ignored by all the political parties. Partly of course because of the thorny reality that this decline has been accelerated by an inflow of migration from England- with the vast majority of these incomers not showing any inclination to learn the language of their new country. Not one party, not even Plaid Cymru, has dared to challenge and oppose this hugely destructive process over the years.

But the decline has also been about an exodus of Welsh-speaking people, especially younger people in search of employment opportunities, not available in the traditional Welsh-speaking areas. Cardiff of course has been the main beneficiary of this exodus and although it’s comforting on one level that these people are at least staying in Wales, there can be no denying that this process has denuded their home communities of their  vitality, their energy and their creativity.

The habitat needs to be rewilded, and the best way to start is with an idea

ARFOR could operate with say 60 elected councillors( 15 from the 4 areas). The geographic distances between Caergybi on Ynys Môn and Llanelli in Carmarthenshire need not be a problem in an age of fast-developing video conferencing. Its nominal headquarters could be based, say, in Aberystwyth or even Machynlleth, but with specific departments located in all four areas.

Arfor should be able to draw up a strategic trajectory for its territory in terms of economic development, housing, planning, social care and other key sectors such as food and drink, tourism, entrepreneurship and language regeneration.

The overall plans could then be implemented at a more local level by beefing up the role of present day community councils. These could be re-imagined by reviving the old model of the rural/town district councils (with several local community councils coming together to form these new entities) employing staff to discharge the duties delivered downwards by the central Arfor authority.

This would allow both a regional identity and a local identity to co-exist and co-create a better future for the heartlands which have only known decline, despair and disillusionment for the past two generations.

Cyngor Sir Gwynedd has already pioneered the way, having operated successfully through the medium of Welsh since the mid 90ies. Ynys Môn has declared that they are now going to follow its example. Arfor is half way there already.

As to the predictable concerns that Arfor would “divide” Wales, and re-ignite the old arguments aired in the 1970ies about such an idea, I would argue that the Welsh national identity is much more secure today than back then. That identity is secure enough to be able to live with the thought that different parts of Wales should perhaps be able to do things differently.

And there is no need to fret either that such a development would allow the other 5/6 regional authorities to ignore Welsh, because the Welsh Language Standards passed by Y Senedd recently will ensure that a modicum of bilingualism will remain in the others.

Associate membership of Arfor could also be provided over time to other Welsh-speaking areas, e.g Dyffryn Conwy, Parts of Denbighsire, Powys and Pembrokeshire, who wish to be part of the new entity.

Arfor has the potential to do more to develop the Welsh language than almost any other language success gained over the years, even arguably S4C – now a pale shadow of its former self and shorn of the clout it used to have in Welsh-speaking Wales.

It will give Welsh real political and economic clout in its traditional heartlands. It will provide employment opportunties and career structures for Welsh speakers from all over Wales. It will, at a stroke, make learning Welsh a real, economic and social necessity for incomers to these areas. It is quite literally, the golden bullet as far as language regeneration is concerned in Y Fro Gymraeg.

Cultural regeneration in the heartlands will undoubtedly lead to economic regeneration as well. It can be a magnet for Welsh speakers from all over the UK and wider afield. It can prove an inspiration to Welsh learners all over Wales and beyond to see that Welsh can thrive as a living, community language.

As Alun Davies weighs up his options, and perhaps even his legacy as far as the Welsh language is concerned as an enthusiastic learner himself, he might be tempted to bring that famous Bill Clinton slogan to mind, and re-phrase it to say : “It’s the culture, stupid” in seeking to effect change.

♦ end ♦

Jac chips in . . .

As persuasive as Aled’s argument is, I’m not totally convinced. For two main reasons. First, I’m one of those who believes it would divide Wales. Second, I look to Ireland’s Gaeltacht and I see no great success to emulate.

My fears on dividing Wales can be explained with an anecdote. My wife’s eldest brother lives in Crickhowell. About 20 years ago, with the Meibion Glyndŵr campaign still fresh in the memory, we were visiting and I got talking to my brother-in-law’s eldest son.

He brought up the subject of the campaign and made a forceful point that youngsters of his age in that area were experiencing a similar problem from retirees, good-lifers, commuters and others pushing up local property values – but nobody seemed to care about them because they didn’t speak Welsh.

The realisation of Arfor could result in those sentiments I heard in Crickhowell being raised again. And not just by sincere and sympathetic people like my nephew, but by the growing army of anti-Welsh bigots getting bolder by the day.

Which is why if Arfor does became reality I would like to see legislation introduced to protect anglophone Welsh identities in other rural areas. Otherwise Arfor could alienate people from Rhuddlan to Rhossili.

Now let’s turn to the Gaeltacht, as I guarantee many will do! It seems to be widely acknowledged in Ireland that the whole concept has been a failure. Everybody seems to blame everybody else, but the fact remains that the Gaeltacht is largely symbolic and kept afloat by a state reluctant to admit its abject failure.

The maps below tell their own story. (Available here in PDF format.)

click to enlarge

Maybe a Gaeltacht made up of small, widely separated areas was doomed to fail, and this might be Arfor’s advantage over the Irish model.

But let’s assume that the Arfor project takes off, how is it to be sold to the large, non-Welsh populations in Beddgelert, Betws-y-Coed, Barmouth, Tywyn, Aberdyfi, Borth, New Quay – even Aberystwyth? Will these communities be able to opt out?

Whether these settlements buy in or not to survive Arfor will need positive discrimination in favour of the indigenous population coupled with restrictions on who can move in . . . which would send the English media and its Welsh lapdogs into a feeding frenzy!

As I say, I would prefer to see all-Wales legislation that could protect all areas facing similar problems. A strategy guaranteeing that locals get priority in housing, employment, education, training, grants, and everything else, with nothing forced on these areas unless it is of demonstrable benefit to the local population.

But if we can’t have a national strategy, then I would support Arfor, but my support could never be wholehearted.

  50 Responses to “Cymraeg needs power in the West – Arfor can deliver it”

  1.  

    The dictionary definition of ‘Ghetto’:

    A ghetto is a part of a [city] in which members of a minority group live, typically as a result of social, legal, or economic pressure. The term was originally used in Venice to describe the part of the city to which Jews were restricted and segregated but has since been applied in various contexts.

    You can substitute ‘city’ for country in the context of Aled’s excellent article. However, on this occasion I favour Jac’s ‘chipped in’ comment.

    What ARFOR in essence would do is give up another section of the cake to England (and a large one at that) by further marginalising our traditional language and culture as a nation, thereby shrinking our sovereign country down to it’s most western periphery. That on a larger scale is what we in Cymru and Yr Alban were forced to do many centuries ago. I.e. give up our lowlands in what is today England, and be forced to live in the more ragged and infertile areas of mountainous regions in the north and west.

    In my view ARFOR is a capitulation. What we need to do is protect our current official border by demanding a free sovereign state that we alone control. Cowering into an even smaller section of our own country, thereby creating our own ghetto to live in is NOT – in my view – the correct way to go. It actually makes our dream of independence even weaker, because what it would do in effect, is to give away the remainder of our country outside the ‘ghetto’ to the invader. That can never be a good thing surely?

    I’ve also looked closely at the Gaeltacht model over many years, more so since the term ‘Y Fro Gymraeg’ was first quoined, and the concept of setting up ‘Y Fro Gymraeg’ was first muted, especially during my days with Cymuned. My conclusion then and now, is that the Gaeltacht experiment is indeed by now a stagnant and failed project, although well meaning at it’s inception. It is almost a cultural and linguistic museum, not much different from a Sain Ffagan on a large scale, but an artificial living museum all the same.

    The optimistic assumption that the Gaeltacht would strengthen and then expand outside it’s borders never happened. When you look closer at the project and realise what was being attempted, you cannot but come to the conclusion that it was a doomed non starter. Even with all the good intentions by the Irish Oireachtas,in trying to encourage the the use of the Gaelic in schools etc. The bottom line is that without the people feeling a genuine need to put the effort into their everyday life, outside the Gaeltacht, then the original intention cannot be realised.

    What we need is to encourage unity across our communities, in order to attain independence with one voice, and not the isolation of our nation into a pocket of our country, in other words ‘Y Ghetto Gymraeg’.

    I would rephrase that Clinton quote further, by saying:

    “It’s the EDUCATION SYSTEM, stupid”
    .

    •  

      BG : The Irish (ar y cyfan o leia!) have had their sovereign state for a century more or less. Didn’t do a lot of good for their language though. Also in the schools, but apart from the odd enthusiast it’s just like School French was in my day, something you mug up for the exam but have no attachment to.
      I think you’re confusing language revival with independence, they support one another but really are quite different animals. Language revival is largely a question of sociology, numbers and density, whereas nationalism is entirely political. Nations can have more than one language, or one or more shared languages with neighbouring countries. It’s a moot point whether yoking together language and nationalism as happens in Wales really benefits either cause. Ond does gen i gi yn y ras ‘ma …

    •  

      The reason independence didn’t do anything for the Irish language is that the state completely wasted their oppurtunities. Irish-medium education wasn’t rapidly expanded, state services weren’t provided through it and there were barely any options for adults to learn it. None of the things necessary for a language revival were there, so it’s no surprise that nothing happened.

    •  

      I have to disagree with what you said about Arfor ghettoising the Welsh language. Minority languages survive best when there are distinct authorities to preserve and promote them.

      The Gaeltacht isn’t really a suitable comparison. It was created, but nothing was ever done with it. An Údarás wasn’t set up until 1980 and services have never been provided through the medium of Irish anywhere in the state.

      And while the education system is definitely extremely important, there needs to be more. If you only have that, students won’t use the language.

  2.  

    In my humble opinion as a republican, Aled hit the nail on the head with ” .. English has become the governing language in our national parliament. With the best will in the world, this is not goIng to change any time soon .. “.
    It is as likely to change as is the disintegration of the UK and the formation of the Celtic Union.

    •  

      A Celtic union would have from three to six distinct language, depending on who joined, so in practise everyone would speak English 🙁

  3.  

    Adfywiad – revival – relies on having an optimistic view even if it’s difficult to sustain due to all the negative crap floating around us in this cesspit called “the U.K.”. A news item a couple of weeks ago described an idea floated by people in Croesoswallt that there should be an investment in Welsh education in that town and its environs because of its social, economic and educational links with N.E Powys, places like Llanfyllin.

    Now that could be real progress as to put a stake into the ground a couple of miles over the border would be an advance into enemy territory, despite urgent pleadings and bleatings from lilly-livers in the Bay and other communities of cachgwn not to “push the matter”. The same could be done in Chester (roll back the West Cheshire syndrome), and further south in Shrewsbury and possibly Hereford. Exiles and descendants of those who migrated due to work are often more tuned into their identity and there might just be pockets all along those “Marcher” lands that could be stimulated to revisit their roots.

    Now I know this has bugger all to do with local government reorganisation but it does reflect my view that isolating our people and especially our language will only ensure a slow death whereas a modicum of success in enemy territory would be uplifting and cause acute irritation to parachuted politicians and their fellow travellers who think they have a divine mission to exterminate us by economic and social skulduggery.

  4.  

    Fully support a new Fro Gymraeg. Badly needed.

    While Jac and his immigrant cronies worry about upsetting non indigenous English speakers and the few Welsh non Welsh speakers in the area the language dies. There is an uncomfortable truth for Welsh nationalists who immigrate to live in the fro and don’t learn the language. Divisive? Yes.

    Arfor could have planning, property, education powers in order to promote and protect what makes it unique. That’s the point, they are not the same issues as Crickhowell because of the one defining difference, Cymraeg.

    It’s a shame that this excellent piece was immediately contradicted by Jac. Maybe next time publish at Nation.cymru?

    •  

      You and those who share your narrow and exclusive ideas of Welshness are the biggest threat to the Fro, the language, and any hope of independence.

      But tell us, ‘Gwenda’, what have you been doing in recent decades to save Y Fro Gymraeg? Or come to that, for Wales?

    •  

      I have a fairly narrow view of Welshness but I am content to welcome people into our family, tribe, race, ethnicity, community, nation, or whatever we choose to call it. They add to the rich mix by bringing their positive attributes and in turn absorb those things to which we attach value, and so we evolve.

      The sad thing is that there is too much pollution these days where our essential identity is being eradicated by a mix of deliberate acts of swamping and casual ignorance. This leads to well meaning ideas created out of a sense of despair but these may add to the corrosion rather than arrest it.

    •  

      Name me a nation that has thrived once confined to a reservation ? Policies adopted by imperialists, colonists and others who enjoy using their “superior powers” to dictate to minorities and confine them rarely if ever lead to those minorities flourishing.

    •  

      I do accept that comment Dafis and the challenge about a reservation. That’s the situation we are in.

      My point really was of frustration at Jac’s retort to the original article. I most certainly welcome everyone into our community and expect them to learn and speak Welsh. Otherwise they are a part of the problem. There are Welsh nationalists who have moved into the Fro and become a part of the problem by being English speaking immigrants in the fro. It’s uncomfortable for them to hear it and for me to say it. It is true.

      Goodwill is not the saviour of the language. Learning it and speaking it daily is.

      As to Jac’s response. My pro Welsh language views are “the biggest threat to the Fro, the language”? And then the defensive personal questioning. Disappointing Jac. There are real threats to the Welsh language in the Fro. My concern about immigrants not speaking Welsh is most certainly not “the biggest”.

      As for what have I done. Without opening up a debate as to my contributions is bigger than yours, I’ll simply say that I do my bit and without it a number of Welsh language institutions in my community would have closed. I have a right to voice my opinion without having to justify my actions.

    •  

      Certainly, I’m not fluent in Welsh, but over 50+ years I’ve put in a good shift for Wales, and I’m still at it. This blog reaches a great many people, and has some influence. I have been instrumental in laying the foundations for a new party, Ein Gwlad, to take up the fight Plaid Cymru has abandoned.

      Despite this, you feel quite entitled to visit my blog and slag me off because I don’t conform to your paradigm of ‘the good Welshman’, maybe the only acceptable type of Welshman.

      Your obsession is obviously the language. So why aren’t you attacking Plaid Cymru for its surrender of Y Fro Gymraeg to its middle class English friends and others? Why aren’t you condemning Cymdeithas yr Iaith for decades of inactivity?

      The only successful defenders of Y Fro Gymraeg in recent decades have been Meibion Glyndwr. When they were active immigration slowed. Sales of holiday homes dropped. But everyone else, every other organisation, has either sold out, chickened out, or just failed. Yet despite this woeful record of those supposedly committed to defending the language and Y Fro Gymraeg you prefer to come here and blame me!

      It all sounds very personal. Do we know each other? Did I run over your cat, or something?

      In your earlier comment you referred to my “immigrant cronies”. Who are they? Am I an immigrant?

      Let me suggest, ‘Gwenda’, love, that you take yourself to the optician on Monday morning and get yourself a new pair of glasses. They might help you see better where the real threat to Y Fro Gymraeg is coming from. Cos it’s not me.

    •  

      I really have not ‘sagged you off”. If you want to put your views online on the need to protect the Welsh language in the Fro you really need to develop a thick skin and not consider every opposing view as a personal attack.

      Nobody suggested that you have not been busy with regard to the national question. I’m not sure what this has to do with it.

      I really have no paradigm on a good Welsh person. The article was about the Welsh language in the Fro, hence my discussion on immigration to the Fro by non Welsh speakers. It seems that you are protesting a bit too much ‘Jac’ by trying to turn this.

      I most definitely don’t see Plaid Cymru as a solution unfortunately. Not sure why you ask me about my views on them. Cymdeithas have done good work and continue to do so. They are hamstrung by people like me who are afraid to act and face imprisonment and others who continually attack them from a nationalist perspective. Interestingly, your response on the importance of the language being owned by the whole of Wales is very much a Cymdeithas view.

      Interesting comment you made about the arsonists. Do you have evidence of this slowdown of immigration in the 80s? My memory is the opposite. But I could be wrong.

      Are you an immigrant? I don’t know ‘Jac’, are you? Have you moved in to the Fro? Have you done so and truly integrated by adopting the language fully? I honestly don’t know if you have or not. Only you can answer that question.

      For me the language is the crux of the matter in this article. This isn’t about self determination nationally. If we lose the language we lose everything. One can only be non-Welsh speaking if there is a Welsh language not to speak. We need to protect it. Trying to do so without upsetting the immigrants is exactly the failure of Plaid Cymru.

      My debate is anything but personal. It’s a challenge to be able to discuss immigration into the Fro without people being upset, as I’ve just found out.

    •  

      It’s becoming clearer now. You seem to belong to that section of opinion that believes the language is everything and nothing else matters. This is a perfectly legitimate view, I believe it was held by both Saunders Lewis and Gwynfor Evans, but it doesn’t stand up to examination.

      My worry with that standpoint is that it removes the language from its political and economic context to the point where some would be happy to see Wales linked to England, impoverished and exploited, as long as it was Welsh speaking. You can keep that nightmare to yourself.

      You say you’re “afraid to act and face imprisonment”. So you see the language dying around you, you do nothing, you get angry, frustrated, and then you lash out at me! How exactly does that help, ‘Gwenda’? I mean, I can see how it might ease your frustration, but how does it help the language you cherish, or Wales?

      You conclude with “My debate is anything but personal. It’s a challenge to be able to discuss immigration into the Fro without people being upset, as I’ve just found out.” Welsh people moving from one part of Wales to another – as we are perfectly entitled to do – are not killing the language. That is being done by the thousands of English people moving into the Fro every year.

      Yet you come here sowing divisions among Welsh people, discrediting me personally, and arguing that English people are in fact saving the Welsh language (because you claim to know a few who’ve learnt Welsh). This is a very curious position, ‘Gwenda’, and makes me suspicious. You could simply be a shit-stirrer working for the other side.

      Because your name is phoney. I have doubts about the e-mail address given. So if you intend making another comment you’ll do so under your real name or it will not be published.

    •  

      Siw’ma’i Gwenda.

      Dyma ein gwendid, yr ydym yn yn llawer rhy awyddus i ymladd ymhlith ein hunain, pan yr ydym mewn gwirionedd yn canu o’r un llyfr emynau, pan ddylem fod yn canolbwyntio ar y gwir elyn. Mae’n rhaid bod yn llawer mwy eang a phragmataidd yn ein gweledigaeth, yn hytrach na gwneud môr a mynydd o bethau fel yr iaith. Ni ddylem adael i’r iaith ein rhannu. Ar yr un pryd, nid yw gwneud ymdrech i adfywio’r dail (yr iaith) tra bod y goeden (ein cenedl) yn cael ei gwenwyno drwy’r ei gwreiddiau yn mynd i’n hachub – gwaith ofer ydyw. Dyna pam y mae pobl fel Aled, Jac a fi yn aelodau o bwyllgor llywio y blaid newydd, Ein Gwlad.

      Siwr iawn yr ydym ein tri (ac eraill ar y P.Ll.) yn gweld rhai pethau o wahanol ongl ambell waith, ond yn y bôn yr ydym mewn undod llwyr. Beth yr ydym yn hollol gytun ag ef yw ein bod yn mynd i golli ein hunaniaeth unigryw, os na gewn ni annibyniaeth yn y dyfodol agos. Ni chredaf y byddai awdur yr erthygl agoriadol (Aled) yn hoff iawn o glywed y ffordd yr ydych wedi ymosod ar Jac. Y mae beth a ddywedoch

      While Jac and his immigrant cronies worry about upsetting non indigenous English speakers and the few Welsh non Welsh speakers in the area the language dies. There is an uncomfortable truth for Welsh nationalists who immigrate to live in the fro and don’t learn the language. Divisive? Yes.

      Yn anheg, ac yn anghywir. Mae angen pwyllo a gweld y darlun mawr, yn hytrach nac un darn o’r canfas. A ddarllenoch chi’r traethawd ar yr hyn sydd YN lladd ein cenedl, ein hiaith a’n diwylliant? Fei hysgrifennais nôl yn 2002. Mae’r ddolen gyswllt i’r traethawd wrth droed fy ymateb uchod i erthygl Aled.

      Cofiwch y medrir dysgu parot i siarad Cymraeg – nid yw hynny yn gwneud y parot yn Gymro. Daw hynny o’r galon.

    •  

      Iawn, diolch

      It’s a bit rich for the new nationalist party to lecture on disagreement within the cause.

      With regards to the parot point – I simply disagree. Some of the best people in our community are Welsh speaking English men and women. The point is they have learnt the language and live in the Welsh way. They are very welcome.

      It’s about the language.

    •  

      The problem is the your argument is too simplistic. i know English people who have moved into west wales and embraced the language, Ok they might not speak Welsh As not everybody can learn a language in adulthood but their kids are totally immersed and fluent.
      I also know non speaking Welsh “welsh immigrants” who have done the same. I also know many who don’t. .
      I also, unfortunately, know loads of Welsh speaking Welshies and non Welsh speaking westies born and raised in the west who do not want their kids to have Welsh because its backward (although the reality is that they are) see Education First, Ysgol Llangennech, etc etc nobodys is tresching my Ffion Science in Welsh. Without an economy the Welsh language is screwed – tai a gwaith i gadw’r iaith

    •  

      I think you are being purposely obtrusive, obstructive and hostile Gwenda. The first sentence of your reply gives the game away – you are steaming over the fact that some of us have got off our backsides and decided to actually DO something, rather than be armchair critics within the ’cause’ that has sat on it’s hands for the best part of a three quarters of a century.

      You seem to be an intelligent person, so you know full well what is meant by the parrot argument. People like you seem intent on swallowing the camel, whilst straining the gnat. It’s not a simple black or white debating topic – as you want to boil it down to.

      You, and I, along with most others on here, and within Ein Gwlad know full well that some come to our country, embrace our language and culture, study our history and become some of the best supporters and advocates for our cause that you can possibly get, with the zeal of the converted. Those types (probably one in about twenty of migrants from across Clawdd Offa) are a precious asset, and greatly welcomed.

      The ‘parrots’ are the little Englanders, who come here and don’t care a fig about our dire situation. They colonise our country, whilst accusing us of being racists and bigots because we protest at what is happening. That is made worse by their children being forced to learn Welsh in school, and they in turn grow up with a chip on their shoulder fuelled by resentment. That is manifested by hostility towards us as a nation. Most of them can speak Welsh, but are parrots, because their allegiance is to the country of their parents origin. That’s where their hearts lead them. Some of us are stupid enough to think that because they can utter ‘Bore da’, ‘diolch’ and ‘prynhawn da’ that they have been miraculously converted into Cymry. That is NOT the case. Teaching people to speak a language is part of the necessity, but is only a part.

      Hooting on about Welsh medium schools and singing “Yma o hyd” will NOT save us from a lingering genocide. If only it were that simple.

    •  

      I don’t speak Welsh, except when I do. Spent my very early years in what is now Torfaen, however, a few years back having a drinking pal from North Wales I picked up so much, and when I went on a pub crawl round Llanrwst I only spoke Welsh, without fear of ‘getting it wrong’, and sometimes take a while to rake out some words from the depths. Have no problem in a relaxed situation with people I know. Now in the Llanelli area and currently, I’m scoring ‘fluent’ at Coleg Sir Gar on a one-to-one, but ‘intermediate’ in group discussions. I think its just lack of ‘immersion’ and confidence.

      There is an ‘issue’ and it’s best explained by Tesco.

      Went into Tesco at Talbot Green near Llantrisant in an area where officially only 10% speak Welsh, but I spoke only in Welsh. No problem, there were some assistants (mainly teenagers who evidently attended a Welsh medium school) who were able to converse, but those who replied in English evidently understood what I was saying in Welsh, even at the checkout. My experience at Tesco’s in Carmarthen, however, was quite different. Although my ‘hit rate’ on those staff who spoke Welsh was higher, one asked me to speak in English, and one told me at the checkout that the Welsh speaking till was two rows down. These were not just people who only understood English but were people who were actually English. There’s a difference. The issue is not just about the education system, although that provides opportunity, its about migration. A word many are too shy of using for fear of being called racist. Which brings me to my final point.

      My younger brother did have the opportunity to attend a Welsh medium school. He set up home with a lady from Ceredigion and I have a nephew, who’s fluent, and the family home is Welsh speaking. Hopefully he will be going to Cardiff Uni this year, and although he might sink an odd pint in Clwb Ifor Bach, when he graduates, he have one of two choices, (a) return to Aberystwyth to work for the council at £20kpa, in which case he will have to wait for me to die in order to buy a house, or (b) move to England and earn over £65kpa, with London weighting, interest free assistance to buy a home, better promotion prospects, and accumulate enough equity in his home as to return to Ceredigion, if motivated to do so later in life. He could then buy a property of his choice, for cash. In which case, I doubt his children will be fluent Welsh speakers.

      Will ‘Arfor’ as a local authority change this?

      Y Fro Gymraeg or a’n Gaeltacht can work, and it’s happening now in Ukraine. Donetsk is becoming Ukrainian language free and Lvov is becoming Russian language free. In the respective provinces the language of determination is ‘official and only’, punishment penalties in schools, and there are civil penalties for ‘inappropriate conduct’ relating to language in public spaces. This is often backed up with vigilante acts of coercion and violence, sometimes escalating to cleansing. If this is what’s proposed, then you should have the guts to say so.

      I think there is an alternative. (a) Re-patriation. There were many occasions when I was working in London I met wealthy Welsh who spoke the language. These are the people we need back. Incentives to entice them and their businesses to Wales. (b) Settlement license for English people, in the same way as the English treat ‘foreigners’. No access to non-emergency NHS or other state institutions until the payment of the lifetime national insurance contribution of the retiree at present value, into the Welsh public sector budget, (c) new land and property ownership conditional on settlement license. (d) Tourism tax with compulsory travel insurance for visitors. (e) Sovereignty in broadcasting.

      Although these suggestions are not language specific and would apply to the whole of Wales, I do know that if I took a thousand teenagers from the Rhondda or Ebbw Vale and gave them houses in Ceredigion, I’d get almost a thousand new fluent speakers of Welsh within a few months, and a thousand more second generation. (The reverse of what happened in the 20th centrury) However, if I took a thousand English and did the same (which is what is happening) then whole communities in Y Fro Gymraeg will become anglicised very rapidly. This is the issue. But government policy is to keep a Czech in Calais as OK, but to keep a Sais in Slough is ‘racist’.

  5.  

    completley off topic – what the hell is happening to farms around the Tefi these days. I don’t fanc seeing one of these buggers naked http://www.dolcoed.co.uk/

  6.  

    At one time the Scottish Gaelic-speaking Western Isles were divided North to South between several different mainland local authorities, but with reorganisation a few decades back now, they were united under one authority : Comhairle nan Eilean with a pro-Gaelic policy. They might be worth checking out to see how well (or not?) they’re doing :

    https://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/schools-and-learning/gaelic-education/promoting-the-gaelic-language/
    https://www.cne-siar.gov.uk:8000/schools-and-learning/gaelic-education/promoting-the-gaelic-language/
    https://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/leisure-sport-and-culture/gaelic-language-and-culture/sgioba-na-gaidhlig/bilingual-policy-and-language-plan/
    https://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/media/4709/plan_e.pdf

    “The Comhairle recognises that the position of Gaelic is extremely fragile in Scotland, and that if Gaelic is to be revitalised as a living language in this country, a concerted effort on the part of the Government, the public and private sectors, community organisations and individual speakers is required, in order to:
    * Enhance the status of Gaelic;
    * Promote the acquisition and learning of Gaelic;
    * Encourage the increased use of Gaelic
    …”

  7.  

    Pob hwyl wrth Ein Gwlad, a diolch am y gyswllt i’r traethawd. Bydda’i wrthi yn ei astudio neithiwr.
    Dim Cymro myfi … felly dwi’n barot mae’n debig 😉

    •  

      Don’t beat yourself up, leave that to others !! Seriously, you have learnt to a good working standard and take an interest in the Welsh environment, so keep getting stuck in and we’ll make a good soldier out of you yet !!

  8.  

    Given the deep divisions evident between people on the “same side” it seems to me Wales will be faced with a decision sooner or later if it is not just going to be dissipated under the next 100 years of Labour rule. Either accept and embrace partition (the arfor idea would result in a de-facto partition), a welsh-speaking only area nominally or completely independent but without any real economic power, whilst the economically active areas effectively merge with the south west and north western areas of England.
    The alternative is to accept that the welsh language will only be a source of division, ideas of internal re-settlement of English speakers to learn Welsh to boost numbers will alarm and terrify many who would otherwise support Welsh independence, and, make no mistake once that generation is frightened off the idea of a such Welsh state they will be lost forever.
    Think of Scotland, no language issue to polarize debate and independence is within easy reach, Brexit has clouded the waters temporarily but within 10 years there will be a sovereign Scottish state which will be easily accepted, I can see no prospect of any such outcome for Wales for 100 years, by which time we shall all be dead and matters which seem so important now will be as relevant as the gold standard or the affairs of British India as to us. Time is not on the side of Wales.

    •  

      You are very optimistic about Scotland’s prospects and fair enough I too hope that they achieve their goal of independence, although my enthusiasm( and optimism) is tempered by their leadership’s apparent urge to get back into the EU empire p.d.q. The absence of any serious language issue is of tactical benefit to SNP in the short term but Anglicisation will continue to erode their identity. Bit daft if they gain independence and have a re-run of 1707 within 50 or 100 years.

      Here in Wales we have a totally different set of problems with deep roots in history (of conquest),cultural erosion and decline of the language, as well as economic subjugation. And that’s the point we must not forget – each nation’s circumstances differ and we have to be very careful what we set out to mimic or replicate otherwise we end up as a plastic unworkable copy of someone else’s mistake.

  9.  

    just noticed your tweet about Welsh Liberals and loneliness. I saw this article on WOL yesterday and chuckled. Of course they are concerned about being alone, there are now so few Liberals that the solitude is fucking with their minds so they are trying to make it into a social illness so they might get some funds to liven things up a bit. Plenty of other daft parties around for them to join if they are that desperate for company. Do a Kirsty and join Carwyn’s crowd as a “fellow traveller”.

  10.  

    So, do we put Y Fro Cymraeg in ‘special measures’, and will this cause a breach between it and the anglicised areas? Yes we do, and no it won’t.

    The Welsh language is on the rise in the anglicised areas, with immersion in schools and with an increase in adult learning. This has led to a rise in both the status and the profile of Welsh and more good will towards it. Only the Brit-Nats in English-speaking Wales will object to Arfor, and their stock is going down.

    The Bro needs radical surgery to revitalise Cymraeg and to make it the language of the economy, the workplace and administration there. This requires legislation. The only issue is whether this happens soon or whether it has to wait for independence. Either way, it’s the legislation, stupid — all those elements of legislation referred to by Brychan, and which have been raised many times by Jac. Only a minority outside the Bro will feel threatened by that, I believe.

    Granted, restrictions on settler property-ownership and on settlement rights will not, of course, be countenanced by Westminster, nor by its yes-men in Y Senedd. But language-legislation is within the WAG’s remit. If Ein Wlad makes the language element of Arfor an election promise, they can win Y Fro Gymraeg from Plaid Cymru.

    •  

      I believe that if the right legislation is implemented the Fro Gymraeg can be saved and it can flourish.

      In my response the AGJ’s piece I listed the threats that would be faced by Arfor that were not faced by the Gaeltacht. On the other hand, the Gaeltacht districts were economically and in other ways ‘backward’, to the extent that money sent home by emigrants formed a big part of the economy. By comparison, Arfor, and those who have recently left, could provide all the professions, skills and talents needed by a twenty-first century economy and society.

      That concession made, I don’t share your optimism about how Arfor would be received in the rest of Wales. Obviously it would be welcomed by those concerned with the language but what about the others, the majority? And what would be the reaction if Arfor succeeded but other parts of the country – the Valleys, in particular – continued to decline? Wales would be divided.

    •  

      Yes, fair enough; although on the surface anglophone Wales seems to face a different set of problems, there are definitely problems common to both linguistic areas, and I certainly wouldn’t like to see Anglophone Wales alienated from the Arfor region. In-migration, loss of local talent, lack of control over housing and natural resources, lack of investment, are common to both.

      You might say that both regions need broadly the same radical surgery, the one with a Welsh-speaking surgeon, the other with a bilingual surgeon. Irrespective of language, a future Welsh Government is going to have to act outside the parameters of current devolved powers so that both regions can take ownership of this country.

  11.  

    You’re all barking up the wrong tree. Gorwel a learned body no doubt has decided the answer to Wales economic problems is to build a new palace in Wales for the Royal Family. Gorwel says such a Royal Residence will bring millions of pounds to the tourist trade. Where in the Fro Cymraeg should this spender be built?

    •  

      There’s an onlne petition at Change.org to nip this nonsense in the bud.

    •  

      If they go ahead and build a clink at Baglan then the entire Royal Family could be housed there freeing up masses of assets which could be used in part as compensation to Wales. Otherwise let them have a few cells in Wrexham jail. I’m told there’s loads of English there already so they’ll feel at home.

  12.  

    I’d like to thank all of you for your comments, and the constructive criticism provided.

    A couple of responses to the most salient points raised;

    i) It would be a “ghetto”. That’s a really loaded word to use, suggesting poverty, limited ambitions and a dearth of opportunity.for all concerned. It suggests that Arfor would take the form of an unilateral drawing up of the bridges in the West, with the rest of Cymru almost considered an awkward and inconvenient adjunct. Such a closed model is the last thing I would want to see.

    It would rather, seek to be an open model, with meaningful links with every other part of our nation. As such,
    it would not be set “against” other parts of this country at all: it would rather provide Cymru with a strong linguistic and cultural reference point that all other parts of the country could buy into at different levels. Cymraeg is growing in the more anglicised parts of our country with the rapid expansion of Welsh Medium Education, and awareness about Welsh is also sure to increase yet further over the next few years. These individuals need to see this growth allied to a secure community and political foundation for the language. An open model could ensure that Arfor has links with every other part of our country- perhaps in the form of some sort of twinning arrangements.

    ii) It would be another Gaeltacht.

    I think this concern is misplaced. Let’s not forget that the Gaeltacht model in Ireland was very much a top-down model, imposed by the Irish Government in Dublin (in good faith of course). The problem was that there were no political/cultural equivalent agents in the designated areas Irish-speaking areas, i.e a strong civil society promoting Irish enthusiastically as a community and public language. The language trees were planted by Dublin – but their roots were not strong enough locally to produce the rich foliage expected. Compare this with the vast number of civil societies which have been using Welsh as a main language in the Arfor areas, since the language movement really kicked in from the 1960ies onwards. The Gaeltachts in Ireland, despite the monies poured in by successive governments, have still not managed to emulate the vibrancy of Welsh in this respect. Just one small example – there’s still not a real native Irish rock/pop scene in the Gaeltacht to really persuade Irish-speaking youngsters there that their native language can be a means of vital, and contemporary self-expression. Compare that to the Welsh pop/rock scene which has led to an explosion of use in Welsh in all kinds of other areas as these youngsters move on into adulthood.

    The Gaeltacht areas have also been very dispersed and isolated from each other from the outset, whereas the Arfor areas have always maintained a close cultural link with each other (the landmass area being smaller has helped in this respect)

    Arfor would truly be embraced from the bottom-up, thanks to the strong civil society use of Welsh already in these areas..A BIG difference from the Irish Gaeltachts

    iii) How would the large non-Welsh populations in the designated areas respond.

    I’m not so naive to believe that this problem can be discounted entirely. Having said that, a good section of this population has been content to remain English-speaking in the belief that Welsh has no real economic necessity in their own area. “Nudge Economics” is all about persuading people to change their behaviour with a realisation that there are benefits attached to such change. An equivalent Linguistic nudge – i.e that Welsh will now be the language of local government in their area can work just as well.

    Let’s not forget that language learning is increasingly getting media coverage and recognition as being the best brain exercise that people can engage in: especially important in an age where Alzheimers and Dementia are fast becoming our society’s darkest fears. Arfor can tap into this.

    And let’s put this old chestnut about learning Welsh being hard for adults to bed once and for all. As well as the implicit suggestion that it’s “unfair” to ask adults to change their language choices.

    With the right approach it’s not hard. There are a MILLION people learning Welsh world-wide with the brilliant Duolingo App. I personally know individuals who have learnt Cymraeg in a matter of months with this App. This type of technological support can only grow and grow over the next few years. I personally think it’s perfectly conceivable to imagine that every one in Cymru will be able to speak Welsh in less than ten years time, once these personalized language tools get to a critical mass here. Then we start on Y Tiroedd Coll (England)…..!!!).

    Lastly, I fully acknowledge that this is a sensitive issue for many, many people. I’m old enough to remember the Cymdeithas yr Iaith/Adfer falling out over this and there’s no doubt that it could re-ignite some of the passions engendered at that time, if this is not handled properly and openly. We need to have a reasoned and honest debate about this.

    In view of that. I think that we would have to forget Y Fro Gymraeg as a name for any new entity – it would be just too much of a red rag to a bull.

    Perhaps something along the lines of Y Canol Cymraeg would be less divisive and less inflammatory.

    No one can dispute the fact that radical surgery is indeed. Let’s continue to discuss it!

    Aled Gwyn Job

  13.  

    I just feel this is really well intended, but doomed to failure. To those who would like nothing more than for Wales to disappear, this would be a gift.

    It reminds me of those old westerns and circling of the wagons – there may come a day, when it may be the only last resort defensive action, but in our case the cavalry are not going to turn up to save the day and it’s basically admitting that the game’s up. There are more proud Welsh people who don’t speak Welsh, than Welsh speakers and we need to all be in this together.

    •  

      They are also my sentiments Trailorboy. It is what I highlighted in my first response. It is in a veiled way a capitulation, at the very time when we are struggling to unite our nation in order to retain what we have and to break free. Moving the border (albeit in a cloaked way) to encompass Y Fro Gymraeg is like jettisoning essential items from a hot air balloon in order to desperately keep it afloat for a little while longer. What it needs is fuel to keep it airborne, with all it’s valuables in tact.

      Circling the wagons is a very good analogy. It is a last ditch attempt at survival, which has little chance of success. It is a defensive action rather than an offensive one. I don’t think we’re at that point of desperation yet, I hope it will never come to that.

    •  

      I like Cymru Rydd’s enthusiasm especially regarding the ‘tiroedd coll’.

      This discussion reminds me of when not so many years ago there was a battle to open a bilingual school locally. I think it was Ysgol Y Preseli. A well known local figure and a passionate Welshman now deceased Aled ap Gwynedd fought against the plans. His argument was that it would be ‘putting all our eggs in one basket’ with other local schools becoming more ‘English’. But I think that history has shown him to be incorrect. The success of Ysgol Y Preseli lead to Welshifying some other local schools in order to prevent the drain on top of the setting up of Welsh streams in south Pembrokeshire. I think it’s even brought about the setting up of a Welsh school in Haverfordwest. Rather than retreating to the Preseli hills, what happened in Ysgol Y Preseli acted more like yeast to get Welsh language provision off the ground in other neighbouring areas. I don’t see why Arfor can’t be viewed in the same way ie as an example for others to follow rather than a retreat to a last stand.

  14.  

    As suggested in your tweet I took a look at Craig Murray’s article about SNP’s stance on Mrs May’s recent antics. Particularly drawn to the writer’s criticism of Ms Sturgeon (she who is above criticism) but most of my attention drawn to the comments below the article. There is substantial and wide ranging dissent within nationalist ranks with many people now finding her and Ian Blackford’s positions a touch “too Unionist” for their liking. Their affection for the restored future union with the EU is regarded as overdone in some quarters. Some even go as far as invoking James Connolly (now that’s a real rebel for you) and calling for withdrawal from Westminster for starters. Not much point submitting to the diktat of Brussels if you wish to go that way.

    No doubt the Catalonia episode has excited some people and makes the SNP’s success in Scotland a bit paler but there are people up there who expect a Scottish Indy Mk2 to stimulate similarly nasty physical responses from the Brit state security agencies who could easily outdo their Spanish counterparts on any scale of imaginative deviance.

    Which brings us back to our deadheads down the Bay. Elin Jones now “confronts” Carwyn and his mob over the disclosure and debate around the edited Carl Sargeant report. Well big deal. Carwyn is likely to go off to the courts to get some sort of cobbled decision to put the thing on ice, again. Plaid will then retreat claiming that they tried but that the law is rigged against them. Then it’s time to do something outside the framework of Anglo Brit Law. Good job McEvoy is in there keeping the pot boiling, but where is Jack the Lad? This should be the lead up to his finest hour, or have they nailed his dick to the floor already?

    •  

      Yes, I’m worried about the silence from Jack Sargeant, who promised during his election campaign to go to Cardiff and find out the truth about the events leading up to his father’s death.

    •  

      You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear Jac. Jack the Lad ‘s out of his depth – as we all knew before he stood.

      Besides – we should all be long enough in the tooth not to take pre election rhetoric and promises seriously, especially when spouted by ‘Old Brigade’ parties. They are all the same, predictable, seldom truthful and usually a load of bullshit. An old game that’s past it’s sell by date. Thankfully the electorate are finally waking up to it and thirsting for something different.

    •  

      Are we not all out of our depth? Of a system that has been built over centuries… especially the Westminster system which was probably in its very early stages built to combat unrest from Wales specifically? Not to sound tin foil hat about it or anything. Plaid… despite its failings was able to smother competition because it was head of the curve… WM is probably far beyond that in ability and effectiveness.

  15.  

    I presume that “Jack the Lad” cannot take part in the Assembly debates over the issues surrounding his late father due to him having such a close personal interest in the saga. Nevertheless, i’m sure now he is in Cardiff, on a bread ticket for life, his foremost duty from now on, will be to the Labour Party, meekly obeying the Labour whip – just like what all Labour Politicians do at all levels throughout Wales at every level. “PARTY BEFORE PEOPLE” should be their pathetic pink motto !

  16.  

    Big G and Cymru Rhydd had their chance and failed. The fact is any new party has to be popular to achieve success. Hence the move to the right in Hungary.

    The move by you to achieve a new party has failed Jac. When you restrict people as you did me to access your secret location for a meeting which was probably in a pub spare room then any plans to expand are doomed.

    Worse still you are trying to establish a party with three old radicals who upon launch admit they are not going to br part of the organisation.

    Cymru Rhydd failed as a political movement and yet you want to adopt their wreckage?

    •  

      Anonymous: If you are going to engage in school yard rhetoric, and attempt to throw stones, at least get your facts right. There is far too much of this kind of shit already evident in the main stream (false) media, where 50% is assumed and the other 40% is hypothetical drivel and lies, leaving 10% based on hearsay and propaganda from other third parties. This is the very thing that we aim to expose and stamp out after we launch. For far too long this pathetic approach to news – and politics in particular – has been rotting the brains of the public.

      If you’re really into that sort of thing, I suggest you keep well away from here, and set up camp with the likes of the pathetic has-beens, like Phil Parry. You should feel at home there.

      Finally, since when has this been a party set-up by Jac? You know full well that he has refuted that stupid rumour in writing from the start. Also, get your facts straight about me and Cymru Rydd, which I have never had anything to do with, neither in the past or present.

      What Jac and I have said is, that we will encourage and help those who are establishing Ein Gwlad. Once set-up and launched, we will be stepping back. We’ve put our shift in for Cymru, for over half a century each, this is our parting gift to those who are younger, more energetic and capable of taking Ein Gwlad on to the next stage. We will remain to advise and help, but the soldiers for the cause will be the next generation.

      So zip it! Your details and IP address are logged on the server. Keep up this shit and you’ll be getting a present in the form of a letter from a legal source. You can post valid objections, and correct criticisms to your heart’s content, but slip off the fine line between fact and fiction or truth and lies and you will be held accountable.

      Whilst you may take this sort of thing lightly I don’t. It is a far more serious matter than exchanging insults on a social media platform just for fun.

  17.  

    I was at the launch meeting. The owners / managers of the first venue suddenly refused access just days before. They must have been “leaned upon” by people like you ‘Anonymous’ who obviously do not agree with democracy. So it was hastily convened at another appropriate Hall venue (yes a Hall) with Toilets & Refreshments & a Stage with manned Translation Facilities and ample seating and Chaired professionally. It certainly was not the backroom of a Pub! Please can you withdraw your anti-democratic falsities. I do not currently belong to any Political Party. What Party do you belong to? Are you running scared? How can it fail before it has really started? It will be ready for the next round of Welsh elections as an alternative platform to challenge the moribund lot currently sitting on their hands with mouths shut for Cymru.

    •  

      It’s hardly worth responding to people like Anonymous when all they can do is make childish ‘pub spare room’ comments.

      By saying ‘the move by you to achieve a new party has failed Jac’ even before the party has been launched shows him/her up for what he/she is. A fool.

    •  

      Yes, totally agree. Can “anonymous” provide us with his name if he intends to contribute further to the debate.

  18.  

    […] guest post by Alun Gwyn Job at Jac o’ the North asking whether the creation of an “Arfor” region will help save the Welsh […]

  19.  

    […] would reduce the number of councils to 17; 16 if Ceredigion merged to create the mooted “Arfor” region/county (or even merged with Pembrokeshire as the Williams Commission […]

  20.  

    […] post was originally published on this […]

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