An Bhreatain Bheag (Wales)

Equal In Any Language

In yesterday’s Guardian newspaper the journalist and political activist Ellie Mae O’Hagan argues that the Welsh language should be part of the school curriculum not just in Wales but in other parts of the island of Britain too. Since “England and Wales” are essentially treated as one constitutional and legal entity under British law it is perfectly valid to question why the second most-spoken and officially recognised language in the co-joined region, Welsh, is not also taught as a subject in English schools.

“Adam Ramsay, as part of Open Democracy’s Scotland’s Future series, has written a series of pieces in favour of independence – many of which have hovered over the questions of British identity. In one piece, he lambasts no advocate Danny Alexander for being blinded by “bombastic British nationalism”.

I’ve loved reading these pieces by Ramsay (though I make no argument either way about independence here), but I take issue with his criticism of British nationalism. To me, what Alexander is defending is not British nationalism, but a type of English nationalism that sees Britain as a “greater” England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland as subordinates whose cultures exist as only anachronistic novelties. I’m sure that’s what Ramsay was driving at in his piece, but that’s not British nationalism, it’s English nationalism, English entitlement – and Wales is suffering under it too.

There are many economic, social and cultural reasons for Scotland’s yes campaign to have reached such an unexpected level of success; but from my Welsh point of view I suspect that one reason must surely be frustration at the way that the English domination of Britain has led to the marginalisation – if not jingoistic ridiculing – of Scottish and Welsh identity. Our unique cultures and languages are habitually erased in favour of an umbrella Englishness.

It’s time to end the English domination of Wales and Scotland, regardless of outcome of the referendum in September. To do this, I propose schoolchildren take part in compulsory lessons in Welsh and Scottish studies, during which they at least learn how to speak basic Welsh. I don’t see why not: Welsh is an official British language, the oldest language in Europe and the most common in Britain after English.

Many will write this off as a ludicrous proposal, but in doing so they reveal, to quote Ramsay again, “something fascinating about the nature of British nationalism – how it is so ubiquitous as to be unnoticed; so hegemonic, as to go unchallenged.” After all, nobody would find it ludicrous to expect Welsh and Scottish schoolchildren to learn the English language and English history, and to imbibe English culture as a necessary result of its dominance.

If the Scottish people do vote no in September, Westminster should not take that as a validation of English empire. For the good of the many component parts, languages, and cultures that make up Britain, it’s time for something different.”

Typically the Comments beneath the article are full of Greater England derision for a “useless” and “dead” language that “no one” speaks. As pointed out on ASF before the Anglophone supremacism so often displayed in Ireland has its natural home (and origins) in Britain and more specifically in England. There is no language but the English language, there is no culture but English-derived culture. Given that the Welsh and Scottish (Gaelic) languages all have official status in Britain the argument that they should take their place alongside the de facto and vernacular language of the state, English, is overwhelming. Teaching British schoolchildren some knowledge of all the national languages that share the island of Britain, English, Welsh and Scottish (and Cornish too) is a threat to no one except the most intolerant expansionists of Greater England. Of which there are too many.

Meanwhile here in Ireland our national language continues to be denigrated and ridiculed by a state and political establishment that deliberately failed to revive it as the speech of the majority and now wishes to kill it as the speech of the minority. The broadcaster and radio producer Cuan Ó Seireadáin points out the farcical and dishonest nature of recent government actions for the Irish Central.

“Serious questions about the judgement of Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny are being posed this week after his attempt to recover popularity by reorganizing his government last Tuesday backfired spectacularly, sparking off protests, a social media storm, tetchy scenes in the Dáil, and almost universal criticism in the press.

It is the unprecedented appointment of a non-Irish speaker to the position of Minister of State with responsibility for the Gaeltacht that has caused the greatest uproar.

Gaeltacht is the name given to the last pockets of territory in the remote south, west, and northwest of Ireland where Irish is still the primary language of communication.

Recent studies have shown that unless drastic action is taken, the gradual decline in population may mean that, within fifteen years, Irish could disappear as the default language of communication in those areas.

The Minister for the Gaeltacht is tasked with helping to reverse this trend, as well as improving economic conditions in the Gaeltacht. As part of his duties, he regularly meets with representatives of the Gaeltacht and other interest groups that are doing their best to keep Irish alive.

Until now, those meetings were held in the Irish language. From now on, residents of the Gaeltacht will be forced to speak English to the Minister.

The symbolism of an Irish government Minister with responsibility for helping to preserve and promote the Irish language forcing those in his presence to switch to English is unprecedented and bizarre.

The Irish Daily Mail’s front page headline “AN INSULT TO IRISH SPEAKERS” was echoed in The Irish Times, which dropped its usual reserve, and, in a blistering editorial broadside asked:

“How could Taoiseach Enda Kenny have appointed a junior minister with a special responsibility for the Gaeltacht, who lacks an essential qualification for that job – fluency in the State’s first official language? And how could Joe McHugh, who is the Minister of State with that responsibility, have accepted the portfolio? Mr McHugh is hopeful that he can quickly master the language and he yesterday invited the public to “join him on his journey” as he improves his knowledge of the language. Good intentions are, however, not good enough at this level.”

Conradh na Gaeilge, the democratic forum for the Irish speaking community, was quick to respond, and organized a flash protest outside Enda Kenny’s office within 24 hours of the appointment. The protest was well attended and supported by the leaders of all the opposition parties.

The appointment of a non-Irish-speaker to the position of Minister for the Gaeltacht is the latest example of a worrying tendency by the current government to disregard the civil rights of Irish speakers, despite widespread sympathy for their plight. In February Conradh na Gaeilge organized Lá Mór na Gaeilge, the largest and most successful Irish language Civil Rights protest in 50 years, which was attended by 10,000 supporters.

It is difficult to interpret Kenny’s selection of a minister who is incapable of communicating with residents of the Gaeltacht and those who are choosing to live their lives through the medium of Ireland’s oldest and first official language as anything other than an insult – to the 10,000, to the Gaeltacht, and to Irish speakers everywhere.”

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Ras Yr Iaith 2014

Ras yr Iaith 2014

Ras yr Iaith 2014

Another quick post, this time to highlight the success of June’s “Ras yr Iaith”, a symbolic relay race organised by Welsh-speakers to celebrate their community and publicise their demands for greater equality in Wales. Inspired by similar events held here in Ireland, Brittany and the Basque Country (the latter for many years) one thousand runners started in Machynlleth and moved through the towns of Aberystwyth, Tregaron, Lampeter,  Aberaeron, New Quay, Llandysul, Newcastle Emlyn and Cardigan greeted along the way by enthusiastic crowds. Judging by online publicity it had a major impact locally.

[With thanks to Siôn Jobbins]

Cardiff, Edinburgh, Sydney

Welsh activists stage an “Occupy” camp outside the offices of the National Assembly of Wales in Cardiff, 2014 (Íomhá: Daily Post)

Activists fighting for Welsh language rights have set up a symbolic Occupy camp outside the Senedd, the offices of the national assembly or Cynulliad in Cardiff. Wales Online reports that the young people are:

“…insisting that the Government change six language policies including Welsh-medium education for all.

The action by Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg is part of a series of protests the language campaigners have organised over the spring, in order to press the Welsh Government to address the drop in the number of Welsh speakers.

In May, three Welsh language campaigners were arrested in Aberystwyth after vandalising the town’s Welsh government offices.

Robin Farrar, Chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, said: “I’m delighted to be here today – we want to live in Welsh and to see action to deliver that vision.

“For eighteen months, we have been letter writing and holding meetings with all political parties.

“By protesting here, we continue to hope we see positive changes: with political will the language can thrive over the years to come.”

In October 2013, the conclusions of the Cynhadledd Fawr – the Welsh Government’s consultation on the state of the language following the Census results – were published.

Among the main recommendations were the need to increase financial investment in the language; radical changes to the teaching of Welsh as a second language; and changes to planning law.

The following month, the First Minister announced he would be launching a campaign to encourage people to use Welsh five times a day.”

Meanwhile in Edinburgh the governing SNP has launched its draft constitution for an independent Scotland. From the Guardian newspaper:

“The constitution commits the country to enshrine the European convention on human rights in law, tackle climate change and ensure the safe, “expeditious” removal of Trident nuclear weapons.

It would be the first written constitution for any part of the UK. Its opening line is: “In Scotland, the people are sovereign.”

The constitution, released on Monday for consultation in a draft independence bill, is designed to be a temporary “skeleton” version that would come into force if Scotland becomes independent in March 2016.

It confirms that the saltire will continue to serve as the national flag of Scotland and that the choice of national anthem will be made by the Scottish parliament.

The consultation will close a month after the independence referendum on 18 September, only being brought forward to the Scottish parliament if there is a yes vote.

Sturgeon said the document was an essential part of the Scottish government’s blueprint for independence and would be the first written constitution for any part of the UK. Britain, unlike other comparable countries, has no codified political system.

She said the outline constitution would be a short-term measure, and would be replaced by a full, permanent constitution written by an independent constitutional convention in the years following the first elections in 2016 of the independent Scottish parliament.

…with opinion polls suggesting the race is now tightening, the yes campaign is now driving hard to win centre-left votes and believes a promised constitution could influence wavering voters.”

The full text is available here as the Scottish Independence Bill (PDF document).

Far away from the Celtic Isles a group of Native Australians are standing up for their rights in Sydney by erecting a “tent embassy” in the heart of Australia’s largest city to press their demands for equality and justice. Beir bua, a chairde!

Three Welsh Rights Activists Arrested

The three civil rights activists belonging to Cymdeithas yr Iaith arrested in Aberystwyth this morning

The three civil rights activists belonging to Cymdeithas yr Iaith arrested in Aberystwyth this morning (Íomhá: Walesonline)

Three activists fighting for Welsh language rights, two women and a man in their twenties, were arrested today by police in Wales after they painted slogans on a local government building demanding greater equality for Welsh-speaking citizens from the devolved government in Cardiff. From the Daily Post newspaper:

“Three campaigners have spray painted the Welsh Government offices in Aberystwyth this morning in a language protest about an alleged lack of support for the Welsh language.

Cymdeithas yr Iaith is blaming the First Minister’s “lack of action in response to the Census results”.

The activists’ organisation said that they painted slogans including pleas for “Addysg Gymraeg i Bawb” (Welsh-medium education for all) on the wall of the Welsh Government building in the town at 7:45am.

The society says that the protest is part of a general Cymdeithas campaign to put pressure on the Labour Government to act urgently in light of crisis facing the Welsh language.

Dyfed Powys Police said: “Police confirm that three people were arrested following an incident in the Welsh Assembly buildings in Aberystwyth this morning.”

On March 7, a dozen Welsh language campaigners chained themselves to a fence outside the same government offices in protest against an alleged lack of support for the Welsh language.

They struck in Aberystwyth in a four hour protest. Police were at the scene but said the event was peaceful.

It follows a similar protest in February at the Welsh Government’s offices in Llandudno Junction.”

Doctor Orders Child And Parent Not To Speak In Welsh

The Welsh Not, one former symbol of anti-Welsh racism in Britain

The Welsh Not, one former symbol of anti-Welsh racism in Britain

From a report by the Daily Post newspaper in Wales:

“A hospital has apologised after a doctor asked a mum and her daughter to stop speaking Welsh.

The North Wales mum had taken her 15-year-old daughter to the emergency department at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd,  Bodelwyddan on Tuesday.

She said the doctor had made the comment when she was treating her daughter.

While the mum and daughter had a discussion in Welsh, the mum claimed the  doctor said she would take it as a “personal  insult” to her if they continued speaking in their own language

The mum said her daughter “was crying and upset.” She said her daughter replied that she had a right to speak Welsh.

Yesterday, Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board apologised for what it called an “insensitive and unacceptable” comment.”

Welsh, A Foreign Language In Britain

“Letter In A Foreign Language (Welsh)”

“Letter In A Foreign Language (Welsh)”

Substitute “Ireland” for “Wales” and “Irish” for “Welsh” and the discrimination revealed below would be pretty much the same. From a report in the Daily Post newspaper:

“After receiving a form in English from National Savings and Investments, 72-year-old Arfon Rhys sent it back and requested either a Welsh or bilingual form.

The letter he then received from NS&I – a state-owned savings bank backed by the Treasury – said: “We have received correspondence from you in your own language. As we do not translate from your language into English, we can’t reply to your letter.

“I enclose your original document so that you can arrange for it to be translated into English and resent to us. We will then be able to deal with your request.”

In a handwritten comment, the reason for returning the letter to Mr Rhys was given as “letter in a foreign language (Welsh)”.

The letter was written on March 12, just days after a landmark ruling that NS&I acted unlawfully by ending Welsh language services.

On March 6, two High Court judges in Cardiff ordered NS&I to restore its customer services in Welsh. They ruled that the agency’s decision last year to scrap its Welsh-language brochures, telephone service, correspondence and website was unlawful.”

[ASF: With thanks to Marconatrix for the link]

Culture Wars In Ireland And Britain

The coverage of issues relating to Irish-speaking citizens and communities in Ireland by the Anglophone media

The coverage of issues relating to Irish-speaking citizens and communities in Ireland by the Anglophone media

Hot on the heels of my post discussing the urgent need for the reform of public service broadcasting in Ireland comes news of a veritable revolt by journalists within RTÉ’s normally quiescent ranks as reported by the Irish Times:

“Almost 50 staff members in RTÉ have written to Director General, Mr. Noel Curran, to express their concern at the “lack of coverage” of Irish language issues in English-language news and current affairs programmes on RTÉ.

The correspondence specifically mentions the manner in which RTÉ News covered the resignation of Seán Ó Cuirreáin as Language Commissioner last December. Ó Cuirreáin, who announced he was stepping down from his role due to a failure to provide adequate services for Irish language speakers, became the first ombudsman since the foundation of the State to resign in protest against government policy.

On the day of his announcement before an Oireachtas committee, RTÉ’s main news bulletins on television covered the resignation with thirty seconds of pictures, accompanied by a voice over from the newsreader.

A spokesperson for RTÉ said the contents of the letter were still being considered by Mr. Curran but pointed to the Director General’s comments on the recent findings of an RTÉ working group on the Irish language which acknowledged the need to improve RTÉ’s services in Irish and set out several policy recommendations with regard to Irish-language broadcasting.”

Given the opaque internal workings of RTÉ (“the Donnybrook Kremlin”) this very public expression of unhappiness by its journalistic staff is surprising to say the least. So we have a choice before us. Either RTÉ becomes an entirely Irish language public service broadcaster leaving English language broadcasting to the private sector (as I argue here, negating the need for a separate TG4) or its assets and funding is split between it and TG4 into two new broadcasting entities. One operating entirely through the medium of English and one entirely through the medium of Irish (which of course is essentially what we have already). The present half-way house is no longer sustainable or justifiable. A rising population of Irish-speaking citizens have every right to demand the same services from the state as their English-speaker peers.

Or perhaps people here agree with the views expressed by the British tabloid TV presenter Noel Edmonds who recently attacked the BBC for providing programming to Scottish-speaking communities in Scotland and Welsh-speaking communities in Wales? From WalesOnline:

“Veteran broadcaster Noel Edmonds has criticised the BBC for spending too much money on the Welsh language.

In an interview, Edmonds said the BBC was “sleepwalking to destruction”, as he explained his hope to buy the corporation along with a consortium of wealthy investors.

He declined to disclose how the schedules might look if he got his way – but pointed to the sums presently spent on the World Service and Welsh-language programming.

“There are 50,000 people speaking Gaelic. Welsh language has been declining over 10 years and the BBC spends £48m on that.”

Edmonds argued only an injection of outside influence could make the broadcaster “relevant to the internet age” and admitted that he did not presently pay for it via the licence fee.”

Perhaps Noel Edmonds is unaware that the Scottish- and Welsh-speaking citizens of Britain also pay their taxes and TV licence fee and are therefore entitled to the same publicly-funded services as their English-speaking compatriots? Or perhaps he is simply of the view that the English language and culture is superior to the several others that share the island of Britain and should therefore take precedence over the rest? Unfortunately there are too many on this island nation who share Edmonds’ view in our own perennial “culture war”.

[ASF: With thanks to Sorley Domhnall and several others for the links]

Second-Class Service For Second-Class Citizens

A photo of the bilingual prescription that staff in a Welsh pharmacy refused to accept, clearly showing English and Welsh texts

A photo of the bilingual prescription that staff in a Welsh pharmacy refused to accept, clearly showing English and Welsh texts (Íomhá: MailOnline, Wales News Service)

Given the news yesterday about a group of young people from Ireland being subject to racial abuse by a taxi driver in the city of Glasgow for speaking in their native Irish instead of English here comes another disgraceful story about speakers of an indigenous Celtic tongue being subject to discrimination for not using the English language. A pharmacy in Wales refused to serve medicines to the father of a sick child because he presented a bilingual prescription, one written both in Welsh and English. From the Mail Online:

“A sick baby was rushed to hospital after a supermarket pharmacy refused to hand his medication to his father because part of the prescription had been written in Welsh.

Aled Mann, 34, took the prescription from the family doctors to his local Morrisons pharmacy counter after his one-year-old son Harley developed a chest infection.

But staff at the supermarket in Bangor, north Wales, refused to give him the steroid tablets because they could not read the note as not all of it was in English.

Mr Mann got the medication two hours later after driving back to the GP surgery and waiting for another prescription to be printed in English which he then took back to the pharmacy.

But baby Harley’s condition worsened and he had to be admitted to hospital for treatment the next morning.

Mr Mann and his wife Alys, 33, live in the 2,000-strong seaside village of Felinheli, near Bangor, north Wales.

Their GP Dr Ieuan Parry in the Welsh language stronghold printed the prescription for baby Harley’s steroid tablets in their native language.”

The incident has been condemned by several local politicians and Meri Huws, the Language Commissioner in Wales.

(With thanks to Seanán Ó Coistín, Welsh Not British and others for the heads-up).

Viva La Revolución!

Flag waving, riot police, Irish language

Tá An Réabhlóid Ag Teacht! The Revolution Is Coming!

Rarely have I agreed with an article more than this opinion piece by Tom Law featured on the Sabotage Times examining the cultural subjugation of the Welsh language and the Welsh-speaking citizens and communities of Wales. He articulates for many the frustration and anger of a new, younger generation of activists in the Celtic nations determined to have their voices heard in the face of the passivity and fatalism of too many of those who came before.

“The popular narrative is that it’s just a natural process – a stronger and healthier language replaces an older and weaker one. That the Welsh language is dying of natural causes – like an elderly relative withering away. It’s sad but inevitable. What can you do?

That’s the common explanation – but it’s bollocks.

The Welsh language has declined so rapidly because the English placed a pillow over its face and smothered it. It has taken around 150 years to complete, there have been occasional bouts of kicking and thrashing against, but it’s pretty much job done.

And it was only when the body was limp that England placed some chocolate biscuits on the bedside cabinet – bilingual road signs, a Welsh TV channel. And then started to berate the lifeless patient for its lack of appetite.

England’s policy towards Wales is not the only reason for the decline, but it’s the main one. It’s the consequence of the state treating the Welsh language as a sickness which needed to be cured.

This division of the population by language has been eating away at the country ever since. It has created two versions of Wales, two distinct cultures which view the other as a threat. What one side gains, the other side loses. What’s good for one, is bad for the other.

It has left non-Welsh speakers feeling like outsiders in their own country, forever left out in the cold and staring back in at a history and culture they can’t access; at jobs they’re not qualified to do. For Welsh speakers, they have been battered from all sides, endlessly under attack, having to justify the use of their own language – mostly to fellow Welsh people.

It’s a cultural civil war which has brought out the worst aspects of both sides. A nation which once fought for its rights, which fought against inequality and injustice has been effectively turned in on itself.

If the attack on the Welsh language was done to subdue and weaken the country, to create a servile and utterly compliant people who would accept their British medicine – then it can only be seen as a monumental success.

Wales has become a husk of a nation. The decline of the language, the stripping away of links to its history and culture, has induced a kind of dementia. It’s a country which no longer remembers who or what it is – so it simply exists. And accepts the guiding hand of its neighbour.

The removal of the Welsh personality has created a void which is being gleefully filled by the English media’s tub thumping brand of Britishness – the royal family, the Armed Forces, Team GB and all that. And there seems little hope of anything changing.

There’s no fight or energy left. No upsurge of anger. No dissent. No political will. No obvious solution. Just a blank stare, a rugby top and a grim Welsh cheeriness; a nihilistic acceptance of fate. While Scotland gains confidence and considers independence, Wales is left retreating into the arms of its abusive partner and going gently into that good night.”

One could just as easily apply some of those criticisms to Ireland, to an island nation where those who speak out for language rights are vilified while those who disdain or oppose such rights are elevated to the highest positions of influence in our society.

Education In Britain – Cultural Conditioning?

The union of Scotland, England, Wales - another historical relic.

The union of Scotland, England, Wales – another historical relic.

In the 2011 census on the island of Britain large numbers of people living in Scotland, Wales and England rejected the nationality of “British”, a majority in all three countries preferring to describe themselves instead as solely Scottish (62.4%), Welsh (57.5%) or English (60.4%). Which makes the BBC News article claim that Britishness is “…an identity quite at home in the 21st Century” more than a little bizarre. Indeed the whole post is rather odd with some amazing fact-spinning not to mention this nugget of suggestive bias:

“In Wales, though, children and young people are less likely to describe themselves as British than their parents – about 16% compared to 18%. One possible explanation for this may be the introduction of compulsory Welsh language teaching in schools.”

Desperate man clutching at straws? The English language is also “compulsory” in schools in Wales and for 90% of the school day. Yet Welsh schools are not turning out legions of flag-waving EDL supporters. And 98% of the Scottish education system is through the medium of English with hardly any input from the Scottish language outside of a few Scottish Gaelic schools (for now). Yet the vast majority of young Scots also reject any sense of being British.

If the argument is that the provision of Welsh language education for Welsh students is decreasing the number of those identifying themselves as “British” in Wales, is that not merely underlining the purpose of English language education in Britain as a force of cultural colonialism?

21st Century British

British: the nationality that never was

British: the nationality that never was (Íomhá: Welsh Not British)

From the website “Welsh Not British” the 2011 census on the island of Britain summed up in one easy graph. Say’s it all really. Some more excellent analysis can be found on Syniadau examining the figures in Wales, Scotland and England.

Struggling With The Language

Ble mae'r Gymraeg? - Where's the Welsh? From Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, the Welsh Language Society

Ble mae’r Gymraeg? – Where’s the Welsh? From Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, the Welsh Language Society

Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, the progressive language rights’ organisation in Wales, has proposed a radical shift in the teaching of the language in Welsh schools. From Wales Online:

“A row has blown up over a plan by language activists that would see all pupils in Wales having at least a third of the school curriculum taught in Welsh.

In its submission to a Welsh Government review of second language Welsh education, Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg say: “Depriving anyone of the essential skill of the ability to communicate and discuss their work in Welsh is an educational failure.

“The Government should announce the intention of abolishing ‘second language Welsh’ immediately and ensure instead … an immediate move to a system where every pupil receives a proportion of their education through the medium of Welsh, as well as studying the language as a subject, so they are able to work through the medium of the language.”

Robin Farrar, chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, added: “It’s unfair that only a minority of young people have the opportunity of having Welsh medium education at the moment, depending on parental choice and a postcode lottery.

“We should aim for every pupil to be fluent and able to use the language in day-to-day life, so the term ‘second language’ is no longer appropriate…”

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “The review group is considering the curriculum and assessment methods, as well as training for Welsh second language practitioners. The group will report back with recommendations in the autumn.”

A spokeswoman for Welsh Language Commissioner Meri Huws  said: “The Commissioner is pleased that the Welsh Government is looking in detail at how the Welsh language is introduced as a second language in schools. The Commission will respond fully to the Government’s report on its findings when it is published later this year.””

In fact a very similar recommendation was made by an international panel of linguists and education experts to the Irish government, arguing that the effective teaching of Irish in schools must be accompanied by a broader range of subjects taught partially or wholly through the Irish language. That advice was effectively ignored by the Fine Oibre coalition despite the Irish government seeking it in the first place. Instead Fine Gael and Labour have ramped up their discriminatory policies towards Irish-speaking children and communities and treat the indigenous language of the island of Ireland as an inconvenience to the national education system (and the so-called Irish state itself).

Meanwhile in Québec, as reported by CTV News, a small group of anglophone extremists have taken to the streets to protest the Francophone nation’s language equality laws:

“A couple of hundred demonstrators assembled outside of Premier Pauline Marois’ downtown office Sunday afternoon to rally around speakers such as Howard Galganov and former Equality Party leader Keith Henderson.

Galganov, a hardliner activist who led an English-rights movement in Montreal in the 90s before moving to eastern Ontario, was clad in a leather Freedom Riders biker jacket and riled up the crowd with such phrases as “Canada needs Quebec like it needs a hole in the head.”

Galganov, who once fought for Canadian unity, made no apologies for his anti-Quebec comments.

“We’re at that point in our history where Canada would do far better without Quebec and maybe Quebec would be better without Canada,” he said.

Some in the audience said they were uncomfortable with the divisive comments and didn’t agree with the entire contents of the colourful rant.

The language rights rally was hosted by Jimmy Kay, a local salesman who made a documentary called Angryphone.

The rally not only targeted Bill 14, but also other language-related issues that have intensified since the Parti Quebecois came into power.”

Pobl Caerdydd

Didn’t get a chance to post this over the weekend but the best of luck to Pobl Caerdydd, the new multi-media network for Cardiff’s Welsh-speaking population. From Roy Greenslade in the Guardian:

“A new Welsh language service, PoblCaerdydd, is being launched today in Cardiff to serve the city’s estimated 36,000 Welsh speakers.

The digital news and networking service will be introduced at the annual Tafwyl festival. It has been developed by and for the community with support from Cardiff university’s school of journalism.

Anyone who has a story to tell, news to share or an image to display can contribute content to PoblCaerdydd through a new tool developed by the university and its partner, the psychological creative agency Behaviour.”

There is a Facebook and Twitter service too.

Language Wars – Coming To A Sign Near You Soon

Sign of Albain or Scotland

Alba – Albain – Scotland

More new from the Pax Anglia, via the Dunfermline Press:

“… councillor Dave Dempsey is proposing that road signs in Fife be in English-only.

His motion, “Council agrees that there is no need, point or advantage in road signs in Fife being in any other language or languages than English” went before fellow councillors yesterday (Thursday).

It was prompted by press reports last month of a £350,000 plan to promote Gaelic in Perth and Kinross and Councillor Dempsey now hopes to “lay down a policy marker”.

[Dempsey said] “Gaelic was never really spoken in Fife – it’s spoken in other parts of Scotland but not really when you get this far south and east.

“I understand the need to keep the language in existence but language is used to communicate and everybody can speak English.”

Yes, well colonisation does tend to end up with the natives foregoing their own language and adopting that of the overlord – just so they and their children, and their children’s children, can survive to see another day. Not to mention that there is little point in keeping a language in “existence” if no one is allowed to use it – because they are told that they must use English instead as Councillor Dempsey suggests.

Meanwhile some good news from Wales for at least one of the indigenous Celtic languages of the island of Britain. From a report in the Daily Post: 

“WELSH children are twice as likely to speak the language than pensioners or those of working age figures from the 2011 census reveal.

The figures show that across Wales, 37.6% of under 16s are now able to speak Welsh, compared to 15.5% of 16-64s and 16.2% of over 65s.

The discrepancy between different areas of the nation are evident, with 89.1% of Gwynedd children speaking Welsh –  compared with  22.7% in Merthyr Tydfil.

Interestingly, it’s also revealed that women are more likely to speak the language than men.

It’s also proven that national identity plays a large role on one’s ability to speak the language or not.

A quarter of people who identify themselves as Welsh, also classed themselves as Welsh speakers, and two-fifths of those who identify as Welsh and British can speak the language.

Unsurprisingly, the popularity of Welsh medium education has seen a huge rise in parts of the South Wales valleys, with children in Blaenau Gwent being 23 times more likely to speak the language than a pensioner in the same area.”

Wales Online has more analysis.

Québec

Québec

Finally from Québec an open letter published today in the English language Montréal Gazette written by the province’s Language Minister Diane de Courcy and the liaison with the Anglophone community Jean-Francois Lisée, both from the ruling PQ party. It deals with the wide range of opinions expressed in recent months around Bill 14 which will expand legislation protecting the rights of the province’s francophone majority and encouraging French language use amongst the English-speaking minority and new immigrant communities. Sensibly the new series of regulations will accommodate the concerns expressed by the anglophone and bilingual communities of some towns and municipalities.

Mixed Results For Plaid Cymru In New Poll

Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru

A new poll of 1007 voters from across Wales by ITV Cymru / YouGov continues to reflect the so-so fortunes of Plaid Cymru, the Welsh Nationalist party. After a decade of mediocre election results, and an unexpectedly dire performance at the 2011 polls under charismatic new leader Leanne Wood, the Welsh Nationalists were seen as being very much on the back-foot, squeezed from Left and Right by the Labour Party and the Conservatives. Though the latest opinion poll (along with some recent local election results) offers some crumbs of comfort the party’s failure to connect with people outside of its core vote continues to hamper growth.

“Senedd Constituency Vote (change from 2011 vote)

Labour 46% (+4%)

Conservative 21% (-4%)

Plaid Cymru 17% (-2%)

Lib Dems 10% (-1%)

UKIP 5% (+5%)

Others 2% (-1%)

Senedd Regional Vote (change from 2011 vote)

Labour 26% (-11%)

Plaid Cymru 26% (+8%)

Conservative 14% (-9%)

UKIP 13% (+8%)

Lib Dems 11% (+3%)

Others 11% (+2%)

British Parliament Vote (change from 2010 vote)

Labour 51% (+15%)

Conservative 22% (-4%)

Plaid Cymru 10% (-1%)

Lib Dem 9% (-11%)

UKIP 7% (+5%)

Others 2% (-2%)”

In some slightly better news, Plaid has seen a surge in party funding. In 2011 it received a frankly paltry £27,067 from public donations. However 2012 saw a 262% jump to £97,917, a far more realistic “income” for a national political party in Wales. In part that may be down to Leanne Wood’s more progressively nationalist (and Left-leaning) leadership which seems to have a greater appeal with already convinced Nationalist voters. Notably the party has seen greater popularity amongst the under-25s in recent polling.

However Plaid Cymru’s inability to make much headway into prising apart the Labour Party’s seemingly iron grip on nearly half the Welsh electorate remains the single biggest stumbling block to future growth. Unless they can emulate the success of the SNP in taking away votes from Labour the party will remain in a position of relative weakness.