WalesOnline reports on a new Welsh civil rights group, Dyfodol i’r Iaith or “A Future for the Language”:

“Dyfodol i’r Iaith (A Future for the Language) aims to establish a good working relationship with the Welsh Government and other public bodies by adopting a different tack to Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, the Welsh Language Society, which is well-known for its non-violent direct action campaigns.

The new group has already attracted support from a significant number of individuals prominent in Welsh public life…

A website will be launched today, and in a statement of intent the group says: “There is a greater need today for such an organisation than ever before. For the first time since the days of Owain Glyndwr we have an Assembly that can make Welsh laws with the power to improve things for the Welsh language. But do we have the will to undertake this task?

“That is why an independent, non-party-political pressure group is needed to take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity to promote the needs of the Welsh language in every field. It will be a professional organisation, with salaried staff working on the Assembly’s doorstep to promote the wellbeing of the Welsh language by constitutional means.”

Another leading member of the new group is Dr Simon Brooks, a lecturer in the School of Welsh at Cardiff University. He told the Western Mail: “Discussions have been going on for the last six months or so about the need to set up such a group. In February there was the 50th anniversary of Saunders Lewis’ radio lecture Tynged yr Iaith [Fate of the Language] and that focused people’s minds.

“The fact is that we now have a democratically elected Welsh Government with which it is possible to engage, and that raises the question of the best way of doing so. In setting up Dyfodol i’r Iaith we have made the irrevocable decision that under no circumstances will we break the law.”

Asked whether he believed the approach taken by Cymdeithas yr Iaith – exemplified by sit-ins, occupations and the daubing out of English-only signs – was no longer appropriate, Dr Brooks said: “We are not criticising Cymdeithas yr Iaith. There are other examples of campaigns where there is a radical group that is prepared to break the law and another, separate organisation that uses constitutional means to progress its cause.

“Dyfodol i’r Iaith will take the constitutional route. Some members of Cymdeithas yr Iaith will join us – in fact, I believe I am still a member of Cymdeithas yr Iaith myself.”

The new group’s website contains a form that enables members to donate up to £100 a month.”

Good luck to Dyfodol i’r Iaith if it believes its methods will produce better results than those successfully won by Cymdeithas yr Iaith. However one only has to look at the situation in Ireland to see that earnest hand-wringing and pleas for fairness and legality from the powers that be have rarely yielded anything of worth. In fact the most successful Irish language civil rights organisation of independent Ireland was probably the smallest and most radical, Máirtín Ó Cadhain’s long-dissolved Muintir na Gaeltachta (though its spirit lives on, in memory if not in practice). Despite its fundamental role at the turn of the century in laying the seeds of Ireland’s cultural as well as political revolution Conradh na Gaeilge (CnaG) long ago became the very embodiment of middle-class respectability. Rather than directly and forcefully challenging the discriminatory policies of the Irish state towards its Irish-speaking communities and citizens CnaG seems at times to have become instead something of a conduit for channelling and diffusing those demands. An Irish safety-valve for English Ireland.

No amount of lobbying, no amount of functions or festivals, will break the back of discrimination or yield one iota of equality. Civil rights are not given – they are won. That is as true in Wales as it is in Ireland.

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4 comments on “Militant Versus Supplicant

  1. The launch of Dyfodol i’r Iaith comes after a hugely successful gig at Pontrhydfendigaid near Aberystwyth to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Cymdeithas yr Iaith. 50 Welsh language pop bands played over the weekend. Well over a thousand (I’m guessing more, but I don’t know) paying audience. It was broadcast on S4C on Friday and Saturday night and was huge on Twitter. (the #gig50 hashtag would probably trended across the UK if it wasn’t the typically Welsh problem of there being no signal at Bont – a very small village with a huge pavilion).

    So, Dyfodol i’r Iaith, whilst not in competition with Cymdeithas – in fact, Cymdeithas have welcomed the innovation – will have a tough act.

    As you said Sionnach – civil rights are won not given.

    Hanner Cant Gig: http://hannercant.com/
    Hanner Cant Gig on S4C (viewed within UK, probably not RoI): http://www.s4c.co.uk/clic/c_level2.shtml?series_id=506588799
    Cymdeithas statement: http://cymdeithas.org/2012/07/16/new_language_group_welcomed_-_cymdeithas_.html
    Oblique reference to Hanner Cant gig by author Fflur Dafydd in today’s Guardian (why does she talk of culture and not language!?): http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/16/wales-manage-money-government?newsfeed=true

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  2. … actually, just started watching the programme on S4C link I posted – the first 13 minutes or so is with Dafydd Iwan. He’s an iconic activist, politican and protest singer – who sings some of his old songs from the 1960s and 1970s including ‘Carlo'( the first song) which is a parody of Prince Charles’s Investiture in 1969, then a song about Margaret Thatcher then another parody of the 1969 Investiture. Good songs, but not characteristic of this gig.

    Best scroll on to about 17 minutes in to get the rock and more contemporary bands. The programme ran for some 5 hours. Peopel quite pleasantly surprised that S4C screened it and made such a good show of the whole event. Praise where praise is due,

    Dafydd Iwan: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dafydd_Iwan

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