Welsh language activists ready to face prison
Dépêche de Eurolang

Publié le 10/10/04 17:10 -- mis à jour le 00/00/00 00:00

by Huw Morgan

The Welsh language pressure group Cymuned has stepped up its campaign to protect the Welsh-speaking heartlands. Formed three years ago, the group has concentrated up to now on lobbying the Welsh Assembly Government, local authorities and various other bodies. Although they produced detailed plans on how to save these communities, Cymuned say that they have been ignored. They say that it is now time to act.

Just over a week ago, twenty members blocked the main route from England to mid-Wales in protest at the continuing migration of English speakers into Wales. Although there were no arrests, chief executive Aran Jones say that when these protests continue its members expect to be arrested and possibly jailed. Mr Jones says that it has over 250 members who are willing to take part in these illegal activities, and possibly face prison. "These people are mainly professional people, with family and work commitments," said Mr Jones. "This is not a short term campaign by university students. This shows the strength of feeling that exists about the crisis in the Welsh speaking areas."

On October 23rd, in the ancient Welsh capital of Machynlleth, Cymuned will publish its Declaration of the Rights of the Welsh Speaking Communities. The first step of this Declaration says that the Assembly should recognise that Welsh-speaking areas have a moral right to exist. "If the Assembly Government does not react positively to this Declaration within a few months," says Aran Jones, "then we will have no option other than to take direct action."

Mr Jones was naturally reluctant to discuss what sort of action its members would take but said that they had received advice from environmental campaign groups such as Greenpeace and anti-capitalists Rucus, advice on such things as how to react to the police and the media during and after protests.

"We will be using tactics such as those used successfully by the environmentalists," said Mr Jones. "They have caused many problems for developers and the authorities. Over the years, the environmentalists have succeeded in changing people’s attitudes, and this is what we will be trying to do for the Welsh language."

The decision to take direct action was made by Cymuned at its annual general meeting two years ago. Since then, says Aran Jones, they have been planning this campaign of direct action. "We have made a lot of research, studying movement patterns in various areas and contacting other direct action groups," he added.

"There has been a lot of work within the movement in gaining support for this campaign, preparing our members, making sure what our rights are if arrested and securing legal advice in general."

The aim of the protests is to secure support for the Declaration. "We hope that various bodies such as community councils will recognise the existence of y Fro Gymraeg (Welsh-speaking areas). This would be an important step forward," says Aran Jones.

The movement has secured support from language movements in Europe, especially in Brittany and the Basque Country, and members have been invited to take part in the European Social Forum, arranged by the Basques, in two weeks time.

Cymuned says that they have the support of many Welsh learners and non Welsh-speakers who have moved to the Welsh-speaking areas, with at least half those who took part in the road-blocking protest being non Welsh-speakers. The movement is not against immigration per se, but it is the scale of the immigration and the fact that many do not try to learn the language or understand the culture.

Up to now, the reaction of the Labour Party, who rule the government in the assembly, has been lukewarm, but if Cymuned’s protests were to increasingly make the headlines, the movement hope that the authorities will be forced to implement their plans to secure a future for the Welsh-speaking areas.

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