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Tuesday, 8 August, 2000, 13:22 GMT 14:22 UK
Call for new language movement
Maes Eisteddfod Llanelli 2000
The eisteddfod has heard a call for a new language movement
A Welsh Assembly Member has called for a new movement to help ensure that Welsh remains a living language.

In a speech at the National Eisteddfod field at Llanelli, Cynog Dafis, a Plaid Cymru AM, said: "The Welsh language needs a professional and effective movement working for it."

He said such a body would need to have wide resources in order to get to grips with the enormous task of producing policy documents, memoranda and briefing papers and of lobbying civil servants, Assembly Members and European Parliament Members.
Cynog Dafis AM
Cynog Dafis called for language supporters to unite

"Without that there will be a big gap in language politics in Wales," he said.

"What proves this without question is the way the language has been almost completely ignored during the first year of the National Assembly," he added.

Mr Dafis, a regional list member for mid and west Wales, called for a new movement with broad appeal to be set up to campaign for the language.

However, the most prominent language campaigning group, Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, the Welsh Language Society, said it would not be a part of any new group.

Cymdeithas, which has conducted a campaign of non-violent direct action in support of the language for over 30 years, said it would use the eisteddfod field as a platform for daily protests.

Welsh language statistics
More than 500,000 speakers
18.7% of population speak Welsh
25% of children are in Welsh-medium schools
50 Welsh-medium secondary schools
449 Welsh-medium primary schools
In contrast, the statutory body charged with promoting and safeguarding the language, Bwrdd yr Iaith Gymraeg, the Welsh Language Board, said it could see merit in Mr Dafis's suggestion.

"It is true to say that if it had not been for the efforts of a small number of AMs, with the support of the Language Board, and something close to an ultimatum from one party in particular, we would not have had a single debate on the language in a full Assembly session," Mr Dafis said.

"If political pressure had not been applied, in this case by Cymdeithas yr Iaith, it would have been even worse," he said.

"It's sad, because this period of history is so vital for the Welsh language.
National Assembly
Mr Dafis wants the Assembly to create a language strategy

He said that in order to ensure the dynamic growth of the Welsh language, a properly resourced strategy was needed, such as had been achieved successfully in areas such as Catalonia and the Basque country.

He said he would like to see Cymdeithas yr Iaith, Rhieni dros Addysg Gymraeg (Parents for Welsh Medium Education) and Cefn, the Welsh language civil rights group) coming together to form a single movement adapted to the changing situation.

'Pressure needed'

He said the government in Wales would never implement a successful strategy to promote and preserve the language unless sufficient political pressure were brought to bear.

He said there was a need for a pressure group that would be radical, intelligent, broad in its support, influential, powerful and effective.

This could put pressure not just on the Assembly, but on other bodies, he said.

He said that there may be a case for a society such as Cymdeithas yr Iaith to conduct a radical campaign from the fringes, including elements of law-breaking, but that a more broadly-based campaign was needed to create the right climate for a language strategy to be implemented.

Language 'strength'

There was also a need to create a climate in which using Welsh was attractive, exciting, a source of pride and a sign of strength, he said.

He called on the various language campaigning groups to put aside their differences and unite to put Welsh back on the political agenda.

"Are thereenough people, and is there enough money to create such a movement?" he asked.

"In my view, that is the same as asking is there enough enthusiasm and commitment in Wales to make the revival of the language a reality.

"I'm not sure of the answer to either question. But I'm certain it's worth giving it a try," he said.

Welsh is spoken by just over 500,000 people in Wales, just under a fifth of the population. The figure in the 1991 census showed a slight growth in the number of speakers compared with 1981, reversing a pattern of decline which had existed through most of the 20th Century.

However, much of the growth is due to the numbers of schoolchildren acquiring Welsh as a second language due to the boom in bilingual schooling. The number of areas of Wales where Welsh is the majority language - in north and west Wales - is still reducing, fuelling fears that the language may lose its capacity to produce new native speakers.

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01 Aug 00 | Wales
Welsh language campaign call
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