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Protests continue against Welsh Language Act

Special to Shunpiking Online

MANX (29 January 2007) - THERE WERE arrests at the weekend during a protest in Bangor, Gwynedd, by the Welsh Language Society, Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg. Three people were detained in what was the latest in a series of protests by the group which is calling for a new Welsh Language Act.

They targeted the Morrisons supermarket in the north Wales town, to protest against the lack of bilingual signs. North Wales Police say the three protesters will face charges for minor criminal damage offences.

The three were arrested after posters were fixed to the Morrisons store in Upper Bangor during the protest.

The society said demonstrators gathered in the city centre and then marched to stage a sit-in at the supermarket's entrance. Subsequently posters were placed on the store

A Cymdeithas said they were angry that Morrisons had failed to implement Welsh language policy at its Welsh stores.

The latest action is the latest of a series throughout Wales targeting Companies who believe they can abrogate their responsibilities to use the Welsh language. The current issue of CARN (the journal of the Celtic League) contains a major article of the Cymdeithas campaign.

*Director of Information, Celtic League

* * *

Disappointment with Welsh language quango's strategy


(AUTUMN 2006) - Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society) have strongly criticised the government's Welsh Language Board's Strategy document which is supposed to extend the use of Welsh in the private sector, and have called the document a 'great disappointment'. The much anticipated Strategaeth Sector Preifat /Private Sector Strategy was launched at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show (an annual event at Llanelwedd, Powys) on the 26th of July. The strategy outlines the plans of the quango to try to make more private companies provide services through Welsh, by persuasion only. Meri Huws, 'Chair' of the quango, said at the launch "Persuasion rather than enforcement has been and will continue to be the Board's approach with the Private Sector. The desire and intention to work with the Sector itself is central to its purpose and critical to its success. In fact the strategy has been drawn up in collaboration with businesses and representative business organisations". One of the Strategy's main aims is to work with market leaders to advise them in a practical way on increasing their use of Welsh and the advantages of doing so. It supposes that other companies will follow the good practice and initiative shown by the big companies.

The quango reject the idea that legislation is the way forward for language rights in the private sector, thus opposing the line Cymdeithas has been taking for the last decade and longer. The campaigning and discussion Cymdeithas have had with the mobile phone company Orange typify how ineffective the 'persuasion' of the Language Board is. In a hopeful statement in 2000 the quango said "The mobile phone company Orange have today confirmed that Welsh is at the top of the list of languages they consider important for the company's program of developing multilingual communication in Britain". Four years later Cymdeithas were still campaigning about Orange's lack of Welsh, and an Orange spokesman told them "There is no obligation on Orange or any company operating in Wales to provide bilingual services".

Orange are still refusing to provide services in Welsh, and the situation is the same with Coca Cola and the Welsh Rugby Union, two other cases that have been used by the language board in the past as examples of their 'persuasion'. In the words of Catrin Dafydd, leader of Cymdeithas's New Language Act campaign:

"This is a great disappointment, and it shows the unwillingness and inability of the Language Board to face the situation as it is. Their failures in the past with wealthy multinational companies like Orange and Coca Cola show that persuasion alone is not enough to ensure that these companies provide goods and services through Welsh. The only way to ensure services in Welsh for Welsh people is through firm legislation that will put an obligation on these bodies. The companies say time after time that they will not provide Welsh services because they are not legally obliged to. Only a strong wide-ranging Language Act will put in place this obligation. It is really incredible that the Board are in favour of extending legislation to commodities like water and electricity, but are against doing this for shops like Tesco who in practice have the same sort of monopoly as the water companies.

"It is clear this situation is unfair for Welsh-speakers at present. A survey was carried out by Cymdeithas on the willingness of electricity companies to provide a service in Welsh. Two companies out of fourteenare willing or able to do that. Two companies answered by advising us to communicate with them in English.

"Why should customers have less of a choice of companies because they want service in Welsh? Until there is a New Language Act to force companies to provide services in Welsh the rights of Welsh-speakers will be denied. It is disgraceful that the Board ignore the lessons of history in this area."


*This article was first published in CARN, the journal of the Celtic League, Autumn 2006 issue No. 135. CARN provides in depth articles like the one above on political. cultural and environmental developments in the Celtic countries. You can subscribe by via any Branch Secretary or Officer of the League, contact details on our main website.

The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries of the western British Isles and Brittany. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It targets human rights abuse and monitors all military activity within these areas

TEL (UK)01624 877918 MOBILE (UK)07624 491609

Internet site at http://www.manxman.co.im/cleague http://groups.yahoo.com/group/celtic_league/

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