Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Column, April 4, 2006

I'M touched by the faith that Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg have in the forces of law and order.
Their view that a new Welsh Language Act would be the answer to all of the ills foisted upon our tongue is as quaint as an Ealing comedy starring Alistair Sim and Margaret Rutherford.
The latest evidence that only a new Act will do comes courtesy of Blacks, who have a shop assistant who doesn't speak Welsh, shock horror.
I'd take their claim a little more seriously if they did not make it every day in the week which has a y in it. The sun comes up of a morning and CYI will claim it's incontrovertible proof that we need a new Welsh Language Act - it's shining on them...in English!
It may come as a terrible shock to CYI and I'm sorry to break it to them so brutally, but the majority of people in Wales do not speak Welsh, so finding a shop assistant who doesn't, albeit in the Welsh-speaking fastness of Betws-y-Coed, is not akin to news of the Moon landing or Kennedy's assassination.
Hold the front page, someone in Wales speaks the same language as most of the other people in Wales.
Now, admittedly Blacks should have Welsh-speaking staff somewhere at hand, but it should be pure economics that forces that upon them. As the gentleman who made the complaint demonstrated, it is possible to take your business elsewhere. Betws is not exactly short of outdoor equipment shops.
But no, this is, according to CYI, yet more proof that Wales needs a new Welsh Language Act. Which makes you wonder what, exactly, do they expect to be in that Act?
Perhaps they expect the new Act to contain new policing powers. Can we look forward to a language version of The Sweeney, operating out of Colwyn Bay police HQ.
"Guv, we've 'ad a call that there's a shelf-stacker down at Tesco who used a soft mutation when everyone knows 'e should have done a nasal."
"The nonce, get the Jag out, 'e's nicked."
The police in Wales already have plenty on their plate without having to patrol the counters of North Wales shops.
Is a new Welsh Language Act going to contain a Outdoor Sports Shop (Provision of Welsh-speaking staff and no backchat) Clause?
Because if it isn't, what exactly does CYI think a new Welsh Language Act will do?
I suspect, though I might be wrong, that someone, somewhere at Blacks could have spoken Welsh to the customer, but he met an assistant who did not know that.
So in terms of proof, I think CYI are going to have to come up with something a bit more cast-iron than that. It's hardly the sort of stuff that prompts Royal Commissions - quick there's a boycott of Blacks bobble-hats in Betws, better rush out that White Paper before they start burning walking socks in the street.
CYI don't really help their case, which may well be a good one, by citing such weak examples as 'proof' of the need for a change in the law. One shop assistant couldn't speak Welsh to one customer, my God, the barricades will be burning in Betws tonight won't they, Blacks will rue the day they didn't send every last one of their staff to nightschool.
All that this case confirms is the ability of the likes of CYI to go off like a bottle of pop. There are plenty of genuine cases of Welsh people being prevented from using their language, but how is CYI going to react to them if it's already said that this case is 'proof' of the need for a new Act?
Keep your powder dry for real battles and treat matters like this for what they are, a silly mistake which is hardly a threat to the language.

REGULAR reader(s) (let's not be too optimistic) may remember the colourful activities of the japesters at Natwatch last year.
It was they who broadcast the ill-judged words of Aled Cottle and then Rhodri Tomos to the world, thus landing one in hot water and prompting the other to resign his job at Gwynedd council.
Then they went very, very quiet.
It has been suggested they're a New Labour prank, other have said they're an unholy alliance of 'anyone but Plaid.'
Whoever they are, it would seem they are back. An e-mail arrives announcing their re-launch and inviting 'friends' to a fundraiser for a contribution of £10.
I did check the date it was sent, and if it's an April Fool then they are a day late.
Their return is, so they say, in anticipation of the next Assembly elections and they want to raise cash to keep the site going until then.
Quite how they've decided I'm a friend I'm not sure, although presumably because I've given them more publicity than they deserve in the past.
Their stated aim for the election is to MakeNatsHistory. Not entirely up to them of course, but if they have been watching the activities of Plaid in recent months with more leaders and ex-leaders around than you can shake a stick at, an impartial observer might suggest they're managing that without any help from Natwatch.
Any party that thinks its future is dependent on having a 'sonic logo' - a jingle to you and I - might be considered to be on its last legs.
Still, elections can be dull at the best of times, particularly now parties of all hues have adopted the politics of spin.
The re-emergence of Natwatch may make for a more interesting few months than we had bargained for.


Bonheddwr said...

What a pathetic piece regarding the recent story about the Blacks shop in Betws y Coed. If you want to see the read the story click here: www.cymdeithas.org/english

The member of staff actually shouted at the customer for asking a question in Welsh, saying that they should always start a conversation in English - because everyone speaks English.

All of the signs in the shop were in English only, and neither of the two staff could speak Welsh.

Why is this an example of the need for a New Welsh language Act? Because such an Act would make it mandatory for public AND private sector companies to offer services in Welsh.

It would give everyone in Wales the right to use Welsh in their daily lives, and would create a Commissioner to regulate matters such as this.

You then go on to talk about economics. Economics! So basically stuff the minorities. Stuff the environment because most people prefer cheap goods to clean air - no need for any enviromental legistlation then.

Stuff the disabled, their just a minority. Most people can walk, no need for ramps - no need for any disability legistlation then.

Your scaremongering regaring a language act is simply pathetic. Cymdeithas feel that there needs to be a 'matrix' system, with different rules and regulations depending on th size of the business, nature of the business, the part of Wales etc, etc.

This case is CERTAINLY proof of the need for a New Welsh Language Act - your comments are simply un-informed and pathetic.

Banksy said...

Where does it say in the CYI article that the shop assistant shouted?

Odd that you should know this 'fact' yet it does not appear there.

As I said, one shop with two staff is hardly 'proof' of the need for a new Act is it?

And if CYI advocate a 'matrix', how exactly would it cope with shops with just two staff?

If it were the entire staff of Tesco who couldn't speak Welsh then I'd think you had a point.

Two staff in one shop, come on, surely CYI have got bigger fish to fry.

As for the tone of your response, I refer you to the bit of my column regarding bottles of pop.

Deep breath, calm down.

I might also take you a little more seriously if you didn't hide behind an anonymous profile.

Ifan M Jones said...

The Cymdeithas PR department an itchy trigger finger when it comes to sending out these things (for 'PR department' read 'one twenty year old and his apple mac').

Like the story of the boy who cried wolf, if Cymdeithas complain and protest about everything, when something worth complaining about comes along no one is going to listen.

Can’t see how it can be described as a racist insult either, since anyone of any colour can speak Welsh and English.

Ho hum...

Speaking of Welsh Language Activists' ability to pull the bee's nest onto their own heads... the best attitude with Nat Watch is to ignore it. I told Rhodri Thomas not to go near the thing, he did and he got stung.

I just hope that Nat Watch is a bit less brash now that we all know who's behind it.

(keeping in mind your lecture on libel, I’ll refrain from disclosing who that is here)

Bonheddwr said...

"Like the story of the boy who cried wolf, if Cymdeithas complain and protest about everything, when something worth complaining about comes along no one is going to listen."

If this isn't worth complaining about, what is? It made the news, so PR wise it was a victory!

I agree that it isn't racist in the strictest term, as race is to do with genetics, but telling somone that they shouldn't speak their own language in their own country is certainly prejudiced.

I was starting to agree with some of your points until you said that Rhodri Thomas was a Welsh language Activist!! From what I understand, he was working with Natwatch, giving them anti Welsh-Nat stories, and he got burnt. Tough luck I say!

I still think that Banksy's piece was completely mis-guided, even though I usually agree with nearly everything he says.

Maybe he should do some light-reading...

Ifan M Jones said...


Rhodri Thomas is pro the Welsh language, otherwise he probably wouldn't have bothered learning it and continue speaking it. He may indeed be -GASP!- a Tory, and yes he was contacting Nat Watch to complain about Cymdeithas yr Iaith. But since he does nothing but complain about them this wasn't really a big suprise.

He didn't deserve to lose his job, however you look at it.

A minor spat with small minded bigots isn't worth writing into the newspaper, otherwise this would be a nation of very sore wrists. Cymdeithas should probably have complained to Blacks about it, but to bring one person's idiocy to the nation's attention is to go too far. It's not much better than Nat Watch going to town with Aled Cottle's drunken gibberings.


Ifan M Jones said...

"If this isn't worth complaining about, what is? It made the news, so PR wise it was a victory!"

Getting into the news doesn't equal a 'PR victory'. Most people who get into the paper don't come out smelling of roses. In this case, Cymdeithas got their litte Page 7 nib, but were criticised in a much longer comment section on another page.

Bonheddwr said...

A very ill-informed comment section one must add. If you support th content of Banksy's comments, I presumbe that you also oppose the need for a New Welsh language Act?

Front page news today as well re. FAW bigots. Another great example of the need for a language act. Is that good enough?

"It's not much better than Nat Watch going to town with Aled Cottle's drunken gibberings."

The whole point of Cymdeithas' existence is to promote their campaigns i.e. New Welsh language Act.

What happened to Cottle was disgraceful, he was personally targeted, and attacked. The same goes for the chap from Gwynedd Council.

Cymdeithas have not named any individuals, they have simply used an example of a company's prejudice to highlight the need for a new language Act.

I simply cannot understand how the 2 situations can be compared?

PS. Are you looking for a job by the way. Your tongue seems to be securely wedged in the rear passage of DP reporters.

Ifan M Jones said...

I'm a member of CYI and was until very recently on their senate, so no I'm not against the Welsh Laguage Act.

I don't know if David Banks is opposed to it either - it certainly doesn't say that in his article, just that he thinks CyI are foolish for pointing to this spat as a reason why we need a Welsh Language Act.

I think you've read the first few lines and then 'Hulked Out' before reading the rest.

Read these bits again, I've put the essential parts between stars:

"CYI don't really help their case, *which may well be a good one*, by citing such weak examples as 'proof' of the need for a change in the law."

"*There are plenty of genuine cases of Welsh people being prevented from using their language*, but how is CYI going to react to them if it's already said that this case is 'proof' of the need for a new Act?"

In brief: There are plenty of reasons we need a Welsh Language Act, dealing with narrow minded counter jockeys who just don't like Welsh people is not one of them.

Banksy said...

My my, you've both been busy.

Bonheddwr, did you actually read all my column?

I'm not actually against a new Welsh Language Act, although I'd like some convincing arguments to be put in favour of it.

One assistant's ignorance at one shop in Betws is not a convincing argument.

You can blether on all you like insisting that it is. But if you think that the Blacks example is, say, as important as the police, local government, or our schools or health service being able to deal with people in Welsh, then you are doing the campaign a disservice.

The two situations bear no comparison and CYI should focus on those bodies which make a day-to-day difference to Welsh-speakers lives because they have no choiuce but to deal with them.

You don't have to shop at Blacks, but you do have to have contact with government, the health service, schools and the police.

Understand now?

Oh, and I stopped being a DP reporter a long, long time ago.