A LABOUR AM was at the centre of a political storm last night after she refused to condemn her researcher for referring to Welsh as a “brain-dead language”.
Vale of Clwyd AM Ann Jones yesterday refused to comment on the row surrounding the comments of her researcher David Collins, who stated on a blog, “Personally I share the view of [early 19th Century politician] Daniel O’Connell when he said, ‘I can witness without a sigh the decline of the Irish language’.
“One aspect that doesn’t seem to have received much attention so far is consideration of the language as a class issue. To what extent does the requirement to teach Welsh at all key stages and the right to access all public service provision through the medium of Welsh assist or hinder the prospects of the under-privileged?”
He added, “Moreover it isn’t an issue simply in terms of all the time that is wasted on it. Compulsory Welsh may also diminish young pupils’ enthusiasm for education and their confidence in their ability to master a subject. You cannot successfully teach a practically brain-dead language to young children whose families don’t want it revived or couldn’t care less about it.”
Mr Collins, 33, is a primary school governor who has been selected by Labour to stand for Cardiff Council in next year’s local government elections.
When asked about his comment by the Western Mail he said, “I made a brief comment on a blog which appears to have been blown out of all proportion. While phrasing one sentence I neglected to delete the word ‘brain’ from the previous formulation. I regret any offence caused by my careless typing. The comment was made in my own time and is not a reflection of the views of Ann Jones AM or the Wales Labour Party.”
Ms Jones refused to comment.
Aran Jones, chief executive of the Welsh language communities group Cymuned said, “This is an utterly unacceptable public comment from a key adviser to a Labour member who represents a constituency where the Welsh language is a thriving part of community life.
“Slurs like this simply cannot be accepted in a modern Wales which is being built on a positive approach to our language and culture, and Ann Jones should request an immediate public apology from the misguided David Collins.
“If he is not willing to apologise, it is clear that he is not fit-for- purpose as an Assembly researcher, and he should be sacked forthwith.”
When it became clear that Mr Collins was not apologising and that Ms Jones was not commenting, Mr Jones added, “It is quite shameful that by default she is effectively condoning his comments. This raises very serious questions about the Labour Party’s commitment to the language policies outlined in the One Wales agreement with Plaid Cymru.”
Welsh Conservative Shadow Heritage Minister Paul Davies said, “I think these are disgraceful remarks. He should apologise unreservedly to the Welsh nation.
“Welsh certainly isn’t a dead language. According to official figures the proportion of Welsh speakers rose from 20.8% in 2001 to 21.7% in 2003. That is excellent news for those of us committed to furthering and safeguarding the Welsh language.
“I think Ann Jones should consider his position. If she’s not prepared to comment, it is a reflection on her.”
Caernarfon Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams said, “Clearly he has not talked to English-speaking parents who send their children to Welsh-medium schools. Perhaps they know something that he does not.
“I understand he is a governor of a Cardiff school which is responsible for implementing the national curriculum. Perhaps his fellow governors should consider whether he can contribute anything positive to the running of the school.”
Eleanor Burnham, Welsh Liberal Democrat Welsh language champion, said, “These comments are typical of the appalling attitude of many Labour activists towards the Welsh language. Many of them resent the prominent and growing role that Welsh plays in Welsh life.
“That’s why they’ve opposed our calls for a new Welsh Language Act and to give greater rights to people wishing to use the language as part of their everyday life.
“Their antagonism – as illustrated by comments like these – is one of the reasons why Labour have largely been driven out of Welsh-speaking areas in all parts of the country.”
First Minister Rhodri Morgan said, “Our policy is to promote a healthy bilingual Wales where the rights of people to speak Welsh and English are guaranteed. We want to see a bilingual future for Wales.”
You cannot successfully teach a practically brain-dead language to young children whose families don’t want it revived or couldn’t care less