Saturday, 30 April 2011

Turning Our Attention Back to the Election

Plaid’s vow on education

WITH only a week to go, Plaid Cymru candidates and activists are out campaigning hard, knocking on doors and delivering leaflets. We’re going into this election as the only party in Wales with a real, positive vision for the future of Wales.
Plaid has been in government in Wales for four years. We’ve had some great successes: the Plaid-driven Foundation Phase, Learning Pathways and the Welsh Baccalaureate.
We’ve invested millions in community-focused schools as well as small and rural schools; reduced class sizes across Wales and launched the pilot Laptop for Every Child scheme in every single local authority in Wales – all pledged in 2007, and all delivered within one Assembly term.
But Plaid knows we need to do more. Many of our children lack the basic reading, writing and counting skills essential for the modern world. Standards are slipping. Our national performance in worldwide tests is dropping. Things need to change.
It is time to focus on ensuring that our young people leave school motivated and ready for the world of work. Plaid Cymru will make improving the basic skills of our children in reading, writing, counting and computer skills our number one priority.
Our aim is to halve illiteracy and innumeracy rates for children leaving primary school in Wales by 2015 and virtually eliminate the problem by 2020, by ensuring that at least 95% of all children leave primary school functionally literate and numerate to the standards expected of an 11-year-old.
Good teaching and improved teaching standards will be vital to the success of Wales’ literacy and numeracy drive. Tracking children’s progress throughout their education is simply not good enough: we must intervene at an early stage to give every child the best possible opportunities.
In addition to providing extra investment in classroom-based training and mentoring, we will also give teachers more freedom to innovate and inspire.
Another vital priority for Plaid will be responding to the demand for the provision of Welsh-medium education by increasing the number of children who are taught through the medium of Welsh and exceeding the targets in the Welsh-medium Education Strategy.
We have no choice – getting this right will be a make-or-break moment for our economy, our children’s life skills and the eradication of poverty in Wales.
We need to stop rewarding Labour’s failure over the past 12 years.
This is our chance to make a better Wales.
With new lawmaking powers for the National Assembly, now it is the politicians who must deliver on their promises. With our new powers, we must ensure that Wales becomes the country we know it can be.
By voting Yes in March this year, the people of Wales showed their ambition. We must help them to achieve that ambition – and crucially, we know that the most important thing that we can do over the coming 10 years will be to transform our education system here in Wales. Only Plaid has the ideas, the drive and the courage to make a real difference to the lives of people in Wales.

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Michael Douglas Gets it Wrong

Speaking on the Oprah Winfrey show in the US to an audience of millions, Douglas said while he “got on with it” his wife showed typical British “stiff upper lip” and bottled up her feelings.
He told the legendary TV show host: “I think that part of Catherine’s whole background, she’s Welsh and the Welsh, it’s all stiff upper lip, not let your feelings show.”


It is not the Welsh who have the "stiff upper lip" but the English.
The Welsh have always expressed their emotions openly and are not nearly as repressed.
Welsh and English characteristics and behaviour are quite different despite generations of domination.

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Thursday, 28 April 2011

Ireland Needs American Support for Unity

By Gerry Adams

Easter is a very special time. A time for family. A time especially for children. New Easter clothes have been bought and there are the chocolate eggs to be eaten.

For Christians, Easter is the most important date in the calendar. The resurrection. A time for hope, new life and renewal.

Easter also has an added historical significance for the Irish, at home, and scattered around the globe.

95 years ago the British Empire was the greatest the world had ever seen. Britain was the superpower nation of its day.

At Easter 1916 an alliance of Irish republican organizations and others, including elements of the Irish Volunteers, the Irish Citizen Army, Sinn Féin, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the woman’s movement, socialists, trade unionists, nationalists, and Irish language activists, came together to rise up against British rule in Ireland and declare a Republic.

Easter 1916, like the hunger strike of 1981, was a seminal moment in the struggle for Irish freedom, and each changed the course of Irish history for the better.

Key to the Easter Rising was the role of the Irish in America. The 1916 Proclamation explicitly praises Irish America having patiently perfected her discipline, having resolutely waited for the right moment to reveal itself, she now seizes that moment, and, supported by her exiled children in America and by gallant allies in Europe, but relying in the first on her own strength, she strikes in full confidence of victory.

It has been said many times that the Rising and the subsequent Tan War wouldn’t have occurred without the financial and political support of Irish America.

It was crucial then, and it has been crucial in more recent times.

On May 5th the people of the North go to the polls to elect a new Assembly and power sharing Executive. That would not be happening but for the efforts of Irish America.

The Good Friday Agreement, which is the foundation block for this progress, would not have happened without Irish America.

The British Government of Ireland Act from 1920 is gone and there now exists an all-Ireland Ministerial Council, all-Ireland policy and implementation bodies, and areas of co-operation and harmonization.

We are, through these interlocking and interdependent all-Ireland institutions, and the British constitutional change, loosening the knot of British involvement in Irish affairs.

For the first time in 90 years there is now an all-Ireland political dispensation working for all of the people of Ireland. This would not been have achieved without the determination and commitment of Irish America.

Irish America can rightly feel proud of the contribution it has made to the search for peace in Ireland. From the media battle against British propaganda, to the political battle for visas and fundraising, and political lobbying, Irish America has played a blinder in promoting Irish democratic demands in the United States.

Thirteen years after the Good Friday Agreement, the issue of peace in Ireland remains high on the political agenda of the U.S. administration. As if to prove that point, President Obama is due to visit next month.

The success of Irish America did not happen by chance.

For decades, the British had been largely successful in arguing internationally that the war in Ireland was an internal matter for the United Kingdom and that everyone else should keep their noses out of it. Successive U.S. administrations had acquiesced in this.

In seeking to develop and advance the Sinn Féin peace strategy, Irish republicans had long understood the importance of engaging with, and winning support from, the international community. We recognized that the Irish diaspora had an important role to play in this and that Irish America was the most advanced part of this. Irish republicans found in America willing partners and allies in our endeavors.

In the years since the Clinton days, through the Bush administration, and now with President Obama, Irish America has remained a constant source of support and encouragement for the peace process. It has consistently contributed to the efforts to overcome each of the crises that have bedeviled the process, kept the White House and U.S. political system engaged with the process, and has never given up on the democratic imperative of Irish reunification.

In this context, across the United States there have been several well attended conferences to the theme of Irish reunification, and countless resolutions expressing support for a United Ireland passed by town, city and state bodies.

There is much work still to be done. A united Ireland is our goal. A United Ireland is what we will achieve if we remain focused and determined.

Ireland needs its exiled children to remain strong and committed to the achievement of this historic goal. I am confident that you will.

At his court martial, Pádraig Pearse got it exactly right: Believe that we, too, love freedom and desire it. To us it is more desirable than anything in the world. If you strike us down now, we shall rise again to renew the fight. You cannot conquer Ireland. You cannot extinguish the Irish passion for freedom.

As we celebrate the blessings of Easter, I am confident that Irish America will stick with it, and with us, and that together we will succeed in building a free, independent, sovereign United Ireland

Campaign for a United Ireland

Plaid Cymru's vision of an independent Wales

In 2003 Plaid Cymru's director of policy Simon Thomas outlined his vision of an independent Wales in the Wales on Sunday. The points he makes are as valid today as they were eight years ago:

SO what does independence in Europe really mean?
"Plaid Cymru's policy hasn't changed. We've always believed that Wales should have the right to a seat at the United Nations, and have long advocated that Wales can become a member state of the European Union. Six countries smaller - and poorer - than Wales will be joining the European Union soon. We simply want Wales to have the same chance.
"You could call this self-government, full national status or independence in Europe.
"Everyone living in Wales would become a citizen of Wales. There would be a written constitution and Bill of Rights."

WHEN would it happen?
"Only when the people of Wales wanted it.
"We want to see a full legislative and fiscal Parliament established in Wales as soon as possible. This in itself wouldn't change the UK - Scotland already has such a Parliament.
"Any future steps - such as becoming a member of the European Union could only be decided by a referendum."

WOULDN'T it cost a fortune?
"It could save us a fortune. Blair and Bush's illegal and immoral war in Iraq has already cost the taxpayer £3bn. It's predicted to soar to at least £6bn. That's £100m a month or the equivalent of 2p on income tax.
"Independence in Europe means the freedom not to waste our money on capitalism's wars or nuclear weapons!"

BUT doesn't England subsidise Wales?
"Only if you believe the Tory myths still peddled by Peter Hain.
"Back in the mists of time the anti-devolution William Hague published figures claiming Wales received £5.7bn annual subsidy from the UK.
"These figures were comprehensively rubbished by Rhodri Morgan and Kevin Brennan MP. It's a disgrace that Peter Hain prefers Tory maths over his own party's figures.
"The Labour Party itself claimed the figure was more like £1bn.
"This still sounds a lot, but would be wiped out by the Assembly Government's own claim of economic growth in Wales over the next three years.
"So if you believe Peter Hain's figures, you must also believe Rhodri Morgan will fail to improve the Welsh economy. One thing's for certain, Plaid Cymru can do better."

WHAT will happen to the Queen in an Independent Wales?
"The Queen could remain head of state. Plaid Cymru would want Wales to be a member of the Commonwealth.
"This is a real question for the current United Kingdom as well."

WHAT about the £?
"Plaid Cymru has no plans for an independent Welsh currency.
"Sooner or later, the UK will have to decide whether to join the Euro, so this is a question for the UK as well as Wales. We want to see the Euro introduced in the UK when the time is right. This bridge will certainly have to have been crossed before self-government becomes a reality.

WOULD there be a Welsh army?
"Not necessarily, though of course there would be Welsh soldiers as now. The growth of European integrated defence will overtake any feasible timetable for self-government.
"Wales could be like Ireland - making a valuable contribution to UN peacekeeping - or could negotiate a different defence relationship with the rest of the British Isles. Plaid Cymru would want Wales to be part of European co-operation on defence.
"One thing's for certain, Wales would not need to be part of the post-colonial clean-up of the British state's past mistakes (such as Iraq, formed as a British protectorate), and we would not need immoral nuclear weapons.

WHAT about immigration and passport control?
"These are again issues moving increasingly to the European level of deliberation even under the current UK arrangements.
"If you've ever taken a day trip to Ireland or driven between Belgium and France, you'll know that the European Union is founded on the free movement of goods and people.
"Wales would share immigration control with other European countries and certainly I hope provide a real welcome to bone fide refugees.

DO you really believe an independent Wales could be economically viable?
"Independence in Europe would undoubtedly bring a huge boost to the economy of Wales.
"Plaid Cymru wants Wales to take its place among the nations of Europe, not to make ourselves separate or isolated, but to get the best deal for our nation.
"At present the Barnett formula and lack of full additionality for European funding shortchanges the Welsh nation. Like Ireland, we believe Wales in Europe could become a beacon of regeneration.
"There is no lack of ambition, invention and go-ahead in Wales. What holds us back is being tied in to the most centralised and unequal economy in Europe.
"The UK has the worst level of regional disparity of all European countries. The Labour Party seems content to let Wales stew in a state of constant dependency.

HOW would the Welsh health service stand up to independence?
"The present situation has led to one in 10 of the Welsh population being on a waiting list. It's a scandal and an indictment of the National Assembly Government.
"A Parliament could negotiate a funding formula for Wales to make up for the years of under-investment and to reflect our real needs. For example, 18 per cent of the population in Wales have long term sick needs compared with a UK average of 13 per cent.
"Long-term care for the elderly could be provided as in Scotland, and legislation to set up Foundation Hospitals would not apply in Wales.

AND what about our schools and education?
"A Parliament could usher in curriculum reflecting Welsh needs, including citizenship and our place in the world. With a Parliament, Wales could decide differently to England on top-up fees.
"The Welsh language could be more fully supported and promoted, particularly for adult learners. English and Welsh would be official languages and neither monolingualism nor bilingualism would be thrust down peoples' throats.

WHAT about Wales' environment and its agriculture?
"Sustainable development would be at the heart of Plaid Cymru's self-governing Wales.
"We are fast becoming the dirty man of Europe. Our greenhouse gas emissions are up, not down, and we have atrocious recycling rates.
"Most environmental legislation now originates at the European level. Wales would be part of planning a clean, green future for all of us.
"We have huge water and renewable energy resources and we could reject the massive subsidy to the nuclear industry.
"Already this year, British Energy has received £1bn from the Treasury to prop it up.
"We would be able to negotiate directly with the European Commission on agricultural reform, fighting to keep our rural economy and family farms in business.
"We could reject GM crops. We could ensure land in the right place for affordable homes, a socialist objective that has been sadly ignored.

COULD Wales really be seen as a nation of its own?
"Like the 90 or so nations that are smaller than us, Wales would play its full part in the United Nations.
"However, independence in Europe would give us the opportunity, when appropriate, to reject war-making as the French and Germans did over Iraq.
"We want independence in Europe to join with other nations, including England, Scotland and Ireland, in the fight for a more peaceful, just world.
"This won't set us apart, but rather bring us even closer together with other nations. Wales has nothing to lose but its chains."

The Prince of Wales

A Plea from Sian Ifan

Are we now such a cowed and servile nation that we will suffer silently the indignity of seeing the 'union jack rag'  blatently and triumphantly draped across the towns of our nation in celebration of English royalist events such as this wedding and an oncoming jubilee in 2012? Or, have we got just about enough pride to carry out the briefest of gestures such as the displaying of the Owain Glyndŵr 'Four Lions Rampant' as a means of illustrating to the English State and their royalty that we are still here and that we are still loyal to Owain Glyndŵr's cause for Welsh freedom - which is in continuence. Can all genuine Welsh patriots make this most basic of protest or, have you all forgotten and abandoned what Glyndŵr and his fellow Cymry fought and sacrificed for?

Turbulent Wales

           A history of Owain Glyndwr - The Last True Prince of Wales

Owain Glyndwr was born in Sycharth, in the county of Powys, around the year 1350 into an Aristocratic Welsh family, and,as such, was well educated, studying Law at the Inns of Court, London, and also serving as a soldier in the English army.
  He owned a mansion at Sycharth, near Llangedwyn in Powys,where he initially had a good life with his wife and children.
  The Welsh people were not treated well by the English, and resentment towards them had been brewing all over Wales for many years.
  Owain's sense of Welsh identity was fired after a dispute with his English neighbour, Lord Grey of Rhuthin, ( a close friendof the English King, Henry IV ) regarding a tract of common land.
  It would appear that the King's failure to judge fairly in this dispute was a key factor in Owain Glyndwr's decision to revolt, and on September 16th. 1400, he began a mission to gain independence for the Welsh people that would last some 16 years.
  He successfully led an army against the town of Rhythin ( where he was proclaimed Prince of Wales by his supporters . He was in fact a direct descendant of the Princes of Powys and the Dehenbarth, so therefore had good claim to the title ) and followed up by attacking Rhuddlan, Flint, Holt, Oswestry and Welshpool, and soundly defeated Henry IV's army at Hyddgen, near Pumlumon ( "The five Peaks", in Ceredigion ) in the summer of 1401, and then marched triumphantly into southern Wales . 
  In response, Henry raised a huge army, marching from Worcester, to capture Owain and crush the uprising. He  arrived in the Llandovery area and co-ersed a local landowner, Llywelyn ap Gryffydd Fychan of Caeo into his service to assist him in finding Glyndwr's camp.
   Llywelyn was a man in his mid 60's , and was well known as a generous host to all, and was loved by his people. He had two sons serving with Glyndwr's army, and he was determined never to betray his Country or principles. He led the English King and his army through the uplands of Deheubarth on a wild goose chase , wasting several weeks,  allowing Owain to make his escape to Gwynedd and consolidate a position of strength.
  Henry eventually lost patience, and Llywelyn was forced to admit his loyalty to Glyndwr and his passionate desire for independance and freedom for Wales. He was well aware of the consequences of his actions, and was prepared to undergo the ultimate sacrifice so that others could continue the struggle for freedom.
   He was dragged to Llandovery where, at the gallows in front of the castle gates, he was publicly disembowelled and dismembered ( Hung,Drawn and quartered, the same fate that later came to William Wallace, of "BraveHeart" fame ).
   His remains were preserved with salt , and sent to other Welsh towns for exhibition as a deterent to any patriots thinking of opposing the will of the English King, but ironically, this sadistic act did the exact opposite.
   Hundreds of ordinary people joined the uprising for Welsh independance, and many exiles returned home to join Owain Glyndwr's army. Many English castles were captured and , in 1404, Owain Glyndwr held Wales' first Parliament in Machynlleth - signing international recognition treaties with both France and Scotland.
   In 1404-1405 he captured the castles of Aberystwyth and Harlech, and his authority was accepted by almost the whole of Wales. After these successes however, his fortunes changed, and he suffered defeats at Grosmont castle and Pwllmelyn, near Usk.
  Glyndwr sent an appeal to the French for help in a letter written at Pennal, near Machynlleth. This letter survives  today, and is kept in the French National Archives, although there is a facsimile copy on display at Pennal Church.
  Owain Glyndwr continued his struggle until he was cornered  in 1409 at his last castle, Harlech . None of the details of the siege survive, but he somehow managed to escape. However, his wife, two daughters and a grandchild were captured and imprisoned in London until their deaths.
 It is believed that he lived his remaining years with his son-in-law, Sir John Skydmore, at Kenturch in Herefordshire.
 In 1415, he refused the offer of a Royal Pardon, and there is much speculation as to the whereabouts of his final resting place.
The building at Machynlleth where he held the first Welsh Parliament is now a visitor centre,  open to the public, and there have been some requests that September 16th. , the date Glyndwr was proclaimed Prince of Wales, should be designated a national day.
A memorial stands near the ruins of Llandovery castle ( at the rear of the car park) to the bravery and self-sacrifice of Llywelyn ap Gryffydd Fychan, of Caeo, Wales' "BraveHeart".