Councillor says tourism and holidays homes on Anglesey will kill Welsh language by end of century
Gareth Williams, local democracy reporter
A county councillor has announced his ‘retirement’ by firing a warning shot over the future of Welsh language on Anglesey.
Lewis Davies, a Plaid Cymru member of Anglesey Council for 12 years, says he has been ‘losing sleep’ worrying about the future of Cymraeg on the island.
And the former teacher says he now fears Welsh will no longer be a language spoken in communities on Anglesey by the end of the 21st century, comparing its fate to that of Manx
His decision leaves the authority with 28 councillors.
Mr Davies, who represented the Llangoed and later Seiriol wards on the council, said it was “not an easy decision” to give up his seat, having initially decided to enter politics due to his strong commitment to the language as well as loyalty to his community, adhering to his “socialist principles.”
But in his letter of resignation to the leader of the council – also his Plaid Cymru group leader – Mr Davies said that while he had “done his best” in the position, he felt there was “nothing more he could achieve”.
In the Welsh language letter, which has been seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Mr Davies said: “With the county and area changing before our very eyes – both linguistically and demographically – I worry and lose sleep over the future of the language on the island.
“Teachers are doing their best but children are refusing to speak the language on the streets.”
‘Welsh will die’
Despite the fact he had “not seen eye to eye” with the Plaid Cymru group on all matters, Mr Davies welcomed the recent decision to keep Ysgol Bodffordd open and thanked the leader, Cllr Llinos Medi, for her “tireless efforts” during the pandemic.
Referring to the last native speaker of the Manx language on the Isle of Man, Ned Maddrell who died in 1974, he added: “What is the fate of the language with such a daily influx (of incomers) to the island, who will be our last Ned Maddrell?
“At the start of the 20th century 30% of Isle of Man’s residents spoke Manx but it disappeared as a living language (within 70 years).
“Incomers and an emphasis on tourism was responsible for killing Manx and the Joint Local Development Plan (with Gwynedd) has opened the door to developers who encourage more holiday homes, priced unreasonably, and people from the outside.
“I predict that Welsh will be a minority language on the island and die among the ordinary people during this century. I sincerely hope I’m wrong.
“I wish to thank everyone for the experience and friendship I enjoyed as a county councillor.”
According to the 2011 census, 57.2% of Anglesey residents can speak Welsh – significantly down on the 80% of Welsh speakers registered on the island in 1951.
Anglesey Council has had a language strategy in place since 2016, and has recently set itself a target to increase the number of fluent Welsh speakers on the island by at least three per cent by the time the next census takes place in March 2021.
Cllr Davies’ profile has now been removed from the council’s website.
His resignation means that Anglesey Council now has only 28 active councillors – two short of the intended 30 – following the death of Caergybi councillor Shaun Redmond last year.
It’s expected that by-elections will take place for both vacant seats on the same day at this year’s Senedd poll in May.
Anglesey Council has been approached for comment.