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Health Assistant Director who made non-Welsh speaker apartheid comparison condemned

25 Feb 2021 6 minutes Read
Bethan Sayed and Aled Roberts. Pictures by Senedd Cymru (CC BY 2.0).

An assistant director of an organisation that trains the Welsh healthcare workforce, who compared the treatment of non-Welsh speakers to “apartheid”, has been told to resign.

Plaid Cymru MS Bethan Sayed made the call about James Moore, who is responsible for Organisational Design and Development at Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW), which sits within NHS Wales.

The Senedd member has described the comparison as “unacceptable”, and said they were worse than comments about the Welsh language by Keith Hann, who was recently fired as Director of Corporate Affairs of Iceland after his emerged.

The statements have also been condemned by Aled Roberts, The Welsh Language Commissioner, who described them as “disrespectful and fundamentally historically wrong”.

Moore, who is from Sheffield, but lives in Llansteffan, suggested that it was time for non-Welsh speakers to “stand up to the oppressors”.

He made the comparison on Facebook in response to a story about plans to change a primary school from English to Welsh-medium.

He compared Welsh speakers to white people in South Africa during the time the country was under a system of institutionalised racial segregation, which ended in the 1990s.

Moore also asked if non-Welsh speakers “should use different buses” or “different drinking fountains”.

Nation.Cymru contacted James Moore for comment but have not yet received a reply.

‘Personal capacity’ 

A spokesperson for the HEIW said that it does not “condone” the comments, but that they were made in a “personal capacity”. This response has been described as “pretty weak” by the MS.

Bethan Sayed, Chair of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee, said on Twitter: “I raised this with the Minister for the Welsh Language in @SeneddCWLC this morning. She said she could not comment as she had not seen his statement.

“When she does, she should strongly condemn them, and he should resign. Absolutely unacceptable.”

Aled Roberts, The Welsh Language Commissioner said: “Making a comparison between encouraging and developing Welsh language education strategy in Wales with racial segregation in South Africa is totally disrespectful and fundamentally historically wrong.

“I am saddened that the comments made equate the policies of successive Welsh Governments with the struggle of apartheid, which perhaps indicates a lack of understanding of the history of our language and culture. This is a view which sadly still persists with a minority of individuals.

“Research shows that giving a child the gift of a second language not only enriches a child’s education but also provides other benefits.

“The language policy itself underpins the Welsh Government’s long term strategy to achieve a million Welsh speakers by 2050 – a policy which attracts cross-party support within the Senedd.

“Wales is a proud bilingual country, and being bilingual is an experience enjoyed by the majority of the world’s population.”

Sayed raised the issue in a Senedd committee meeting with the Minister for the Welsh language, Eluned Morgan.

‘Apartheid’ 

Bethan Sayed said: “The news has broken today, perhaps you’ve seen it Minister, where the Assistant Director of the HEIW has said that people who can’t speak Welsh are being treated like apartheid, and that’s in the context of creating Welsh medium schools in his area. I believe he lives in the Llansteffan area.

“The HEIW has said that the comments were made in a personal capacity. James Moore is the name of the Assistant director, and I think that response from the HEIW is pretty weak to think that these comments are worse than the ones from the Iceland Director, who isn’t in his post anymore.

“Would you condemn what James Moore has said, and what would you do now in terms of having discussions with HEIW about these matters?”

The Minister for the Welsh Language, Eluned Morgan responded: “I haven’t heard those comments, therefore so I can’t respond without being certain of what he has said.

“Everyone needs to understand that we have a responsibility here to move towards a million speakers. That means going from 20% to 40% into Welsh medium schools, and the HEIW has a role in ensuring it happens.

“The HEIW has to, I was speaking earlier about the needs to change culture within these organisations, within the government. That needs to happen in every organisation, including the HEIW.”

Bethan Sayed added:  “Hopefully when you’ll see the statement and read it clearly you’ll have something to say as the Minister for the Welsh Language, because I thought it was totally unacceptable even to compare it with apartheid and everything that happened under apartheid.”

Carmarthenshire Council was preparing for a consultation exercise over proposals to introduce changes to Model Church in Wales School in Carmarthen and Ysgol y Felin in Llanelli, which would have seen them move towards having more Welsh medium education from September 2022.

The council later scrapped the consultation with the Model Church in Wales School following a backlash from staff at the school, along with trade and teaching unions.

‘Nationalist zealotry’ 

Moore said on Facebook: “The English language is the single most important export from the UK and gives us all a huge advantage in the world. Anything that undermines this in the cause of meeting nationalist zealotry harms us all.

“Just imagine if you changed the word English to ‘black’ or (historically in South Africa) ‘coloured’… perhaps non-Welsh speakers should use different buses? Maybe different drinking fountains?

“As was the case in South Africa where the whites were a small minority, is it time for the 80% non-Welsh speakers to stand up to the oppressors to stop the ongoing apartheid?!”

He added: “Bilingualism is great in many parts of the world; however, narrow mindedness, insularity and petty nationalism (which seems to be entirely linked to the Welsh language) opens your mind only to yourself…leaving Wales trailing even further behind in an increasingly global world.”

Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) sits alongside Health Boards and Trusts to be the only Special Health Authority within NHS Wales. HEIW has a role in the education, training, development, and shaping of the healthcare workforce in Wales.

James Moore Welsh language comments

A spokesperson for the HEIW said: “The comments were made in a personal capacity and in no way a professional one. HEIW does not condone or endorse any of the comments made.”

Before a public consultation on the Welsh language, the HEIW said: “As a body committed to improving the provision of health education in Wales, we recognise the growing importance of the Welsh language in ensuring better clinical outcomes.

“This is the main motivating factor behind our desire to optimise the quality and quantity of the Welsh language services we are able to offer.

“Although HEIW is not currently required to comply with standards under the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011, we have adopted the principle established in the Welsh Language Act 1993, that, in the conduct of public business in Wales, the Welsh and English languages should be treated on a basis of equality.”

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