Politicians round on BBC’s Jeremy Bowen for Welsh language remarks
Politicians have rounded on veteran BBC journalist Jeremy Bowen for comments he made about the Welsh language.
The Cardiff-born BBC Middle East Editor came under fire for claiming that the “determination” of the Welsh Government “to spread” the Welsh language “risks devaluing” his identity.
The Welsh Government’s Minister for Education and the Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles has pushed back against the remarks, stating that “Cymraeg belongs to us all” and that this is the case “whether we can speak a lot, or not”.
Plaid Cymru MS Delyth Jewell said the journalist’s “attitude reflects a divisive past” and that “modern Wales is a confident, bilingual nation”.
Bowen, whose grandfather spoke the language, made the suggestion about Welsh on the BBC Radio 4 programme This Union: Being Welsh.
In the three-part series, Bowen, who lives in the district of Camberwell, in London “returns home to Wales in search of what it means to be Welsh.”
He said: “A Welsh Government survey says now 70% in Wales can’t speak Welsh. About 20% of the population speak it regularly.
“Welsh Government’s determination to spread the language risks devaluing the identities of Welsh people like me”.
Plaid Cymru MS Delyth Jewell said: “What Jeremy Bowen doesn’t understand is that in the time he’s been away from Wales, the linguistic divide has healed.
“This attitude reflects a divisive past, whereas modern Wales is a confident, bilingual nation where people respect each other, whether they speak Welsh or not.”
Jeremy Miles, the Minister for Education and the Welsh Language, said: “From one Jeremy to another: Cymraeg belongs to us all, whether we can say just a few words, whether we can speak a lot, or not!
“And it’s never too late to pick up even just a little Welsh – there’s loads of support and a huge welcome for anyone who wants to give it a go.”
Anna McMorrin, the Labour MP for Cardiff North said Bowen’s claim is “not true”. She added: “We are proud of our language, it belongs to all of us. We will work hard to keep it alive.”
The comments by Bowen about the Welsh language came in for fierce criticism on social media.
In response to an article on Nation.Cymru about the remarks, fellow BBC broadcaster Huw Edwards said he does “like and respect” Bowen, but added that his “take is 1970s Cardiff”.
He also asked whether people should “stop speaking Welsh to make him feel better” and that he “thought criticising government policy was against” the BBC’s “rules”.
Ian Titherington said: “It’s so disappointing to see Jeremy Bowen trot out this old prejudice. I like him grew up in the ‘anglicised’ south but unlike him still live here, an learning Welsh & watch so many around me learning & speaking Welsh – in Grangetown.”
Helen Williams said: “Bo****ks. I’m not a Welsh speaker but sent my kids to a Welsh medium school. I’m Welsh and proud and think everyone should have the opportunity to become fluent in Welsh.
Dewi Rhys-Jones said: “This is the sort of malignant nonsense that comes out of the Unionist community in Northern Ireland.”
Social media expert Owen Williams said: “This is Wales. We speak Welsh. Get over it.”
Jordan Everitt said: “The determination to get rid of the Welsh language in times gone by was an intentional move to devalue the identity and traditions of an entire nation.
“I get the point he makes, but this insecurity around the Welsh language stems from the attempts to destroy it, not promote it.”
Bryn Griffiths said: “Mam bach, this is absurd. Welsh doesn’t take anything away, it broadens minds, gives access to Welsh culture, gives you 2 windows to look at the world around you instead of 1. Nobody regrets speaking Welsh, plenty regret not been given the opportunity to learn it.”
Daf Roberts said: “They hung WN signs around little kids necks not 100 years ago for speaking welsh, but this clown claims it’s his identity being devalued? Good one.”
Eleri Glyn said: “As a first language Welsh speaker I resent being accused of harbouring these sentiments. I have never considered myself to be more Welsh than Welsh people who don’t speak Welsh. You are wrong Jeremy Bowen pontificating from your vantage point in London.”
Jac Jones said: “Hey Siri, show me an insecure 1970s mindset.”
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