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Opinion

Where is the voice for Wales?

04 Feb 2024 4 minute read
Behind the scenes at Stormont as Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O’Neill becomes Northern Ireland’s first nationalist First Minister. Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Ben Wildsmith

The sky has not fallen over the north of Ireland this week. No bombs have exploded, nobody has been forced to change their language. Neither has anybody been compelled to accept the veracity of transubstantiation.

Instead, a talented female politician has assumed office with the intent of reuniting the island peacefully. The path to this extraordinary political juncture was violent, heartbreaking, and complicated.

No side in the Troubles can escape accusations of atrocities, those of us who were around at the time remember how horrifyingly routine they became.

As a kid in Birmingham, I was evacuated out of the city centre three times because of IRA bomb threats, and my school was closed twice for the same reason.

When I was a little older, singing the wrong song got me duffed up by someone incensed by the 1974 pub bombings that my mother only escaped by 10 minutes.

It was an ugly, contradictory business, and its passing is as close to a miracle as I have seen.

Cut to the bone

Because politics more widely is failing us. On this site, Martin Shipton is charting ‘Welsh’ Labour’s descent into Westminster-dictated cronyism and constitutional quiescence.

As our councils’ budgets are cut to the bone by a Tory government that revels in the understandable fury of people who despair at diminished services, our votes are courted via appeals to xenophobia on one side and petrified obedience on the other.

The safe, obvious Labour bloc that we deliver election after election is impoverishing us. Do you remember the billions that Theresa May bestowed upon the north of Ireland to pass her long-forgotten Brexit compromise?

People in Belfast and Derry are walking around with that money in their pockets right now because they knew how to be a problem when it counted.

Michelle O’Neill has floated ten years as a timeframe for secession from the UK. That would take us to 36 years after the Good Friday Agreement. So, it’s fair to assume that posting ‘Annibyniaeth’ under every idea advanced for our nation is unlikely to bear fruit in the short term.

If 30 years of carnage didn’t shift the UK establishment then your bumper sticker is doomed, I’m afraid.

Hinterland

However, the Labour party does need us. Its entire foundational schtick is founded upon the radicalism of industrial Wales.

If it wants to make a marketing claim for the Merthyr Rising, the NHS, and workers’ rights then it has to reckon with the economic devastation it has allowed in the country that birthed it and has sustained its fortunes.

Wales should be a prize for progressive UK politicians, not an accepted hinterland whose urgent needs can be kicked down the road.

Show us the money!

Penury

You can rest easy that the Tories are not winning this year: it is as certain that we are not going to be instituting an independent Wales in the next decade.

So, put your boot on the neck of Keir Starmer’s administration and demand investment in the place where you live. The billions shipped out of Wales in coal, steel, and water still exist in the investment funds of London.

Being well behaved, democratic citizens of the UK has delivered us penury. In 2024 we need to become a headache to everyone, a wild card to be fought over and bought off if necessary.

No Farageiste fantasies are going to play here, regardless of their occasional overtures.

Where is the voice for Wales, for our sincerely held values of community and social justice? I say that Labour needs to deliver them or lose us.


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L. Edwards
L. Edwards
20 days ago

I don’t know about walking round with money in their pockets but people in Derry and Belfast have been suffering NHS waiting times that make the rest of the UK look speedy and suffering other serious dysfunctions because of the people who know how to be a problem. I’d be more interested in people who know what to do to get things working and how. Which can include saying a determined no at times but let’s not adopt the DUP as a model, though certainly we could do with a new one

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
20 days ago

Don’t forget the slate, the copper, lead and gold, the woolens, lamb, mutton and beef, the pit props, the herring and the sailing ships that carried all this produce from up here…

Dai Rob
Dai Rob
20 days ago

Great article Ben, fel arfer!!!

Robert Llewellyn Tyler
Robert Llewellyn Tyler
20 days ago

I don’t know wo you are, but really appreciate your observations.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
20 days ago

Ben for First Minister! I have often posed myself the question ‘Where is our Nicola Sturgeon?’. (Despite her no longer being in her position). This also extends to ‘Where are our Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’ Neill?’. Was it Leanne Wood? At least she made a fuss about having to swear allegiance to a wrong place. I’m all for giving Rhun a chance but whoever turns out to be winner in the Labour leadership contest here, pressure must be put on them and Starmer (if applicable) to move our country along the path to freedom.

Richard Thomas
Richard Thomas
19 days ago
Reply to  Fi yn unig

Where’s our Nicola Sturgeon? I hope nowhere near a position of power. Lots of soundbites, but what of any meaning? Nothing. Scottish independence is further from happening now than it was when she attained office.
Michelle O’Neill seems a decent, intelligent and pragmatic politician. Mary Lou McDonald is an abrasive blusterer, though.
We need our own strong leadership and not the aping of others, good or bad.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
19 days ago
Reply to  Richard Thomas

I have to disagree with your points about Nicola Sturgeon. The simple measure of her effectiveness was the panic ridden desperation of the Empire and its’ filth media needing to spew its’ verbal bile all over her on a daily basis. This demonstrates how close she was to delivering independence for her country, an outcome declared ‘dead’ by them upon her departure from her post. Humza Yousuf receives their sneering and disdain but not at the level Sturgeon did. She scared them witless. So I repeat ‘Where is OUR Nicola Sturgeon?’.

Erisian
Erisian
20 days ago

Time for Welsh Labour to put a proper price tag on our support for what England still likes to call it’s Labour Party (despite the evidence).

Riki
Riki
20 days ago

Act like an afterthought, become and be treated as such. That’s the Wales our politician love!

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
19 days ago

She’s gone on record to say that her commitment to unification will not be watered down or waver just to placate unionist sensibilities.
Rhun ap Iorwerth please note.

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