Rhun ap Iorwerth AM, Plaid Cymru Deputy Assembly Leader
Today, members of the National Assembly for Wales will vote on changing our national democratic institution’s name to signify its transition to a legislative parliament.
Plaid Cymru strongly supports Senedd becoming the official name of our national representative body. It’s already widely used as the name of the building, so adopting it officially as the name of the institution itself is only a small step.
But it’s a significant one, a powerful statement that ours is a parliament that we are determined to define ourselves, and a beacon to show that the Welsh language belongs to all the people of Wales, whether they speak the language or not.
Just as the Irish parliament’s lower house is universally called the Dáil, a broad consensus had built around Senedd.
But in recent weeks that consensus has ebbed away. It’s not clear why, but in the last week Jeremy Miles, the Minister leading on the Senedd and Elections Bill for Welsh Government (the Bill in which the name-change is proposed), said Government would now be supporting an amendment put forward by ex-First Minister Carwyn Jones, in which the name of the Assembly would become Senedd Cymru/Welsh Parliament.
In one newspaper article he’s quoted saying Senedd would cause confusion. Really? For who? Is he suggesting the people of Wales aren’t able to say, or to embrace Senedd? He seems to suggest that giving the Senedd an English language name too is the way to cement support for devolution among the Valleys working class? At best that’s patronising in the extreme.
During his leadership election campaign, the First Minister Mark Drakeford himself said he would favour the name Senedd. Now he’s changed his mind, but during yesterday’s First Minister’s Questions session he said he’d still say Senedd. Curiouser and curiouser!
He also confirmed all Government Ministers will be whipped to vote against the Welsh-only name. Surely he should at the very least allow his Ministers a free vote? I know for a fact that Senedd would get support from the Government benches.
This is a matter that goes beyond party lines. I’m pleased to be working alongside two Labour Members Hefin David and Mike Hedges in co-tabling an amendment arguing for Senedd. But my appeal above all at this eleventh hour is to the First Minister to show confidence in the ability of the people of Wales, whatever language they speak, to take ownership of one name that belongs to each and every one of us.
Our aspiration to be a bilingual nation surely doesn’t mean creating divisions between those who do and those who don’t speak Welsh? We should build new bonds, jointly celebrating our common history, regardless of our language or languages of choice. We can echo Owain Glyndwr’s Senedd as we build our own modern democracy.
Some words transcend linguistic barriers. They are of Wales, in any language. Hiraeth belongs to us all. As does our Eisteddfod. So should our Senedd – a unique name for a unique Parliament.