Mail Column 11/03/2020 – Coronavirus

The coronavirus outbreak is of real concern to many of my constituents, so I will make it my business to share with you any information that I am given, that could perhaps help to ease some concerns, and that can help protect you and your family.

As Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Health Minister I receive regular briefings from Welsh Government, and last week, as a member of the Assembly’s Health Committee, I was able to quiz Wales’ Chief Medical Officer, as well as senior leaders of NHS Wales and Public Health Wales.

The first thing to say is that I understand people’s concerns. I too have a family, and like you I want to be able to arm myself with the best information we can get our hands on. We need to do this in order to be able look after ourselves and those dear to us, be that our children, or perhaps a parent or older relative.

Latest advice (as of Monday evening) from Welsh Government was that most cases appear to be mild. But of course, as with many viruses, it can cause more sever symptoms among more vulnerable groups, including those with other long-term health conditions.

It’s important that advice is heeded. Some is common sense. Wash your hands often. Use a tissue if you cough or sneeze, and then bin it. And try to avoid touching your face.
Then there are some more strict instructions, for example to self-isolate if you’ve recently visited some specific areas, symptoms or not, or to keep away from other people if you DO have symptoms on return from other locations.

It’s likely that there’ll be a new law passed to give authorities more powers to try to control or delay the virus’ spread. I’ll be trying to hold Welsh Government to account over those plans, and on matters such as ensuring health workers have the necessary support and resources to treat others and keep themselves safe. I’ve heard some concerns and we need Government action to be as effective as possible.

Public Health Wales regularly updates information and advice online. I’ve created this shortcut to help you find it:

It contains the latest information and answers to Frequently Asked Questions. I realise that many people will not have access to the internet, so perhaps a friend or family member could seek answers on the website on your behalf if you have any questions. Failing that, whilst my office can’t give health advice, if you want my team to relay the latest information and advice from the website to you, please call us on 01248 723599.


?Read my column in this week’s paper below.

Tryweryn has always been of great significance to me. My parents made sure I knew the story of how the village of Capel Celyn was drowned as the river Tryweryn was dammed to provide water for the Liverpool Corporation in the early 1960s.

As a child I remember during one hot, dry summer, taking a walk down to the village as the reservoir waters subsided. It left a deep impression on me, just as the drowning had caused a political awakening in Wales. Welsh MPs had voted against the drowning. Wales protested. But it went ahead anyway.

Never again could this be allowed to happen.
‘Cofiwch Dryweryn!’ (‘Remember Tryweryn’) was the protest cry painted on a wall on the A487 south of Aberystwyth in 1963 or 1964 by author and academic the late Dr Meic Stephens (father, incidentally, of Radio 1 DJ Huw Stephens).

And to this day it remains there. As a reminder.
It has evolved over the years, with additional words and symbols of protest added. But each time it’s eventually been touched up to its original form.

Recently, however, it’s come under attack. The political slogan was painted over by the word ‘Elvis’ earlier this year. It was quickly repainted. This weekend, however, vandals went a stage further, and demolished the top half of the wall.

Within hours, young Welsh men and women armed with cement and trowels – as well as the obligatory red and white paint – had rebuilt it.

Whilst the vandalism hurts me, striking as it does at the core of the need to stand up for this nation of ours, the determination with which the wall rose again gives real hope that we are a people that will not be cowed.

The police are treating the attack on the wall as a hate crime. We owe it to ourselves to conquer that hate. The love of Wales and its people, and a vision of our nation as welcoming, equal, international in outlook, diverse, proud of our history and excited about our future are values I’m committed to, and I hope you agree that in an a world that can seem very dark at times, we can together shine a beacon for what this country of ours can be, no matter who tries to divide us.

North Wales Chronicle Column 10/1/2019 – Happy New Year!

A Happy New Year to you all – Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!

The beginning of a new year is a time to look forward, and what a year we have ahead of us. We’re facing one almighty junction, and we have to decide which way we head. What drove us to this junction is a vote back in June 2016, where people were asked to decide – on the basis of what was promised, on the sides of buses among other places – whether they wanted to remain members of the European Union, or to leave.

I voted to stay, based on my understanding of what it actually means for Wales to be a EU member. For example, we in Wales get more money out of the EU than we put in. We in Wales also export more to the EU than we import. We on Anglesey are on the frontier, with a direct border crossing to our nearest EU neighbour, so it makes sense to have frictionless single market and customs union movement. Add to that the wider benefits for a small nation like ours of being part of a pan-European ‘network’, that helps our local University and boosts research, that provides opportunities for our young people, that makes travel as easy as possible, and it was a bit of a no-brainer to me.

Others voted to leave, and I fully respect their choice. Based on how it was suggested that Brexit could happen – painlessly and with money returned to be spent on the NHS etc – others, including friends of mine, decided to jump, and currently that’s where we’re headed. But I think it’s only right that people decide now at what risk that jump is made.

A leap in the dark can be a good thing. A fresh start. But don’t confuse that with a leap in the dark when you pretty much know that in that darkness somewhere is a cliff edge.

“Things couldn’t be worse than they are now,” some thought during that referendum. I have a huge amount of sympathy with this kind of search for ‘better’. That’s why I’m in politics – because I know Wales and our communities on Anglesey could strive for so much more than we achieve now. But I have no doubt that when it comes to our membership of the EU, things could indeed get worse. Much worse.

So let people decide now, on the basis of evidence we have now, whether what was promised can be delivered. (The promise of vast extra amounts of money for the NHS had been shown to be nonsense within hours of the referendum result, for example.)

It’s not about re-running the referendum – we know what people said in June 2016 – but rather about deciding what is actually deliverable. It’s about the sheer practicalities of it all. But I’ll also continue to make the emotional case that being in the EU works for us.

In our first staff meeting of the year this morning, my team all pledged to be as positive as we can throughout 2019, so let’s be positive Welsh Europeans.

Holyhead and Anglesey Mail Column 21/11/2018

Last week was another extraordinary week in politics. As I watch the Westminster Brexit debacle unfold, my concern is for what it means to us here in Wales, and especially here on Anglesey – to our exporters, our farmers, our port, our University…. and our children.

It’s nearly a year-and-a-half since Wales and Ynys Môn voted to Leave the EU. In Anglesey’s case the result was almost exactly 50/50. Had it been a Remain vote from the same small margin, there’s no way that half the population could have been ignored. Yes, we’d have stayed in the EU, but genuine worries would have had to be addressed. No doubt the UK Government would have had to tighten its own rules on freedom of movement (not the EU’s rules, incidentally – they already allow great flexibility for members to control abuse of free inter-state movement), and there’d be an effort, perhaps, to increase general transparency about EU affairs.

As it stands, not only are the 50% who voted Remain being ignored, the Government is delivering something vastly different to what Leave voters were promised. It’s an almighty mess, and you’ll know that my opinion is that with clear evidence now before us, the people should be allowed a vote on whether they NOW think leaving as is being suggested is actually something they support.

I was with pupils at Ysgol Uwchradd Caergybi last week. They were crystal clear in their views. They think leaving, either on the terms that have been ‘negotiated’, or as a hard ‘no deal’ exit, would be bonkers. And you know what? It’s they who are important. They are the future, and that future should not be a plaything for ideologues of the left or the right, or those harking for days of British Empire.

So, it’s been another Brexit-dominated few weeks, but there’s been plenty more to keep me busy. I’ve taken part in Budget scrutiny, and met the Finance Secretary to lobby for more funding for Local Government. I’ve met the FSB to talk about how we can do more to help small businesses, and travelled to the north east of England to learn about best practice in promoting the High Street. I’ve discussed marketing Wales and Welsh produce with farmers’ leaders and taken part in discussions on the future of Holyhead port. To represent Ynys Môn in such discussions is a great honour.

Holyhead and Anglesey Mail Column – 7/11/2018

So… austerity is over? So the UK Government proclaimed as it published its Budget last week. Well, let me tell the Conservative Chancellor that it doesn’t look or feel over from where I’m standing. Our local council here on Anglesey is still facing unprecedented pressures. The budgets of most of its departments have been savagely cut over the past decade, with education and social services being spared as much as possible. Well, without drastic action there’ll be no choice but to cut further. Earlier this year, Nottinghamshire Council effectively declared it was bankrupt, and I fear local authorities here in Wales will be in similar situations without a sharp injection of resources.

The Welsh Labour Government as chosen not to take the pressure off them with its funding decisions, too, and in my new role as Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Finance Secretary, I’ll be meeting the Cabinet Secretary for Finance this week and asking, in light of that UK budget, for help to be given to our councils to breathe easier as they head into winter and face up to the new financial year.

There was no easing into November for any of us as strong early winter winds blew across the island over the weekend. Thankfully, the storm wasn’t too fierce this time, and the accompanying rain didn’t cause too many problems. But damage caused by storms over the past year have put us on notice of what climate change has in store for us. This week’s public meeting I’m chairing in Llangefni is a chance to quiz the Council, Natural Resources Wales and Dwr Cymru about steps that have been taken since the recent flooding in the town (I’ve chaired a similar event in Dwyran, too). People need reassurance, and I’m grateful to the council for taking concrete steps (literally) to protect Llangefni with the building of a new wall north of Pont y Plas.

In Holyhead, it was the winds of storm Emma that raged earlier this year. The town’s marina was wiped out, and as we approach the second meeting of the reconvened Port Users Group this week (which I go-chair with the island’s MP), I’m calling for sleeves to be rolled up to bring back the marina in a newly strengthened and more resilient form. The loss of the marina facility has been an economic blow, and I’m hoping we’ll be able to spark some progress towards its redevelopment.

Rhun’s Column for the Holyhead and Anglesey Mail 18.07.18

I was pleased to be chosen in the ballot recently to present a short debate to the Assembly on a topic of my choosing.

Having been impressed by hearing of (and seeing for myself during a recent visit) the excellent work done at the Bangor University Ocean Science department at Menai Bridge and being aware of Anglesey’s potential when it comes to marine energy as well as research, I decided to use my time in the Assembly chamber to discuss the future of the research vessel Prince Madog.

I’m sure that the Prince Madog will be a familiar site to many of you who have seen it tied to the pier in Menai Bridge. It’s the largest ship to be seen regularly on the Menai Strait and all those who are proud of it know it’s a symbol of excellence in the School of Ocean Sciences at Bangor.

My debate not only celebrated that role, but also pressed on Welsh Government the importance of the Prince Madog now and its national potential for years to come, making the case for it to be made into a National Marine Research Vessel for Wales. Ireland already has two!

The Wales marine area includes valuable and varied natural resources that can provide significant economic and social opportunities, and which contribute to the well-being of the nation and of future generations. But, in reality, we know virtually nothing about those resources. It’s staggering how little of our sea bed has been mapped, given the detailed onshore mapping.

Mapping of this kind is a priority on an EU level and has been for some time, but there has been no co-ordinated plan for the UK—no plan for Wales. The process of gathering data has been ad hoc. It hasn’t been properly co-ordinated, and that must change. Of course, we have the resource that we need to do that work: the Prince Madog. Let’s be innovative and make it happen.

The pupils of Ysgol David Hughes certainly know a thing or two about innovation! I had a great time talking business and entrepreneurship at the Ysgol David Hughes Innovation Fair last week. It was a fair full of great ideas and a great group of students. Last year, the fair was where Arfordir Clothing began, and they’ve gone from strength to strength, having just launched a new product. We need to support and promote these young entrepreneurs. Go for it with your plans! – I wish you all the best.

Rhun’s Column for the Holyhead and Anglesey Mail 25 04 18

“Smile!” Clad in lycra a group of intrepid cyclists took a final photo before their ride from Anglesey to Cardiff, and I joined them to wish them well. The 200 mile journey ahead would make some cry rather than smile! However, I’ve done it myself, and know how rewarding it is to reach the journey’s end – especially having raised money for or awareness of a good cause.

In this case it was the new St David’s Hospice being opened at Ysbyty Penrhos Stanley in Holyhead. The Chairman of Trustees, Lyndon Miles was among the cyclists. Since opening in 1998, the St David’s Hospice in Llandudno has provided the best possible palliative care for thousands of people in Ynys Môn, Gwynedd and Conwy. Now that care is set to be offered closer to home for people on Anglesey. I’m grateful to the St David’s team for their commitment to the island.

I made it to Cardiff by less exhausting means, where I was able to put a number of Anglesey issues on the agenda. I asked the Environment Minister to explain why staff monitoring Afon Cefni to help plan new flood defences have been moved to other duties. It’s not good enough – we need answers to the flooding threat with some urgency, in Llangefni and elsewhere.

Also weather-related, we’re still dealing with the effects of Storm Emma. After the destruction of the Marina, I’m glad to say we’re getting closer to the first meeting of a Holyhead Port Users Group, which I’ll co-chair with the island’s MP. I also paid a visit to Moelfre last week to see the effects of the storm there. I’ll help liaise with the local authority on what needs to be done to deal with the impact the storm had on the village’s pebble beach.

Finally – a political storm hit Cardiff Bay last week with the Labour Welsh Government threatening to take the Assembly to court to stop it discussing a report linked to the death of AM Carl Sargeant. I was bitterly dissapointed in the Government’s actions. The Assembly is there to hold Government to account – not the other way around!

Having said that it might help with the important task of helping people distinguish between the Assembly and the Government. The Assembly is the democratic voice of Wales. YOUR voice. Government – which can be changed at any election – must respect it always.

Rhun’s Column for the Holyhead and Anglesey Mail 11.04.18

Many Mail readers will have followed closely the row over plans by the RSPB to charge visitors £5 to park at South Stack. I have been deeply uncomfortable about the proposed charge.

I wrote last month to the head of the RSPB in Wales, and met her at South Stack at the beginning of last week. I asked for a rethink, highlighting the importance of South Stack to the people of Holyhead and Anglesey, and asking for a more sensitive plan to be developed.

I suggested a number of models – from an annual pass for local users to separate long and short-term parking areas, or varied pricing. I also asked that proceeds should be shared with the social enterprise running the lighthouse – after all, that’s why many go to South Stack, as wonderful as the birdlife there is.

I listened to the RSPB, too. I was told there was no real alternative. Their grant funding has reduced over the years, and they need to make South Stack sustainable. The charge would be £2.50 out of peak season, not £5. It would be free before 9 and after 5 – ideal for regular local visitors and dog-walkers etc. (positive information that the RSPB should have publicised, surely?). But I still wanted compromise.

Thankfully, a strong campaign had grown since the proposed charge became public, and I’m grateful for all those who lobbied the RSPB hard. Later last week, the RSPB said they would now introduce a £20 annual pass, available to residents of Ynys Cybi. It’s a start, but not yet enough. It’s still a fair amount to stump up, and the net could be cast wider. There’s also the issue of sharing proceeds. But we do now have some movement.

So let’s continue to use the power of persuasion… and I’d also like the RSPB to use the power of research so they can work out much better how the charge would affect local users and affect their income, including by visitors to their cafe, for example.

South Stack may belong legally to the RSPB, but we on Anglesey know it belongs to all of us really.

Rhun ap Iorwerth’s Column for the Holyhead and Anglesey Mail 14 02 18

I’m pleased to report, first of all, that your Assembly Member is still in one piece after another tough Assembly v Commons/Lords rugby clash! It is an annual event, held on the day of the Wales v England 6 Nations Fixture. The Assembly won again (for the 7th game in succession) on Saturday, but more importantly we were able once again to raise awareness of our partner Charity, Bowel Cancer UK/Beating Bowel Cancer. My Plaid Cymru colleague Steffan Lewis is currently fighting bowel cancer, and our thoughts were with him as we took to the field at Rosslyn Park in London.

Also on a sporting theme, a word of thanks to Ray Williams of the Holyhead and Anglesey Weightlifting and Fitness Club for giving such compelling evidence to the Assembly’s Health Committee last week on the need for urgent measures to increase physical activity among young people. I wanted him to come to talk to us because I know what a passionate and knowledgeable advocate he is in this field. It’s up to us as Assembly Members now to press the case for Government action.

My exercise with a special group of school pupils on Anglesey last week was mental rather than physical. It’s always good to meet up with pupils, but I must say a big thanks to year 3 and 4 pupils at Ysgol Henblas for doing such good homework before our meeting, that I faced an hour and a half of non-stop questions. I really enjoyed myself with you – diolch bawb.

Our physical activity enquiry in the Health Committee is aimed at pupils just like them – giving them every opportunity to stay fit and healthy. As well as being good for them, it’s part of the long-term strategy we need to take the pressure off the NHS and care system – keeping people healthy and out of hospital. My visit to the morning “safety huddle” at Ysbyty Gwynedd the week before last showed me the kind of pressure they’re under. To all the doctors, nurses, managers and other staff, thanks for the welcome and the insight.

Rhun’s column in the Holyhead and Anglesey Mail 13 09 17

Meetings over the past few days have reminded me just how important it is that Welsh Government recognises the support needed by some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. ‘Supporting People’ funding contributes towards a wide range of support networks, and if funding is cut, the effect will be felt directly by some of those who need help most.

Homelessness is something most people will be lucky enough to avoid, but our circumstances can change very quickly, leaving us vulnerable in ways we never thought possible. Far too many people – young and old – find themselves, for whatever reason, and through no fault of their own, unable to get a roof over their head.

That’s why groups such as Digartref Ynys Mon and Gorwel who I met this week, provide a vital service. There are other groups, too, many of whom I have met in the past and look forward to working with them again.

But their services cost money, and Supporting People funds have become the backbone of much of what they do. Funding has already been cut over the past few years, but there comes a point where non-profit making organisations such as these can’t face any more of a squeeze. I will look for opportunities to remind Welsh Government of the dangers of making cuts in these areas.

I will also keep up the pressure to improve mobile and broadband connection. I hope those who came along to an event I put on at Cartio Mon last week found it useful. It was a chance for individuals and businesses to chat directly with Welsh Government, Openreach, Vodafone and EE about their needs and frustrations. (And I apologive to those who turned up two days late, because the wrong date was printed in a newspaper article… but my office is always open to you!)

Finally, senior Barclays managers were the latest to come to my office to explain the thinking behind yet another Bank Closure. The closure of the Amlwch branch in November is another blow to the town. We can’t and shouldn’t become immune to these closures and shrug our shoulders – and I’ll continue to argue with the big banks, as I did with Barclays on this occasion, that they’re letting down loyal customers.