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.

Rhun’s Column for the Holyhead and Anglesey Mail 16 08 17

Ynys Môn did itself proud last week!  The success of the National Eisteddfod was built on the hard work and dedication of individuals and communities across the island over the past couple of years.  Fundraising targets were smashed, and a programme of competitions and events was put together that inspired people from all parts of Wales and beyond to come to Anglesey. They left having had the richest of experiences.  The many messages of thanks to the island for a wonderful Eisteddfod says it all.  Some rain early in the week was never going to dampen this Eisteddfod!
 
A special message of congratulations must go out to the children and young people of Anglesey who shone throughout.  From the opening concert – one of the finest in any Eisteddfod ever, in my humble opinion! – to competition winners, as soloists and members of various choirs, groups and bands, hundreds of young people will have had unforgettable experiences.  I’ll give a special mention to Côr Ieuenctid Môn, and their conductor Mari Lloyd-Pritchard, who scooped one of the Eisteddfod’s top prizes – named ‘Choir of the Festival’ late on Saturday evening.  Anyone who knows anything about the world-class standard of choral singing we currently enjoy in Wales knows this was quite an accolade.  Llongyfarchiadau mawr!
 
It was a busy week for me as your Assembly Member, too!  The Eisteddfod and politics and debate are natural bedfellows, and beyond the main pavilion’s competitions, the festival is home to countless discussions on the future of our country.
 
I was invited to give this year’s annual ‘Wales International’ (Cymru a’r Byd) lecture, and chose to focus on the need for Welsh Government to develop a strategy to engage better with Welsh ex-pats, and those of Welsh descent (or just with an interest in Wales) so we can benefit as a nation.  The more people who spread the word about Wales internationally, or who return here to spend or invest, the better. 
 
I also chaired an event calling for the training of Doctors at Bangor University.  Welsh Government is showing a real lack of leadership and ambition on this, but our NHS and patients need it.
 
So, the Eisteddfod came, and went, and left many happy memories.  From the George in Bodedern to the Iorwerth in Bryngwran and countless B&B and hotels, it has left an economic legacy as well, with many people sure to return to the island after such a warm welcome. 
 
And of course, the wonderful Anglesey Show this week proves our island can organise successful events year in year out. Let’s now plan for a successful Island Games in 2025!

Rhun’s column for the Holyhead and Anglesey Mail 02 08 17

The National Eisteddfod is nearly here. I can’t wait! Anglesey can be proud of its fundraising and preparations for this wonderful celebration of Welsh language and culture. They belongs to all of us, after all – whether or not we speak Welsh – just as our history belongs to all of us. Our history and heritage help make us what we are.

This week marks the centenary of one of the First World War’s bloodiest battles, at Passchendaele. It was there that Ellis Evans of Trawsfynydd died, and at the 1917 Eisteddfod in Birkenhead, it was announced that he’d won the Chair. The Chair was draped in a black cloth, and has ever since been referred to as ‘Cadair Ddu Penbedw’ (the Black Chair of Birkenhead).

I recently asked for Welsh Government assistance to protect memorials to the WW1 fallen – not the kind of large public memorials and cenotaphs that are already protected, but countless small ones in chapels, schools and even factories, many of which have already been lost, or are threatened. When we say “we will remember them” – we must mean it.

On Friday I visited a local history exhibition at Rhoscolyn – a wonderful exhibition, bringing together stories and memorabilia from the village’s past. It brought that history alive!

The furore over Welsh Government plans to build a giant ‘Iron Ring’ at Flint Castle showed the importance of understanding the significance of our nation’s history. We remember our history, we remember our conquest, but to put up a celebratory monument to it…?! Ministers and the ancient monument body Cadw seemingly hadn’t thought that asking Welsh taxpayers to stump up nearly £400,000 to celebrate Edward 1st’s campaign to control and opress the people of Wales with his ring of castles would lead to some raised eyebrows. Over 10,000 have signed a petition opposing it. As a result, the plan was ‘paused’. Good.

The truth is that not enough history is taught in our schools through a Welsh prism. We should all have the chance to understand the significance of events in our history, from OUR perspective – those events and forces that ‘made’ Wales, from – yes – Edward 1st’s ‘Iron Ring’, to our industrial heritage, Wales’ contribution to the world, steps taken to undermine the Welsh language, our emergence as a young democracy in recent times… There’s so much to learn.

If we don’t know where we’ve come from, we can’t decide where we want to go as a nation either.

Rhun ap Iorwerth’s column for the Holyhead and Anglesey Mail 19 07 17

I am always keen to let people know that the Assembly is their legislature, that the Senedd is their building, and the seat which I sit in in the chamber is Ynys Môn’s seat.

I was pleased therefore to be able to welcome four different schools from Anglesey to the Assembly last week and point to their seat.

And, judging by the fantastic questions the students from Ysgol y Borth, Ysgol Corn Hir, Ysgol Parc y Bont and Ysgol Llanfechell had for me during their visit, I hope that a number of them have the ambition to sit in that seat one day. They quizzed me on a number of topics – my motivations, our latest Assembly discussions, Wales’ future, and many more.

I also discussed learning additional languages with pupils from Parc y Bont and Corn Hir, and the pupils from Corn Hir are already being given French lessons on a weekly basis. As bilingual pupils, they were very eager to see opportunities to push their linguistic boundaries, and as a result of our conversation, I raised the matter with the First Minister in the chamber that afternoon.

The evidence tells us that there has been a great decline in the number of pupils learning a modern foreign language in secondary schools in Wales. I asked him to agree with the latest demand of the cross-party group that I chair, Wales International, for the talk of an ambition of creating a bilingual ‘+ 1’ Wales to now turn into action.

Learning foreign languages – and through that fostering a greater knowledge of other cultures – is an important part of making Welsh students global citizens.

Another opportunity I was pleased to see students taking advantage of recently was the chance to try new business ideas out.

I was very impressed at the recent innovation fair that took part in Ysgol David Hughes to see so much business acumen and so many exciting ideas – some of which had already turned into real businesses, such as Arfordir Clothing. I wish all the young entrepreneurs well with their ventures.

Rhun’s column for the Holyhead and Anglesey Mail 24 05 17

Monday was the last chance for people to register to vote in the June 8th election. Too many will have missed the deadline, and we must keep on pressing the message that without a vote you have no voice. Getting people involved and engaged with politics is something that should be encouraged at a young age.

At Ysgol Uwchradd Bodedern recently, I had the chance to discuss the idea of a Youth Parliament for Wales with students. The Assembly is currently consulting on this, and it’s important that young people themselves are involved in the process from the start.

A Youth Parliament for Wales would not only give young people an opportunity to express their opinions but would also raise awareness about political and parliamentary systems that have an effect on their lives. Most importantly it would give young people influence.

Why not have your say? Share your thoughts via the website www.youthparliament.wales

It’s also important that young people are given a taste of the world of work and that’s why I shared many pupils and parents’ disappointment after they were told that work experience placements would not be offered to year 10 and 12 pupils this year. This stems from Welsh Government decisions regarding the role and funding of ‘Careers Wales’, the body that used to vet work experience locations. Teaching representatives warned at the time that work experience would be put at risk, disadvantaging our young people.

I’ve written to Welsh Government to ask them to do all they can to ensure work experience placements can take place. With schools saying they don’t have the capacity to vet locations themselves, we must find a way forward.

Work experience is vital – not only giving students a taste of the workplace and of the opportunities that are available to them locally, but also helping to build their self-confidence and skills. I’ve seen that in the students that come for work experience in my office. I’ll keep on pressing so that Anglesey students don’t lose out.

Finally, I often like to sing the praises of Anglesey’s food and drink sector here in my column and in the Assembly chamber. I was pleased last week to see it getting even more attention as Marram Grass chef Ellis Barrie excelled on the Great British Menu, using fantastic local produce such as Menai Oysters. I’m sure we all wish him the very best in the finals.

Rhun’s Column for the Holyhead and Anglesey Mail 10.05.17

First of all, congratulations to all the councillors elected to represent their communities on Anglesey Council in last week’s election. I know you will all be aware of the trust your communities have placed in you, and I look forward to working with you over the coming years.

I also congratulate everyone who put themselves up for election. It was a hard fought election and everyone who put their ideas on the table and who worked hard to win support contributed greatly to the democratic process.

Plaid Cymru had its most successful local election ever on the island, and I wish Llinos Medi Huws well leading her 14-strong team of councillors. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank Ieuan Williams for his council leadership since 2013. What the last 4 years showed was that the controlling group and opposition can work constructively for the good of the island where it matters, and I’m hopeful this will continue in the new authority.

We’re all proud to call Ynys Môn our home, and I could not wish to have a better community to live and in which to bring up my family, but we have our challenges, and in the coming years all of us as elected representatives must step up to the task of dealing with those.

Leaving the EU is chief among those. The UK Government must be reminded constantly of our needs, and remember that Wales and Anglesey’s situation is different in many ways to other parts of the UK. England imports more than it exports from the EU, for example, whilst Wales is a net exporter. That is why the single market is more important to us and for companies here on Anglesey that export EU-wide and beyond. The port of Holyhead is the main road freight link between Britain – and continental Europe – and Ireland, so we really can’t afford to have a hard border that could cost us dearly in trade and jobs. And the UK must ensure that our family farms, so vital to the island’s economy and society, are supported.

This is why we need as much experience as possible in our representation at Westminster. After 26 years as MP and AM, and 4 years in Government as Wales’ Deputy First Minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones has that experience. I look forward to working with him.

Rhun ap Iorwerth’s Column for the Holyhead and Anglesey Mail 01 02 17

It is a privilege as an AM to be able to put matters of importance to constituents on the National Assembly’s agenda. Last week, I followed up my tabled debate on National Grid pylon plans for Anglesey with a question to the First Minister asking him to highlight to Grid that the Assembly had asked them to pursue alternative connection plans instead of pylons. He agreed.

Another debate I co-tabled called on UK Government to launch an inquiry into how contaminated blood products infected hundreds of people in Wales with Hepatitis C or HIV. It’s a scandal, and the debate last Wednesday brought many of us together across party boundaries to recount the experiences of those who’ve suffered ill-health and stigma over many years. It’s time government gave them justice.

This week, I’m speaking in a debate calling for the strengthening of social care provision in Wales. A failure to invest in care, including the loss of many community hospital beds, is putting undue pressure on general hospitals like Ysbyty Gwynedd, and means too many people are unable to get the care they need in their communities. We must get the NHS and social care to work together.

I’ll also be seeking opportunities in coming weeks to secure a debate on the loss of financial institutions from our high streets – most recently HSBC in Holyhead and the Yorkshire Building Society in Llangefni. I know banks aren’t charities, but somehow the banking sector must be made to face up to the fact that we all help them make their profits, and that somehow they must work together to give people a decent level of face-to-face access when they need it.

Finally, the weekend’s scenes in the United States following President Trump’s clampdown on travel from muslim countries may have happened thousands of miles away, but they strike at values that should be important to all of us, whether we’re in Anglesey or Alabama.

Tolerance is a principle that is very important to me, and many constituents have contacted me to share their despair at what appears to be an increasing breakdown in tolerance worldwide.

Let’s make a pledge to uphold those values of decency that bring out the best in society, not the worst.