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.

Rhun ap Iorwerth’s Column for the Holyhead and Anglesey Mail 21.12.16

Since being elected as Ynys Môn AM, I’ve found that the run-up to Christmas is a very busy period for an elected representative. It’s also a very rewarding time, where visits to care homes and various providers of public services reminds me of the sheer dedication of those who’ve committed their lives to helping others.

This year has been no different, and it’s been a pleasure talking with so many people through a host of tinsel-clad engagements across the island.

It is also a time to remember those for whom Christmas is a difficult time. May I take this opportunity to thank everyone who contributed to our ‘reverse advent calendar’, bringing packages of food into the Plaid Cymru office in Llangefni. It’ll be shared out by food bank volunteers to those who need a little extra help this Christmas.

In the Assembly last week I spoke in a debate calling for an end to evictions of families with children from social housing. Can you imagine being a child evicted just before Christmas?

I also made a short statement raising awareness of scams. More and more people are becoming victims of criminal scams, and the elderly and vulnerable are often most at risk. It makes my blood boil. I don’t want anyone’s Christmas to be ruined in this way.

Other pre-Christmas events included a meeting with senior NatWest managers. I feel for the staff being told just before Christmas that their branches are being closed, in Amlwch, Menai Bridge and Holyhead. I’m told there shouldn’t be compulsory redundancies, but customers are most definitely facing compulsory inconvenience. Something must be done – at this rate we’ll be losing our banks altogether!

No Christmas is complete without a visit to a Royal Mail sorting office, and this year the staff in Llangefni were busy as always ensuring your cards and gifts were delivered on time.

Along with the Christmas cards, I also sent in my submission to National Grid’s consultation on its plans to erect a new row of pylons across the island. I’d like to thank everyone who’ve added their voices to the chorus of objections by responding to Grid’s consultation by last week’s closing date.

Finally, let me wish you and all your loved ones a happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous new year. Nadolig llawen a blwyddyn newydd dda i chi i gyd.

Rhun ap Iorwerth’s column for the Holyhead and Anglesey Mail 07.12.16

So many people on Anglesey have been felt let down by NatWest’s announcement last week. Banks are being ripped out of our high streets at an alarming rate. It’s not just Anglesey, this is a UK-wide problem, but there’s no doubt that it’s rural services and services in small towns in places like Anglesey that are being hit hardest. Somehow we’ve got to shift the balance back in favour of customers. If that means government action in some way, then so be it.

We just have to develop a way of ensuring that banks remember who their customers are, that are helping them to make their profits. I’m meeting NatWest bosses this week and although the record of banks in overturning closure decisions isn’t great – let’s be honest about that – we’ve got to continue to make the case of protecting rural services.

Thanks to everybody who turned up at the public meeting opposing new pylons across the island in Llangefni last Friday. With the end of National Grid’s consultation on December 16th, it’s time people made their voices heard. Visit http://www.northwalesconnection.com/ to let Grid know why you’re opposing.

I met head of energy regulator Ofgem last week to argue the case for investment in alternatives to pylons, not least because of the impact on our visual environment and on our hugely important tourism industry.

This week, I’m meeting the Environment Secretary to discuss idea of an Anglesey Food Park. Fantastic investment has gone into initiatives like the Food Technology Centre at Coleg Menai in Llangefni. I believe we need to make further investment now in helping companies move to the next step – increasing production, increasing employment, and developing Anglesey’s food industry. Welsh Government has been positive in its response to the case I’ve made in the past. Let’s hope now that we can move closer to the point of making an investment.

Other Assembly business that has been keeping me busy have included a debate I jointly arranged on tackling obesity, quite timely with Christmas excesses almost upon us.

Let’s remember how important it is to look after those less fortunate than ourselves at this time of year. I had a warm welcome at Holyhead Tesco last week when I popped along to support their annual food bank collection. Let me also remind you about the reverse advent calendar collection – please bring your contributions to my office by December 20th if you would like to take part.

Rhun’s Column for the Holyhead and Anglesey Mail 23.11.16

There are many opportunities for an AM to raise issues on behalf of constituents. One of those is during questions to Welsh Government Ministers in the Assembly Chamber.

Quite often, you know before you ask a question that you’re not about to get an issue resolved, but it’s important nonetheless to raise that issue in order to put it on the Government’s radar. Sometimes, however, things move on directly as a result of questions asked.

I’ve raised the issue of broadband on Anglesey many times, the last time being after a Government statement earlier this month on the successor of the Superfast Cymru programme. I highlighted the fact that despite the Government being able to point to good statistics on the overall performance of the Superfast programme, in rural Wales, the experience often doesn’t match the stats.

The truth is that the easiest places to get to have been connected first, and there are plenty of them, so the % of properties connected appears very high. In rural Anglesey, I said, there were entire communities still waiting, and the experience here has been of a system that “isn’t fast, and certainly isn’t Super.”

As I say, I’ve raised the issue many times, but this time the Minister said “OK, let me come and see for myself.” Hallelujah! The upshot is that the Minister for Skills and Science will come to Anglesey in the new year, and I’ll try to paint a picture for her of some of the connection issues we face. I’ll keep you posted on the results, but this is an example of a case where if you keep plugging away, you can get Government to listen. The next step is to turn listening to action

Other issues I’ve raised in the Assembly over the past few weeks include the need to help and support armed service veterans, how we can ensure that we can keep and attract key workers to the NHS from outside the UK after we leave the EU, and the preparedness of our NHS for the winter months. I also used a short 90-second statement to draw attention to the new Blood Bikes service, where volunteers deliver life-saving products between hospitals helping provide vital treatments, and saving a fortune for the NHS.

In the constituency it’s been busy too, and I’d like to thank in particular all those who came to a very lively public meeting I held in Amlwch.

Rhun ap Iorwerth’s column for the Holyhead and Anglesey Mail 09 11 16

The campaign to persuade National Grid to rethinks its plans for new pylons across Anglesey is hotting up. It has to! We have to speak with one voice.

Thanks to all those who turned up to protest in Talwrn recently as the Grid launched their ‘consultation’ roadshow. After our case was made in front of TV cameras, we marched to the village hall to put our questions to Grid managers directly.

It boils down to money. £400m would be the additional cost of putting cables underground. It’s a lot of money, but remember that this is to be divided between the UK population over a period of 60+ years! Last month, the Grid agreed to spend nearly £2 BILLION on underground cables in the Lake District.

We, too, have an island of outstanding beauty, and with tourism such an important part of our economy, we have a solid case.

I’ll argue the case in a meeting with the head of the energy regulator, Ofgem, later this month. It’s they and the UK Government who can decide that Anglesey is worth the additional investment.

Add to that the ‘no brainer’ argument for putting cables on a new bridge across the Menai instead of a £100 million (and probably much more) tunnel, so a legacy is left for the island. I’ve argued this for some time, but there’s a reluctance to press ahead with this, because the timetables of when the electricity connection is needed, and when a bridge could be built may not ‘quite’ match.

Well, MAKE it happen! Anything else would be a scandalous waste of public funds, with a tunnel dug now, AND a bridge needed in coming years.

Other than that, it’s been a very busy fortnight in the constituency and at the National Assembly. The benefits of Plaid Cymru’s budget negotiations with the Labour Government are becoming very clear now, with investment secured by Plaid from health and jobs to town centre parking.

I’m holding a series of public meetings, with one in Amlwch this week following the recent Holyhead event. Beaumaris is next, in the new year. They’re great opportunities to chat about the issues important to the island’s communities.

Finally, thanks to the Mary Parry players for their ‘That’s Entertainment’ song and dance extravaganza at Ucheldre last week. That show, and the Young Farmers Eisteddfod the day before, certainly put a smile on my face!