Pwyllgor Diwylliant, Cyfathrebu, y Gymraeg, Chwaraeon, a Chysylltiadau Rhyngwladol
Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport, and International Relations Committee30/03/2023
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Alun Davies MS|
|Carolyn Thomas MS|
|Delyth Jewell MS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Heledd Fychan MS|
|Ken Skates MS||Dirprwyo ar ran Hefin David|
|Substitute for Hefin David|
|Tom Giffard MS|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Denise McQuade||Conswl Cyffredinol Iwerddon yng Nghaerdydd|
|Consul General of Ireland in Cardiff|
|Gwyn Evans||Cyngor Sir Penfro|
|Pembrokeshire County Council|
|Lowri Williams||Swyddfa Comisiynydd y Gymraeg|
|Office of the Welsh Language Commissioner|
|Mícheál Ó Foighil||Coláiste Lurgan|
|Steven Conlan||Prifysgol Abertawe|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Rhea James||Dirprwy Glerc|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:32.
The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.
The meeting began at 09:32.
Bore da. Hoffwn i groesawu'r Aelodau i'r cyfarfod hwn o'r Pwyllgor Diwylliant, Cyfathrebu, y Gymraeg, Chwaraeon, a Chysylltiadau Rhyngwladol. Rydyn ni wedi derbyn ymddiheuriadau gan Hefin David, ac rydyn ni'n falch iawn o gael Ken Skates yma ar ei ran. Ac mae'r rhai o'r Aelodau yn ymuno â ni yn rhithiol a rhai yn yr ystafell. Oes gan unrhyw Aelod fuddiannau i'w datgan? Dwi ddim yn gweld bod yna.
Good morning. I'd like to welcome Members to this meeting of the Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport, and International Relations Committee. We've received apologies from Hefin David, and we are very pleased to welcome Ken Skates, deputising on his behalf. Some of the Members or joining us virtually and some are joining us in the room. Do any Members have any declarations of interest to make? I see that there are none.
Felly, gwnawn ni symud ymlaen at eitem 2, sef cysylltiadau rhwng Cymru ac Iwerddon. Mae gennym ni sesiwn dystiolaeth yn gyntaf gyda sefydliadau iaith. Gwnaf ofyn i'n tystion gyflwyno eu hunain ar gyfer y record. Gwnaf i fynd at Mícheál yn gyntaf.
So, we'll move on to item 2, which is Wales-Ireland relations. We have an evidence session first of all with language organisations. I'll ask our witnesses to introduce themselves for the record. I'll go to Mícheál first.
Bore da. I'm Mícheál Ó Foighil. I'm manager of Coláiste Lurgan. It's an Irish language college or summer school in Conamara, in the west of Ireland, and we're in a very exciting partnership. We commend you all for setting it up with the Urdd—I hope I pronounced that correctly—and we are very much looking forward to our next project that's going to take place at Easter time. We're a group of 40 young people here from all over the country, really, because students come to Conamara to practise their Gaeilge. It's an Irish language course, all right—a bit different from the Urdd. The Urdd, actually, I understand that everyone speaks Cymraeg or Welsh who comes to their camps, but we would be a language school more than anything else, but the similarities are huge. After that, they're exactly the same—what we do and what we don't do—and developing young people and giving them opportunities and having fun, really, and bringing fun and enjoyment into the use of the language.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. Thank you so much. A gwnaf i fynd at Lowri nesaf.
Thank you very much. I'll go to Lowri next.
Bore da. Lowri Williams ydw i. Dwi'n gyfarwyddwr strategol gyda Chomisiynydd y Gymraeg.
Good morning. I'm Lowri Williams. I'm strategic director with the Welsh Language Commissioner's office.
Ffantastig. Wel, diolch i'r ddau ohonoch chi am fod gyda ni. Gwnawn ni fynd yn syth at gwestiynau. Allwch chi ddweud beth yw eich barn cyffredinol am ba mor bwysig ydy cysylltiadau rhwng Cymru ac Iwerddon?
Fantastic. Well, thank you, both, for joining us this morning. We'll go straight to questions. Could you tell us what your general views are on the importance of Wales-Ireland relations?
So, who'd like to go first on that? Lowri.
Dwi'n hapus i fynd. O ran y maes rydyn ni'n gweithio ynddo fo, wrth gwrs, sef hybu a hwyluso y Gymraeg, defnyddio'r Gymraeg, mae yna gydweithio ffrwythlon iawn wedi bod rhyngom ni a chomisiynydd iaith Iwerddon yn amddiffyn ac yn hyrwyddo hawliau ieithyddol yn y ddwy wlad. Mae hynny wedi digwydd yn bennaf, ond nid yn llwyr, o dan faner y cydweithio sydd rhyngom ni yn sgil ein haelodaeth ni o Gymdeithas Ryngwladol y Comisiynwyr Iaith. Mae hynny wedi ein galluogi ni i rannu profiadau ac arfer da wrth i ni weithredu ein rolau fel comisiynwyr iaith.
Fel y gwyddoch chi, dwi'n siŵr, mae comisiynydd Iwerddon wedi dod ger eich bron chi, neu eich rhagflaenwyr chi fel pwyllgor, yn y gorffennol i roi tystiolaeth am hawliau ieithyddol a pholisi iaith yn Iwerddon, ac mae Comisiynydd y Gymraeg, yn ein tro, wedi rhoi tystiolaeth i bwyllgorau y Dáil a'r Senedd yn Iwerddon wrth iddyn nhw graffu ar ddiwygiadau i'w Deddf ieithoedd swyddogol nhw yn ddiweddar. Gallaf drafod rhagor am hynny yn y man, ond dwi'n meddwl bod y cydweithio hwnnw wedi arwain yn llwyddiannus iawn at gryfhau deddfwriaeth iaith yn Iwerddon.
Elfen arall wedyn o safbwynt o Gymraeg, wrth gwrs, ydy'r elfen ehangach yna o gynllunio ieithyddol, fel dwi'n siŵr y bydd Mícheál yn ei drafod—sut mae'r cysylltiadau hynny yn gallu cryfhau cynllunio ieithyddol a phartneriaethau i hyrwyddo'r defnydd o'r Gymraeg a'r Wyddeleg yn eu tro mewn meysydd amrywiol fel addysg, gwaith ieuenctid, celfyddydau ac yn y blaen, fel mae tystion eraill wedi'i ddangos.
Elfen arall sydd yn bwysig i ni, y trydydd un wnaf i sôn amdano o ran y sector iaith, yn arbennig i ni fel comisiynydd, oherwydd y cyfrifoldeb sydd gennym ni i fod yn argymell ffurfiau safonol enwau lleoedd, a dwi'n meddwl yn ehangach ar hyn o bryd oherwydd y cytundeb cydweithio rhwng Llywodraeth Cymru a Phlaid Cymru, sydd yn cydnabod yr angen i ni fod yn amddiffyn enwau lleoedd, ydy'r gwaith arbennig sy'n digwydd yn Iwerddon, lle mae yna bosibilwrydd, lle mae modd, i'r Gweinidog dros y Gaeltacht dderbyn cyngor i fod yn rhagnodi ffurfiau safonol enwau Gwyddelig mewn rheoliadau, sydd, yn ei dro wedyn, yn rhoi bri ar y ffurfiau safonol hynny ac yn galluogi eu defnyddio nhw yn swyddogol yn y wlad. Dwi'n meddwl bod yna lawer y buasem ni'n gallu ddysgu o ran y ddeddfwriaeth yna felly yng Nghymru yn hynny o beth, o ran sut rydym ni'n arddel ac yn hyrwyddo ffurfiau safonol, a sut mae hynny wedyn yn dwyn bri, wrth gwrs, i enwau lleoedd ac yn eu hamddiffyn nhw yn eu tro.
Rhan greiddiol o hynny wedyn ydy'r ymchwil sydd wedi digwydd yn Iwerddon ers 1956, mewn gwirionedd, o dan y Placenames Branch yna, i fod yn ymchwilio a gwneud ymchwil i enwau lleoedd ac yn darparu argymhellion i'r Gweinidog, a sut mae'r gwaith hwnnw yn cael ei arddangos trwy gronfa enwau lleoedd. Buasem ni yn hoff iawn o gydweithio a dysgu rhagor amdano fo. Hynny ydy, mae'n eang, ond o'i dorri fo lawr, hawliau ieithyddol, cynllunio ieithyddol yn ehangach, ac wedyn, yn benodol yn hynny o beth, enwau lleoedd.
I'm happy to go first. In terms of the area in which we work, which is promoting and facilitating the use of the Welsh language, there's been very productive collaboration between us and the Irish language commissioner in protecting and promoting linguistic rights in both nations. That's happened mainly, but not exclusively, under the banner of the co-operation between us as a result of our membership of the International Association of Language Commissioners. That's enabled us to share experience and good practice as we operate as language commissioners.
As I'm sure you know, the Irish language commissioner has appeared before your predecessor committee in the past to provide evidence on language rights and policy in Ireland, and the Welsh Language Commissioner, in turn, has provided evidence to committees in the Dáil and the Parliament in Ireland as they scrutinised amendments to their official languages legislation recently. I can go into more detail on that later, but I think that collaboration has led very successfully to strengthening language legislation in Ireland.
Another element in relation to the Welsh language, of course, is that broader element of language planning, as I'm sure Mícheál will discuss later—how those connections and contacts can strengthen language planning and partnerships to promote the use of both the Welsh and Irish languages in various areas, such as education, youth work, the arts and so on, as other witnesses have demonstrated.
Another element that's important to us, and the third one I'll cover in my answer in terms of the language sector, and particularly for us as the Welsh Language Commissioner's office, because of our responsibility to suggest standardised place names, and I think more broadly because of the co-operation agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru, which recognises the need for us to safeguard place names, is that there is some excellent work happening in Ireland, where it's possible for the Minister for the Gaeltacht to take advice on prescribing standardised forms of Irish language names in regulations, which, in turn, actually gives prominence to those official names and enables their official use in the country. I think there's a great deal that we can learn there in terms of that legislation, in terms of how we recognise and promote standardised place names, and how that actually protects place names and gives them status.
A core part of that is the research that's been happening in Ireland since 1956 under the Placenames Branch there, which has been researching into place names and making recommendations to the relevant Minister, and how that work is displayed through a place names database. I would like to co-operate more on that and learn more about that. So, it's very broad-ranging, but just to break it down there, it's language rights, language planning more broadly, and then place names.
Diolch am hwnna, Lowri.
Thank you for that, Lowri.
Mícheál, what would your response be in terms of, in a general sense, how important Wales-Ireland relations are to the work that you do?
Well, I suppose our goal, our job, is to get young people from Ireland, from all over the country, excited and introduce them to using the language in a more informal, social way. I suppose my biggest criticism of our own education system is that it doesn't promote the free use of the language; the language is a kind of a—. Most students feel that it's confined to the classroom, that the responsibility to promote or to use the language outside of the classroom really isn't their responsibility. It's a question of ownership and a question of, I suppose—. To put it in context, when we met—. A really nice group of young people spent two days with us here last June on one of our courses. It was a kind of a lastminute.com arrangement, because many of the arrangements we had made for previous years were null and void due to COVID restraints, but to spend two days—. I suppose it's—. Their sense of bilingualism, where both languages seem to be—. There doesn't seem to be any pecking order between using Cymraeg and English in many parts of Wales. That’s what we’d like to see, that’s what we’d like to strive for, is that language is just a language—it’s there to enjoy, to communicate with, but to use more than anything else.
Our biggest shortcoming, as far as I can see, and our biggest challenge each year when young people come on our courses to get acquainted with, to become comfortable with, to maybe connect with the language, for some—there are quite a number of them, because it’s just that sense of ownership, that there isn’t this kind of—. English/Gaeilge, there’s no competition whatsoever. Gaeilge, it’s just to give it its space, its time. But ownership is the big one all right, and that’s what I could see, and I must admit I was very envious of the language behaviour of the young people from Wales that we came across. They had a huge influence also on, I suppose, much more so—. I did expect that there would be some kind of synergy, all right, but I must admit it was much, much bigger, much more profound, than I expected it to be. it was something to behold, all right.
It’s the sense of curiousness—they’re really curious about this language use, whereas, I suppose, while north Wales is only two and a half hours from Dublin, it’s easier to get to north Wales, believe it or not, from Dublin than to get to Conamara—it takes longer. Geographically, they’re so near, but there is complete, complete—. It’s like discovering you don’t know that this sibling or this relation is right there on your doorstep. But there are similarities—. Being minority languages, you know, you think you’re alone, then all of a sudden you’ll discover that you’re not maybe so different or so alone as you thought you were.
But, yes, the level of inquisitiveness, the curiosity—as far as I’m concerned, that’s education at its peak, when people are interested, when people kind of—. I suppose there was a bit of a language barrier, all right. There’s a language divide, where, of course, English would be where you could appreciate and listen and be enthralled by people, by these young people, speaking this language, Cymraeg, and vice versa. I must admit the young people from Wales were—to the same extent, they showed the same kind of enthusiasm and inquisitiveness towards Gaeilge also. But it's—. There’s something there, all right. There’s something there to be built on, and we’re very much looking forward to—. As I said, we’re going to Glan-llyn—I hope I'm pronouncing it correctly—
Yes, you did.
We're going there in two weeks' time, a group of 40 young people, some from our own locality here, and from a Gaeltacht area here. Unfortunately, it's under pressure as well. It's not a huge area geographically, but we're going there with a group of young people, and then we're very much looking forward to—. It's a workshop; we're going to create some music videos, bilingual ones. We're working with some really nice tracks. So, there is a kind of a purpose to it, they will be a result because of it, but I'm really looking forward to noticing and to observing the synergy once more, and I think it's brilliant.
Thank you so much.
Diolch, Mícheál. Gwnawn ni fynd at Alun Davies.
Thank you very much. We'll go to Alun Davies.
Diolch yn fawr. It's interesting, Mícheál, listening to that description of what you're seeking to achieve. My experience is—and myself and Ken Skates here have both been members of the British-Irish ministerial council, and those meetings can be a bit hit and miss, shall we say? But one of the most fruitful and really most enjoyable sessions that I chaired was on cultural policy, between, particularly, ourselves, the Irish administrations and the Scots, perhaps. And we learnt a lot from each other, I thought. We certainly found a great coincidence of interests between our different policy areas. But I'm interested to know, from both yourself and Lowri, what have you actually learnt from each other. Because I think having links and having meetings and having conversations is all very well and good, and we all do it and we all enjoy it, but what have we actually learnt from each other—what lessons have you taken from the experience in Wales and what lessons, Lowri, have we taken from the lessons from Ireland? What has helped—what learnings have actually moulded or changed policy or approach?
Lowri, ydych chi eisiau mynd yn gyntaf ar hyn? Fe wnawn ni ddod atoch chi yn gyntaf, Mícheál, y tro nesaf, dwi'n addo, ond, Lowri, ydych chi eisiau mynd yn gyntaf?
Lowri, do you want to go first on this? We'll come to you first, Mícheál, next time, I promise, but, Lowri, do you want to go first?
I fynd yn ôl, mewn gwirionedd, i'r hyn y cychwynnais i efo fo, yn trafod y cydweithio yna â'r comisiynydd iaith yn Iwerddon, a sut mae deddfwriaeth newydd yn Iwerddon ers 2021 wedi'i datblygu, rhan arwyddocaol o hynny ydy sut mae yna symud i system o safonau iaith, a hynny o dan ddylanwad y gyfundrefn yma yng Nghymru. Wedyn, mae hynny yn ei hun yn dystiolaeth o sut rydyn ni wedi gallu dylanwadu ar bolisi iaith yn ehangach ar hynny—ein profiad ni wrth i'r safonau iaith wreiddio yma yng Nghymru. Rwy'n meddwl bod yna gyfleoedd pellach i hynny fod yn digwydd rŵan, wrth i'r safonau wreiddio yn Iwerddon, i gyrff cyhoeddus sydd eisoes o dan y safonau yng Nghymru fod yn rhannu arfer da, ac fel arall, gyda chysylltiadau yn Iwerddon.
Ond, o ran y comisiynydd ei hun, mae'n mynd yn ôl i'r hyn yr oedd Mícheál yn ei ddweud, mewn gwirionedd, dydy rhywun ddim—y teimlad yna fod yna ddealltwriaeth ehangach o'r gwaith rydyn ni'n ei wneud a chyfleoedd i fod yn dysgu o'r profiadau y maen nhw wedi'u cael yn Iwerddon, ac, yn wir, fel aelodau o gomisiynwyr iaith rhyngwladol, o gomisiynwyr mewn nifer o wledydd a rhanbarthau eraill o'r byd. Mae o'n rhoi dull i ni fod yn craffu ar ein gweithdrefnau ni—sut mae modd eu gwella nhw a'u mireinio nhw, profiadau sydd mewn gwledydd eraill. Felly, mae'n rhan barhaus o sut rydyn ni'n gweithio i fod yn gwella ein prosesau a'n dulliau gweithio ni. Felly, dyna enghraifft, a dwi'n meddwl—
To return to my opening remarks in discussing that collaboration with the language commissioner in Ireland and how new legislation in Ireland since 2021 has developed, a significant part of that is the shift to a language standards system, which has been influenced by the system here in Wales. That, in and of itself, is evidence of how we've been able to influence language policy more broadly and to share our experience, as language standards take root here in Wales. I think there are further opportunities for that to happen now, as the same thing happens in Ireland, so the public bodies that are already subject to standards in Wales can share good practice, and vice versa, with organisations in Ireland.
But, in terms of the commissioner's office itself, it goes back to what Mícheál was saying, really—there's that feeling that there is a broader understanding of the work that we're doing, and opportunities to learn from the experiences that they've had in Ireland, and also, in terms of our involvement with the international language commissioners, we learn from those experiences too. It gives us a means to scrutinise our own systems and how they can be refined and improved; experiences in other nations can influence us. And it's an ongoing part of how we work, in terms of improving our working patterns. So, that's an example, and I think—
Lowri, sori i dorri ar draws, ond y cwestiwn oedd: a oes modd i chi roi enghraifft o sut rydych chi wedi newid polisi neu wedi siapio polisi oherwydd y cysylltiadau ag Iwerddon ac ati? Rwy'n deall beth yw'r cwestiwn—rwyf jest yn chwilio am rywfaint o ateb i hynny, fel ein bod ni'n gallu gweld beth ydy impact y berthynas yna.
Sorry to cut across, Lowri, but the question was: can you give us an example of how you have changed policy or have shaped policy as a result of the relationship with Ireland and so on? I understand what the question is, but I'm just seeking a response to it so that we can see what the impact of that relationship has been.
Ie, hynny ydy, y ffaith bod yna fabwysiadau safonau iaith fel rhan o Ddeddf iaith Iwerddon—dyna enghraifft i chi, felly.
Well, the fact that language standards have been adopted as part of the Irish legislation—that's an example for you there.
Oes yna enghraifft o le rydyn ni wedi dysgu yng Nghymru, a sut mae polisi Cymru wedi newid, oherwydd y berthynas?
Do you have an example of where we in Wales have learned, and how Welsh policy has changed, because of the relationship?
Allaf i ddim rhoi enghraifft benodol i chi o safbwynt ein gweithdrefnau ni fel comisiynydd, ond, yn sicr, o ran enwau lleoedd, dwi'n meddwl bod yna lawer iawn y dylem ni fod yn ei ddysgu, ac yn sicr yn y dull rydyn ni'n ei gweithio ac yn ceisio ei ehangu, fel comisiynydd, yn y ffordd rydyn ni'n cydweithio â chyrff cyhoeddus, megis Cyfoeth Naturiol Cymru a'r parciau cenedlaethol, i fod yn rhoi'r stamp yna o awdurdod ar enwau lleoedd. Mae honno'n elfen lle rydyn ni'n dysgu ac yn parhau i ddysgu o sut y mae Iwerddon yn gweithio. Ond rwy'n hapus i ddod yn ôl atoch chi i drafod—hynny ydy, i gysylltu i fod yn rhoi enghreifftiau penodol o sut mae cydweithio ar lefel y comisiynwyr wedi gweithio, o safbwynt ein gweithdrefnau ni. Ond, fel rwy'n ei ddweud, mae'n ehangach na hynny; mae jest y cyfle yna i fod yn rhannu arfer da a chydweithio yn rhoi hyder i ni, fel aelodau o Gymdeithas Ryngwladol y Comisiynwyr Iaith.
I can't give you a specific example in terms of our own operations as a commissioner's office, but, certainly, in terms of place names, I think there's a great deal that we could learn, certainly in terms of our approach to that and the way that we are working with public bodies such as Natural Resources Wales, the national parks and so on, in order to put that stamp of authority on standardised place names. So, that's an area where we are learning and continuing to learn in terms of the Irish approach to that. But I'm happy to come back to you with some specific examples of how collaboration at a commissioner level has worked, in terms of our procedures. But, as I say, it's broader than that; it's that opportunity to share good practice and to collaborate, and it gives us confidence, as members of the International Association of Language Commissioners.
Iawn, neu hyd yn oed os oedd rhai pethau roeddech chi eisiau ysgrifennu atom ni arnyn nhw, fe fyddem ni'n croesawu hynny.
Even if there are some other examples that you'd like to write to us with, we'd welcome that.
Hapus iawn i wneud hynny.
Yes, we'll do that.
Diolch am hynny. Alun, oeddech chi eisiau gofyn unrhyw beth i Mícheál?
Thank you very much. Alun, did you want to ask anything to Mícheál?
Yr un cwestiwn i Mícheál.
The same question to Mícheál.
Okay, what have we learned? I suppose it's at initial stages yet. I know that the first collaboration was done online—it was done via Zoom, during the height of COVID—and we had a second one then. It's not the same thing as meeting people—you really need to meet people—so, it was really important that this first group actually came from the Urdd to Lurgan, to Conamara, last June. It was really important to meet people, to talk to people and to be influenced by people.
As I said, initially, it had a profound—it made a huge, huge impact, a huge impact, I think, on both sets of youths and on the people actually working with them as well. So, the next, I suppose the first proper planned meeting or workshop is going to take place—it will be in a fortnight's time. The plan is that there will be a return trip in August to partake in an outdoor festival here on our last course, which will be bilingual—a big outdoor event, an outdoor concert, where all the performers will be as Gaeilge and yn Gymraeg. That's the objective towards the end of the summer. We're very much on track to do all that.
What have we learned? There are so many similarities. The languages are different, we cannot understand each other as yet, but that too is a bit of a challenge that can be rectified. I suppose, going forward, the next step would be to bridge that language divide where we could come up with a learning platform where you'd have Gaeilge and Cymraeg, the essential vocabulary to become functionally fluent. That's what we do, that's our job here, working with students, to make them functionally fluent in the first place, and to have the confidence to play, to experiment and to enjoy using the language. That's what we do.
If we take our own ethos and our own principles here, we can easily adapt them to Cymraeg or any other language. They are the same principles, really, when it comes to becoming functionally fluent in a language. You don't need a huge amount, but there are certain essentials that you do need. What we'd be proposing to do for next year, or come the autumn time, is to build—it's quite easily done, we could do it in a week—an essential package that would be in Gaeilge and in Cymraeg, so that, hopefully, when we would go to visit Wales next year, our group would have the rudiments, would be able to converse or interact rudimentally in Cymraeg. That would be our objective. It's not all that difficult. We keep telling everyone, 'Come to our place' and that language acquisition is not difficult. We believe that, so if that's the case, it shouldn't be too difficult to become functionally fluent in Cymraeg also.
Alun, before I come back to you, I think Heledd wanted to ask a supplementary. Then we'll come back to Alun.
Diolch. Thank you, Mícheál. We heard from the Urdd last week, in terms of the benefits, that they would be emphasising the importance of the relationship as well. I know they're funded by the Welsh Government through the agreement there is between both nations to undertake this work. Are you, equally, receiving funding from the Irish Government?
We don't know, as yet. We're working on it. We don't need a huge amount of funding anyway; it's not a question of funding. But we'll follow up on that, as they say. We'll follow up on it, but we'll do it anyway. As I said, our job is to get people excited about language learning. People will ask what has going over to Wales, going on a trip to a Welsh-speaking area, to do with acquiring or learning Gaeilge. I think it has an awful lot to do with it, I must admit. I think it's a bit of a game changer, if you take everything on board and look at the bigger picture. It opens other doors.
Gaeilge and Cymraeg, I suppose, are regional languages, but they're much more than that, they're much more than national languages. In a European context, they're so important—they're world languages in the European context, because all other languages in western Europe got obliterated by the Romans. They're really, really important world languages.
As I said, people in Ireland do not know anything about the Welsh language. When we're going to Wales in two weeks' time, a reporter from Raidió na Gaeltachta is going to accompany us on the trip. Our concept or our understanding of Gaeltacht areas is that they're small, they're confined, they're under pressure. They do not realise that there are vast swathes of north Wales that are what we'd understand as being Gaeltacht areas. We look with huge envy at the widespread social and informal use of the language. We're hugely envious of that, and we want part of that, really. We've lost some of that.
Diolch, Mícheál. You were talking about the European context; back to Alun, because Alun is joining us from Brussels at the moment.
Yes, and Irish was spoken in the European Parliament yesterday; you see the Irish translation there at the moment. I'm just interested in the way that you've both responded in quite different ways to answering the same question. If I think back of the lessons I've learned—as a Welsh language Minister—from Ireland, it's that a lot of the issues around status are largely irrelevant, frankly, to use of the language. Irish has had official status in Ireland since the meeting of the first Dáil back in the 1920s, and that hasn't improved the use of the language. In fact, the use of the language has declined throughout that time. So, you know, you've created a bilingual state, where people only speak one language. I think that's a real challenge for the Irish Government and it's something I've discussed with Irish Ministers. In Wales, we haven't had that official status until quite recently—certainly within my lifetime—and yet we've got half a million people speaking it, and a target of a million people speaking it, and expanding its use. We have almost two completely different approaches to language policy over the last century, if you like, or certainly the last decades, and I'm interested that neither of you really seem to have got to grips with that. So, I'm wondering if the linkage between language groups, if you like, in Wales and in Ireland is more about sharing social aspects and outlook than actually learning in terms of policy.
Well, I'm not a state employee; I'm a former teacher. But if I had any kind of input, any say on state policy—if anyone listened to me—in the first place, I suppose the biggest suggestion I'd have here in our own country would be to do with how the language is presented in the education system. If I had a magic wand, if I were Minister for Education or if I had that power—I don't—. We deal with people, Alun, people who come to us, parents. We rely totally on funding from parents. We don't get any state funding to run our courses. We rely on people who actually want to interact and who want to, who choose to. They say Gaeilge is compulsory in the Irish education system; I think 'compulsion' is an awful word to use. Compulsion should never be used in the context of education, as far as I'm concerned. But people who come to us choose to come; they don't have to come.
I think, again, it comes down to the two things I would value in relation to language use or acquisition, those sorts of things I mentioned before: it's ownership and responsibility. They're the most important, they're the currency that I would value most when it comes to anything to do with language. Policies and state and this, that and the other, whether it's official or not, for most people, are irrelevant. It's how you interact, how you choose to interact and to recognise it for what it is, and to give it its oxygen. What a language needs is people who will speak it, and outside of the education system as well, in everyday life. But policies? No, I wouldn't have much input in any form of policy, unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, but—
That's a very courageous point of view, talking to a panel of politicians, Mícheál, but—
Yes, well, that's—. I admire politicians, because I wouldn't do that job.
Before we go down that other rabbit hole, I'm very aware that we're halfway through our time and we have four other Members who have other areas that we'll need to cover. This is genuinely really fascinating, so I'm sorry to cut across you, Mícheál. If it's okay, we'll just go to Lowri's response, and then, I'm afraid, we'll have to move on.
Lowri, allwch chi ymateb i beth oedd Alun wedi gofyn, ac wedyn byddwn ni'n symud ymlaen? Diolch am hwnna.
Lowri, can you respond to what Alun asked, and then we'll move on? Thank you very much.
Os dwi wedi deall yn iawn, rydych chi'n gofyn beth sydd i'w gael o'r cydweithio. Dwi yn meddwl, er gwaethaf y gwahaniaeth rhwng sefyllfa’r Wyddeleg yn Iwerddon a’r Gymraeg yng Nghymru, bod yna bethau y medrwn eu dysgu oddi wrth ein gilydd, oddi wrth aflwyddiannau hefyd, mewn gwirionedd, arfer da a phethau sydd heb weithio, er mwyn sicrhau ein bod ni'n osgoi’r un camgymeriadau yma yng Nghymru ac yn Iwerddon fel ein gilydd. Nid fy mod i'n anghytuno, ond yn sicr, dwi'n meddwl, wrth edrych ar bolisi ac ymchwil sy'n gallu digwydd rhwng y ddwy wlad, mae yna bethau y medrwn ni fod yn eu dysgu. Ac yn sicr, eto i fynd yn ôl at Ddeddf iaith Iwerddon, a'r ffaith ein bod ni eisoes efo Deddf iaith sydd wedi'i seilio ar safonau yng Nghymru, mae yna gyfleoedd, wrth edrych ymlaen, i fod yn cryfhau ac yn dysgu oddi wrth ein gilydd wrth wneud hynny.
If I understood correctly, you're asking what is available via the collaboration. Despite the difference between the situation of the Irish language in Ireland and the situation of Welsh in Wales, there are things that we can learn from each other, from things that haven't succeeded too, and in terms of good practice, so that we avoid the same mistakes here in Wales and in Ireland alike. So, it's not that I disagree, but I think, looking at policy and research that can take place between the two nations, there are things that we can be learning. Certainly, going back to the Irish language Act, and the fact that we have a language Act based on standards in Wales, there are opportunities, in looking ahead, to be strengthening that and to be learning from each other in doing so.
Diolch am hynna. Fe wnawn ni symud at Heledd Fychan.
Thank you for that. We'll move to Heledd Fychan.
Diolch, Gadeirydd. Os caf i ddechrau efo Lowri, yn amlwg rydych chi wedi amlinellu'r berthynas sydd rhyngoch chi ac Iwerddon, ac mae hynny'n mynd yn ôl blynyddoedd bellach. Faint o’ch gwaith chi sydd felly yn deillio o’r cytundeb rhwng y ddwy Lywodraeth sydd yn fwy diweddar na hynny?
Thank you, Chair. If I could start with Lowri, clearly you've outlined the relationship that exists between you and Ireland, and that goes back many years now. How much of your work emanates from the agreement between the two Governments that is more recent than that?
Fel rydych chi wedi nodi, mi oedd cydweithio eisoes yn digwydd, ers i'r comisiynydd gael ei sefydlu yn 2012, ac mae'r gwaith wedi parhau ers hynny. Dydy o ddim wedi digwydd o dan faner ffurfiol y cyd-ddatganiad ag Iwerddon. Yn amlwg, mae’r cyd-ddatganiad yn nodi bod gweithio ar bolisi iaith yn rhywbeth sydd yn rhan ohono fo, ond fel y cyfryw, dydyn ni ddim wedi cyfrannu at y cyd-ddatganiad a'i weithredu fo dan y faner yna.
As you've noted, the collaboration was already happening, since the commissioner was established in 2012, but that work has continued since then. It hasn't happened under the formal banner of the joint declaration with Ireland. Clearly, the joint accord shows that working on language policy is part of that agreement, but we haven't contributed to that joint statement, nor acted under that banner, as it were.
Ydych chi'n meddwl bod yna gyfle i chi fod, neu a fyddech chi'n croesawu'r cyfle i fod?
Do you think there are opportunities for you to be more involved? Would you welcome the opportunity?
Yn sicr, buasem. Mi fuasai bod yn rhan fwy ffurfiol ohono fo, yn amlwg, yn gydnabyddiaeth o’r gwaith rydyn yn ei wneud yng Nghymru ac yn Iwerddon. Does dim comisiynwyr iaith eraill yn Ynysoedd Prydain ac maen nhw'n endidau sydd â statws a bri iddyn nhw mewn nifer o wledydd, yn arbennig yng Nghanada. Felly, byddai hynny yn ei dro, dwi'n meddwl, yn hwyluso’r gwaith rhyngom ni. A byddai hynna, gobeithio wedyn, yn hwyluso mewn sawl ffordd, boed hynny yn fuddsoddiad neu yn gefnogaeth.
Un enghraifft ydy'r ffaith y byddwn ni'n cynnal cynhadledd, gobeithio, yng Nghymru y flwyddyn nesaf, cynhadledd y gymdeithas ryngwladol, a buasem yn amlwg yn croesawu’r cyfle i weld sut fedrwn ni fod yn defnyddio’r gynhadledd honno fel ffordd o fod yn hyrwyddo'r cydweithio rhyngom ni ac Iwerddon, ac yn wir rhwng Cymru a nifer o’r gwledydd a’r rhanbarthau eraill sydd yn rhan o strategaeth ryngwladol Llywodraeth Cymru. Felly, ydw, dwi'n meddwl y buasai'n dod â bri i waith y comisiynydd, byddai’n hwyluso ein gwaith ni ac yn ffordd o'n galluogi ni i fod yn rhannu arfer da, cyfleoedd cyfnewid pellach ac yn y blaen. Ac yn sicr, fel dwi wedi sôn, wrth i gyrff newydd ddod o dan safonau yn Iwerddon, mae modd rhannu arfer da ymysg cyrff cyhoeddus, er enghraifft, hefyd. Felly, i ateb yn gryno, buasem ni'n croesawu bod yn rhan fwy ffurfiol.
Certainly, yes. Being a more formal part of it would be recognition of the work that we do here in Wales and in Ireland. There are no other language commissioners in the British isles and they're entities that have status and prestige attached to them in other nations, particularly in Canada. So, that would, in turn, facilitate the work between us. And, hopefully then, that would facilitate in several ways, be that in terms of investment or of support.
One example would be the fact that we will be holding a conference, hopefully, in Wales next year, the conference of the international association, and we would welcome the opportunity to see how we could be using that conference as a way to promote the collaboration between us and Ireland, and indeed between Wales and a number of the other nations and regions that are part of the international strategy of the Welsh Government. I think it would bring prestige to the work of the commissioner, it would facilitate and promote our work, and would be a way for us to be able to share good practice opportunities for exchange and so on. And certainly, as we've mentioned, as new bodies become subject to standards in Ireland, we can share good practice between public bodies, for example, too. So, in short, yes, I would very much welcome being more formally a part of this work.
Gwych, diolch. Mae honna'n neges medrwn ni efallai fwydo yn ôl i Lywodraeth Cymru fel rhan o'r ymchwiliad.
Thank you. That's a message we can perhpas feed back to the Welsh Government as part of our inquiry.
Mícheál, if I may turn to you, obviously, we've discussed quite a bit in terms of the plan that you have, but do you think there's anything more both Governments could do to enhance or support the development of the partnership? It seems it's very much driven by organisations at the moment, such as yourselves and the Urdd, but do you think there's a role more formally for both Governments to be supporting how you can take this further and, perhaps, promote both Irish awareness here in Wales and awareness about the Welsh language in Ireland?
Again, I'm coming at this from a narrow perspective, I must admit. I've only been to Wales once, and I was blown away by the amount of people that I heard on the streets of Caernarfon and Pwllheli walking around speaking Welsh. I was blown away because I'd never experienced anything like that in such big, urban towns here in Ireland. So, I was kind of 'Wow.' It opened my eyes, I must admit. So, as regards what could be done, I'm not privy, as I said before, to the workings of government or policy makers, or anything as such. What I would like to see is what I outlined earlier on, to work on being able to communicate the next time—. It's a bit of a challenge, but I think it's doable. So, say, by this time next year, this is what I would like to see: when we meet for the next workshop we're going to have this time next year, that the contingent coming from Éire, from Ireland, will be able to converse, to interact, not through English but through Cymraeg. And hopefully vice versa as well, we would like to be able to invite, maybe, a group from the Urdd to come for a two-week course—a full two-week course—here in Conamara. To do that, they would need a certain amount of Gaeilge, a certain amount of basic interactions. But, after that, we fully believe that they could interact fully on a course for Gaeilge here, on an Irish-language course here, and make huge strides in acquiring Gaeilge over those two weeks.
The only thing that we're interested in, here in Lurgan, is promoting Gaeilge, promoting language acquisition, language learning. That's all we're interested in. And I suppose there is a huge overlap with everything else you do, everything you say. You talk about place names, they're really, really important; you talk about language rights, they're really, really important. But, much more important is what people feel and what people are willing to do. You want to create a kind of feedback loop. Once people feel they're making some kind of progress, they feel good about it and it spurs them on to try harder and to learn more. So, it's all about feeling good, making it enjoyable, and making it hugely relevant, because Gaeilge is hugely relevant to everyone here in this country. They might not speak it, English might be their language of choice, but it's because maybe they can only speak English. If they were fluent in both, or had a good working knowledge of both, quite a number of people here in the country would choose to use Gaeilge way more often, if they had the ability to do so. Sorry, I always tend to focus in on what we do here more than anything else. That's our mission; our sole mission here is to promote Gaeilge.
Go raibh maith agat. And I appreciate they're very different, both organisations, as well in terms of a language commissioner as opposed to your role. I think one of the things that comes through strongly, though, is that importance of the connection, from your evidence, that actually the opportunities for more people who are passionate, as you are, about Gaeilge and many people here in Wales are passionate about y Gymraeg is about that exchange and the opportunity to visit and have the experiences such as you had in Pwllheli, Caernarfon, and for people to experience the same in Connemara, et cetera. So, I think it's great to see some of those opportunities, but, perhaps, one of the things we might be able to explore as a committee is how we enable more exchanges and partnerships, so more people become aware and build those connections, perhaps. Diolch.
Diolch am hynna.
Thank you for that.
Carolyn, I think that your questions are to Lowri specifically, aren't they?
Yes, they are. Are we ready? Could I ask Lowri to what extent was the commissioner's office involved in the shared statement, and also in the development of the joint action plans?
Dwi ddim yn ymwybodol bod y comisiynydd wedi bod yn rhan o ddatblygiad y cyd-ddatganiad a'r cynllun gweithredu. Fel dywedais i, mi oedd cydweithio eisoes yn digwydd rhyngddom ni a chomisiynydd iaith Iwerddon cyn y cyd-ddatganiad, ac mae wedi parhau ers hynny. Ac, yn sicr, fel dwi wedi amlinellu, mi fuasem ni'n falch o fod yn gallu cyfrannu ymhellach. O ddweud hynny, wrth gwrs, mae'r cyd-ddatganiad yn tynnu sylw at yr angen i ni fod yn cydweithio ar bolisi iaith. Felly, yn hynny o beth, mi ydyn ni wedi cyfrannu, yn sicr, at hynny, ond ddim yn ffurfiol, os liciwch chi, o dan faner y cyd-ddatganiad, felly.
I'm not aware that the commissioner was part of the development of the shared statement and the action plan. As I said, the collaboration was already happening between ourselves and the Irish language commissioner before the shared statement, and that's continued since then. And, certainly, as I've already outlined, we'd be delighted to contribute further. Having said that, of course, the shared statement does highlight the need for us to collaborate on language policy. So, in that sense, we have contributed to that, certainly, but we haven't contributed formally under the banner of the shared statement.
Okay. Thanks for clarifying that. I know you did say that in the written evidence; I just wanted to get that on record.
Regarding the Welsh Government's international strategy, it identifies priority regional relationships, like Brittany, and important countries, like Germany. So, do you think that the Wales-Ireland model is one you would wish to be replicated and applied to Wales's other relationships?
Yn sicr—hynny ydy, rydych chi wedi cyfeirio at Lydaw, ac yn y blaen—mae yna nifer o wledydd a rhanbarthau sydd yn rhan o'r strategaeth ryngwladol yna, lle mae yna brofiadau ac ymchwil y medrwn ni fod yn eu rhannu o gwmpas cynllunio ieithyddol, ac o gwmpas hyrwyddo hawliau ac amddiffyn hawliau ieithyddol hefyd. Felly, yn hynny o beth, yn sicr, byddai sicrhau bod yr elfen iaith, os liciwch chi, yn rhan o gyd-ddatganiadau a chytundebau yn y dyfodol, dwi'n meddwl, yn sicr yn rhywbeth y byddem ni'n croesawu ei efelychu.
Yn eithaf penodol, mewn gwirionedd, mae gwerth i fi nodi bod y comisiynydd, fel dwi eisoes wedi sôn, yn aelod o'r gymdeithas ryngwladol yma, ac mae aelodau eraill fel ombwdsman Fflandrys, sydd yn rhanbarth o flaenoriaeth, yn ogystal â Gwlad y Basg a Chatalonia. A hefyd, yn rhyngwladol wedyn, mae Canada a'r Unol Daleithiau, o'r hyn a ddeallaf, hefyd yn wledydd o flaenoriaeth, ac mae gennym ni eto gysylltiadau da yn fanno oherwydd y gymdeithas gyda Chomisiynydd Ieithoedd Swyddogol Canada ar lefel ffederal a chomisiynwyr iaith, wedyn, ar lefel daleithiol.
Felly, buasem ni'n croesawu'r cyfle i fod yn defnyddio'r perthnasau yna, a'r cysylltiadau sydd gennym ni, wedyn, yn rhyngwladol, fel platfform i fod yn hwyluso'r cydweithio rhwng Cymru mewn cytundebau a chyd-ddatganiadau yn y dyfodol, gan dynnu sylw at, hynny ydy, yr hyn y gallwn ni fod yn ei gyfrannu oherwydd ein gwybodaeth a'n arfer da yma yng Nghymru, a'r hyn sydd gennym ni i'w ddysgu, yn amlwg, yn rhyngwladol gan eraill.
Certainly—you've mentioned Britanny in your question—there are a number of nations and regions that are part of that international strategy, where there are experience and research that we can share in terms of language planning, and around the promotion and protection of language rights. So, in that regard, certainly, ensuring that the language element is included in any shared statements and agreements in future would certainly be something that I would welcome and want to see carried through.
I think it's worth noting that the commissioner, as I've already mentioned, is a member of an international organisation of language commissioners, and there are other members, such as the ombudsman from Flanders, which is an area of priority, as well as the Basque country and Catalonia. And, internationally, Canada and the United States, from my understanding, are also priority nations, and, again, we have strong contacts there, because of the association with the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada at the federal level, as well as the language commissioners on the provincial level.
So, we would welcome those opportunities to use those relationships and our international connections as a platform to facilitate collaboration between Wales in future agreements and shared statements, in terms of what we can contribute because of our knowledge and because of good practice here in Wales, and what we can learn internationally from others too.
Diolch am hynna. Diolch, Carolyn. Gwnawn ni symud at Tom Giffard.
Thank you for that. Thanks, Carolyn. We'll move to Tom Giffard.
One to you both, I guess. How would you like to Wales and Ireland co-operation extend beyond 2025? Are there other areas, activities, you think could or should be included?
Fe awn ni at Mícheál.
If we go to Mícheál first.
Shall we go to you first on that?
Look, young people—young people. The future of any language is young people. Get them, as I said. They're just a stone's throw away; they're so close, Wales and Gaeilge. I suppose we don't—. We know so little about Wales, and I would be fairly typical of an Irish person; we know very, very little about Wales, other than sports connections. We know that the language itself—. But the language, I think, is huge—I think it's huge. We have this globalisation; everyone wants to be—. You have to be different in this globalised world. You have to value it so much. So, our language, our identity, the more that stands out, on the world stage—. Everybody recognises the importance of identity in a globalised world.
But, going forward, it's easy to get to north Wales. Going there, it's just a ferry ride; it's cheap, it's easy. But I think, again, as I said, I'd have a blinkered vision at this stage in my life. From a work point of view, it's all to do with facilitating how people become comfortable learning and acquiring languages. But I think there's a huge future in that. As for other areas, great, but that's the most exciting one as far as I can see.
Diolch am hynny. Lowri.
Thanks you for that. Lowri.
Diolch. Buaswn i'n eilio'r hyn mae Mícheál wedi'i ddweud, mewn gwirionedd. Mae yna gyfleoedd, yn sicr, o gwmpas ein hieithoedd ni. Dwi eisoes wedi sôn am y gwaith yna o safbwynt comisiynwyr, ond yn sicr efallai bod yna le i fod yn edrych ar sut mae datblygu strwythurau posibl ehangach i fod yn cefnogi cynlluniau ieithyddol, a dwi'n golygu hyn yn ei ehangrwydd, yn cynnwys gwaith ieuenctid. Hynny ydy, gwaith ar lefel cymunedau, cynllunio, tai, ac addysg yn amlwg fel mae Mícheál wedi'i ddweud. Felly, byddai modd edrych i weld sut mae cryfhau y cydweithio yna o gwmpas cynllunio ieithyddol rhwng y ddwy wlad, bod yna fforymau'n cael eu datblygu, er enghraifft, y tu hwnt i'r fforwm sydd eisoes yn bodoli, o dan faner cytundeb Prydain-Iwerddon. Felly, mae hynny'n un ffordd.
Mae yna elfennau, dwi'n meddwl, o'r cyd-ddatganiad, fel ag y mae, lle byddai modd prif ffrydio ieithoedd ymhellach i'w gwneud yn thema fwy trawsbynciol, er enghraifft, o dan faes blaenoriaeth addysg ac ymchwil, sut mae rhannu ymchwil i gynllunio ieithyddol a phrosiectau, eu llwyddiant nhw. Hyd yn oed o ran masnach a thwristiaeth, hynny ydy, mae Iwerddon yn gwneud joban dda iawn o werthu Iwerddon i'r byd. Sut mae gwneud yn siŵr bod Gwyddeleg a'r Gymraeg yng Nghymru yn rhan o hynny? Mae gennym ni ymdrechion clodwiw yng Nghymru i fod yn defnyddio’r Gymraeg wrth farchnata Cymru i'r byd. Mae eraill wedi rhoi tystiolaeth ichi ynglŷn â hynny o safbwynt y gymdeithas bêl-droed, er enghraifft. A hefyd sut mae cael brand Cymru wrth fasnachu ac yn y blaen.
Mae gwaith ar hyn o bryd, yn amlwg, yn dod yn y cyd-ddatganiad o dan ddiwylliant a threftadaeth, ac mae elfen gref o hynny yn ymwneud â'r celfyddydau a gwaith diwylliannol, ac mae hynny'n amlwg i'w gefnogi. Ond sut mae modd datblygu hynny ymhellach ydy rhywbeth y byddem ni'n hoffi ei weld. Hefyd, fel dwi eisoes wedi nodi, y gwaith yna ar enwau lleoedd. Mae'n amlwg yn un o flaenoriaethau y Llywodraeth a Phlaid Cymru ar hyn o bryd, ac mae gennym ni lawer i fod yn ei ddysgu o edrych ar ddeddfwriaeth Iwerddon a'r gwaith ymchwil, hynny ydy, y dechnoleg sydd ganddyn nhw i fod yn amlygu enwau lleoedd. Felly, mae hynny yn rhywbeth dwi'n sicr y byddai modd inni fod yn dysgu gan ein gilydd. Ac yn amlwg, fel comisiynydd, buasem ni'n awyddus i fod yn parhau'r cydweithio hwnnw gyda chomisiynydd iaith Iwerddon ac yn edrych ar ddulliau o fod yn datblygu hynny.
Thank you. I would echo what Mícheál has said. There are certainly opportunities around our languages. I've talked about that work from a commissioners' point of view, but certainly there may be scope to look at developing wider structures to be supporting linguistic planning, and I mean that in its widest sense, including youth work, community-based work, housing, planning and education, clearly, as Mícheál has said. So, we could look at how to strengthen that collaboration around linguistic planning between the two nations, that there are fora developed, for example, beyond the forum that already exists, under the banner of the UK-Ireland agreement. So, that is one way that we could proceed.
There are elements of the shared statement, as it stands, where we could mainstream languages further to make it a more cross-cutting issue, for example, in the priority area of education and research, how do we share research into linguistic planning and projects, in terms of their success too. And also in terms of trade and tourism, Ireland does a very good job in promoting Ireland to the world. How can we ensure that Irish and the Welsh language in Wales are part of that? We have praiseworthy efforts in Wales to use the Welsh language in marketing Wales to the world. Others have given you evidence on that from the point of view of the football association, for example. And how can we get the Welsh brand in marketing the nation and so on and how we can develop that brand further.
There is current work under the shared statement under heritage and culture, and there's a strong element of that related to the arts and cultural work, and that is to be supported. But how we could develop that further is something that I would like to see happen. And as I've already noted, that work on place names. It's one of the priorities of the Government and Plaid Cymru at present, and we have a great deal to be learning in looking at legislation in Ireland, and the research being undertaken there and the technology that they have to be giving due prominence to place names. So, that is certainly something that we could be learning from each other. And, as commissioner, we would be eager to continue with that collaboration with the Irish language commissioner and looking at other methods to be developing that relationship.
Diolch. Diolch am hynny, Tom. Ken Skates, mi wnawn ni droi atoch chi.
Thanks. Thanks for that, Tom. Ken Skates, we'll turn to you next.
Thank you, Chair. Could you just tell us about your organisations' future plans for Wales-Ireland co-operation, and whether any support is going to be required from Welsh Government, be it financial or in any other way?
Lowri, ydych chi eisiau mynd yn gyntaf?
Lowri, would you like to go first?
Dwi'n hapus i fynd. Mi fydd ein haelodaeth ni o Gymdeithas Ryngwladol y Comisiynwyr Iaith yn parhau ac yn cael ei ddyfnhau, gobeithio. Mae gennym ni is-grwpiau, er enghraifft, ym maes ymchwili a pholisi, cyfathrebu ac yn y blaen, felly bydd hynny'n parhau. Yn benodol, fel dwi eisoes wedi sôn, un o'n blaenoriaethau ni yn y gwaith rhyngwladol yna ydy trefnu cynhadledd ryngwladol yng Nghymru yn 2024. Fel dwi wedi nodi, buasem ni'n croesawu trafodaeth ynglŷn â sut buasem ni'n gallu defnyddio honno fel platfform i fod yn amlygu'r cydweithio sydd rhwng Cymru ac Iwerddon, ac yn edrych ar sut fyddai modd dyfnhau hynny gyda rhanbarthau eraill. Yn amlwg, waeth i fi fod yn onest, mi fyddai adnodd a chyllid i fod yn hwyluso trefnu'r gynhadledd honno yn rhywbeth y byddem ni'n sicr yn ei groesawu. Ac ymhellach na hynny, wedyn, mae Mícheál wedi sôn eisoes am yr ymwneud unigol yna o fod mewn sefyllfa yn gweld sut mae e'n gweithio yn ymarferol. Byddai hynny'n rhywbeth y byddem ni yn ei groesawu.
Yn ail, wedyn, fel sefydliad yn benodol, ydy'r gwaith rydyn ni'n ei wneud yn argymell ffurfiau safonol enwau lleoedd. Mi ydyn ni'n eiddigeddu'n fawr, mewn gwirionedd, at y gwaith sy'n digwydd o safbwynt enwau lleoedd yn Iwerddon, felly mi fydd gennym ni ddiddordeb mewn gweld sut fyddai modd inni ddysgu o'r ddeddfwriaeth yna a rhannu'r wybodaeth honno gyda Llywodraeth Cymru, ond hefyd datblygu'r adnodd o gronfa ddata—byddai gennym ni ddiddordeb mewn honno. Buasem ni'n awyddus iawn i fod yn gweld sut ydyn ni'n gallu datblygu'r gronfa ddata sydd gennym ni ymhellach. Mae'r un yn Iwerddon, er enghraifft, yn cynnwys elfennau megis cynorthwyo pobl i fod yn ynganu'r enwau lleoedd, a fyddai yn amlwg, efallai, yn rhan ehangach o fod yn hyrwyddo enwau lleoedd. Ac yn hynny o beth, mi fyddai cefnogaeth i fod yn datblygu y gronfa ddata honno, a dysgu gan Iwerddon wrth wneud hynny, a rhannu adnoddau, yn rhywbeth y byddem ni yn ei groesawu—yn benodol i'n gwaith ni, ond yn amlwg, byddai gennym ni ddiddordeb mewn gweld sut mae modd ehangu cynlluniau ieithyddol, ymchwil, prosiectau eraill sydd yn hyrwyddo cyfleoedd i ddefnyddio'r Gymraeg hefyd.
I'm happy to do so, yes. Our membership of the International Association of Language Commissioners will continue and will be enhanced, hopefully. We have sub-groups in the area of research and policy, communication and so on and so forth, so that will continue. Specifically, as I've already mentioned, one of our priorities in that international work is to organise an international conference in Wales in 2024. As I've already noted, we would welcome a discussion as to how we could use that as a springboard to highlight the collaboration between Wales and Ireland and how that could be developed and enhanced with other regions. And, let's be honest, resources and funding to facilitate the organisation of that conference is certainly something that we would welcome. And further to that, Mícheál has already mentioned that individual engagement of being in a situation where you see how things work practically. That's something that is to be welcomed.
Secondly, as an organisation, for us specifically, there's the work that we're doing in suggesting standardised forms of place names. We are very envious of the work that's happening on place names in Ireland, and we would be very much interested in seeing how we can learn from the legislation there and share that information with the Welsh Government. But also, we'd like to develop the database—we'd be very eager to see how we can develop the database that we hold further. The one in Ireland, for example, includes elements to assist people in pronouncing those place names, and that could be a broader part of promoting place names. And in that regard, support to develop that database and to learn from Ireland in doing so, and sharing resources in that area, would be something that we would welcome. That's very specific to our work, but clearly, we'd be interested in seeing how we can expand language planning, research and other projects that promote opportunities to use the Welsh language too.
Diolch am hwnna.
Thanks for that.
Ken, do you want to ask the same question to Mícheál?
Hi, Ken. I suppose, as mentioned before, what we would like to do in the next level or the next step—. We're going to produce some really high-quality exciting music videos in two weeks' time in Wales. They're going to be bilingual, the soundtracks we've been working on, and they're going to sound great, they're going to look great. But we'll get those done, as I say. We're able to produce those; we can always produce those. But, as I said, where we'd like to go for the next level, say, would be, come the autumn time, come next autumn, we would like to spend maybe a week or two weeks putting together a joint learning platform. We've done it before, we've quite a number of them, but as Gaeilge only. We do them here for our own students. We've done quite an amount of work on them. So, what we'd like to do is have a Gaeilge—I'm not too sure how you pronounce it; Cymraeg, is it? Am I saying that correctly?
Yes, Cymraeg. Yes, you're saying it correctly.
—a Gaeilge and Cymraeg platform, where it would be easy. We pride ourselves on making language acquisition and learning easy. As far as we can see, the easiest way to introduce a language is to give the essentials in a Q&A format, audio backed. The audio is done by native speakers, so it's not at all difficult. We mocked up, actually, one a few years ago where you had Gaeilge and Cymraeg. I learnt, 'rwy'n iawn, diolch'. That's 'go raibh maith', isn't it? Rwy'n iawn, diolch—go raibh míle maith. And the other one, 'sut wyt ti?' That was the other one. They were the only two I learnt. I learnt from it myself, but it's not difficult. So, what we'd like to do, Ken, to answer your question, is maybe spend a week or two working on this. There isn't a huge amount of money involved—very little. We'll do our part voluntarily, but we would like to have—. We have one already for Gaeilge, an essential vocabulary, but it would be a different kind of compilation of phrases and interactions if you're going to do for both. So, a little work on that maybe, and in the autumn I think would be—. We will volunteer our time for that in the autumn, and we would like to work on that. That would be our suggestion.
Diolch. Thank you; it's lovely to hear you speaking Welsh, Mícheál. In the final four minutes or so that we have, can I just ask, finally, in terms of the work that our committee is doing, how do you think that we could have the most beneficial impact on everything that we've been discussing? Forgive me that that's a rather large question to ask you when there's less than two minutes each to answer, but if I can go to Lowri on that.
Os gallaf fynd atoch chi yn gyntaf.
If I could go to you first, Lowri.
Yr hyn y dylech chi fod yn canolbwyntio arno fo, ai dyna rydych chi'n gofyn?
So, what you should be focusing on in future, is that what you're asking?
O safbwynt iaith, yn amlwg, mae'n anodd iawn mesur llwyddiant. Mae angen edrych ar sut y byddai'r cydweithio yn gallu bwydo i mewn i weithrediad prosiectau sydd ynghlwm â 'Cymraeg 2050' i fod yn cynyddu'r niferoedd sy'n siarad Cymraeg, ond, yn fwy penodol, dwi'n meddwl, o'r hyn mae Mícheál yn ei ddweud, mae'r cyfleoedd sydd yna i ddefnyddio'r Gymraeg yn rhywbeth pwysig—felly, sut mae o'n clymu gyda blaenoriaethau Llywodraeth Cymru o safbwynt strategaeth 2050. A hefyd, yn amlwg, sut mae'r cydweithio yn arwain at amddiffyn a hyrwyddo hawliau ieithyddol. Mae hynny'n anodd iawn i'w fesur, rydym ni'n gwybod hynny, ond sut mae'r cydweithio yn gallu arwain at rannu gwybodaeth, at rannu arfer da er mwyn gallu ceisio gwreiddio yr amddiffyniad a gwreiddio'r ddeddfwriaeth yn y ddwy wlad o gwmpas hawliau ieithyddol. Felly, dyna hi, yn ei grynswth, dwi'n meddwl. Mae hynny, fel dwi'n dweud, yn anodd iawn i chi ei fesur.
From a linguistic point of view, it's very difficult to measure success. It's about looking at how the collaboration could feed into the implementation of projects related to 'Cymraeg 2050' to be increasing the numbers of Welsh speakers, but, more specifically, from what Mícheál has said, the opportunities to use the Welsh language. That would be important. So, how it ties into the wider Welsh Government priorities for 'Cymraeg 2050', and how that collaboration leads to the safeguarding of linguistic rights. All of this is very difficult to measure, we know that, but how the collaboration can lead to sharing information and sharing good practice, so we can try to embed the safeguarding work and embed the legislation in the two nations around language rights. So, in summary, that is it, but, of course, that's very difficult for you to measure.
Wel, ein sialens ni—
Well, our challenge—
Wel, sialens i ni i gyd, mewn gwirionedd.
It's a challenge for all of us, indeed.
Diolch am hwnna, Lowri.
Thank you for that, Lowri.
And Mícheál, a final word to you on this. Where would you like to see us having the most beneficial impact in terms of the work that we as a committee are doing in this area?
As I said initially, you're to be greatly commended for initiating this. It's a fabulous kind of initiative, and I can see it—. As I said, we need progress. With anything, you start something, you come to a certain level, you have to progress, you have to see the next step and the next step. From our own limited input into this programme, we're delighted, and the Urdd are a great organisation. It's really going to take off. You will see the results of the workshop—you won't be able to ignore them—later on in the spring. But to grow and to take it to the next level would be—. I think, as I said, it has to do with being able to communicate to each other not through English—as I say, if a group from Éire goes over to Wales, that it would be in Cymraeg, and if a group from Wales comes to Éire, just to have a kind of—. They will have to make that bridge, that leap, to be able to communicate to each other not through English, but through our respective languages.
Diolch. We will look forward to that.
Diolch, Mícheál. Diolch i chi, Lowri, hefyd. Bydd transgript o'r hyn sydd wedi cael ei ddweud yn cael ei anfon atoch chi i chi wirio fod e'n glir.
Thank you, Mícheál and thank you, Lowri. A transcript of what you've said will be sent to you so you can check it for accuracy.
I think there may have been something wrong with the translation not working, so in case that didn't come through, a transcript of what's been said—
No, I heard it.
It came through properly, did it? Okay. Great. Thank you so much.
Diolch yn fawr am y dystiolaeth. Diolch yn fawr iawn i chi a gobeithio wnawn ni weld chi eto. Diolch yn fawr iawn, a phob lwc gyda popeth rŷch chi'n eiwneud. Diolch yn fawr iawn am hynna hefyd, Lowri. Aelodau, wnawn ni gymryd egwyl fer o 10 munud.
Thank you very much for your evidence. Thank you for joining us and we hope to see you again. Thank you, and best of luck with everything that you do. And thank you to you, Lowri, too. Members, we'll take a brief break. We'll be back in 10 minutes' time.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:29 a 10:43.
The meeting adjourned between 10:29 and 10:43.
Croeso nôl. Rydyn ni'n symud yn syth at eitem 3. Rydyn ni'n cario ymlaen gyda'n hymchwiliad i gysylltiadau rhwng Cymru ac Iwerddon, ac rydyn ni'n cael sesiwn dystiolaeth nawr gyda Chonswl Cyffredinol Iwerddon yng Nghaerdydd.
Welcome back. We're moving straight on to item 3. We're continuing with our inquiry into Wales-Ireland relations, and we're having an evidence session now with the Consul General of Ireland in Cardiff.
Denise, can I ask you to introduce yourself for the record, please?
Yes, thank you very much. My name is Denise McQuade. I'm the Consul General of Ireland in Cardiff, with responsibility for the district of Wales. Can I just thank you very much for inviting me here today? It's a real honour to be here. Thank you.
We're delighted to have you with us. Thank you so much. Some of our Members, as you'll see, are appearing online, so you'll see them on the screen down here, and some of us are in person. Could you tell us, please, generally what your views are at the moment in terms of how Wales-Ireland relations are?
I think generally Wales-Ireland relations are really good. I arrived here last autumn. I think some of you probably met my predecessor, Denise Hanrahan, who was the first Consul General here. We established our consulate in 2019. All my experience to date has been extremely positive. There's a really warm relationship. The reopening of our consulate is an expression of that warm relationship and of the importance that Ireland places on relations with Wales. My predecessor and her colleagues in the Welsh Government worked to set up and draft a shared statement on Ireland-Wales relations and joint action plan, which, again, is a really good framework for co-operation between our two countries. So, I think, yes, that everything I've seen so far is extremely positive. We've had a range of exchanges at ministerial level, including the First Minister coming to Ireland last October. We've had co-operation across all areas of focus within the shared statement since I've been here, and I think progress is—it's all going really well.
Thank you so much.
Fe wnawn ni symud at Heledd Fychan.
We'll move on to Heledd Fychan.
Diolch yn fawr iawn, Gadeirydd. If I may, obviously, a key part of what you've been supportive of in your role has been co-ordination or supporting the co-operation between both Governments, and, obviously, there's a plan between 2021 and 2025. Could you please, perhaps, expand on your perspective, in terms of how you think it's working and what it's achieving?
Yes, thanks very much. I think it's working really well. I think the first thing to bear in mind, when you're looking at the shared statement and joint action plan, is that it's very much an organic expression of the co-operation between Ireland and Wales. So, unlike some of these strategy documents that are drafted with a view to, 'These are the things that we want to do and this is what we're going to do in future', a lot of what the shared statement and joint action plan does is capture the co-operation that is already going on between Ireland and Wales. I think, when you consider the really long history that our two countries have, the exchange of people and the shared cultural connections, and just how close the links are, I think that's a really appropriate way to do it.
Particularly from Ireland's perspective, having re-established our consulate here in 2019, and partly because of the pandemic, we're still in a sort of exploratory phase, where it's really useful to get out and about Wales and to meet as many people as possible and see what kind of co-operation is already happening. So, the shared statement tries to capture that, and then, in setting out the six focus areas, highlights those aspects of co-operation that are both important to Ireland but also that are within the devolved competence of Welsh Government, and highlights particular activities and particular partnerships as things—I will say that they're deserving of further support, but they're also the things that we have noticed. So, I don't think the activities that are within the shared statement are necessarily an exclusive list of co-operation by any means; they're the things, the partnerships, that we had become aware of at the time that the shared statement was being developed.
Thank you. In your written evidence, you explain that 80 per cent of the commitments in the plans have been completed in full or are being developed. What do you think—for the next 18 months that are remaining of the partnership, where do you think that the focus needs to be, or do you think, because of the organic nature that you've outlined, that things are developing, in a way? Or is there something needed as an impetus?
Well, I think the discussions we've had at the Ireland-Wales forum over the last two years have given us some good insight into some of the key priorities, as we've progressed towards—and some of the discussions that we've had between Ministers. Obviously, last year and the year before, there was quite a lot discussion on renewable energy. We also had a very successful visit by Minister Miles to Ireland for St David's Day, where he had very good co-operation, a good meeting, with our Minister for further and higher education, Mr Simon Harris. So, I think that education is certainly one of the things we plan to look at in the period ahead, and perhaps how we can connect that with the discussions we had last year on renewable energy, around skills for renewable energy industries.
Language is something—. Certainly, co-operation on languages, the Irish and Welsh languages, is certainly something I think we can do more on. I know you heard from the Welsh Language Commissioner just before me this morning. I read their submission as well to you, and I think it's extremely useful. There are lots of things that I will take from that submission that I think we'll be able to co-operate with them on in the period ahead. So, those are two of the things that we will look towards.
There's a lot of really good cultural co-operation going on, and we aim to continue to support that. So, Other Voices took place in Aberteifi last year, it'll happen again this year, and we'll be looking to support that. There'll be some support for Irish writers at the Hay Festival, for example. So, that cultural co-operation is one of the things that we're doing.
For myself, here in Wales, one of the things I really hope to do over the next couple of years is work more and more with the Irish diaspora in Wales. It's been really striking to me, since I got here, how many people I meet are of Irish ancestry. Sometimes it's their parents, sometimes it's their grandparents, further back, but it's really incredibly common. I think it's a sign of the strength of the Irish-Welsh relationship and how well Irish people have done in Wales that not all of those people necessarily identify as Irish. Often, this comes out 10 or 15 minutes into the conversation. But I would like to see, I suppose, a bit more of an organised sense of an Irish community in Wales.
So, I've been working—. We held a Christmas reception for some of our Irish community in Cardiff in December. We did a St Bridget's Day event for St Bridget's Day, on 1 February, with two Irish women, both living and working in Cardiff, and one Welsh woman, who is one of the future generation commissioner's young leaders, and we had a discussion on sustainability. So, using those kinds of events and things to, I suppose, generate opportunities to bring Irish people and people with Irish affinity together to see how we can work more with them to build Ireland-Wales connections.
If I may just ask one question, you mentioned in terms of the reopening of a presence here in Wales. How important has that been in terms of enabling the partnership to happen, because, obviously, it had been a few years since you had an embassy here. So, has that been—? I'm sure it's been a help to really being able to embed those partnerships.
I think it's hugely important, and I think, as I said earlier, the reopening of the consulate is a recognition of the importance of our relations with Wales. It came post Brexit, where we saw the need to engage more closely across Britain. I think it's a recognition that you can't engage effectively with Wales through London. We have a very large embassy in London, but they're focused on other things. So, having a presence here—there's me, there's my deputy and two local staff members, so we're a small team. But having that presence here opens up, I think, a whole range of possibilities. Some of that, still, at this stage, is in the discovery stage. We're constantly, I'm constantly, finding out, learning about connections, coming up with new ideas of things we could do that I know, if I was based in London or in Dublin, I just wouldn't—these sorts of discoveries just wouldn't happen.
Thank you so much.
Fe wnawn ni symud ymlaen at Ken Skates.
We'll move on to Ken Skates.
Thank you, Chair. What's your view on what's been a highlight or highlights of closer Wales-Ireland relations?
Highlights of Ireland-Wales relations: I suppose for me, since I came here, one of the real highlights was the Ireland-Wales forum in Dublin and Cork last year. So, the First Minister, Minister Gething and Minister Griffiths all travelled to Ireland, and the First Minister and Minister Griffiths were both in Dublin for the first day, where we had a really wonderful tour of the national museum and learned a lot about the partnership between our two national museums. And then, on the second day, we were in Cork, where we had a really excellent meeting with the Cork chamber of commerce and renewable energy companies working in both Ireland and Wales, and that whole visit and, I suppose, the opportunity for Ministers—as I say, particularly the event with Cork chamber—to see the co-operation that's going on on the ground and to hear directly from those companies about what they need to advance renewable energy, I think that was extremely valuable. There was also a really wonderful event at—. The First Minister did a wonderful event at University College Cork—great attendance, lots of really interesting questions about Ireland and Wales. So, that was a real highlight.
Other highlights for me: Enterprise Ireland did an excellent event on digital health with the Life Sciences Hub Wales in September. The event itself was great, but what's been a real highlight is learning how the companies involved in that event have gone on to make progress on business in Ireland and Wales since then. So, certainly at least one Irish company who was at that event has built further partnerships in Wales, and is working—. And I met one of these companies when our ambassador visited—the ambassador to London visited—in February. And similarly, I know there was at least one Welsh company who went to Ireland on a trade visit with Minister Miles for St David's Day. So, seeing how you can have an event like that, how Irish and Welsh start-up companies can make connections and are generating business from that, was really positive.
And I would say that you use these big events and visits as opportunities to generate more contacts. We had Minister Jennifer Carroll MacNeill here two weeks ago for St Patrick's Day. That was the first time that an Irish Minister had visited Wales as part of the St Patrick's Day programme. This is what we do on St Patrick's Day; we send all our Cabinet abroad; one Member is left in Ireland to hold the fort. And it was really fantastic to have her here; she had an excellent range of meetings across—. And I know she met some of you, and thank you very much for taking the time to see her. But it was really fantastic that she had those political meetings. She had great meetings with Cardiff Council and with the Lord Mayor; she had some business engagements; she had fantastic community engagements as well. And to bring an Irish Minister here and to be able to show them, 'Look, this is all the work we're doing. This is the excellent co-operation that is going on', and I think for her get a sense of Wales and what's going on here, I think that's really important. So, that was a real highlight for me, and I hope that it'll become a fixture from now on, that we'll regularly have a ministerial visitor.
And looking towards the end of the year, I think the big thing coming up will be the Ireland-Wales forum which will be back in Wales this year. So, that's going to be a lot of fun as well.
Lovely. Thanks, Chair.
Thank you, and thank you for being with this, Ken. I know you have to leave in a moment. So, thank you again.
Can I ask, Denise, before we go on to Carolyn—and I don't want to ask an unfair question of you—I was going to ask how you think that Wales could learn from Ireland. I'm not going to make this a Government thing, but how, as a nation, Wales could learn from Ireland. Ireland seems famous for doing exactly what you were just describing: work with the diaspora communities across the world. Are there ways in which you think that Wales could learn from the Irish experience with that?
Well, I think Wales is already learning from that, because an official of Welsh Government has been seconded to the Irish abroad unit in the Department of Foreign Affairs, and he's been there since last May, so he's had a great opportunity to look at our emigrant support programme, which is a funding programme we have for support to the Irish community abroad, and it funds a variety of different things. Some of the things it funds are kind of in the nature of social projects, organisations that support vulnerable members of the Irish community abroad, but some of the work it does is more to support Irish culture and Irish heritage and Irish communities, keeping that culture and heritage alive in other parts of the world, and, more broadly, our approach to our diaspora is very inclusive. So, you don't have to be Irish as such, strictly speaking, to be a member of the Irish diaspora. Of course, we look at people born in Ireland, people of Irish heritage, but we also include people who've studied in Ireland and people who have other links—what we call the 'affinity diaspora', people who have strong links to Ireland for whatever reason.
So, the Welsh official who is in the Irish abroad unit I think is getting a really good sense—I hope is getting a really good sense—of how our diaspora policy operates, and, in April this year, we'll have the third global Irish civic forum, which is a conference in Dublin for the Irish diaspora on our diaspora policy and people will come from all over the world, people working with the Irish diaspora will come from all over the world, to Dublin to exchange experience and feed back to Government as well on what they think of the Irish Government's support for the diaspora. And as I say, the Welsh official who is working with us, he's seeing all of that from the inside. So, I think that should be a really good experience for him, I hope, and I think will, hopefully, be very useful for Wales as well, and we're always happy to share experiences on the diaspora and across a range of issues, because we're small countries and we're right next door to each other, so we have a lot in common. So, I think we've a lot we can learn from each other.
Yes, thank you so much.
Diolch am hwnna. Fe wnawn ni symud at Carolyn Thomas.
Thank you for that. We'll move on to Carolyn Thomas.
Okay. I'd like to talk about relationships too and connections. So, here in north Wales—I'm a North Wales regional Member—we have strong connections through Liverpool, and people coming over from Ireland to Liverpool to north-east Wales, and then also Holyhead and Dublin as well—really important connections. Recently, just this week, we've had the announcement of two free ports—one in Holyhead and one in Milford Haven. So, I was just wondering: how do you think that would help with relationships across to Ireland, post Brexit? What opportunities or challenges are there? And having free-port status, would that, do you think, help improve, I don't know, transitions or goods, relationships across to Ireland—land bridges, in a way? So, just, really, your thoughts on that. Thank you.
I'm probably not really the person to comment on free-port status as such, but I do think that anything that helps trade and connections between Ireland and Wales is good, so, hopefully it will have that effect. There are certainly very strong links between north Wales and Ireland. And as I mentioned, Minister Griffiths was at the Ireland-Wales forum, and I had the opportunity to have a chat to her about those connections, and indeed the connections across to the north of England. And as part of strengthening our presence in Britain, Ireland has also opened a consulate general in Manchester for the north of England. So, I work very closely with my colleague there, and that topic of how do we work together and ensure that what we're doing is connected across north Wales and the north of England is something we do discuss.
I think I saw it published in the minutes, so I think I'm allowed to say that the Cabinet sub-committee for north Wales has invited me to come and meet them in May as well, and I'm looking forward to doing that. So, I'll be meeting with Minister Griffiths and the other members of that committee on exactly this topic. And I think, probably largely because of the pandemic, we, as a consulate, haven't had the opportunity to spend as much time in north Wales as we would have liked, but it's definitely very much on my agenda. So, I particularly welcome that invitation, because I've been saying this since I got here. You need to plan—it's not a day trip. So, now I have a date in my diary and I just will have to go for it, plan, get up to north Wales and make some connections there and see what's going on. Because, of course, the Bangor University link there is also very, very significant.
[Inaudible.]—west to east as well as north to south as well. So—
Carolyn, forgive me for interrupting you. I'm so sorry to interrupt you, but Tom just wants to come in with a supplementary and then we'll come right back to you. Okay?
Sorry, you've just spurred something in me there. Earlier on, you mentioned the importance of having a base here in Wales and that you picked up things that perhaps you wouldn't have otherwise. Your comments there about north Wales made me think—. I suppose you could level this at any country, but I think, for organisations that are based in Cardiff, you kind of get a Cardiff-centric view of it. And you could probably say the same on a UK-wide basis in London, I think, as you did, and I'm sure it would be same in Ireland for organisations based in Dublin—they'll have that view. So, how, in the work that you're doing, do you ensure that you get the whole Wales picture, if you like, and not just the Cardiff-centric one?
That's the challenge, and I think the only way really to do it is to get out and about. So, when I've had the opportunity to meet with Ministers and Members of the Senedd from north Wales, I've done that. But there's definitely more I need to do there. I need to simply go to north Wales and meet people, and some of it is just talking to people who are there on a regular basis. So, I had some very good conversations with the Confederation of British Industry, which has offered to introduce me to some of their members there too. And through sport, through the GAA, the Gaelic Athletic Association is involved at Frongoch, commemorating the Irish history there too.
So, there are lots of different connections there, but I think the only way really to build those connections—and it's true for north Wales, but it's as true for west Wales and every part of Wales—is you just have to get out and about and do it. And I think my first six months, certainly, have been predominantly spent in Cardiff, and from now on, I do need to get out and go to other places. But I'll really welcome any suggestions all of you have as to useful things I can do in your respective constituencies and across Wales, because there is a risk that you take a too Cardiff-centric view, and there are lots of Irish connections across Wales, and my job is to try and find those and capture those and support those.
You're welcome to come to Swansea.
I have been to Swansea.
Back to you, Carolyn.
My son is studying at Swansea University, so I go there quite often as well.
The committee has received evidence on the impact of Brexit, so what opportunities or challenges are there for Wales-Ireland relations post Brexit?
Yes, I think it has been challenging, the last couple of years. I don't think there's any other way of describing it. We're very happy now that the Windsor framework has been agreed. We think this gives us an opportunity for, first of all, better relations between the EU and the UK, which is good for Ireland and Wales, but also it's an opportunity for improved relations and stronger partnerships between Ireland and the UK and Ireland and Wales. So, we're into a new era, really, I think, post Windsor framework, and we're very pleased that that's been agreed by the UK and the EU, and we'll be working together to see how best we can co-operate. You can't deny that things have changed, but from our perspective, Ireland and Wales, we're close neighbours, we're right next door to each other, so what we want to do is work together to make sure that all of those links we have, those people-to-people links, trade, business, culture, community, all of that, that that all keeps going as smoothly as possible, despite Brexit.
Thank you. And my other question: you've already mentioned that you've heard, or read the Welsh Language Commissioner's evidence into the report, asking to be more of a part of the partnership. And I know you've mentioned that there is good co-operation between both countries' future generations commissioners. So, do you believe that there is a greater role for commissioners in Wales-Ireland relations to be considered in the future?
I suppose commissioners—I hadn't thought so much about commissioners, but I think the shared statement and joint action plan is a very open kind of a framework, and it's flexible enough to allow closer engagement between commissioners, but also any other actors who can usefully engage. And certainly the engagement between the two language commissioners has been really useful, and you can see how they've learned from each other on language policy. And I think Ireland certainly looks to Wales as a place that has very successful policy on the Welsh language. And in some ways, it's reassuring to see what the Welsh Language Commissioner has written, because you realise, 'Oh, actually, there are some things that Wales think Ireland has done very well too.' But, yes, I think that co-operation is excellent, and there has been so much learning in both directions that's really helpful.
Similarly, with the future generations commissioner, the last future generations commissioner, Sophie Howe, was in Ireland in October. She did a really good online seminar with the Department of Foreign Affairs that was attended by people from across Government departments. And my last role in the Department of Foreign Affairs was in our development co-operation and Africa division, where, among other things, I was the department's sustainable development goals focal point. So, I know all the people who work on the sustainable development goals across Government in Ireland, and I could see so many of them in the audience when the future generations commissioner was there. And that co-operation has fed into Ireland's well-being framework, how we match the sustainable development goals with our approach to well-being. So, it's kind of a—. I think the same is true for the language commissioners, but it's not a case of there being one thing that they need to work on together, but that that ongoing dialogue is really helpful for both sides, I hope, because there is a lot we can learn.
Okay. Thank you. That's great.
Diolch am hwnna. Gwnawn ni symud ymlaen at Tom Giffard.
Thank you very much. We'll move on to Tom Giffard.
Thank you. You paint a positive picture, which is a good thing, but in your experience, what are the areas of greatest need for further governmental support or focus? Are there areas that need to be further explored or where co-operation might be at risk?
I think the challenges are probably largely—. Brexit certainly has posed challenges. I think the end of the INTERREG programme is challenging. And we've had very good discussions with Welsh Government, both at political and official level, on the end of that and the challenges it poses, and we'll keep working together on that. But there isn't an easy solution. It's a €100 million programme, and neither Ireland or Wales has €100 million on our own for that purpose. But we'll keep working together. We'll keep working with partners to see how that can be improved.
There's nothing I would paint as a negative, but, I think, certainly, I'd like to do more on trade and business. There's been some very good work done, but I think we can do more. And, I think, across the board, the main thing is to keep identifying things that we can work together on, and seeing what we can bring forward. And some of that is Governments looking at things, and some of that is identifying partners, seeing who is doing useful work, and seeing how we can support that or amplify that as appropriate.
I think one of the things we could do with your advice on recently is rugby after everything that's happened in the last couple of weeks. [Laughter.]
Well, I'm glad to say I was at the women's match on Saturday, and the Welsh women put on a fantastic show, so—. [Laughter.]
In February, the Welsh Government launched its Irish sea framework. So, could you tell us whether and how you're involved in that work?
So, we're not involved in that work in a direct sense, in the sense that it is a Welsh Government framework and it's designed to cover the whole Irish sea, not just Ireland. We are involved in the sense that we have a very close working relationship with Welsh Government, and with the Welsh European Funding Office, so we talk to them all the time, so we know what they're doing. And I think it's really welcome, it's really good that Welsh Government is looking at how we can have more co-operation across the Irish sea.
My concern in Wales is co-operation with Wales; I'm not particularly concerned about co-operation with other places along the Irish sea coastline. But I think that proactive approach is really valuable. And, similarly, the new Agile Cymru funding round that's just been launched as well, there's good opportunities there for organisations in Wales to apply for funding and I've been touch with WEFO about that too. And insofar as if we see Irish organisations working in a similar space, where they can work together—obviously, it has to be the Welsh organisations applying for that funding—but if there's ways that that can be used to further existing partnerships, that's great.
When you said you weren't directly involved, what does that mean in plain English? Did they kind of come out with that, and then you had to deal with that, or were you involved in the construction of it at all prior to the launch?
Well, it's a Welsh Government programme, so it's not for us to decide how to do it, but there is ongoing dialogue. So, I would be highly surprised if Welsh Government produced something that was (a) a surprise to us, or (b) something that we found problematic. We don't necessarily always do things exactly the same way, but there's very close dialogue and close co-operation, and I think our interests are very much aligned. We both want to support partnerships between Ireland and Wales, so we keep in close contact to see how best we can support that.
Ocê. Diolch am hynna.
Okay. Thanks for that.
In terms of looking beyond 2025, what are the plans that you have at the moment for that co-operation, and how do you think the Windsor framework is likely to affect how you co-operate after that period?
I'm not sure we've looked quite that far ahead yet. We're sort of at the mid point of the joint action plan at the moment. So, I think that's one of the things we'll be looking at in the coming years, and I think it will be useful to take stock and think about what we do next. The Windsor framework has changed things, so we are in a new era now. So, it is something that we will have to be looking at, and I think it will probably be something we'll be discussing over the coming months.
At this point in time, I think we're quite happy with the six areas for co-operation that are set out in the shared statement, and we'll be looking at—. Part of the preparation for the annual ministerial review, our annual ministerial reform, but also part of the ongoing co-operation with Welsh Government, is looking at the shared statement and the joint action plan and looking at the actions that are set out in it and seeing how far have we progressed those. So, we'll be meeting again, at official level, in April, and that will be one of the things we'll be discussing then, and I think, from that point onwards, as we get to a point—. I think it was mentioned at the beginning that 80 per cent of those actions have either been completed—. I think 10 per cent were completed at the end of last year. So, there's about another 70 per cent that are well advanced. So, as we progress through that, certainly we will need to look at what do we do next.
I'm not worried that we'll be short of ideas. There are so many things we can co-operate on. I think the challenge is more to focus our efforts a little bit to see where can we best put our energy, which in itself is a challenge, because, when you have so much good co-operation, you don't want to tell anyone, 'Well, you know, the co-operation you're doing isn't important', because it actually is all important. So, it's a good problem to have.
That's a nice way of putting it. Heledd, did you want to come in for a supplementary?
Yes, if I may. It's just further from some of the evidence we've received in our last session from National Museum Wales, the arts council, and Wales Arts International. The co-operation and the appetite to work is there, and to expand further, but the resources element is one that I think came through very clearly. You outlined, in terms of, obviously, the European funding opportunities. So, I guess one of the challenges going forward will be securing the resources to build on the co-operation. I'm not sure if there are any solutions there, and I'm not asking you to put you on the spot, but, in terms of the Irish Government, do you feel that there is a desire to continue to invest the resources available in terms of the relationship? And perhaps there's an opportunity to focus on the areas that perhaps we can maximise the impact.
Yes, I think there is. I think, particularly in the cultural sphere, there has been quite significant investment, and there'll be more this year. I mentioned the Hay Festival and Other Voices there as examples. But I think as well part of what we need to do is a sort of an awareness-raising process. There's quite good funding available in Ireland, through Cultural Ireland, for artists travelling overseas. There's also funding available for arts programmers to travel to Ireland to see theatre festivals and music festivals and identify artists and acts and productions that they would like to bring to Wales. And I would certainly—. One of the things I plan to do in the period ahead is try and talk some of the people who are programming events here in Wales and encourage them to take up that opportunity, go to Ireland and see things and bring Irish productions here.
Funding is always a challenge, and I think we just need to be as creative with it as we can. Again, at our St Patrick's Day reception, one of the things I said to our guests was, 'We've got funding through the emigrant support programme in Ireland for diaspora groups abroad.' Wales, at the moment, gets some of that funding, but not that much. I think there's definitely potential for more funding from that in Wales. So, again, when I'm talking to groups, I'll be working with them, supporting them, encouraging them to come up with ideas where they can apply and projects that are eligible for that kind of funding, because it is there, but you need to have the right projects.
Diolch am hynny.
Thanks for that.
In terms of the work that we're doing, how do you think—? Where would be the best places that you think that we should be focusing our work in order to maximise the impact, the beneficial impact, that this inquiry could have? What would be your hopes, looking at the work that we're doing? What do you hope might come out of that and how do you think that we should seek to ensure that the best thing possible comes out of it?
I suppose, in the first instance, I think the fact that you're doing the work is really beneficial. It's really, really good to have elected representatives examining the co-operation between the two Governments and bringing your experience, bringing the views of your constituents, the people you represent, to that work, and also bringing a fresh set of eyes to the work that goes on between the two Governments, because I think we're so down in the weeds of it all the time, it can be challenging to take a step back and go, 'Okay. Where's the big picture in this? What's the most important thing?' So, I think that in itself is enormously beneficial. I think just your interrogation of the whole thing is very valuable; it's really good to have a critical set of eyes on the co-operation that's going on and to dig into what we can do more of. I don't think there's anything we need to be doing less of, but are there things we need to do more of? Are there areas that need greater focus, and are there suggestions as to how we should do that? I know you'll be visiting Ireland at the end of April, and I think that's fantastic, because I think that will give you an opportunity to hear the Irish perspective and hear from the Irish side of some of the existing partnerships as well.
Fantastic. Thank you. Can I check—do any other Members have further questions at the moment? Was there anything else that you had hoped—a final message that you'd like to leave with us?
I think I've probably said it already, but, insofar as I have a final message, it really is just to emphasise how positive that co-operation is. I've had an incredibly warm welcome here in Wales since I got here. It's been a really positive experience. There's huge interest in Wales in Ireland, and it's great to be able to reciprocate and engage with so many people. Yes, so this inquiry is really valuable to our ongoing work, and Ireland, as I've already said, we're right next door; our commitment on everything is to work closely with Wales, because, as we see it, what's good for Ireland is good for Wales and vice versa. There's so much benefit to be had across so many sectors and co-operation. So, I'll be working to further that.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. Thank you so much. So, a transcript of what's been said will be sent to you just to check that it's a fair and accurate transcript of what's been said. But thank you so much for your evidence and we look forward very much to the visit that you referred to at the end of April, and we look forward to carrying on working with you. So, diolch yn fawr iawn. Thank you so much.
Thank you very much. Diolch yn fawr.
Diolch yn fawr. Aelodau, byddwn ni nawr yn cymryd egwyl. Fe wnawn ni aros i glywed ein bod ni'n breifat.
Thank you very much. Members, we will take a break now. We'll wait until we're in private session.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 11:23 a 11:50.
The meeting adjourned between 11:23 and 11:50.
Croeso nôl. Rydyn ni'n cario ymlaen gyda'n hymchwiliad mewn i gysylltiadau rhwng Cymru ac Iwerddon, ac dŷn ni nawr yn cymryd sesiwn dystiolaeth gyda'r rheini sy'n derbyn cyllid yr Undeb Ewropeaidd. Gwnaf i ofyn i'n tystion gyflwyno eu hunain ar gyfer y record. Fe wnaf i fynd at Steven yn gyntaf.
Welcome back. We're continuing with our inquiry into Wales-Ireland relations, and we're now having an evidence session with those who are in receipt of EU funding. I'll ask our witnesses to introduce themselves for the record. I'll go to Steven first.
Good morning. I'm Steve Conlan, a professor in Swansea University medical school and one of the leaders for our Celtic Advanced Life Sciences Network INTERREG project.
Thank you so much. Gwyn.
Good morning. I'm Gwyn Evans, I'm the external funding manager for Pembrokeshire County Council.
Thank you, both. It's great to have you both with us, so we'll go straight into questions, if that's all right. Can I ask you what your views are on the importance of Wales-Ireland relations and also where you think that those relations have the greatest impact for your organisations? If I can go to Steve first, and then I'll come to you after that, Gwyn. Steve.
So, to the first question, I think the relationships are very important. I think that the two countries are very similar-sized countries, similar-sized economies, and, whilst Ireland is an independent country and Wales is part of the United Kingdom, I think that relationship between the two countries has grown and grown, through, for example, things like the INTERREG provision, but much more broadly. So, it has been strong, well, for centuries, probably; I think it will continue to be so. So, I think very, very important. And with what we've been doing, we've been very fortunate in being able to establish these very strong relationships over, now—it's over eight years we've been working on this kind of programme, with the CALIN programme about six years, and really gone from strength to strength.
Fantastic. Thank you so much. Gwyn.
Yes. Well, it's hard to disagree. It's a really important relationship for us. Pembrokeshire County Council is twinned with Wexford County Council, and there are lots of other links between Pembrokeshire and, well, Wexford in particular, but further afield as well. We also have really good links with what used to be the Institute of Technology Carlow. Those links really go back through the centuries. We are currently working on an INTERREG project that, actually, is looking at the historical links between Wales and Ireland, back to the time of St David and St Aidan, so these linkages reverberate through the centuries. And it's simply a reflection of that shared history that we're carrying forward today in INTERREG and in the discussion that we're having this morning.
Thank you. Thank you for that. We were talking about that in an earlier session, actually, the link that goes back from—. Well, the Welsh Language Commissioner's evidence had put it as that it's a relationship that can be traced back to the time of myths and legends. And just seeing how that relationship, in a very modern context, is being strengthened in different ways is one of the things that we're trying to get to grips with understanding. So, thank you so much for that.
If I can stay with you for a moment, Gwyn. So, as part of this inquiry, we have received evidence on the impact of Brexit, and, as well as that, on the impact of the pandemic. Could you talk us through what challenges, what opportunities there have arisen from those two—well, no, from the pandemic experience and also as Brexit and the post-Brexit relationship is developing?
Sure. In terms of Brexit, the issue is quite clear in that a major plank of the architecture that supported Irish-Welsh relations was the INTERREG programme that's been active since 1997, in fact. We've had, I think, five iterations of the programme since that time. The nature of the programmes that were taking place through INTERREG has strengthened, so that we're now just at the tail end of some very large programmes and projects indeed. Obviously, Brexit has meant that that architecture for Ireland-Wales co-operation is no longer there, so I think we're all looking for some way to carry that forward.
We've now had the call for proposals through the Agile Cymru programme. That is something that I know that my business support colleagues are looking at. They have used INTERREG in the past. They've got relationships with the South East Technological University, what used to be the Institute of Technology, Carlow. That's been used to drive innovation in both Welsh and Irish companies, and is something that they hope to carry forward through Agile Cymru. So, that's really one aspect, and perhaps the clearest aspect of the impact of Brexit.
There have been other issues to do with the complications around importing and exporting. To deliver our INTERREG project, we wanted to, or we need to export some artwork to Ireland, and we were surprised at some of the administrative hurdles that we needed to overcome, and that led us through a fairly steep learning curve of some of the complexities that Brexit has introduced with regard to exporting—not something that local authorities are used to.
There have also been issues that my colleagues in port health have been dealing with in terms of the importation and exportation of foodstuffs and food products, and the border control post issue, which is still an open question, I think. That's still something that we are trying to resolve with, I have to say, a great deal of help from the officials at Welsh Government.
The question of the pandemic is an interesting one. We didn't really get involved to a very great extent in Ireland-Wales work to counter the impact of the pandemic. Rather, the impact of the pandemic was to cause a hiatus in activity between Ireland and Wales due to travel restrictions, and so forth. So, that has delayed the implementation of some programmes and introduced some additional costs. But it’s not been a helpful experience, I think, for anyone.
Okay, thank you for that. Diolch, Gwyn. Steve, if I can ask the same question to you in terms of any opportunities or challenges that have come both from Brexit and the pandemic.
Okay. I’ll start with the pandemic. Just to very briefly describe the CALIN project, I think with that, again, how universities have worked across the two nations. So, we have six partners, six university partners, and we work with a lot of small to medium-sized enterprises, both in Ireland and in Wales. So, yes, there was an initial impact as we all went from face-to-face meetings to these online meetings and then to blended meetings. But I think the universities as educational providers had to move to that environment very, very quickly, so the infrastructures were put in place that allowed us to move quickly to restarting our activities where there was electronic knowledge exchange, conversations, that kind of thing.
The impact in terms of the types of research that we were doing with SMEs, that was more impacted, particularly from the SMEs. These small companies were closing for longer periods than universities were closing, so where they needed to do activity within their premises, their own environments, I think they were limited—probably because the SMEs took longer to react to the pandemic. But that didn’t stop the communication and what we were doing in assisting, and where it wasn’t incumbent on work being done in their facilities. The universities, again, they got up to speed very quickly, being able to return to the research bases within those institutions where, for example, laboratory research was required, where, for example, in Bangor, the work’s much more around psychology, so that work could continue. So, I think there were both negatives in the hiatus we had, and it wasn’t for the whole period, but there were positives in a new way of working, which we all are going to live with, I think. Probably more of an impact were the flights being stopped out of Cardiff to areas in Ireland, so actually that was a benefit, to move to agile working.
In terms of Brexit, where we are now it hasn’t impacted. We’re still within the period of the European territorial co-operation funds running until the end of this year, or until the end of August this year. So, that hasn’t impacted. And, with the large INTERREG projects, I think it’s always, from the beginning, working towards what does sustainability look like. So, I think we can’t always be reliant on these kinds of funds anyway. They have been really, really important. We’ve been through two rounds of funding and that’s allowed us to set up very, very strong relationships across Ireland and across Wales. Originally we were a Swansea-Dublin programme, prior to this round of INTERREG. CALIN is across Wales and Ireland at the request of WEFO, when we were setting up the programme. So, we have those strong relationships in place and we understand where we are with Brexit. Hopefully, with the Windsor framework agreement there may be a move back to the UK being part of the Horizon programme. We know that’s not going to be the case with the ETC, or it doesn’t appear to be, at least in the short term. So, we have to think what alternatives may look like. So, I think as long as we’re very proactive in looking at what can come beyond Brexit, and what funds could be put in place by the Welsh Government or the UK Government that allow us to work with Ireland—. So, we are considering very proactively—appreciating that Brexit is there and the limitations it will impose, for example, for another round of INTERREG—what we can do between all the partners in the two countries to work beyond that and towards the sustainability of what’s been a very important project in delivering benefits for SMEs.
Diolch. Thank you so much for that.
Gwnawn ni symud at Heledd Fychan.
We will move on to Heledd Fychan.
Diolch yn fawr iawn, Cadeirydd. Can I just pick up on your final point then? Are you concerned that there isn’t that clarity yet, given that Brexit has been in place for a number of years? The fact that we’re still at this point now of no greater clarity in terms of funding.
It’s a concern in the sense that we have relationships with Ireland, with Irish partners, but also across Europe. So, those relationships and how we’d want to build partnerships have been an issue, but the UK Government did put in a match fund to a lot of early Horizon programmes, and I think the date limit on that is this year. So, hopefully now we’ve got to the Windsor framework, that will continue. So, we weren’t prevented in being partners early on in those programmes. Moving forward, I think hopefully we’ll become lead partners in those rather than associated partners, or how we determine the agreement.
Then, the concern is, 'What is the replacement?' If you think about the UK and about Wales, I think Wales, with the European regional development fund funding, has been able to support a lot of innovation activities through things like SMART Expertise, SMARTCymru, and then through Government initiatives in my own area, through healthcare, through Health and Care Research Wales and NHS Wales-led initiatives. So, they are there and they're there on a scale that allows us to operate. With the ERDF finishing funding for innovation activities, it is going to be challenging to see what replaces that, because it does, in the same way as the ETC, provide support to SMEs.
So, it's concerning in the sense that we know that there's going to be at least a slowdown. We're very interested in knowing what replacement activities are going to be put in place, or replacement funding schemes, but I think that's what we've been working on through the Irish framework, and the conversations we're having there and the close links and conversations we've been having with colleagues in WEFO. We want to work through the process and really work together on overcoming those challenges.
So, yes, it has been slow; we've had a pandemic in the middle of it that has slowed everything down. The movement now to having the Windsor framework agreement, hopefully that'll open things up. But I think in terms of the INTERREG, the Ireland-Wales relationship and the Welsh relationship to the Irish Government, that's probably the more immediate question that we have.
Thank you. I don't know whether Gwyn wants to expand on anything there.
There's not much I can say regarding Horizon; it's not a programme that local authorities become involved in. But I do share the concern about Ireland-Wales. In a sense, whilst the relationships are there, it's actually keeping them maintained and preventing them from withering that is the issue. Yes, we do have the Agile Cymru programme, and that's great; the issue is that it's just nowhere near as large as INTERREG. The call at the moment is for projects of 12 months' duration. The total budget is £150,000, which, with the indicative project sizes, might fund—what?—three large projects of £40,000 each and six smaller projects, and no more than that. So, that's really tiny compared to the degree and the depth of activity that you saw with INTERREG.
Diolch. Os caf i aros gyda Gwyn, os gwelwch yn dda, yn amlwg mi fyddwch chi'n ymwybodol o'r cynlluniau gweithredu ar y cyd rhwng Cymru ag Iwerddon gan y ddwy Lywodraeth. Fel persbectif cyngor sir—
Thank you. If I could remain with Gwyn, now, clearly, you will be aware of the joint action plans between Wales and Ireland, and they've been instituted by both Governments jointly. From a county council perspective—
Sorry, Heledd, can I just come in? The interpretation is not working again.
Okay, could we take a short technical break until we fix that? We'll be going back into private for a moment.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 12:09 a 12:10.
The meeting adjourned between 12:09 and 12:10.
Croeso nôl. Rwy'n meddwl ein bod ni wedi datrys, rwy'n gobeithio, y broblem dechnegol oedd gyda ni, ac fe awn ni nôl at Heledd Fychan—os dŷch chi eisiau ailofyn y cwestiwn.
Welcome back. I think we've resolved that technical issue we had, and we'll return to Heledd Fychan—if you'd like to repeat your question.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. Gwyn, os caf i jest ofyn i chi yn benodol efallai, byddwch chi'n ymwybodol o'r cynlluniau gweithredu ar y cyd rhwng Llywodraethau Cymru ac Iwerddon—ydych chi, fel cyngor sir, yn rhan o'r gweithgarddau hynny yn y cynlluniau? Byddem ni'n ddiolchgar i wybod pa ran rydych chi'n ei chwarae, os o gwbl.
Thank you very much. Gwyn, if I could ask you specifically, you will be aware of the joint action plans between the Welsh and Irish Governments—are you, as a county council, part of those activities in the joint action plans? I would be grateful to know what part you play, if any.
Thank you. I understand the question to be about the joint action plan and whether Pembrokeshire County Council is involved. We attend the meetings that have been organised by Agile Cymru. We've been involved in all of those, but we're not otherwise engaged with the joint action plan.
Do you think there would be benefits from being more involved? Or do you think it's at the right level at the moment?
I'm not terribly sure how to become more involved, if I'm perfectly honest with you.
That's absolutely fine. In terms of the co-operation, obviously, you outlined at the beginning the close links that you have established with Ireland. I presume, as local authorities, you'd be keen for that to continue.
Very much so, yes. I think I'm right in saying that in the joint action plan there is very little mention of local authorities. I think there's just one reference, which talks about enquiries on twinning and so forth being directed towards local authorities, but we just don't have the capacity to deal with that sort of issue. So, I think that there is perhaps a misunderstanding between what local authorities are able to do and the expectations upon us.
Thank you. That may be something for us to reflect in our report. If I may, Steven, obviously research does form part of the action plan, so perhaps you could outline to us how you're involved, if at all, in terms of that, or if there are any opportunities you think that could be further provided.
For the joint statement and the action plan, we were involved quite early on in discussions, invited by Kathryn Hallett, who is a former Welsh Government representative in Ireland. We worked with the team in Ireland extensively throughout the programme—the CALIN programme, that is. The team that produced the document were very familiar with the programme, and, actually, in the trade and tourism section of one of the six actions, CALIN is mentioned in how we've supported small to medium-sized enterprises. It then does overlap into the education and research side, because obviously we are a group of six HEIs providing that research support. So, it was a very early level of engagement, and the INTERREG project that we run was mentioned in there, as an example of how we can support trade, and trade through growth, in supporting the SMEs. So, yes, very early engagement. And communication was very good as well with that office. We had early sight of what was going to go in and how CALIN was going to be mentioned. So that was the involvement in the action plan, and then what's come out of that is the framework, which is, I suppose, more informal, and we're very actively involved in that as well.
So, your involvement is sustained, then.
Yes. Should I go on and talk about the Irish sea framework, and the involvement there? Again, we've worked very closely with Geraint Green and his team in WEFO, as they've evolved that. I really like the phrase they've come up with, 'the coalition of the willing'. So, it's not a formal activity, it's more stakeholders coming together that are very keen on making sure that the Ireland and Wales relationship stays strong. We were involved, firstly, in an initial stakeholder event that took place in October 2022, and, from that, the themes that came out, one of those was around health and life sciences, and, again, CALIN was asked to lead a stakeholder event that took place just last month. They've both been open-invitation events, so it has been a broad brief. There have been attendees from business, from academia, from local government across Wales and across Ireland, also further afield. It was mentioned earlier that the Irish sea isn't just Ireland and Wales, so Scotland have been there. There was also a group from Liverpool, I believe, in attendance. So, again, being very proactive towards sustainability and how do we really sustain this relationship between the two nations.
Great. Thank you. No further questions from me, Chair.
Diolch am hynny. Gwnawn ni symud at Carolyn Thomas.
Thank you. We'll move on to Carolyn Thomas.
Thank you. I was really interested to learn about the Irish sea framework. I asked the previous panel member about the fact that we've just had free-port status given to Anglesey, and also in Pembrokeshire as well. I was just wondering what relations you have with Ireland regarding that and what difference it might make, going forward. Also, what engagement do you actually have with the Welsh or Irish Governments in relation to your cross-border activities?
Do you want to go to Gwyn first on that?
We in Pembrokeshire County Council don't have a direct involvement in green energy-type projects on a cross-border dimension, but there are organisations in Pembrokeshire that do. I would particularly mention the Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum. They're involved in an INTERREG project called Selkie, which has been working to develop methodologies and processes for exchanging knowledge on green energy, particularly in marine green energy, between Ireland and Wales. I'm sure I can find some information for you on that, but I don't have it immediately to hand.
The council's involvement with the free port is obviously a fairly exciting development. I think that it reflects a great deal of work by quite a number of partners across Pembrokeshire, and, indeed, Neath Port Talbot in this field for quite a number of years. Some of that has been supported through Ireland-Wales, like Selkie, and some of it's been supported through mainstream EU funding, for example the marine energy test area that is used to test components of marine energy devices—so, how long can a particular component remain submerged before it begins to fail, simply through the action of salt water, for example. So, there's been a lot of work carried out in these fields, but not necessarily by the local authority.
Diolch, Gwyn. Shall we ask the same question of Steven?
Was the question specifically around marine, or more generally around the framework?
I think more generally, is it, Carolyn?
Yes, that's fine, and what relationship you have with the Welsh Government. I was interested because of the recent announcement on free ports, so that's why I brought that in today.
As I was mentioning to Heledd just a minute ago, we have a very good relationship, working very closely with the WEFO team, with Geraint Green and his colleagues, so very, very open dialogue, which I think is a great thing that we can do in Ireland and in Wales, have these conversations with Government officials. With Ireland, we've got a very strong relationship with the Irish Consul General, Denise McQuade, who was just here, and her predecessor Denise Hanrahan. We've worked closely with them, so they're very well briefed on what's happening. In the CALIN project, which is in healthcare, but also more broadly on what the HEIs are doing, very much it's been a relationship that can be advising them what we're doing but also making connections where they may not exist, for example when a new Consul General comes in. Those dialogues I think have been really, really useful and it allows us to have communication at the highest level.
Then similarly, we do have contacts, for example, in Ireland with Enterprise Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland—directly, in some cases, but also, importantly, we can go to them through the other partners that we have in the network. So, it has been very strong and fruitful, and again, helping us to think about what other questions we need to ask towards sustainability. The free ports question is really interesting, because you can start thinking about what could you do there on a health sector basis. You may have seen the article that the life sciences hub published in The Guardian—I think it was just yesterday—talking about £1.1 billion exports from Wales in the pharmaceuticals sector; I think it was top five in Wales in terms of exports. Could you put that into a free port? Just a thought on what might be possible.
Thank you for that. Back to you, Carolyn.
Thank you. It sounds like you both have different relationships, really, then. So, my next question was: how much of your Welsh-Irish work falls within structured co-operation, and how much falls outside of it? I think I more or less know the answer; it sounds like you have very different relationships. But is there anything you'd like to elaborate on on that? And how did both of your organisations engage with the Welsh or Irish Governments in relation to your cross-border activities? So, just really finding out more about your relations cross-border, really.
Shall we go to Steven first on this one?
Again, I think it's a very strong one. I can speak more on behalf of Swansea University where I'm based, but I also can see what's happening from Cardiff University and Bangor University. I think there are a lot of individual ties through any number of projects. One of the projects—I think it was actually led by Pembrokeshire—was BUCANIER, that finished a couple of years ago. We try to link in a local authority where the projects have required that. Actually, I should flip that over: Pembrokeshire council invited Swansea into that project; they led on the BUCANIER project, so apologies for that, Gwyn. But that was about, again, looking at potential supply chains, looking at new areas where the economy could be developed. I'm aware of the strong links between north Wales and Ireland, so we have partners up in Bangor and they inform us of the types of activities they've got going on. The institutions do have those strong links. On the relationship at, say, Swansea Council level, I don't know the details there. It has been through formal programmes, so a lot of INTERREG-funded projects over the years, but also more widely through Horizon and Horizon predecessor projects. There have been student exchanges, although we're not talking about education today. So, I think there have been very strong links, historically and continuing.
Okay. Thank you. And Gwyn, was there anything that you wanted to add to that, or to—?
Yes. I won't say too much more about BUCANIER, but that was an innovation project. So, clearly it makes sense for a local authority to be working with the university in that type of initiative. We do have good links, not so much with the Irish Government, but we have links with the managing authority, the South-East Regional Authority, in Ireland, which has been at times managing INTERREG programmes jointly with the Welsh European Funding Office. So, we know the personnel from both of those organisations. I, myself, was the Welsh Local Government Association representative on the technical group—what was known as the steering group—in Ireland-Wales that selected projects, probably including CALIN, and the council had an elected member who had a seat on the monitoring committee, and the role of that is to provide the strategic direction for the Ireland-Wales programme. So, for example, to decide on virements between one priority and another. So, because of that involvement in the management of the Ireland-Wales programmes, we obviously developed a relationship with the Irish governmental organisations involved, particularly at a regional level. There were individual Irish civil servants involved, and so we knew some of them. Whether they are still in post, whether they've moved to different roles, I don't know, unfortunately. So, those relationships were perhaps more temporal than permanent.
Thank you. Thanks, Delyth.
Iawn. Ocê. Diolch.
Okay. Thank you.
Before we go, finally, to Tom, can I ask: looking towards the future, in terms of the co-operation between these two nations, is there anything that you would like to see that co-operation accomplishing? So, in terms of overcoming some of the challenges that both of you have outlined, maybe, and maximising the benefits that have come about from the pandemic experience, from the challenges and opportunities of Brexit. If I go to Gwyn first, because you were nodding more enthusiastically at first, so I'll give Steven some more time to think. I'll go to Gwyn first.
Sure. Well, I think that there are fields that INTERREG hasn't covered. INTERREG has been really focused on businesses, culture, communities. One area that I think the pandemic has identified is health, and that has not been an area that EU programmes traditionally have been strongly involved in. It's odd, isn't it, that Brexit may bring an opportunity here. We're not constrained by the scope of the ERDF or the EU funds—you know, the scope of the things that they can invest in are defined by the EU regulations. Healthcare is not one of those areas, but, of course, not being constrained by that now, perhaps that's an area that we should be looking at for the future, and perhaps the pandemic and the need to respond to pandemics is something that we should be considering as a future field of potential co-operation.
Diolch. Thank you for that, Gwyn. Steven.
I think that the things that we've seen are providing opportunity to SMEs that underpin economies, so not losing the ability to do that in whichever route we try and do it in. The purpose of what we set up was to, if you like, open the doors of the ivory towers to make sure businesses could come and work with us and make use of all the facilities, all the knowledge, that is there, and to provide businesses with future workforce—so, by understanding what those companies are looking towards in terms of how they want to grow, making sure we can do that. So, not losing that dialogue with all these stakeholders is really important.
The Irish sea framework meeting that we held around health and life sciences identified some key areas. Some are very advanced areas of healthcare, some of these very novel therapeutics that we're using in Wales and using in Ireland around genomics, which is—. Having DNA sequenced has become more and more important. We were able to link together the genomic service in Wales with that in Ireland—so, something you didn't expect to happen under this programme, but through the connections you have. So, really being able to keep the links going so that, these opportunities that we didn't set out to achieve, we can keep handing over and making introductions, following through their importance.
And then some unexpected areas. We were talking a minute ago about marine energy. One of the areas that's come up is the area of marine biotechnology, so making use of products from the sea for health benefits. An example would be around marine algae, harvesting those and making nutraceuticals from that; we've worked with companies who do that. So, there are unexpected things that we're uncovering that we're able to support, and, if there's a mechanism to keep doing that—I think losing the types of activities we have would stop that.
I think Gwyn's point about the geography as well—. We have been confined under INTERREG to working with companies in the west of Wales and the east of Ireland. So, whilst we have Galway and Cardiff as partners, we haven't actually been able to support the SMEs in those areas because they don't work within the framework of INTERREG. So, really being able to extend out to offer support and interaction with all companies out of an INTERREG scheme is potentially very exciting, and just understanding what the vehicles there may be. We're also quite bold in how successful we think working with SMEs has been. We're looking at programmes like PEACE PLUS, where, whilst there's discussions around it, it's not something that Wales can access, but how could Wales join in that to provide wider benefit to Wales, Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Thank you very much.
Diolch am hwnna. Fe wnawn ni symud yn olaf at Tom Giffard.
Thank you. We'll move on finally to Tom Giffard.
The thing I really wanted to follow up on, sticking on the theme of Brexit a little bit, Steven, about—. I think I remember from your written evidence that you'd said something about how you'd navigated through it with quite a small amount of interruption, minimal—I can't remember the exact phrase; I think it was 'minimal interruption'. When we've had other people come in and talk about Brexit and the end of INTERREG funding and so on, they've talked about quite big disruption and uncertainty, whereas you were more philosophical about it, I guess, and, when Heledd asked about the end of INTERREG funding, I remember you saying you can't always be reliant on that type of funding. So, what is it about the work, perhaps, that you do that means that you're more optimistic, if you like, about that sort of thing than perhaps some of your colleagues might be?
I think the answer there is going to be—. So, CALIN as a programme is a very large programme, we've been responsible for distributing a large amount of funds, and, in doing that, and in, if you like, writing a request for that funding back in 2016, sustainability is right at the bottom of it as a major thing that we have to consider. So, since 2016, when we originally applied for the money and started the programme in 2017, we've always been thinking: what next? And there are the types of programmes that we've been involved in—so, I mentioned earlier the SMART Expertise programme, which allowed companies from outside Wales to come and work inside Wales, if you like, the levels of investment, be they in kind or in cash, from companies. So, we've seen what other models do look like, and we could never be guaranteed that a next round of funding would fall under the area that we're working in, so it's in that view to the long term, that funding priorities may change, and, then, seeing the early success of the projects—you know, how do we sustain this? It would be fantastic if European territorial co-operation were bought back into by UK Government, or if Wales somehow became part of it and there was another INTERREG, but we just have to consider the wider picture.
And in terms of a future here in terms of a replacement INTERREG or whatever it is outside the European Union—. I know it was Gwyn, earlier, saying about the focus perhaps constraining—I don't want to put words in your mouth, Gwyn, but—constraining the work that you can do, with a focus on business and culture and communities, I think you mentioned, so what sort of—? Should it be strategic, where it's thematic, or should it be more open ended in terms of allowing people like you to follow where the science takes you, I suppose?
We do basic research in my lab, so where the science takes us maybe doesn't fit in. Yes, it's absolutely necessary for those early discoveries, but, in terms of supporting innovation, it does take a few years to get there.
I think what I would say there is these—. And I'm just looking at my notes, just to make sure I get the scheme right, because there are so many. The Irish sea framework, I think the stakeholder meetings we've had there, with wide stakeholders—we held a very broad one to begin with that was hosted by WEFO, by Gerwyn's office, to pick out some initial themes—and, as I said, health and life sciences came out of that. Then, what is it under health and life sciences? So, really, we've been out to as much of the community as we can. From the meeting we had, we'll produce a paper. That'll go, again, out to our community, our community being all the life science companies we've interacted with as CALIN, but also wider, through the university partners and through organisations such as MediWales, the life sciences hub, to make sure we've chosen the right thing, or we're suggesting the right thing, that has come out of those initial meetings is the case. So, obviously, it's going to always come down to a level of support and what might be supported. So, we can't support everything, so what are the economic priorities Wales has to look at? But I think it's really important that cultural priorities as well—. The way I see—. I live in Wales, we do have—as we were talking about earlier—these historic links, and we do have the Celtic origins. So, it does have to be across the piece, so there has to be both, I think, economic and cultural benefit in what, if there were a finite amount of funding going out, that would be.
And finally, one for both of you. Obviously, we're doing our inquiry, as you'll be aware, into relations between Wales and Ireland. Are there things that you think we as a committee should be looking at in more detail or focusing on? Gwyn, do you want to go first on that?
Gosh, that's a difficult question.