5 March 2009 Edition

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Sinn Féin talks in Welsh Assembly

BY JANE FISHER

ASSEMBLY members from Sinn Féin met their counterparts from all the parties in the National Assembly for  Wales (Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru) last week during a visit to Cardiff.
Sinn Féin Assembly Group Leader John O’Dowd MLA led the party delegation to Cardiff which included party activists Seán Oliver and Rosie McCorley, as well as Derry Cllr Gerry Mac Lochlainn.
The delegation met representatives across the political spectrum.
Assembly Presiding Officer Daffyd Elis Thomas hosted a breakfast discussion with the delegation. Later, meetings were held with the chair of the Enterprise and Learning Committee, Gareth Jones, and representatives of the parties, including Labour members Jeff Cuthbert and John Griffiths and Deputy Presiding Officer Rosemary Butler; Dai Lloyd and Bethan Jenkins from Plaid Cymru; Welsh Conservative Assembly Leader Nick Bourne; and Welsh Lib Dem Leader Kirsty Williams.

LANGUAGE & EDUCATION
One particular focus was language rights and other cultural issues, as well as education.
A specific discussion took place with the head of the Welsh Language Board, Gwyn Jones.
Speaking from Cardiff John O’Dowd said the MLAs wanted to discover how the issue of language protection and promotion in Wales “went from such a divisive issue to an issue with cross-party support and endorsement”.
He said Sinn Féin is very serious about the promotion and protection of the Irish language “and we want to learn from best practice in other Celtic nations”.
He added that education and educational reform was also a focus of discussion “and how that transition can be made in the best possible way within the North of Ireland”. He pointed out:
“Wales abandoned the 11-Plus model 40 years ago — without the world falling down around them — to the current position of having an excellent education system.”
He said there is much to learn from the experiences of both the National Assembly in Wales, and the Scottish Parliament and “a common social agenda”.
John O’Dowd said that although the Assembly in the North is in its early stages “we want to listen and share experiences with both Wales and Scotland to see how we can progress”.
Further follow-up delegations are planned in the future.

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