Cynhadledd Plaid Cymru, Aberteifi
Hydref 6 2018

We heard Adam speaking passionately and powerfully yesterday about how we can win a new Wales by working together. I believe that is possible. I know that is possible. One of the reasons I know that is because quite recently I learned something from Welsh history that is truly astounding and that shows what can be achieved by people working together. Some of you may know already about the Welsh Women’s Petition for Peace in 1924.

It came in the aftermath of the terrible First World War when Wales, like many other nations, was in suffering. Everything had been turned upside down. There had been a lot of opposition to the war in Wales and there was a strong desire to work actively for peace to prevent another bloody conflict that would destroy future generations. Women organised a national conference in Aberystwyth in May 1923 and adopted the role of peace pilgrims. Their target for action was the United States, which had refused to join the newly formed League of Nations, seen as the vehicle to prevent another war. The Welsh council of the League of Nations had been set up in 1922 and, within a short time, it had over five hundred established branches across the country. With their support, the women created a bilingual petition and delivered a copy to every home in Wales. It called on the US Government to join the League of Nations and it was signed by an astonishing 390,296 women: sixty per cent of the female population over eighteen years of age at the time. They also wrote a memorial or message explaining their desire for a warless world.

In 1924 a delegation of three women from Wales - Mrs Hughes Griffiths, Miss Elined Prys and Miss Mary Ellis - sailed to New York to deliver the petition housed in an oak case. They were welcomed by hundreds of American women before travelling to Washington to meet the US President Calvin Coolidge and others. It was the first time in history that that women of one country had presented an appeal or memorial to the women of another country. The petition is still there in the Smithsonian Library in Washington and I am hoping to visit there soon.

I have been active in the peace movement all my life. We have seen this kind of action by women replicated in the miners’ strike, in community environmental campaigns, in work with refugees and asylum seekers and of course in the peace movement. Yet I had only vaguely heard references to the story. Thanks to the women writers in Wales who have been researching it, we know much more now.

Rhaid inni wybod a deall ein gorffennol fel cenedl er mwyn gallu llunio ein dyfodol. Mae angen i ni ddeall ein gorffennol gan mai dyna sydd wedi ein creu. Allwn ni ddim adeiladu Cymru newydd heb ddeall sut a pham bod yr hen Gymru fel y mae. Mae e lan i ni i’w hadeiladu.

Mae llawer o bobl yn poeni am ein dyfodol, yn enwedig pobl ifanc, sy’n wynebu cael eu hamddifadu o'r holl fuddion yr ydym ni wedi'u mwynhau drwy'r Undeb Ewropeaidd. Nid cymryd rheolaeth yn ôl - “taking back control” yw gadael yr Undeb Ewropeaidd, ond torri ein hunain i ffwrdd o weddill ein cyfandir.

Rydym o hyd wedi gweld Cymru fel cenedl Ewropeaidd fodern, a dyna yw ein nod ni nawr mwy nag erioed ar gyfer y dyfodol. Mae gadael yn mynd i fod yn niweidiol i Gymru, ac felly mae’n rhaid i'r bobl gael y gair olaf.

Cefais fy ethol i roi buddiannau Cymru yn gyntaf. Dyma pam rwy'n cymryd pob cyfle i wneud yr achos i stopio’r broses o adael yr Undeb Ewropeaidd, ac aros i mewn. Mae’r rhagolygon yn mor ddrwg i Gymru - yn economaidd ac yn ddiwylliannol. Ewrop yw ein cartref ni.

Does dim cyfiawnhad mewn dileu ein dinasyddiaeth Ewropeaidd pan y dylen ni fod yn ddinasyddion llawn a gweithredol Cymreig ac Ewropeaidd.

Rwy'n gwybod bod llawer o bobl wedi cael llond bol o siarad am y peth, ond rwyf i yn ei fyw ac yn ei anadlu bob dydd. Dyna yw fy swydd!

Diolch i chi, bu'n swydd i mi ers bron i ugain mlynedd nawr. Cefais fy ethol yn gyntaf gyda'm cydweithiwr, Eurig Wyn, gyda'r ganran uchaf o’r bleidlais i Blaid Cymru i ennill erioed mewn etholiad. Wnaethon ni brofi yn anghywir y rhai a ddywedodd na fyddwn ni byth ennill mwy nag un sedd. Aethon ni i Frwsel i roi Cymru ar y map - a dyna y gwnaethom ni.

Ar y pryd dim ond pymtheg aelod-wladwriaeth oedd yn yr Undeb Ewropeaidd. Dros fy amser yn Senedd Ewrop, mae’r Undeb wedi tyfu i bron i ddwbwl y nifer honno ac, fel y mae wedi tyfu, mae wedi newid. Ar bob cam o'r ffordd mae llais Cymru wedi'i glywed.

Working with our close and valuable colleagues in the European Free Alliance, we have done all in our power to push the EU towards a Europe of the Peoples. That work will not stop, whether Wales is there or not, of course.

For much of my time in parliament I have been the sole Plaid Cymru MEP in a parliament of 751 members. While I worked within the Greens/EFA Group to maximise the impact of work in committees and within the parliamentary structures, I also saw the opportunity to mobilise and involve people in campaigning. I am proud of our very effective campaigning against GMOs, on equality for the Welsh language, against damaging and unfair trade deals, on water quality, on better workers’ rights and against dangerous chemicals, to name just a few. Many people in Wales feel strongly about these issues, and I have been able to promote their expertise and ensure that their work was seen in its European context.

I came into Plaid Cymru through campaigning. Many others can and will do the same. One of the best aspects of my job as an MEP has been standing shoulder to shoulder with people in communities across the country and showing how everything they do is important in a European context. That is what taking control really means.

The coming months will be crucial. There is a chance that this could be my last speech in conference as your MEP. So I will take this opportunity to thank some people. First, Eurig Wyn for the five years we worked together in Brussels. We were Plaid’s first MEPs - breaking new ground. We worked hard but we also had some fun - I’ll keep the stories for my bestseller biography!

One of the great joys of being a Plaid Cymru MEP is the opportunity it gives to create employment, in Wales and in Brussels, for mostly - not always - young people from Wales. I cannot begin to name all of the staff I have employed over the twenty years but I can say that it has always been a very special team. Many are now AMs. Even the new leader has worked for me, when I commissioned research - “Wales can work” and “The Flotilla Effect”. We have such talent. That includes all those school pupils and students who have come on work experience. Each one was part of the Plaid Cymru Wales in Europe jigsaw.

I don’t want this to sound like the Oscars, but a special mention, too, for the interpreters - Steffan Wiliam and others - who have travelled to Brussels so that I could have Welsh spoken in conferences and seminars. I don’t have to tell you what a difference it made to have Welsh heard in Brussels and all the attention that attracted. I missed no opportunity to show off our talent and expertise.

We are now in a period of great uncertainty. We don’t know how things will develop. But we do know that we are firmly heading for independence, whatever else unfolds.

One of the biggest disappointments for me when I consider us leaving the EU is no one having the unique and very special experience I have had representing Wales in the European Parliament. But all is not lost. The bigger prize has always been to represent Wales in the European Union as an independent nation in its own right. To speak for ourselves, to vote for ourselves, to build real partnerships with other countries. So to the next person who asks me what I will do next, I will say, “carry on until Wales takes its rightful place on the European and world stage”.

The women who took the peace petition to the United States advised three things:

- To be hopeful

- To take opportunities

- To take responsibility

We are more than hopeful for Wales; we are inspired by a vision of a prosperous, confident and independent nation. We will take every opportunity to make that vision a reality. As for responsibility - if not us, who? We are the party of Wales. It is the reason for our very existence. We want the responsibility of shaping our own future as a nation and that is why we will work together to see that Plaid Cymru government take its place in 2021.

Wales may not be in a good place right now but Plaid Cymru is. We are ready and willing to be at the forefront of the movement for independence that is already gaining huge ground. This is our moment. Seize it!


Llun: Jill Evans