Cymdeithas y Cymod
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The campaign against St. Athan military academy

This project has now been shelved as part of the Government's efforts to save money. For once they have made cuts where we have been suggesting them!

Protesting outside the Senedd on the anniversary of the announcement of the St. Athan project, January 2008

Protesting outside the Senedd on the anniversary of the announcement of the St. Athan project, January 2008

What do you think of the idea that armies will pay a consortium of arms companies to train their soldiers? This is exactly what the UK government wants to do at the proposed military academy in the village of St. Athan, Wales. Armies from all over the world will be able to pay the consortium of arms companies there to train their soldiers in the art of killing. The UK government has entered into a private public funding initiative with arms companies BAE Systems, Raytheon, EDS, Augusta Westland and also Qinetiq, Sodexho, Serco, City & Guilds and the Open University in a 14billion deal. It will be a privately operated military training centre and open to armies from any countries who can pay, even ones with poor human rights. This privatisation of the military can undermine public accountability and erode ideas of public service and the public good, with profits going to the company shareholders. "The military academy will have fantastic facilities including a cinema, bowling alley, bars and restaurants on site and accessible to local civilians and children so they can see the pleasures and luxuries a life in the military can offer." (Tomos Livingston, Western Mail Jan 20, 2007)

The politicians of all parties in the National Assembly of Wales have welcomed the estimated 5,500 "highly skilled" jobs this project would provide. However the real number of local jobs created will be very much lower and most will be for cleaners and other low paid services. The impact of this proposed development on the local quality of life, on housing and on social and moral values has not been considered. The local schools and universities will be pulled into the influence of the military academy and will re-orientate themselves to provide skills and outlooks demanded by the military.

Cymdeithas y Cymod stand in Paris

Cymdeithas y Cymod stand at the International Salon for Peace Initiatives in Paris 2008

We have been holding peace services in the church of St. Athan, and vigils and lobbying at the National Assembly to stop the development of the military academy. We have had some success already since the second phase of the development has been stopped. We ask you to write to:- Rt. Hon. Rhodri Morgan, First Minister at the National Assembly of Wales, Cardiff, Wales to express your protest to also stop the first phase of the military academy. For a sample letter click here.

Cymdeithas y Cymod had a stand at the international peace exhibition in Paris this year, where our request for international support for our campaign against the St. Athan military academy was very well received.

Penyberth and St. Athan

The peace flame by the Penyberth memorial

The peace flame by the Penyberth memorial

Jill Evans MEP and Dafydd Iwan joined the Rev. Guto Prys ap Gwynfor to light a flame of peace at Penyberth, near Pwllheli on 8th September at 2pm. The event commemorated the fire lit by Saunders Lewis, Rev. Lewis Valentine and DJ Davies to stop the building of a bombing school there in 1936. The meeting sent a clear message to the politicians in Cardiff Bay and London of the need to oppose the proposed military academy at St Athan.

The following is a declaration by the Fellowship of Reconciliation in Wales, which is an international faith based peace movement, who have organised this event for their opposition to the St Athan military academy:

"We oppose the proposed military academy at St Athan for the following reasons:

  1. Christian morality declares that by loving the enemy we can resolve conflict, not by killing and destroying the property of the enemy.
  2. The privatising of military training will have a destabilising effect and means there will be no public accountability for activities there and the profit motive will prevail for the benefit of the shareholders of the private consortium.
  3. The fragile Welshness of the Vale o Glamorgan will be further eroded by the influx of personnel from elsewhere."

Jill Evans quoted the Rev. Lewis Valentine, a past president of Plaid Cymru, who had taken part in a protest against the proposed bombing school at Penyberth, who had said he could not remain silent as preparations were made for war and the bombing of cities. Jill Evans said, "We cannot remain silent today and we have the right and the responsibility to say we will not accept anything at any price, such as St Athan, for the sake of jobs alone. We have a right to question what sort of jobs would come for local people, since we need a sustainable economy here in Wales. Wales has a potential to be a force for peace in the world. We must decide in Wales what kind of Wales we want. St Athan military academy was a Westminster decision, not one made here."

Jill Evans and Dafydd Iwan in Penyberth

Jill Evans and Dafydd Iwan in Penyberth

The other main speaker was Plaid Cymru President Dafydd Iwan who said, "I cannot think of a more suitable place to start on my new term of presidency of Plaid Cymru than here at Penyberth, where two former presidents of Plaid protested against the establishment of a bombling school on this day in 1936."

Dafydd Iwan then went on to say, "Plaid Cymru has certainly not campaigned in favour of the proposed military academy at St Athan, and the time has come to ask questions about the purpose and value of such an establishment to Welsh life. Too much Welsh land is already used to prepare for war with over 140 military establishments. We need to invest in peace, not war." He blamed multinational corporations for profiting from both the destruction of war and from the post war reconstruction work.

The meeting ended with a balad written about the bombing school in 1936 sung by Mr Harry Richards, and this was followed with a prayer for peace by the Rev. Guto Prys ap Gwynfor, the President of the Fellowship of Reconciliation.