A row has broken out between a pair of Cardiff politicians after a Plaid Cymru councillor refused to speak in English at a council meeting.
Presenting a public petition at last week’s full council meeting, Councillor Neil McEvoy spoke in Welsh in protest at the authority’s failure to provide a translation service.
But his Labour counterpart in the Fairwater ward, Councillor Paul Mitchell, accused the former council deputy leader of “grandstanding” and said it distracted from a serious local issue.
Coun McEvoy was presenting a petition collected by Fairwater residents calling for a pedestrian bridge to be gated to stop anti-social behaviour plaguing the area.
The footbridge – known by locals as the Iron Bridge or Black Bridge – crosses the railway line between Wroughton Place and Finchley Road.
According to the ward councillors, locals have suffered repeated cases of vehicle vandalism and some are even considering relocating because of the problems.
The most recent incident was on Halloween eve, when three cars were damaged.
Coun Mitchell said his Plaid rival was elected to represent the people of Fairwater and claimed mixing this local issue with a Welsh language protest was “appalling”.
“Whilst I respect the Welsh language issue with regards to council, to use this serious situation to grandstand and then flounce out of the chamber after refusing to translate into English is as despicable as it is regrettable,” he said.
Coun McEvoy hit back, claiming Coun Mitchell was “bitter” that Plaid had been asked by residents to present the petition.
“It’s incorrect that the matter will not be heard. The council operates a bilingual policy – it’s irrelevant what language I presented the petition in. He is worrying residents unnecessarily,” he said.
Coun McEvoy said the council had failed to provide a translation facility at the meeting, despite his request.
He added: “It’s the 21st century – why are councillors not allowed to speak in Welsh? I am a native English speaker, but why shouldn’t I be given the opportunity to use the Welsh language?”
Both councillors said they would continue lobbying the council to fund the gating of the bridge.
Coun Mitchell said: “It’s unfortunate that a public footbridge would have to be gated because of a small group of mindless individuals.”
Coun McEvoy added: “People should not have to live in fear in their own houses. We are pushing as hard as possible to get this matter resolved.”
A Cardiff council spokesman said: “The council is committed to providing a good-quality service in Welsh or English and welcomes communication in both languages.
“We have recently taken part in a consultation exercise regarding the Welsh language and are currently waiting for the report from the Welsh Language Commissioner that sets out the new standards under the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011.
“Once we have seen this report, we will assess how best we are able to meet these standards.
He added: “A councillor had approached staff in good time, stating that he did wish to speak in Welsh. Members in previous administrations did not request the facility and we were unable to provide it on this occasion.
“We will raise the issue with Whips and the Constitution Committee, and seek to provide this service if appropriate at future meetings.”