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Wales Under Fire – the holiday homes campaign 1979 -1992

By Owain Meredith

1979 was a turbulent year in Welsh politics. There was widespread discontent and strikes, and the devolution referendum had resulted in a decisive ‘No’ vote.

At the end of the year a movement calling itself ‘Meibion Glyndwr’ (a reference to Owain Glyndwr, the Welsh landowner who began a rebellion against the occupying English in 1400) burnt eight holiday cottages.

Thus started the ‘Holiday Home Campaign’ which over the next twenty or so years burnt 220 holiday cottages, sent parcels bombs to prominent Conservative MPs and fire-bombed estate agents across Wales and England.

The campaign seemingly had two main strands, nationalism and socialism.

The ‘nationalist’ part of the campaign advocated that English immigration into Wales was damaging to Welsh culture and language.

The ‘socialist’ aspect emphasised the fact that local families were being priced out of the housing market, because outsiders were buying cottages for leisure and only spending a few weeks a year in those houses.

Local authorities asked for more control to stop the growth of second homes, but the Welsh Office continued to promote holiday homes to boost the economy.

Political parties all condemned the campaign. Dafydd Elis Thomas, then a Plaid Cymru MP, accused the arsonists of “destroying the fabric of Welsh society and Welsh politics”, and “giving… the Welsh Office an excuse not to do anything” to further the nationalist cause.

In 1993, Sion Aubrey Roberts was jailed for 12 years after sending letter bombs to politicians. But despite a massive police investigation, the majority of Meibion Glyndwr members were never caught.

Devolution and increased support for the Welsh language have gone some way to address the concerns of nationalists today. But the shortage of affordable housing is still a very real problem. Only a few weeks ago, Gwynedd Council announced plans to give locals priority when it comes to housing. The Council said it was a response to prices in some parts of Gwynedd rising by almost 140% in the last decade.

  • Wales This Week: Wales Under Fire – on ITV1 Wales on 11th October, at 8pm
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