First Minister Morgan blasts Welsh Language Policy plan

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue Aug 9 14:23:28 UTC 2005

>>From IC Wales

Rhodri blasts language bid Aug 3 2005

Western Mail

By Rhodri Clark and Daniel Davies at the National Eisteddfod

THE First Minister shot down a quango's recommendation on Welsh language
policy yesterday, after he had a strenuous day at the National Eisteddfod.
First he was followed around the maes by language protestors with a
deafening megaphone. Then he had to dash to Bangor train station with
seconds to spare for a naming ceremony with Bryn Terfel, after a lorry
blocked the road.

Later, he rejected part of a strategic plan for the future of Welsh,
released yesterday by the Welsh Language Board. The plan criticises the
fact that "language rights" have not been pursued as an equal
opportunities issue. Mr Morgan said the board had strayed beyond its
duties in proposing a "Quebec-origin rights agenda", developed in Canada
to support French speakers. He praised the board for implementing his
Government's policies, but accused it of a "completely wrong-headed
approach". "There's no comparison between French in Quebec and Welsh in
Wales," he said. "It's 80/20 one way and 20/80 the other."

He added, "I don't want that to take away from the work they (the Language
Board) have done." Mr Morgan's bonfire of the quangos will shift the
board's work in-house with the Assembly Government. He said, "Inevitably
they are going to be de-mob happy." The board's plan held back from
recommending new legislation to protect the language, as some had hoped.
Instead it contains "a map" towards achieving the Assembly Government's
goal of increasing the proportion of Welsh speakers by 5% by 2011,
contained in the Iaith Pawb policy.

Members of pressure group Cymdeithas yr Iaith heckled Mr Morgan with a
loudhailer after he turned down their invitation to discuss demands for
updating the 1993 Welsh Language Act. Some young protesters tried to block
his ministerial car from leaving the maes, on the Faenol Estate, near
Bangor. His office issued a statement saying, "The First Minister will not
respond to a handful of bullies on a day when he is trying to meet people
involved in important work, such as those on the Mencap stand.
Unfortunately the actions of these bullies will only weaken the perception
of the Welsh language agenda across Wales."

Plaid Cymru politicians joined a Cymdeithas protest demanding an updated
Act on the maes yesterday afternoon. Mr Morgan's spokeswoman said, "The
rights agenda that the language board are promoting in this document is
not something that we are intending to follow. We have no intention at
this stage of introducing new legislation focusing on the rights of Welsh

"If the Welsh Language Board and Cymdeithas want to push the
language-rights agenda then we will have to say 'It's not something that
we are currently supporting'." Policy will be adapted for different areas
of Wales with differing numbers of Welsh speakers, she said. John Elfed
Jones, the Welsh Language Board's first chairman, warned the Assembly
Government not to treat the language as a political football.

Mr Jones said he "fully supported" the board's position, saying it was
only trying to ensure the 1993 Welsh Language Act was implemented
properly. "The way the language is to be safeguarded and fostered has to
be beyond party-political interference," he said.

The Language Board plan says, "Although a whole chapter of Iaith Pawb
deals with 'The Individual and Language Rights' there is no mention in it
of language rights in the context of equal opportunities. Ignorance about
language as an equal opportunities issue continues and this creates
uncertainty in Wales." It proposes to create "guidelines to safeguard the
language rights of those who choose to use the Welsh language".

Mr Morgan's spokeswoman said focusing policy "on protecting the rights of
people who already speak Welsh" would not achieve the Iaith Pawb objective
of increasing the proportion of Welsh speakers by 5% before the 2011

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