Ieuan in pledge to people of Wales

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Thu Jul 12 14:07:33 UTC 2007

*Ieuan in pledge to people of Wales*

Jul 12 2007


by David Williamson, Western Mail

  PLAID Cymru leader Ieuan Wyn Jones greeted his appointment as Deputy First
Minister yesterday with a pledge to serve every Welsh citizen – regardless
of their language. Mr Jones, Plaid's first government minister in the
party's 82-year history, will today represent the people of Wales when he
travels to Belgium to pay his respects to the thousands of Welsh soldiers
who lost their lives during the First World War battle of Passchendaele.

On Monday – deputising for the First Minister while he recovers from his
heart operation – the 58-year-old will travel to Belfast and meet Prime
Minister Gordon Brown and the First Ministers of Scotland and Northern
Ireland at a meeting of the British-Irish Council. The transformation of Mr
Jones from the leader of an opposition party to a statesmen has been sudden.
He believes the United Kingdom is in the process of equally sudden change.

Minutes after greeting cheering party and family members on the steps of the
Senedd, the father of three told the Western Mail, "It's quite interesting
we have representatives of nationalist parties in government in Scotland, in
Northern Ireland and now in Wales. "This is a totally unique experience, not
only for us in Plaid Cymru but for the SNP and of course Sinn Fein in
Ireland." This changed the "dynamic of politics" in the UK, he said. Key to
his political strategy is the belief that Plaid can only achieve its aims if
it wins the support of people who do not speak Welsh.

"We made it clear we want to represent all the people of Wales whatever
their background, whatever their language, whatever their tradition,
whatever their culture," he said. "We recognise Wales is a diverse country.
"What we will aim to show in partnership with Labour over the next four
years is none of those traditions have anything to fear... We want to govern
for the whole nation, not just sections of the nation."

He continued, "Obviously there are measures in the document which will
strengthen the Welsh language, but we don't see the Welsh language as the
preserve of Welsh speakers – it belongs to everybody and we want to give
anybody who wishes to learn Welsh the opportunity to do so." As overall
party leader, Mr Jones's leadership role involves forming policy on subjects
outside the devolved areas of the Assembly. However, he signalled yesterday
he will not use his new position to engage in the most controversial
national debates.

When asked whether he would call for a date by which UK troops should leave
Iraq he said, "Our opposition to the war in Iraq has been consistent but I'm
not sure I want to give the UK Prime Minister advice on an actual date for
withdrawal." Instead, he aims to support policies in the Assembly which will
gradually change the nature of life in Wales. "I don't think you set out to
have different policies for the sake of it but, naturally, you shape your
policies according to the political tradition of the country you represent,"
he said. "The political tradition of Wales is different from England and we
need to reflect that in the policies we pursue and hopefully we can do that
in a whole host of areas."

Wales is fast gaining a distinct international identity, he says. "I
personally believe the discussions we've held over the last nine weeks have
enhanced our status as a nation... I'm hoping we'll now be able to make our
mark on all the international bodies we need to." The country is now
travelling along a path he expects will culminate in the creation of a
parliament. As the first Plaid politician to win a ministerial position his
own history is now forever locked to that of his party. His wife, children,
and grandchildren walked out of the Senedd into dazzling sunlight and a
burst of flashbulbs.

"It was fantastic to see my two grandchildren there taking part in such a
historic event," he said. Mr Jones's standing among his fellow Plaid AMs has
never been higher. Mohammad Asghar – the first AM from an ethnic minority
background – saluted his leader's negotiations with each of the Assembly
parties. He said, "Two groups in this chamber wanted to make him the king of
this chamber and one group wanted to make him crown prince."
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