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Tuesday, 14 August, 2001, 09:08 GMT 10:08 UK
Rhodri Williams quizzed

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Rhodri Williams is head of the Welsh Language Board and has stepped into the debate which has been raging since the start of the National Eisteddfod at Denbigh last week.

Eifion Lloyd Jones, a president of the Eisteddfod, fanned the flames as the event drew to a close on Saturday by calling for Welsh language schools to beware of having an open-door policy towards non-Welsh speakers. Mr Williams has called for him to apologise for those remarks.

It came at the end of an eisteddfod which saw an increasingly bitter row about the role of English incomers in Wales, and the affect they were having on the rural heartlands.

Two of those who were critical of the English, referring to them as " the human foot-and-mouth" and " oddballs" and "misfits", have now been referred to the Commission for Racial Equality for inciting racial hatred.

What is your view on the language issue? Are you an English parent who sends your children to a Welsh medium school? Are you worried that the communities of rural Wales are threatened by incomers?

Rhodri Williams joined us in a live forum at BBC News Online in Cardiff.


Interview highlights:

Newshost

David Vaynor Evans/ Wales:

As a non-speaking Welshman of countless generations he is appalled by the narrow minded xenophobic attitudes displayed by some of his alleged countrymen and thinks that as soon as the racist linguistic rants stop and the sooner we start looking for ways to try and attract businesses rather than scaring them away the better for the economy and for the Welsh image as a whole.

He adds that this increasingly bitter row does seem to be doing Wales down do you not think Mr Williams.

Rhodri Williams:

I do yes, I do not think it has done any good to the image of Wales as a whole. I do not think that it has done any good to the debate about the Welsh language and it certainly makes our work at the Welsh Language Board - where we are given the task of promoting the use of the Welsh language - that much more difficult. I think it would have been far better from the language point of view if people had concentrated on the genuine issues that do face Welsh speaking communities in predominately rural areas.

If they had addressed their comments to the National Assembly and put forward some practical recommendations about what can be done to secure jobs for young Welsh speakers in those areas, so that they do not have to move to places like Cardiff or move beyond Wales, I think it would have been far better.

Newshost

Hywel Stanton/ Wales

He is a Welsh born English speaker and he says that he can see no reason why himself or his children should have to speak Welsh. He says that it should be a matter of individual choice and he does not think it should be compulsory in schools nor should it affect job prospects.

Rhodri Williams:

Certainly I do not think that adults can be forced to learn the language. I do not think that anybody is trying to do that and I do not think that they should be encouraged to do so. I think on the question of schools it is a completely different kettle of fish and as part of the national curriculum it is perfectly proper that everyone in every school in Wales up to the age of 16 is taught through the medium of Welsh and English. I think that is perfectly reasonable and has been accepted by the majority viewpoint.

I think that the majority of people are happy with the position that more is done to promote the use of the language to encourage people to use it. But of course that is a long way from forcing people to do so and I would not be supportive of that kind of measure even if it were possible.


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