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Tuesday, 7 August, 2001, 19:29 GMT 20:29 UK
Morgan attacks 'outsider' remarks
Rhodri Eisteddfod graphic
Welsh Assembly First Minister Rhodri Morgan has sought to defuse a growing row over English people moving into Welsh-speaking areas of rural Wales.

Mr Morgan said controversial remarks by John Elfed Jones, a former chairman of the Welsh Language Board, were "absurd".

Mr Jones had commented in Welsh language magazine Barn that "outsiders" coming into Wales were the equivalent of "human foot-and-mouth disease".

John Elfed Jones, former chair Welsh Language Board
John Elfed Jones: Attack on English migrants
He also blamed English migrants for changing the social make-up of traditional Welsh-speaking areas.

Speaking at the National Eisteddfod in Denbigh, north Wales, Mr Morgan told Plaid Cymru not to "pander" to alleged extremism and risk shattering the consensus on the Welsh language.

Mr Morgan, who was delivering an outline of Labour's vision for bilingualism and advancing Welsh to the festival, said Mr Jones' remarks were "insensitive, unhelpful and inflammatory".

But Mr Jones told BBC Wales he stood by his comments.

"If I have caused unwitting offence, then I apologise. It grieves me to be called a racist.

From the mouths of these in-migrants comes the language familiar to everyone in rural Wales but which is a foreign language

John Elfed Jones
"My article severely criticised the fact that our assembly does not seem able to deal with increased migration into Welsh-speaking areas."

Tory assembly group leader Nick Bourne accused Mr Jones of using language which was "deeply offensive and dangerous" likely to incite hatred.

He condemned Mr Jones's comments of English being a foreign language in Wales as "nonsense".
Rhodri Morgna., Assembly First Minister
Rhodri Morgan: Stepping into language row

The current Welsh Language Board chairman Rhodri Williams said Mr Jones's comments were "profoundly unhelpful and completely offensive".

He said the intervention threatened to break the consensus concerning the future of the Welsh language.

Ffred Ffrancis, of the Welsh Language Society/Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, said the future of Welsh-speaking communities was "important for all in Wales".

Earlier this year, Plaid Cymru declined to discipline outspoken Gwynedd councillor Seimon Glyn, who attacked the party leader Ieuan Wyn Jones as a "coward" for failing to address the issue of inward migration.

Mr Glyn had called English migrants a "drain on resources" and in June, members of the pressure group Cymuned signed a declaration calling on politicians to implement "crisis measure" to save the Welsh language.

These comments have no place in a modern Wales

Nick Bourne, leader of assembly Conservatives

Mr Elfed Jones - who advised on the setting up of the Welsh Assembly - said the administration was not prepared to act to preserve the identity of Welsh-speaking communities.

He said that animals had been put ahead of the plight of rural commmunities.

"This movement into our Welsh communities means more often than not that house prices increase unfairly so that there is no hope for young people to buy them.

"And from the mouths of these in-migrants comes the language that is familiar to everyone in rural Wales but which is a foreign language.

"Very quickly, unintentionally, almost without anyone noticing, our indigenous language, and community way of life, has been changed beyond recognition."

BBC Wales's Rhys Evans
"Rhodri Morgan has turned his guns on Plaid Cymru in the language row"
Rhodri Morgan, First Minister of the Welsh Assembly
"It happens every time there is a housing boom in the South East of England"
John Elfed Jones
"I do not regret the remarks made in the article"
BBC Wales's Penny Roberts
"On the Eisteddfod field there is conflict over how to secure the future of the Welsh language"
See also:

07 Jul 01 | Wales
Latest Glyn attack riles Plaid
07 Aug 01 | Wales
The man behind the row
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