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Wednesday, 4 September, 2002, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
Star denies house burning remarks
Rhys Ifans in Rancid Aluminium
Actor Ifans trained on the theatre stage
Actor Rhys Ifans has denied making serious comments that he had considered burning settlers' cottages and holiday homes in Wales.

The Notting Hill star dismissed "chip paper" journalism, after he claimed his comments were "twisted" regarding high house prices in his native north Wales were driving out indigenous young people.

Ifans - whose new film Once Upon a Time in the Midlands previewed in Cardiff on Friday - said in a BBC Radio Wales he was annoyed with the headlines.

"They should go to an irony class and maybe learn some decent journalism.

"Things like that are chip paper at the end of the day."

The interview in the Observer newspaper picked out Ifans supposed views on incidents in the 1980s, in which angry and militant activists burnt houses.

Welsh valley
The future of communities is proving a hot topic
Earlier in the week, Conservatives branded Ifans "a role model for evil", while Labour deputy assembly minister Alun Pugh said his comments were "way out of date".

The 34-year-old Ruthin-born actor has lived in London since training at the Guildhall drama centre, but has kept close contact with Wales.

The comments about holiday homes featured in an Observer interview with Mariella Frostrup to promote Ifans' new movie.

'Burning cottages'

Asked in the article if he had ever felt like setting fire to a cottage, Ifans said: "Yeah, yeah, absolutely yeah."

But he denied he had ever done so: "No and, even if I had, I wouldn't tell you."

The newspaper implied that given that remark, one might question whether Ifans had ever torched homes, like members of the radical Meibion Glyndwr (Sons of Glendower) campaign group, seven of whom were arrested and tried in 1993.

The group reportedly attracted the attentions of MI5 after series of arsons at holiday homes in the 1980s and 1990s.

Communities that have been in Wales for centuries are essentially becoming holiday villages and it is a delicate ecosystem

Rhys Ifans
"Welsh-speaking communities are under threat more than at any other time in history because of house prices," he added.

"Communities that have been there for centuries are essentially becoming holiday villages.

"Young people are forced to leave because there's no work and the young people that are left can't afford to live there.

"It's a delicate eco-system and it's time people in the assembly realised that."

Critical condition

The Welsh language debate has grown since Plaid Cymru councillor Seimon Glyn said English settlers in traditional Welsh-speaking communities were a "drain on resources".

Various calls have since been made to protect heartland areas - where more people speak Welsh - from erosion by "incomers" and by the exit of younger people unable to afford high property prices at home.

Houses for sale
Soaring house prices edge people out, some claim
Some have called for the strict new planning laws on second homes.

Conservatives' Welsh Assembly leader Nick Bourne said: "His comments are outrageous. He should be a role model for good in Wales rather than a role model for evil.

"If he feels so strongly about the issue, I am surprised he does not come back to live in Wales and protect the language from here and refuse roles in English-speaking films and the massive income that goes with them."

'Beneficial' defence

But the Welsh Language Board - a quango watchdog to safeguard Welsh - welcomed as "beneficial" Ifans' passionate alert to the language's survival.

"I am quite pleased. To make these comments on such a platform is a good thing," said chair Rhodri Williams.

"He makes a clear argument but I'm not totally convinced. I'm not sure how much house prices are the key question for the language.

"The key question is whether there are sufficient jobs to allow people to work where they choose.

"If the language is to survive, it must be used throughout Wales and elsewhere by people like Rhys, who lives outside of Wales."

More news from north east Wales
See also:

06 Aug 02 | Wales
29 Jul 02 | Wales
27 May 02 | Wales
13 Feb 02 | Wales
03 Sep 01 | Wales
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