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Last Updated: Friday, 8 August, 2003, 06:20 GMT 07:20 UK
Plaid man ignites race row
Dafydd Iwan
Dafydd Iwan is Vice President of Plaid Cymru
Plaid Cymru presidency hopeful Dafydd Iwan has landed himself at the centre of a controversial debate about racism.

Delivering a speech at the National Eisteddfod in mid Wales, vice-president Mr Iwan claimed people were leaving England for Wales to escape Indian and Pakistani immigrants who had settled there.

The Labour Party has called for him to "do the honourable thing" and step down from his party's leadership race, but Plaid's chairman has defended his comments.

In his speech - which was given in Welsh at the annual cultural festival in Meifod - Mr Iwan highlighted the plight of a shortage of affordable housing for local people in rural Wales.

His comments - which he later said had been quoted out of context - come just weeks before Plaid Cymru members decide whether they will choose him as their new president.

He said the number of English people wishing to move to attractive areas in Wales had increased but said some came to get away from immigrants in parts of England.

However, speaking to BBC Wales after the speech, Mr Iwan said his comments had been taken out of context.

We don't want people with these racist attitudes in Wales
Plaid Cymru's Dafydd Iwan
"I was referring to the number of people who come to Wales for various reasons - and that this number is going to increase," he explained.

"We can't blame people for wanting to live in such a beautiful area as rural Wales, but they must realise that we have a different culture and a different language in many areas.

"Recently I've heard of people who have said that they can't live any more with people from Indian and Pakistani backgrounds in English cities, so they come to Wales to escape from them.

"We don't want people with these racist attitudes in Wales."

Mr Iwan denied any suggestion that his own comments had been racist.

"I'm saying that there are examples of people with obvious racist attitudes," he said.

Dafydd Iwan
Mr Iwan has been a singer for 40 years
"What we have to understand is that this world is made up of different cultures and different languages and ways of life, but we are seeing the Welsh way of life and the Welsh language being undermined by people who do not appreciate other cultures.

"And when they say that they are coming to Wales to escape from cultures which they don't approve of, that's an example of racism.

"It is not racist to perceive the existence of different languages and different ways of life and different traditions. What is important is that we learn to co-exist, but also that we have the right to protect what is ours.

"The difficulty in rural Wales today is that local people cannot afford to buy homes and to get jobs in many of our localities. But when we get people with racist attitudes and colonialist attitudes moving to Wales, then that makes the situation even worse."

A spokesman for the Labour Party called on Mr Iwan to resign from the Plaid leadership race, and urged the party to condemn the speech.

"This is a pretty crass attempt to brand English people moving into rural Wales as racists, hiding behind the fig-leaf that this is what people say," the spokesman said.

"The only honourable course of action would be for him to withdraw from the race for the presidency."

But Plaid Cymru chair John Dixon defended Mr Iwan.

"It is completely absurd and outrageous to compare these comments with the repugnant agenda of the BNP and fascists," Mr Dixon said.

"In making such foolish and groundless attacks, the Labour Party is simply giving a platform to racists and their views. Plaid Cymru rejects racism absolutely."


SEE ALSO:
Folk singer eyes Plaid helm
20 May 03  |  Wales
Plaid branded 'racist'
09 Aug 01  |  Wales



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