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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 June, 2004, 17:10 GMT 18:10 UK
Morgan 'sorry' over D-Day row
First Minister Rhodri Morgan
Rhodri Morgan said he would not dream of offending veterans
First Minister Rhodri Morgan has said he is "deeply sorry" for any offence caused by his decision not to attend D-Day commemorations in France.

Mr Morgan attended a meeting to discuss golf's 2010 Ryder Cup, to be held in Newport, south Wales, rather than services in Normandy.

Opposition parties and D-Day veterans had criticised Mr Morgan's decision.

The Welsh Assembly Government was represented in France by Social Justice Minister Edwina Hart.

In a statement on Sunday, Mr Morgan said: "I would not dream of offending the Normandy veterans and am deeply sorry if this very special weekend has been overshadowed for them in any way.

I very much regret that many people have been given the impression that Wales is not being represented
Rhodri Morgan

"We always interpreted the commemoration ceremony as an occasion for the veterans.

"When we received the invitation we considered who would be the most appropriate minister to accompany the veterans.

"This is why we chose a minister to represent us whose family had such a proud record of service during World War II.

"Edwina Hart is in an unique position to do this because her father was one of five brothers who served across all the armed services in World War II and her mother was in the Wrens."

'Gave their all'

Mr Morgan added: "I very much regret that many people have been given the impression that Wales is not being represented, or that it is wrong for Wales to be represented by anyone else than the first minister.

"This ceremony is not about status or rank.

"It is to commemorate the efforts of the ordinary soldiers, sailors, airmen and women who gave their all at one of the crucial turning points in international history."

Last week, the assembly government said the meeting between Mr Morgan and Sir Terry Matthews, the owner of the 2010 Ryder Cup venue the Celtic Manor, was a long-standing commitment.

But opposition parties said Mr Morgan should have attended D-Day events in France.

'Error of judgment'

Following Mr Morgan's statement, a Welsh Conservatives spokesman said: "This is the very least Rhodri Morgan could have done.

"His decision not to attend the D-Day commemorations in France has angered and upset people across Wales.

"Rhodri Morgan made a grave error of judgment in putting a golf tournament before the chance to honour those who put down their lives to secure the freedom and democracy we all enjoy today."

A Liberal Democrat spokesman said: "Rhodri Morgan's words do not change the fact that on D-Day he should have been with other world leaders in France, not the clubhouse at Celtic Manor.

"Scotland's First Minister could see that, why couldn't Rhodri?"

Plaid Cymru's Westminster leader, Elfyn Llwyd, added: "Rhodri Morgan's rather churlish apology is too little and far too late.

"The people of Wales have duly noted his sense of priorities over the last few days.

"Those brave service people who landed at Normandy 60 years ago - and indeed the people of Wales as a whole - have every right to expect this country's first minister to pay proper tribute."

Scotland's First Minister, Jack McConnell, joined the Queen and Prime Minister Tony Blair at the main international ceremony at Arromanches on Sunday.

Mr McConnell reversed an initial decision to attend a golf club dinner in Scotland rather than travel to France.


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