[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 March 2006, 17:06 GMT
State opening for Welsh assembly
Rhodri Morgan and Dafydd Elis-Thomas greet the Queen

The Queen has officially opened the 67m new home of the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff on St David's Day.

More than 500 guests from Europe and the commonwealth joined the Royal party which included Prince Philip, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.

The Senedd - parliament or senate in Welsh - was completed eight years after it emerged a new building would house the devolved administration.

But there were some dissenting voices, with protest groups outside the Senedd.

SENEDD TIMETABLE
1000: More than 500 guests arrive
1110-1130: Faith and judicial processions
1200: Royals arrive; view salutes and fly-past
1204-1300: Opening ceremonies inside Senedd
1400-1600: Public performances in Senedd
1455-1630 Formation ceremony for Royal Welsh regiment at Roald Dahl Plass
Evening: Prince Charles and Duchess of Cornwall attend WNO performance at Millennium Centre

The Queen left Cardiff at 1500 GMT after arriving at Cardiff International Airport shortly before midday, on a day of intermittent heavy snow showers.

In Cardiff Bay, the royal group were greeted by a mixture of music from the Royal Welsh Regiment Band, cheers from hundreds of children and well-wishers, and boos and jeers from a variety of protesters.

The Queen, Duke of Edinburgh, Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall stood outside the building with First Minister Rhodri Morgan and Presiding Officer Dafydd Elis-Thomas for a fly-past by four Hawk jets from RAF Valley on Anglesey, and a 21-gun salute from the nearby Norwegian Church.

They then moved inside for the unveiling of a plaque in the neuadd - hall in Welsh before moving into the siambr (chamber) for the formal opening, witnessed by guests - among them schoolchildren and senior citizens.

Also present were Wales' Assembly Members, representatives of regional governments in Europe and the Commonwealth, religious and civic leaders, the building's world-famous architect Lord Richard Rogers along with craftsmen and builders involved in its construction.

Senedd protesters
Various protesters gathered outside the building before the opening

Wales' national poet Gwyneth Lewis read a specially-commissioned bilingual poem, ensuring that poetry played its part in this piece of Welsh history.

In her address to the chamber, the Queen said she hoped the building would become as important a symbol as the Houses of Parliament were.

However, she did not use the word Senedd. The term has been at the centre of controversy, with Rhondda Labour AM Leighton Andrews having argued the name should have been approved by the whole assembly, rather than a committee.

"The skill and imagination of those who've designed and constructed this remarkable example of modern architecture have given you a dramatic setting in which to work," she said.

"It shows pride and confidence in the future of Wales, in the future of democracy, and in the central role of the National Assembly in the life of the nation.


"It is now up to you, by giving meaning to the ideals and aspirations of those you serve, by expressing the spirit of your rich and ancient culture, by shaping the very future of this country to make this national assembly a true symbol of Wales."

Addresses followed by deputy speaker of the House of Commons Sylvia Heal, the Honourable John Price of New South Wales Parliament, and finally First Minister Rhodri Morgan.

In a light-hearted message, Mr Morgan joked about not being late - a reference to the occasion he was delayed meeting the Queen at the Royal Welsh Show in 2004 because of heavy traffic.

Addressing the chamber, he said: "I think we can say here that this 1 March is a very special St David's Day, because of your presence to celebrate the opening of the new home for the National Assembly for Wales, the crucible of our still-young democracy.

This new chamber with all its computers has been likened to the control room of the Starship Enterprise. Now that's progress for you - boldly going into the future
First Minister Rhodri Morgan

"On a previous visit to the assembly, one somewhat cynical metropolitan parliamentary correspondent referred to the old chamber next door, and I quote, as resembling the passenger lounge in an ageing cross-channel ferry.

"This new chamber with all its computers has been likened to the control room of the Starship Enterprise. Now that's progress for you - boldly going into the future."

After the official unveiling, the royal party spent some time inside the building chatting to guests.

The Queen spoke to Senedd architect Richard Rogers, as he showed her an exhibition of building designs and Rhodri Morgan accompanied the Duchess of Cornwall as she met children.

Children outside the Senedd building
Schoolchildren gathered outside to greet the royal party

The royal group then left the Senedd to more cheering from the children outside, and went on by car to the five-star St David's Hotel for lunch, a couple of hundred yards away.

In the afternoon there were a number of events organised in and around the Senedd, including dance, theatre and music to celebrate both the opening and Wales' national day.

That continued in the evening with Charles and Camilla attending Welsh National Opera's production of the Flying Dutchman with Bryn Terfel at the Wales Millennium Centre.

But not everyone was celebrating.

Among protesters were left-wing activists, Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society), supporters of the campaign for pension rights for former staff at the nearby steelworks ASW, and the UK Independence Party, which wants to abolish the assembly.

Former Labour MP for Blaenau Gwent Llew Smith, a leading assembly opponent, said : "It's Robin Hood in reverse.

"They're robbing the poor to pay for the rich - look at all the money that has gone into Cardiff Bay in the last few years instead of the rest of Wales."


What do you think of the new home for the Welsh assembly? Will it become a model for future public buildings? Are you at the opening ceremony?

Send us your comments using the form below.

Send your pictures of the opening ceremony to yourpics@bbc.co.uk. Do not endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion received:

It's a great moment for Wales. A step in the right direction. Great stuff! The assembly has only been around for a few years and in that time with only limited power Education and Health are already better than they were under parties of any colour in Westminster. I know because I am a teacher and my wife works in hospitals. Those who complain about money being spent differently should look at the mess schools and hospitals are elsewhere in Britain where they haven't built an assembly. Also, my OAP parents are much better off now than they were under the old system. We're doing well, look at the bigger picture and see a brighter future for Wales. When we have full powers we can make our own destiny. I'd like to support the gentleman wishing for the English to be able to run their own affairs. Absolutely right, fair's fair! I think we'd all get on better then too!
Mark Evans, Cardiff, Wales

The building itself isn't important. What is important is that which it symbolises; the beginning of the return to self-government for the people of Wales. People can go on about wasted money, but finally perhaps Welsh governance can work to attract investment and betterment for Wales rather than the South East of England or the notion of the 'UK' which is alien to the vast majority of the Welsh people. I do though find it quite insulting though an English monarch was deemed appropriate to open the Senedd.
Marc Hill, Casnewydd

I am a media student here in Cardiff Bay and was filming during the arrival of the Queen, although I know the media doesn't always portray the truth I am surprised at how little note has been made of the masses of protestors who outnumbered the well-wishers (other than the children specially bussed in for the cameras). It is a shame that a balanced view isn't being given. As for Wyre Davis' claim that it's difficult to find any negative comments on the new building, I'd have to disagree. Although many like myself think it's a great world icon for Wales, others today had sentiments of regret that the money was not spent elsewhere.
Alan Williams, Cardiff

People will always harp on about the costs. The nay-sayers told us that if we rejected devolution in 1979 all the money saved could be spent on schools and hospitals. Guess what? It never actually happened. For 67 million we have a wonderful building and it's ours! Now we just need law-making powers.
Rob Phillips, Lampeter, Wales

I am a proud expatriate Welshman, proud of my heritage and my country. For Wales to move forward, we must have a parliament building that portrays and reflects our earnest goals and serious move to become autonomous. I honestly believe that the new Senedd building will deliver this strong message of our intent to the rest of the world.
Howard Bumford, Elk Grove, California U.S.A.

At least the Welsh only "wasted" 67m if it is seen as wasted. We, the Scots, wasted 450m on our "dome" and, as it is a high maintenance building, the figure will rise very rapidly if the truth is ever let out of the bag.
Barry Nield, Nairn, Scotland

It's a bargain. Be proud of it - it's a symbol of the first Welsh Parliament in 700 years.
Phil Jones, Edinburgh

Well done Wales, perhaps we English now might be allowed the chance to vote on how we should be governed rather being the only part of the union still completely governed by the British Government. We English do not want regional assemblies, we want and demand an English Parliament.
Ed Abrams, Chester, England

Delightful building, bold architecture. Two problems, 1)It has no real law making powers and 2) Was opened by a, let's face it, English monarch. Says it all really.
John Thomas, Gwynedd, Caernarfon

Firstly 67 million could have been spent on a lot more pressing issues such as hospitals, police force, supporting the poor, new schools etc. Secondly the Welsh assembly does not have any real power and is simply a statement of Labour's delusion of devolution just to gain Welsh votes. Finally there was no problem with the existing Welsh assembly. If you want to see financial support, improved education, cleaner hospitals and a better standard of living for everyone, I say vote Conservative.
Matthew Alderson, Cardiff, Wales

The new Senedd is a striking building; it is a symbol of the Wales we want the world to see. Today's opening should be about us coming together as a nation, confidently asserting out place on the world stage. It should reflect who we are, and be a place and a concept that people from every corner of Wales can unite behind and, hopefully, benefit from immensely. I think we should be proud of it as we should be proud of ourselves.
Tomos Owen, Llanelli

It is a fantastic building and hopefully will inspire its users, enhance the image of the assembly so that they gain full law making powers just like the Scottish parliament.
Cefyn Mably, Nottage

I voted no for Wales to have devolved powers in the first place, so I can't say I'm very pleased about this disgusting waste of taxpayers' money. Money that would be better spent on improving our healthcare system, as we in Wales are suffering from a poor, second class service and it is grossly unfair.
Bev Owen, Welshpool, Wales

Unlike the worthy but awkwardly designed Millennium Centre, the new parliament building is an inspiring landmark for future generations of Welsh people to be very proud of.
Roger Fickling, Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan

I believe Wales deserves nothing less than a strong parliament with full law making and tax varying powers. Indeed, there is a good case for independence. It is a shame the ceremony to open this building isn't worthy of a building that looks like the Cardiff Bay branch of Tesco's externally. Wales needs a building and an institution that will deliver a magnificent image of our nation to the world.
Pete Rogers, Carmarthenshire, Wales

I am a proud Welshman, proud of my country, culture & history BUT I believe it has been too much money to spend on basically what is an administration block. The money would have been better spent on building a new hospital and/or refurbishing the decaying hospitals in all corners of Wales.
Mr M. Evans, Newport, Wales

Until the assembly is given real power what does the building really mean apart from a great expense?
Steve Chapple, Cardiff, Wales

Name
Your E-mail address
Town & Country
Phone number (optional):
Comments

The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.





BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See clips of the opening ceremony


Richard Rogers on the "homely" Senedd



RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific