Thursday, 10 January 2008

Rhodri Morgan

…de icWales:

First Minister Rhodri Morgan… is troubled that the Cardiff Bay administration is not seen as delivering for West Wales and contends that Labour is a defender of the Welsh language and a champion of the region.

“We have done the heavy lifting on the language in the same way we’ve done the heavy lifting on devolution and Objective One and now convergence funding – they are all part of a package,” he said.

The First Minister argues that building “sustainable prosperity” is one of the best guarantees for the language’s survival.

While he does not seek a new Welsh Language Act, as has been demanded by some Plaid activists, he believes the Welsh Language Board should be empowered to fight quangos and local authorities on behalf of the “embattled individual”.

“The Welsh language has stabilised after a century of decline in terms of numbers and percentage,” he said. “The question is: Where does it go from here?”

He gives parents credit for keeping the language alive in their homes, but admits that persuading teenagers to speak Welsh is a key challenge.

“There are massive forces which force minority languages to decline and competing with the English language is more difficult than competing with any other language,” he said.

But Mr Morgan also acknowledges that language policy is one of the most divisive policies in an already fragmented region. People who did not speak Welsh, he said, feared both compulsion and exclusion, while others who were fluent felt like “second-class” citizens.

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