By Rhodri Clark and Daniel Davies at the National Eisteddfod
THE First Minister shot down a quango's recommendation on Welsh language policy yesterday, after he had a strenuous day at the National Eisteddfod. First he was followed around the maes by language protestors with a deafening megaphone. Then he had to dash to Bangor train station with seconds to spare for a naming ceremony with Bryn Terfel, after a lorry blocked the road.
Later, he rejected part of a strategic plan for the future of Welsh, released yesterday by the Welsh Language Board.
The plan criticises the fact that "language rights" have not been pursued as an equal opportunities issue.
Mr Morgan said the board had strayed beyond its duties in proposing a "Quebec-origin rights agenda", developed in Canada to support French speakers. He praised the board for implementing his Government's policies, but accused it of a "completely wrong-headed approach". "There's no comparison between French in Quebec and Welsh in Wales," he said. "It's 80/20 one way and 20/80 the other."
He added, "I don't want that to take away from the work they (the Language Board) have done."
Mr Morgan's bonfire of the quangos will shift the board's work in-house with the Assembly Government.
He said, "Inevitably they are going to be de-mob happy."
The board's plan held back from recommending new legislation to protect the language, as some had hoped. Instead it contains "a map" towards achieving the Assembly Government's goal of increasing the proportion of Welsh speakers by 5% by 2011, contained in the Iaith Pawb policy.
Members of pressure group Cymdeithas yr Iaith heckled Mr Morgan with a loudhailer after he turned down their invitation to discuss demands for updating the 1993 Welsh Language Act. Some young protesters tried to block his ministerial car from leaving the maes, on the Faenol Estate, near Bangor.
His office issued a statement saying, "The First Minister will not respond to a handful of bullies on a day when he is trying to meet people involved in important work, such as those on the Mencap stand. Unfortunately the actions of these bullies will only weaken the perception of the Welsh language agenda across Wales."
Plaid Cymru politicians joined a Cymdeithas protest demanding an updated Act on the maes yesterday afternoon.
Mr Morgan's spokeswoman said, "The rights agenda that the language board are promoting in this document is not something that we are intending to follow. We have no intention at this stage of introducing new legislation focusing on the rights of Welsh speakers.
"If the Welsh Language Board and Cymdeithas want to push the language-rights agenda then we will have to say 'It's not something that we are currently supporting'."
Policy will be adapted for different areas of Wales with differing numbers of Welsh speakers, she said.
John Elfed Jones, the Welsh Language Board's first chairman, warned the Assembly Government not to treat the language as a political football.
Mr Jones said he "fully supported" the board's position, saying it was only trying to ensure the 1993 Welsh Language Act was implemented properly.
"The way the language is to be safeguarded and fostered has to be beyond party-political interference," he said.
The Language Board plan says, "Although a whole chapter of Iaith Pawb deals with 'The Individual and Language Rights' there is no mention in it of language rights in the context of equal opportunities. Ignorance about language as an equal opportunities issue continues and this creates uncertainty in Wales."
It proposes to create "guidelines to safeguard the language rights of those who choose to use the Welsh language".
Mr Morgan's spokeswoman said focusing policy "on protecting the rights of people who already speak Welsh" would not achieve the Iaith Pawb objective of increasing the proportion of Welsh speakers by 5% before the 2011 census.