THE Cabinet Minister responsible for the Welsh language will almost certainly walk out of the first meeting of a new language forum if protesters cause disruption.
Alun Pugh is due to speak at the forum's inaugural meeting in Y Ganolfan Arts Centre, Porthmadog on Thursday evening. Two hours have been set aside to hear the public's views about the development of the language.
But in recent weeks Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, the Welsh Language Society, has undertaken a series of direct action non-violent protests that has resulted in eight arrests so far.
They have twice daubed slogans on the Assembly building in Cathays Park.
An Assembly Cabinet spokeswoman said yesterday, "Alun sees the language forum as a very useful way of giving ordinary members of the public the opportunity to air their views about how Welsh language policy should develop.
"Of course Cymdeithas have a right to protest, but it's a question of how far the protest goes. They can have their say and then shut up and let others make a contribution. If they disrupt the event to the point where members of the public cannot get their views across, it is very likely that Alun will walk out."
Cymdeithas yr Iaith wants a new Welsh Language Act extending individual language rights and the requirement to provide bilingual signs and services into the private sector. The Assembly Government favours encouraging businesses to provide Welsh language services voluntarily and says it will not countenance individual language rights on a Quebec model because 85% of the Quebec population speaks French - around four times the proportion of Welsh speakers in Wales.
Mr Pugh told the BBC Politics Show yesterday, "I don't think the consensus in favour of supporting the Welsh language is breaking down. You will always get one or two people who oppose spending any more on the Welsh language, while at the other extreme you get Cymdeithas yr Iaith calling for a bilingual Wales tomorrow. That is simply not realistic or practical. The majority of people in Wales support the Assembly Government's policy of a steady long-term growth in the number of Welsh speakers."
Mr Pugh described the language forum, which it is intended will meet twice a year, as a "listening shop" which could facilitate a new dialogue between politicians and the public. But, he said, the development of future policy would remain the responsibility of the Assembly Government.
Speaking on the same programme, Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly leader Mike German said that while it would be "silly to ever say no", he thought it "highly unlikely" his party might join Rhodri Morgan's minority government.
Currently, Labour has just 29 AMs out of 60 - a situation which has led to the loss of a string of Assembly votes.
Explaining his statement, Mr German said there wasn't enough time left between now and the next Assembly elections for his party to form any sort of partnership with Mr Morgan's minority administration. He also added that no such deal was on offer.
Mr German, alongside the two other opposition leaders, is due to meet the First Minister again on Wednesday in an attempt to hammer out a compromise deal over the Assembly budget. Mr German said such talks were the only way to resolve the deadlock.