Rhodri Morgan, ‘father of Welsh devolution’, dies at 77

18 May

Rhodri Morgan, who spent nearly a decade as the Welsh first minister, has died aged 77.

Friends and former colleagues from across the political divides paid tribute to a man who was described as the “father of devolution” for Wales and a “giant of the Welsh Labour movement” and said their thoughts were with his wife, Julie.

“Tonight, we’ve lost a good friend, a great man and, above all, a giant of the Welsh labour movement,” said the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who added that he had seen Morgan out campaigning only last month.

He called Morgan an “incredibly effective” first minister, adding that he has stood up for his country, “its people’s future and its public services”.

He added: “So much was achieved in his nearly 10 years in post, making a real success of devolution and laying the foundations for what the Welsh government is accomplishing today.

“I first met Rhodri in 1987 on his election to parliament and we became good friends. Our thoughts are with his wife, Julie, and the rest of the family. They can be truly proud of Rhodri’s enormous achievements.”

His thoughts were echoed by the current first minister and Welsh Labour leader, Carwyn Jones, who said that the country had lost a “father figure and a great politician”.

The former Welsh minister, Lord Hain, added: “My deep condolences to Julie and the family on the shock news. As first minister, Rhodri was both the father of devolution and the father of the nation.

“He did more than anyone to bed down and ensure the new Welsh assembly gained widespread legitimacy. Equally at home, both bantering on rugby in a pub or talking economic theory, he was a unique populist intellectual.

“I worked closely with him as secretary of state for Wales to agree the basis for the full law-making powers the assembly now has. He was Welsh through and through and a repository of fascinating facts on everything under the sun. A towering figure in every sense whom we will all miss.”

The Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood added her condolences, tweeted:

LeanneWood
(@LeanneWood)

We have just heard the news that former First Minister of Wales Rhodri Morgan has passed away. Sincere condolences to Julie and the family.


May 17, 2017

Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, paid further tribute, saying: “Terrible news regarding Rhodri Morgan – a giant of devolved politics in Wales. Thoughts with Julie and the family at this difficult time.”

Mark Williams, the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said: “Wales has lost a giant political figures tonight in Rhodri Morgan. Our deepest condolences to Julie and family.” And Lord German, a Welsh Liberal Democrat peer, said: “Wales has lost a great politician and stalwart tonight. He has a huge place in Welsh devolution. A strong opponent but a great friend.”

Morgan was first minister from 2000 to 2009, before taking up a role as the chancellor of Swansea University in October 2011, having retired from politics.

The university said in a statement: “We are very saddened to hear of his death. Rhodri was a wonderful servant to the university as chancellor, as he was a wonderful servant to the whole of Wales. Our thoughts are with his family and his close friends.”

He spent more than 30 years in politics, making a name for himself on the Welsh political scene in 1987 after being elected as the MP for Cardiff West, before assuming office in the assembly in 1999. He became first minister after the resignation of Alun Michael.

On his 70th birthday, Morgan announced he would be relinquishing his post as first minister – with Jones later succeeding him. And, soon after, Morgan announced he would be retiring from politics altogether.

Ahead of his retirement as assembly minister for Cardiff West in April 2011, he said he planned to make the most of his retirement by catching up on his gardening and wood carving, as well as finally getting round to learning the piano. “I am not a person who looks back. I made my decision. I stepped down in two stages and I think that’s healthy in order not to get withdrawal symptoms.”

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