Rhodri Morgan's mace honour as Welsh assembly dissolves

Former First Minister Rhodri Morgan has carried the Welsh assembly's ceremonial mace out of the chamber to mark the institution's dissolution before May's election.

He was given the honour to mark his departure from public life.

Mr Morgan, who is standing down as an AM, was handed the mace by Presiding Officer Lord Elis-Thomas after the last plenary session of term.

Mr Morgan said it had been "an honour and privilege".

Like all AMs, Mr Morgan will lose his seat at midnight on Thursday when the assembly is dissolved. It is the first formal pre-election dissolution since the assembly was established in 1999.

After 24 years as the MP for Cardiff West, then AM, Mr Morgan is not seeking re-election.

Mr Morgan said: "As my political career comes to a close, a line of poetry remembered from my childhood has been ringing in my ears: 'For men may come and men may go, but I go on forever.'

"These lines from Tennyson's The Brook resonate because politicians - the names, faces and personalities - may come and go, but this institution we have built together - our National Assembly for Wales - will outlast us all, it will go on forever and continue to develop and grow to serve the people of Wales.

"Diolch a hwyl fawr" (thank you and goodbye).

A spokesman for the Assembly Commission said he was an obvious choice for the honour of processing the mace from the debating chamber.

Lord Elis-Thomas picked up the mace in the Senedd and handed it to Mr Morgan at the end of the final plenary session on Wednesday.

It is the first time the mace has been processed out of the chamber.

Gift from New South Wales

Until the Government of Wales Act 2006, AMs had continued to hold their posts until the election was held. But now they cease to be AMs as the assembly dissolves.

Cardiff-born former civil servant Mr Morgan entered frontline politics at 47. He served as MP for Cardiff West between 1987 and 2001. He became AM for the constituency in 1999 when the assembly was formed.

In 2000 he succeeded Alun Michael as first minister, holding the position until December 2009.

The 4ft (1.3m) mace, the centrepiece of the assembly chamber, was a gift to Wales from the government of New South Wales in 2006.

Hand crafted from gold, silver and brass, it was designed by an Australian goldsmith and bears the assembly's official symbol at its head.

Members of the four main parties made short speeches before the mace was taken from the chamber.

For Labour, Val Lloyd said: "It's clear to me that devolution works and it's working to better the lives of the people of Wales."

Conservative AM William Graham paid tribute to retiring AMs, thanking them for "wonderful contributions".

Janet Ryder, of Plaid Cymru, reflected on 1999 when the assembly began its life in a "converted office block", saying it now had "the powers to move on".

The Liberal Democrats' Eleanor Burnham said the last 10 years had been a "fantastic journey".

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