Plaid leader missed royal opening to 'put family first'

Plaid Cymru's leader has defended his decision to go on holiday instead of attending the assembly's royal opening.

Ieuan Wyn Jones said he had put his family first and did not wish to cause embarrassment.

He is returning to work having faced criticism for missing the official opening by The Queen last week.

He was in France at the time, prompting some calls for him to step down immediately.

Mr Jones had already said he would stand down as Plaid leader in the first half of the assembly's five-year term.

He said he had told people he would be absent from the official opening when he found out it clashed with his holiday.

"But under the circumstances I decided to put my family first even when I knew, and under those circumstances of course I stand by the decision," he told BBC Wales.

"I always change arrangements when my official duties clash, but I think on some occasions I'm entitled to put my family first, which I did on this occasion."

The Ynys Mon AM said when people looked at his record representing his constituency they would see "I've never let the people of Anglesey down and I never will do so".

He said the timetable for his departure and his absence last week could not be linked, adding: "The future of the party, I think, needs to be considered on its own merits."

He said the row, which has seen him attacked by opposing parties, had been "out of all proportion to the event".

"All I'm saying is that events happened. I understand that people are disappointed about that, I fully understand that," Mr Jones said.

"Under no circumstances would I want to embarrass anybody, and I think now we should move on because there are other important events that the people of Wales face in the coming months."

'Needed a break'

Former Plaid president Dafydd Iwan said Mr Jones's absence from the opening ceremony had been "blown out of all proportion".

Mr Iwan said Mr Jones needed to clarify a leadership election timetable since announcing he was stepping down, but the royal row should not force the party to be "stampeded into an early election".

He claimed the leader "needed a break" after May's election campaign in which Plaid performed poorly, winning 11 of the 60 seats.

On Sunday, Plaid parliamentary leader Elfyn Llwyd criticised party members who wanted Mr Jones to stand down immediately.

Following the election, Mr Jones said it had always been his intention to leave the role at some point before the next assembly election in 2016.

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