Thursday, 17 December 2009

Subsidy Culture

Lindy McDowell has an opinion piece in the Belfast Telegraph about the funding of Ulster Scots. The column has some obvious inaccuracies and omissions: a good deal of the agency's budget does go to "small local groups which actually do an impressive job in promoting Ulster Scots culture in their respective areas"; Marie's Wedding should be Màiri's; and the bizarre fact is that MLAs currently have no headphones for translation from Irish to English, never mind English to Scots.

Aside from that, there are some real stories here: the way Presbyterians, once proudly independent and austere, have embraced a subsidy-and-expenses culture; the extent to which Ulster Scots has failed to inspire the general public; and the continuing taxpayer funding of translations to Scots (or anti-Scots) ostensibly for the benefit of native speakers, all of whom without exception understand the English originals better.

Of course, the Ulster-Scots Agency is part of the Good Friday framework, and is probably safe in the short term. Indeed, even if the Southern Government agrees with Mr. McCausland's reform plans, they will still have to be in keeping with the GFA, which has a long list of signatories.

What might be of interest from the standpoint of investigative journalism would be looking at the question of whether any pressure, explicit or implicit, has been brought to bear on, or felt by, the Ulster-Scots Agency to maintain a certain level of spending. One consequential has been to prevent money going to Irish — a result now to be much more effectively delivered by the Ulster-Scots Academy.

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