Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Those Pesky Accounts

The BBC reports that An Foras Teanga has not filed accounts since 2004 and that the reason for the delay lies with the Ulster-Scots Agency. There have been several similar reports over the years; yet it will come as a shock to many that this grossly unsatisfactory situation apparently still obtains.

The Blether Region, again via the BBC, reported in December last year that the Ulster-Scots Agency was to be subject to "root-and-branch reform". Thus far, that reform seems not to have borne the fruit that the accountants were looking for.

The reason can perhaps be found in that first BBC report, which includes the following sentence:

"Recently [the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure] moved another senior civil servant to the post of interim chief executive in place of the previous chief executive who is on sick leave."

If the person in question is "the former chief executive", then one wonders why — and, indeed, how — he might be on "sick leave". Sick leave is, after all, something granted to employees when they are ill; not "former" employees. Might it be that there is another element to this story? Perhaps that the "the former chief executive" who presided over such a fiasco is also a former chief executive of the Orange Order?

The truth is that there has been remarkable readiness from all sides of the political spectrum to give Ulster Scots — or, rather, the Ulster-Scots "movement" as currently constituted — the benefit of the doubt.

That benefit may be accorded in the hope that successes for Ulster Scots will soften Unionist attitudes towards Irish, that the Orange Order will discover a genuine interest in culture, or merely that the peace process will hold. Whatever the fact of the matter, there is no doubt that considerable latitude has been shown when it comes to the movement's chauvinism, its mind-boggling view of the dialect's linguistic status, its profligacy and diversion of funds to "Orange" initiatives, its expenses claims and penchant for taxpayer-funded foreign travel, its attempts to create an "Ulster" lobby in the United States, and, in the case of the Agency, its lack of native speakers and especially academic linguists.

And, it seems, even on the most basic and formal level of presenting its financial affairs for public scrutiny, it is still not willing to be held to account.

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