Thursday, 2 December 2010

Tony Blair on "Ullans"

A friend of the Blether Region kindly typed in Tony Blair's comments on Ulster Scots from his autobiography, which we here reproduce. The action, as if we needed reminding, takes place during the negotiations leading to the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement.

"Now you might think that co-operation on these two issues [trade protection and the Irish language] would be relatively uncontentious. In fact the Unionists screeched to a halt. It turned out there was some obscure language called Ullans, a Scottish dialect spoken in some parts of Ulster which was the Unionists' equivalent of the Irish Langauge. By this time nothing surprised me. They could have suggested siting the Assembly on Mars and I would have started to draft options.

Everyone was now tired and fractious. I had an awful meeting with Bertie [Ahern] and David Trimble, in which Bertie did not take quite the same relaxed view of the importance of Ullans as I did, suggesting that maybe David would like to speak some of the 'fecking thing' so we could hear what it sounded like; and David taking umbrage at the idea that the dialect was a Unionist invention, explaining solemnly and at length the Scottish roots of Ullans with all the sensitivity of a landowner talking to a village idiot."

The book then details how Alastair Campbell made clear to his boss "if I thought he was now going to tell the world's media that contrary to what he had told them earlier, we had failed to secure an agreement after all because of a Scottish dialect called Ullans, and so the war in Northern Ireland would go on, such an announcement, on his part, was more than a tad unlikely."

Make it so, as they say on Star Trek.

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