Tuesday, 26 July 2011

A Side Elevation

Slugger O'Toole has an interesting discussion about Lee Reynolds, who is to be co-opted to Belfast City Council to replace former DUP councillor Ian Crozier (pictured), recently appointed as chief executive of the Ulster-Scots Agency.

Although in recent years he has been more strongly associated with backroom politics, of the two men Mr. Reynolds has by far the more established interest in Scots, and not only because he hails from the Coleraine area and is a son of the well-known rhymer Charlie.

Mr. Crozier, on the other hand, comes not from the north coast but from north Belfast.

Gaelscéal had the following to say about the new appointee:

"Cé go bhfuil 'staidéar, caomhnú, forbairt agus úsáid Albainis Uladh mar theanga bheo' luaite go sonrach i sainchúram an eagrais, áfach, is mó a dhíríonn obair na Gníomhaireachta ar chultúr ginearálta na hAlbainise — damhsa, ceol agus stair go príomha — seachas ar an chanúint féin. Tá an bhéim sin le feiceáil sa cheapachán is déanaí seo a chuireann duine nach bhfuil líofacht Albainise aige i mbun obair na heagraíochta."


"Although the "study, conservation, development and use of Ulster-Scots as a living language" is specifically mentioned in the organisation's remit, however, the Agency's work focuses more on the general culture of Scots — dance, music and history for the most part — instead of on the dialect itself. That emphasis can be seen in this latest appointment, which places a person who is not fluent in Scots in charge of the organisation's work."

In fact the quote "study, conservation, development and use of Ulster-Scots as a living language" comes not from the organisation's legal remit but from its mission statement; the reference to Ulster Scots as "a living language" explicitly contradicts the legislation under which the agency was established, which refers to "Ullans" as a "variety of the Scots language", i.e. a dialect of Scots. Thus, regardless of the status of Scots as a whole, it is always incorrect as a matter of law to refer to "Ullans" as a language in its own right. One might have thought that any CEO worth his salt would bring that simple fact to the board's attention.

For that reason, it is disappointing to see Mr. Crozier cite the status of Ulster Scots under Part II of the European Charter in defence of the rather silly practice of terming it a language. The Ulster-Scots Agency is a cross-border body set up under Irish as well as British law, and the UK Government has no power unilaterally to amend that parallel legislation, which has the status of an international treaty (the European Charter, for all its moral importance, is a non-justiciable list of aspirations).

About time the Ulster-Scots Agency was asked to respect the will of Tithe an Oireachtais.

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