Friday, 9 November 2012

Make Your Voice Heard

Three Government consultations on language in Northern Ireland are currently seeking submissions: the Ulster-Scots Language and Culture Strategy (deadline 27 November); the Irish Language Strategy (also 27 November); and the proposed development and research strategy of the Ministerial Advisory Group on Ulster Scots (7 December).

With the Ulster-Scots Strategies, the important points to make are that:
  • DCAL's own statistics show that Ulster Scots is a genuine cross-community phenomenon, so it should not be sold as part of a cultural package aimed squarely at members of a single tradition;
  • the membership of the boards of MAGUS and the Ulster-Scots Agency has never reflected the bi-ethnic make-up of the speech community in Northern Ireland;
  • the difference in the roles of the two bodies mentioned above is not at all clear;
  • there is absolute academic consensus that Ulster Scots is a variety of Scots, clearly implying common development and a common written standard; and
  • nearly all Scots-language academics and nearly all contemporary writers of traditional Scots are in Scotland, and it will be impossible to make progress on language development without accessing that resource.
With the Irish-language strategy, the important points to make are that:
  • as Irish and Ulster Scots are very different tongues, at different stages of development, and with a different relationship to English, it is to be welcomed that plans for their development are no longer linked;
  • bilingualism is always about safeguarding the rights of the minority, and it is precisely the absence of consensus on the issue that makes an Irish Language Act necessary;
  • by not passing legislation to protect the language, Northern Ireland risks distancing itself not only from the Irish Republic but from Scotland and Wales; and
  • it is both in the interests of Irish and morally right that efforts be made to interest Unionists in the language.

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