Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Ivory Towers

Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has confirmed in an answer to an Assembly Question (AQO 4843/11-15) that the Department is developing proposals for an Irish Language Academy. Among the tasks to come within its remit will be: making Irish more accessible to all; establishing a uniform spoken curriculum that provides consistency in content, teaching strategies, resources and assessment; providing support to the parents of Irish-medium children; and providing training, resources and quality assurance for Irish language classes.

Reading between the lines, that sounds as if aspects of Irish promotion currently dealt with by other organisations, both statutory and voluntary, will be amalgamated into the new body. The curriculum work, for example, is undertaken by the CCEA. Similarly, the phrase "more accessible to all" may mean "more accessible to non-Nationalists", which would suggest taking on part of Ultach Trust's remit.

Ultach Trust is one of a clutch of Northern organisations that may well go to the wall when new all-island funding arrangements come into force. It may be the case that the Minister has decided to provide a large-scale Irish-language organisation of her own to save some of the jobs and expertise that might otherwise be lost, and deflect some of the political criticism that would surely follow.

Regardless of the truth of that, those who follow Ulster Scots will be intrigued by the fact that the Minister appears to be contemplating for Irish what some Ulster-Scots activists have long wished for their speech variety — an "academy". More usually it is those Ulster-Scots campaigners who reflexively demand what Irish gets. Of course, the reason that they wanted an academy for Ulster Scots was probably to raise their status enough for them to impose their orthographic practices on an unsuspecting public, which would hardly apply in the case of Irish. They will be particularly annoyed, however, that Irish has got an academy before Ulster Scots, which only has a "ministerial advisory group".

It is an intriguing turn of events.

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