A request by the chief executive of the Ulster-Scots Agency for an additional £140 million for Ulster-Scots was not approved by the board of the organisation, a board member has said.
The News Letter yesterday revealed that Ian Crozier had made the request in a 10-page paper submitted to the Stormont talks in April, proposing to spend the money over 10 years on everything from highland dance to marching bands and television programmes.
Mr Crozier is a member of the DUP but the party has distanced itself somewhat from his paper, saying that many papers were submitted to the talks, “none of which have any agreed or any other status”.
Last night David McNarry, the former leader of Ukip in Northern Ireland, said the board had not approved the paper. When asked whether he supported the proposal, he told the News Letter: “The board did not endorse the paper when it was presented some time ago.”
The document argued that in asking for £139.55 million over a decade, the request would still be £30 million less than the Irish language had received in the last five years.
It also suggested a much longer term argument for enhanced public funding, telling the political parties that it hoped to “begin laying a foundation which would allow the Ulster-Scots sector to build towards equality in the future”.
The paper also said that the figures did not include the “uplift in the agency’s corporate costs which would flow from them” and that as some of the proposals would have “potential” in Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal there could be scope for discussions with the Irish government, meaning that the total figure would be higher than the £139.55 million.
Yesterday the TUV leader Jim Allister expressed concern that Ulster-Scots could be part of a trade-off to secure an Irish language act.
Mr Allister, who represents North Antrim, an area with a strong Ulster-Scots community, said: “While it is obvious that unionist culture is the poor relation when it comes to government funding there can be no question of the Ulster-Scots Agency being used as ‘cover’ for concessions on the Irish language.
“An Irish language act – even one dressed up as a ‘culture act’ – would fundamentally change the character of Northern Ireland and lead to direct discrimination against Protestants who have not learned Irish and have no desire to learn it.
“I don’t believe the wider unionist community would welcome a few extra million for Ulster-Scots language and culture if the trade-off was that their children couldn’t get civil service jobs due to lack of Irish.”