Minister challenged over ‘disparity’ claim

DUP MLA William Humphrey
DUP MLA William Humphrey

Stormont’s culture minister has been challenged over an alleged “disparity” of treatment of the Irish language and Ulster Scots.

DUP Assembly member William Humphrey asked why Caral Ni Chuilin’s Liofa initiative to encourage more people to speak Irish had not been repeated for the Ulster Scots sector.

The North Belfast MLA said the level of departmental funding allocated to the respective languages’ promotional bodies - Foras na Gaeilge and the Ulster Scots Agency - favoured Irish by a ratio of 8:1.

Mr Humphrey made the claims in response to an Assembly statement by Ms Ni Chuilin on the latest meeting of the North/South Ministerial Council’s (NSMC) Language Body.

“A disparity exists between Ulster Scots and the Irish language - a disparity in funding for the agency and Foras na Gaeilge of 8:1, and the Minister’s pet project Liofa has made a £1.1 million investment in the Irish language,” said the DUP representative.

“What is significant in the statement is what is not in it. Where is the work that is supposed to be going on for the equivalent of a Liofa for Ulster Scots? Where is the parity and equality that was promised for Ulster Scots?”

The minister rejected Mr Humphrey’s claims.

“I resent the accusation that I have pet projects, and it is regrettable that the Member continues to use and abuse the Irish language in the Chamber,” she said.

“As he knows, the Liofa programme is not part of the NSMC statement. Maybe he just did not bother reading it before he came in - that would not surprise me.

“I have asked the ministerial advisory group on Ulster Scots for a similar type of programme and believe that one will come forward in the new year.”