Stormont establishment is killing Ulster-Scots with its notion of ‘kindness’

Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor

I read with sympathy your editorial headed ‘Ulster Scots is not enough to offset an Irish Language Act’ (Morning View, June 28).

If what is on offer is more of what we have endured since the enactment of the Belfast Agreement (1998) and government ratification of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (2001), we do not want it.

You mention lack of demand to learn Ulster-Scots.  By and large, Ulster-Scots is learned through inter-generational transfer.  

However, the European Charter enjoins ‘the need for resolute action to promote regional or minority languages in order to safeguard them’ [Part II, Article 7(1)(c)].  

Provision is not predicated on demand.  Such ‘resolute action’, along with another Charter requirement, engagement with native speaker groups, has been conspicuous by its absence.

Basically, huge disparities, too numerous to include in a short letter, already exist in provision for the Irish and Ulster-Scots languages respectively, and Ulster-Scots is now arguably more marginalised than it was in 1998.  

It has also lost out by being lumped together with an undefined and inchoate ‘culture’ in the remit of the Boord o Ulster-Scotch.  

The Ulster-Scots Agency, in contrast with Foras na Gaeilge, seems to have no workable language development plan, no Board member publicly claiming any understanding of the language, and no ambitions to give Ulster-Scots what it must have before it can avail of any additional provision forming part of another deal, which is an infrastructure and proper resourcing – and I refer to more than money alone.  

A well-developed infrastructure for Irish pre-existed the Agreement and was simply slotted into place.

Ulster-Scots language activists have for long been viewed by the Stormont establishment as too fractious to be in charge of their own language and are expected to be grateful to the civil servants who have been drafted in to administer, usually with scarcely concealed hostility, lack of interest and evident distaste, such institutions as have existed nominally to promote Ulster-Scots.  

No more, please, Stormont establishment – you are killing Ulster-Scots with your notion of ‘kindness’.

Anne Smyth, Chairman, Ulster-Scots Language Society