The UK Government slammed the NI Executive earlier this week for its failure to contribute to the UK’s report to the European Bureau of Lesser-Used Languages on the development of minority languages in the UK.
“Minority languages” means indigenous languages (i.e. those spoken by the population over several generations in the same jurisdiction), which in the case of Northern Ireland is taken to mean Irish and Ulster Scots.
The problem, of course, is that while development of the Irish language is generally proceeding well – with the Liofa campaign and new radio stations – the development of Ulster Scots has ground to an absolute halt, despite millions of taxpayers’ money being spent on it.
My good friend Liam Logan made a brave defence on the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme earlier in the week, but in fact most of what he referred to was musical or broadcasting activity (I can vouch for the latter as Chair of the Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund). There is precious little in the area of linguistic development.
It is not as if things couldn’t have been done linguistically for Ulster Scots. I myself, in an entirely voluntary capacity, published a grammar a year ago. A Ministerial Advisory Group, with minimal funding, has at last brought together some real expertise (even if I myself would respectfully dispute some of its priorities) but has been broadly unsupported elsewhere. Vernacular translations of works such as Alice in Wonderland, again primarily voluntary, have appeared. However, this is all under the radar (while the taxpayers’ money is spent on “cultural activities” rather than the linguistic development to which it was initially supposed to be allocated) for fear of ridicule.
Yet again, the Executive is hiding its failings and divisions. It should be more honest about them. A truthful admission of failure is no bad thing. A suspicion you are not being honest is.