Laird: it's a question of equality…

In response to the news of the cuts at Lá newspaper, Lord John Laird has told Slugger, “I’m very sad to hear if anyone has lost their jobs, that was never my intention”. However he went on to suggest that the intention behind his recent mention of the papers funding was to etablish equity in public funding between Irish and Ulster Scots.

He’s also adamant that he was not instrumental in any of the funding decisions that lead to the cuts in Lá’s current budgets.

“I was simply making representations in the House of Lords. I deliberately put the spotlight on the Irish language to demonstrate the how badly the governments’, and particularly the Irish government, has been treating Ulster Scots.

“Last year (2003) they [the governments] threatened to impose cuts of 11% on our overall budget, which we were successful in heading off. This year they cut our budgets by some £600,000. When you consider that the funding of Irish outweighs the funding of Ulster Scots by something like £12 or £13 to every £1 we receive, you can see that we are just not being treated fairly. And that is why I resigned as head of the Ulster Scots Agency”.

“It’s true that I asked questions in the Lords, but it was never my intention that people in Lá would lose their jobs. I was simply giving the governments’ two choices. Bring us up to the level of funding that Irish gets, or cut Irish down. Considering we are at an earlier stage of development, I would have hoped that they would have brought us up to the level of funding that Irish gets”.

And he argues that under the Belfast Agreement, it’s an issue of equality:

“The trouble is as Eammon McCann points out that Ulster Scots was in the Belfast Agreement, but it was supposed by the two governments never to have existed. I’ve always made the case that we should not get more than Irish, that would not be fair or equitable. I didn’t write the Belfast Agreement, but it’s there in the Agreement.”

  • IJP

    It’s not an issue of equality at all.

    As we’ve established, by ‘equality’ we mean ‘equality of opportunity’. It may be that funding differentials are necessary to ensure ‘equality of opportunity’.

    The fact there’s not a single Irish or Ulster-Scots speaker in NI who doesn’t also speak English means that this is, effectively, a non-issue altogether. The issue should be how to deal linguistically with communities of people who do not speak English.

  • fair_deal

    I have never met a man’s whose heart is so much in the right place but manages to expend a huge amount of energy on non-issues even to the expense of the real issues.

    Irish and Ulster-Scots are not carbon copies. They do need and will need different things at different times. There is presently no need for an Ulster-Scots language newspaper. The establishment and development of the Academy (with its job of archiving, tape-recorded survey, dictionaries and standardisation), the integration of the subject into schools, provision for adult learning, positve programming on the media and promotion of new writings are what Ulster-Scots needs.

  • fair_deal

    PS The Ulster-Scots Agency needs a good sorting out to.

  • unionist_observer

    “The trouble is as Eammon McCann points out that Ulster Scots was in the Belfast Agreement, but it was supposed by the two governments never to have existed”

    So the two governments make provisions for a language that they don’t believe exist?

  • fair_deal

    Unionist Observer

    The references to Ulster-Scots were included in the Agreement despite resistance by the two governments. This resistance was perpetuated by CCRU (the policy unit responsible for language matters) even after the Ulster-Scots Agency was established. The governments were effectively hoping if they ignored it long enough it would go away.

    Also I believe Lord Laird has used the wrong terminology. There is a difference between existence and recognition by a government e.g. the french government has signed the Charter but refused to recognise Breton despite its continued use.

  • maca

    “Bring us up to the level of funding that Irish gets, or cut Irish down

    A very ungenerous attitude. I would really have thought that someone with a desire to see their minority language supported would not wish to see funding cut on another ‘minority language’ just because they can’t get what they want.
    He should be wishing Irish well while fighting for his own language.

    People in the Irish language movement get on very well with their counterparts in the Scottish Gaelic and Welsh language movements. It’s not a competition, they support each other and learn from each other. Laird seems to want to make it a fight between Irish and U-Scots. That’s my take on it anyway.

    “it was never my intention that people in Lá would lose their jobs” … unless he doesn’t get what he wants!! He said it himself.

  • idunnomeself

    Maca

    Totally agree. Lord Laird knew that budgets are being cut in every direction. Then he asks for Irish to be cut back or Ulster-Scots to be found Millions.

    He was asking that Irish workers lose their jobs. He is either lying or admitting that he was very stupid.

    fair deal

    Not sure that the French have signed the Charetr (or at least not ratified it yet)?

    What is your theory on why LL actually resigned? I haven’t met an Ulster-Scot yet who believes the reasons he gave!

    IJP

    Quite right on the equality issue. LL’s continued deliberate misunderstanding of what equality means does no one any favours.

    Incidentally the 600k cut is fictional and an example of Lord Laird trying to make a political point at the expense of well meaning Ulster-Scots (and truth..)

  • IJP

    Agree with every word IDM.

  • cg

    Could I ask does any one know of anyone who speaks Ulster-Scots.
    It’s not a jibe. I am just curious as everyone who I spoke to who represents Ulster-Scots can’t seem able to tell me of anyone they know who speaks it.

  • maca

    CG – our own IJP here speaks U-Scots, as well as a number of other Sluggerettes. In the real world I know a sham from Antrim who is a native (AFAIK) speaker.

  • Ciarán Irvine

    Depends on what you mean by “speaks”. When I’m home I use plenty of U-S words like, say, thran and fornenst and crabbit and all. Does that make me (and all my family) Ulster Scots speakers? Probably not.

    Personally I don’t think it deserves the status of a Language. It’s a dialect. Should Corkonian be deemed a language cos they say things like langer and “dowtcha biy”? Or Dublinese for using words like mot or childer or gaff?

  • maca

    Ciaráin
    I suppose U-Scots is comparable in many ways with Hiberno-English, just a dialect of the main tongue. With the obvious difference being that most people here speak HE in one form or another (Northern, Southern, Planter HE), even U-Scots speakers (IMHO).

  • maca

    …oops, ‘cuse the typo Ciarán.

  • slackjaw

    I have to confess I’m a bit of an amateur on this topic, and on this occasion I’m at a serious risk of disappearing up my own arse, but I often wonder how much our notions of what makes a legitimate language, or how ‘language status’ is achieved, hinge on taxonomies, definitions etc that are legacies of a colonial, imperialist history.

    maca, on that link I think you posted (It was on another thread, but I can’t find it now), Prof Dolan makes the following comment:

    ‘Hiberno-English is a singularly rich member of the family of Englishes’

    http://www.hiberno-english.com/history.htm

    which would appear to indicate that there are indeed some who think that the way we normally imagine and describe the structure of major languages (as you describe it, the existence of a main tongue with divergent dialects) is not the only way of doing so.

    What I am wondering is, does the commonly accepted idea of a main tongue with divergent dialects militate against the development and ‘legitimation’ of Ulster-Scots? And is this idea a essentially a colonialist, imperialist construct?

    Or, more bluntly, when someone says that Ulster-Scots is oul’ granda talk (as I have done in the past), is this a distant echo of ‘The Arab language is incapable of expressing higher ideas’ or something similar?

    Or should I be laying off the espresso?

  • Oilbhéar Chromaill

    I don’t believe a word of LL’s rhetoric. He’s no more for Ulster Scots than he is for abolishing the House of Lords. His business is to cut Irish down. He admitted as much to Mick Fealty – to whom we owe a debt for getting him on the record. For all his PR experience, as an apologist for the UWC for instance, Laird is too fond of the sound of his own voice to shut up when he should.

    This is part of the UUP ‘Simply British’ strategy. Their Britishness is not all inclusive – it’s a very narrow, white, monoethnic, non Catholic Enoch Powell type of Britishness – I don’t think that all the UUP are like this but there is a section of the party which hankers after the certainties of 1920s to 1950s Britannia.

    This is so unlike the Britain of today it’s unbelievable. How many non white members does the UUP have for instance? How many votes would a UUP candidate get in Peckham or any suburb of London or any major British city? Not more than a handful of Colonel Blimps I imagine.

    There may be other forces at work also – business interests who feel threatened by the plans for a new English language daily from the same stable as Lá and the Irish language daily may be ‘collateral damage’ in a larger campaign.

    Either way Laird is giving a poor representation of the unionist community – either he’s a stooge or a bigot. Perhaps he may answer that point in due course. I await his reply…

  • Chris Guthrie

    There is an element of personal vendetta in all this. Lá has had great fun with Laird over the years, I suspect for the same reasons as Malachi O’Doherty reported in the Belfast Telegraph on 2 December 2002:

    “I have just received a copy of their paper, The Ulster Scot. I showed it to a republican minded friend and was intrigued by his reaction. “Isn’t it great,” he said.

    What he liked about it is that it makes Ulster Protestants look stupid. It depicts them as chauvinistic and naive.”

    Those without Irish may have missed the fact that after BBC Radio Ulster wrongly, though plausibly, claimed that the expression “wee daftie weans” had been used as an Ulster-Scots translation for ‘disabled children’, Lord Laird actually defended it when phoned up by Lá (front page, 15 October 2003).

    This brings me to the conclusion that, if Laird really wants to promote the local variety of Scots, he should learn it.

  • slackjaw

    Chris

    A few questions:

    What were his grounds for defending the translation? In what context was the translation supposedly made? In what context was he asked to defend it?

    Not knocking your story – just interested in knowing more about Lord Laird.

  • fair_deal

    IDM

    I can’t remember what reasons he gave, could you remind me?

    CG

    On who is an Ulster-Scots speaker? Unfortunately this is not a soundbite answer but here goes.

    Ulster-Scots is a linguistic continum it includes people who use a few words to those who use its vocabulary and grammatical structures extensively. In rural areas and towns the common referene to the amount of usage a person makes of Ulster-Scots is how broad they speak.

    There is also a generational aspect the older generations use and retain more (this is supported by the Life and Times Survey were 1% of 18-35 year olds defined themselves as Ulster-Scots speakers while 4% of 65+ year olds defined themselves as such.)

    The guestimates for how many are in the continum are 100,000 with about 10,000 near monoglot speakers(these are based on a best guess on the rate of decline since the last rigorous research in the 1960’s)

    There are barriers to people interacting with Ulster-Scots speakers.
    1. Social barriers – As Brendan Adams (one of the few who conducted serious academic research into Ulster-Scots)comments if you go to an Ulster-Scots spekaing area and engage someone in conversation they will speak to you like anyone else will but if you listen to their conversation with their friends you can hear the usage of Ulster-Scots. Hence the description of it being a language of hearth and Home, friends and family. The Catalans describe this as the cultural cringe. A natural reaction when its use has been ridiculed and demeaned for a long time.
    2. Usage barriers – It is a rural based language and it is suited to that lifestyle. As Jim Fenton (compiler of the Hamely tongue) would say it is easy for two farmers to lean on a gate and talk about farming in broad Ulster-Scots but they would use English to discuss the previous evenings televised football match.

    Your usage of words may very well place you on the continum. Words are easy to spot but you may very well be using grammatical forms too.

    In my own family I was first generation town and had the least in my family but each generation uses more. As a child I could not understand what my great-grandfather said to me. This was part of the cultural wealth of my family that I never had access to. My education either made fun of it or just ignored it entirely.

    Ciaran

    Dublinese was never a state language nor does it have a literary tradition of several centuries.

    Anyway all this debate is a bit academic Ulster-Scots has been recognised as a language and being treated as such.

    Oilbhéar Chromaill

    Thanks for the conspiracy theory but your representation of Lord Laird is an outdated caricature.

    I also notice you have disappeared from the La thread since i challenged you to respond to my postings. I will accept your replies here or will you scuttle off again?

  • fair_deal

    Chris Guthrie

    One of the days I will always savour is when Talkback had to apologise for inventing that story about ‘wee daftie weans’.

    I agree about the poor quality of ‘The Ulster-Scot’. The problem with it is that it is PR pap produced by someone with no feel for the topic or the community, no propoer house style has been developed and it is simple produced to make it look as if the Agency is actually achieving something.

  • Chris Guthrie

    Slackjaw

    “What were his grounds for defending the translation? In what context was the translation supposedly made? In what context was he asked to defend it?”

    He was asked to defend it after the Talkback programme in which David Dunseith relayed the allegation. Laird said, in my translation:

    “I’m not a linguist, and I cannot speak authoritatively about language, but if those are the precise words in Ulster Scots used to describe these things, one must accept them,” he told Lá. “People have to remember that it’s not English here but Ulster Scots and therefore an entirely different context.” […]
    “I’m sure there are words in Irish which disgust English-speakers, but we don’t go after them.”

  • maca

    Slackjaw

    “What I am wondering is, does the commonly accepted idea of a main tongue with divergent dialects militate against the development and ‘legitimation’ of Ulster-Scots? And is this idea a essentially a colonialist, imperialist construct?”

    The thing about languages is that like ourselves it’s impossible to put them under neat titles. Look at Swedish/Danish/Norwegian or Finnish/Estonian or Spanish/Italian etc etc These languages are closer to each other than many African dialects. So really the whole thing is based around borders and nationhood.
    Really we have to relax on the issue and not be too bothered about whether our “language” is a language or not.
    So does this “militate against the development and ‘legitimation’ of Ulster-Scots”? No. Whether U-Scots falls into any special group or not is irrelelvant. The important thing is that it is a minority tongue in Ireland, it is an important part of the culture of the island and like any minority language should be protected.

    But one important point is what is a legitmate ‘tongue’. For example is Hiberno-English just British English with a funny accent? I have heard that argument before. In the case of U-Scots I think the situation is clear enough, it is a dialect of Scots and a very legitmate “langualect” (for want of a better word). That’s my little opinion anyway.

    Fair_deal
    “representation of Lord Laird is an outdated caricature.”

    On the other hand Lairds own words posted above were pretty clear. ‘If I can’t have it then they can’t have it.’

  • Davros

    On the other hand Lairds own words posted above were pretty clear. ‘If I can’t have it then they can’t have it.’

    Sounds like he’s using SF’s negotiating stance …

  • slackjaw

    Chris Guthrie

    “I’m not a linguist, and I cannot speak authoritatively about language”

    I think this points to the root of the problem. For the preservation of the Ulster-Scots tongue, its most prominent advocate does indeed need to know something about language.

    maca

    Thanks for your reply. I agree.

  • unionist_observer

    “This is part of the UUP ‘Simply British’ strategy. Their Britishness is not all inclusive – it’s a very narrow, white, monoethnic, non Catholic Enoch Powell type of Britishness”

    If I thought the UUP was like that I can assure you I would not be a member, the DUP have cornered the market in that sort of closed minded, sectarian narrow mindset.

    The profile of UUP members, party workers and voters demonstrates their non sectarianism. Look up some press releases by Martin Smyth MP, he speaks out frequently against the hate crimes that go on in his constituency of South Belfast.

    As for the race issue, this is an issue faced by all the political parties in Northern Ireland. Its something that we need to do something about, there is a small non-white minority in Northern Ireland, in particular the chinese community. They don’t seem to want to get politically active, yet they have needs and issues like the rest of us. Maybe if we could get some representation for the non-white minority it might help reduce the figures of racist hate crimes in the province.

  • unionist_observer

    take a look at smyths website on that note

  • unionist_observer
  • dave

    They say there is no such thing as bad publicity?

    At least the Ulster-Scots are being mentioned, can’t be all bad then? keep talking.

  • IJP

    unionists observer

    Serving South Belfast for over 20 years… until 2003, by the look of it!

    Maybe if we could get some representation for the non-white minority it might help reduce the figures of racist hate crimes in the province.

    How does joining a protest against Chinese residents of a block of flats, as some of your party colleagues did, achieve this exactly? How does joining a protest against Catholic residents of that same block, as the same party colleagues did, prove the ‘non-sectarian’ approach of Ulster Unionists that you allege?

    This is outrageously racist and sectarian behaviour that can be neither excused nor denied. Yet rather than apologizing and distancing themselves from party colleagues, all we get is attempts at denial and excusing!

    If you want to achieve the very honorable goals you set out above, you’re in the wrong organization.

    The rest of us want actions, not words.

  • unionist_observer

    “How does joining a protest against Chinese residents of a block of flats, as some of your party colleagues did, achieve this exactly? How does joining a protest against Catholic residents of that same block, as the same party colleagues did, prove the ‘non-sectarian’ approach of Ulster Unionists that you allege?”

    I’m not aware of these incidents, but do tell me more.

    The UUP is not by any means perfect, but I do believe it is in a process of change and the only way to encourage the change is to be involved and get my opinions heard. The section of the party that is sectarian needs reformed, but hopefully within a couple of generations time, it will.

    “Serving South Belfast for over 20 years… until 2003, by the look of it!”

    To my knowledge Smyth hasn’t decided whether or not he is going to run in May. If he does he will win the seat. So unless you know something I don’t, I think you ought to withdraw that statement

    Finally, the fact still remains that the minority communities do need some representation, even if they formed their own parties. I think it would be an enormously healthy thing to happen to NI if they did. Might bring home to some of the more extreme parties that Northern Ireland has more problems than simply the prod/RC one.

  • slackjaw

    ‘Finally, the fact still remains that the minority communities do need some representation, even if they formed their own parties.’

    Aye, but would they be unionist or nationalist ones? 🙂

  • unionist_observer

    Maybe if that mindset disappeared, we’d have some real politics with proper idealogical political parties rather than sectarian pressure groups….

    just a thought.

  • Davros

    That’s the probem with the GFA. It has more or less accepted that mindset and means it’s difficult to be anything else apart from Orange of Green.

  • slackjaw

    Which was the point I was trying to make, Dav. Thank you.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    unionist observer said: “Look up some press releases by Martin Smyth MP, he speaks out frequently against the hate crimes that go on in his constituency of South Belfast.”

    Perhaps you can explain why he was hanging out with groups like the supremacist South African Springbok Club group not so long ago then!

    His views towards other races seem to be based on a kind of delusional superiority complex – “We must help these poor blacks, as they are incapable of looking after themselves.”

    So for as long as the Chinese and other races in South Belfast know their place, Rev Smith will be happy. He strikes me as someone who would have been most at home as an Empire-loving missionary in Darkest Africa at the turn of the century before last, ministering to ‘darkies’ in a language they didn’t understand to save their hellbound souls and spreading our western diseases and medicine in equal measure.

    The Northern Ireland Branch of the Springbok Club held a special meeting to celebrate the achievements of the British Empire in June 2004, where the guest speaker was the Rev. Martin Smyth MP, the UUP MP for Belfast South. Quoting extensively from Niall Ferguson’s book Empire, the Rev. Smyth was able to show how, in spite of some failings, the British Empire was one of the greatest ever forces for good in the world, and ended by quoting Kipling’s famous injunction “Take Up the White Man’s Burden”.

    Source: http://www.netcomuk.co.uk/~springbk/springbk.html

    The South African Exiles Web Site welcomes all South African and Rhodesian expatriates (as well as other friends of these countries) who wish to see the re-establishment of civilised rule in Southern Africa. It supports the SPRINGBOK CLUB (formed in 1996 as a merger between the WHITE RHINO CLUB and the RHODESIAN FORUM) which is a worldwide movement with its headquarters in London.

    http://www.netcomuk.co.uk/~springbk/index.html

    What a tolerant, non-racist group Rev Smith aligns himself with!

  • slackjaw

    Fookin ‘ell.

  • D’Oracle

    This Lord Laird chap now seems to pop up with a depressing regularly; dont know about the rest of you but each and every one of these times he’s seriously pissing me off. There is a toxic alien subversiveness about his actions that makes my skin creep. He has to go.

    Go now Laird..and dont look back!

  • Fraggle

    unionist observer, if you are unaware of the events at whitehall square this year, I’d suggest you try to do more observing.

    I’ve read a speech Smyth gave to the house of commons on the issue of racism. he seemed to think that the racists attacks in his constituency were caused by the irish government giving irish citizenship to any child born on the island of ireland. he is good at paying lipservice to anti-racism but the reality is somewhat different.