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.”