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Ulster-Scots – Courtesy Of The Irish Tax-Payer

Boord O Ulstèr Scotch
Boord O Ulstèr Scotch

The Ulster-Scots Agency or Boord o Ulstèr-Scotch was set up as part of the negotiations surrounding the Irish Peace Process of the late 1990s. Its purpose was to assuage the “ethno-nationalist” demands of the most militantly separatist political leaders of the British Unionist minority in the north-east of Ireland by giving them an official body to promote the dialect of English known as Irish-Scots which they claimed as their own. Representing a hybrid mix of Scots-English, Hiberno-English and Anglicised Irish this regional patois was supposedly spoken by several thousand people at the time of the Belfast Agreement of 1998 (though in fact when the EU sent an investigative team of academics to chart the language they were unable to find a single native speaker). The Agency’s purpose was to serve, protect and promote the language with joint funding from the nation-states of Ireland and Britain.

So what has it done over the last decade and more? Well taking just one small part of the north-east of Ireland, North Down, in just one period, 2008-2013, one can list the majority of the recipients of grants from Irish and British taxpayers:

  • the Ballylone Concert Flute Band
  • the Ballyrobert Drumming Club
  • the Cleland Memorial Pipe Band
  • the Corbet Accordion Band
  • the Holywood True Blues Flute Band
  • the Newtownards Melody Flute Band
  • the North Down Defenders Musical Development

As you may have noticed none of these organisations are actually language teaching or promotion groups. Some of them are in fact what is colloquially known as “Kick the Pope” bands. That is military-style marching bands reflecting militant British and fundamentalist Protestant culture in Ireland, a few of which have links to various British terror factions (for instance the North Down Defenders Flute Band marches in support of financial aid for former British terrorist prisoners – a worthwhile endeavour for Irish tax-payers to underwrite I’m sure).

One is left to ask what minority language community is it exactly that the Ulster-Scots Agency supposedly serves? We can see that it supports exclusively Protestant British Unionist culture across the north-east of Ireland (and most definitely not Protestant Irish Nationalist culture). But it is a culture expressed entirely through the medium of standard British English. Even the official website of the Agency is solely in the English language as are the vast majority of its publications. A causal perusal of the website promoting the “Ullans” tongue shows an organisation that spends the majority of its budget funding music or dance groups with zero language input.

One is left to conclude that the purpose of the Ulster-Scots Agency is not to serve an already existing dialectal community in the north-east of the country, beyond mere tokenism. Instead it has two other functions. Firstly it promotes the creation of an English-medium culture for a separatist British ethno-national minority on the island of Ireland funded in part by the tax-payers of the island-nation of Ireland. Secondly it serves as the cutting edge of Unionism’s colonial “culture war” with Irish Nationalism by blocking any progress whatsoever in the granting of legislative equality to Irish-speaking communities and citizens in the North of Ireland.

So where does that leave those genuine speakers of the Irish-Scots dialect? Nationalist and Unionist, Catholic and Protestant? Exactly were they where two decades ago. Used, abused and abandoned.

11 comments on “Ulster-Scots – Courtesy Of The Irish Tax-Payer

  1. I have to say that of all the claims that these separatists make, the one of having this rich language spoken for centuries has to be the ultimate face in hand moment for me. The very idea of it to me is utterly desperate and an attempt to try to forge in retrospect a culture that never was, or was merely a culture of military strategy to divide a land – and nothing more.

    I am told by some even in the part of the country that is not occupied that I should respect the culture of the invasion parties, and to be fair- If there actually was a genuine culture to respect I probably would. If it were for example the Spanish who settled in the North and we had half of the population up there speaking Spanish and playing Spanish music etc- I think I would give it a bit of credit despite my republican standing. However, the current predicament we are in is that everybody knows that Ulster Scots is a non-language, or a best a concoction of a few jealous unionists to try to match the fact that the Irish have always had a language being spoken in the four directions of Ireland.

    It is almost as bad as the claim that Cú Chulainn was a unionist and now a front man for some unionist ideologies.

    • Paisley also claimed St Patrick was a Protestant even though Protestantism didn’t exist until after Martin Luther`s etc.widespread Reformation. As with all their claims on culture and man-made Anti Catholic traditions Ulster Scots is a regional dialect at best. Its slang like many areas of Britain & Ireland have similar. The extinct Yola spoken in areas of South Leinster holds more credibility or the Traveler`s Cant dialect. In a way these funds being allocated to Loyalist bands is similar of other funding being sidelined for Irish Cultural projects but profiting private communal based enterprises

      • I agree but I would even say that giving it the position of Traveler Can;t is too much because that actually was a language as little as 30 years ago and now has become a slang for many people and was actually spoken by 99% of Travelers. Ulster Scots, as the article says seemingly has no native speakers!

        • Thank you for the update a chara

          • Agree with both of you, some very good points. One can and should have respect for the diversity of human languages and cultures, regardless of origins, but the Irish-Scots is dialect has clearly become a weapon in a British Unionist war on the indigenous language of the island of Ireland (as if the English language was not enough?!).

            If certain Unionist leaders saw no further advantage in its use as a mechanism to block language rights and equality in the north-east of the country they would simply discard it.

            That is not fair on Irish-speakers and not fair on those who actually cherish the Irish-Scots dialect and find real beauty and a sense of continuity in it.

  2. Pádraig Ó Déin

    When is the Irish Government going to provide funding for Cavanish, Dundalkian, Corkonian and Dublinneese? These “ancient” languages have been around for centuries and deserve money and support.

    • Maybe if they hade a few flute bands ,it would help.

      • Yes, the focus on music teaching and funding as opposed to language teaching and education is pretty revealing. No one is denying a Scots-Irish culture in Ireland dating to the Plantation but that does not necessarily require a distinct language to express itself in separate from English or Irish (or both). Both languages can encompass that culture.

  3. There are native speakers of Scots in Ulster. They just don’t speak what “Boord o Ulstèr-Scotch” will have us believe is “Ulstèr-Scotch”.

    • I havent any knowledge on any of this nor will not be checking it out. Let them publicize their fracts

    • I accept there is some truth in that, Alan. A distinct dialect of Scots-English, Hiberno-English and Anglicised Irish. Unfortunately I see little real interest in it from the “Boord” who seem more focused on creating some Tolkienesque language of their own. The recent DCAL survey of opinions on Irish-Scots was revealing in the obsession by contributors not with their “own” language or dialect but with attacking the indigenous language of Ireland. Will find a link later. As I have said here I have no problem supporting Irish-Scots per se. If that was what was happening.

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