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Northern Ireland Assembly

Tuesday 19 December 2000


Assembly Business: Use of Assembly E-Mail / Points of Order

Languages: North/South Ministerial Council Sectoral Meeting

Economic Development Agencies

Assembly Business

Dogs (Amendment) Bill: Final Stage

Salary of Comptroller and Auditor General

Assembly Members’ Allowances Determination

Assembly Members’ Salaries Determination


The Assembly met at 10.30 am (Mr Speaker in the Chair).

Members observed two minutes’ silence.

Assembly Business: Use of Assembly E-Mail / Points of Order


Mr Speaker:

Dr Paisley raised with me the use by a Member’s researcher of the Assembly e-mail address as a point of contact in respect of an article that the researcher had written, and which was published in ‘The Irish Times’ on 7 December. The researcher is a Mr Steven King. The matter relates to a member of staff, not a Member of the House, so it is for the Assembly Secretariat to deal with it. I have put it in the hands of the Head of Administration for his attention.

I can tell the House that the Head of Administration has ruled that Assembly e-mail accounts are provided for staff use on Assembly business only and that their private or commercial use is prohibited. The Head of Administration is writing to the Member’s researcher to remind him of the rules governing the provision and use of Assembly services and to inform him that any further breach of these rules will result in the withdrawal of Assembly services.

I have to advise the House that the Second Reading of the Electronic Communications Bill on the Order Paper for today has been withdrawn by the relevant Ministers.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to thank you for your ruling. I am glad that this matter is being dealt with as you have described.

Mr Molloy:

A Cheann Comhairle, go raibh maith agat. With regard to the issue of my speaking as Committee Chairperson yesterday, the point was raised by Mr McGrady that I had extended that by actually making a political speech. It is quite clear from Hansard that I made a differential between speaking as a Committee Chairperson and speaking as a party member. I want to draw that to the attention of the House.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Hansard reports that I spoke as the Committee Chairperson. I was not called as the Chairperson, and I made it clear to the Speaker that I was speaking in my own capacity.

Mr McGrady:

On a further point of order, Mr Speaker. Is it possible for a Member who is a Chairperson of a Committee to be called in privilege and precedence as a Chairperson of a Committee and then use that calling as Chairperson to make a personal political speech?

Mr Speaker:

May I refer all the Members to the comments I made yesterday, which are recorded in Hansard, about the calling of Members as office holders in the Assembly. I pointed out that on some occasions Members who were office holders were not called as such because they had said that they did not want to speak in their office. There is a dilemma for those Members who are office holders who wish to make reference to matters which are the subject of their office but also want to make reference to other matters, as under Standing Orders they may only be called once in the course of any debate. They could not be called once as a Chairperson or Deputy Chairperson and then subsequently called again.

I hesitate to make an immediate ruling on that matter because it is a difficult one and I wish to give it further consideration. I will return to the matter when I have considered it and consulted with the Business Committee.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I made it clear to the Deputy Speaker that I did not want to be called as Chairperson of the Agriculture Committee simply because political points had been made against my party and, as its leader, I wanted to answer them. I did not take any precedence whatsoever — I was well down the list. Therefore, Mr McGrady can go home and sleep well, knowing that everything was done decently and in order.

Mr Speaker:

I can confirm that Dr Paisley was not called in his capacity as Chairperson of the Agriculture Committee and did not have precedence either in the Assembly or, I note, even in the speaking order of his own party.


Languages: North/South Ministerial Council Sectoral Meeting


Mr Speaker:

I have received notice from the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure that he wishes to make a statement on the North/South Ministerial Council (NSMC) languages meeting which was held on 5 December 2000.

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure (Mr McGimpsey):

I wish to report to the Assembly on the second meeting of the NSMC in language sectoral format on Tuesday 5 December 2000 in the National Art Gallery, Dublin.

Following nomination by the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, Dr Farren and I attended the meeting. The Irish Government was represented by Mr Eamon Ó Cuív TD, Minister of State. This report has been approved by Dr Farren and is also made on his behalf.

The meeting opened with a progress report by the joint chairperson of the Language Body, Maighréad Uí Mhairtín, on the activities of the body and by the interim chief executive of Foras na Gaeilge (The Irish Language Agency), Mr Micheál Ó Gruagáin, and the interim chief executive of Tha Boord o Ulster-Scotch (The Ulster-Scots Agency), Mr John Hegarty.

(Mr Deputy Speaker [Mr McClelland] in the Chair)

The Council considered and approved an interim programme of activities for Foras na Gaeilge for 2001, including interim staffing arrangements to manage that programme. The programme of activities is divided into four main sectors: the development of a corporate plan and detailed organisational structure for Foras na Gaeilge, subject to the approval of the NSMC; allocation of more than IR£7 million to Irish language organisations and projects, including funding of an estimated IR£750,000 to an new pre-school organisation, and an estimated IR£400,000 for Irish language newspapers and journals; projects and partnerships run by Foras, including book publishing and distribution; and administration and personnel, including an increase in staff numbers from 40 to 65 and the establishment of a permanent office in Belfast.

The Council also noted a progress report on Foras na Gaeilge’s corporate plan. The Council approved, in principle, funding of IR£3·1 million — that is £2·37 million sterling — over a five-year period for a modern, high-quality English-Irish dictionary which would supersede the current major English-Irish dictionary edited by Tomás De Bhaldraithe, which was first published in 1959. The new authoritative dictionary will have 50,000 key words and 250,000 sample sentences.

The Council also agreed, in principle, a three-year action plan to ensure that there is an adequate provision of Irish language textbooks and resources for primary and post-primary schools and colleges. The plan would include ensuring that teachers are released from their teaching duties to produce the resources and that they would receive training to do so. The material would be made available in printed and electronic formats.

The Council considered and approved the body of the corporate plan of Tha Boord o Ulster-Scotch. The plan supported four major themes at a total cost of £1·45 million. They are: supporting Ulster-Scots as a living language and promoting its use and development; acting as a key contributor to the development of Ulster-Scots culture; establishing partnerships with the education and community sectors to promote the study of the Ulster-Scots language, culture and history; and developing the public’s understanding of the Ulster-Scots language and culture.

The Council considered a request by the chairperson of Tha Boord o Ulster-Scotch for assistance to carry out his duties and agreed a means by which this could be done. The Council also noted the resignation from Foras na Gaeilge of Cllr Cionnaith Ó Súileabháin and appointed Gearóid Ó hEara as his replacement.

The Council considered the draft equality schemes for Tha Boord o Ulster-Scotch and Foras na Gaeilge. It noted both drafts and advised that they should be amalgamated into one scheme for the North/South Language Body. It acknowledged that further work would be required to agree the final format of the draft, taking account of the need for each agency, in its particular context, to be able to consult fully and comprehensively. The final draft equality scheme for the North/South Language Body will be submitted to NSMC for approval before public consultation.

The Council considered the recommendation of a selection panel on the appointment of a chief executive to the Special EU Programmes Body. The name of the candidate put forward by the selection panel was accepted by the Council and a further announcement will be made in due course following acceptance of the appointment. The Council agreed to meet again in this sectoral format in Northern Ireland in February/March 2001.

The Chairperson of the Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee (Mr ONeill):

I welcome the Minister’s statement and pay tribute to him and his Colleagues for the work they have been doing. This issue is at an important stage, and the Committee will be interested in examining it. Will the Minister provide us with the details of the programme of activities in the Gaelic section and of the corporate plan for the Ulster-Scots section?

I welcome the work that has been carried out on the dictionary, which is currently in great demand. Was there any discussion about making it available in disc form? That has become an increasingly important format, both in language teaching and in the development of the language.

10.45 am

Mr McGimpsey:

Both agencies — Foras na Gaeilge and Tha Boord o Ulster Scotch — have undertaken work on producing dictionaries in Ulster-Scots, for the first time, and an updated Irish one. That is an important piece of work for both agencies. There is no reason why the Ulster-Scots Agency’s corporate plan cannot be given to the Committee. I will also undertake to provide it with a programme of activities for Foras.

The Deputy Chairperson of the Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee (Mrs Nelis):

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. This is a very welcome progress report. I welcome the appointment of Gearóid Ó hEara, whom I know personally and who will be an excellent replacement for Cionnaith Ó Súileabháin. In particular, I welcome the fact that resources will be directed to teaching duties, that teachers will be able to be released from their duties so as to produce these resources, that they will receive the necessary training and that material will be available in both printed and electronic form. Nollaig shona dó.

Mr McGimpsey:

Important work is under way as far as the North/South Language Body and the two agencies are concerned. The level of co-operation that exists between the two agencies is very helpful. It is a very welcome move.

Dr Adamson:

I thank the Minister for his fine work in providing a more culturally supportive environment in core Ulster-Scots areas, including specific recognition of the Ulster-Scots language. I would like him to take note of several other recommendations.

He could mebbe tak a luik at the wey Inglish bes lairnt in skuils for ti gie wecht til the mukkil Ulster-Scotch cums in on the local wey o tawkin. He could lay oot whit wey the Ulster-Scotch leid micht coud be lairnt up ti GCSE an GCE A Heicht. Mairatower, he coud: lay oot plenishin for the fittin leir o yins cummin oot o universitie ti be dominies; ettil an pit thegither dedicate skreivins for the lairnin; an lay oot whit thai coud dae wi for haein Ulster-Scotch lairnin for collegianers.

First, a review of how English is taught in schools to take account of the heavy influence of Ulster-Scots on local speech. Secondly, provision for the study of the Ulster-Scots language to GCSE and GCE A-level. Thirdly, provision for appropriate teacher training. Fourthly, a drive to produce dedicated educational support materials. Fifthly, provision for Ulster-Scots studies in tertiary education.

A’m pittin doun aw thir avisements ti ettil at makkin siccar o jonik daeins an aiven-haunditness for the leid an fowgate heirskip o the haill fek o residenters.

The objective of each of these recommendations is to promote, on a basis of equality and fairness, the linguistic and cultural heritage of an entire community.

Mr McGimpsey:

I agree with much of what the Member said about our rich and varied indigenous linguistic tradition, not least the tradition of Ulster-Scots. A number of his points were well made, in relation to teaching, studying for GCSE, teacher training, educational support and also availability for study at tertiary level. Tha Boord o Ulster-Scotch is looking at all those areas, and it has a number of exciting plans for the linguistic and cultural development of Ulster-Scots. That is obviously a very rich vein of our shared heritage and tradition. The agency is well aware of those areas, and I am confident that its work will encompass all of them.

Mr Hilditch:

Further to yesterday’s award of £1·2 million to be spent on the language issue, I would be interested to hear the Minister’s views on accountability and reporting. I note the points he made this morning on the proposed corporate plans for both the Irish language and Ulster-Scots, but there is a clear need for full and detailed plans to be made available as soon as possible, giving precise information on the proposed activities of the body and the funding implications.

Looking at the information, I am concerned that once again proposals for the Irish language, including additional jobs and the establishment of a permanent office in Belfast, far outweigh and outstrip the resources being made available for the promotion of Ulster-Scots.

Will the Minister detail what mechanisms or directives are in place to ensure that a full report of the North/South Language Body and its activities for the current year will be presented at the earliest opportunity, given the non-presentation of any previous corporate plan?

Mr McGimpsey:

The flow of information is very important, and we are trying to increase this communication through, for example, this statement. Everything is accountable to the North/South Ministerial Council and, therefore, to this Assembly. That is why I have made this statement. There is a clear flow of information from both the North/South Language Body, answerable to the North/South Ministerial Council, and from the two language agencies, which are answerable to the body.

The corporate plan for Tha Boord o Ulster-Scotch is complete in draft form, and the draft corporate plan for Foras na Gaeilge, the Irish language body, will be available early in the new year. Those will come together as part of the plan for the body as a whole. It is also important to reflect that an equality statement is a key part of that organisation, in common with all the other bodies attached to this Assembly and to the settlement. Equality statements have been prepared for both the agencies and, as I said in my statement, are in the course of being amalgamated into one single statement that will govern the work of the North/South Language Body.

Mr Hilditch mentioned the disparity in funding. Under direct rule, Ulster-Scots got £118,000 per year. In the first year of devolution we multiplied that by five, and took it up to £667,000. In the second year we have doubled that to £1·3 million. As a result of devolution, over the past two years we have seen a tenfold increase in funding for Ulster-Scots. We recognise its importance. It was not getting the sort of support and resources that it merited.

As for the number of staff employed, it is wrong to benchmark one language against another. Ulster-Scots is clearly in a more embryonic developmental form. Gaelic is much more mature in its development. As I said this morning, the Irish-English dictionary is being updated. The dictionary currently in use is some 50 years old, and needs to be updated, whereas the Ulster-Scots agency is about to undertake the very first dictionary. That gives an indication of the different levels of development of, and, therefore, the different degrees of resources needed by each language.

Tha Boord o Ulster-Scotch will say that funding is adequate at the moment, and that it has its hands full in relation to work programmes. The Foras na Gaeilge staff is increasing from 40 to its complement of 65. That increase has been slow, because of the concern that the suspension would not be lifted early and the resultant delays in recruiting permanent staff.

Tolerance, respect and understanding of languages, including Irish, Ulster-Scots and ethnic minority languages, are the key policy objectives towards which we are working. Currently, Irish Gaelic has Part III European Charter status; Ulster-Scots has Part II status. The Ulster-Scots agency is confident that the language will achieve Part III within 10 years, and Ulster-Scots can claim to be one of the fastest growing minority or regional language movements in Europe. There is much to be welcomed, not just in the activities of the Boord o Ulster-Scotch, but in the activities of Foras na Gaeilge.

Mr McCarthy:

It is important that the Assembly take steps to support Irish and Ulster-Scots, so long as they are complementary to each other and are not just restricted to one tribe or the other. I look forward to the day when we will hear substantial contributions in Irish from Unionist Members and Ulster-Scots from the Nationalists. We would support that, but not if the language issue is going to be split down the middle by each tribe.

Fewer people are using the languages as first languages; in most cases, they are simply exercising a cultural preference. I welcome the fact that people have that choice.

Mr Poots:

Is it in order for the Member for Strangford to describe constituents in Northern Ireland as tribes?

Mr Deputy Speaker:

It is not unparliamentary language.

Mr McCarthy:

Will the Minister tell us what steps — if any — are being taken by the North/South body to promote the provision of services in other important languages, such as Cantonese, Mandarin and Urdu? Does the Minister agree that more people on this island speak those as first languages? Many of those people have difficulty understanding English and miss out on important information and opportunities. Has the Minister any plans to raise those genuine concerns at future North/South Ministerial Council meetings?

Mr McGimpsey:

Tolerance, respect and understanding for languages, including Irish, Ulster-Scots and the ethnic minority languages, are overriding principles of the Belfast Agreement. The North/South Language Body comprises two agencies — the Irish language agency and the Ulster-Scots agency. The Irish language agency is Foras na Gaeilge and the Ulster-Scots agency is Tha Boord o Ulster-Scotch, and each of those has a specific remit. I have received no proposal for a third language agency, and I am not sure whether it would be appropriate to consider that now.

There are other methods of funding and supporting ethnic minority languages. I agree with the Member that it is important; there are 8,000 Cantonese speakers in Northern Ireland, which is a sizeable constituency. For many of those people, Cantonese is their first language and English their second. If we are to promote tolerance, respect and understanding, it is important that resources be directed towards, for example, the Chinese Welfare Association, with which I have had some contact. There are mechanisms to provide support, but I do not know whether that support is adequate. The matter does not fall within my remit, but I think that those groups would be the first to agree that there is support available to them.

Mr McMenamin:

I welcome the plan to ensure that there is adequate provision of Irish language textbooks and resources for primary and post-primary schools and colleges. The new dictionary is also welcome. Language is an essential element of our cultural heritage and is part of our sense of identity.

I ask the Minister if Ulster-Scots and Irish can be implemented, sooner rather than later, as part of the curriculum in all primary schools. Will he consider setting up a sub-office in a border region, particularly in the west Tyrone area? I wish him a happy Christmas.

11.00 am

Mr McGimpsey:

A Foras na Gaeilge office is being set up in Belfast. Tha Boord o Ulster-Scotch has its headquarters in Belfast, and it is setting up an office in Donegal. Attempting to straddle and to reach the whole constituency is very much part of the agenda.

There is a resource allocation for support at primary- school level. This is not just the Department’s responsibility —the Member is aware that boards of governors are responsible for delivering the curriculum in the classrooms. Their support comes from education and library boards, which, in turn, derive strategy from the Department of Education. It would not be for me — or, indeed, for the language bodies — to determine what happens in the classroom. There is certainly an interest in providing that type of support. I also refer to the answer that I gave to Dr Adamson. I said that both agencies see it as part of their remit to look at how they give support to primary, secondary and tertiary education.

Mr Shannon:

I wish to ask the Minister a number of questions and to make a number of points. First of all, I want to express disappointment. I know that the Minister has said that the Ulster-Scots Heritage Council and the language society are happy. I understand that they are far from happy about the funding that has been offered to them. If you look at the overall figures, it is very clear that Ulster-Scots is almost an afterthought. It is a poor relation. To be honest, it is a very, very poor relation when it comes to the funding which has been allocated to the different organizations.

I have no problem with the promotion of the Irish language, as long as it is done to promote the language and not used as a political tool. Perhaps the Minister can reassure us that the promotion of the Irish language will be on that basis and will not be used by political organizations to promote an ethos, culture or political viewpoint which would be alien to a large proportion of the people in the Province. I would like that reassurance first.

The Minister also mentioned staff and locations. We see that the staff in the Belfast office for the Irish language agency will be increased from 40 to 65. He also mentioned that an Ulster-Scots office will be established in Donegal. Can he tell us when that will be established, what the staffing numbers will be, and where the staff will come from? What criteria will be used in choosing the staff of the Ulster-Scots office? Can he also tell us how many staff will be in the Belfast office, and what criteria will be used to select them?

I also have a question about book publishing and distribution. I am a bit disappointed that Ulster-Scots has not been given significant — or, indeed, any — help towards book publishing and distribution. I know that the Minister is aware of the Ulster-Scots books that have been written by a number of enthusiasts who are committed to the Ulster-Scots language, culture and tradition. They have paid for the publications from their own pockets and through private funding. Where is the funding for this?

The Minister also mentioned the English-Irish dictionary that will have 50,000 key words and 250,000 sample sentences. Can the Minister say whether there will be similar help for Ulster-Scots? In the last sentence —

Mr Deputy Speaker:

Mr Shannon, I ask you to be a bit more concise when asking your questions. They are quite difficult to follow.

Mr Shannon:

On the last page of his statement, at the third paragraph from the end, the Minister states that the final draft equality scheme for the North/South language body will be submitted to the North/South Ministerial Council for approval before public consultation is carried out. Can the Minister confirm once again that the public will be asked for its opinion once the recommendations have been made?

May I also ask the Minister —

Mr Deputy Speaker:

Technically, the Minister may answer only one of those questions. You cannot keep adding points.

Mr Shannon:

This is my last question. Can the Minister confirm that the Ulster-Scots language, history and cultural tradition will, and can, receive funding so that they can be adequately promoted? Will that commitment be given here today? Unfortunately, we have not had it so far.

Mr McGimpsey:

As you said, Mr Deputy Speaker, I am only required to answer one of Mr Shannon’s questions, but I will do my best to answer all of them, not least because it is Christmas.

I have responded to his question about funding on a number of occasions, both here and in writing, but I do not mind answering it again. Two years ago, funding for the Ulster-Scots tradition was £118,000. In the first year of devolution, we multiplied that figure by five to bring the total funding up to £667,000. The following year, we doubled it again, so we have now seen a tenfold increase in funding. That is as much, I believe, as the Ulster-Scots movement can handle at the moment. It has a three-year corporate plan to develop this funding. We are not trying to force this mushroom to grow; it is doing so of its own volition. This is not simply about money.

The Ulster-Scots tradition, language, heritage and legacy do not revolve around money. They depend on the dedication and interest of a large number of people in this country — it is wrong to put a price tag on everything. One of the problems which affect our culture, heritage and legacy is that people throw money at them, walk away and forget about them. That is not what this is about.

Mr Shannon said that the Ulster-Scots Agency is not happy — that is news to me. Nobody is content; everybody could spend more money, but it has the support that it needs for the moment. It is, however, a rapidly growing movement, and I am determined that it should get support.

Mr Shannon asked for assurance that the Irish language would not be used by political organizations. The North/South language body has two agencies, both of which are governed by certain standards. In response to his question about the recruitment of staff, each agency has its own equality scheme. Neither Foras na Gaelige nor Tha Boord o Ulster-Scotch is about politics — they are about promoting tolerance, respect and understanding of the languages. The headquarters for the Ulster-Scots Agency is in Belfast, and there will also be an office in Donegal. Foras Na Gaeilge has a headquarters in Dublin and an office in Belfast. None of this information is new; it is all available in libraries and elsewhere.

The Irish language body, Bord na Gaeilge, was taken over by Foras Na Gaeilge, which took over existing Irish language organisations. There is almost a replication of what was there before, and the Irish language movement is not getting the same level of increases as the Ulster-Scots movement. But this is not a competition; this is not a zero sum game. One culture is not diminished by the promotion of another or vice versa — we are seeking to enrich all cultures. The Ulster-Scots movement, in its corporate plan for the first three years, is intending to recruit 12 staff. We are looking at the budgets as well. That is what is in its corporate plan, and that is what it believes it can handle.

Part of its work is an Ulster-Scots dictionary and another project is an academy of Ulster- Scots, which I understand has been agreed with the University of Ulster. It is also working not just on the regional office in Donegal, but also on new partnerships throughout the academic arena and the community. It is also looking very carefully at east/west links through Scotland, mirroring somewhat the sort of links that it is seeing through the Colm Cille Initiative for the Irish language.

My understanding is that the Ulster-Scots Agency is benefiting from advice from the Irish Language Agency. The agencies do not see themselves in competition, and this agency is taking Ulster-Scots down the same path that the Irish language movement has trod in the past. The Irish language movement is not slow to offer advice. It does not see this as a competition. We are supporting the dictionary and part of its funding.

I totally refute the argument that because they do not get the same amount of money, one is being treated unfairly. The key here is equity of treatment. That is our aim. I have told Mr Shannon that there has been a tenfold increase in the amounts given in the past couple of years. It is wrong to try to force-feed and force growth; this is not about money.

The Ulster-Scots movement is strong and vibrant, and it is growing. Incidentally, it is a movement that Mr Shannon and I are comfortable with because we come from that tradition in Newtownards. He does not have the right or the authority to make the charge that this is all about money. I repeat: this is not about money. This is about equity of treatment, and together with the House and the Executive Committee, I am determined that everybody be treated properly and fairly.

Mr McElduff:

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. Cuirim fáilte roimh ráiteas an Aire sa Tionól inniu agus ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil leis dá bharr. Tá mise sásta go bhfuil an Foras Teanga ag dul i neart agus go bhfuil sé de rún aige oifig bhuan a lonnú i mBéal Feirste roimh i bhfad. I want to welcome the statement from the Minister, and I am pleased to observe that Gaelscoil Uí Néill continues to go from strength to strength. The three-year action plan to ensure adequate provision of language textbooks and resources for schools and colleges is extremely important. To date, many schools have been lacking those resources. Given yesterday’s announcement that Gaelscoil Uí Dhochartaigh and Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta in Coalisland and Strabane respectively have reached grant-aided status, it is clear that increasingly the Irish-medium sector needs to be properly resourced in this way.

I particularly welcome the news of the imminent establishment of the pre-school organization, and I would like some more information on how that may interact with Gaelscoil Uí Dhochartaigh and Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta. Similarly, I welcome plans to establish a permanent office in Belfast and will be glad to learn where that will be situated and when it will be fully operative. Finally, I just want to wish the Minister Nollaig shona agus Bliain Úr faoi mhaise

Mr McGimpsey:

A temporary office is being established at the moment. It will move to permanent offices when premises have been found. I understand that the temporary office will be in Berry Street in Belfast. A permanent place will then be decided upon.

With regard to the pre-school organization, I do not have the information at hand to help the Member in that respect, but I will try to find it for him. If we have it, I will give it to him, and, if we do not, we will tell him where to get it. I assume that the Department of Education or, perhaps, the education and library boards know more about this than I do. Incidentally, discussions are ongoing between officials in my Department and Department of Education officials.

There is a clear interest in Irish-medium sector education and Foras na Gaeilge recognises that. This is why it is updating Irish-language textbooks and dictionaries. Its three-year action plan is not yet available, but Members will have an opportunity to look at it and comment on it early in the new year. Foras na Gaeilge and Tha Boord o Ulster-Scotch recognise the interest that schools have and the need to promote educational texts and dictionaries.

11.15 am

Mr Poots:

First, can the Minister tell the House what party and what council Mr Cionnaith Ó Súilleabháin represents? I know what his replacement represents, but I am not sure if Mr Ó Súilleabháin represents Istanbul city council. Perhaps the Minister can inform us.

As for the £7 million allocation, can the Minister tell us how much of that comes from the Northern Ireland Budget? Does he agree that, given the constraints on library spending, an excessive amount of money is being spent on the Irish language when towns like my own, Lisburn, do not have a decent library that is open and available to everybody?

Mr McGimpsey:

I do not know which council Cionnaith O Súilleabháin represents. He was appointed to the board of Foras na Gaeilge, he resigned, and he has since been replaced. I will certainly find out and I will pass the information on to the Member.

The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure will provide £2·3 million to the North/South language body in its start-up year. Of that, £1·8 million will go to Foras na Gaeilge, and £0·5 million will go to Tha Boord o Ulster-Scotch. Indicative funding will rise next year, and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure will provide a total of £3·5 million to the Irish language and Ulster-Scots. Tha Boord o Ulster-Scotch will receive £1·3 million, which represents a tenfold increase on the funds it received a couple of years ago.

And then we are back to a library for Lisburn. I can add nothing to the answers I have given the Member on other occasions. I am actively bidding for capital funding for libraries — I am straying off the subject, Mr Speaker, if you will forgive me. It has been decided to go down the private finance initiative (PFI) route for a library for Lisburn rather than go down the traditional route of approaching the Department for capital funding. If that is successful, a library will be provided, and if it is not, traditional funding will doubtless be sought from the Department, as was the case with other libraries.

Libraries are important, but our language and our heritage are also important. Heritage is valuable to us, and, as Dr Johnson said, "Language is the pedigree of nations". Languages are an important part of our culture and our heritage, and we are particularly lucky here in Northern Ireland, and in the British Isles in general, to have a rich and indigenous linguistic tradition. It would be a shame if we were to lose that.

There is an oral tradition in Ulster-Scots that is vanishing because time marches on and the tradition is held by elderly members of our population. Tha Boord o Ulster- Scotch is recording that oral tradition so that the vocabulary and phraseology are not lost. This is very timely.

We have to be prepared to spend some moneys, and this year we are contributing £2·3 million to language. Next year we will be contributing £3·5 million. From the overall Budget of £6 billion that was discussed yesterday, the allocation of £2·3 million to preserve something as important as the tradition of Ulster-Scots, for example, is worthwhile. I also firmly believe that we have rich indigenous linguistic traditions in Ulster-Scots and Irish that are worth preserving. The small amount that we are talking about to ensure that Ulster-Scots is preserved and promoted is important because it enriches all of us.

Mr Deputy Speaker:

That was the last question, but I believe Dr Adamson wishes to speak.

Dr Adamson:

I thank the Minister for his work for the language movements throughout the year and I wish him a bonnie Yuletid an a blyth New Yeir.


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