Linguistic Diversity…Dr Ian Adamson OBE, MLA, Northern Ireland Assembly 9th March, 1999

Dr Ian Adamson UUP

I would like to thank Mr C Wilson for giving me the opportunity to speak on this matter. Ulster sits at the north-eastern corner of Ireland, facing Scotland across a narrow sea. The characteristics of her language, since the dawn of human history, have been moulded by population movements, large and small, between the two islands. Therefore, we have had a wide range of dialects in the northern part of the island, including dialects of Gaelic and of the older Scottish tongue. When I read the part of the Belfast Agreement which deals with rights, safeguards and equality of opportunity, I was delighted with these words:

“All participants recognise the importance of respect, understanding and tolerance in relation to linguistic diversity, including in Northern Ireland, the Irish language, Ulster-Scots and” —equally important, of course —

“the languages of the various ethnic communities.”

Ulster-Scots has been particularly important to me because of my love for the literature of Scotland, from the times of the old Makars, who created the older Scottish tongue in its literary form, to modern poets, such as Burns, and the weaver poets of Ulster, including James Orr of Ballycarry, whom I consider to be the equal to Burns himself.

But, besides this interest in cultural, and especially linguistic, diversity, I have always had a love for an older tongue — the oldest tongue used in the British Isles, and from which the British Isles get their name. They are the Britannic  isles — the islands of the Pretani. This tongue receded dramatically in the face of successive invasions. It is the original tongue of Ireland — and the name “Ireland” is in this tongue; it is the original tongue of Ulster. It was also the language of the old Scots of the Lowlands and the Border Reivers. It is still present today in the British Isles in a much-reduced form. It is still used as a living language. I will read some of it:

“Mae pawb sy’n cymryd rhan yn cydnabod ei bod hi’n bwysig parchu, dirnad a goddef amrywiaeth o ieithoedd. Yng Ngogledd Iwerddon mae hyn yn cynnwys Gwyddelig, Scoteg Wlster, ac lieithoedd y gwahanol gymunedau ethnig sydd I gyd yn rhan o gyfoeth diwylliant Iwerddon.”

This language is known in its native land as Cymric. It is the oldest British tongue; it is the language of the Welsh.

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Initial Presiding Officer 7:45 pm, 9th March 1999

Order. I had hoped that when Ulster-Scots was used, with my background in Ballymena and the accompaniment of the Scots-English dictionary, I might be able to translate. However, that not being possible, I must resort to my previous request to Members that when they speak in a language other than English they translate for the benefit of those who are unable to understand it. I would be grateful if Dr Adamson could give us some guidance on what he has said.

Dr Ian Adamson UUP

I would be delighted.

Photo of Ian Paisley Jnr Ian Paisley Jnr DUP

On a point of order, Mr Initial Presiding Officer. You will note that the clock did not stop during your intervention. I am sure that the additional 40 seconds would be of advantage to the Member.

 Dr Ian Adamson UUP

The translation is

“All participants recognise the importance of respect, understanding and tolerance in relation to linguistic diversity including, in Northern Ireland, the Irish language, Ulster-Scots and the languages of the various ethnic communities, all of which are part of the cultural wealth of the island of Ireland.”

This language was, of course, the language of St Patrick, and as we are approaching St Patrick’s Day, I felt that I must mention the language of Patrick. I hope that this amendment will fall because I would like to use this language in future in the Assembly. I would also like to use other languages —


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