Standards and Privilege

Part of Assembly Standing Orders – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 7:30 pm on 9th March 1999.

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Photo of Dr Ian Adamson Dr Ian Adamson UUP 7:30 pm, 9th March 1999

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 British. This tongue receded dramatically in the face of successive invasions. It is the original tongue of Ireland — the name "Ireland" is in this tongue. It is the original tongue of Ulster, the original Lagan. It was also the language of the old Scots of the Lowlands. 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.