Standards and Privilege

Part of Assembly Standing Orders – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 7:45 pm on 9th March 1999.

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Photo of Ms Brid Rodgers Ms Brid Rodgers Social Democratic and Labour Party 7:45 pm, 9th March 1999

I have already complimented the Member on the way in which he presented the importance of recognising the diversity of culture and language, and I also share that view. I would be disappointed if people looked on language as a political tool; that is certainly not the way I look at it. But I am afraid that there are people in Northern Ireland, on both sides, who tend to use it as a political tool.

Mr Wilson, in his contradictory approach to Ullans and Irish, has made that very clear. However, the use of the Irish language or Ullans in this Chamber — and it has already been mentioned by Mr Cedric Wilson — would be totally in keeping with the Good Friday Agreement, which states

"facilitate and encourage the use of the language in speech and writing in public and private life where there is appropriate demand".

Mr Wilson asks if there is appropriate demand. To me, appropriate demand means a demand which is appropriate to the needs, identity and feelings of Members and the importance they attribute to a language. Therefore it is appropriate that I and some of my Colleagues who wish to do so are able to speak Irish comfortably and without feeling that we are putting other Members at a disadvantage.

Either we disadvantage those who want to know what we are saying but do not because there is no facility for translation, or we disadvantage ourselves by having to repeat what we have just said and therefore lose half of our time. There is an appropriate demand as long as there are people who want to use the language to express themselves in a manner more appropriate for them. It is not for others to decide what is appropriate for me, and I would not, for one moment, decide what language is more appropriate for Mr Wilson to speak. If he wishes to speak Ullans, then, I think, that is for him to decide.