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Last Updated: Friday, 23 April, 2004, 09:03 GMT 10:03 UK
Ulster-Scots chairman resigns
Lord Laird
Lord Laird said Protestant culture was being betrayed

The head of an organisation set up to promote the Ulster-Scots language and culture has resigned.

Lord Laird announced on Friday that he is stepping down as chairman of the Ulster-Scots Agency.

He said the "last straw" was a decision by the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure to remove 600,000 from the agency's budget.

Lord Laird claimed the group was being deprived of money it needs, especially during the marching season.

And he accused the British and Irish Governments of betraying Protestant culture.

"I have not thrown in the towel, I am simply taking the gloves off and allowing myself to remove the constraints," he said, speaking on Radio Ulster on Friday.

He added that he wanted to "remove the constraints, so that I can really find out exactly who are these people who do not like our culture, who do not want to seem to support our culture, who stand in the way of the Belfast Agreement".

"I have been identified with the agency for four years and for four years it was a continual struggle," Lord Laird added.

Ulster Scots
Ulster-Scots Agency "deprived of money"
"But it seems to be getting worse. I have absolutely no difficulty with other cultures. I am supportive of, for instance, West Belfast Festival who, every year, get 600,000 of government money."

He said that earlier this week, the Northern Ireland secretary announced 12m for Irish language broadcasting and creation of programmes.

"I support that, but where is our slice of the cake?" he asked.

Lord Laird said the agency invested money in festive events over the summer, during the marching season, which helped promote a peaceful atmosphere.

He accused the government of removing the funding without plausible explanation or consultation.

He claimed that "every obstacle" had been put in the way of the development of the Ulster Scots language.

It is understood that the Minister for Culture Arts and Leisure, Angela Smyth, will make a statement when she has considered the matter.

'Serious ramifications'

The board of the Ulster-Scots Agency said news of Lord Laird's resignation had been received with "great regret and disappointment".

In a statement on Friday, they said the resignation would have "serious ramifications" for the board which is due to meet on Friday in Raphoe, County Donegal.

They said Lord Laird had brought his "personal brand of positive thinking and encouragement to all those involved in the Ulster-Scots resurgence".

The statement ended: "The Agency knows that it has not lost a supporter and advocate for Ulster-Scots and acknowledges that Lord Laird will continue to represent the best interests of the movement in the highest circles."

NI culture goes online
08 Mar 04  |  Northern Ireland

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