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Saturday, September 18, 1999 Published at 08:22 GMT 09:22 UK

UK: Northern Ireland

Assembly appoints Ulster Scots translator

An Ulster Scots translator is appointed by the NI Assembly

A language expert has been appointed by the Northern Ireland Assembly to interpret the words of politicians speaking in the province's newest official language.

BBC NI's Martina Purdy: Ulster Scots a topic for Assembly debate
The appointment of an Ulster Scots translator has been welcomed by language activists but has prompted a cool reaction from at least one leading Unionist politician.

Ulster Scots is a language which is closely related to Lowland Scots and was imported to Ireland during the Plantation of Ulster in the 17th century.

It has recently gained approval from the British Government which has pledged to recognise Ulster Scots as a language under a European charter.

The new recruit joins a number of Irish language experts already working at Stormont to translate speeches or portions of speeches made by some Sinn Fein and SDLP assembly members.

Before the appointment of the translators, assembly members who wished to speak either Irish or Ulster Scots during debates were obliged, under standing orders, to provide a translation after their speeches.

This meant their speaking time was effectively halved as they were obliged to make the same speech twice, once in each language.

[ image: Jim Shannon: Keen interest in Ulster Scots among Assembly members]
Jim Shannon: Keen interest in Ulster Scots among Assembly members
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Assembly member Jim Shannon is a keen Ulster Scots speaker and believes that the new appointee will be kept busy at Stormont.

"There are some people in the Assembly who are very keen," he said, mentioning Ulster Unionist Party member Ian Adamson as one politician who is fluent in the language.

Mr Shannon said that there was interest from members of other parties also - including the Social Democratic and Labour Party.

Ulster Unionist deputy leader John Taylor is not so keen on the allocation of what he sees as scarce resources to Ulster Scots or the Irish language.

Growing numbers

"We need to spend money on schools, hospitals and health rather than political operations to please minority groupings," he said.

He claimed that less than 4% of Northern Ireland's population speak Irish and that the number speaking Ulster Scots is less than that.

The Ulster Scots and Irish speaking communities would counter Mr Taylor's contention.

[ image: Nelson McCausland:
Nelson McCausland:"Ulster Scots should be brought in from the margins"
According to Ulster Scots activist Nelson McCausland, growing numbers are showing an interest in the language and more needs to be done to encourage this enthusiasm.

"The Ulster Scots community has been largely marginalised," he said.

"It's important that Ulster Scots be brought in from the margins to the mainstream so that it can enjoy the educational and other rights to which it is entitled."

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