Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has updated the Assembly on plans for the development of both an Irish Language Academy and an Ulster-Scots Academy.
The Minister said that both Irish and Ulster-Scots are key aspects of our cultural heritage and identity and while many people may identify with one or other tradition there is strength in embracing and respecting multi-cultures.
In outlining plans for the development of an Ulster-Scots Academy the Minister said that there had been significant developments since she asked the Ulster-Scots Agency in January to bring forward proposals in relation to the creation of an Academy.
She said: “I have now received the proposals from the Ulster-Scots Agency. In drafting these, the Ulster-Scots Agency has consulted with key stakeholders in the Ulster-Scots sector. I am grateful to these stakeholders for their input.
“The proposals are set within the context of the Strategy to Enhance and Develop the Ulster-Scots Language, Heritage and Culture 2015 – 2035 which was published last year. The new Academy will align closely to the Strategy and also build upon the achievements of the Ministerial Advisory Group. I am happy to accept these proposals as the basis for moving forward.
“The new Ulster-Scots Academy will be known as the Ulster-Scots Institute and will be a not-for-profit company with charitable status. It will become part of the Ulster-Scots Hub and will be located at the Corn Exchange in the Cathedral Quarter of Belfast. This is the most cost effective location as it will maximise opportunities for the sharing of resources with the Ulster-Scots Agency.
“Its functions will concentrate on the areas of research and community engagement and will build the knowledge base associated with Ulster-Scots by undertaking research in relation to all aspects of Ulster-Scots language, heritage and culture. I expect that it will become operational by the end of this year.”
Turning to proposals for an Irish language Academy the Minister said: “The last few years have seen a remarkable growth in the Irish language and this accelerated growth, emphasised through initiatives such as Lίofa, which I launched in 2011, has resulted in many gaps in provision, particularly in relation to teaching and learning resources and adult teacher training and support, and a complex set of social and economic needs. This has led me to conclude that the creation of an Irish Language Academy, or a GaelAcadamh, is a ‘must do’.
“A scoping and consultation exercise on the Irish Language or GaelAcadamh Project has led to six recommendations, which I am accepting, subject to some further work being undertaken. One of these is that a GaelAcadamh should be provided in a central location, with Belfast’s Gaeltacht Quarter as the preferred location.
“Other recommendations focus on the community, economic development and on making sure that adequate pathways are available to further study and employment through the Irish Language.”
The Minister said that her commitment to both academies is a clear signal of intent towards the continued development of both languages.
She said: “I believe that the proposals I have outlined today represent the best way forward for both Ulster-Scots and the Irish language and by developing, sharing and understanding these cultures we will enhance communities and help build a modern, tolerant and compassionate society.”