Not for the first time Wilson Burgess is wrong on so many levels

Wilson Burgess’s assertion (July 22) that no progress is being made on promoting Ulster-Scots is clearly based on the false assumption that if he doesn’t know about something then it mustn’t be happening. In fact, much good work is happening. For example, our Burns by the Lagan concert, which filled Titanic Belfast in January, was broadcast in Ulster and Scotland to an audience of more than 160,000.  We are continuing to build vital relationships with organisations on both sides of the water and are now making plans for the inaugural Ulster-Scots Language Week, which will take place from November 25 to 30.  Even as I write, a post promoting the language on our Facebook page has reached more than 70,000 people.

The reality is that much of this work goes on quietly, without fanfare and that suits us well because those individuals who only comment on things because they have some political axe to grind have nothing to say. Our talking is done by the work – promoting our language in an authentic way.

Wilson’s misguided notion that only country folk know anything or can make any contribution in relation to the Ulster-Scots language is one of the greatest fallacies around and serves only to marginalise our language. An jist so’s ye ken, this toun moose wiz reared in Bilfawst listenin tae his granny – an monie mair forbye – taaking guid Ulster-Scotch.

Yet another spurious notion is the idea that the Ulster-Scots Agency is a “cash cow”. The agency has an annual budget of £2.3m, which supports all Ulster-Scots activity happening in schools, most of the grant aid going in to Ulster-Scots in local communities and pretty much all of the work to promote Ulster-Scots in Ulster or anywhere else for that matter. We have the smallest budget of any of the cross-border bodies and probably the smallest budget of any public sector cultural organisation in the British Isles.

Once again, Wilson has attacked a programme produced by the BBC and demanded that the Ulster-Scots Agency steps in to act as a “censor” despite having been repeatedly told, not least in the pages of this paper that it is not our role. Undoubtedly, not all programmes will reach the high standards of Wilson Burgess, but the one fact that cannot be ignored is that there is now more programming, of a better standard on Ulster-Scots than ever before.

Wilson asserts that Ulster-Scots is dead and should be left to lie down.   The truth is that Ulster-Scots is very much alive.


CEO, Ulster-Scots Agency, Belfast

Principals should have option to independently procure school items

We are told time and time again that our schools face a major financial crisis, with reports of parents being asked to pay for toilet rolls and soap. We are then told that principals are forced to pay up to 500 per cent more for items and services due to the Education Authority’s central procurement process when they could find the same item or service much cheaper elsewhere. This is an example of bureaucracy gone mad. If a principal shopping around for the best prices can save £6,000 for ink cartridges alone, or get a window fixed by a local contractor for £30 instead of £200, changes must be made.

I understand concerns from some principals and trade unions that this would only mean more work for schools, who would have to shop around instead of just choosing from a central procurement list. I also recognise that procurement can be cheaper in some cases, as a large group of schools bulk-buying something may be cheaper than single schools sourcing their own product. But the option should be there for principals who want to save money by independently buying their own product. Not only do principals know their school budgets better than anyone, but it also provides support to local businesses and improves the school’s impact on the community.

The central procurement list should be retained and the EA should negotiate better prices with their contractors and sellers. Bureaucracy should also be scrapped in this case to allow principals to source their own products and services if they so desire. This will go a long way towards solving the school funding crisis. This is something that needs to be considered if devolution returns.


Vice-chairman, Ulster Young Unionists, Belfast

Pull the plug on ‘shared future’ malarkey

As an Ulster Gael,  whose father was an innocent bystander killed in a collusion case by the Glenane Gang, I feel that the whole issue over ‘legacy’ is simply a stalking horse aimed at blocking true reconciliation and leading us further along the one-way road towards globalism.

The reality is that republicans will always be Irish and unionists will always be British. No amount of negotiations can take that away.

Belgium experienced economic growth during its political vacuum in 2011 and that was due to the French-speakers and the Dutch-speakers maintaining their ways. The two sides here will do the same.

Pull the plug on this ‘shared future’ malarkey.


Ardboe, Co Tyrone

Welcome changes

So another Twelfth celebration has passed into history, this time thankfully being more or less trouble free from bonfire damage, hooliganism or  drunken social behaviour.

The power of religious and political control will never again be the same, for the young people of today are not only more educated, but more travelled. They now have the confidence to make their own decisions, rightfully believing it is ‘their’ life.

When free education was introduced to the people, I believe it was Queen Victoria who said, you are igniting the flames of a fire that you will never be able to extinguish.

Being an octogenarian, I am delighted to see such changes. I wish them well.


Kircubbin, Co Down

National freedom

According to Brian Feeney (June 26), “Everyone born in the north has automatic right to Irish citizenship.”

But no automatic right to vote for the president. As Irish people we have an inalienable right to national freedom. From an Irish perspective, we have allowed ourselves to become trapped and isolated within the ‘constitutional entity’ of Northern Ireland. Unionists have no interest in being Irish citizens. They are determined to remain British citizens. And good luck to them. We should be equally determined to assert our right to national freedom.


Belfast BT15