The Lead Democratic Services and Improvement Officer presented the above
report a copy of which had previously been circulated. She advised that the
purpose of the report was to consider three options which had been identified
by a dedicated Language Working Group whose task it was to review the
Council’s existing language policies in respect of Irish and Ulster-Scots.
Alderman Ramsey stated that since this situation had arisen discussions had
taken place with a number of interested groups regarding the possibility of a
hasty decision being made by Council on such a culturally sensitive issue
which must be seen to have been considered fully, fairly and inclusively. He
continued that any suggestion that this was not the case had the potential to
re-open arguments which his Party felt Council had moved beyond and create
barriers to building on the progress which had been welcomed by most of the
people and their representatives in this Council area.
Alderman Ramsey referred specifically to the submission put forward by the North West Cultural Partnership which questioned or contradicted elements of the report originally submitted to the Committee. He stated that Party Leaders had received a copy of this new submission.
Alderman Ramsey referred to a number of issues which had been raised in relation to the process, understanding of the complexity of the various different languages and heritage shared within the Council area and the limited nature of the original consultation which his Party viewed as inadequate given the complexity of the subject.
Alderman Ramsey referred to the significance of 10 April in the history of Northern Ireland and the Republic, the anniversary of the Good Friday agreement and suggested that a proposal to defer the decision was in the spirit of the agreement.
Councillor McMahon stated that over recent days a number of stakeholders had expressed their concern regarding this matter and his Party felt there was a need for further consideration in order to gain a wider range of views.
Alderman Ramsey Moved, Councillor McMahon Seconded
That any decision to change the current Language Policy be deferred and in the meantime Council put in place a process whereby it could become more fully informed about the heritage and culture of the various groups that contributed to the development of this area and the linguistic elements which they brought to the area, much of which was used on a daily basis.
Councillor Boyle questioned any suggestion that Council was being hasty in making a decision given the significant consideration attributed to this process. As such he did not regard the request to defer a decision as unreasonable and suggested that more time might not provide a positive outcome. He stated that there was an expressed view by the Working Group to identify an appropriate policy which would work for all.
Alderman Hussey concurred with the sentiments expressed by the previous speaker that a considerable amount of work had already been carried out within the Working Group. However, he did not feel that the process had reached its conclusion. He concluded that much more work was still required in order that a satisfactory outcome could be achieved and as such agreed that the matter be deferred.
Councillor Donnelly sought clarification as to why and where this matter was being deferred. He stated that a considerable amount of time and effort had already gone into the review process through the Language Working Group including discussion with Ulster Scots representatives none of which had been rushed or hasty.
Alderman Ramsey suggested that the process involved a significant amount of learning with greater diversity existing than what was actually apparent and referred to the need to endeavour to reach a position agreeable to all sections of the community and which was in compliance with the Good Friday agreement. He said he was requesting that the matter be deferred to include a wider range of people to assist in the review process and achieve a favourable outcome for all.
In response to a query from Councillor Donnelly, Alderman Ramsey stated that the process would take as long as was necessary in order to achieve a satisfactory outcome for all involved.
Alderman Devenney expressed his support for the deferral of the process to allow further discussion with interested groups. He stated that when Council had initially agreed to a tri-lingual language policy it had delivered a positive message to all which had been built upon. He suggested that if Ulster Scots were to be removed from Council signage this would not be regarded favourably by the Unionist community.
The above proposal was put to the vote and declared carried their voting – For – 11; Against – 2.
Subsequently Alderman Ramsey Moved, Councillor McMahon Seconded and the Committee
Recommended that any decision to change the current Language Policy be deferred and in the meantime Council put in place a process whereby it could become more fully informed about the heritage and culture of the various groups that contributed to the development of this area and the linguistic elements which they brought to the area, much of which was used on a daily basis.