Irish and Ulster Scots among pillars of Belfast council's new language strategy
Belfast City Council has launched its Language Strategy for next five years.
Introduced at City Hall by Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister, the strategy seeks to “promote, protect and enhance” all languages found in the city, including Irish and Ulster-Scots.
Sign language, that of new communities coming to Belfast, and languages and communications for disabled people are also included in the strategy.
The strategy is part of the council ’s long term plan for the city as set out in its Belfast Agenda.
With more than 70 languages now spoken in Belfast, Councillor McAllister, whose theme for her year in office has been 'Global Belfast', said the strategy was about achieving “linguistic diversity” for the city.
"This has four pillars to support inclusive growth - Growing the Economy; Living Here; City Development and Working and Learning,” she added.
“The language strategy is part of that inclusive work - it establishes a transparent set of principles for promoting, protecting and enhancing the linguistic diversity of the city.
"The strategy develops five work strands promoting Irish, Ulster-Scots, sign language, new communities languages and communications for disabled people.”
"Good communication and engagement underpin the success of the Belfast Agenda and the launch of today's Language Strategy is contributing to that.”
The launch of the strategy will raise questions surrounding one of the main sticking points preventing the return of a functioning Executive at Stormont: an Irish Language Act.
Like the draft deal that made headlines in February, the council's strategy also has a similar "three-stranded approach" to the issue, with a focus on Irish, Ulster-Scots and all others languages.
Agreed by the council last year, the Language Strategy is informed by a range of legislation, including the Good Friday Agreement, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the St Andrew’s Agreement.
Professor Janice Carruthers, Leadership Fellow for Modern Languages at Queen's University, also spoke at the launch about the challenges and opportunities linguistic diversity presents for Belfast.
"Language is central to communication, to relationships and to identity,” she said.
“This initiative will be well worth the effort because language is so fundamental to who we are and how we welcome others to Belfast. The Language Strategy is a crucial step in the right direction and I wish the City Council every success in taking it forward."
In order to help deliver the strategy, the council agreed last year to recruit two officers - one responsible for the “promotion, protection and enhancement of Irish”, while the second officer will have “responsibility for increasing access and inclusion for the other languages”
BCC have already advertised for the role of the Irish language officer, after it was agreed by a majority of the council last October.
The second officer will also be recruited in the coming weeks and the posts come with salaries of between £29,909 and £32,333 per year.
Both officers are also expected to have "political sensitivity skills", according to the job descriptions.
"The ability to deal with sensitive issues, using political awareness and sensitivity, when working with elected members, senior managers and representatives of outside organisations," it reads.
Belfast Telegraph Digital