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Cultural diversity in Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement

2001, Nic Craith, Máiréad

The Good Friday agreement gave an impetus to interest in the issue of cultural di-versity in contemporary Northern Ireland, extending to the issue of smaller language groups, such as Irish and Ulster Scots. While these two languages have deep roots, their importance today is not just linguistic but also political: tongues and dialects may operate as emblems of identity and as endorsements of specific political perspectives. The history of the Irish language in Northern Ireland is well documented, as is its importance as a symbol for Irish nationalists. More recently, its cultural significance for those outside this tradition has been recognised, and its position has been acknowledged also by the state. The position of Ulster-Scots is more problematic: not only is its identity as a language less clearly defined, but so too is its social and political significance. Nevertheless, both languages are likely to profit from the inter-communal compromise that was encapsulated in the Good Friday agreement.