PARLIAMENT is soon to debate three major reports concerning the Gaelic language. On 22 March a Special Committee will discuss a Government paper on Gaelic-medium education. The following day another committee will debate the Gaelic arts. At the end of that week it will be the turn of Gaelic broadcasting to be in the spotlight.
Surprised? You needn¼t be. The important fact is that this isn¼t Westminster but Skye, and the chamber in question isn¼t the Parlamaid nan Oileanach.
This "Students¼ Parliament" is the brainchild of Donald Angie MacLennan, the Scottish Director Iomairt Chaluim Chille , the St Columba Gaelic Initiative which was set up by Brian Wilson MP and the former Irish president, Mary Robinson, and it will cross boundaries in a way that is very much in tune with the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.
The idea is that a total of 45 students who are fluent in either Scottish or Irish Gaelic will meet for a week to debate issues of mutual concern to Gaelic speakers in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
The Parliament is the prime focus of a week of events at the Gaelic College in Skye to be Seachdain The Scottish Secretary, Donald Dewar, has agreed (other commitments permitting) to Says MacLennan: "I can¼t think of a better way of forging linguistic links between the peoples of Ireland and Scotland than discussing matters of common interest."
Once selected, the 45 delegates will receive the "Parliamentary Papers" in question, and will be divided into parties on the basis of their preliminary responses. The result is that ‚ as in the European Parliament ‚ they will find themselves supporting and mixing with people of vaguely similar views but emphatically different origins. Each report has been written by a specialist from one of the three countries, and these specialists will sum up for their subject at the end of the debate.
One student who is guaranteed a place is Sorcha NÌ Chonall·in from Ireland, currently studying at Sabhal MÛr Ostaig itself. She is enthusiastic about the idea. "Scotland and Ireland have similar language problems, so it¼s good that young people will be coming together to talk about things that are important to them, and that they¼ll have a chance to compare different communities."
Parlamaid nan Oileanach will go to the Scottish Office and then on to the Scottish Parliament when it arrives. Although it's role play it¼s in earnest, and it¼s possible that, all going well, that the new Scottish Parliament may have a thing or two to learn from a thing like this."