Official Report (Hansard)

Session: 2007/2008

Date: Thursday, 06 March 2008

Ulster-Scots Agency

6 March 2008

Members present for all or part of the proceedings:
Mr David McNarry (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Dominic Bradley
Mr Francie Brolly
Lord Browne
Mr Kieran McCarthy
Mr Nelson McCausland
Mr Ken Robinson
Mr Jim Shannon

Witnesses:
Mr George Patton ) Ulster-Scots Agency
Mr Mark Thompson )

The Deputy Chairperson (Mr McNarry)
Our witnesses are from the Ulster-Scots Agency; we welcome Mark Thompson, the chairperson of the agency, and George Patton, its chief executive. You are very welcome, gentlemen; my apologies for keeping you. No doubt you will try to pull back some time for us, but, given the subject, I doubt whether we will be successful. We will see how we go. May I ask, Mark and George, if you intend to issue a press statement after this meeting?

Mr Mark Thompson (Ulster-Scots Agency)
No, we do not.

The Deputy Chairperson:
Thank you; the floor is yours.

Mr Thompson:
Deputy Chairman and members, thank you for the invitation to attend today, and for the postponement of this presentation. As you know, it had originally been planned for last week, but there was a diary clash with an important event that the agency had elsewhere, so I thank you for your understanding. I should also thank one of our board members, William Leathem, who has joined us in the Public Gallery to keep an eye on George and me, I am sure.

It is fair to say that “Ulster Scots” has been one of the most used terms over the past decade. The Ulster-Scots Agency, as well as the Ulster-Scots movement —if that is not an inappropriate term — is coming of age. We now understand our story much better, and we are becoming more articulate in telling that story. Given that the term “Ulster Scots” was first used in the 1640s, it is strange to say “coming of age”. I emphasise that so that it is recorded in Hansard, because it is important for people to appreciate that Ulster Scots was not invented 10 years ago. However, the Ulster-Scots Agency was established about 10 years ago, which was an official recognition for Ulster Scots in all its forms.

A generation is rediscovering its historical, cultural, genealogical and linguistic roots. It was great to hear Drew McFarlane using the word “isnae” — it will be interesting to see how Hansard spells that.

The Deputy Chairperson:
How is it spelt?

Mr Thompson:
It is spelt “isnae” — there is no doubt about that.

There was a discussion on BBC Radio Ulster this morning about coastguards, and a gentleman from Scotland was saying “didnae”, “wouldnae”, “couldnae”, and so on, which was terrific to hear.

Mr Shannon:
That gentleman is from Ballywalter. That is where he learnt Ulster Scots. We have Scottish accents around there.

Mr Thompson:
We all grew up saying “aye” instead of “yes”, and — when we are not in polite company —“wee” instead of “little”. Regardless of our background, those words are in our roots, which the Ulster-Scots Agency is committed to promoting. That is our remit.

I became the chairperson of the agency in October 2005, and, over the past two years, we have used a slogan, which shows that we are rediscovering heritage, celebrating culture and living language. That summarises the work that we do. It is important that Committee members understand that, although we are part of the language body with our colleagues in Foras na Gaeilge, with whom we have an excellent relationship, our work is not limited to linguistic work — we promote heritage, history and culture and grant aid community organisations to celebrate those matters.

One of the most important aspects of Ulster Scots is the way in which it shows that the people of Northern Ireland, and nine-county Ulster, should be outward-looking. For the past number of generations, we have looked at our neighbours with a degree of hostility. The Ulster-Scots story breaks that mould and shows us that our story is not limited to this island: we can look east to Scotland to understand ourselves better, and — perhaps more importantly — we can look west to North America and other parts of the world where Ulster-Scots people have made a huge impression. For example, about 10 years ago, there were gable walls in parts of urban Northern Ireland that had paintings of hooded gunmen on them. However, today, those gable walls have paintings of Ulster-American presidents, which gives the new generation of people living in those areas the role models that they should have had — people who left here generations ago and led the most powerful nation in the world. That is a powerful job that we can do if we are given the chance.

I will quickly go through my submission. The Ulster-Scots Agency changed its board in December 2007. The outgoing board had operated in a term of care and maintenance, so there was a limit to the amount of change and new strategies that it was able to introduce. However, as the board members left their positions, there was a radical reappraisal of what the agency’s work should be. A radical corporate plan was submitted to the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, pinpointing output rather than remit, which makes it much easier to measure whether we are doing our job properly.

The agency has been responsible for a number of language publications. It has also administered grants into the community sector, which is important because the last thing that the Ulster-Scots Agency should be is a corporate — or even a Belfast — empire; we are conscious that there are nine counties to serve, which means crossing the border, and we are serious about meeting that remit. We give core funding to the Ulster-Scots Heritage Council, which is an arrangement that the agency inherited.

In 2006, we marked the Hamilton and Montgomery settlement of 1606, which is a rediscovered story about two gentlemen from Ayrshire who brought many Scottish people to County Down. Although the relationship between Ulster and Scotland is thousands of years old, that was the point at which a trickle of settlers became a flood. We were keen to emphasise that that was the first part of a three-part series. After ‘Settlement’, there will ‘Flight’, which tells the story of the Flight of the Earls in west Ulster. That will be followed by the story of the plantation of Ulster, which only covered six counties, not nine, as is commonly misunderstood. Last week, I had a meeting with Derry City Council to develop the bones of a strategy for marking the plantation.

There is much that we could talk about, but the Committee is pushed for time. I hope that my summary has been quick and useful.

The Deputy Chairperson:
It has been most helpful. I checked with the Committee Clerk as to whether the agency is asking the Committee for money or help, and I also ask you, just to be sure. I do not wish to give you an opportunity to do so: you have had your chance.

Mr Thompson:
That is not at the top of our agenda today, Deputy Chairman.

The Deputy Chairperson:
I appreciate your presentation and the manner in which you have given it.

Mr D Bradley:
Fair faa ye.

Mr Thompson:
I am impressed.

Mr D Bradley:
One perception of Ulster-Scots language and culture is that it is specifically unionist, although that is not necessarily the case. What is the agency doing to dispel that perception?

I welcome the work between the agency and Foras na Gaeilge. Representatives of that body visited the Committee last week, and they gave us an impressive list of joint projects. Will you give us a short summary of the state of the language and how you perceive its future? Please outline your relationship to the emerging Ulster-Scots academy.

Mr Thompson:
You are correct: the Ulster-Scots language is not limited to the Protestant unionist community. No statistical surveys have been undertaken, but we are aware that language has no boundaries. I know, and I am sure that Kieran knows, many people from our part of the world — the Ards Peninsula — who are not unionist and who are probably better speakers of Ulster Scots than many folk who are unionist.

We need further work on our strategy. Many of those perceptions are generated by the media: with the number of column inches that have been generated over the past five to 10 years, we would need a media-management department of 100 people to dispel them. I agree that those perceptions exist; we do not reinforce them — the media does.

I offer an example of how we have tried to counter that. Last summer, we held a festival day in County Fermanagh, outside Enniskillen at Castle Coole. Unfortunately, it lashed from dawn to dusk, but a couple of thousand people were there. I spoke to folk who were wearing Fermanagh GAA waterproof jackets and who came along because the event gave them an opportunity to find out more. That is our first step in the strategy: breaking down barriers and giving people information.

Mr D Bradley:
My other question relates to the present state of the language, its prospects for the future and the Ulster-Scots academy.

Mr Thompson:
The best illustration of the state of the language is the gulf that exists between European recognition of Ulster Scots as a regional minority language and recent letters to the press which described the language as “a Ballymena accent for the uneducated”. People who make such comments are themselves uneducated. Perception of the language is an issue. We have all had the language hammered out of us at school. I went to Regent House Grammar School, and I was humiliated in the first couple of weeks by teachers and pupils, because they did not know what I was talking about. That still happens in schools.

To counter that, we have a programme of work in schools — in the classroom, after-school clubs and summer schools — so that children now have a chance to realise that the words and expressions that they use are perfectly acceptable and should be used. I offer an example of that from my personal life. My oldest boy is Jacob. He is aged nine and goes to Ballyhalbert Primary School. He came home a couple of years ago and asked why he was the only one in the school who uses the word “breeks” instead of “trousers”. I found it shocking that that would happen in a primary school in the Ards Peninsula. That drove us on even harder to make sure that the school environment respects the words that children bring in to the classroom; it is a rights issue.

Mr McCarthy:
There are too many blow-ins now in Ballyhalbert. [Laughter.]

Mr Thompson:
We conducted a survey in 2007, and 30% of respondents said that they would like to learn more about the language, which shows what an appetite there is for the language. In addition, 61% of those said that it was important that Ulster Scots is preserved rather than eroded.

I had observer status at the Ulster-Scots academy in its early years. That was not an executive role: I was reporting to the agency board on progress. The natural partnership between the academy — when it is established — and the agency is simple: our job, according to our remit, is promotional; their job concerns linguistic development. They develop the product, and we market and present it.

Mr D Bradley:
Do you see a co-operative relationship between the agency and the academy?

Mr Thompson:
Yes, very much so.

Mr Shannon:
In reference to a point made by Dominic, one of the foremost speakers of Ulster Scots on the Ards Peninsula was a member of the SDLP and that indicates to me that there is a wide cross-section interested in the language. Danny McCarthy, who was also a member of the SDLP, tried his best at the language and his knowledge of Ulster-Scots history was tremendous. I can well remember Ballywalter Primary School — Mr Whisker was the man and he is a long time gone. If people spoke Ulster Scots, their roots were beaten out of them. That was the way it was.

The Deputy Chairperson:
What does the word “bid” mean — as in “do as you’re bid”? [Laughter.]

Mr Shannon:
The important thing for the Committee is that there is much potential for Ulster Scots. In your submission, you mentioned the historical connection with the United States. What plans are there to develop that relationship with the United States, and Canada, with history trails and building up tourism, and so forth. There is a tourism potential that has not yet been realised and which could be used to our advantage.

The “fitba day” that the agency held in Newtownards was a tremendous success. I know that another is to be held in Cookstown this year. Do you have any other plans for something similar elsewhere in the Province to promote Ulster Scots? Are there any plans for further outreach offices in other parts of the world, the United States in particular?

Mr Thompson:
The Member for Strangford shares the scale of my vision for Ulster Scots. I would love to meet all those objectives. With regard to the USA, indeed anything off the island, there is what might best be described as a “bureaucratic hiccup” in that, on paper, the agency is not allowed to operate beyond the island of Ireland. There is a protocol between the agency, our sponsor Department and the Audit Office that allows us, within a set of criteria, to do a certain amount of work overseas. However, those criteria do not give us the freedom that we would like. That is an issue that I would like the Committee to consider, because the potential for doing real work is massive. Just before Christmas, the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Mr Poots, asked the agency to put a strategy to him for proper engagement in North America. We are due to present that to Minister Poots, and to the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Éamon Ó Cuív, the Minister for our other sponsor Department, in April.

The United States is so big — where does one start? Our strategy is to prioritise Virginia and Tennessee, building on work that was done at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival last year, and from the contacts and leads that were established on that occasion. I am sure that some of you know that Senator James Webb from Virginia is probably the most high profile of the authors who write about Ulster Scots in the United States. It is essential that the strategy is in place now, while he is still in office.

George and I have also been talking to Enterprise Northern Ireland — which represents a portion of the small business sector here — and its counterparts in Virginia. Those organisations not only recognise the cultural tourism potential but the small business potential in linking Scotland, Ulster and North America in a common transatlantic heritage trail. That might sound ambitious, but when someone from Virginia comes knocking on your door with those sorts of ideas, you do not turn them down; it is exciting.

The “fitba day” was a tremendous success. Those days are not organised solely to give people a great day out. David Healy was commissioned to be the figurehead for that day, and he was invited as a magnet to attract children. There were 2,000 children in attendance, and not only did they learn more about football and meet their hero but they partook in a language session, heard pipe bands playing and got a chance to play drums. There were, therefore, cultural and linguistic elements to the day, which, for us, were just as important as David Healy’s attendance. There will be a similar event in Cookstown, and we would love to have more of those days.

Mr McCausland:
It is worth noting that the Chairperson of the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure almost always uses “til” for “to”, which is good Ulster-Scots usage. We should commend the Chairperson for his Ulster Scots.

Mr McNarry:
Where I come from, that is bad grammar.

Mr McCausland:
It is excellent Ulster Scots.

Mr Thompson:
That is what they said to me at Regent House as well, Deputy Chairman.

Mr McCausland:
I am just remembering what someone said earlier about people being uneducated and uninformed.

The Deputy Chairperson:
He is getting his own back on Hansard now.

Mr McCausland:
Last week, we received evidence from Foras na Gaeilge and heard about its plans. Foras na Gaeilge informed us of the emphasis that it puts on its funding programmes on capacity building in the community. It core funds 17 or 19 organisations, and it has a programme from which development workers from another 16, 17 or 18 organisations availed themselves of. Much can be learnt from Foras na Gaeilge. Will the Ulster-Scots Agency develop similar arrangements?

Mr Thompson:
Yes, it will. That will be the most important strategy for the next three to five years. We want to get away from something akin to a Belfast corporate empire to something that is more community- and grass-roots-based and regionalised across the nine counties. I would love to see an Ulster-Scots outreach office in all nine counties. Why can there not be one in Ayrshire and one in east Tennessee to draw the threads together? I am not interested in keeping Ulster Scots in a bottle. In order for the culture to flourish, people must be exposed to it. To date, the agency has given the community the confidence to celebrate its roots and linguistic heritage. We now need to empower them to establish organisations and to get off their feet.

Foras na Gaeilge provides core funding for 17 community organisations, and, as well as that funding, it gives project funding for those organisations to operate. The Ulster-Scots Agency should consider the precedent set by Foras na Gaeilge. George can keep me right on this, but, corporately, the Audit Office has taken a view that we should not be funding posts for other organisations outside of the agency. If that is a blockage, it is one that should be challenged.

Mr McCausland:
Can you provide some background on that, because if Foras na Gaeilge is doing it, there is, obviously, no obstacle for them. I acknowledge that the Audit Office has given you that information, but it is strange that the Audit Office operates differentially in its approach to organisations. I would like to follow up on that.

The Deputy Chairperson:
Can you send the Committee a written response to that?

Mr Thompson:
Yes, I can.

Mr K Robinson:
Your submission provides information on the role of Stranmillis University College and its curriculum development unit. You say that the work “was” undertaken. Is it being undertaken now, or has it ceased?

Mr Thompson:
The contract that was agreed with Stranmillis University College was time-bound, and it ended in August 2007. It was overseen by the Department of Education throughout, and its purpose was to develop curriculum materials. One of the outputs was the creation of a website, but it involved secondary-level and adult education material as well. Therefore, it was a fairly big project.

Mr K Robinson:
I mention that project because the role of education has been referred to several times, and I have been in a similar situation. Education can play a role in redressing that historic imbalance. Thus, where the language still exists, it can be encouraged, developed and promoted, and where it has ceased to exist because of the blow-ins whom Kieran talked about — and we suffer from that in east Antrim — it can be revived. When I first went to live outside the city, Ulster Scots was spoken as far down as Cloughfern and the centre of Newtownabbey. However, anyone visiting Ballyclare nowadays would increasingly hear a Belfast dialect. Therefore, there is clearly pressure around the urban setting. Have you further plans to work with Stranmillis University College? Can you implore the Department of Education to continue that work to ensure that the language is promoted and passed down through the generations?

Mr Thompson:
We expect the Department of Education to recognise that work. The Department reviewed it and gave it a superb endorsement when it was completed. We now expect the Department to do what it does with other education areas and step up to the plate. The agency is discussing that matter with the Department.

Similarly, the Department has a role to play in supporting the development of the Ulster-Scots language through after-school clubs and summer schools — by providing funding at least.

Mr K Robinson:
It might be helpful to make the Committee for Education aware of the agency’s work lest the Department forgets to do so.

Mr Thompson:
Yes, we could do that.

Mr K Robinson:
You highlighted one or two difficulties in your relationship with the sponsor Department, DCAL, and with the Audit Office. How could those relationships become more positive in the future? What steps need to be taken by the agency, the Committee or the Department to make those relationships as easy as the ones with Foras na Gaeilge appear to be?

Mr Thompson:
I would not like to give the Committee the impression that there are difficulties between the agency and the sponsor Department. I personally have enormous regard for departmental officials such as Paul Sweeney, Edgar Jardine and the people with whom I regularly deal. George and other agency staff feel likewise about the folk with whom they deal. There are historical issues that are not DCAL’s fault, if you like — for example, geographical restriction and the limitation on funding other organisations.

Mr K Robinson:
Those are the issues that I am trying to tease out.

Mr Thompson:
Those are really issues for the Audit Office rather than DCAL. It would help enormously if we could examine those areas collectively.

The Deputy Chairperson:
Perhaps you could draw that matter to our attention, and we can look at it again, Ken, if that would be satisfactory.

Mr K Robinson:
Yes, I will.

Mr McCarthy:
Thank you for your contribution this morning. I commend the agency on its excellent work. The last paragraph of your submission notes that the Ulster-Scots Agency works well with Foras na Gaeilge, and that has been mentioned already. Representatives of Foras na Gaeilge appeared before the Committee last week, and I will ask you the same question that I asked them. What can you do to help the community to overcome prejudice? Some people in the community are still opposed to the Irish language, but there is not the same opposition to Ulster Scots, as far as I am aware. What can you do to encourage and improve that relationship among the public?

Mr Thompson:
There are two elements to that matter. People are often surprised to hear that we co-operate with Foras na Gaeilge, and we perhaps need to make that relationship more public. We have held a number of events with Foras na Gaeilge, the most recent of which took place at the Linen Hall Library in 2007. Perhaps we need to make that work more visible.

As part of our general outreach activities, we plan to launch a direct-mail campaign about the language this year, and information will be sent to every home in County Antrim. The cost of that campaign will be around £7,000, so there will not be a huge spend. I hope that there will be a feedback form or a website address that people can visit. That information will spread across both sections of the community because County Antrim is a mixed county, so to speak. Thus, we plan to carry out more of that kind of broad communication work, which is likely to engage all sorts of people, and we hope that that will bring a community balance. There is work to be done, and we are trying to address that matter.

Lord Browne:
You mentioned that you held Ulster-Scots language summer schools in 2006 and 2007. How many people attended in each of those years, and what were the costs of the summer schools? Although it is an unfair question, do you regard those costs as representing value for money?

Mr Thompson:
I will answer the easy parts of your questions, and I will ask George to remember the financial details. The summer schools were first run in 2006 as a pilot scheme in six schools. They were successful, so we opened the net and invited applications to host them. In 2007, we ran 36 summer schools, which is an increase of 600%. We expect the demand for 2008 to be for over 70 schools. The appetite for Ulster-Scots summer schools is colossal.

Mr George Patton (Ulster-Scots Agency):
Each summer school was attended by a minimum of 20 children. Depending on location, some schools were attended by between 120 and 130 children. Around 3,000 children in total attended the summer schools. Each summer school received £3,500 of funding.

Mr Thompson:
In 2007, we developed a drama for schools that tells the story of Ulster Scots in around 25 minutes. It is a three-person play, and it toured 120 schools, North and South, in 2007. This year, the play will tour nearly 200 schools. It is not a product that we have to sell; that is about meeting the demand of enquiries from schools.

The Deputy Chairperson:
Did you say that the play tells the story of Ulster Scots in 25 minutes?

Mr Thompson:
It tries to do that.

The Deputy Chairperson:
What about inviting the actors to perform the play for the Committee? [Laughter.]

Mr Brolly:
It would be quicker than Jim Shannon, anyway. [Laughter.]

Mr K Robinson:
You have visited many schools. What reception do you get in schools, generally? Are they receptive of you, or are they a bit wary of Ulster Scots?

Mr Thompson:
Schools are tremendously interested. Ulster Scots retains an element of curiosity. People question whether it is for them or for someone else, and that has made it a piece of cross-community outreach work. In the rural Ards Peninsula, from where Kieran and I come, many of the teachers are not from the local community. They drive to work from Belfast, Newtownards or Bangor, and they are the gatekeepers to the schools. If one cannot get past the teachers, one will never get to the children. Constant vigilance is required to ensure that the teachers, who guard what goes in and out of the school, are open to the Ulster-Scots message.

Mr K Robinson:
That is a valid point, not only for the Ulster-Scots language but for many problems that schools face. Teachers who commute from Belfast often do not realise what the children face each day.

Mr Thompson:
I can give a live example of that. We understand that the Northern Ireland Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) is about to remove traditional music from the school curriculum. That is appalling, because we have massive demand for musical tuition. That includes tin whistles, Lambeg drums, bagpipes and fiddles. The exclusion of that from the classroom is a rights issue. I would like to know whether any other region in Europe would tolerate such a situation.

Mr K Robinson:
A note to the Committee for Education would be helpful in drawing attention to that.

The Deputy Chairperson:
Do members agree that that is prejudicial and that it is worth pursuing by the Committee in the manner in which Ken outlined?

Mr Brolly:
Absolutely.

The Deputy Chairperson:
Are you on board?

Mr Brolly:
Yes, of course. I used to teach music.

The Deputy Chairperson:
I heard that you also used to sing.

Members indicated assent.

The Deputy Chairperson:
Francie, it is your turn to ask a couple of questions.

Mr Brolly:
Where can I get my hands on the poems of Sarah Leech and Wilson Burgess?

Mr Thompson:
We can send you copies.

The Deputy Chairperson:
They cost a fiver each.

Mr Brolly:
Previously, I raised the point that the language content in the Ulster-Scots newspaper was sparse, so I am glad that you are addressing that. Reading Ulster Scots would be much more interesting than reading plain English.

Mr Thompson:
You are right. However, the agency needs to carry out work with regard to our newspaper’s readership. We tend to use the newspaper as an outreach tool rather than aiming it towards the core community. You are quite right, though; it does not have enough language content.

Mr Brolly:
I am interested that you have spoken to other community groups and to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). How did you deal with them?

Mr Thompson:
We visited the DVLA in Coleraine.

Mr Brolly:
Is that so? You just went along and spoke to the people who work there?

Mr Thompson:
I did not go — the agency’s director of language did. The DVLA in Coleraine runs a call-centre operation. Enquiries come in all the time, and many folk do not use the Queen’s English.

Mr Brolly:
Of course they do not.

Mr Thompson:
Therefore, it is important that the folk who man the telephones have some awareness of that so that they are able to respond to folk without denigrating them.

Mr Brolly:
I have one last question. How will the research centre at Monreagh in Donegal differ from the academy? What will be the academy’s work? Will it also be involved in research?

Mr Thompson:
The centre at Monreagh is not agency funded. It is funded by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaelteacht Affairs. The agency has acted as a conduit in channelling funds to the centre. However, we do not have a hands-on role. The project is run by a committee from the Presbyterian church across the road from the centre, because it is located in a former manse. A fairly broad steering group oversees the centre. Its intention is to run the centre as a genealogical research facility. As far as I know, it is currently being refurbished and is due to open in June 2008.

The Deputy Chairperson:
How are the music and dance elements of the Ulster-Scots culture being developed? What direction are they taking?

Mr Thompson:
The demand for music tuition is colossal. However, it is easier to meet that demand because there are people who know how to play the instruments. The problem with Highland dance, in particular, is that properly qualified teachers are not available on this side of the water. Some parents do not mind whether a teacher is qualified. However, other parents care that, if their child is taking part in classes over several years, he or she will achieve some kind of official certificate or award as a result. At present, folk are being flown in from Scotland. Dance tutors are being trained so that, in a few years’ time, folk will no longer have to be brought from Scotland because properly qualified teachers will be available here.

The Deputy Chairperson:
Is there a professional group? Are you still a member of the Low Country Boys, if that is what it is still called?

Mr Thompson:
I was a member until recently. I am taking a bit of time off.

The Deputy Chairperson:
That is a pity. I wish you well with your break.

Is a professionalism being developed?

Mr Thompson:
Yes, it is. The Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing issues certification. It also allows teachers to operate under that certification scheme. The same applies to pipe bands, for example, which have the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association; and country dance, which has the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society. Those parent bodies in Scotland maintain standards. More bodies that comply with those standards are needed on the ground here.

The Deputy Chairperson:
Thank you very much. Your contribution has been instructive. The Committee hopes to see you again. We wish you all the best.

Thank you, members, for your interest in the subject, which is not unusual. The Committee spends a lot of time on both Irish and Ulster Scots.

I am sure that members also wish me to thank Hansard. It has been a long stint for them — to sit here through presentations from three sets of witnesses. Thank you, Hansard.

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