Mr Robin Swann, the North Antrim Ulster Unionist Party Assemblyman and UUP Leader, has called on schools and colleges to “seriously consider introducing piping as part of the music curriculum”.
Assemblyman Swann, who is himself heavily involved with the piping fraternity in North Antrim and beyond, issued his appeal following reports of a cut to pipe band coverage by the BBC.
Mr Swann said this was “a great shame given that the successful European Pipe Band Championships have been held in Northern Ireland in past years”.
Mr Swann said: “Both Northern Ireland and our North Antrim constituency have always been exceptionally well represented at the annual European Pipe Band Championships. There is a huge pipe band fraternity across North Antrim and in many other constituencies and the decision to cut coverage flies in the face of this magnificent piping culture.
“As a piper myself, I have always wholeheartedly congratulated the organisers of European Pipe Band Championship at Stormont on hosting their terrific showpieces for the Province.
“As a country, we must look to the future as to how we can use this enthusiasm and keen interest in pipe bands for the benefit of the community.
“One way is to introduce piping as a musical skill in the school and college curriculum. I urge any future Stormont Education Minister, and indeed the Education Authority itself, to seriously consider my proposal.
“Northern Ireland has world-class bands in all grades. Pipe bands also cross the community divides, and the competitions show the band skills and disciplines at their best. These qualities taught in the pipe band fraternity are ones which will be a thorough grounding for life.
“We have an opportunity to promote Northern Ireland as a piping mecca and I urge a future Stormont Executive to work together to establish this reputation.
“This could be another string to our cultural tourism strategy, and we would be foolish to ignore it as piping is a worldwide movement.
“Piping is a strong friendship movement, which is deeply embedded in our local communities and families.
“Life-long friendships have been developed through piping. I met my wife though the pipe band scene. I was Pipe Major of a band formed under the auspices of the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster for a one-off charity event and she was the bass drummer,” said Assemblyman Swann.