Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Bilingual road sign plan ‘will just add to tribal divisions’

Controversial plans to put up road signs in Irish and Ulster-Scots will carve up Northern Ireland into tribal areas, it has been warned.

The Department for Regional Development has launched a |consultation into the plan to |introduce road signs in either Irish or Ulster-Scots.

Minister for Regional Development Conor Murphy said: “The policy is intended to facilitate the |introduction of a number of |certain bilingual traffic signs |in Irish or Ulster-Scots for the specific purpose of promoting |minority languages.

“We have obligations under |the European Charter for the |protection of minority languages and the proposed policy will |permit the inclusion of either |Irish or Ulster-Scots on town or village welcome signs, some supplementary plate signs, for example a ‘School’ warning sign, and certain tourist signs.”

However, critics say the scheme could ghettoise Northern Ireland, institutionalising tribal divisions.

Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kinahan said it was wrong to spend money on erecting Irish language signage at such a time.

“I think it’s a shame that Sinn Fein make it such a battle when the language should find its natural place. All our expenditure should be going on putting everything we can into getting the roads into better order — we know they will be in much worse condition after the cold spell,” he said.

Alliance regional development spokesperson, South Belfast MLA Anna Lo, said the plan could |create tribal demarcations in |areas because there can never |be a sign featuring the three |languages together.

“This is akin to people putting flags up in certain areas to mark out territory. This will be like |an institutionalised mark of |tribalism,” she said.

“Alliance will battle against any measures which could ghettoise Northern Ireland or cause further division. Government should be tackling segregation, not adding to it.”

East Belfast party colleague, councillor Judith Cochrane, said she was astonished the issue was a priority for Mr Murphy given the challenges he faces to improve water infrastructure and winter treatment of roads and footpaths.

“The plan may sound benign but this is a very dangerous concept as there is a massive flaw in its outworking,” she said.

“These proposals will essentially implement a tribal, ghettoising carve-up of an area.

“Is this really where the minister wants to allocate resources to when our water system is in crisis and there is a serious lack of grit boxes to keep our roads and pavements safe during icy conditions.”

Copies of the consultation |document are available on the Department for Regional Development website www.drdni.gov.uk. Hard copies can be obtained |by contacting Roads Service on 028 9054 0633.

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