Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

No welcome for Northern Ireland border signs as they’re ripped down in protest

One of the signs on the Belcoo- Blacklion border
One of the signs on the Belcoo- Blacklion border
One of the road signs that have appeared on the border roads.

Taxpayers are to fork out for replacement Welcome to Northern Ireland signs along the border after they were torn down just days after being erected.

And amid claims by unionists that the signs were stolen, Sinn Fein said the remainder should also be dismantled as soon as possible.

But Ulster Unionist minister Danny Kennedy’s department made clear that missing or damaged road signs will be restored.

A Department of Regional Development spokeswoman said: “It is Roads Service policy to replace missing or damaged signage.”

As the Belfast Telegraph reported yesterday, nine have already gone up in Fermanagh and Tyrone — with more anticipated in Armagh and Down — at a cost so far of around £1,700.

But the department’s Roads Service confirmed that two — between Newtownbutler and Clones in Co Monaghan and on the Monaghan Road in Roslea — are missing and there were claims a third at Belcoo has also been removed.

Mr Kennedy’s party colleague in Fermanagh, Tom Elliott, said the signs had probably been stolen “by those who do not want to accept they are living within Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom”.

Both the UUP man and TUV MLA Jim Allister called on Sinn Fein, which had protested against the new signs, to condemn the apparent theft.

“Roads Service cannot allow criminals to get away with this and it is also incumbent upon Sinn Fein MLA Phil Flanagan (below) to immediately condemn this criminal action and call for those responsible to hand themselves in and return the signs,” the TUV leader Mr Allister said.

But Fermanagh MLA Mr Flanagan said: “As far as I know they have not been stolen. In one area the sign is just lying there I am told.” But he said he would not condemn the actions of local people. “Putting up the signs was pretty petty behaviour by Danny Kennedy and people have responded by taking this into their own hands,” he added.

A Roads Service spokesperson said: “Signage is being placed at strategic border crossing points to remind drivers entering Northern Ireland that speed limits are displayed in miles per hour.

“Roads Service is supplementing the existing signage with Welcome to Northern Ireland signs. Nine, out of a total of approximately a dozen signs, have been erected at a cost of around £1,700.”

Factfile

Where the new signs can still be viewed (at time of going to Press):

A38: Strabane-Lifford

A46: Enniskillen-Donegal

A5: Aughnacloy-Monaghan

A509: Enniskillen-Belturbet

A3: Cavan-Clones at Wattlebridge (south of Newtownbutler)

A35: Kesh-Pettigoe.

...and coming soon to a junction near you at:

A1: Newry-Dundalk

A2: Londonderry-Letterkenny

A3: Armagh-Monaghan

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