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Irish language Christmas sign goes up at Belfast City Hall

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Published 16/12/2011

Belfast City Hall
Belfast City Hall

A controversial Irish language Christmas sign is now up outside Belfast City Hall.

The illumination — which reads ‘Nollaig Shona Duit’ (Merry Christmas To You) — was donated by the Culturlann centre in west Belfast and hangs alongside an English language version at the east entrance.

The issue of Christmas lights was raised during a turbulent meeting of Belfast City Council earlier this month.

Hugh Smyth of the PUP had requested that ‘Happy Christmas’ replace the ‘Be Festive’ sign at the east entrance of City Hall.

During the debate, Sinn Fein’s Jim McVeigh suggested that an Irish language sign should also be put up.

After a recorded vote, Alliance, which holds the balance of power, sided with nationalists — meaning the proposal was passed by 28 votes to 21.

The following day, all 21 unionists, who had vehemently opposed the erection of the Irish sign, walked out of another meeting to protest at what they said was a breach of an all-party agreement.

Last night Mr McVeigh said the new sign was a “small gesture” to the Gaelic-speaking community.

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