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Just seven queries over vessel being renamed Queen of Ulster

By Rebecca Black

Only seven communications were received about the anglicisation of the name of a Department of Agriculture fisheries vessel, it can be revealed.

Sinn Fein MLAs reacted with fury earlier this year when it emerged that DUP Agriculture Minister Michelle McIlveen had changed the name of the boat from the Irish Banrion Uladh (Queen of Ulster) to its English equivalent.

Despite the furore, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) received only seven communications containing either objections or expressions of concern about the move.

A bitter war of words erupted between the DUP and Sinn Fein in September after the Belfast Telegraph revealed the name change.

Republicans hit out at Ms McIlveen, accusing her of being “anti-Irish language”, demanding to know whether she had consulted before making her decision, and questioning how much money the name change had cost.

SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone also criticised the move, and Irish language group Pobal slammed it as a “sad and petty action”.

Ms McIlveen responded, pointing out that her predecessor Michelle Gildernew had not carried out a consultation when she christened the boat in 2010, and also clarified that the cost for the name change was £300, explaining it had been done during the vessel’s annual servicing.

Following a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to DAERA,  the department said it had received seven communications about the name change.

DAERA added that it did not hold information about whether any objections had been received when Ms Gildernew initially gave the vessel an Irish name, nor which other names she considered.

The FoI response said the name change to Queen of Ulster occurred during scheduled maintenance and refit work carried out between June 20-28 last year.

It added that no information was held on when the minister made the initial decision.

Banrion Uladh was launched in 2010 by Ms Gildernew, and the Irish name sparked annoyance among DUP MLAs.

It patrols the Irish Sea and transports DAERA officials, with powers to board trawlers to check if they are complying with European Union fishing quotas.

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