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Plan to bring back townland names across province fails in Assembly

By Noel McAdam

Published 27/11/2015

Bill: Phil Flanagan
Bill: Phil Flanagan

The Assembly has voted down a plan to restore townland names across Northern Ireland - even though MLAs were evenly divided on the issue.

Thirty-seven voted for a Private Member's Bill and 37 voted against, which meant the proposal did not get a majority and therefore fell.

Sinn Fein, SDLP and Alliance Members all supported the proposal, but most DUP and Ulster Unionists members, as well as the TUV's Jim Allister, were opposed.

As first revealed in the Belfast Telegraph, Phil Flanagan of Sinn Fein wanted the province's 11 councils to be given legislative powers to bring back townland names if they wished.

But he admitted few of the 11 authorities, merged from the previous 26, appeared keen to take on the responsibility.

The DUP's Pam Cameron asked: "Why would we legislate to do something that there is no need to do? Why would we legislate to bring in confusion?

"I understand the historical value of retaining the knowledge and use of townlands, but there is nothing to hinder their use.

"Can the Assembly's time and efforts not be put to better use?"

And Ulster Unionist Sandra Overend voiced concern over how emergency and other services would find addresses if townland names were brought back.

"If you go down a road, there could be six different townlands along that road," she said.

"That is one of my major concerns - that the blue-light services will not be able to find addresses."

However, Mr Flanagan's colleague Chris Hazzard said in south Down there was a townland called Leode, just outside Hilltown and Mayobridge, which is officially called Cross Road, but "not one local resident refers to it as Cross Road, and that causes considerable problems".

"Emergency services have ended up in Crossmaglen, which is maybe 30 minutes away from the actual place," he added.

"It is not the case that (bringing back townland names) will cause confusion, rather, in a lot of circumstances, it will go a long way towards helping to address confusion."

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