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Poll: DUP concern at plan for Irish signs on Derry buses

By Claire Williamson

The DUP has urged unionists to make their views known after Translink said it would open a public consultation to extend the use of Irish language names on bus signs.

Bilingual signs are already in operation in west Belfast, and Translink now plans to trial the initiative on its Londonderry services. Translink said the initiative was a way to "celebrate traditional place names in the city and their meaning".

The transport company said 14% of the population in Derry had a knowledge of the Irish language and the initiative was a bid to support "key objectives and principles set out in the European Charter for Minority or Regional Languages".

Foyle DUP MLA Gary Middleton said that he was urging people in the city to respond to the consultation process and make their views known.

He said the initial proposal for Irish language bus signage had come from Sinn Fein.

"We've had conversations as a party with Translink on this issue before, and we've been strong believers that the current policy that they have of using English-only signs had tended to work well. I'm quite content with the policy that already existed," he said.

"We had been reassured they had no plans to change that - but we're aware of this consultation and we're encouraging everyone to respond to it with whatever view they have."

The Foyle MLA said he saw no urgent need to change.

"We are concerned that initially this proposal was called for by Sinn Fein. Sadly, the Irish language has been politicised - and that's not to take away from the Irish language itself, because I understand that there are many people who speak it.

"The difficulty that we have, for the unionist community in Londonderry, is that it does seem there are other motivations behind it."

A snap Belfast Telegraph online readers' poll last night suggested a majority of people were in favour of the proposed changes. Over 1,600 people voted in the poll, with 53% favouring the change and 47% giving it a thumbs down.

Alan Young, Translink's service delivery manager at its Foyle Street bus station, said: "I would urge as many people as possible to express their views during this six-week consultation period which runs until April 30, 2017. We want to hear as many views as possible and this important feedback will inform our decisions.

"This initiative is a way to celebrate traditional place names in the city and their meaning, while also helping to support local tourism through a unique visitor experience.

"It is proposed to pilot the initiative on Slievemore route FY12, as it is the busiest Ulsterbus Foyle city service. If successful, there is potential to roll out to other routes across the city."

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