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£4,000: the cost of a city hall Christmas sign in any language

Christmas is coming and Belfast City Council is set to fork out ratepayers’ cash on a multi-lingual festive sign.

This year families and visitors can expect to see the traditional Merry Christmas banner fronting the city hall in not one but up to three languages.

In addition to English and Irish, the giant illuminated sign may even carry the greeting in Ulster-Scots. Merry Christmas in Irish is “Nollaig Shona”, while in Ulster Scots it is “Ablythe Yuletide”.

The sign is expected to cost around £4,000.

The proposal has already been passed by the council’s development committee and is expected to be endorsed when the full council meets tonight.

Sinn Fein is the largest party in the council and committee representative Mairtin O Muileoir said yesterday: “It would be a great symbol of what Christmas is all about – inclusion and diversity.

“It’s a positive move and a wee sign of Belfast growing up. We hope it will be in Irish, Ulster-Scots and, of course, English.”

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He added: “We supported the Ulster-Scots inclusion and as one colleague said ‘nae better man til get it’, but for whatever reason some unionists are opposed to it.”

Another committee member, Alliance councillor Andrew Webb, said: “Sinn Fein wants to create a more inclusive city hall and I can appreciate the motivation behind it.

“I haven’t had a chance yet to fully discuss it with my colleagues so we’ll see on Monday night.”

Ulster Unionist councillor Bob Stoker is concerned about the cost and sentiment.

“Everyone understands what ‘Merry Christmas’ means and that should be good enough without having to spend almost £4,000 simply repeating it in other languages.

“But if you are talking about inclusion then what about the many Polish, Latvian, Chinese and Romanian people living and working in the city – are they to be overlooked?”

The council’s budget for this year’s Christmas festivities is just under £140,000, which includes the big switch-on ceremony and festive lighting.

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