Belfast Telegraph

Belfast City Council faces High Court challenge over Irish language street sign policy

By Alan Erwin

Belfast City Council is facing a High Court challenge over its policy on Irish language street signs, it emerged today.

A resident in the west of the city has been granted leave to seek a judicial review over being denied dual-language name plates on her road.

Lawyers for Eileen Reid claim a method of surveying householders is irrational and unlawful.

Ms Reid was one of those canvassed about having supplementary Irish street signs erected on Ballymurphy Drive.

Under council criteria two-thirds of those questioned need to declare themselves in favour before the new plates can go up.

It is understood that out of 92 eligible residents 52 confirmed they wanted Irish signs, with only one opposed.

However, the remaining 39 did not respond to the survey.

According to Ms Reid's legal team these non-returned votes were wrongly counted as being opposed to dual signage.

They contend that the two-thirds policy does not comply with a requirement in local government legislation for the views of residents to be taken into consideration.

Belfast City Council is also in breach of its obligation to promote Irish under the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages, it is claimed.

In court today a preliminary hearing to determine whether an arguable case has been established was not contested.

David Scoffield QC, for the Council, said: "Without prejudice to a vigorous defence of the case at full hearing we don't propose to object to the granting of leave."

With Ms Reid clearing the first stage in her challenge, Mr Justice Treacy listed her challenge for June.

Outside court her solicitor, Michael Flanigan, said: "My client is seeking to have this policy struck down because it doesn't comply with the law.

"What is required is a policy that is consistent with the law and the Council's obligations under the Charter, which is to promote the use of Irish language in public life."

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