Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Council blocks bilingual signs bid

By Lesley-Anne Henry

Bilingual signs in Irish and Ulster Scots will not be erected in Belfast.

City councillors rejected a plan put forward by Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy to erect road signs in either Irish or Ulster-Scots as well as English.

Mr Murphy, who had opened a public consultation on the controversial issue, said the measure would help his department meet commitments under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

The DUP vowed to block the move.

Ian Crozier, chairman of the strategic policy and resources committee, said bilingual signs would create a “chill factor” for minority cultures in certain areas of the city.

“The report from the Department for Regional Development, who are doing this consultation, by its own assessment say it will not be good for community relations,” the DUP man said.

“And it will particularly badly impact unionists because in the majority of cases the signs that would be put up would be in English and Irish.

“The document only allows for two languages, because if they put any more then they would not be safe.

“Sinn Fein wants nationalist west Belfast further separated from the rest of the city. It is creating a chill factor.

“If it was something that impacted the nationalist community negatively, there would be a whole hue and cry about it.

“There should be one set of road signs that everybody understands or can use.”

In a vote by a show of hands at a meeting of the strategic policy and resources committee, 10 members rejected bilingual signage, with six in favour.

Alliance Party members raised concerns that they could ghettoise certain areas.

However, Sinn Fein’s Caoimhin Mac Giolla Mhin, who expressed “disappointment” that the issue had been dropped by the council, said there was a lack of understanding about the use of Irish. And he extended an invitation for councillors to spend the day with people who live their lives through the medium of Irish.

He added: “A sizeable amount of Belfast ratepayers do their day-to-day business through the medium of Irish. I thought that the unionists would at least have given some thought to it, given that it includes Ulster-Scots.”

Background

Conor Murphy, Minister for Regional Development, opened a public consultation on the erection of bilingual traffic signage on January 10. The Sinn Fein man said signs would include two languages — English and either Irish or Ulster-Scots — and would help meet commitments under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. The minister proposed that costs would be met by the promoter for the sign, including local councils or the tourist board. The consultation period ended earlier this month.

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