Belfast Telegraph

‘English only’ council installs Ulster Scots planters

By Lisa Smyth

A row has erupted after a council voted for a strict 'English only' road sign policy - before installing plant pots decorated with Ulster Scots.

An Irish language group is to lodge a complaint with the Equality Commission after Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council refused a request by residents for a number of streets to have signs in Irish.

It then installed the controversial 'planters' bearing an Ulster Scots greeting in Antrim town centre. Sinn Fein has also hit out at the decision and accused the council of hypocrisy.

In February, the council voted for a strict 'English only' policy after residents from Abbeyville in Newtownabbey petitioned for signs in five streets to also include Irish. The predominantly unionist council voted against the request by 27 votes to eight.

However, within a matter of weeks, the council installed large decorative planters at the junction of Church Street and High Street in Antrim inscribed with the greeting 'Fair fa' ye tae' and including the Discover Ulster Scots logo.

The planters are designed to welcome visitors to the town's Scotch Quarter, which has undergone a recent facelift.

Sinn Fein councillor Anne Marie Logue said the current situation is the latest slap in the face for Irish speakers.

"We believe that what has happened is wrong and a breach of equality legislation," she said.

"It is hypocrisy in its rawest form."

Cait Ni Ruanaidh from Ionad Teaghlaigh Ghleann Darach, an Irish language family centre based in Crumlin, said: "Congratulations to the Ulster Scots speakers in Antrim.

"It's fantastic to see their language being promoted by the council. However, it is an absolute disgrace that gaeilgeoirs within this council are denied the same rights.

"This is hypocritical at best and in reality, downright sectarianism.

"The Irish language is spoken by people from all political backgrounds and this behaviour by Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council politicises the Irish language.

"It also diminishes community relations by creating double standards and demonises our Irish language community," she added.

"We are not out to attack or censor anyone else's language, however, we will be lodging a complaint with the council and the Equality Commission.

"We believe the council is in breach of equality regulations."

A council spokeswoman said a decision to brand a part of Antrim Scotch Quarter due to its historical context was approved in March 2017, prior to the decision to implement an English only sign policy, which was made on February 26 this year.

"There was no vote or objections raised at the March 2017 meeting, in relation to the matter," she said.

"The proposal was to be implemented by the Ulster Scots Agency, however, due to some delays it wasn't implemented until earlier this month."

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