Belfast Telegraph

Row as Belfast City Council votes for Irish signage at two local leisure centres

Brian Kingston says that placing of Irish language signage is ‘not a politically neutral act
Brian Kingston says that placing of Irish language signage is ‘not a politically neutral act
Andrew Madden

By Andrew Madden

Belfast City Council has agreed to erect Irish language signage at two Belfast leisure centres following a special meeting at City Hall.

There will also be a public consultation on the introduction of bilingual or multi-lingual signage at other council facilities.

The new Irish signage, alongside English, will be installed at Brook and Andersonstown leisure centres, which are due to open in January 2020.

A Belfast City Council spokesperson said the council has agreed "to engage in a citywide consultation in respect of bilingual and/or multilingual naming and the type of signage to be used in the centres designed to have a citywide catchment, as guided by local consultation".

He added: "The process referred to will commence after agreement of a framework for the consultation, which will be brought to the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee on October 25, with that committee having delegated authority to approve the framework referred to." The Irish signs at Brook and Andersonstown leisure centres will be subject to review following the consultation.

Sinn Fein council group leader Ciaran Beattie said: "The Irish language was preserved and saved by Presbyterians in this city. This language does not belong to Sinn Fein, it doesn't belong to republicans - it belongs to everyone in this chamber."

DUP councillor Brian Kingston, a former Lord Mayor, said that while everyone should welcome that Belfast is a "multi-lingual and international city", the placing of Irish language signage "is not a politically neutral act".

There has been disagreement between councillors over SF's move to install Irish signage at the two centres, with no mention of other council facilities.

Alliance councillor Michael Long accused Sinn Fein of trying to "ghettoise" the Irish language.

He said the party's move to only place Irish language signs in west Belfast sent out negative messages that the Irish language only belongs to one tradition.

His comments were rejected by Mr Beattie who said the original motion had been proposed due to time constraints.

"The reality is west Belfast has a very thriving Irish speaking community with a number of schools, youth clubs and an Irish language secondary school. We have a huge infrastructure in terms of the Irish language based in west Belfast," he told BBC's Good Morning Ulster.

Linda Ervine, Irish language development officer with Turas, which promotes the language, said people in west Belfast should be able to have bilingual signage in the area.

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