Belfast Telegraph

Row erupts after DUP minister changes name of boat from Irish to English

By Rebecca Black

A row over the name of a fisheries protection boat has been refloated after a DUP minister changed it from Irish to its English equivalent.

Banrion Uladh was the name of the vessel that patrols the Irish Sea as far south as Anglesey and as far north as Lough Foyle.

It transports officials with powers to board fishing boats to check if they are complying with EU quotas.

It was launched in 2010 by then Sinn Fein Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew, and its Irish name, which translates as Queen of Ulster, sparked annoyance among DUP MLAs.

Now Michelle McIlveen - the DUP's Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Minister - has changed the boat's name to Queen of Ulster, leading to Sinn Fein fury.

Upper Bann Sinn Fein MLA Catherine Seeley voiced her party's ire earlier this month when she submitted an Assembly question demanding to know the cost of changing the boat's name.

She also asked Ms McIlveen to explain her "rationale for the decision", and whether any consultation on the name change had taken place.

Ms McIlveen responded, pointing out that Ms Gildernew had not carried out a consultation when she named the boat back in 2010. The Strangford MLA also clarified that there had been no additional cost for changing the name.

"The change of lettering was carried out at a scheduled annual maintenance event involving repairs, repainting and anti-fouling," she said in the response.

Ms McIlveen also announced that her department would have a single language policy, moving away from the Sinn Fein ministers' approach where communication was done in both English and Irish.

"DAERA is a new department with a fresh identity and logo and adopts a single language policy. There have consequently been some necessary adaptations to assets transferring to the new department," she said.

"The name of the patrol vessel was a matter for the former minister at DARD (Department of Agriculture and Rural Development) Michelle Gildernew and was not an issue for consultation."

There have been a range of approaches to language since new ministers were appointed earlier this year. Within hours of his appointment as Education Minister - a department that had been controlled by Sinn Fein - the DUP's Peter Weir appeared to already be moving away from a dual language policy, with many Irish language references removed from the website.

The Department of Finance under Sinn Fein's Mairtin O Muilleoir appears to have retained the DUP's single language policy with its website predominantly in English. However, a biography of the minister appears in both English and Irish.

The Department for Infrastructure under Sinn Fein's Chris Hazzard has adopted a dual language policy. The Department of Health under Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill appears to have a triple language policy with the department's name appearing in English, Irish and Ulster-Scots on the front of its website. However, Press releases refer to Northern Ireland as the "north of Ireland".

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