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Sinn Fein and DUP say Irish language signs have to wait

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Cathal Mallaghan

Cathal Mallaghan

Cathal Mallaghan

Councillors from across the political spectrum in Mid Ulster have questioned the need for Irish language street signs to be installed in Castlecaulfield last week.

Sinn Fein's Cathal Mallaghan and the Council's deputy chairman, the DUP's Clement Cuthbertson, have both claimed that the local authority should be focusing on essential services at this time.

Mr Mallaghan said: "Having seen images of a council worker installing new signage in what appeared to be a safe manner and considerate of social distancing, I contacted the Council CEO (Anthony Tohill) to enquire about its necessity.

"It is my view that this is not an essential service at this time and I am of the understanding this work has been suspended.

"It is important that we as a council prioritise our available staff to essential services and continue to provide a safe environment for those staff at work that follows WHO guidelines."

He also paid tribute to all council staff who are working tirelessly to make the district a safer place and respond to the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. "We are extremely proud of all our staff who are working in refuge, registration, cemeteries, reception and other front facing services," he said.

"We have many staff who are continuing to work from home ensuring that when this crisis is over we can bounce back as quickly as possible.

"Our senior management team are regularly briefing party leaders as things change and evolve and we are supporting them as decisions are being made very quickly. We are proud our facilities are being used to help our NHS and will continue to play our role in dealing with this crisis."

His words were echoed by Mr Cuthbertson who also questioned the expense of such an operation. "The erection of dual language signage, like many tasks the Technical Services Team are tasked with daily, are most definitely not essential services," he said.

"The council's priority at this stage is to maintain the bin collections and support the community," he added.

"In the past I have raised the issue of costs of these signs, figures often quoted by council are not a true picture when you take into consideration the consultation, procurement and delivery stages."

Mid Ulster District Council has been asked to confirm whether the installation of further street signs has now been suspended.

When initially asked on Monday what the total cost of these signs were and if council considered the work to be "essential" at this time, a spokesperson for Mid Ulster District Council provided the following statement on Monday.

"Where resources and social distancing restrictions allow, we have continued to deliver services, from grass-cutting and litter picking to property management activity, including the erection of street name plates which had previously been agreed, ordered and received into stock," the statement said.

"Two were erected on the Annaghmakeown Road at a cost of £80."

Belfast Telegraph