Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein demands end to legal action against pensioner over Irish language sign

Declan Kearney
Declan Kearney

Sinn Fein MLA Declan Kearney has said he will meet with Antrim and Newtownabbey Council to demand an end to proposed legal action against an 85-year-old woman over an Irish language sign.

The Randalstown resident received a letter about a "Gleann na Fuinseoige" sign on railings outside her Ashdale development home.

The council threatened to take legal action against the pensioner over what they described as a "authorised advertisement".

If convicted the resident could face a £2,500 maximum court fine and daily £250 penalties for each day the sign was displayed after judgment.

Mr Kearney said he intends to meet with Chief Executive of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council Jacqui Dixon to demand an end to the legal action.

The South Antrim MLA said the party had requested an "urgent meeting" over the "outrageous decision".

“It is further evidence why Irish language rights must be entrenched and protected in an Irish Language Act/Acht Gaeilge in the north of Ireland," Mr Kearney said.

“The fact is that huge numbers of ratepayers in Randalstown and throughout Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough identify as Irish citizens, they use the Irish language in their daily lives and see the language as a tangible manifestation of their Irish national and cultural identity.

“That is the message which I and the Sinn Fein council group will deliver next week to the Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough CEO."

Antrim and Newtownabbey released a statement on the issue earlier this week, saying that "the letter referred to was sent by the council’s planning enforcement team following receipt of a complaint from a member of the public".

"The erection of the sign constitutes a breach of planning control and in line with normal procedures the council issued a warning letter to the householder to have the sign removed," the statement read.

The DUP said if the sign - irrespective of its content - needs planning permission, it should go through the correct procedure.

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council have been contacted in relation to this story.

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