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Sinn Fein 'ignoring' result of consultation over bus signs in Irish

Gregory Campbell

Sinn Fein has been accused of ignoring the results of a consultation that suggested there was "very little appetite for Irish language signage" on buses in Co Londonderry.

The consultation, which was carried out by Translink in the spring and summer of 2017, proposed bilingual English and Irish destination screens onboard Ulsterbus vehicles in the nationalist west bank of Derry.

The project was piloted on the Slievemore route, with a plan to roll it out to other areas of the city if it successful. Bilingual signs are already in operation on buses in west Belfast.

But according to response to a Freedom of Information request by DUP MP Gregory Campbell, almost three-quarters (74%) of the 9,421 people who completed the survey were against the idea.

Last month talks to restore Stormont broke down due to disagreements between the DUP and Sinn Fein over legislation for the Irish language. Mr Campbell - who was barred from speaking in the Assembly for a day in 2014 after making fun of the Irish language - called on Sinn Fein to explain why it had "ignored" the results of the consultation.

He said: "Around this time last year, Sinn Fein in Londonderry claimed they had been lobbying Translink since February 2015 for a consultation about bilingual destination signage on scheduled Ulsterbus service vehicles in the area. The results were forwarded to the Department for Infrastructure late last year. This survey, requested by Sinn Fein, has demonstrated that there is very little appetite for Irish language signage even when Sinn Fein promotes it.

"Either Sinn Fein is aware of this consultation outcome and has decided to keep it hidden or Sinn Fein is unaware of the outcome and didn't ask because they were afraid of what the outcome might be. The public have a right to know which it is."

Translink said that given the consultation results, it currently had "no plans" to introduce bilingual destination screens in Derry.

It added: "Translink will continue to offer information primarily in English, subject to future statutory requirements."

Sinn Fein insisted there was "significant support for bilingual signs".

It said: "The trials in west Belfast have been very successful and Sinn Fein would wish to roll that out in other places where bilingual signage is welcome. Bilingual bus signs are already used every day in Derry on Bus Eireann vehicles and there has been little or no opposition to that."

Belfast Telegraph