Belfast Telegraph

Unionist concern over mayor's Christmas card in Irish and English

Brenda Chivers "disappointed" by the response to the card

A unionist councillor has expressed concerns over the annual Mayor's Christmas card from Causeway Coast and Glens Council's Brenda Chivers.

The Sinn Fein councillor sent out a greeting card featuring the festive greeting "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year" in both English and the Irish language.

Local DUP councillor Sam Cole said that while he didn't want to be seen to be "stirring things up" at Christmas, he could understand why people were taking issue with it.

"Causeway Coast and Glens is a predominantly unionist council and to send a Christmas card out with Irish on the front of it, it's not a token of the season of peace and goodwill to all men," he said.

Alderman Cole said that the card was "not inclusive".

"I don't think we should be bringing politics into Christmas and that's definitely what has happened here. The Mayor is for all the people of the Borough and you don't go out of your way to offend anyone."

UUP councillor William McCandless said that Sinn Fein "take every opportunity to promote the Irish language" but pointed out that the majority of their party "can hardly speak it".

He said that he had been contacted by a number of local people who had been concerned after receiving the Mayoral Christmas card.

"First and foremost I would say that when we send a Christmas card to our friends and relations it is to send greetings of goodwill of love and to let them know that you are sharing the spirit of Christmas with them," Councillor McCandless told Causeway Coast Community News.

"It is a time for reflection, for healing, a time of hope and joy and the message of God's redeeming love for mankind and the hope of salvation.

"Unfortunately, this card should have had a bit more thought put into it before being sent. Basically, it has been a wrongful misuse of power in the privileged position of Mayor."

Councillor McCandless said that the Irish language was being promoted at the expense of unionists.

"It is sad that prejudice is still rife in our little country, but particularly at Christmas," he said.

"All citizens have a moral duty and civic responsibility to ensure dignity and respect and that responsibility applies even more to elected representatives.

"Anyway, Christmas is first and foremost a time of forgiveness and I do wish the Mayor a Merry Christmas and please consider the thoughts and sensitivities of those from a different culture in 2019.”

Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Brenda Chivers said she was "disappointed" by the response to the card.

"The cards are clearly bilingual so to claim they can’t be understood is nonsense. It’s also very disappointing that a gesture of goodwill should be met with such a response," the Sinn Fein councillor said. 

"The Irish language is part of our shared history and culture on this island but, unfortunately, some still seem unable to accept that reality.” 

The Belfast Telegraph has contacted Causeway Coast and Glens Council for a response to this story.

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