UUP criticises plan to replace dual-language signs after just few months as waste of cash
A plan by a nationalist council to replace new dual-language street signs which were only erected a few months ago has come under fire from unionists.
More than 20 signs throughout the Mid Ulster District Council area will be affected by the move, which was voted through by its environment committee, and could cost ratepayers around £2,200 if rubber-stamped by the full council next week.
The dual-language nameplates, which feature right-aligned text with the Irish language first in red, went up between January and May this year.
They were approved by the council in February 2017 as part of its dual-language policy.
However, according to a council report, in June this year environment committee members voted in favour of aligning the text to the left instead of the right.
Now, the council committee has changed its mind again, and last week the environment committee was presented with a new preferred option in which the words 'Townland of' in Irish were removed in order to make the signs "easier to read."
It was also proposed to change the upper-case text for the English townland to lower-case, and council officers also reportedly recommended changing the use of colour and italics.
The new format would see the red lettering and italics removed from the sign, and the Irish place name would be written in black on a white background at the top of the sign.
The English equivalent would be written in white text below, on a black background.
According to the council report, if the template is changed, the cost to replace all previously erected signs will be approximately £2,200.
Documents show that each dual-language sign costs approximately £160 when installation is undertaken by its property services staff.
Of this, the nameplate element is listed as costing approximately £70, "assuming the old nameplates can be removed and a new nameplate reinstated in situ without weakening the nameplate using in-house resources".
The proposal, reported by the Tyrone Courier yesterday, is due to go before full council next Thursday.
Dungannon UUP councillor Walter Cuddy described the decision to replace the new signs after just a few months as "an example of stupidity". Mr Cuddy added: "The big problem is the amount of money being spent on this.
"This is the road to nowhere.
"The fact that the signs are being changed again so soon just shows how poorly thought-out they were, and my understanding is that this is wasting ratepayers' money.
"The position of the UUP group on Mid Ulster Council is that we aren't against the Irish language.
"The problem is the amount of money and resources being allocated to all its forms. Look at the money being thrown at this when there are so many things which are more real to people.
"We are a large area and there are pressures on our budget and capital projects for the wider community.
"So many projects are crying out for money, and we are focusing on signs."
Cookstown Ulster Unionist councillor Trevor Wilson added: "It is very disappointing that we are changing the signs already at an exorbitant cost to the ratepayer."
No response had been received from Mid Ulster District Council at the time of going to press.