UUP councillors walked out in ‘protest against council policy’


UUP councillors who walked out of Down District Council ahead of an Irish language talk say they had told the speaker in advance they were protesting against their own council.

Robert Burgess, Desmond Patterson and Walter Lyons left the council chamber on Monday night before Linda Ervine began her talk about the historical links between Protestants and Irish.

Mr Lyons explained yesterday that over the past number of years, the council has “totally ignored the unionist view on the Irish language and the flying of flags”.

“It used to be 70 per cent of the replies had to be in favour of the street signs. They changed that to the majority of the replies, so they could have 20 houses contacted and three people reply, and if two of those wanted the Irish sign on their street, it would be granted.

He added: “Nationalists voted that Irish would be the first language, English the second and then Braille. So we just felt that somewhere along the line we have to make a stand.”

Mr Lyons explained that he had enjoyed tea with Mrs Ervine before her talk and arranged to go and hear her speak at a later date.

DUP councillor William Dick said his party sat through the talk but objects to the language being “foisted upon us”.

NI21 leader Basil McCrea said the UUP’s actions were “rude, insular and completely self-defeating”, while UKIP’s Alan Lewis dismissed the UUP’s opposition to Down District Council’s Irish language policy as an “election stunt”.