Council’s ban on Irish street signs ‘was Trump-like policy’

Irish language campaigners pictured outside the High Court in Belfast on Friday
Irish language campaigners pictured outside the High Court in Belfast on Friday

A ban on Irish language street signs in Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council has been rescinded, the High Court heard today.

The decision to set aside the policy followed a challenge by a local resident who claimed it amounted to discrimination.

Clare Duffy was also awarded legal costs as part of the resolution reached in the case.

Her supporters described the outcome as vindication of taking action against a “Donald Trump-type policy”.

Ms Duffy issued judicial review proceedings after the Council introduced a ban on bi-lingual signs within the borough earlier this year.

She claimed the move discriminated on grounds of religion, political opinion and cultural identity.

It was alleged that by formulating the prohibition the Council failed in its duty to ensure equality.

In court today Barry Macdonald QC, representing Ms Duffy, said: The policy has now been rescinded on foot of the proceedings.”

The development was confirmed in a letter following a council meeting last month.

On that basis Mr Justice McCloskey agreed to end the proceedings and make a costs order in favour of Ms Duffy.

She had been backed in her challenge by the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ).

Outside court CAJ deputy director Daniel Holder said: “This was Donald Trump type policy making by the Council, rushing through a policy that was clear to the rest of us was unlawful and discriminatory and bypassing the duties in their own equality scheme in doing so.

“After months of the Council telling us the policy was lawful, today confirms a U-turn.”

He added: “We need to be vigilant that what replaces the policy respects human rights standards.”

Ms Duffy’s solicitor, Niall Murphy of KRW Law, said: “Our client expresses regret that ratepayers money has been wasted on having to pay for the entirety of the costs of this High Court challenge at a time when rates in the Borough have been recently increased by 3%.”