Approval granted by Mid-Ulster District Council for road signs in both Irish and English is following “the route of non-inclusive politics”.
That is according to a report of a meeting of the council’s environment committee earlier this week, at which DUP councillor Clement Cuthbertson was quoted as saying that residents who wished to have their street or road name displayed Irish should pay for the signs themselves.
Councillor Cuthbertson’s proposal was rejected by the majority of councillors who voted 10-3 against on Tuesday.
It is understood the Ulster Unionist members on the committee abstained.
The DUP objection came after a resident on Cookstown’s Beaghmore Road made the application under the council’s dual-language street signs scheme.
Under the new policy, which was reportedly adopted by the council in March this year, any of the area’s residents can apply to have a bilingual street sign erected.
Council officers then send ballot papers to every home on that street or road.
If the majority of returned ballots are in favour of the change then new signage in both Irish and English will be put in place.
Councillor Cuthbertson, quoted on BBC Online, said: “I stated that this was not good value for money for all the residents of Mid-Ulster and proposed that a financial contribution be sought from the residents requesting this signage, and that failing this we don’t proceed.”
He added: “Regrettably, yet again, as is now the norm in Mid-Ulster, the decision was forced through.”
SDLP councillor Malachy Quinn described the council’s scheme as a “fair system”, according to the BBC, and said dual-language street signs were not going to be forced on residents who oppose them.
“This does not have anything to do with saving costs, this was a chance for the DUP to shore up their own support to oppose the sign simply because it was Irish,” councillor Quinn was quoted as saying.
“Unionists are a minority in Mid-Ulster but through the last three years, the SDLP has worked with the DUP and the UUP on a range of issues,” he added.
Councillor Quinn also rejected his DUP counterpart’s claim that the council was following the “route of non-inclusive politics”.
Councillor Quinn said the DUP was itself engaged in “combatant politics,” and added: “The DUP want to be seen as opposing Irish, and this was all an attempt to whip up anti-Irish sentiment.”
Sinn Fein councillor John McNamee said in a statement the DUP opposition to the road sign scheme was “ludicrous and short sighted”.
The council’s policy document on dual language street signage states: “For purposes of assessment where 51% of the occupiers that respond indicate that they are in favour of the erection of a dual language street nameplate, then this shall be presented to the environment committee for decision recommending that the dual language street nameplate be approved and erected.
“The environment committee... may agree to permit or not permit the erection of the dual language nameplate.”
Of the 37 surveys issued, 29 were returned indicating support for Irish road signs with one returned invalid. Seven residents did not respond.