Dermot Nesbitt: Irish-first signs at leisure centre in unionist Saintfield has caused me to rethink my support for Irish language act

Saintfield, a village 10 miles south of Belfast, is located within the overwhelmingly unionist Strangford parliamentary constituency, but is also located in the unionist Rowallane district electoral area of the overwhelmingly nationalist/republican Newry and Mourne Council and it is the most northerly area. The new leisure centre in Saintfield has signs first in Irish
Saintfield, a village 10 miles south of Belfast, is located within the overwhelmingly unionist Strangford parliamentary constituency, but is also located in the unionist Rowallane district electoral area of the overwhelmingly nationalist/republican Newry and Mourne Council and it is the most northerly area. The new leisure centre in Saintfield has signs first in Irish
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Ben Lowry (‘Now more than ever, at this fraught time, it would be wrong to force through an Irish language act’, November 2) commented that isolated Protestants in the west of Northern Ireland believe that some councils are triumphalist when they use Irish as the first language in signage.

This prompted my thought about Saintfield, a village 10 miles south of Belfast.

Letter to the editor

Letter to the editor

While it is located within the overwhelmingly unionist Strangford parliamentary constituency, it is also located in the Rowallane district electoral area of the overwhelmingly nationalist/republican Newry and Mourne Council and it is the most northerly area. Sinn Fein is the largest party.

Unsurprisingly, this area is the only one of the seven council areas where the majority of its councillors are unionist.

Against this background, Saintfield has recently been provided by the council with a new community/leisure centre, located on the Belfast road exiting Saintfield. The signage at its entrance and on the building is in Irish first, then English below.

I very much regret that these circumstances prompted the need for some to place a Union flag on two electric poles at each side of the entrance to the centre and they remain flying.

I have always sought to build reciprocal respect across the communities in Northern Ireland, including support for an Irish language act. But, I have been challenged as to my support for such cross community respect when my local council, using its authority, acts with such disrespect.

The council should reflect on its position.

Dermot Nesbitt, Co Down