Council’s Irish language strategy ‘a ridiculous waste of money’

The Irish language strategy being pursued by Newry, Mourne and Down (NMD) Council has been branded a “ridiculous waste of money” by Councillor Alan Lewis.

Wednesday, 27th November 2019, 6:30 am
The dual language sign above the main entrance at Saintfield Community Centre

The Ulster Unionist representative was commenting after a committee met to discuss the council’s draft policy document on language provision.

Cllr Lewis said the Strategic Planning and Resources Committee members supporting the strategy should “examine their priorities”.

He said: “Whoever thinks this is good use of rate payers money really needs to examine their priorities.

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UUP councillor Alan Lewis

“The impression given by some supporters of the Irish language lobby is of a language that has been forced underground, denied rights, oppressed and starved of funding.

“The facts simply do not bear out the repeated claims of discrimination. Many people will be amazed to learn that £190m has been spent on the Irish language in Northern Ireland in just over seven years,

“I’m asking how much has been wasted by our local council on this party political vanity project”

In recent days representatives of both the DUP and UUP have expressed concern about the council’s ‘Irish first’ bilingual signage at a leisure facility in the predominantly unionist village of Saintfield.

The Slieve Croob councillor went on to say: “It is very clear that in the 21st century, Irishness is not dependent on the ability to speak the Irish language – which is perhaps just as well as some of the proponents can manage no more than a few stock phrases.

“The Irish language is regrettably being used a tool to further divide people in this country. It is the very opposite of a shared future.

“Surely we have had enough of ‘us’ and ‘them.’ Our council shouldn’t spend another penny on this party political vanity project.”

Earlier this week, DUP councillor William Walker told the News Letter he had received a number of complaints about the bilingual signage around the leisure and community centre in Saintfield.

“What’s really annoying people is that Irish is used as the first language and English is second. Maybe unionists could have accepted it if it had English first and Irish second,” Cllr Walker said.

Robert Burgess of the UUP said: “When it comes to street naming, they say that under the policy it’s only where the people support it that signs will be in Irish, but in this case the people of Saintfield were never asked they just got it”.

A spokeswoman for Newry, Mourne and Down Council said the council “erects signage in accordance with the council’s agreed Bilingualism Policy and corporate brand identity guidelines.”