Irish language signage survey to go back to residents of East Belfast street despite passing threshold after Alliance and Green Party back DUP proposal

Belfast City Hall. Pic Colm Lenaghan/PacemakerBelfast City Hall. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Belfast City Hall. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
A survey for Irish language signage in East Belfast is to return to residents, despite the street passing the threshold for new signage, after Alliance and the Green Party joined the DUP in voting for a second survey.

Belfast councillors this week were split over whether to return a survey to the people living at Knock Eden Park, in the Rosetta area of East Belfast.

At the council’s People and Communities Committee meeting, 10 councillors from the DUP, Alliance and the Green Party voted in support of having a second survey of the street, against nine councillors from Sinn Féin and the SDLP who wanted the council to accept that the 15 percent threshold for dual language signage was met, and to act upon that.

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In the Knock Eden Park survey for new Irish language signage, 55 occupiers (28.50 percent) were in favour of the erection of a second street name plate, 46 occupiers (23.83 percent) were not in favour, while 11 occupiers (5.70 percent) had no preference either way. 81 occupiers (41.97 percent) did not respond to the survey.

The council report said: “Two residents who are not in support of the dual language street sign at Knock Eden Park have raised concerns about the cost of the signs. Another resident not in support of the signs has advised that they would wish to keep the existing cast iron heritage sign.

“Another resident not in support of the dual language sign at Knock Eden Park was concerned at the low threshold of 15 percent for the application to be considered and that the applicant remains anonymous.”

Last year councillors agreed a new policy on dual language street signs. Sinn Féin, Alliance, the SDLP, the Green Party, and the People Before Profit Party all support the new street sign policy, while the three unionist parties, the DUP, UUP and PUP, are against it.

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The new policy means at least one resident of any Belfast street, or a councillor, is all that is required to trigger a consultation on a second nameplate, with 15 percent in favour being sufficient to erect the sign. Non-responses will no longer be counted as “against” votes, and there will be an equality assessment for each application.

Before that the policy required 33.3 percent of the eligible electorate in any Belfast street to sign a petition to begin the process, and 66.6 percent to agree to the new dual language sign on the street.

At the People and Communities Committee meeting, DUP Councillor Ruth Brooks said: “On Knock Eden, the consultation has probably had the highest level of people engaging with the process. It is quite clear on this one that yes the threshold has been met, but the number of occupiers in favour and not in favour is quite close.

“This is an area that is quite mixed. Some of the comments are not supporting the application. We are not in support of this one going through. This is a community that probably respects each other, with diverse opinions, and does not need a dual language placed at the end of the street.”

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A DUP amendment not to proceed with the Knock Eden Park application was voted down with only five in support, and 14 councillors against.

DUP Councillor Tracy Kelly then proposed a successful second amendment for another survey to be put to the residents in the street.