No mechanism in place to remove Irish language street signs once approved: council report

There is “no mechanism” in place for the removal of dual language street signs once they are erected on the 15% approval rule, a Belfast City Council report has confirmed.
Irish language street sign - Cromac StreetIrish language street sign - Cromac Street
Irish language street sign - Cromac Street

At a meeting of the People and Communities Committee meeting this week, it was also revealed that while 22% of the residents of Sunningdale Park North were in favour of new signs in both English and Irish, 33% objected.

Under the current system, the signage can be erected due to the proposal meeting the 15% threshold.

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Ben Madigan Park South in the Cavehill area also passed the 15% threshold while simultaneously facing majority objection to the new signs in a residents’ survey.

Although the committee agreed not to press ahead with the signage in both streets due to the strength of the objections, tensions arose at the decision to put the applications “to the back of the queue” rather than scrap them altogether.

Last December there was bitter disagreement at Belfast City Council, with DUP and TUV councillors raising objections to council officers and arguing Sunningdale Park North should not be surveyed due to a potential “negative impact on community relations” in the majority unionist Ballysillan area. Sinn Féin replied Sunningdale Park North was “mixed.”

One resident of any Belfast street or a councillor is all that is required to trigger a survey.

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A council committee report on the survey states: “An initial assessment for Sunningdale Park North was carried out by officers and potential adverse impacts were identified. A draft equality screening was carried out to assess the application for equality and good relations issues.

“The screening identified that the carrying out of the survey and the erection of the dual language street signs could cause community tension. An objection was also received by an elected member.”

Results for a survey at Ben Madigan Park South were also revealed. 16 occupiers (23%) were in favour of the erection of a second street name plate, while 18 occupiers (26%) were not in favour.

The report states: “Two residents from one household who do not support the dual language street sign are concerned at the apparent lack of consultation with residents and that the threshold of 15 percent seems low.

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“They are also concerned that the dual language signs may introduce uncertainties that could impact on property values and that the signs could become targets of vandalism, and the safety and security of the community could be compromised.

“This could detract from the area’s appeal and cohesion. The residents also enquired if a 15 percent quota would apply if residents wanted any decision reversed.

“Officers advised that there is no mechanism in the policy to remove the dual language street signs once they are approved.”

At the meeting, Alliance councillor Micky Murray, proposed not erecting new signs at Sunningdale Park North and Ben Madigan Park South and “putting them to the back of the queue again.”

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The proposal was successful, and means both applications will be looked at again when all the current applications in the system are dealt with.

DUP councillor Tracy Kelly, said: "Instead of putting it to the bottom we should be scrapping it. I don’t see the point of asking people over and over again, when it is clear they don’t want it.”

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