Unionists call for common sense over Irish language in east of city

Irish language signage at a new east Belfast leisure centre should not be imposed without local consent, unionist representatives have said.

Friday, 29th November 2019, 6:30 am
An ‘Irish first’ policy at Newry, Mourne and Down Council has led to bilingual signage at Saintfield community centre

Following a Belfast City Council consultation meeting on plans for the Templemore centre on Wednesday evening, DUP councillor George Dorrian said there was a “very strong message conveyed” that the proposed signs are both contentious and unnecessary.

Cllr Dorrian, who attended the meeting, said the council needs to listen to the local community in each area of each of the four new facilities across the city.

“There needs to be common sense. You have to take into account the views of the local communities,” he said.

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“I would hope to see that happen.”

City councillors have held discussions around the dual-language signage proposals put forward by Sinn Fein’s Seanna Walsh and seconded by Michael Long of Alliance.

Unionists have raised questions around why the signs should be limited to just English and Irish (and possibly Ulster Scots), with multilingual signage proposals also the subject of the consultation process.

Promoting the consultation sessions, the city council said: “We want Belfast to be a welcoming and inclusive city and promoting different languages is part of that aspiration.

“Following a Special Council meeting on Friday, 11 October 2019, Council agreed to the installation of multilingual welcome signs in all our leisure centres with immediate effect and to carry out a public consultation regarding bilingual / multilingual signage in four leisure centres.”

The four centres being delivered are: Andersonstown, Lisnasharragh, Olympia and Templemore.

Addressing the special meeting in October, Conchúr Ó Muadaigh of Conradh na Gaeilge said: “We believe this council has the power and the means of ensuring bilingual signage is in place in time for the opening of the new centres in west Belfast, while bringing in new bilingualism policy for the whole city. This can be done.”

PUP councillor John Kyle told the News Letter that it was important to evaluate whether Irish language signage would be appropriate in certain areas.

“There is not clarity around how the results of the consultation will be interpreted, and how any changes should be implemented,” he said.

“This is the difficulty when you have a consultation on a contentious issue. This is a cultural issue that comes with a lot of political baggage.”