Unionists raise concerns over plans for new Belfast City Council logo in Irish and English

Belfast City HallBelfast City Hall
Belfast City Hall
Ongoing tensions at Belfast City Hall over the use of the Irish language has taken another turn after a committee agreed a to public consultation on a new bilingual logo, website and documents for Belfast Council.

Debate became heated as an update on the Belfast City Council draft Irish Language Policy was noted and the green light given to a public consultation on the draft.

Under discussion were potential cost implications, particularly regarding the adoption of a new bilingual logo, along with the impact of any bilingual rebrand on staff, and the impact on equal community relations.

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An amendment for the draft policy accepted by the full council in March states: “Belfast City Council will adopt a new bilingual (Irish/English) corporate identity and the bilingual logo will become the new, proactive, de-facto council logo to be used comprehensively across all corporate branding. The English-only version of the logo will be available upon request.

Another accepted amendment states: “The council commits to publishing information leaflets, marketing and promotional materials bilingually in printed form and online.

Another amendment commits the council to publishing regular bilingual English/Irish content across all social media platforms, while information posts, marketing initiatives, community service announcements will take place in Irish and in English.

Elected representatives at the committee meeting on Friday voted for council officers to prepare a draft consultation document and associated questionnaire to issue alongside a draft EQIA for formal public consultation.

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On a raised hand vote, 14 voted for the draft consultation document going to the public, and five against. Those voting against were from the unionist parties.

DUP Councillor Sarah Bunting said: “We continue to have concerns. We think that this is going to have an impact on our staff and good relations around the city.

“There is also a concern that while this is classed as part of the EU charter for minority languages, which requires the Irish language to have the same prominence as Ulster Scots, this is highlighting that Irish should be as prominent as English in this city.

“There are issues when it comes to equal opportunities within the council for jobs. Concerns have been brought to us about staffing. And we as elected members are going to get a lot of questions when this consultation goes out around the costing for this.

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People will want to know the cost before they make up their minds. There are people who are fully supportive but may have issues when they see the costs.

“We are not supportive of this going forward, and we are disappointed this is going forward so quickly."

DUP Councillor Fred Cobain said: “I think this particular draft is going to cause tensions not only among the workforce, but also amongst communities. I have no doubt about that.

“And to think this is going to sail through. We are not talking about street signs, we are talking about individuals in the workforce (being affected).”

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He said: “I am trying to be practical about what happens on the ground. I don’t want to see sectarian divisions amongst the workforce here. I don’t want to see sectarian divisions rising in the community. I am just raising the issue.”

DUP Councillor Bradley Ferguson said: “There is talk of (Irish language appearing on) bins, and bin lorries, and community centres – the list is endless. I would say to people to think seriously about that.”

He said: “We have to be practical and considerate around going into areas I represent in places like the Cregagh estates and say to them, “by the way, everything you use in terms of council facilities will now be in Irish.” Do you think they will accept that?”

Sinn Féin Councillor Ronan McLaughlin said: “There are already at least three councils in the North that have a bilingual logo – Mid Ulster, Derry and Strabane and Fermanagh and Omagh. I haven’t seen any representation on the news or social media that there is rampant sectarianism in those organisations.”