Row over Irish-to-English boat name translation

The vessel with its old Irish name
The vessel with its old Irish name

A fisheries vessel has had its name translated from Irish to English under the helm of DUP Minister Michelle McIlveen.

The minister has been accused of harbouring ill will towards the Irish language after the vessel was re-named ‘Queen of Ulster’ – a direct translation from its former Gaelic name ‘Banríon Uladh’.

The minister said the boat had been re-named as her newly-created department had a “fresh identity” and a “single language policy”.

It had been given its name in Irish in 2010 under the now-defunct Department for Agriculture and Rural Affairs, then run by Sinn Féin’s Michelle Gildernew.

The vessel is used to ensure fishing boats are complying with EU quotas.

Sinn Féin MLA Catherine Seeley asked the Minister, in a written assembly question, to “detail the cost of changing the name of the Fisheries Protection vessel Banrion Uladh to Queen of Ulster; the rationale for the decision; and any consultation that took place.”

Miss McIlveen replied: “The change of lettering was carried out at a scheduled annual maintenance event involving repairs, re-painting and anti-fouling.

“DAERA [the Department of Agriculture, the Environment and Rural Affairs] is a new department with a fresh identity and logo and adopts a single language policy, there have consequently been some necessary adaptations to assets transferring to the new department.”

Responding to the issue of consultation, minister McIlveen said the name of the patrol vessel had been a matter for the former minister Michelle Gildernew, “and was not an issue for consultation”.

Sinn Féin MLA Catherine Seeley said: “The decision by the DAERA minister to remove the Irish name from this fisheries patrol vessel is disappointing and disrespectful to the Irish language community.

“The Irish language threatens no-one [and] is an integral part of the rich cultural diversity of our society.

“Those involved in fishing and agriculture are more concerned with the potential impact of Brexit than with renaming of boats.”