Vote to erect Irish sign at interface

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Belfast City Council has voted to erect a dual Irish/English language sign on an interface street in east Belfast.

The lower Newtownards Road interface with the mainly nationalist Short Strand area has been the scene of major violence over the last two months.

DUP councillor Adam Newton opposed the dual language street sign motion, and proposed instead that the idea be rejected. But his amendment was voted down by Sinn Fein, SDLP and Alliance councillors.

Seconding Councillor Newton’s amendment, DUP Alderman Christopher Stalford urged councillors to vote against the sign, pointing out the high tensions at the lower Newtownards/Short Strand interface.

Councillor Stalford also accused Sinn Fein of “marking out territory” with street signs, as he said Sinn Fein accused loyalists of doing with flags.

Sinn Fein councillor Niall O Donnghaile said he did not see the reason for the amendment as two thirds of residents on the street are in favour of the sign, as is demanded by council policy for a dual language sign to be erected.

Alliance councillor Mervyn Jones said as the street sign will only be erected on the Madrid Street end of Bryson Street, he was content to back the proposal.

The amendment was defeated by 29 votes to 19.

In total four streets in Belfast will now receive dual language street signs. Artana Street, Balfour Avenue and Dromara Street will also get the street signs.

At least two thirds of the residents on a street must be in favour of an Irish Street sign before it can be proposed.

There was a heavy police presence outside Belfast City Hall as the meeting took place, but only a very small number of protesters turned up to stage a demonstration against the decision of the council in December to stop flying the Union flag all year round from City Hall.

The Union flag now flies on 20 statutory days instead of all year round.