A new language policy on street signs was widely welcomed but the DUP argued that ‘radical change’ would lead to ‘disagreement and evil’
Belfast City Council has adopted a new policy for the provision of bilingual street signage in the city.
The council voted in favor of the policy at a meeting held last night.
This decision allows a person living on a street, or a local councilor, to petition for an Irish language street sign. If 15% of the electorate living on the street accept the proposal, it will be accepted.
Where there is significant opposition, the final decision will remain with the Council’s Policy Committee, which has members from all parties. However, the council has a legal obligation to exclude any opposition based on sectarianism.
To date a third of the residents on the street have had to sign a petition before a survey of public aspirations was conducted.
The new policy was widely welcomed but the DUP argued that the “radical changes” would lead to “dissent and evil”.
It is possible to petition for any language to appear on signage but it was the Irish language community in the city who were the main proponents of the policy.
Séanna Breathnach, a Sinn Féin councilor in Belfast, welcomed the new policy.
“The new policy on bilingual signage by Belfast City Council will ensure the visibility of the Irish language in the city and will promote a divided and progressive Belfast,” he said.
“Belfast is central to the revival and the language is part of the heart of the city with the Gaeltacht Quarter and the number of unionists learning the language is growing all the time.
“This progressive new policy will ensure that this progress continues and is reflected in our street signage.”
Councilors from Sinn Féin, the Green Alliance, the SDLP and the Coalition Party backed the draft plan at committee stage but discussions on the resolution were delayed in November when the DUP indicated that the party intended to block put on the policy and seek further legal advice if the resolution is adopted.
The resolution was finally adopted at a Council meeting last night.
Conradh na Gaeilge also welcomed the Council’s decision and said it was an “important step forward” in terms of language rights.
“The context of this policy is very important,” said Conchúr Ó Muadaigh, Advocacy Manager, Conradh na Gaeilge North.
“Until 1995, street signage in Irish in the north was banned. When local Councils were allowed at that time to design local policies, Belfast City Council established one of the most limited policies in the north which required two-thirds of the street community to vote in favor of the signage before it was introduced. height, as well as other obstacles.
“Since then, the Irish language community in Belfast has been fighting and organizing to change that policy. In recent years, in the wake of the campaign for an Irish Language Act, An Dream Dearg highlighted the failure of the Council in its commitment to the Irish language in the European Charter and this issue has been raised.
Ó Muadaigh thanked all those involved in introducing the new policy.
“It has been the result of the advice and partnership of the various groups, and the great effort of the community over many years, that we have been able to achieve this achievement. This policy is another small step forward in the journey towards language rights, but it is a very symbolic step for the Irish language community in the north as a whole. ”
It is estimated that erecting a bilingual sign costs up to £ 1,000.