Bilingual signages quashed again

CALLS from Sinn Fein to erect street nameplates in a language other then English has been squashed once again!

Despite being 'in accordance with Council's policy', the recommendation to proceed with the Irish signs was overruled at a recent Council meeting by a request for representatives from the Equality Commission to address the Health and Environmental Committee.

The news resulted in a hot debate mainly between SF Cllr Daithi McKay who slammed the decision as 'double standards' and DUP Cllr Mervyn Storey who said the issue was being used as a 'political football'.

The report from a recent Health and Environmental Committee explained: 'Following Councils meeting on 2nd November 2009, correspondence was addressed to the Chief Executive of the Equality Commission as required, inviting its representatives to address the Committee on issues relating to the naming of streets in a language other than English (Irish).

'Although a written response was issued dated 8th December, this was not received then, a matter which has now been rectified. This letter, on behalf of the Equality Commission was circulated.

'At the request of Cllr Anita Cavlan, the Deputy Director of Borough Services agreed to clarify the 2010-2011 budget provision to undertake the work.

'It was proposed by Cllr Cavlan, seconded by Cllr Malachy McCamphill to recommend that Council proceed in naming of streets in a language other than English (Irish) in accordance with Council's policy and where budget provision permits.'

However following a recorded vote the motion was lost (two for and five against) and it was then proposed by Cllr John Finlay, seconded by Cllr Robert Halliday, to recommend that Council request representatives from the Equality Commission to address Committee to advise on issues relating to the naming of streets in a language other than English (Irish).

After another recorded vote the motion was carried (five for and one against and one abstention).

However at last Wednesday's Full Council meeting, the issue was raised again when Cllr Cavlan explained her 'disappointment' adding: "I feel it's an utter waste of time to invite the Equality Commission back again."

Agreeing Cllr McKay said it was 'deja vu' continuing: "I can't believe we are going down this road again. There are legal pit falls for Council as this policy was agreed. Nationalists are of the opinion that they are not being taken into consideration and accommodated.

"I am not saying not to invite these representatives but why can't we do it when we are putting this policy into place? If it was an Ulster Scots sign then this would not be held up in this Council, it's double standards.

"I propose that Council adopt this and recommend that we proceed in signage other than in English. It is Council policy and they should not break the law."

In response Cllr Storey hit back stating: "This is a step in the right direction where Sinn Fein are not wanting to break the law. It has taken 30/40 years to progress them.

"Clearly this is politics and a way to sell Irish nameplates. If residents feel this Council has done something on them then take us to court.

"However I feel this is being used as a political football by people with a different agenda - people scraping, looking for a vote or two."

Trying to calm the situation down, Cllr James Simpson highlighted that the Irish language 'belongs to all of us'.

He said: "I appeal to Cllr McKay not to push this at the minute. We should wait for the Equality Commission to come and see what they have to say. We should respect that the Irish language belongs to us all."

Continuing Cllr McKay reiterated: "I have no problem with putting up Irish or Ulster Scots signs but we should facilitate all parts of society otherwise we are breaking the Section 75 legislation and discriminating."

Joining the debate Cllr Robert Halliday explained that he had been 'trying to get road sign names put up in our first language never mind a second one, but there's no money'.

Cllr McCamphill also highlighted: "I can't see how regulation comes into this. We should support this if people want it but we shouldn''t use it as a political football. It's just dialect and language and we have a budget for it."

Having listened to all the comments, Cllr Storey slammed: "Some want to give the impression that we 'ain't British....vote for the dream' but this isn't reality, we will never have an United Ireland. No matter how many nameplates are put up - it will not happen. They need to wake up to reality. We are part of the UK.

"If the opposite party continue to use this issue as nothing more than a political football then it has to stay as it is."

Following a question from Cllr Cavlan regarding budgets, the Director state there 'was a budget for both English and bilingual signs.'

Concluding, the earlier proposal by Cllr McKay to 'proceed in signage other than in English' was put to a vote with three in favour and six against with one abstention, therefore the new motion was lost.

Ending the debate, Cllr Simpson said: "I am a proud Irish man and feel unfortunate that we have to go down this road."