Response to Irish signs debate

OBJECTIONS by members of Ballintoy Church of Ireland to bilingual street signs in English/Irish at Harbour Road in the village has created a stir on the internet.

There was a huge debate about the matter on the Belfast Telegraph website.

Recently, it emerged 47 parishioners at Ballintoy Parish Church “strenuously” objected to the Irish nameplates.

As a property on the road the church only was allowed one response in the debate and in the event the Irish/English signs will not go ahead because only 36 per cent of respondents were in favour, which was short of the necessary two thirds of positive replies.

The story led to the following letter in the Belfast Telegraph which in turn sparked a huge debate.

The letter said: ‘The news that 47 members of the Church of Ireland parish of Ballintoy have opposed the erection of Irish language signage is sad. One might hope that the more rational among them might yet have a change of heart.

‘Don’t they know that the name of their parish derives from the Irish language? Baile an Tuaigh means ‘the northern headland’.

‘The Church of Ireland (Eaglais na hEireann) has an organisation for the promotion of the Irish language and culture, known as Cumann Gaelach na hEaglais.

‘Only a short time ago, it held a well-attended Eucharist in the Irish language at St George’s church in Belfast.

‘The Irish language belongs to all of us. People who try to oppose its use only end up speaking it themselves when they utter the name of the place they live in,’ said the letter.

That provoked dozens of responses.

A selection of the feedback was as follows:

* ‘Those Ballintoy parishioners who reject the Irish language may not know how strongly supportive of Irish was Dr. Donald Caird who became the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin around 1986. Dr. Caird was a personal friend of Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiach who was then the Catholic Primate of All-Ireland. Both prelates often conversed in Irish.’

* ‘There have already been dual language street signs put up here. People will eventually get used to them and stop carping and whinging. As with everything else to do with Gaelic/Irish culture in the north patience eventually leads to rewards.’

* ‘In an economic environment were A&Es are closing and governmental expenditure is decreasing generally on essential public services it wouldn’t be a good use of tax payer funds, The public funds simply do not exist for this indulgence . Perhaps some wealthy enthusiast of the language has vast sums of money burning a hole in their Swiss bank account he or she wishes to donate toward this? Although even then the money would better serve the people of NI if it were donated to a hospital, essential public service facing budgetary issues etc.’

* ‘Its not as clear cut as the writer would have us believe. By all means study, use your language and encourage others to do the same. But recognise that it is tribal and don’t try an impose it on others. Like it or not, the perception of something so simple as having the road signs in Irish is that territory is being marked out. Personally I don’t care, but its easy to see why some people might.’

* ‘Each local council should estimate the cost of erecting dual language signs in each local community, and work out the contribution that would be required from each local household in order to proceed - then organise a democratic vote for that community. It seems eminently reasonable that those communities who really want dual language signs should be willing to pay for them.’

* ‘A pretty feeble argument based on historical place names. The letter is so typical of supporters of minority languages in that it wants to deny others freedom of thought and choice. By all means, study your language but leave others to have their own thoughts and also save money on unnecessary signs many of which are politically motivated with no real love of language.’