ROADS Service will meet with community leaders in a bid to bring an end to the blacking out of the name of ‘Ballycastle’ on road direction signs.
For a long period the name of Ballycastle has been blacked out in Dervock but the Times was told this week the situation has escalated in recent days with the name Ballycastle also being sprayed out on signs in area like Armoy, Mosside, Derrykeighan and Bushmills.
Ballycastle SDLP councillor Donal Cunningham said his party has previously contacted Roads Service about the issue and he has praised their proposal to speak to people in the local community.
He hopes the matter can be resolved and he was concerned about reports of an escalation in the blacking out of the name Ballycastle.
He said he is concerned that there could be ‘tit-for-tat’ blackouts of signs in Ballycastle but said he was unaware of that ever being the case and he urged calm.
Cllr Cunningham said the emotional damage caused by the targeting of the name Ballycastle on street signs highlights the need for respect between neighbouring communities.
With the spread of the Ballycastle black-outs to areas with a mainly Unionist population it is believed the sign attacks are carried out by some loyalists showing their dislike for Ballycastle, which is mainly nationalist.
And there were unconfirmed fears that the escalation in the blackouts in recent days may have been a response to tensions over the Twelfth being held in Ballycastle.
Some nationalist councillors like Moyle Council Chairperson, Independent Padraig McShane, have voiced strong opinions saying they don’t want the Twelfth to return to the town over alleged incidents at the parade last year.
And the tensions from last year’s Twelfth have already led to loyalists in Bushmills saying Moyle Council Chairperson McShane was not welcome in their area.
When the Chairman was due to officially open new changing rooms in Bushmills last year dozens of loyalists turned out to protest and the event did not go ahead on the day.
The Times has learned that Roads Service are keen to speak to community leaders in a bid to bring an end to the name black-outs. The black-outs can cause confusion for tourists trying to find their way around the area.
But the image it also portrays is something members of the community are also aware of and in places like Dervock it is understood they are keen to ensure such matters do not detract from their big Olympic torch is coming there this summer as the village is the birthplace of Olympic champion KK McArthur.
A Roads Service spokesperson said: “Roads Service is aware of graffiti on direction signs in some parts of north Antrim. It will be taking action to repair or, where necessary, replace the signs.
“However, this can be an expensive exercise. It also means that the money spent on this type of work cannot be spent on other more necessary and important projects. Roads Service will be meeting with the police and community leaders to find a longer term solution to this ongoing problem.”