BELFAST City Council has approved a motion to complete all of Belfast’s Gaeltacht Quarter’s Irish language signage in one batch, after it was revealed that the Council’s existing scheme has led to only one sign completed in seven months.
At this week's monthly City Hall meeting Sinn Féin Councillor Ciarán Beattie proposed that Council should erect dual language signage in the Gaeltacht Quarter on the Falls Road as a cost saving measure.
Councillor Beattie said this would also address the concerns in Irish language circles over the lack of action on signage since Council policy changed last year. The motion was seconded by Sinn Féin’s Roís-Máire Donnelly who addressed the Council as Gaeilge stating: “The Gaeltacht Quarter is thriving with schools, organisations and businesses in the Irish language sector. People deserve to see their language throughout this city.”
The motion was also supported by People Before Profit’s Matt Collins who said Gaeilgeorí had been denied their rights for too long and that these were basic rights and a very basic first step for the Council to take.
Michael Long (Alliance) argued that while his party supported the Irish language, they did not support the changing of the current signage scheme. Mr Long said that he wanted the current scheme to be improved and would not back Councillor Beattie’s proposal.
Mr Long instead proposed that the Council state they should aim to have 100 signs completed by the end of 2023.
SDLP councillor Carl Whyte accused Alliance of knowing "the price of everything but the value of nothing".
“I for one have had enough, I find it very frustrating and I have mentioned it many times that the Irish language community are continually let down,” he said, confirming that his party would back the proposal.
The DUP’s Gareth Spratt said his party would not be supporting the motion and said the Irish language was being weaponised for political purposes but added: “We are not anti-Irish as is often reported.”
Councillor Beattie said it was disappointing to see Alliance side with the DUP and once again they were prepared to support unionists to the detriment of the Irish language.
Councillor Fiona Ferguson (PBP) spoke in Irish in support of Seachtain na Gaelige (Irish Language Week) and said some parties support the language on paper but not in practice and that the Council should support the Irish language because “it is the right thing to do".
Councillor Beattie’s motion carried with 29 for and 26 against.