The Irish language community has slammed Belfast City Council over plans to open a new City Cemetery visitors' centre with "English-only" signage in the heart of the Gaeltacht Quarter.
Council's £2.8million heritage centre, which lies within the Gaeltacht Quarter is due to open in the coming weeks with monolingual signage set to be installed throughout.
Conradh na Gaeilge wrote to Council party group leaders on Wednesday to express concern about the plans, which it describes as an insult to the local Irish language community.
Representatives from Conradh na Gaeilge, Glór na Móna, Coláiste Feirste, Gaelscoil na bhFál, Forbairt Feirste, Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich, Ionad Uíbh Eachach, and An Dream Dearg, visited the centre today to voice their discontent over the exclusion of the Irish language.
Speaking outside the new visitors' centre in the City Cemetery, Cuisle Nic Liam from An Dream Dearg said: "It is quite astonishing that in 2022 Belfast City Council continue to ignore and marginalise the Irish language here.
"This new £3m visitors centre is situated right in the very heart of the Gaeltacht Quarter, one of the most thriving urban Gaeltacht regions anywhere in Ireland. Surrounding the centre we have Coláiste Feirste, the largest Irish medium secondary school in Ireland, and at least four other Gaelscoileanna. For Belfast City Council to design and build this centre with no consideration for the Irish speaking community and schools is incredibly insulting and shows once again that Irish is no more than an afterthought in the Council.
"Once again our community has to fight for language basic provision on signage and on interactive displays that should be part of Council policy and practice. This latest Irish language snub by Belfast City Council leaves community confidence in the Council regarding the language at a new low.
"We have contacted all party leaders asking them to review this decision immediately and look forward to seeing their public support for Irish language provision in this centre in the coming days. This should not and cannot be allowed to be kicked down the road. We want this changed and addressed immediately."
The Andersonstown News has contacted all parties elected to Council and is awaiting a response.
A Belfast City Council spokesperson said: “A working group of elected members was established in 2021 to consider policies and actions to support delivery of the Council’s Language Strategy. Issues such as the use of Irish in signage at Council facilities and policies and procedures in relation to the promotion of Irish are likely to feature in future discussions.
“The Council’s Language Strategy aims to promote, protect and enhance the linguistic diversity of the city and reflect developments in international frameworks and regional strategies regarding our two indigenous languages. The Irish Language is one of the five language strands in the council’s Language Strategy. The other strands are Ulster-Scots; New Communities’ languages; Sign Languages; and languages and communications for disabled people.”