A REPORT has been commissioned after it emerged that not a single Irish language street sign has been made since the change of Belfast City Council’s policy in July last year.
The Council’s policy changed in July 2022 to make it easier for people to apply for an Irish language street sign, and which subsequently led to 600 applications.
At Belfast City Council’s monthly meeting of its Strategic, Policy and Resources Committee, Sinn Féin Councillor Ronan McLaughlin successfully proposed a report looking at the processing of dual language signs since the policy change.
Councillor McLaughlin said: “Our policy for the new Irish street signage went live around the middle of last July. I think since that period there have been over 600 applications.
“In that six month period, where that policy was live, not one decision has reached the committee for ratification, in fact, the only one that got to committee level was in December, using the previous policy. I am not sure what the hold-up is. Six months into the process, without one street getting a sign – even though the process is much easier than the old policy.”
Took two years to get policy passed.— Cllr Ronan McLaughlin (@RonanMcL93) January 24, 2023
Not one application completed in six months.
Why is it that when it comes to Gaeilge that everything is dithered and delayed?
Tír gan teanga, tír gan anam https://t.co/fjvtxx4zel
Paddy Ó Tiarnaigh and Cuisle Nic Liam from An Dream Dearg and Conradh na Gaelige said the policy simply wasn’t good enough. Paddy explained how he made one of the first applications after the new policy went live and only received confirmation the street was to be surveyed on 19 January – a total of six months after the application was submitted.
“They’ve had more than enough time to get their ducks in a row," he said. "The policy they have to follow is really descriptive. It shouldn’t take them this long. The Council have allocated for five signs to be erected a month so already from last year’s budget allocation they already owe 30 signs.
“We expect them to fulfill that on top of any applications which were made before the new policy in July 2022 which haven’t been fulfilled and all of the new outstanding ones. The risk we can see now is the process bottlenecking.”
Cuisle said that if the Council continue to operate at the current rate it could mean those at the bottom of the list could potentially be waiting decades for a sign to be erected.
“If we were one of the first applications in the door and it is going to take 12 months for the sign to go up, then what hope do the people who are at the bottom of the list have? They have said they will process five a month but at this rate it is working out at ten a year. If you’re number 600 on that list then you could expect the sign to go up in 60 years!”
Lots of work went in over a long period of time to get a bilingual street signage policy that was in line with human rights treaty-based commitments to the Irish language over the line. This cries out for explanation @belfastcc https://t.co/WTK06E50g6— CAJ (@CAJNi) January 24, 2023
A spokesperson for Belfast City Council said:
“The Council’s Dual Language Street Signs Policy was revised in July 2022. Since the new policy went live, there have been 600 requests for dual language street signs.
“Officers are processing applications on a first-come, first-served basis, and are endeavouring to deal with requests as quickly as possible.
“A report on current processing times for applications will be provided to members for consideration at the next meeting of the council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee in February.”