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Eighteen more dual language signage requests in Mid-Ulster with policy having detriment effect on communities says Cllr.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

A FLOOD of new applications for Irish to be included on street signage have been lodged with Mid-Ulster District Council.

Eighteen new requests have been made for dual language street signage, with two thirds being in the Ballinderry area.

A total of eight applications had been made over the preceding four months, but more than twice that were made in the space of just a few weeks.

Unusually, all 12 of the requests made in the Ballinderry area have been made to the exact same template and in the exact same type, just substituting the name of the relevant addresses in each case.

All 12 of the letters for addresses in Ballinderry are also dated the 13th of September.

The areas in Ballinderry for which applications have been made for new signs to be installed bearing both English and Irish, with the Irish to be included above the English, are Gort Road, Drumenny Road, Scotchtown Lane, Ballinderry Bridge Road, Kinturk Road, Eglish View, Ardagh Road, Mullan Road, Derrychrin Park, Derrychrin Road, Cleneyarde and Eglish Park.

The six further requests have been made in Tullyreavy Road, Rock; Gortgonis Park, Clonoe; Mullinahoe Road, Ardboe; Orritor Street, Cookstown; Willow Close, Dungannon and Corlea Road, Galbally.

All 18 will now be put to a survey of residents living in those areas.

A simple majority of respondents, rather than of residents, is required to approve the request.

Two more surveys have now met the required levels for approval of current signs to be removed and replaced with the new dual language signs.

The roads affected are Killyliss Road, Eglish and Whitebridge Road, Ballyg awley.

Killyliss Road had the lowest approval rate yet, with less than two thirds of respondents in favour and just over 30% of residents in the road expressing their support for the change.

Of a total of 127 letters issued to residents of the road, only 65 replied, with 39 in favour and 21 against.

Five replies were deemed invalid.

That meant a valid return percentage of 47.2% and just 30.7% of residents supporting the move.

Killyliss Road will now have the Irish translation Bóthar Choillidh Lis in the town land of Coillidh Lis An Ruán (Killyliss Roan).

A larger percentage of respondents were in favour on Whitebridge Road, but again less than half of residents even replied to the survey.

Out of 93 survey letters issued, just 41 were returned, with 34 in favour and seven opposed.

As a result, the introduction of Irish to road signs there received the backing of 83% of respondents, but just 36.6% of residents.

Signs for Whitebridge Road will now bear the Irish translation Bóthar and Droichid Bhain in the townland of Baile Uí Dhálaigh Míleac (Ballygawley Millix).

The low level of respondents required to approve these changes has drawn the ire of DUP Councillor Clement Cuthbertson, a member of the Environment Committee of the nationalist-controlled Council.

In a statement, Cllr Cuthbertson said his efforts to propose not to proceed with renaming, his life was made difficult by both the Committee Chair and senior Council staff.

He said this policy was "causing divisions" in communities by "attaching one-sided labels on areas".

Cllr Cuthbertson also stated that the UUP members present failed to vote against Irish language signage being introduced on these roads.

He said: "This latest decision to name the Killyliss Road in Irish just shows how flawed the dual language policy really is.

"A total of 127 properties were surveyed, with only 60 valid returns. Out of the returns, 39 were in favour and 21 against.

"How can 39 out of 127, which is only 30.7%, be taken as a clear consensus of the residents?.

"I proposed that Council do not proceed in this instance and bizarrely the Chair of the Committee refused to even take my proposal, while the representatives of the Council's Senior Management Team ignored my request for their response.

"When the Chair later in the meeting chose to revisit this item on the agenda, accepting my proposal at this stage, it fell as it did not receive any support from any other party: UUP, SDLP or SF.

"This policy is having a detrimental impact on community relations by causing divisions and attaching one sided labels on areas, resulting in heightened tension within communities."

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