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Move Over Belfast – Welcome To Béal Feirste

The Irish Tricolour flies over Belfast City Hall – what real democracy would look like in the North of Ireland
The Irish Tricolour flies over Belfast City Hall – what real democracy would look like in the North of Ireland

Belfast City Council has agreed to place a number of official bilingual Irish-English street-signs in four parts of the city: Artana Street, Balfour Avenue, Dromara Street and Bryson Street. The decision follows a series of local polls where residents expressed support for the new signs. Under local government regulations in the North of Ireland the erection of bilingual signs requires a “weighted” two-thirds majority of people living in any given area in order to be carried out. These rules are purposely designed to favour Anglophones along with the default use of only English language street-signs (even though most streets and roads actually use anglicised versions of original Irish language names). However despite these obstacles both official and unofficial bilingual and Irish-language signs have become increasingly common across the north-east of the country as the slow drive towards normalisation grows hand-in-hand with the rising Irish Nationalist population.

But there continues to be considerable opposition by some members of the British Unionist minority in the north-east of Ireland towards the establishment of true cultural equality between the two historic communities in the country. Unionist councillors in Belfast have protested vociferously at the regulations allowing bilingual signage and the polling of local residents. These have been matched with similar expressions of intolerance in Fermanagh and elsewhere [Thanks to Bangordub for the link]. The irony of course is that some of these anti-Irish Unionists would find ready Anglophone allies in the anti-Irish bigots of the present Fine Gael-Labour coalition and much of the Irish media establishment.

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