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Flying The Flag For English In The North of Ireland

The only culture the British Unionist minority in Ireland recognises is their own
The only culture the British Unionist minority in Ireland recognises is their own

The Detail has a lengthy article based on an original investigation by Meon Eile examining allegations of anti-Irish polices being pursued by the DUP’s Arlene Foster, the minister for enterprise in the regional executive in the North of Ireland. Cadogan Enright, a well-known independent councillor on Down District Council, has accused Foster of “…going off on what I can only call an anti-Irish crusade within her department, which is manifestly illegal” (something which Councillor Cadogan has highlighted before). The “anti-Irish” campaign allegedly waged by Arlene Foster and her Unionist colleagues turns, this time, on the issue of bilingual Irish-English tourist information signs in the north-east of Ireland.

“A BAN on the Irish language being used in tourism signs appears to be heading for the courts amid allegations that the authority responsible, the NI Tourist Board [NITB] is providing no rational explanation for it.

A row has erupted over the issue in recent months, with Down District Council being forced to accept English-only signs for its tourist signs project before the Tourist Board would hand over the funding needed.

But the Irish language website Meon Eile has learnt that the civil liberties group, the Committee on the Administration of Justice has intervened, saying it believes the board’s position is unlawful and that months of correspondence on the subject have failed to elicit any valid explanation for the ban.

CAJ Deputy Director Daniel Holder has also rejected as “absurd” a suggestion from the board that bilingual signs could present a road safety hazard.

Mr Holder was also informed in correspondence with NITB Chief Executive Alan Clarke that the ban was a result of a Ministerial Direction – the suggestion being that this had come from Enterprise Minister, Arlene Foster.

However Mrs Foster’s department has denied that there has been any direction – as did the Tourist board itself. But DETI has told us that Mrs Foster is content with the board’s policy on signs and has reiterated in recent correspondence that it should be adhered to.

A long-running wrangle with Down District Council on the subject ended last month with the council agreeing “under duress” to progress with its £1m tourism signage project in English only in order to get the £200,000 grant from NITB needed to get the scheme under way.

This latest row has again brought the issue of an Irish Language Act, promised in the Good Friday Agreement but which never materialised, to the fore.

Janet Muller, chief executive of the Belfast-based campaign group Pobal strongly believes that bilingual signage should be allowed and that this debate follows a series of problems between NITB and local councils. Ms Muller believes NITB do not understand its legal obligations to accommodate the Irish speaking community. She believes NITB’s ‘English only’ policy breaches the law under both the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages, which is to protect traditional place names, and also the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

Independent councillor Cadogan Enright and Sinn Féin’s councillor Éamonn Mac Con Midhe believe that the erection of bilingual signage would show respect for the community as well as being in keeping with the bilingual policy. They mention the many Irish language schools within the community and how the refusal of bilingual signage is discriminating against families, students, teachers and tourists.”

The political leaders of the British Unionist minority in Ireland demand respect for “their” flag while busily erasing the history and language of the country they live in so that not even the landscape is our own.

What is that but colonialism?

3 comments on “Flying The Flag For English In The North of Ireland

  1. Their whole attitude is wearying. It goes on and on and on . . . Talk about not an inch!! The only thing to do to combat it to keep it in the press and keep up the pressure with legal steps. Something will give when there are enough of the legal cases.
    PS I am not convinced that all Protestants in NI accept this intransigent attitude but they have voted those that do into power.

    • I quite agree on all your points. Especially the last one. I try to draw a clear distinction between ordinary members of the British Unionist minority in Ireland and their political leaders. Sometimes I fail and that is entirely my fault. Poor phrasing or wording, or simple speed writing and a resorting to easy labelling.

      On the views of Protestants, rather than simply Unionists, towards the Irish language and equal rights for Irish-speaking citizens there is an excellent 2012 study, “Public Attitudes towards the Irish Language in Northern Ireland”, which I detail here. 14% of Protestants favour the use of the Irish language in the North and 5% stated that the language was important to heir personal identity. 35% favoured greater opportunities to learn Irish and 73% supported the right to Irish medium education for schoolchildren (a very high figure).

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