The DUP in Londonderry have blasted a proposal to introduce the Irish language on destination signs on buses in the city as “a stunt by Sinn Féin.”
The party reacted with anger to a claim by Sinn Féin councillor and gaeilgeoir, Kevin Campbell, that he met with Translink officials in a “very positive meeting” to discuss the possibility of introducing bilingual signage on a number of routes in the city.
Mr Campbell said Translink had already partly gaelicised bus routes in West Belfast in 2011 and argued the same move should be followed here.
“To have bus services using bilingual signage on a number of routes would I believe a very positive and progressive move for the city,” he said.
But the DUP claimed such a move would heighten sectarian tensions in Londonderry and have written to the Transport Mininster to object to any such move.
Councillor Hilary McClintock said that the DUP locally have spoken to Translink management and have also written to Danny Kennedy to register their objection.
“This is another attempt by Sinn Féin to push the Irish agenda a little bit further in the week that research has shown the decline of the Irish language even in the Gaeltacht areas to the level regarded as a tipping point for language survival.”
She was referring to a recent Údarás na Gaeltachta report that found the erosion of Irish usage in gaeltacht areas is now taking place at a faster rate than was predicted in an earlier study in 2007 and now demands urgent intervention.
“This is yet another attempt to deflect from [Sinn Féin’s] inability to resolve the welfare reform issue and to create further sectarian tension in the city,” said Mrs McClintock.
The introduction of Irish language signage on buses in West Belfast was brought in in 2011 when Translink was under the tutelage of the former Sinn Féin Transport Minister Conor Murphy.
Elsewhere, Sinn Féin branches have pushed for all bus and train tickets to be made available in Irish, for bus passes to be made available in Irish, and for employee uniforms and badges to be made available in Irish.