Bilingual sign policy could damage community concord

editorial image

A newly adopted policy making it easier for people to apply for bilingual street name signs could damage neighbourly relations, a DUP Councillor has warned.

A total of 82 requests for the signs have been lodged with the council to date.

Of these, 80 received the backing of the majority of those residents affected. It is understood most of the applications to date have been for signs in Irish and English.

DUP Councillor Joe Miller warned against the potential for friction within areas as the council’s Policy and Resources Committee agreed to adopt a revised policy on street naming and numbering procedures.

A senior council official told the committee during a meeting on Friday (July 18) that their approval was being sought to adopt the revised policy after an Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) was carried out.

This EQIA was agreed to earlier this year and was conducted after requests were made for bilingual signage in the Park and Claudy areas in November 2013.

The EQIA assessment ended in late May with the 17 responses received now fed into the council policy overhaul.

The majority of responses from various groups and individuals were in favour of better provision for signage in Irish and other languages and signs which accurately reflect the original name of a place.

The changes include that non-English language text can be displayed in the same font size as the English text or street name and will convey the same information.

In cases where there are objections to bi-lingual signs, the Council’s Good Relations Team will be asked for guidance as to how community relations can be improved. Efforts will also be made to ensure the accuracy of the information.

The officer said there may be some cost implications.

Sinn Féin Councillor Paul Fleming welcomed the amended policy report and proposed its adoption.

Mr Miller said: “Language isn’t sectarian but misuse of it can be. I would like officers to be aware that if the majority request a name to be added to or changed, this can sometimes have ramifications.”

He said that, if there was a small street or bigger area or estate which wanted changes, it could cause friction and ‘damage relations’ with people in surrounding streets.

Colr Miller also asked the council to compile the costs up to now of bilingual signs and the anticipated cost to ratepayers. The council officer said she would get costings for the 80 signs requested and approved to date.