‘What precedent is being set for Irish Language Act?’

DUP MLA Jim Wells with the Newry and Mourne Down District Council boundart sign at Ballyward, Co Down, which has been destroyed and replaced four times since last year.
DUP MLA Jim Wells with the Newry and Mourne Down District Council boundart sign at Ballyward, Co Down, which has been destroyed and replaced four times since last year.

Rathfriland UUP councillor Glen Barr says his phone did not stop ringing when Irish-English language signs were erected on the boundary of Newry Mourne and Down, near the town last year.

“When they first went up about a mile outside Rathfriland my phone never stopped,” he said. “The question needs to be put to Newry Mourne and Down District Council (NMDDC), how much ratepayers’ money will they continue to put into this? And if they have an Irish language act, how much will it cost the public?

“The previous NMDDC boundary sign was in English and nobody bothered with it. But in this location, this sign has had the top cut off once, been spray painted and had acid poured on it.

“What precedent does this set in the event of an Irish Language Act roll out? I condemn the vandalism but it does show you, for local people the concern is that this is how it is going to be enforced.

“If council won’t take heed after the sign is destroyed four or five times, you really wonder what the agenda is - is it forcing it upon people?”

His party’s councillors on NMDDC voted against the signs but were ignored, he says.

DUP South Down MLA Jim Wells noticed the council sign in Ballyward has also been repeatedly destroyed - something he condemned without qualification.

“All signs are now bilingual with Irish at the top and these were imposed in areas which have a unionist majority. There was no consultation with local residents.

“I have spoken to many people in South Down and they feel that the council are using the Irish language as a political weapon.

“In a strange way unionists should be grateful to Newry, Mourne and Down Council for alerting us to what could happen if we ever agreed to an Irish language act.”

READ MORE: Council ‘still pushing’ Irish road signs after 25 destroyed