Council atmosphere ‘upset’ by signs row

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A DROMORE councillor has said that the ‘harmonious atmosphere’ in Banbridge District Council has been upset by the ongoing row over the erection of Irish signs.

Councillor Paul Rankin said that he was particularly disappointed by the fact the story had been leaked to the press before it had been discussed in a council meeting.

And, he added, thousands of pounds of ratepayers’ money would need to be spent on carrying out an equality impact assessment.

“Firstly, I am disappointed that the issue of dual language signage, which was discussed in the environmental committee, of which I am not a member of this year, appeared in the local press before I was given the opportunity to express my own opinions at the council’s monthly statutory council meeting,” said Councillor Rankin.

“I hope in future, that everyone will abide by agreed council protocols.”

He added, “Secondly, in relation to the whole issue, I am very angry that Sinn Fein raised this issue in the first place as not only has it caused division in the council but it is now likely going to cost the ratepayers of the district thousands of pounds for council officers to formulate a policy and carry out an equality impact assessment on any proposed policy.

“These are financially difficult days and we as councillors will be doing everything in our power to keep the rates at a minimum, but it seems Sinn Fein did not consider the costs to the ratepayer, when they raised this issue. It was neither the time, nor the place.

“I have no problem with the Irish Language itself, what I have a problem with is the politicisation of the Irish language, which Republicans have been doing. The erection of dual language signs, would ‘ghettoize’ and divide our community. I am glad that the majority of councillors voted at the statutory meeting to formulate a policy based upon keeping the signs in ‘English only’, which is spoken by almost everyone, including many within the migrant community.

He concluded, “The council’s harmonious atmosphere has been totally upset by this whole episode and at a cost to the ratepayer.

“The whole exercise of producing a policy and carrying out an equality impact assessment will also divide the community along the same old lines, at a time when we are working to bring the community together.”