FALLOUT from a proposal to erect Irish language signage in the district continues to concentrate in Dromore, where this week it brought “outrage” and more calls for Unionist unity to block any such plan.
The calls came ahead of last night (Monday’s) full monthly council meeting.
Lagan Valley MLA Paul Givan warned of the potential for ratepayers from Dromore to Kinallen, Quilly to Gransha, seeing their money spent on “unnecessary street signs that nobody would understand”, while a former Dromore DUP councillor registered her opposition to her rates being spent on “this ridiculous proposal”.
The comments came in response to last week’s Leader report that Dromore Councillor Olive Mercer was one of two Ulster Unionists – the other, Council Chairman Joan Baird - understood to have abstained when a council committee voted on a Sinn Fein proposal for bilingual signs in the district.
Councillor Baird declined to comment, while Councillor Mercer said she had abstained, given the wording of the proposal and absent the more detailed information of a pending draft policy on the issue, to avoid potentially ruling out any future use of Ulster-Scots signage.
Dromore woman Norah Beare, until recently a local DUP councillor, said she was “absolutely outraged” that Sinn Fein would even suggest the erection of Irish language signage in the district when it could mean spending thousands of pounds “needlessly”.
She added, “No sitting on the fence, councillors, regarding this matter; we are facing serious cuts to services, whether we like it or not, due to the serious financial situation in our country and to even waste time putting this matter on the agenda of a council meeting beggars belief.
“English is a universal language and I for one want to register my total opposition to my rates being spent on this ridiculous proposal. Will it benefit the residents of the district in any way?
“I also wonder how many Irish speakers we have within the district who will understand it. It just proves Sinn Fein will never change.”
Mr. Givan, meanwhile, revealed that DUP colleague and committee member, Councillor Hazel Gamble, had opposed the proposal, as, apparently, did Dromore Ulster Unionist Councillor Carol Black.
Mr. Givan called on Dromore’s Ulster Unionist councillors to “unite and join with their DUP colleagues and oppose proposals to introduce Irish language signs”.
He added, “The Irish Language has been used and abused by Republicans to antagonise the Unionist community and this latest attempt should be opposed by every Unionist councillor.
“Should this proposal go ahead, the people of Dromore, including areas such as Kinallen, Gransha and Quilly, could have their ratepayers’ money used on unnecessary street signs that nobody would understand and is only being driven forward as a Republican objective.
“This proposal was opposed by DUP Councillor Hazel Gamble and I commend the stand she has taken. The support given to her by Ulster Unionist Councillor Carol Black is welcome but I know the people of Dromore will be shocked that Councillor Mercer failed to support her Unionist colleagues from Dromore.”