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Council to review policy after Irish signs are cut

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Council to review policy after Irish signs are cut thumbnailThe cut signs were replaced within days by council.

THE council is set to review its future position in relation to Irish language signs following a third spate of attacks.

Two signs outside Rathfriland on the Newry Road and Castlewellan Road alongside a sign in Ballyward were damaged.

It appears an angle grinder was used to cut the signs, removing the Irish spelling of Newry, Mourne and Down.

It comes just a matter of weeks after the signs were replaced after white paint was daubed over the Irish.

And in a bid to help alleviate tensions, local UUP Councillor Glenn Barr said he would be willing to talk to council to find a suitable way forward.

The controversial signs, marking the district council boundary, had been vandalised last summer and replaced earlier this year.

The signs were cut and removed in the aftermath of the snap Assembly elections.

Condemning the act of vandalism, Councillor Barr said it was an attack on public property and "should not have happened".

However, he said it was symbolic of the strength of feeling in the area.

“The realisation is that Newry, Mourne and Down District Council has forced this onto the Rathfriland unionist community," he said.

“There has been no dialogue with them. Are they just going to keep wasting public money and putting them up where they are not wanted?"

Councillor Barr said he was calling on NMD Council to "see sense".

“They have not carried out an equality impact assessment in the first place, never mind enforcing them on another council boundary.

“I would be more than happy to speak to anybody to help decrease community tensions. When this has happened for the third time, they need to look at it."

Councillor Barr was keen to highlight that he has "no problem" with the Irish language and pointed out the motto for the Royal Irish Regiment was 'Faugh A Ballagh', which is Irish for 'Clear the Way'.

“I have no problem with Irish. But this is not just about a language, it's being used as a political tool by provisional Sinn Fein.

“I am happy to discuss with the council a way to try and alleviate these tensions, but the ball is in their court."

In the wake of this most recent incident, the council said a way forward would have to be considered.

“Newry, Mourne and Down District Council is aware boundary signs on the A25 exiting Rathfriland on both the Newry and the Castlewellan Roads, have been cut in half," said a spokesperson.

“As before, any acts of vandalism will be reported to the PSNI and the signs will be replaced.

“Given the frequency and ongoing nature of this vandalism, the council will review its position with respect to vandalised boundary signs and would also hope the PSNI might be able to take action to apprehend the perpetrators."

Councillor Barr said he welcomed a review of its position.

“It is ratepayers' money they are wasting and they really are forcing it onto people who do not want it. But dialogue is the best way forward," he said.

Slieve Croob Councillor Pol O'Gribin condemned the actions of the vandals who have repeatedly destroyed these signs, which are part of council policy.

“I would condemn the actions that have been carried out at cost to the ratepayer."

He said it "baffles" him why these signs are continually vandalised as in the history of the Irish language "both the Orange Order and British Army used banners with the Irish language".

He would advocate more community engagement to find a way around the issue.

“The only way I could see around it is if councillors can sit down with community groups and ask them do they want the destruction of these council signs to happen or are they in favour of no council signs? Also would they be interested in council coming out and giving them a workshop into the history of the Irish language?" said Councillor O'Gribin.

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