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Policy for DUP minister's removal of Irish name from boat cannot be produced

Brendan Hughes

A POLICY cited by a DUP minister in controversially removing a fisheries boat's Irish language name cannot be produced by her department.

Michelle McIlveen faced criticism last year when it emerged that the name of the patrol vessel 'Banríon Uladh' had been changed to its English translation 'Queen of Ulster'.

At the time the minister defended the action, saying her department has a "single-language policy".

"Daera (Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs) is a new department with a fresh identity and logo and adopts a single-language policy," she said.

"There have consequently been some necessary adaptations to assets transferring to the new department."

However, in response to a Freedom of Information request by The Irish News, the department was unable to provide a copy of the policy.

Instead, it said a language policy is "currently being drafted" and that "consequently, it is exempt information".

The fisheries protection vessel was originally named by then Sinn Féin agriculture minister Michelle Gildernew after it was purchased in 2010.

It is the only asset renamed by the new Daera department, which last year took on functions of the old Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Daera previously confirmed that it cost £302 to change the boat's name.

It said the new lettering was carried out during a "scheduled annual maintenance event" that in total cost £6,835.

The SDLP's Patsy McGlone, the party's Irish language spokesperson, criticised the department for suggesting the decision was based on established policy.

"This lays bare the unbridled ignorance and pettiness that was at the heart of the minister's decision," he said.

"This farcical act was completely party political and even came with a price tag for the taxpayer."

Sinn Féin's Barry McElduff also claimed it raises questions about the DUP's "integrity in government".

"It is clear the decision by a DUP minister to remove the Irish name from this fisheries patrol vessel was totally disrespectful to the Irish language," he said.

"The fact that the minister did so citing a language policy which does not exist adds insult to injury.

"This is another example of the total lack of respect towards the Irish language and identity from the DUP."

The Irish language has become a key election issue following anger over DUP minister Paul Givan scrapping a £50,000 bursary scheme before Christmas.

Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness cited the cut among reasons for his resignation as deputy first minister.

Mr Givan later reinstated the scheme, which provides grants to children wishing to study in the Gaeltacht, saying that he did not want Sinn Féin to use it as a "political weapon against us".

In 2014, the DUP's Gregory Campbell was barred from addressing the assembly for a day for mocking the Irish language and refusing to apologise, after saying "Curry my yoghurt can coca coalyer" – a reference to "Go raibh maith agat, Ceann Comhairle" or "Thank you, Speaker".

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