Emails show DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly's lobbying over Glider bus stop
TWO unionist councillors joined DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly in controversially lobbying transport chiefs about the name of a Glider bus stop in east Belfast, newly disclosed emails reveal.
DUP councillor George Dorrian had urged officials to meet with him and PUP councillor John Kyle to discuss "very real and genuine concerns" about the halt being called 'Short Strand'.
The emails, obtained by The Irish News, also show how Ms Pengelly's office approached the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) – despite Translink explaining the bus stop's name five months earlier.
In July, Ms Pengelly was forced to deny a sectarian motive after voicing "serious concerns" about the name 'Short Strand' – a mainly nationalist area – for a city-bound bus halt on Albertbridge Road.
The South Belfast MP wrote to residents, saying the name "does not reflect either the area or the history of the area" and it was "clearly not a Short Strand stop".
Translink however pointed out that inbound and outbound halts are named in pairs, and the new Glider stop had simply replaced a previous Metro stop of the same name.
Following criticism online, Ms Pengelly insisted it was "not a sectarian issue at all" and said she was merely responding to the concerns of a constituent who had contacted her.
Emails obtained through Freedom of Information requests show Translink responded back in February to queries from Ms Pengelly's office about the bus halt.
Translink explained that the 'Short Strand' name was "based on the existing halt names in the area" in order to "minimise confusion for passengers".
"To that end, all inbound and outbound halts are 'paired' to ensure that the names are the same on both sides of the road," an official said.
However, in July Ms Pengelly's office wrote to DfI about the matter, referring to the "re-naming of Albertbridge halt to Short Strand".
"I would appreciate a meeting with yourselves and Emma at your earliest convenience to discuss in particular the re-naming of Albertbridge halt to Short Strand and the related sensitivities this has caused in the neighbourhood," the MP's staff member wrote.
Other emails show how DUP councillor George Dorrian had also contacted Translink in July about the halt being named 'Short Strand'.
Mr Dorrian said a "large number of constituents" had contacted him about the Glider signage.
"I would appreciate if councillor John Kyle and myself could arrange to meet a representative from Translink as soon as possible," he said.
"There are very real and genuine concerns with regards to the naming of this stop at Woodstock and we would like to discuss at the earliest opportunity."
Internal emails show how officials in Translink and DfI discussed which body was best to meet with councillors and address their concerns.
A DfI official wrote that the "majority of BRT [Belfast Rapid Transit] halts are named in accordance with the Translink naming convention, including the stop concerned".