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Belfast City Council will meet today (Friday) to discuss a citywide strategy on irish language signs in council leisure centres.

There were protests by schoolchildren and Irish language activists last week after the council rejected plans for dual-language signage at two new leisure centres currently under construction in nationalist areas.

Organised by campaign group An Dream Dearg, the protest outside Andersonstown Leisure Centre was held to highlight community support for bilingual signs in the new council facility and Brook Leisure Centre which is also under construction.

Alliance Councillor Michael Long has welcomed news that his request to discuss a citywide strategy on language signs, including Irish language signage, at Belfast City Council leisure centres, has been approved. The meeting with the group leaders of all parties will be held tomorrow (Thursday).

Councillor Long said: “As a passionate supporter of the Irish language and supporter of language diversity, I think it is vital that matters of signage are dealt with sensitively. I am pleased that we can now start the discussions on this issue.

“Sinn Féin have suggested that we are trying to delay the erection of signage but that was never the case and the fact that this meeting is to be held before their special council meeting demonstrates this.

“We hope that a proper citywide strategy can be agreed quickly, which will ensure that Irish speakers and those who speak languages other than English are properly catered for.

“Unfortunately, Sinn Féin brought forward a proposal to have Irish/English signage at only two centres in West Belfast and ignore the rest of the city. They did this with no attempt at prior discussion and without even notifying Council of their intention to raise the matter.

“Given that divisions over the Irish language has been one of the main stumbling blocks to restoring the Assembly, this was hardly a good way to address this sensitive matter. I think the attempt to place Irish signs only in West Belfast sends out a negative message that the Irish language only belongs to one tradition, when Alliance believes the Irish language is for everyone.”

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