Northern Ireland news

Randalstown Irish language sign 'will not be removed'

Medb Ní Dhúláin placed the Irish language sign at her grandmother's home in Randalstown. Picture by Philip Walsh
Connla Young

THE granddaughter of an 85-year-old woman threatened with prosecution for having an Irish language street sign on her property has insisted it will not be taken down.

The Randalstown pensioner was ordered to remove the sign by Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council by today.

It was placed on railings outside her home in the mainly nationalist Ashdale estate by her granddaughter Medb Ní Dhúláin.

The letter, addressed to “the owner/occupier”, claims that it has been erected without planning consent and warns that "unless you undertake to put the matter right you may be prosecuted”.

It says conviction for “the display of an unauthorised advertisement” can result in a maximum fine of £2,500 “with further daily fines of £250".

Ms Ní Dhúláin last night stressed that her stance is not political or linked to any other controversies.

“I don’t feel it breaches any regulation of the council,” she said.

The letter threatened prosecution if the sign is not taken down

“I think we have a good case to keep the sign in place."

She added: “So many people in the area have shown their support, not just about the sign, but bilingual signage in general.”

Medb Ní Dhúláin at the entrance to Ashdale Estate in Randelstown Pic Philip Walsh

The council was forced into a u-turn last year over a ban on Irish-language street signs.

The High Court heard that the decision to set aside the English-only policy came after a challenge by a resident who claimed it amounted to discrimination.

Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly strongly criticised the council last night, claiming it has funded “loyalist bonfires where flags and election posters were burned”.

“Similarly, no action is ever taken to remove illegal loyalist paramilitary flags which are designed to intimidate, yet an 85-year-old woman is threatened with a £2,500 fine for erecting an Irish language sign.

“It is hypocritical and something we see repeated in other unionist-dominated councils.”

Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin of Irish-language campaign group An Dream Dearg said: “When people ask us why we need an Irish language act we only need to point them to examples such as this.”

Daniel Holder, deputy director of the Committee on the Administration of Justice, said: "The council is under a duty to allow and encourage Irish place name signs. It should rescind the threat to prosecute now."

A spokeswoman for the council said “the case in question remains under consideration and therefore it is not appropriate to comment any further on the matter”.

She added that the council is “currently in the process of developing a policy regarding dual language street signs”.

“It is the practice for Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council to investigate all complaints of a breach of planning or advertisement control in line with the council’s agreed Planning Enforcement Strategy which is available on the council’s website."

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