Northern Ireland news

Shankill mural offers welcome in 20 languages – but not Irish

The newly unveiled 'Welcome to the Shankill Road' mural
Brendan Hughes

A MURAL newly unveiled in west Belfast's Shankill area has raised eyebrows for welcoming people in 20 different languages – but not Irish.

The new 'Welcome to the Shankill Road' mural has been painted on a gable wall at the corner of Gardiner Street.

It welcomes visitors to the mainly unionist area in a varied selection of languages including Welsh, Spanish, German, Chinese and Arabic.

Northern Ireland Alternatives, which was involved in the mural's creation, said it was aimed at an "international audience" to convey a "positive and welcoming message".

But the mural raised questions after it was pointed out that does not include Irish – the language from which 'Shankill' derives its name.

Irish-language advocate Linda Ervine today asked whether a "welcome to Irish speakers" could be added to the mural.

The unveiling of the new 'Welcome to the Shankill Road' mural at the corner of Gardiner Street

"I'd like to try and not be negative and hope that the Irish was overlooked and forgotten about rather than deliberately left out," said Mrs Ervine, a sister-in-law of former PUP leader David Ervine.

"Would there be a small space on the mural where it could now be added by the artist to put out a welcome to Irish speakers?"

Many people online questioned the absence of Irish from the display, which replaced a previous 'Welcome to the Shankill' mural.

Sharing images of the new mural online, nationalist political commentator Chris Donnelly tweeted: "Welcome in 20 languages on this mural, omitting the language from which 'Shankill' takes its name.

"How utterly depressing. This is where leaders make a difference."

One Twitter user responded to NI Alternatives asking: "Would Irish tourists be welcome?"

Another internet user described it as a "missed opportunity".

"What a welcoming gesture it would have been to put 'failte romhat' to welcome your neighbour from the next street and across the border – missed opportunity," they tweeted.

The mural was unveiled last week. Among those who attended was DUP councillor Brian Kingston, who said it was a "pleasure to attend and to help launch the new 'Welcome to the Shankill Road' mural".

Billy Drummond of Greater Shankill Alternatives said the mural was designed by young people and "aimed at an international audience who don't speak English".

He told BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback programme he had "no issue with the Irish language" and pointed out that the mural also does not include Ulster Scots.

"It certainly wasn't intended to insult people for who the Irish language is important," he added.

Alternatives RJ thanked those who attended the unveiling, but nationalist commentator Chris Donnelly described the mural's omission of Irish as "utterly depressing"

Shankill is said to derive its name from 'seanchill', meaning 'old church'.

Implementing a standalone Irish language act remains among the main areas of disagreement between Stormont's political parties in talks to restore the devolved institutions.

Northern Ireland has not had a power-sharing government since the DUP and Sinn Féin-led executive fell apart in early 2017 in the wake of the RHI scandal.

Read more: Linda Ervine: I realised Irish belonged to me - a Protestant - and I fell in love with it

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