'Londonderry' signs defaced days before new A6 opens
ROAD signs on a new section of the A6 bearing the name ‘Londonderry’ have been defaced - days before the carriageway is due to open.
Paint was used to remove the word ‘London’ from at least two large direction signs put at a roundabout along the route near Toomebridge.
Earlier this week the Department for Infrastructure confirmed that a section of the new road between Toome and Randalstown will open on Monday.
While the opening will be welcome news for many motorists, the DfI last night confirmed that some traffic restrictions will remain.
Other work linked to the A6 upgrade includes a dualling scheme between Toome and Castledawson and Drumahoe and Dungiven.
Road signs in Northern Ireland currently only use the term 'Londonderry' - often leading to 'London' being painted over in nationalists areas.
Last year former environment minister Mark H Durkan said using both names on the upgraded A6 Derry to Belfast road would help stop attacks on signs and avoid confusion for cross-border tourists.
Mr Durkan last night said it was “disappointing” to see the signs vandalised.
“While it’s disappointing it’s not particularly surprising and certainly it’s not unforeseeable,” he said.
The SDLP politician said the request to use both names is “about recognising the city in the way the vast majority of its citizens do”.
Unionist pressure groups have reacted angrily to the attack on the signs.
William Lennox from the British Truth Forum last night said he has contacted Road Service.
“Where is the equality when they are talking about a united Ireland, it does not bode well for us,” he said.
In a letter to former DfI permanent secretary Peter May, sent ahead of work beginning on the Drumahoe to Dungiven section, Mr Durkan said it was an opportunity to address the name issue.
In response Mr May said current department policy was that “primary destinations” used on existing signs "should be the starting point when designing new or replacement signs".
"In this case, the name Londonderry is already on existing signs and therefore it is this name that will be used along the new A6 Drumahoe to Dungiven dualling scheme."
The Foyle MLA subsequently wrote to Mr May’s replacement Katrina Godfrey who said she was “satisfied that the response given still applies”.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that a section of safety barrier is being replaced along the new road before it opens.
A spokesman for DfI last night said a length of the vehicle restraint system has been identified as non-compliant and is being reworked.
“This is having no impact on the plans for opening of the road nor will the safety of the travelling public be compromised,” he said.