Northern Ireland

Council repair Irish language street signs across Belfast following vandalism

South Belfast sign latest to be replaced following incidents in north of the city

SDLP councillor Gary McKeown with the vandalised sign at Haypark Avenue. PICTURE: GARY MCKEOWN

Belfast City Council has carried out repairs to five Irish language street signs in recent months after they were targeted by vandals.

The latest incident was identified by the council at the end of December at Haypark Avenue, close to the Ormeau Road in the south of the city.

The Irish wording on the dual language sign was removed. It follows vandalism to four signs in the north of the city in recent months.

SDLP councillor for the Botanic DEA, Gary McKeown, said he was “disappointed” at the latest incident.

“This achieves nothing and shows a lack of respect for things that matter to people. I’ve asked the council to repair it as soon as possible,” he said in a Facebook post.

A Belfast City Council spokesperson said the damage to the sign was identified on December 27, adding: “A replacement sign was ordered.”

The Haypark Avenue sign was one of five signs installed across the city with incorrect spelling in the Irish translation. The identified errors prompted the council to perform a “quality check” on all recently erected dual language street signage.

In October, four dual language signs were targeted in the Downview Park West area, close to the Antrim Road in north Belfast.

A council spokesperson said spray paint was used on the Irish wording, and that local residents cleaned the signs before a contractor arrived to assess the damage.

One of the signs required full replacement, while the other three only required further cleaning work.

North Belfast SDLP councillor Carl Whyte said following the incidents in October: “The only reason I can see why anyone would do this is prejudice and bigotry. It must stop.”

A new council policy on dual language signs came into effect in June of last year, making it easier for residents to apply for signs featuring Irish in their streets.

One resident or councillor can make an application for a street - including for a sign featuring Ulster Scots or other languages such as Mandarin - which can go forward for approval by the council upon gaining the support of 15% of residents on the electoral register.

The cost of erecting a dual language sign is estimated at around £1000.