Northern Ireland

Bilingual road signs planned for west Belfast

Bilingual road traffic sign in North Belfast, Picture by Brian Kingston
Bilingual road traffic sign in North Belfast, Picture by Brian Kingston

PLANNING is underway for the provision of bilingual road traffic signs in west Belfast.

The Department for Infrastructure has confirmed that these proposed changes relate to highway code signs such as `Stop' or `Give Way', rather than street names which are controlled by local councils.

It follows controversy surrounding Sinn Féin-branded, bilingual 'Stop' signs that were installed across north Belfast last week.

The homemade signage included a Sinn Féin logo and the word 'Stop' written in both English and Irish ('Go mall'). They were deemed problematic due to their location and the political affiliation.

Reacting at the time, DUP assembly member Brian Kingston said the signs were "nothing more than a transparent attempt to hijack road safety for party politicking". Mr Kingston added that the party would have been “perfectly aware” that the inclusion of dual language on the signs added “a further political dimension".

Infrastructure Minister John O’Dowd affirmed his commitment to the continued roll-out of Irish language in the city’s Gaeltacht Quarter following a meeting with representatives from Forbairt Feirste.

Mr O’Dowd said: “I was pleased to meet with Forbairt Feirste to discuss my department’s commitment to the Irish language and to review the progress that has been made in recent years to roll-out bilingual signage on public transport in west Belfast."

The minister added that there have been requests for road traffic signage in the west of the city, saying that he “was pleased to hear that my officials have been working to quantify the costs for a proposed pilot for the provision of bilingual traffic signs in the Gaeltacht Quarter. I have asked for this project to progress to the next stage which will involve the detailed design of the signs".

Bilingual signs were introduced on the West Belfast Glider route, between Millfield and McKinstry Road, in 2021.

Former minister Nichola Mallon said the move tied in with the New Decade, New Approach language commitments and that the signage gave the Irish language "the visibility it deserves".

“My department and Translink worked closely with Forbairt Feirste to implement this important work which was welcomed by the local community. I am keen for more to be done, and Translink is now giving consideration to how bilingual audio can be introduced on the west Belfast Glider service route," added Mr O'Dowd.