Northern Ireland

Sinister sectarian sign at Clough primary school is backlash against 'Irish language weaponisation' says TUV councillor Harold McKee

The sinister sign at Cumran PS in Clough Co Down
The sinister sign at Cumran PS in Clough Co Down

THE Irish language being "weaponised by republicanism" prompted the erection of a sectarian sign outside a Co Down primary school, a TUV councillor has claimed.

Former MLA Harold McKee, who last year quit the UUP after complaining about its "liberal values" under Doug Beattie's leadership, was speaking about a large sign stating 'Keep Irish out of our kids classroom' that appeared in the grounds of state-controlled Cumran PS in Clough overnight on Sunday.

Police are treating the incident as a sectarian hate crime but have yet to make any arrests.

The sign appeared just days after staff from by nearby St Malachy's High School in Castlewellan visited the primary ahead of the secondary open day.

East Belfast Gaeilgoir Linda Ervine tweeted: "I’m not sure how you could keep Irish out of Clough PS as Clough is an anglicisation of the Irish word Cloch which means stone – the Irish language is all around us."

But Mr McKee described Clough as a "village with a strong loyalist identity".

"I am not surprised that there are people in the area who are concerned about Irish language which has been imposed across the council area against the wishes of many communities," he told The News Letter.

“Obviously there are avenues which any concerned parents should explore with the school directly rather than erecting a poster like this and I would encourage parents who have any concerns about this to use that route."

The Newry, Mourne and Down councillor said Irish language legislation was being "imposed on Northern Ireland in order to pacify Sinn Féin".

"The language has unquestionably been weaponised by republicanism down through the years so any backlash against it lies at the feet of that movement," he said.

DUP councillor Alan Lewis said he hoped there was no repeat of the incident as he urged "dialogue and mutual respect".

"Historically, the Irish language has unfortunately been mistreated and misrepresented for political gain, this has led to genuine concerns within the unionist community, making the very mention of it being used or taught toxic," he said.

"However, mysterious billboards and ultimatums have the potential to be sinister, to frighten people – this is unwelcome."