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Lisburn Road Irish street sign to go ahead despite DUP bid to block move

35 residents approved of new signs in Irish, and 35 objected
Lisburn Road Irish street sign to go ahead despite DUP bid to block move
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The DUP have failed to block an Irish language street sign being approved in South Belfast, after a consultation showed as many residents objected to the new sign as supported it.

At a Belfast City Council committee meeting this week, second street nameplates in Irish were approved for Stewartstown Mews, off Stewartstown Road, Mountainview Parade and Mountainview Gardens, off Mountainview Park, Bingnian Drive, off Koram Ring, Mizen Gardens, off Lenadoon Avenue, Dermott Hill Road, off Whiterock Road, Marcus Ward Street, off Dublin Road, and Cranmore Gardens, off Lisburn Road.

At the council’s People and Communities Committee, seven of the eight streets were agreed unanimously across party lines. The DUP made an objection to Cranmore Gardens, following the results of the consultation with 124 residents surveyed.

Of those who replied, 35 occupiers (28.23 percent) were in favour of the erection of a second street name plate, 35 occupiers (28.23 percent) were not in favour, and four occupiers (3.23 percent) had no preference either way.

DUP Councillor for Balmoral Sarah Bunting told the committee: “We have no issue with the majority of these applications. The only one we want to raise concern with is Cranmore Gardens - from 124 people surveyed four said they had no preference either way, which leaves 120 people, 70 replied with strong feelings, and 50 didn’t reply or didn’t open their post.

“From those who did reply, it was split evenly 35 to 35. The high response rate, compared to the number we normally get from most streets, shows that there are strong feelings on both sides about this proposal.

“We do have a problem with installing dual language signs in mixed areas with settled communities where there are a close number of responses, or as in this case, it is a 50/50 split. I do think this increases community tensions and is counter-productive to this council’s Good Relations Strategy.”

Sinn Féin Councillor for Balmoral Geraldine McAteer said: “We should go ahead with the application as it stands. It has achieved the requisite percentage, and is in fact over that, so it is only fair we go ahead with it.”

A proposal on stopping the Cranmore Gardens signs failed on a vote, with five votes in support from the DUP, and 13 votes against from Sinn Féin, Alliance, the SDLP and the Green Party.

The application to erect dual language signs in Irish at Marcus Ward Street received special attention as it qualified as a street located within the city centre boundary, as agreed by the council last year. As part of the new policy, the council agreed that applications for dual language street signage in the city centre will be subject to wider public consultation.

A survey of occupiers of the street indicated that 11 occupiers (27.5 percent) are in favour of the proposal to erect second nameplates in Irish, one occupier (2.5 percent) was not in favour, and one had no preference either way.

Due to the street being in the city centre, Belfast City Council also sought the views from the community of users including those who live, work, study or visit the city on the proposal to erect dual language street signs in Marcus Ward Street.

Adverts were placed in the Belfast Telegraph, Irish News and Newsletter. Submissions could be made from 23rd November to 8th January 2024. No responses were received from the council during the consultation period.

In 2022 councillors agreed a new policy on dual language street signs would finally be implemented - 18 months after the policy was originally given the go-ahead in the chamber. Sinn Féin, Alliance, the SDLP, the Green Party, and the People Before Profit Party all support the new street sign policy, while the three unionist parties, the DUP, UUP and PUP, are against it.

The new policy means at least one resident of any Belfast street, or a councillor, is all that is required to trigger a consultation on a second nameplate, with 15 percent in favour being sufficient to erect the sign. Non-responses will no longer be counted as “against” votes, and there will be an equality assessment for each application.

Before that, the policy required 33.3 percent of the eligible electorate in any Belfast street to sign a petition to begin the process, and 66.6 percent to agree to the new dual language sign on the street. In the six months since the policy changed, a backlog built up of over 600 applications for Irish street signs.

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