Bilingual Council bid rejected

Independent Councillor Gary Donnelly. (0605PG64)

Independent Councillor Gary Donnelly. (0605PG64)

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A proposal that Derry City & Strabane District Council adopt a bilingual policy of Irish and English on its branding has been rejected.

A motion to this effect was tabled by Independent Councillor Gary Donnelly at Derry City & Strabane District Council’s monthly Full Council meeting at the Guildhall on Thursday evening.

Colr. Donnelly said the current ‘trilingual’ (Irish, English and Ulster Scots) policy adopted by the Council was at odds with the policies of every other Council across Ireland and Scotland.

He added that the Scottish Parliament itself had a bilingual policy of English and Scottish gaelic.

Colr. Donnelly stressed that his motion was “not anti-Ulster Scots”, adding that he advocated the promotion of Ulsters Scots as a cultural and heritage tradition.

He added however that the Council has received no translation requests and no requests for street signage in Ulster Scots.

He said the Council’s policy actually misrepresented Ulster Scots as it was not a codified language, and urged that the Council needs “to consider an evidence-based solution on the needs of both the Irish language and Ulster Scots”.

Pointing to the major growth in interest and leaning in the Irish language across the city and region, Colr. Donnelly said there was a connection between local people and the native tongue.

He also pointed out that it was Presbyterians who ensured the survival of the Irish language back in the 1800s.

He proposed that the Council “adopts a bilingual policy of Irish and English on corporate branding and signage upon scheduled replacement”.

Earlier at the same meeting, Sinn Fein Councillor Maoliosa McHugh had mooted, during discussion of committee minutes, that the Council initiate a comprehensive policy review of language usage, including in its corporate branding and signage. The proposal was backed by a majority of Councillors and was passed.

Independent Unionist Councillor Maurice Devenney claimed during the discussion on that earlier motion that Sinn Fein had “stolen the thunder” from Colr. Donnelly’s scheduled motion.

Speaking about Colr. Donnelly motion, SDLP Councillor Martin Reilly said he was not sure why the Council were having a debate on the motion when half an hour earlier they had had a debate to establish a review.

He added that his party would not be supporting Colr. Donnelly’s motion.

Colr. McHugh meanwhile said that the earlier motion would ensure that there was a body of work carried out in which all aspects of the current policy would be looked at, adding that all members within the chamber had a responsibility to feed into that.

He said that Colr. Donnelly’s motion would be pre-empting the work that was to be carried out during the review.

UUP Councillor Derek Hussey agreed, and said that any policy change should flow from the review.

“Therefore I don’t see the point of this motion before us,” he said.

Mr Donnelly’s motion was seconded by Independent Councillor Paul Gallagher.

Colr. Gallagher said that the Council can and should adopt “proper policies”.

Speaking about Colr. McHugh’s remarks, he referred to remarks by Sinn Fein representatives in the north that there could be no going back to the status quo. “This sounds very much like the status quo,” he said, adding: “We need to get rid of this argument about Ulster Scots being on the same status as the Irish language when it is quite clearly not. Sin é!”

The motion was defeated, with five Councillors voting for it, 31 against and one abstention.