Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard’s plans to consult on bilingual bus signage for Derry has been hailed as “great news” for the city.
The move follows a request lodged by local Sinn Fein representatives with senior management at Translink almost two years ago.
Mr Hazzard said the new consultation will examine the potential to introduce bilingual signage for destination screens on some bus services in Derry City.
Minister Hazzard said that this will follow on from bilingual signage travelling along the Metro corridor 10 in Belfast for some time, which he said has been “well-received”.
He said: “I now want to look at the possibility of introducing similar signage in Irish in Derry city.
“I believe that the provision of this information would be welcomed by many in the city and would improve access to public services by Irish speakers.
“I have therefore asked Translink to take forward a public consultation on this issue, with a view to signage being in place in May this year.
“The consultation will formally launch in March following the completion of an Equality Impact Assessment and engagement with key stakeholders.
“I would urge people to come forward with their views during the upcoming consultation period.”
Derry Sinn Fein Councillor Kevin Campbell described the development as “great news”.
He said: “I and party representatives Maeve McLaughlin and Colly Kelly met with the senior management of Transport NI in the Derry office at Foyle Street bus depot back in February 2015 to discuss our request that a bilingual destination signage pilot scheme be established for the Derry area.
“In November just past I wrote to the Minister Chris Hazzard and I outlined our request for a pilot scheme.
“I believe this is doable and is achievable at very little cost.”
Colr. Campbell added: “Translink bus services operating in West Belfast have been featuring both English and Irish language signs on destinations screens since 2011. And there has been bilingual passenger information on bus shelter timetables and route information.
“There are hundreds of children going to schools in the city learning through the medium of Irish and hundreds of people of all ages attending night classes and hundreds taking part in cultural musical and sporting activities.
“This was magnified tenfold when Derry hosted the Fleadh in 2013.
“To have bus services using bilingual signage on a number of routes would I believe a very positive and progressive move for the city.”
The introduction of the consultation comes amid confirmation that the funding for Irish language learners wishing to take residentials to Donegal has been reinstated.
DUP Minister Paul Given announced recently that the £50,000 funding would not be renewed in 2017 due to efficiency savings, but the minister has since confirmed that he has found the funding necessary to keep the programme open.