It’s Merry Christmas, Nollaig Shona Duit and Ablythe Yuletide from Derry City and Strabane District Council, which voted to look at the costs and logistics of putting up festive greetings in English, Irish and Ulster Scots at its monthly meeting on Thursday.
Sinn Féin Councillor Karina Carlin originally moved that Council go ahead and procure and erect signage in the Irish language.
“There are thousands of fluent Irish speakers across the district and many more thousands learning the language. “It’s important such an important and vibrant community is reflected in the public realm, not least during festive events and at Christmas time,” she said.
Councillor Carlin argued that under 4.2.8 of the Council’s Irish Language Policy, the Council has a duty to ensure the language is a part of the civic celebrations.
But Rhonda Hamilton, on behalf of the DUP, proposed an amendment requesting that the Council instead look at trilingual signage in Irish, English and Ulster Scots.
Councillor Karlin argued a separate motion should be brought forward for Ulster Scots but that under 4.2.8 , “not only is there a power to ensure that Irish is included, there is a duty to do this.”
Independent Gary Donnelly, who, as a parent of a pupil in attendance at a Gaeilscoil said he supported the original motion, asked City Solicitor Philip Kingston, if legally, Ulster Scots was a language or a dialect.
Mr Kingston said he’d have to look into it.
DUP Alderman David Ramsey, referring to the trilingual amendment, said: “What we are trying to explore here is equality and a shared society. We are a trilingual society and if we want to go into the stats there are more Polish speakers than there are Irish speakers.”
The Hamilton amendment was put and 17 unionist and SDLP members voted for it; 15 independents and Sinn Féin members against.
SDLP Councillor Tina Gardiner tabled a further amendment that rather than procure the signage, the Council consider the equality impact, cost benefits and logistics of installing it.
She said the Council had a responsibility to local communities to look at costs and potential equality impacts. Council divided evenly 16/16 on her amendment with the Mayor, Hilary McClintock, deciding the matter with her casting vote.