A DUP Councillor has described a £15,000 project to provide rural Derry with bi-lingual road signage as a “waste of money”.
Derry City Councillor Gary Middleton made the comments as he and his unionist colleagues voted against the move at the December meeting of Derry City Council’s Environmental Services Committee on Thursday.
Despite their opposition, the project, which will span across the Claudy and Park wards of the city, will now go ahead after the majority of nationalists on the committee backed it.
Councillors were told at the meeting in the Guildhall that the signage along 17 rural roads will cost in region of £15,000 to manufacture and erect.
Residents along 18 roads in the areas have were surveyed over whether they wanted bi-lingual signs.
In order to proceed, a minimum of 66% support was needed from among respondents. Based on the results, 17 of the 18 roads will now get the new signage.
Colr. Middleton said that while it was “nothing against the Irish language” that it was unacceptable to “see £15,000 being spent on signs in an area where clearly the overwhelming majority did not respond.”
He claimed that members of a certain political party had turned up at homes and encouraged or even helped people to fill out the forms.
Speaking just after the council agreed to spend around £9,000 on three life-saving defibrillators for the city centre, Colr. Middleton said the money spent on signage could have been used to buy more of such machines instead.
“I think this is a waste of money to be honest,” he said.
Sinn Fein Councillor Mickey Cooper said that the council could only base their assessment on the returns they receive. He added that the council had a budget for bi-lingual signage, with a “large underspend” on this last year.
Referring to recent comments made by DUP MP Gregory Campbell, Mr Cooper added that this was an issue of equality which her said was “very much in the news at the minute for various reasons, including comments made by one of Gary’s colleagues around the Irish language”.Colr. Middleton requested a recorded vote, with the three unionist present voting against, while five of the six nationalist councillors voting for it. SDLP Councillor Ann Donnelly abstained.
The roads where the signs are to be erected are Altinure Road, Altaghoney Road, Ballyrory Road, Barnes Road, Carnanreagh Road, Crockahilly Road, Crockmore Road, Eden Road, Glenrandel Road, Gortscreaghan Road, Kilcreen Road, Kilgort Road, Magherabrack Road, Plantation Road, Slieveboy Road, Tamnagh Road, Tireighter Road and Umrycam Road.