No festive greeting for bid to have Irish Christmas sign

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A request to erect a banner in Dungiven with the words ‘Happy Christmas’ written in Irish has resulted in a brief but nasty row at Limavady Council meeting.

Glór Dhún Gheimhin is the group behind the request to Limavady Council and they’ve asked for a banner beside the Christmas tree in the town with the festive greeting.

The group has also asked for a small welcome sign in Dungiven in Irish as well.

Towards the end of Tuesday’s monthly council meeting, when the matter was raised, SDLP Colr. Michael Coyle said it shouldn’t be a problem, but suggested checking with planners about the welcome sign.

TUV Colr. Boyd Douglas wondered “who’s to benefit” from “a banner in Irish” and said it seemed “a bit ridiculous” to him.

“I’d be opposed to that,” said Colr. Douglas, adding bunting and flags were erected in Dungiven previously, and it was all a cost to ratepayers.

“What’s the point in it beside a Christmas tree?” asked Colr. Douglas.

Members heard from the Chief Executive the cost of the banner would be around £100, and could be erected along with the other Christmas decorations, while the cost of the sign would be £100-£150.

Members were also reminded by the Chief Executive that Limavady Council had signed up to the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages.

Colr. Douglas queried where would Council draw the line, and what would happen if similar requests from other communities were made.

Sinn Fein Colr. Anne Brolly said she’d take the opportunity to remind members of Gaelscoil Neachtain in Dungiven, the state controlled Irish-medium primary school in the Western Education and Library Board (WELB) area, she said, and which was “open to everyone”.

“There is no exclusiveness about it,” said Colr. Brolly of the school. “It’s very inclusive.”

Referencing the request, Colr. Brolly added “there’s nothing political about it”.

Colr. Brolly added: “Let’s get real in this Council.”

DUP Colr. George Robinson said he heard what Colr. Brolly said, but claimed the Irish language was “rammed down our throats, as unionists, day and daily” and said he would not be supporting the request.

Sinn Fein Colr. Sean McGlinchey said Colr. Robinson’s remarks were “no surprise”.

“Pathetic!” exclaimed Colr. Mc Glinchey, adding: “Nobody is ramming nothing down your throats!”

In the end, the matter was decided by vote, with the proposal to support the request winning support from the four Sinn Fein councillors and three SDLP councillors.

The five unionist members present in the chamber at the time voted ‘no’.