Road signs for Derry and Strabane branded ‘stunt’

The controversial Welcome to Northern Ireland sign at Belcoo
The controversial Welcome to Northern Ireland sign at Belcoo

Controversial road signs welcoming visitors to Northern Ireland are to be erected in Derry and Strabane.

The north west signs are among eight that have been, or are to be erected at locations on the north/south border.

Sinn Fein have branded the signs a “provocative stunt” by Department of Regional Development minister Danny Kennedy.

In turn the Ulster Unionist minister has said there has been an over-reaction to the new signage scheme.

The ‘Welcome to Northern Ireland signs are to be erected at on the A2 Derry to Letterkenny road as well as the A38 between Strabane and Lifford.

Already two of the signs have been taken down in the Newtownbutler and Rosslea areas while an unsuccessful bid was made to remove a third in the Belcoo area.

Sinn Fein Derry MLA Maeve McLaughlin says the north west signs will be installed in the coming weeks.

She says they serve “no practical purpose” and “ are a complete waste of money.”

“It is my belief that Danny Kennedy’s time would be much better spent if he actually attempted to direct money into repairing our roads and improving public transport in rural communities instead of squandering money on such petty, pointless political projects. It wasn’t that long ago that the Minister told us he had no money to erect bilingual signs but now finds money to satisfy his own political agenda.

“At the end of June, Mr Kennedy told the Assembly that were wasn’t enough money to pay for grass cutting, street lights and pothole repair and in fact he said he had no choice but to increase parking fines by 50% to cover the shortfall in his budget.

“How then can he justify wasting public money on the erection of signs, which no one wants and were advised against by the Tourist Board as far back as the 1990’s when it stated that the proposed erection of such signage was met with ‘outright hostility from almost every council.’”

Her party colleague, West Tyrone MLA Michaela Boyle called the signs a “provocative stunt.” She says the signs are politically motivated and called on the minister to rescind plans for their erection.

“Given that Danny Kennedy knows full well the contested nature of this loaded term his directive to impose this politically divisive signage, where it clearly will not be welcomed by the vast majority of the population, is a provocative stunt designed to foster division in the community.

“Danny Kennedy must now release how ill-conceived his stunt is by removing the five signs that have already been erected and by rescinding plans to proceed with the remaining three including the one planned for the Lifford-Strabane Road,” she says.