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Irish language festive signing campaign exceeds target despite council row

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Irish language festive signing campaign exceeds  target despite council row thumbnailA campaign is underway to secure Christmas festive lights in Irish for Strabane.

A CAMPAIGN to raise £2,000 for Irish language festive signage in Strabane has exceeded its target just days after councillors voted to put the brakes on the idea.

A Sinn Féin motion proposing that: "Council procures and erects festive greeting signage in the Irish language as part of the new council area's Christmas lighting display for Christmas 2016 and thereafter" was superseded by an SDLP amendment calling for an equality impact assessment to consider the "costs benefits and logistics of erecting festive greeting signage in other languages as spoken by citizens in the region".

The study will incorporate the Irish language as well as English and the Ulster Scots as requested by the DUP.

News of the outcome has been greeted with widespread anger online with many describing it as "insulting" to the Irish language.

Hours after the meeting, the wheels were put in motion for a community-based campaign to raise £2,000 to purchase Irish language signs for the town in time for the festive period.

The campaign, at the time of going to press yesterday (Tuesday) had raised well in excess of the target. It is being spearheaded by local Gaelgoir (Irish speaker), Sean (Mór) Daimhin.

He has also set up a 'Soilse an Phobail' (The People's Lights) Facebook page to keep the public up-to-date with the campaign.

Speaking on the fundraising page, he said he and supporters of the campaign have been "totally overwhelmed" by the public's reaction to the campaign.

"A number of representatives on our local authority have voted that simple Irish language lights expressing a Christmas Greeting 'Nollaig Shona' must undergo some equality impact assessment before they can be considered appropriate for public display.

"This is an insult to every child in our town who attends the local Gaelscoil, and to all those families struggling to breathe life into the Irish language every day of our lives.

"We do not need the approval of anyone to speak our language nor see it side by side with English, which we also respect.

"This decision is a bigger threat to equality than the actual language itself. It has in some way cast a controversial or suspicious cloud over the Irish language."

Vowing that every penny donated will go towards the signage, he added: "Every penny will go towards purchasing lights and decorations that will bring the Irish language to life in the middle of our town at Christmas, and we will show our young Irish-speaking children that we welcome and embrace them equally with all others."

With the fundraising target reached moves are now underway to procure the signage and location in time for the forthcoming Christmas lights 'switch-on'.

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