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Sinn Féin’s use of Irish ‘same as a bullet’ - Unionist councillor

Thursday, 2 February 2017

AN independent Unionist councillor on Derry City and Strabane District Council has claimed that every word of Irish spoken by Sinn Féin elected representatives is "the same as a bullet being fired in the fight for independence".

Former DUP man, Maurice Devenney, made the remarks during a discussion at Thursday's monthly meeting of council.

He was reacting to a proposal by SF's Maoliosa McHugh to conduct a comprehensive review on language used on council's corporate branding and any signage.

The suggestion came during the ratification of the minutes of a previous council meeting on the 'European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages' when Cllr Devenney had accused Cllr McHugh and his colleagues' of "shoving it (Irish) down our throats".

Council currently operates a trilingual policy incorporating Irish, English and Ulster Scots but Unionists have claimed the review is an attempt to have the Ulster Scots removed.

Cllr McHugh said: "I propose that we initiate a comprehensive policy review on language used including on corporate branding and signage and that this would be conducted in the context of the Good Friday Agreement and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages."

He added that the review, which he said, is "long overdue" will "look at all aspects of provision". The motion was seconded by party colleague, Karina Carlin.

The SDLP's Martin Reilly backed the proposal but queried how it would taken forward. Council chief executive, John Kelpie, said that as is normal procedure "officers will go away and consider it" before bringing back a report via the Governance and Strategic Planning Committee.

Cllr McHugh said he envisaged that a working group to look at the proposal would also be set up.

In response to a further query this time from the DUP's Drew Thompson, Mr Kelpie said any decision that may lead to a policy change will be "screened" and subjected to an Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA).

Independent Unionist, Maurice Devenney then weighed-in on the debate and claimed that SF had "stolen the thunder" from independent councillor, Gary Donnelly, who would later table a motion at the same meeting calling for council to adopt a bilingual policy of Irish and English.

"I thought we had a very good policy here especially on the signage in and around our council offices," he sad. "We have the three languages; English, Irish and Ulster Scots and I would be worried by proposals coming forward here that there would be a notion here that some of these may be removed after consulattion.

"That would be very, very negative There has been good work done in this chamber and everyone has tried to work together."

Turning to Cllr McHugh, he continued: "How far do we take this? We had a debate here about the Irish language this last week. I state on the record once again, I have no problem with the Irish language but it's when it is used as a political football that I'm greatly annoyed by it.

"When you look at Sinn Féin and the comments they make, every word that is spoken in Irish is the same as a bullet being fired in the fight for independence or the unity of Ireland."

Cllr Devenney said his "mind boggles" when thinking of where Cllr McHugh is "trying to get to in this chamber."

"I believe ideas like this coming forward are going to undermine the good work that is being done by all the members of the chamber and I do believe that it could unravel all that," he added.

Cllr McHugh's review proposal eventually went to a vote and was passed with a majority of councillors supporting it.

Twnety-nine members of council voted in favour and ten - the DUP and UUP - voted against.

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