Irish language activists challenge ‘English only’ policy

Declan Kearney.
Declan Kearney.

Irish language speakers are seeking a Judicial Review into Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council’s ‘English only’ policy.

In February unionist members voted in favour of the policy in relation to street signs in the borough.

Mossley Mill.

Mossley Mill.

It came after a request to council from Abbeyville Residents Association for five street signs to be expressed in Irish.

Following the decision, South Antrim Sinn Fein MLA, Declan Kearney has been liaising with local Irish language speakers.

After recently hearing concerns in the Glengormley area over the policy, Mr Kearney alleged: “It is an affront to citizens’ rights and the principles of parity of esteem and mutual respect enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement.

“It is also in breach of local and international legal obligations as contained in Article 11 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) (NI) Order 1995, and the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages.

“This policy is anti-equality and a clear demonstration of contempt towards all those who claim the Irish identity in South Antrim, in particular those members and supporters of the expanding Irish speaking community throughout the constituency.”

He added: “Local Irish language activists have now launched a Judicial Review to overturn the council’s ‘English only’ policy.

“I am urging concerned ratepayers to contact the council’s chief executive and register their opposition to this blatant denial of rights and disrespect for the Irish identity.

“We will sustain this campaign until Antrim and Newtownabbey council’s disgraceful decision is overturned.”

Commenting on the legal proceedings, a spokesperson for the local authority said: “The council received a legal challenge in relation to the council decision on February 26 2018 ‘that the council adopts a policy to provide street signs in English only’. The matter is being dealt with by the council’s solicitors.”

It is understood the Judicial Review is listed in September for a Leave Hearing, whereby the judge will decide if there is a case to answer.