PEOPLE in Strabane who would like to see placenames in their area in Irish are being encouraged to apply to council to make it happen. Sinn Féin councillor Maolíosa McHugh is urging locals to avail of the opportunity to have bi-lingual signs erected in their area.
He explained, “As someone who has been active in promoting the language over many years I would particularly like to encourage residents to take advantage of the opportunity now existing to give practical expression to our Irish linguistic and cultural identity by applying to have a bi-lingual street/road sign erected where they live.
“This opportunity is open to, and inclusive of, all within the district whatever the minority language,” he explained. “The Strabane area has a particularly strong Irish language community who cherish their Irish identify of which the indigenous
language of our country is a vital part.”
Cllr McHugh, who is a member of the council’s minority languages working group says council policy in relation to the erection of bi-lingual street signage is very simple. “Any individual resident can initiate the process by contacting the council’s Irish language officer.
“Council will then write to each home owner/occupier in that street or road advising them of the application and inviting comment within 28 days.
“The decision for each sign will then be made based on the views expressed by those who respond either for or against the proposal.”
Séan Mór, who pens the weekly Irish Diary column in the Chronicle, is hoping more local residents will become proactive in advocating for bi-lingual signage.
“I would definitely welcome it, if it is easy and not a nuisance for people,” he said.
“I would prefer if the onus of erecting the signs was not put on the people but I am happy it is available and I welcome that.
“There are a thousand ways of learning Irish but there is no doubt bi-lingual signs would certainly help the process.
“Both my daughters were brought up in the language and my eldest was born the year before the Good Friday Agreement was implemented,” he continued.
“I remember one time in particular we were travelling to Lifford and she asked me “Daddy how come we never see any Irish in Strabane?” There is a sense of alienation among Irish speakers. Strabane has always had a very active Conradh na Gaeilge branch as well as the hundreds of local families going through the Gaelscoil so I believe the majority of people would be in favour of bringing bilingual signage back into the town.”
• For more information on erecting bi-lingual signs contact Pól Ó Frighil by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.