NI council’s use of Irish on logo criticised as ‘cultural sectarianism’

Former DUP minister says Newry, Mourne and Down district council’s policy is ‘political’

Former DUP minister for social development Nelson McCausland has described a decision by Newry, Mourne and Down district council to put Irish first on its logo and literature as an exercise in “cultural sectarianism”. File photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire

Former DUP minister for social development Nelson McCausland has described a decision by Newry, Mourne and Down district council to put Irish first on its logo and literature as an exercise in “cultural sectarianism”. File photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire

 

Former DUP minister Nelson McCausland has described a decision by one of the North’s new super councils to put Irish first on its logo as an exercise in “cultural sectarianism”.

Former minister for social development Mr McCausland criticised the decision by the Newry, Mourne and Down district council to put Irish first on its logos, literature and vehicles.

The new council formally comes into being in April, along with 10 other new councils which were elected last May to replace the North’s current 26 district councils.

Four of the councils have Sinn Féin/SDLP nationalist majorities - Newry, Mourne and Down, Derry and Strabane, Fermanagh and Omagh, and Mid-Ulster - while the Alliance Party holds the balance of power in Belfast. Unionists are in the majority in the remaining six councils.

The SDLP and Sinn Féin have indicated that, similar to Newry, Mourne and Down district council, they plan to follow an Irish-first policy in the three other councils with nationalist majorities, triggering the anger of unionist politicians.

The new logo sees “An Iúir, Mhúrn agus an Dúin” placed above “Newry, Mourne and Down”.

This latest Irish language row comes in the wake of DUP MP Gregory Campbell lampooning the Irish language late last year with his “curry my yogurt” remarks.

It also comes after Sinn Féin minister of culture Carál Ní Chuilín last week published draft proposals to introduce an Irish language act in Northern Ireland, despite threats from unionist politicians - who have an effective veto on the matter - that they will oppose such legislation.

‘Not surprised’

Mr McCausland said he was not surprised at the decision of the Newry, Mourne and Down district council considering that the existing Newry and Mourne district council had already named a children’s playground in Newry after IRA hunger striker Raymond McCreesh.

He said this demonstrated the “nature” of nationalism and republicanism in the area. He said English was the common language in Northern Ireland and the language that should have pre-eminence.

“In some areas people paint the kerbstones to lay claim to a particular piece of territory. This is simply the way the SDLP and Sinn Féin councillors in Newry and Mourne try to assert their domination, by enforcing the preference for and the prominence of Irish in their council area.” Mr McCausland told BBC Radio Ulster’s Stephen Nolan Show.

“It is quite frankly sectarian, it’s political and designed to cause offence,” Mr McCausland said.

“I think this is cultural sectarianism. It is the attempt to assert the dominance of a particular community, the nationalist and republican community.”

Ulster Unionist Party Newry and Mourne councillor David Taylor said his party was taking legal advice to see if the decision could be overturned on the basis that it discriminated against the “minority Protestant and unionist community” in the area.

Ukip councillor Henry Reilly said the Irish-first decision was an attempt, particularly by Sinn Féin, to “weaponise” the Irish language.

SDLP Newry and Armagh Assembly member Dominic Bradley rejected the complaints, and said a policy of bilingualism has operated in Newry and Mourne council for 30-years.

“I don’t think anyone in Newry and Mourne, where we have had Irish in a prominent position on headed notepaper and on council vehicles and on buildings, has felt to be discriminated against,” Mr Bradley said.

Newry and Mourne Sinn Féin councillor Barra Ó Muirí, an Irish language teacher, rejected the claim that the decision was a “wind-up” of unionism.