LAST week Sinn Féin Councillor for Magherafelt Séan Kerr temporarily withdrew a motion that would have seen the new signage for the new Greenvale Leisure Centre to have bi-lingual signage erected throughout the centre.
Speaking on the decision Cllr. Séan Kerr said: “It has been implied that we were somehow ‘forced’ to withdraw the motion. This is simply untrue. Being in the majority in the council we could, if we so wished, ‘force’ every motion that we desire through.
“However, with equality and fairness being cornerstones of Sinn Féin ethos and policy this is rather another good example of how we will seriously take onboard concerns of others in the council that are contrary to our wishes and give them fair consideration. For me, this is very much something to be proud of and a great example that Sinn Féin in majority can, and will, act on behalf of all our community.
“It is a shame that the motion has been delayed when the sole purpose of raising the issue at this time was to save rate payers money. With the Irish Language Policy fully expected to be ratified in the near future there should then be no objection, technical or otherwise, to this motion being carried. This is evident in that the agreement has now been reached that only minimal signage will be erected, for health and safety necessity.
“So there will now have to be retrospective work carried out which could have been done in the first instance. I think that perhaps others in the council should consider their motivation and instead of resisting equality and positive change at the rate payers expense look at making some positive contribution. It is a pity that some members of the council allowed their petty prejudices to get in the way of what is a sensible motion.
“What was even more worrying on the night was the attitude of the SDLP, who said that they were in favour of the use of the Irish language as long as it was used ‘properly’. It would appear then that some people have not moved away from the failed policy of the Northern Ireland Office in the eighties when funding was removed from Irish language organisations because they had republicans as members.
“I asked the SDLP on the night to clarify what the ‘proper’ use of the Irish language meant and I, as yet, await a reply. As a fluent Irish speaker I can attest to the proper grammatical and syntactical use of the language so I can only presume that the SDLP were referring to what they would describe as the political use of the language. Rather than republicans it has been the reactionary forces of the British government, unionists and the SDLP who have politicised the language by accusing republicans of hijacking it.
“The European Charter for Minority Languages places an onus on local authorities here to pro-actively promote Irish, and Magherafelt Council is no exception. I merely ask that we adhere to this.”
Responding to the Sinn Feinn councillor’s comments SDLP Councillor Jim Campbell said, “When joining the debate I asked SF to withdraw their motion because it wasn’t the right time for it.
“In addition to breaching equality legislation it could also have had serious legal implications and costs for the Council members supporting it . This could also have led to a lengthy delay in getting the pool opened.
“As far as the SDLP are concerned we felt the motion was pre-empting the outcome of the public consultation process and this was not the correct way to promote the Irish Language.
“By withdrawing their motion to seek legal advice perhaps SF saw some wisdom in our point albeit they have reacted a bit like the drowning man blaming his rescuers for throwing him in”.