DUP claims meeting on Irish signs ‘a damp squib’

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The DUP group leader on Mid Ulster District Council yesterday described a special meeting involving councillors and police to discuss ongoing attacks on Irish road signs as “a damp squib.”

Councillor Paul McLean said while the PSNI have designated an officer to handle reports of vandalism of signs, he used the meeting to remind the Sinn Féin grouping “of some home truths”.

Cookstown Sinn Féin councillor John McNamee said it was now a “wait and see” situation over what the PSNI do following the discussions.

Almost 100 Irish signs have been vandalised in the district, particularly at Gulladuff and Cookstown, over a two-year period, costing thousands of pounds to replace.

Speaking after the meeting, Councillor McNamee said it was agreed that the designated officer would work closely with council and try to get preventative ways to stop the attacks.

He said all political parties had condemned the attacks, something he described as “positive” as the DUP had refused to condemn them at the environment committee meetings. “Hopefully now it will put an end to it,” he said referring to the attacks.

“We have been asking for a long time for a meeting to address how we are going to deal with it and the police took on board what we had to say and hopefully it will stop.”

Councillor McLean said the DUP had no issues condemning criminal damage, however he accused Sinn Féin of being “very selective in what they condemn” and he said he hadn’t heard them condemn the criminal damage inflicted by republicans over the past 35 years on property and person.

“While we are concerned about almost £11,000 pounds of damage having to be paid for by the rate payers there was no mention from Sinn Féin of the tens of thousands of pounds which have already been paid by all our rate payers to implement the dual signage policy in the first place,” he said.

The Magherafelt councillor claimed Sinn Féin as the largest grouping had the ability to resolve the problem by showing leadership in not enforcing a policy which caused division.

He likened the erection of dual signage to the behaviour of “some wild animals marking out their territory.”

“Unionists within Mid Ulster are constantly being isolated and undermined, our culture is being eroded, our celebrations are being hindered and all in the name of so called “good relations” by Sinn Féin,” he added.

SDLP council Chair councillor Martin Kearney described it as a stormy meeting.

He condemned the attacks on the Irish signs and said they were hate crimes.

Councillor Kearney said the Irish language is growing rapidly across Mid Ulster with a demand for medium schools and more places at primary and pre-schools.

“This community has to be respected and their views respected,” he said.

He added that the signs are in place at the request, and consent, of the majority of local residents.