Councillors locked horns last night in a “slightly predictable” committee debate over Mid Ulster’s proposed Irish Language Policy.
With Unionists on one side and Sinn Fein on the other, it was decided at the Policy and Resources Committee meeting that the consultation report would be sent to the Good Relations Team for its consideration before being presented to council.
A move that Sinn Fein’s Sean McPeake said “can’t be seen a blocker’s charter” for anyone who’s offended.
DUP councillor, Paul McLean and the UUP’s Walter Cuddy both raised concerns about the money being spent on the promotion of the language as only the sixth most popular in the district, but also said the report of the 14-week consultation “minimised” unionist views.
Councillor McLean said: “Everybody knows my position on this already. We as a group had accepted that this was a foregone conclusion - that this was going to go through.”
Outlining his willingness to be part of the Good Relations group that would consider the report, Cllr McLean added: “I believe it needs to go to Good Relations... if it is not clearly managed there will be a backlash.”
In support of Cllr McLean, Cllr Cuddy, added: “I am not against the Irish language. What I am concerned about is the cost.”
Cllr Cuddy went on to say, of the 64 per cent of Catholics living in Mid Ulster, only 6% could speak the language fluently despite being taught it “for free” in school.
And why, as only the “sixth most spoken language in Mid Ulster” it was being given such priority.
After welcoming the report, Cllr McPeake said he thought the emphasis should be on raising awareness about the Irish language and hit out at his unionist counterparts for not attending an event with Linda Ervine, organised in support of the policy.
To which, McLean said: “To me that was a token gesture.
“Sinn Fein have failed as they have used it as a political tool and that is why we have the party lines drawn.”
Councillor Catherine Elattar, asked: “Does the council not have an obligation to promote the Irish language?” - before McPeake accused McLean of saying he would do anything to stop the policy going through.
“He sat in this seat and said he would use any means possible at his disposal to stop the Irish language going through.
“There are some people who do not want the language about the place.”
Calling some of the comments made “slightly predictable”, chair Sean McGuigan took a vote on the paper and it was agreed it would be sent to Good Relations.