Newtownabbey: residents to be canvassed on Irish language street signs
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Applications have been made for the signs in Bawnmore Grove, Bawnmore Place and Newton Gardens in Newtownabbey.
A meeting of the council on Monday of last week was told residents signing the petitions meet the “one third threshold as required within the approved policy”.
An application must be supported by a petition representing at least one third of residents and must have the backing of the council before it can proceed to the next stage of canvassing street residents by post to seek their views on the request to erect a street sign in a second specified language.
Councillors were advised the recommendation is for a canvass of residents of Bawnmore Grove, Bawnmore Place and Newton Gardens to be approved.
The recommendation was proposed by Antrim SDLP Councillor Roisin Lynch and seconded by Macedon Alliance Cllr Billy Webb MBE.
Commenting on the applications on social media recently, Macedon Sinn Fein Cllr Taylor McGrann said: “We will be working closely with residents to ensure that the process can go as smoothly as possible in order for us to be successful in achieving the first ever Irish street signs in Antrim and Newtownabbey
Councillors have also been told a further three applications have been received. However, in line with council policy, a maximum of three applications per month are processed on a “first come basis”.
In January, a bid for an Irish language street sign in Newtownabbey was defeated due to insufficient support in the community.
In a canvas of 67 residents of Cashelton Manor, Glengormley, carried out by the council, 25 of the 34 who replied were in favour of a dual language sign. The result of the canvas will not allow any further applications from that area to be considered by the council until February 2026.
The council’s Dual Language Street Sign Policy states that two-thirds or more of all those canvassed must indicate that they are in favour of the erection of a second language street sign before the application can be brought before the council for a decision.
If a decision is approved by the authority to erect a street sign in a second language, a translation will have to be carried out by an independent body. The second language sign will be placed below the English in lettering the same size. The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 gives councils the power to erect dual language street signs or secondary nameplates in a language other than English.
The issue first arose in February 2018 when the council received a request from Abbeyville Residents’ Association for five Irish language street signs which was turned down after councillors voted in favour of a policy retaining street signs in English only.
However, in September 2018, the council was forced to do a U-turn after being challenged in the High Court by a resident who sought a judicial review over a “deeply held concern that the policy adopted by the borough council was unlawful”.
According to the 2021 census, 6.52 per cent of Antrim and Newtownabbey residents have some knowledge of Irish; 2.9 per cent can speak, read, write and understand Irish and 1,164 residents can speak Irish.
Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter