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Council’s ‘English Only’ policy a denial of ratepayers’ rights - Kearney

27 July, 2018 - by Declan Kearney

Writing in An Phoblacht today following a canvass in Hightown to highlight Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council's banning of bilingual signage and adoption of an 'English only' policy, Sinn Féin South Antrim MLA, Declan Kearney has called on rate payers in the council area to register their objections. 

He condemned the stance of unionist councillors as a denial of ratepayers’ rights, and a breach of equality legislation.

Mr Kearney said:

“In February this year, Antrim & Newtownabbey Council, in an unprecedented decision among all other councils in the north, disregarded equality legislation and the principles of parity of esteem and mutual respect by introducing an ‘English Only’ street signage policy.

“Antrim and Newtownabbey now has the ignominy of being the only council in the north to simultaneously ban bilingual signage and then adopt an exclusive and explicitly 'English only' policy.

“This decision taken by unionist councillors is unlawful. It is an affront to citizens’ rights and the principles of parity of esteem and mutual respect enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement. It is also in breach of local and international legal obligations as contained in Article 11 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) (NI) Order 1995, and the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages.

“This policy is anti-equality and a clear demonstration of contempt towards all those who claim the Irish identity in South Antrim, in particular those members and supporters of the expanding Irish speaking community throughout the constituency.

“There are hundreds of children in this Borough Council who are taught through the medium of Irish in four nursery schools and two primary schools, with additional provision in a separate English medium school, and demand is growing year on year.

“These schools are supported by an equally thriving Irish medium community sector, deservedly recognised for its transformational community development work.

“Local Irish language activists have now launched a Judicial Review to overturn the Council's 'English only' policy.

"I and other members of South Antrim Sinn Féin have begun engaging at a local level this week to help raise awareness among rate payers. Already this week I have carried out canvasses in Creggan and Hightown.

“I am urging concerned ratepayers to contact the Council’s Chief Executive and register their opposition to this blatant denial of rights and disrespect for the Irish identity.

“We will sustain this campaign until Antrim & Newtownabbey Council’s disgraceful decision is overturned.

"The people of Antrim and Newtownabbey pay high rates with the expectation of receiving good Council services. They do not pay high rates to be treated with abject disrespect."

Read Declan Kearney's latest blog in An Phoblacht here:

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