Green light for plan to make road signs 'more Irish'
Intensive lobbying by Conradh na Gaeilge could result in road signs being changed to give equal prominence to our two official languages.
Road signs display English place names more prominently than those as Gaeilge – but Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has now given his approval to replace these signs over time with a new version designed by the lobby group.
The minister and officials met with Conradh na Gaeilge earlier this week, and it unveiled new sign designs which make placenames the same size in Irish and English.
While no signs will be replaced in the short-term – the National Roads Authority (NRA) has just spent €65m re-signing the road network – the new ones may be used when needed.
Mr Varadkar has asked the NRA to consider using them on a trial basis, but new regulations must be passed before they can be put in place.
Existing road-sign legislation stipulates that priority must be given to English place names.
"I like the new design and I do think there should be parity between Irish and English where it matters, like road signs that people see every day," Mr Varadkar said. "But it's a bit like an election poster – it's only when you put it on a road and drive past that you really know whether it works.
"I have been in touch with the NRA and they are considering putting up a few signs on a trial basis to see what people think. These would be new signs that have to go up anyway so there would be no additional cost involved."
If it goes ahead, it means that road signs will be compliant with the Official Languages Act for the first time.
Julian de Spainn, from Conradh na Gaeilge, said the idea was first mooted a number of years ago, but the last government wasn't keen.
"It's about the language. All these things make a difference. We teach children about the importance of language, and they go outside and see that English is more prevalent on road signs. It differentiates us from other countries, too, which can only be a good thing for tourism."
The NRA said it was an "interesting proposal" and while it did have bilingual signs, it "looked forward" to implementing the idea.
"This initiative is being proposed by the minister and Department of Transport, and we look forward to their direction on it," a spokesman said.