A furious row has erupted after a unionist councillor branded every Irish word spoken by Sinn Fein as ‘like a bullet being fired in the war for Irish independence’.
Independent unionist councillor Maurice Devenney made the comment at a meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council after a motion was brought forward by Sinn Fein’s Maoliosa McHugh calling for a review of the language used on signage in buildings in the council area.
Council currently has a trilingual policy with English, Irish and Ulster Scots being used. Unionists fear the review will see Ulster Scots signage being removed from council property.
Speaking as the motion was being discussed in the Guildhall’s council chamber, Councillor Devenney said that when Sinn Fein speak only of the Irish language, ‘every word is like a bullet being fired in the war for independence’.
Speaking afterwards, the Waterside councillor said: “I personally have no problem with Irish, but I do when it is used as a political football.
“My worry is that there are motions on the floor today that seem to be upping the ante on the Irish language. I am worried that Ulster Scots will be left out of the equation.”
Sinn Fein’s Maoliosa McHugh said that Irish was identified as a minority and threatened language in the European Charter and that Ulster Scots is not.
“Language has always been politicised on the island of Ireland from the day and hour the British landed here,” he said.
“Councillor Devenney might say he is not anti-Irish language, but I say he is very anti the very notion that an Irish identity should exist within the island of Ireland, and in particular the six counties. He is there to suppress any expression of that, whether it is through language or games or dance or music.”
DUP Councilllor David Ramsey weighed into the foray, saying the motion was ‘hypocritical’.
The motion was passed with support from councillors from Sinn Fein, SDLP and the independent benches. The UUP and DUP voted against.