Sinn Féin councillor brands removal of Irish sign from ‘Protestant village’ a hate crime
A Sinn Féin councillor has condemned the removal of an Irish sign from a village in Co Derry and branded it a hate crime.
The signage was installed in Mill Park in Tobermore by Mid Ulster District Council on Thursday.
However, it was removed within two days by angry residents who left two Union flags in its place.
Local representative Ian Milne described the removal of the signpost as “an act of wanton destruction of which I unreservedly condemn”.
"It is clearly a hate crime and an attack on the ratepayers of the district and I would call on all political parties to call it out and condemn this act of hate vandalism," he said.
"Following international best practice for the protection of minority and indigenous languages internationally and within these islands, Mid Ulster District Council has developed its own Irish language policy which is aimed at protecting and promoting our language.
"The erection of bi-lingual place name signage is an important element within that policy.
"Irish language is not the preserve of any one section of our community, religion or race.”
His comments come after a DUP councillor said the installation of the sign came as a surprise to everyone who lives in the area – including elected representatives.
Anne Forde warned the local authority against replacing the stolen post which has infuriated many residents.
"A lot of people were very angry about this and many residents have been voicing their opposition to an Irish sign being put up in a Protestant village,” she said.
"I didn’t want to get into any disputes about this, but people are very unhappy.
"Everyone was shocked, I was shocked myself.
"It’s caused a whole hullabaloo.”
The Unionist representative accused the local authority of failing to carry out proper consultation before erecting the Irish sign at Mill Park and said replacing it will prove futile.
"This is not a village that speaks Irish,” she added.
"Most residents don’t accept the Irish language needs to be taught in Northern Ireland.
"I don’t know what way the council will deal with this going forward, but replacing the sign is a waste of ratepayers’ money because it’s obviously not going to get staying there.
"The council needs to accept that putting the sign there was not acceptable – it’s a Protestant village and no one was informed.”
TUV council candidate for Moyola Glenn Moore has also claimed the the Irish language sign “is neither needed nor wanted”.
"In fact, it has a negative impact on community relations as many local people will see it as an attempt to brand the park,” he said.
"This is, frankly, a pathetic attempt by Mid Ulster Council to rub the minority Unionist community's noses in republicanism.
"This is only resulting in increased community tension quite apart from the additional unnecessary expense of ratepayers' money."
The PSNI confirmed it is aware of the missing sign and the erection of flags in the villlage.
"Neighbourhood officers will be engaging with local representatives and agencies in the coming days,” a spokesperson said.
Mid Ulster District Council has been contacted for comment.