Gaeltacht communities who call for bilingual road signs ‘should be careful what they wish for’, as it could mean they lose their Gaeltacht status, according to a senior council official.
Irish-language-only road signs were erected in Gaeltacht areas in 2005. Since then, a number of local representatives have called for the introduction of bilingual signs, claiming that the Irish-only signs were confusing tourists. Signs pointing to Gaeltacht areas such as Belmullet now only have Béal an Mhuirthead written on them. In some cases they have been vandalised, with the English spray-painted onto them.
Last December, Mayo County Council’s Roads and Transportation committee requested a review of the Official Languages Act with a view to having all directional road signs in bilingual form. The matter was due to be discussed at last month’s meeting of Mayo County Council, but the meeting was adjourned.
Mr Joe Beirne, Director of Services told The Mayo News that the Irish-only signs are a legal requirement and that the Coimisinéir Teanga (Language Commission) has asked that the signs remain. He added that correspondence received from the commission suggested the communities in question may have to decide whether they want to remain in the Gaeltacht or have bilingual signs.
“While there is local agreement to have bilingual signs, the law is the law and under the Official Languages Act the signs have to be in Irish only.
“From reading replies from the Coimisinéir Teanga, communities will have to be careful what they wish for, because [the commission] would seem happy to take [the Gaeltacht status] away,” said Mr Beirne.
In a letter to Mr Beirne dated September 2009, Máire Killoran, a Director with the Coimisinéir Teanga, said that the vandalism of signs may indicate that people may not want these areas to retain their Gaeltacht status.
“The conclusion one might be forced to reach is that such action [vandalism of signs] could only be undertaken by individuals who believe that those particular places do not warrant recognition as Gaeltacht areas.
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