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**DUP in a huff

'Irish' Lights Blow DUP Fuse Nov 28 2003

A SEASONAL war of words has erupted in Derry after Irish language Christmas signs were erected on the historic City Walls.

Doire le Duchas, a bilingual group based at An Gaelaras, launched its controversial signage initiative at a lighting-up ceremony this week.

The move has infuriated local DUP Alderman Gregory Campbell who had strongly objected to permission being granted by Derry City Council.

Mr. Campbell is also incensed that the Irish lights were officially switched on by Sinn Fein's national chairperson, Mitchel McLaughlin.

Doire le Duchas said it was delighted to announce the initiative as it is the first time any signage in Irish has been seen on Derry's ancient walls.

The festive greeting sign which has been erected reads 'BeannachtaÌ na Nollaig (Merry Christmas) - Failte go Doire' (Welcome to Derry).

Derry City Council recently granted permission for the signage to be erected despite angry objections from some unionist councillors.

Gregory Campbell, who led the opposition, claimed yesterday that the unionist community in Derry would view the event as "more of the same."

Speaking to the 'Journal' he said: "There has been repeated attempts by nationalist spokespersons to say that the city centre is neutral territory.

"But our contention is that it is increasingly not a neutral area and this sort of thing only goes to prove it when you get an Irish language sign going up on the City Walls.

"I believe this will be looked upon by the unionist community as more cold house treatment, especially given the fact it was opened by a member of Sinn Fein, whose military wing has spent 30 years murdering members of the unionist community," the DUP Alderman claimed.

"If the Orange Order was to ask for some sort of Ulster-Scots sign going up with someone who was associated with loyalist murder gangs opening it and that was put to the nationalist community, how would they feel?"

Mr. Campbell also claimed the erection of Irish signage ran contrary to the tradition of extending goodwill to all at Christmas time.

"The city centre ought to be viewed as an area which is made attractive to all communities and, if anybody thinks this makes it attractive for unionists they do not understand the feelings of the unionist community," he added.

However, Development Officer for Doire le Duchas, Ms. Sorcha NÌ Mhonagail, said: "This is an historic and very proud moment for the Irish language community which has long sought recognition for the language and its culture.

"We believe that this is an important step towards our aim of bilingualising the city of Derry, an ongoing programme of work which began with the erection of Irish language street-name plates."

Pointing out that this week's launch was the first of a set of five Irish language Christmas signs to be erected, Ms. NÌ Mhonagail added: "Doire le Duchas would like to encourage the public to support our campaign to celebrate the Irish language as a marker of our cultural diversity."

The launch ceremony held on the Walls was attended by representatives from local Irish language groups, pupils from Gaelscoil Eadain MhÛir and members of the public.

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