Children's lives put at risk after Council decision
Row erupts on eve of opening of Swim Centre

Just weeks ahead of the eagerly anticipated opening of the £6 million Falls Swim Centre, health and safery concerns are being raised due to the lack of bilingual signage in the centre.

English language-only signage will be provided throughout the centre which is due to open next month. Calls for signs to be erected in both English and Irish throughout the centre have been turned down by the City Council. A multi-lingual welcome sign will be erected at the entrance to the leisure centre.

However, Gaelgeoirs in West Belfast have now started a campaign to have this decision reversed. Hundred of local children in the area attend Irish language schools where they don’t learn to read English until Primary Three. The lack of Irish signage, say campaigners, could lead to serious injury at the centre, or even worse.

Local gaelgeoirs say that the decision not to have Irish signage in the centre is a kick in the teeth for the Irish language but say that they will not take the decision lying down.

Maírtín Maguidhir, Irish in Business Development Officer with Forbairt Feirste, says that for many children in West Belfast, Irish is their first language and to have signs only in English beside the swimming pool is a health and safety concern.

“One of our big concerns is that there is a huge concentration of Irish language schools in this area and children using the leisure centre might not be able to read English signs,” said Maírtín.

“Children aren’t taught to read English in Irish language schools until they are in Primary Three which means that they will not be able to read the signs in the swim centre. This throws up huge safety concerns and I know that a lot of local parents are concerned. We will investigate the possibility of taking legal action against the Council if this decision is not reversed,” he added.

Maírtín said that local Irish speakers are furious that bilingual signage will not go up in the new facility.

“The swim centre is in the heart of the Gaeltacht Quarter yet the Irish language is being ignored. This is a slap in the face for local Irish speakers and we are not prepared to take this lying down.

“We have requested a meeting with the Head of Client Services and the Chief Executive at the City Council and want the decision reversed. We are planning a campaign to get the bilingual signs put up and will protest during the opening if this decision is not reversed,” he added.

Local MLA Fra McCann says he intends to lobby the Council further on the issue.

“This decision has downgraded the Irish language,” said Councillor McCann. “Thousands of people in West Belfast use the Irish language as their primary language.

“I will be lending my support to the campaign started by local Irish speakers to have bilingual signage,” he added.

A spokesman for Belfast City Council said that the new signs would follow Council policy.

“Normal practice at all Belfast City Council's facilities is that all signage is in English, and the Council agreed that this practice be followed at Falls.

“As Falls is a new development, it was agreed that the welcome sign at the centre would reflect the cultural diversity of the city, although the final decision on what languages will be featured has not yet been made. The Council also has decided that internal signs also will be provided in Braille,” he added.

Journalist:: Roisin McManus

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?