With a little local difficulty exposing something of a north/south divide within his own party, Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan has decided to have an argument about road signs. “Welcome to Northern Ireland” road signs… Apparently, he’s concerned about the cost.
The Fermanagh & South Tyrone MLA said:
“The erection of these signs has angered many living in border communities who suffer the negative impact of partition on a daily basis and a large proportion of are completely opposed to the unnatural division of Ireland.
“It is my belief that Danny Kennedy’s time would be much better spent if he actually attempted to direct money into repairing our roads and improving public transport instead of squandering money on such petty, pointless political projects.”
“At the end of June, Mr Kennedy told the Assembly that were wasn’t enough money to pay for grass cutting, street lights and pothole repair and in fact he said he had no choice but to increase parking fines by 50% to cover the shortfall.
“How then can he justify wasting public money on the erection of signs, which no one wants and were advised against by the Tourist Board in the 1990’s who stated that the proposed erection of such was signage was met with ‘outright hostility from almost every council.’
The BBC reports the response from DUP MLA Alastair Ross
East Antrim MLA and Assembly Private Secretary for the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment Alastair Ross defended the signs and said it was “nonsense to quote surveys carried out by the tourist board under direct rule”.
“Under devolution we have made strides positively identifying the Northern Ireland tourist brand and these signs will play a part in that,” he said.
“Whilst some Sinn Fein representatives like to pretend the border doesn’t exist the vast majority of people simply want to see all political parties make Northern Ireland work. It’s time Phil Flanagan got on with that task.’ [added emphasis]
And the same BBC report quotes a Roads Service spokesman
A Roads Service spokesman said: “Signage is placed at strategic border crossing points to remind drivers entering Northern Ireland that speed limits are displayed in miles per hour.
“Roads Service is supplementing the existing signage with ‘Welcome to Northern Ireland’ signs indicating the change of jurisdiction.
“The programme of work is ongoing and five out of a total of eight signs have been placed at an approximate total cost of £950.” [added emphasis]
[Perhaps if the signs were bilingual... - Ed] Or the Northern Ireland Department of Education chipped in?
[Welcome to 'here'? - Ed] Indeed.
Adds From the latest BBC report
The minister Danny Kennedy said there was no “no great constitutional drama” about the signs and some people were “getting carried away”.
“These signs are entirely for information purposes,” he said.
“They’re welcoming visitors, particularly the many tourists who cross the border, to Northern Ireland and to remind them that speeds are measured in miles per hour, rather than the European measure of kilometres.”