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Unionists oppose bilingual road signs

Bilingual road signs seen in the Republic of Ireland could be replicated in Northern Ireland under plans put forward by Sinn Féin last week.

However, the proposals for signs in Gaelic and English have already run into opposition from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Plans have still to be formally presented to the Northern Ireland Assembly by regional development minister Conor Murphy.

DUP member of the legislative assembly Jim Wells is strongly opposed to the idea.

"There will be no introduction of Irish on our road signs. Not only would this be seen as merely another political stunt, but at a time when we must target our public spending to areas most in need, the public would see such spending as a gross waste of public money."

The Road Traffic Regulation (NI) Order 1997 gives the Department power to either prescribe or authorise traffic signs for the purpose of conveying warnings, information, requirements, restrictions or prohibitions to traffic.

There is no provision within the legislation for the erection of traffic signs in any language other than English. Different legislation permitting the use of bilingual signing applies in Wales and Scotland.

Murphy said the legislation would need to be amended for his proposals to go ahead. "My department's road service is developing policy proposals that will lead to legislative amendment and enable a limited number of bilingual road signs," he added.

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