Monday, June 08, 2020

Signs of the Times

Away back before Ulster-Scots became "officialised" under the terms of the Belfast Agreement in 1998, local community efforts were already working away to restore a sense of place.

This photo shows one of the "Fair Fa Ye" signs which greeted motorists arriving into the Ards Borough Council area, from memory these were installed around 1994-ish. It's a greeting used by William Starratt, James Orr and of course Robert Burns. Some of the Ards Peninsula villages also had brown signs installed to restore awareness of historic street names, alongside the blander names which had been introduced by policies in the 50s and 60s (see this previous post for Killyleagh examples). This restoration was all fairly positive and affirming stuff.

But, when Ards Borough Council merged with North Down Borough Council in May 2015, the "Fair Fa Ye" signs were all taken down. This was said at the time to be only a temporary thing due to forthcoming new council rebranding. Which was technically true, because new signs were indeed installed. But they are Ulster-Scots-free jaggy blue triangles which appear to be statements of corporate council power. The town and village arrival signs have little taglines about Rory McIlroy, the seaside, tasty spuds and suchlike. But the linguistic component is gone.

These (one might say 'sleekit') actions in 2015 reflect the same 'modernisation' policies of the 1950s and 1960s. The powers that be know better, and they literally have the 'power' to do what they want. There will of course have been a modicum of public consultation and a discussion at a Council meeting showing an exciting range of blue triangles that you can choose from. But once you enter the conversation about blue triangles, you have already conceded that blue triangles is what you're going to get. I know a few folk who exhausted themselves trying to fix it, to no avail.

Significant parts of Northern Ireland are run by a suburban-minded 'white collar supremacy' layer of policy makers.