Controversial ‘Welcome to Northern Ireland’ road sign set for South Armagh
The controversial ‘Welcome to Northern Ireland’ road signs that have caused widespread Nationalist anger across the country are set to be erected in South Armagh over the coming weeks.
The signs already erected in areas across the North have caused a political storm, with several nationalist politicians labeling the decision as ‘politically motivated’. Two signs, erected in Newtownbutler and Rosslea, have already been stolen within days of being put up and a sign in the Belcoo area remains after an unsuccessful bid to steal it.
However, Newry and Armagh Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kennedy remains adamant that the rest of the signs will go up as planned over the next few weeks, one of which will be placed on the A1 between Newry and Dundalk in South Armagh.
Reacting to the theft of two previous signs and stating his intention to continue on with the sign for South Armagh, Kennedy said there was an over-reaction to the signage scheme. “Some people have lost the run of themselves over these signs. There has been a complete over-reaction.”
Kennedy said it was ‘sad’ that two signs had already been removed and acknowledged that more will ‘probably’ be removed across Northern Ireland over the coming weeks.
He continued, “This was identified as an important issue. On safety grounds it is important for tourists travelling into Northern Ireland from the Republic to know that they are in a different country, where the speed restrictions are in miles rather than kilometers.”
“We have more of the signs to put up in other counties of Northern Ireland. We will also be looking to replace those that have been taken down. It is hugely disappointing and sad that people have taken them down. This was not some plan to create a constitutional crisis, but it is August and it is the political silly season it seems.”
SDLP Assembly Member for Newry and Armagh, Dominic Bradley described the signs as Danny Kennedy ‘simply making a political point’. Bradley stated, “These signs are totally unnecessary as the border is largely an irrelevancy and as a result most people are not too concerned about them - a sign welcoming people to the relevant county – e.g., Fáilte go Co. Ard Mhacha - would be useful.”
He added, “More and more people are viewing issues on an all-island basis and placing emphasis on the things which unite us all. The Minister is simply making a political point by having these signs erected and his justification on the basis of the variation in speed limits does not stand up to scrutiny. We already have signs warning people of the change in speed limits and these are sufficient.”
Newry and Armagh DUP MLA William Irwin welcomed the signs and said they were a vital part of road safety and speed awareness.
He stated, “I welcome the signs currently being put in place in key border crossings as they are a very important element of road safety, especially for tourists given the differences in speed limits as it gives a clear message that speed limits are in miles per hour as opposed to kilometers per hour.”
“It also obviously shows clearly where the border is in terms of the road network which is also useful for tourists. I understand that some of the signs have been taken down by those obviously opposed to reality which is very strange but not surprising in some of the more republican orientated border areas.”
He added, “However, Minister Kennedy has vowed to replace these and I hope that he does so as they are a useful addition to the road network.”
DUP South Down MLA Jim Wells agreed with his DUP colleague. He stated, “I hope that the ‘Welcome to Northern Ireland’ signs go up as soon as possible. It is vital that drivers arriving in Northern Ireland are made aware that they are in a different country where the traffic speed limits and legislation is different to that which relates to the Republic of Ireland.”
He added, “The signs will also promote tourism. Every other country in the world has similar signs, so why not Northern Ireland?”
Newry Times carried out a poll amongst our readers to see how they felt about the road signs. We asked our readers whether they agreed with the signs being placed in South Armagh, disagreed with the signs or whether they didn’t know / didn’t care.
There was a mixed reception to the signs amongst our readers. Out of 171 respondents, 27 agreed with placing the ‘Welcome to Northern Ireland’ signs in South Armagh. 97 people said they disagreed with the signs and 47 people said they didn’t know or didn’t care. The results can be seen on our Facebook page here: Newry Times Facebook
One of the respondents to the poll – Shane Kelly – disagreed with the signs. He commented, “The south use signs at the border simply indicating speed limits km/h. Signs indicating speed limits mph would be adequate.”