The National Council of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) voted to support bilingual signs in Northern Irish colleges, at a meeting held in Trinity college.
According to the USI’s Vice President for the Irish Language Clíodhna Ní Dhufaigh, the aim of the motion was to show solidarity with Cumainn Ghaelacha (Irish language college societies) in Northern Ireland by having signs in both English and Irish.
“Having bilingual signs, where Irish and English are on equal footing, allows for Irish to become a natural part of a student’s college environment,” Ní Dhufaigh said.
Support for the motion was echoed by DCU Students’ Union’s (SU) Irish Officer, Sorcha Ní Chongaile.
“The campaign for bilingual signage in Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) and Ulster University (UU) from students needed support from the national union at the end of the day, so in my personal view, feel it’s a step in the right direction,” she said.
According to Ní Dhufaigh, there was no objection to the motion and added that: “With Irish being seen as a controversial issue in the North, often being described as ‘sectarian’ or ‘offensive’, it is even more vital to treat the language as it should be treated – as a language – and not as a political issue as it has been in the past.”
Students in Northern Irish colleges are members of both the USI and the National Union of Students of the United Kingdom which collectively operate the Northern Irish student movement, the NUS-USI.
Ní Dhufaigh said that the President of the NUS-USI spoke on the importance of showing solidarity with Northern Irish students.
“I myself made the point that bilingual signage is a natural part of our environment in the south and can often be taken for granted,” she said. She added that there are students in the North who are campaigning for language rights to be recognised and they should be supported by the USI.
Ní Chongaile said that opposition is possible, but she’s hopeful the motion can be implemented in a way that suits most people. Meanwhile, Ní Dhufaigh said that the greatest challenge would be lobbying college authorities to erect bilingual signs on a campus-wide basis.
“Both these unions [QUBSU and UUSU] and their Cumainn Ghaelacha have had enormous difficulty with college authorities delaying consultations, as well as the bureaucratic structures that have been put in place in order to delay or deter students from campaigning on these issues under the guise of ‘good relations’” she said.
Brendan Fernando Kelly Palenque
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