“BENVENUTI IN IRLANDA DEL NORD”: CONTESA SUI SEGNALI AL CONFINE
Ulster Unionist MLA Tom Elliott has called on the Department of Regional Development to replace two ‘Welcome to Northern Ireland’ signs which have been stolen at the Co Fermanagh/Co Monaghan border.
The signs were erected to greet motorists driving into the region from the Irish Republic and also to inform them of the change from the ROI speed signage of kilometres per hour to the NI imperial system of miles per hour, according to Roads Minister Danny Kennedy.
Ordered by the UUP minister, they have been erected in areas such as the A38 between Strabane and Lifford, the A4 between Belcoo and Blacklion, and the A46 between Enniskillen and Donegal.
The existence of the signs has not been welcomed by everyone though and a war or words has erupted in Fermanagh.
Mr Elliott, MLA for the area, said such signs are “a common sight at land borders throughout the European Union,” before adding that the signs alert motorists to a change in traffic signage, road speed limits and driving regimes.
While the former UUP leader has ‘welcomed’ the signs, Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan has not extended a ‘fáilte’ to them.
Speaking to UTV, he claimed that the Roads Minister had the signs put up “without consultation”.
Mr Flanagan said that it was the rationale behind the signs that had upset many people in Fermanagh.
“This is a political project from Danny Kennedy to reinforce partition in some way.”
He said that attempts made over the years to introduce border signage had been met with hostility.
However, Mr Kennedy has accused objectors of “getting carried away”.
“This is not a deliberate attempt at causing a constitutional crisis,” he said.
The UUP Minister described the negative reaction to the signs from some political representatives as “deeply regrettable” and “a huge mistake on their behalf.”
Mr Kennedy told UTV that he hoped all politicians would condemn the theft or destruction of the two signs.
Meanwhile, DRD have said that the stolen signs – which were located at the A34 between Newtownbutler and Clones, and the B36 between Roslea and Monaghan – will be replaced in due course.
The PSNI have confirmed that they are not investigating the theft of the signage.