Irish graphics on Council vehicles raise concerns

Published: 3 Jan 2013 13:001 comment

AN Ulster Unionist assembly member has claimed protestant employees of Fermanagh District Council are fearing "verbal and physical abuse" over the use of the Irish language on Council-owned vehicles.

One of the Fermanagh District Council vans with the dual language.

But the chief executive of Fermanagh District Council, Brendan Hegarty, says he is "not aware" of any employees raising concerns, despite what Tom Elliott is claiming.

Mr Elliott is angry that the policy, passed by the Council in June of last year to include Irish graphics on the passenger's side and the back of its electric vehicles, was not 'vetted' by the equality commission first and "bemused" by the Council's decision not to carry out an equality impact assessment before implementing it.

Mr Elliott says he is also concerned that Council officers did not brief councillors -- including his Ulster Unionist Party colleagues who voted against the policy -- about the results of the Council's 'screening matrix', the method it used to determine that an impact assessment was not required.

He has reported the matter to the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.

In a letter to Mr Hegarty, chief executive of Fermanagh District Council, Mr Elliott criticised the move and added: "Given that the policy falls into Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 whereby a public authority must have due regard to the need to promise equality of opportunity between persons of different religious belief and political opinion. This policy, by the inclusion of Irish language and not including other languages such as Ulster Scots has a significant equality impact on members of the public as well as Fermanagh District Council employees from Protestant and Unionist backgrounds. It does not provide equality or parity."

The politician says he has received complaints about the matter from members of the public and Fermanagh District Council employees.

He wrote: "Members of the public have indicated that while they do not want to have [the] Irish language on the Council vehicles, if that is to happen then there should be equality by also having other languages, including Ulster Scots. I also have a complaint from a member of the Polish Community living in Fermanagh who is complaining that there is no equality in the policy for him as he has a very limited knowledge of English and no knowledge of Irish.

"There is particular concern that when using vehicles with the Irish language on them in areas that are predominantly protestant and unionist there is potential for verbal and physical abuse, which will be directed at all the Council employees."

He said the workplace "should be a neutral working environment free from symbols and emblems that are controversial and intimidating to large sections of the workforce" and added: "However, this decision of including the Irish language on the vehicles that these employees are using is adding this controversy into the workplace by means of a Council policy."

A copy of the screening matrix carried out by Fermanagh District Council has been obtained by this newspaper.

"When you look and read the screening matrix they used it actually makes a joke and nonsense of their decision not to go ahead and contact the equality commission and have an equality impact assessment," Mr Elliott told The Impartial Reporter.

One of the question asks: "Is there any evidence that different groups have different needs, experiences, issues and priorities in relation to the particular policy issue?"

The Council's answer reads: "We do not envisage that the policy will have any adverse impact on any individual or group. Those who wish to interact with public bodies through the medium of English will not be affected, and provision of services will continue unaffected."

Mr Elliott has taken exception with the Council's response, saying: "That is absolute nonsense; of course this impacts on certain groups. For example, I am sure the Orange Order wouldn't have any affiliation with the Irish language. This would also include the Unionist councillors who voted against it -- there was clear identification that there was a difference of opinion. If the Council officers can't see that, then I don't know, it just makes a nonsense of it all."

He added: "The results of the screening matrix was not relayed to the councillors and it should have been."

In response, Brendan Hegarty has told this newspaper that the Council uses the tools of screening and equality impact assessment to "assess the likely impact of a policy on the promotion of equality of opportunity and good relations."

"If our screening concludes that the likely impact of a policy is 'none', in respect of all of the equality of opportunity and/or good relations categories, we may decide to screen the policy out i.e. determine that a full Equality Impact Assessment is not required."

Asked why Fermanagh District Council did not seek advice from the equality commission first, Mr Hegarty said: "Fermanagh District Council undertook research into the implications of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, the Belfast Agreement and the St. Andrews Agreement, together with the Equality legislation and the Council's own Linguistic Diversity Policy. The Council also took account of the Equality Commission's response to the DCAL consultation on proposed Irish Language legislation."

Asked why council officers did not brief councillors about the results of its 'screening matrix', Mr Hegarty said: "There was an extensive discussion about equality implications at the Committee and the information provided by officers was in accordance with the outcome of the screening exercise. We also advised members that when appropriate census information was available regarding the use of the Ulster Scots language in Fermanagh we would consider the implications from an equality point of view."

In relation to council employees expressing concerns, as Mr Elliott claims, Mr Hegarty said: "No council employee has expressed any concern to me, nor am I aware of any concerns being raised through management."

Jump to first paragraph.

Comments

comments powered by Disqus

Get more stories from our Roundup section

24 Apr 2014 21:18

Beragh see off Lisbellaw to set up final date with Town

Stephen Browne proved to be the match winner for Beragh Swifts as they set up an Impartial Reporter Mulhern Cup final meeting with Enniskillen Town United following a 2-0 win over Lisbellaw United at Ferney Park tonight Browne bagged both the second half goals that saw Beragh progress.

Social:

24 Apr 2014 19:00 • Editorial Department

Churches come together to commemorate the sadness of Good Friday

The sadness and poignancy of Good Friday was commemorated by the congregations of The Graan and Rossorry Parish Church, who came together for “The Way of the Cross”.

Social: Comments0 comments

24 Apr 2014 19:00 • Rodney Edwards

#fermanaghspake This Week is...

Led (as in ‘Lad’)

Social: Comments0 comments

24 Apr 2014 17:00 • Rodney Edwards

Villiers’ sums ‘don’t add up’

SINN Fein MLA Rosie McCorley used her Easter address in Fermanagh on Sunday to hit out at Secretary of State Theresa Villiers who last week said that any review into the past must have “proportionate focus on the wrongdoing of paramilitaries”.

Social: Comments0 comments

24 Apr 2014 17:00 • Editorial Department

Tamboran expect to drill a well in Ireland in June or July, report says

FRACKING company Tamboran’s Chief Executive Officer Joel Riddle has said that it expects to drill a well in Ireland in June or July.

Social: Comments0 comments

24 Apr 2014 16:00 • Rodney Edwards

Mass rule is ‘destroying the Orange Order’

A FERMANAGH Orangeman has spoken of how he has been on the verge of quitting the organisation over its “stupid rule” about members attending Catholic church services.

Social: Comments0 comments

24 Apr 2014 16:00 • Rodney Edwards

Criticism of those who wear ‘convict uniform to toast Queen’

THE deaths of prominent Republicans Jim Murphy and Patrick McManus have been remembered during commemorative events in Derrylin and Swanlinbar, organised by the 1916 Sean MacDiarmada society.

Social: Comments0 comments

24 Apr 2014 15:00 • Editorial Department

Kilkenny man is new manager at Lough Erne

Kilkenny-man Andrew Phelan has been appointed as General Manager of the Lough Erne Resort.

Social: Comments0 comments

24 Apr 2014 15:00 • Meadhbh Monahan

Shareholder claims that Glanbia made £10,000 offer at meeting

FIVEMILETOWN Co-operative Society shareholders have been offered £10,000 each from Glanbia, a shareholder has claimed.

Social: Comments0 comments

24 Apr 2014 14:00 • Lily Dane

Quinton family dealt another blow with death of Christopher

The Quinton family has been dealt another tragic blow with the news this week of the unexpected death of Christopher Quinton whose passing is being met with shock and sadness in the community.

Social: Comments0 comments

24 Apr 2014 14:00 • Rodney Edwards

Call for ban on GAA jerseys at universities debated

SINN Fein’s Phil Flanagan has discussed Jim Allister’s call for a ban on GAA jerseys from universities in Northern Ireland with the Employment and Learning Minister, Dr. Stephen Farry.

Social: Comments0 comments

24 Apr 2014 13:00 • Rodney Edwards

'Nanny, nanny... he's dead, dead'

The call no mother wants - read Ruby Brown's moving interview following the death of her son Richard in a motorbike accident

Social: Comments0 comments

24 Apr 2014 13:00 • Julie Kenwell

Collegiate given chance of 11th hour appeal to WELB

PARENTS of Collegiate Grammar School are to make an 11th hour appeal to members of the Western Education Library Board (WELB) not to sign off on a development proposal which would see it merge with Portora Royal next year.

Social: Comments0 comments

24 Apr 2014 10:15

3,000-year-old bogwood sculptures installed at SWAH garden

BOGWOOD sculptures over 3,000 years old have been installed at the South West Acute Hospital (SWAH) garden.

Social:

24 Apr 2014 10:00 • Editorial Department

Inside today's paper

Way of the Cross: Congregations walk together on Good Friday.

Social: Comments0 comments

24 Apr 2014 09:30 • Editorial Department

In today's Impartial Reporter:

The phone call no mother wants as Ruby Brown tells of the moment she learned of the death of son Richard in a motorbike accident. Read her in-depth and moving interview.

Social: Comments0 comments

23 Apr 2014 21:30

Late Breen strike sends Town into final

Enniskillen Town Utd came from a goal down to book their place in the final of the Impartial Reporter Mulhern Cup with a 2-1 win over Kesh at Ferney Park tonight.

Social:

23 Apr 2014 15:35

Car stolen in "creeper burglary"

A car was stolen during a so-called “creeper burglary” at Raceview Court near the Cornagrade Road in Enniskillen.

Social:

23 Apr 2014 13:15

Castle Archdale hosts Dawn Chorus event

LOCAL people are invited to meet at Castle Archdale at 5am on Saturday, May 3, to listen to the birds welcome the new day in fine voice.

Social:

23 Apr 2014 11:30

Radio DJ includes Fermanagh stop in marathon challenge for charity

A radio DJ will bring her fundraising marathon challenge to Fermanagh this June in aid of Cancer Research UK.

Social: