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Judicial Review proceedings launched as Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council refuse to approve a bilingual street sign

Residents of Woodside Hill overcame all obstacles and met each threshold within the draconian policy, but still the Council rejected the application.

Judicial proceedings have been lodged against Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon (ABC) Borough Council after rejecting an application for bilingual street signage at Woodside Hill in Portadown, despite the high thresholds in its own policy being clearly met and residents following all appropriate Council procedures.

Under the Council’s procedural criteria for their dual language street signage policy, applications must be supported by a petition from 33% of residents supporting the application and at least 66%+ (⅔+) support from residents on the electoral register in a council-posted survey. Non-responses are automatically deemed as opposition to the application. The initiatory 33% petition was submitted to the council in September 2022 and a 6-month delay preceded the application progressing to the council-posted street survey in late January 2023.

Despite the significant delays and unjustifiable thresholds within the policy, the application obtained the required support and was deemed valid, with at least 64 resident votes in favour and only 3 residents voting against. When presented to ABC’s planning committee on the 4th October 2023, over 1 year since the initial application was made, the application was rejected. This decision was upheld at a meeting of the full council on the 23rd October 2023 on a vote of 19-21.

Throughout this entire process, all council proceedings and decisions relating to this application were conducted in secrecy, under confidential council business. No information or explanations were provided on the reasoning of why the decision making process was conducted behind closed doors.

Cuisle Nic Liam, Language Rights Coordinator with Conradh na Gaeilge, said:

“Local councils across the north have a pivotal role to play in the protection and promotion of the Irish language and have a range of commitments under international law and guidance. It is a source of much frustration that Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon (ABC) Borough Council have blatantly ignored their responsibilities and have not only adopted a policy that is totally out-of-step with the recommendations and guidance of the Council of Europe and the United Nations, but have also used their discretion to continuously block the valid application from residents of Woodside Hill.

“An overwhelming majority of residents voted in favour of the application for bilingual street signage, exceeding even the council's unjustifiably high threshold and unnecessary obstacles. This was the first application in ABC council to have been deemed valid and the refusal of this application is nothing but another example of the long history of delay, denial and rejection from those parties, particularly the DUP and UUP, who continuously frustrate progress on Irish language rights.”

“It is a legitimate expectation that local councils fulfil and honour their own policies, especially when every procedure and threshold within those policies have been followed and met. Whilst it is regrettable that local residents find themselves having to seek remedy through the courts, we look forward to supporting the resident throughout the Judicial Review proceedings.”

The applicant, Iris Hagan, said:

“We were extremely disappointed and disheartened to learn of the council’s decision to refuse our application for bilingual signage. As a grandparent of Irish-speaking children attending the local Gaelscoil, I only see the addition of bilingual signage to Woodside Hill as an opportunity to enrich our already diverse community.

We worked extremely hard on getting this application over the line, going door-to-door, encouraging residents to respond to the survey. We were optimistic from our conversations on the doors that our application would be successful and that we would become the first street in the council area to obtain bilingual signage. Unfortunately, it seems that our efforts have been in vain.”

Gavin Booth of Phoenix Law said:

“The decision of ABC Council to refuse to erect a bi-lingual street sign in Woodside Hill in Portadown flies in the face of the express and overwhelming majority views of the residents. Every aspect of the ABC Council’s procedure for considering this application was shrouded in secrecy and it is our view that there is no justification for this secrecy by the Council. At this stage there has been no adequate justification as to why local councillors chose to hold these meetings in secret and secondly why they refuse to set out proper reasoning for refusing to comply with the law and the wishes of the residents.”



Conradh na Gaeilge

6 Harcourt Street, Dublin 2.
Phone: +353 (0) 1 475 7401, Fax: +353 (0) 1 475 7844, Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.