UUP inflames nationalists with road signs, comments
“Welcome to Northern Ireland” road signs have been provocatively raised in border areas of the North by the Ulster Unionist minister for regional development, Danny Kennedy.
Kennedy, who has frequently desribed himself as a moderate unionist, denied the move was intended to be inflammatory.
At least twelve signs were erected this week by the North’s road service, acting under instrution from the Minister.
The development runs counter to peace process efforts to eliminate obvious indicators of the border between the British-ruled North and the 26 County state in the South, and may mark a new hardline stance by the UUP.
Locals have now destroyed at least three of the signs, which Mr Kennedy claimed were “a point of information”.
Referring to those which had been destroyed, Mr Kennedy said: “I’m sure all political representatives will join me in condemning what is an illegal act”.
Sinn Fein Assembly member Phil Flanagan called on the UUP man to order the removal of the remaining signs “as soon as possible”.
“The erection of these signs has angered many living in border communities who suffer the negative impact of partitlon on a daily basis and a large proportion of them are completely opposed to the unnatural division of Ireland,” Mr Flanagan said.
But in a hardening of the unionist position, former UUP leader Tom Elliott was reported as saying the only ‘real victims’ of the conflict were those killed by the IRA.
The comments, which were reported in a weekly newspaper, provoked an angry response from SDLP Assembly member Patsy McGlone who called them “crass and insenstive” and asked that they be withdrawn immediately.
“Tom Elliott’s remarks are so abhorrent as to be breathtak ing and he has d isgraced his office as a public representative, but more grievously than that, he has dishonoured the memory of over 3,000 men, women and children on all sides of our society whose lives were lost in the Troubles.
“He must withdraw his comments immediately and apologise to the families of all those he publicly dismissed as, in effect, worthless.”