Thursday 9 August 2012

Signs of the times

Northern Ireland’s Minister for Regional Development Danny Kennedy was accused this week of being ‘pretty petty’ in his insistence on erecting ‘Welcome to Northern Ireland’ signs on Border road-crossings. At the Frontier Post, we think he’s also being rather picky in choosing nine roads to signpost – at a cost of almost £200 a sign.
Two of the new signs have been uprooted already – both in the Clones-Roslea-Newtownbutler area – and there seems to be general expectations that the others will be vandalised also. The DRD is reported to be on standby to replace the signs in such an event.
The official excuse for the signs, meanwhile, is that they will remind motorists that they are entering another jurisdiction where speed limits are measured in pounds, shillings and pence and not in those foreign ‘European’ currencies. Most motorists can be forgiven for thinking that the signs saying that ‘speed limits are in MPH’ were erected for that very purpose.
So obviously in the interests of road safety, the minister is using taxpayers’ money for a ‘belt and braces’ approach so that motorists can then adjust their speedometer gauges, or something like that.
Dannk K – a belt and braces guy
Meanwhile, here at the Frontier Post, we are somewhat peeved that Minister Kennedy does not come clean and acknowledge that our 2 February blog, Size Matters in Border Rivalry, comparing our border with the one between Scotland and England might have spurred him to action. Obviously the Ulster Unionist Minister was upset by our observation that the much smaller Border across the water is festooned with signage, while ours boasts only a few ‘Fermanagh Welcomes you… Naturally’ signs, as well as some signs on the southern side reminding us – in German, French and English, but not the first official language – to drive on the left.
So besides needing to replace the two signs in the Clones area, the minister has had his signs positioned on the following roads: Strabane-Lifford, Kesh-Pettigo, Aughnacloy-Emyvale, Derrylin-Belturbet, Belleek-Ballyshannon, and even one near Wattlebridge on the road from Clones to Cavan where it makes one of its forays into Fermanagh. Soon also, there will be signs erected on the old road between Newry and Dundalk, on one of the Derry to Letterkenny roads – probably at Bridgend – and another near Middletown on the Armagh-Monaghan road.
We reckon that this leaves only 300 or so roads with no signs to inform motorists that they are crossing the Border and they are welcome to do so!
Mind you, at a cost of about £200 each, the spending on replacement signage for the stipulated roads, should keep a medium-size signage shop and half a dozen DRD road crews busy for a while. It will certainly supplement the work of replacing and restoring the defaced direction signs for ‘Londonderry’.
But it’s good to see that we are all being welcomed along the road to a shared future, even if only on a few choice border crossings. Time was – and not really that long ago – that Unionist politicians seemed hell-bent on keeping our cross-border roads closed. Now Danny K is rolling out the Welcome mat, even if disgruntled locals would prefer to keep their Border location a secret.

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