A motion to erect bilingual signage in Mullingar’s housing estates sparked a heated exchange of words at Tuesday’s town council meeting, after cathaoirleach Cllr Ruth Illingworth questioned the local relevance of the names of some housing estates on the west side of Mullingar.
Cllr Ken Glynn took exception to what he described as “uncalled for” remarks from the cathaoirleach, who responded to a request for bilingual signage by citing Ardleigh and Ardilaun as examples of place names that “have no relevance to the local area”.
The disagreement broke out after Cllr Pat Collins tabled a motion that Westmeath County Council make arrangements to replace current signage with bilingual signage in all housing estates and streets in Mullingar town.
While the councillors unanimously welcomed the idea, Cllr Illingworth suggested that the Irish names used should have some historical and local relevance.
“Ardleigh and Ardilaun have no relevance to the area, no local connection. The names should have some historical resonance or a link to the local landscape and local area. I am in favour of using Irish names, but there are names that could have been used,” she said.
“They are still entitled to have bilingual names” retorted Cllr Glynn.
“Whatever they mean they are part of the west side of the town. I might as well be honest with you, I have taken offence. Your remarks are a little uncalled for,” he added.
However, Cllr Illingworth insisted that her remarks had been misunderstood.
“You are persisting in misunderstanding me,” she told Cllr Glynn. “I have no intention of causing offence, and I apologise. I would want Irish names used, but names that have some connection.”
Stepping in to diffuse the situation, Cllr Aidan Davitt said he doubted the council had allowed estates to be named with no regard for their local relevance.
“I’d be very surprised from my experience with the council if the names don’t have some connection with the area,” he offered.
Responding to Cllr Collins’ initial request that the council look at replacing old and dilapidated signage with new, bilingual signage complete with the town council’s crest, county manager Dan McLoughlin pledged to have some sample signs made up so councillors could decide on a generic design for the town.
“If we can get to the stage where we have a uniform bilingual sign, it would bring some sort of uniformity. There should be a policy for developers to use the same signage as elsewhere in the town,” said Cllr Collins.