The Belfast Telegraph reports on a judicial review of the case of a West Belfast woman who has complained that she was denied bilingual signage on her street — not because not enough people voted in favour but because not enough people voted.
"Out of 92 eligible residents 52 confirmed they wanted Irish signs, with only one opposed.
But because the other 39 did not respond to the survey the two-thirds requirement was not met."As the Blether Region pointed out on 25 March, this policy is eerily similar to the 40% rule employed to deny Scots devolution in 1979 — the difference in this case being that the figure is a whopping 67%.
Imagine if 67% super-majorities (of eligible rather than actual electors) were required for votes at Westminster. Would homosexuality and abortion ever have become legal? Would the death penalty ever have been abolished? And would it actually be possible to pass a budget each year?
A few days ago the UK Parliament voted by 274 votes to 12 to recognise Palestine as a state — a figure described as a "landslide". Under the rules followed by Belfast City Council, however, that vote too would have been null and void, since Conservative whips instructed their MPs to stay away from what is a controversial issue.
This being Northern Ireland, of course, the council is free to twist every vote on bilingualism into a referendum on Irish unity and to project a notion of offensiveness onto the language that any reasonable person would dismiss as absurd. The truth is that having bilingual street signs is not the same as publicly sacrificing sheep at the end of the road. If people are offended by it, the problem is theirs — and theirs alone.