20 February 2006

A return to our heritage means adios to San Antone


by Damian McCarney

The use of random names for new housing developments in West Belfast, such as the now notorious San Antone on the Suffolk Road, could become a thing of the past under a scheme led by a local Irish language economic development group.

Forbairt Feirste are calling on all builders, private developers and housing associations to attend a conference in the Whitefort Inn this Thursday to encourage the use of traditional names for new developments in the city.

The theme of the conference will be ‘Pilleadh ar an Dúchas’ – Returning to Our Heritage – and it will inform builders about the traditional names that already exist in Belfast.

Máirtín Mag Uidhir, business development officer of Forbairt Feirste, believes that using names of relevance to local heritage would greatly enhance the area.

“Often names are picked out of the air for new developments, when in Irish tradition almost every rock, hedge or field from Malin to Mizen had a name of its own.

“We in Belfast want to follow the good example of Cork, Clare, Galway and other places which are returning to traditional names for new developments, streets and roads.

“Traditional place names are an absolute wealth of heritage, historical and topographical information, so it's a bit daft to be composing names for developments in the middle of Belfast that have zero connection to the locality,” said Máirtín.

Director of Forbairt Feirste, Jake MacSiacais, says that irrelevant names are all too common in West Belfast.

“There are loads of examples of developers naming apartments in a ridiculous fashion in West Belfast. For example there are San Marino and San Antone apartments on the Suffolk Road, yet these names have nothing to with Belfast, or even Ireland. So in this case they could have been named something like Plás an Ghleanna, which means Place of the Glen, and since it is beside Colin Glen it would actually mean something,” said Jake.

Forbairt Feirste have produced a booklet, ‘Name Your Place’, with funding provided by Foras na Gaeilge, to assist developers in naming areas.

“This booklet will be a practical guide to builders when naming an area and Forbairt Feirste will be offering to facilitate and research names for free whenever such an occasion should arise. While emphasis is put on using Irish names other places in Ireland have been careful to pick names easily pronounced by non-Irish speakers and that is certainly what we would be advising too,” said Máirtín Mag Uidhir.

The conference will be held on Thursday, February 23 at 11am in the Whitefort Inn, and refreshments will be provided. Jake MacSiacais praised the Whitefort Inn for their generosity in sponsoring the conference.

“This is yet another example of their commitment to the promotion of Gaelic heritage and culture, especially in the Gaeltacht Quarter,” said Jake.

Journalist:: Damien McCarney

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