Protestants unite for resounding 'No'

THE combined might of the Protestant communities in Londonderry delivered a resounding 'No' to the controversial proposal to erase the City's historic name.

Inside just one week the specially formed umbrella group, the Londonderry Local Action Group, gathered almost 7,500 letters opposing Sinn Fein's push to have the city's name changed to Derry.

Other political and community organisations, as well as the Loyal Orders, also sent in responses while others made private submissions by letter and email.

Friday marked the final deadline for those wishing to make their views known on the council's plan to lodge a Privy Council application to change the name of the city to Derry, which comes after an application to get a legal ruling on the City's name resulted in a High Court judge maintaining that its official name was Londonderry.

Earlier this year, the council embarked on an Equality Impact Assessment before pushing ahead with the proposal to petition the Privy Council.

The united stance has impressed David Gilliland, Development Officer from the Shankill-based Community Convention and Development Company, who was in town on Friday. He had helped facilitate meetings.

"I am very very pleased to see how effectively the community up here has mobilised. To turn round over 7,000 signatures in a week shows just how deeply the feelings are held over this issue. I was saying only last week that it is a deeply held feeling within the Protestant community in this City about the name change, and you ignore them at your peril.

Noting that the campaign had "absolutely united the Protestant community" in the City.

"One of the situations we have is that Protestant communities are deeply fragmented with so many different political parties and political groupings, and to get them all singing off the same hymn sheet on an issue like this? It's very very good. I am very impressed," he said.

East Londonderry Alderman Gregory Campbell said that far from causing further division, the proposal to change the city's name had served instead to galvanise all sections of the unionist 'family.

Also in attendance was David McClarty, MLA, who said: "I was born in County Londonderry and am proud to represent a constituency which has Londonderry in its title, with all its historic connotations and it is my opinion that the proposal is utterly unjust, unnecessary and will be detrimental to already poor community relations in both the city, the county and indeed throughout Northern Ireland."

It is believed the council will discuss the issue again in November when the responses have been analysed.