Unionists have legal ability to block bid to change city’s name

Unionist councillors, from left, Graham Warke, Gary Middleton MLA, Drew Thompson, Maurice Devenney, Mary Hamilton, Hilary McClintock and David Ramsey pictured with the petition against the name change. INLS3115-151KM

Unionist councillors, from left, Graham Warke, Gary Middleton MLA, Drew Thompson, Maurice Devenney, Mary Hamilton, Hilary McClintock and David Ramsey pictured with the petition against the name change. INLS3115-151KM

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The Unionist bloc at Derry City and Strabane District Council have joined forces to prevent further erosion of cultural and historic links to London.

At the most recent meeting of the full council Sinn Fein put forward a motion calling for clarification on how to change the city’s name to ‘Derry’.

Alderman Mary Hamilton. INLS2415-121KM

Alderman Mary Hamilton. INLS2415-121KM

Horrified by the reprise of the name change debate, Alderman Mary Hamilton said that she had been greatly heartened by the united approach shown by her UUP colleagues and DUP counterparts.

“I really had thought this issue had been put out to graze after the heavy defeat Sinn Fein suffered the last time they raised it.

“After much research we uncovered legislation which allows Unionists to call into question the whole legality of what is going on here,” she said.

“A call-in is a procedure laid out in the Local Government Act NI 2014, which stipulates if 15 per cent of the councillors request it, then a decision made by the council can be reconsidered.

“There are two grounds under which a call-in can occur. The first, section 41(1)(a) of the 2014 Act, relating to Standing Orders allows for a reconsideration if it is found the decision did not receive proper consideration of the relevant facts and issues.

“The second is called Section 41(1)(b), and allows that the decision would disproportionately affect adversely any section of the inhabitants of the district. It is on this ground in particular that I agreed to the call-in,” Mrs Hamilton said.

“We are lodging it in respect of both sections of the legislation. What happens now, as I understand it, is that standing orders now require the clerk, John Kelpie, to obtain an opinion from a practicing barrister or solicitor as to whether or not the decision to change the city’s name will adversely affect inhabitants. The clerk will have to bring that opinion to the next available meeting for a vote taken by a qualified majority, which is 80 per cent.

“There is no council in Northern Ireland where the minority party does not have at least 21 per cent of the vote.”