Unionists have reacted with anger and disappointment to a Sinn Fein call for Derry City and Strabane District Council to write to DoE Minister Mark H Durkan, seeking clarification on changing the city’s name to Derry.
The call came from Councillor Eric McGinley, but was shot down by Alderman Maurice Devenney, who said the last time the issue was raise it failed and the DUP were totally opposed to any name change.
He was supported by the UUP’s Derek Hussey, who said it was impossible to change the name “back to Derry”, as it had never been Derry in the first place.
“The name on the Charter for the City has always been Londonderry. To change it back to Derry seems strange in itself,” he said.
Councillor Gerard Diver told the council that from memory the last time the issue was raised that only the Privy Council could change the city’s name.
“Presumably this council will get the same response, but I have no issue with someone writing to the Minister to get further clarification,” he said.
Alderman David Ramsey, speaking after the meeting said: “The question for the republican nationalist politicians in Londonderry is how does trying once again to change the City Charter to Derry will reflect their goal of a shared future?
“It was quite clear in the past that attempting this damages years of community relations,” he said.
“The PUL community see this as a purely sectarian agenda to alienate the Protestant community. No one in my community will ever believe again that nationalists and republicans are really serious about a true shared future, where we should be celebrating our diversity instead of demoralising the minority community by attempting to remove the British part of the city’s name.
“We should be proud of our link to London where many Irish people live. We should be twinning with London instead of airbrushing the historical connection.
“Londonderry has been a good example of working together and respecting the diversity of culture, faith and traditions. This threatens many years of hard work in relationship building and learning how to share this space.”
Also speaking after the meeting, Alderman Mary Hamilton said she had been “disgusted” by the call by Sinn Fein.
“The people of this city came out in their many thousands to maintain Londonderry as the name for this city the last time there was a push to change it,” she said.
“Historically this city is tied to London whether people like it or not. It was the London Guilds who paid for and built this city and some of its most iconic buildings. That fact cannot be airbrushed from history.
“Instead of seeking to remove the ‘London’ from Londonderry we should be seeking to capitalise on it. London is the capital city of the United Kingdom and is one of the most important economically prosperous cities in the world. To try and remove ourselves from that link just does not make sense to me. We should be twinning with London and capitalising on that.
“I see this move as nothing more than another political stunt by Sinn Fein to try and alienate the Protestant community and heighten tension. That is not what this city needs,” she said.
In a vote on the subject the nine unionists present in the chamber voted against writing to the Minister for clarity, with 28 members of Sinn Fein and the SDLP voting in favour of a letter being sent.