Warnings name rows could harm Derry Euro capital bid

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Derry City and Strabane District Council has approved £300,000 towards a joint bid with Belfast for the prestigious 2023 European Capital of Culture crown.

However, wrangling over the name that should be attached to the bid prompted warnings from some councillors that the council risked sending out the wrong message to partners and judges.

The matter was raised during the local authority’s monthly meeting on Thursday when members were asked to endorse a decision taken by its Business and Culture Committee on April 11 that it approve £300,000 for the bid.

Oonagh McGillion, Director of Legacy at the council, had advised that committee that ‘Derry-Belfast’ would be used for the purposes of the bid application but that branding would be dealt with at a later stage.

Unionist councillors protested as the council was asked to endorse the committee minutes on Thursday.

DUP Alderman David Ramsey said it was important to get the name right from the start.

“We’re not asking for people to turn British overnight. People just want their history and culture to be recognised,” he said.

He added: “The massive connection with the city of London should be embraced, not shunned.”

Two separate proposals that first ‘Londonderry’, and secondly, ‘Strabane’, should be included in the bid and on the branding, both fell.

SDLP Councillor Martin Reilly, whose party backed both proposals on grounds of inclusivity, nonetheless warned the council risked “descending into something of a farcical position”.

“I imagine if people are sitting watching the webcast in Belfast they’re laughing at us,” he said.

The Mayor asked councillors to be “mindful of the image we are sending out”.

The original decision of the committee was endorsed.