Concerns atchange to Call In procedure

The DUP’s Environment Committee member, Gary Middleton MLA, has raised concerns about potential changes to Local Government Call In procedures.

Members of the Unionist bloc in Derry City and Strabane District most recently used the Call In procedure in the summer to challenge a Sinn Féin proposal to change the name of Londonderry to Derry.

A motion supporting the name change was passed at a meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council in July. In the past all previous attempts to change the name have failed.

“Over recent months we have seen examples of how nationalist parties have joined together to vote through decisions which we believe could have an adverse impact on a section of the inhabitants,” Mr Middleton said.

“The proposal to change the name of the city from Londonderry to Derry is an example of how Sinn Fein and the SDLP have gone against the position of the equality commission and subsequently ignored the view of the minority community.

“Another example is the naming of a play park in Newry after a terrorist.

“It is important that any changes to the Local Government Regulations Bill have due consideration to equality and the protection of our citizens. The call in mechanism should provide that protection and professional legal opinion should be sought independently from the council.

“Proposals to rely solely on local council equality schemes will create a situation were there are eleven different policies across the super councils with also eleven different interpretations on what impacts decisions may have on minority communities.”

Mr Middleton’s concerns were echoed by Alderman Mary Hamilton, who said the London prefix was added when the city was granted a Royal Charter by King James I in 1613.

“The issue was addressed in the High Court in 2007 when the judge ruled that only legislation or Royal prerogative could change the city’s name. The Call In in respect of this is a live issue and should not be interfered with simply because someone doesn’t like it and chooses childish petulance instead of being realistic. Policy does not exist to be tweaked in favour of one group only.”