Unionists spark legal name check

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The unionist bloc has officially requested the decision to name the new North West supercouncil ‘Derry City and Strabane District,’ be reconsidered.

DUP Councillor Gary Middleton said the decision would “adversely affect a section of the community” and, as such, qualifies for a reconsideration, or “call-in” under Section 41 of the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 2014.

Ten unionist councillors - eight DUP; two UUP - have formally triggered the “call-in” and the new Council will now have to obtain the opinion of a practising barrister or solicitor to look at the matter.

Mr Middleton said: “It will come back to us via the Town Clerk’s report. By that stage solicitors will have been involved and will have formed an opinion, which will be presented to us at Council.

“It would be wrong to assume anythin but regardless of the outcome the message that we want to send is that it’s not going to be acceptable to railroad decisions through.”

“Sinn Féin and the SDLP can no longer say that they work in partnership with unionists. There was unanimous opposition from all unionists on the Council and those views were ignored.

“This is a new Council being formed and we had the perfect opportunity to try and get agreement around the name issue.”

UUP Councillor Derek Hussey said: “People will remember that, initially, I had tabled a motion seeking to have our new Council area called Foyle District Council.

“In this I was seeking a unifying title representative of our entire geographic region and beyond the disputes that have circulated around the name of the city of Londonderry. This motion was not debated in the Chamber as it was not seconded.

“Subsequent to this Sinn Féin, supported by the SDLP and the four Independents, brought the issue to Shadow Council in a divisive manner by including the disputed title of Derry in a suggested name.

“Unionists sought an amendment to Londonderry which was defeated and I then again forwarded an amendment for the geographic title of Foyle to be considered.

“The nationalist/republican bloc on Council would not support any attempt to seek reconciliation in regard to the name of our new Council area and the name Derry City and Strabane received a majority vote.”

Councillor Hussey said he suggested the “call-in” mechanism be used to force a reconsideration.

“At this point I had suggested to DUP Councillors that we might seek a ‘call-in’ in regard to this decision given that myself and Councillor [Mary] Hamilton could not do this on our own.

“I am encouraged that such a ‘call-in’ has now been enacted with the support of all unionist Councillors sitting on the Shadow Council. This in itself is clear evidence that the previous determination of Shadow Council impacts adversely an a significant section of the community that we are mandated to represent.”

Councillor Hussey concluded by adding: “Through this ‘call-in’ all Councillors are being reminded that the present naming decision is not set in stone and that all Councillors have a duty to consider the wishes and well-being of the entire population of the area in their decision making.

“I firmly believe that there are many in all sections of our community who would welcome a new Council name that reflects where we live and is not a matter of dispute. We can now ‘test the metal’ of our nationalist/republican colleagues as to their willingness for reconciliation.”

Colin Campbell, who is involved in community development in Newbuildings and criticised the decision when it was originally passed, said he was pleased that the local representatives had taken on board the feelings of the unionist community and what they had been saying.

He said he was looking forward to a favourable outcome, with nationalists supporting the revising of the name being changed to Foyle and Strabane District Council.