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30 January 2003 Edition

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Taking the London out of Derry

Derry City Council has begun the process of formally changing the name of the historic city from Londonderry back to Derry. A motion from Sinn Féin councillors and supported by the SDLP was passed by 23 votes for and 6 against at the council meeting on Tuesday night 28 January. This was also the first time in the history of the council that Sinn Féin and the SDLP had put forward a co-sponsored motion.

The Queen of England added London to Derry in 1641, when she handed the city over for development to London Trade Guilds.

The motion, first raised at a council meeting in November, was finally agreed after Sinn Féin and the SDLP proposed that the name issue be addressed with a view to agreeing a single official name for the city. The upshot of this process will mean that Derry will be the official city name.

The council is now mandated to seek appropriate advice on the issue, including legal procedures, equality proofing and community relations provision. The bureaucracy of the move will involve the Department of the Environment, the British Secretary of State and the Secretary of the British Crown, but when that process has run its course, it is likely that a plebiscite will be held to ratify the name change. Given Derry's massive nationalist majority, it is certain the vote will favour the change.

Sinn Féin councillors have promised to be the guardians of the process, pledging to act to ensure it is followed up on and does not get held up by red tape.

Not everyone was pleased at the name change proposal, however. The four DUP and two UUP councillors voted against it and Ulster Unionist Councillor Ernie Hamilton condemned it as a "grubby little motion".

Sinn Féin's sponsor of the motion, Councillor Barney O'Hagan, said he was disappointed that although the majority of Derry people supported the name change, unionists had decided not to support the motion.

He pointed out that Derry is the one name that both traditions can identify with, pointing out that numerous Protestant organisations have Derry in their official title, for example, the Apprentice Boys of Derry.

"We welcome the fact that the single official name will be Derry but I want to state that Sinn Féin recognises the right of everyone to use the name of the city they feel most comfortable with," said O'Hagan.


In another success, Sinn Féin Councillor Gerry MacLochlainn successfully proposed a motion to Derry City Council on Tuesday night opposing the planned war on Iraq and the Dublin government's facilitation of US military shipments through Shannon. The six unionist members also opposed this motion. Sinn Féin members picketed Leinster House on Wednesday evening as the Dáil debated the use of Shannon to facilitate the movement to the Middle East of thousands of US troops and their arms.
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