Belfast Telegraph

Monday 24 November 2014

City of Culture stays in UK

Sinn Fein has been defeated in a bid to take the 'UK' out of the UK City of Culture branding in Londonderry.

Unionists in Londonderry were furious after republican councillors proposed removing the UK tag from an upcoming City of Culture exhibition about the Plantation of Ulster at the Guildhall.

They claim it is another move to erode symbols of Britishness from the landmark building which is due to re-open in a few weeks after an extensive renovation and restoration project.

In a row that threatened to mirror the controversy over the restrictions on flying the Union flag at Belfast City Hall, unionists and the SDLP accused Sinn Fein of trying to airbrush the history books.

Sinn Fein had wanted the UK prefix removed from City of Culture references in the exhibition timeline of key events in Derry's history from 1613 in the Guildhall show.

There was a sectarian split in the vote for the branding of the city to include the Irish name Doire as well as Derry and Londonderry, with the SDLP and Sinn Fein voting for and the unionist bloc voting against.

However, when it came to the vote to remove the UK tag from the City of Culture, the unionists had the support of all of the SLDP councillors and Sinn Fein's proposal was defeated.

Sinn Fein's Paul Fleming also proposed that a working group should be set up to ensure the Guildhall is an 'inclusive' place for everyone who lives in the city.

Mr Fleming said: "To set this in context we, as a party, are looking forward to the re-opening of the Guildhall which is at the heart of the city and district.

"One of the things we talked about is the Guildhall being reflective of all aspects of civic, political and cultural identities."

But DUP councillor Joe Miller said he had major concerns about forming a working group.

He explained: "We fear that this will be a vehicle for Sinn Fein to take more of the Britishness out of the Guildhall and airbrush history. It cannot be allowed to become a cold house for unionists."

The leader of the SDLP bloc in the council, Gerard Diver, said that his party would not support the formation of any group that would lead to that.

He explained: "If the unionist population is a minority, they are there to be cherished and welcomed and I can assure Councillor Miller that we will not be going down that route

"With regard to the inclusion of Doire in the branding of the city, we have no problem, but it would seem strange and petty to remove the UK tag of the City of Culture."

Quote

"The UK City of Culture was awarded by London and you can't argue with that. It would seem strange and petty to remove the UK tag or to try and airbrush it out would be counterproductive."

Gerard Diver, SDLP

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