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By Donna Deeney

Published 22/10/2015

The Londonderry peace bridge - should it become Derry peace bridge?
The Londonderry peace bridge - should it become Derry peace bridge?
A defaced road sign outside the city

Londonderry will remain the official name of Northern Ireland's second city - at least for the lifetime of this Government, according to a member of the House of Lords.

Lord Laird of Artigarvan revealed that he was told by the Prime Minister's chief adviser that the Government had no plans to change the name of the Maiden City.

The peer was responding to a query about Sinn Fein's plans to push for the city's official name to be Derry.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Lord Laird revealed that he had submitted a question in the Lords seeking clarity on the matter.

He said: "I asked Her Majesty's Government what was its assessment of the decision of Derry City and Strabane District to change the name of Londonderry without consultation, which is contrary to the requirements in the 1998 Belfast Agreement. I was told by Lord Dunlop, who is David Cameron's adviser on devolved constitutional issues, that this Government does not intend to change the name.

"And to me, while one Government cannot bind another Government, to me that is emphatic, and Sinn Fein are wasting their time."

Many thought the matter had been settled back in 2007 when the High Court in London ruled that the only way it could be done was through legislation or Royal Prerogative.

But Sinn Fein's Eric McGinley said the process to change the name to Derry was still alive. He said: "I brought a motion before the council last June asking the council to explore changing the name of the city to Derry.

"Regardless of what recommendations are given, this will not be the end of the matter, it is a priority for us and we will not abandon this issue."

The name of the city is equally important to the DUP bloc on the council, which is adamant it will do whatever possible to retain the name Londonderry.

It was DUP councillor Drew Thompson who invoked the 'call in' - a procedure similar to a veto or petition of concern at Stormont. It allows a challenge to any council decision as long as there is at least 15% support for the move.

"This matter should be put to bed now and the name of this city recognised as Londonderry once and for all," he said.

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