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Unionists mount legal challenge to prevent Londonderry name change

By Donna Deeney

Published 06/08/2015

UUP councillor Derek Hussey
UUP councillor Derek Hussey

A legal challenge to stop the name of Londonderry being changed to Derry has been launched by unionists - which they say should stop the nationalist campaign "dead in the water".

The DUP and Ulster Unionists on the Derry City and Strabane District Council have joined forces to implement a 'call-in' - a new mechanism which can ultimately lead to contentious decisions being dropped.

A Sinn Fein proposal to drop London from the name of the city won the support of the majority of councillors in July, which means it is now council policy to change the official name of the city back to Derry.

Now eight DUP councillors, along with the UUP's Mary Hamilton and Derek Hussey, have implemented a call-in under the Local Government Act NI 2014 - which they believe will keep the official name of the city as it is.

Drew Thompson, head of the DUP on the council, explained: "Once the official minutes of the July meeting came out there was a five-day window in which we could make the challenge and we did that on Tuesday.

"A call-in is a mechanism put in place to protect minorities when the new super-councils took over, and it works a bit like a 'petition of concern' in the Assembly.

"We submitted our call-in to the council officials, citing that the changing the name of the city would have a detrimental affect on a disproportionate section of the community.

"It means that in order for something to be passed it must be supported by 80% of councillors, and as the unionist bloc of 10 counts for 25% of this council we are fairly confident this issue is dead in the water.

"Council now has to take legal advice on whether we have a case for the matter to be returned for discussion. Our office has been inundated with angry calls about the Sinn Fein proposal to change the name of the city and others who thought there were better things to be fighting about."

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