Belfast Telegraph

Derry/Londonderry row erupts again as unionists object to 'Derry City and Strabane District' name

By Donna Deeney

Wrangling over the name of the new super council that will subsume Londonderry has intensified after the launch of legal action.

New laws have been used to challenge the name of the new Derry City and Strabane District Council.

The unionist block on the shadow council has begun a legal challenge that will reopen this long-running controversy over whether the name should include Londonderry or Derry.

They have accused nationalist and republican councillors of trying to railroad the name through without consultation.

A Calling Process - a new and as yet unused piece of legalisation where a council decision can be challenged so long as there are at least six signatories - has been issued. All 10 unionist councillors on the shadow council signed an objection to the council being called Derry City and Strabane District, which is currently with the council's legal team for consideration.

This means that the name of the council will once again have to be discussed and agreed, however it will now require at least 80% agreement and it must be across all parties.

DUP councillor Gary Middleton said: "There must be proper discussions and conversations with the unionist population about important issues such as the name of the council.

"Sinn Fein and the SDLP tried to railroad this through by failing to give proper notice that this was being brought to council," he added.

Sinn Fein councillor Michael Cooper denied claims that his party was not interested in the views of the unionist people.

He said: "We put the motion to call the council Derry City and Strabane District seven days before the meeting where it was passed took place and our door was open to the DUP to come and discuss it at any time.

"We wanted 'city' included because of what it reflected and the whole range of benefits it would bring in terms of status.

"While it was suggested that 'Londonderry' was used, we were not going to agree to that and the problem from our perspective was that if it didn't have Derry and Strabane in the name, the actual branding of the region internationally wouldn't have been sufficient."

The Sinn Fein representative added: "Using 'Foyle', for example, had been suggested by other councillors, but in terms of marketing the region this wouldn't have worked because no one would know where that was."

What's in a name? Handling the Londonderry/Derry issue 

Factfile

Londonderry City Council was formed in 1972. The name was changed in 1984 to Derry City Council, which was opposed by unionists.

At the same time the SDLP, which was in the majority, declared that it had no intention of changing the name of the city, which remains Londonderry officially. The current Derry City Council is to merge with Strabane District from next April.

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