Friday 27 February 2009

More bad names

Today the Local Government Boundaries Commissioner, Richard Mackenzie, published his revised Provisional Recommendations (originally published on 17 September 2008). While much of the revision concerns minor changes to boundaries, and the kicking into touch of the issue of Irish language names, he has also decided to revise his proposed names for the 11 new district councils.

This blog was not very enthusiastic about the original names proposed for the councils, but Mackenzie's new names are even worse.

In some cases he had originally proposed new shorter versions (Causeway Coast District Council, Mid-Antrim District Council, and Mid-Ulster District Council), but in an unnecessarily backward-looking spirit he had proposed to keep the names of some of the old (and soon to be dissolved) councils, just cobbling together the names of the old councils, such as Newry City and Down District Council, or Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, or Lisburn City and Castlereagh District Council, and so on.

However, following representations from people whose areas were not represented in his original names, he has now turned some of them into real mouthfuls, such as:

  • Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon District Council
  • Newry City, Mourne and Down District Council
  • Causeway Coast and Glens District Council
  • Mid and East Antrim District Council

This is a real display of parish pump politics and paucity of imagination. These names are long, unwieldy and unnecessary. There are many ways in which they could have been shortened – of course there may have been a loss of 'local identity' for those areas whose old council names disappeared, but by attempting to please everyone Mackenzie will end up confusing and annoying many people. The old names did not have to be maintained – they were, after all, only recent creations as local authority names. There are many other ways to foster local identity without imposing long strings of names into council names – counties, rivers, mountains, baronies, the old Irish Tuath (Oriel, Dalrada, etc), and so on. Or why not simply name them after the town in which their offices are located: Derry, Belfast, Coleraine, Cookstown, and so on?

Hopefully Mackenzie will have another change of heart, but this time in the direction of simplicity and user-friendliness.

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