Friday 18 September 2009

Derry

The controversy over the name of the city of Derry is getting hotter by the day. Today the BBC is reporting that a headmaster – David Funston of Lisneal College – has distributed a standard letter supporting the unionist position to pupils, which they are then supposed to 'voluntarily' complete and send to Derry City Council's solicitor. This comes perilously close to abusing his position for political ends.

Taking the centre ground in the debate, of course, is the Alliance Party. Despite not having much support in Derry (they didn't even stand there in 2005, and got less than 1% of the vote in 2001), their General Secretary, Gerry Lynch, has submitted a response to the equality impact assessment, recommending that the city should have two names, and that "the current bid to have the name change to Derry alone should be abandoned in the interests of community relations."

Meanwhile the unionist camp are boasting that they have "gathered almost 7,500 letters opposing Sinn Fein's push" – though one wonders how many were signed 'voluntarily' by schoolchildren under the watchful eye of their school principals.

As far as this blog sees it, there are five main options for the name of the city, each with some merits and demerits:

  • The status quo – which would, of course, represent a victory for Derry's minority unionist community, and a defeat for the wishes of the majority. This would not help community relations at all, and would probably ensure higher support for Sinn Féin, and an even more divided city.

  • The 'dual name' suggestion of the Alliance Party – which has superficial attractiveness, but would be clumsy. Would the full title 'Derry-Londonderry' be used at all times in all official documents? That would make the name 17 characters long – longer than almost any other urban area (outside Wales). Other towns with dual names tend to have one in one language, and a different one in the other, so both are rarely if ever used simultaneously (Jerusalem (English), Yerushaláyim (Hebrew), al-Quds (Arabic); Helsinki (Finnish), Helsingfors (Swedish); Bruxelles (French), Brussel (Dutch); Basel (German), Bâle (French), and so on). Derry, of course, already has a name in Irish – Doire – and both of Alliance's dual names would be used in English only.

  • Official recognition of Derry as the only name – this would please the vast majority of the cities residents, but would severely displease unionists (who mostly live elsewhere, of course). This is, of course, the name that everyone, even most Protestants, call the city, except when they are trying to make a political point.

  • Retention of the name 'Londonderry' for the walled city only, and official recognition of 'Derry' for the wider urban area. This has some historical validity – after all, only the walled city existed when the charter imposing the 'London-' prefix was granted. Unionists, mindful of their history, could hardly object. In this way, 'Londonderry', comprising the area between the walls, would become a ward in the urban area of Derry. For all matters pertaining to the wider area the name Derry would be used, but the link to unionism's history would remain in the part of the city for which it was intended.

  • An entirely new name. Although attractive to those frustrated by the arguments, this is simply a non-starter. Names like 'The Maiden City', 'Stroke City', or 'Foyle' lack seriousness, historical validity, or popularity.

This argument is currently a zero-sum game – if one side wins, the other loses. The wise thing to do would be to search for a compromise, but it must be a workable compromise. For this reason, this blog supports the fourth option – retain the name 'Londonderry' for the walled city, while officially using the more popular name 'Derry' for the urban area (and thus also in the name of the new local government district).

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes, the fourth option is best. A Win/Win solution is the only way forward.

MPG .....

Anonymous said...

Horseman,

the 4th suggestion is an excellent one - where did that come form?

Not zero sum - more a substantial point victory for the good guys - but perhaps enough for Unionism to hide it's latest disappointment.

picador said...

I suggest a compromise - Doire

Nordie Northsider said...

Didn't someone once suggest - in all seriousness - Londaindoire Cholm Cille?

Anonymous said...

Wow, that fourth suggestion is new to me too, and a cracking one at that.

Someone needs to suggest this to Derry City Council of they haven't already.

Anonymous said...

Go for the original name, Doire or #4.

Cymro

pagasp said...

i live in derry, inside the walls is completely dominated by irish republicans. therefore suggestion four defo aint going to cut it 4 me, though i see ur point. the problem is, there is only 11 unionists in there, and about 5/6 thousand nationalists in there at anyone time, the unionists need to take thier oil, if they really want thier shared future(which we all no is rubish) why not show it. for public relations, this a great chance for unionists to take a huge step forward, and they'll lose basically nothing. reckon they'll do it, no chance.

Anonymous said...

What about Oakgrove?

Dazzler said...

Whats the situation at the moment. Do they have a chance of oficially getting the name changed. And how far along are they in their goal?

hoboroad said...

Option number 4 for me.

ROBERT EMMET 1803 said...

Horseman

This is a no brainer- the name of the city, county and eveything in Derry should be called what it should be called- DERRY.

Let the protestant brain drain become a tsunami and take with it all references to london along with circa 800,000 orange men and women.

DOIRE ABÚ

Watcher said...

Looks like we have a sectarian bigot on our hands...

picador said...

Did they ever find out the correct Ulster-Scots translation for the council name? They had come up with Derrie Citie Cooncil or something close but then had to refer it to a panel of 'experts'. Never did hear the final outcome of that one!

Anonymous said...

"Looks like we have a sectarian bigot on our hands..."

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black....

Anonymous said...

Watcher said...

Looks like we have a sectarian bigot on our hands...
------------------------------


You have some cheek ...........



MPG .....

Pedro said...

Watcher said...
Looks like we have a sectarian bigot on our hands...

Did you say this looking into a mirror?

Anonymous said...

Minor issues like this should be just left alone. All it does is feed into Unionist paranoia. These type of issues can be safely addressed in the DISTANT future.

Watcher said...

I don't recall expressing any wish for all Catholics to leave Northern Ireland...

Antrim said...

Just change the bame to derry/Doire and be done with it, once the initial furore and sham distress has passed no one will care.

This would also be a good lesson to unionists that they cannot stop change just by protesting their offense. The changes are coming and if you want to maximise your position it is better to negotiate the extent before while you still have influence. But since when do unionists learn anything? They must learn the hard way continuously

Male Stripper said...

A bit like Republicans at Loughall...

pagasp said...

A bit like Republicans at Loughall.. warrenpoint easy street

MaleStripper said...

Yes, but I believe The Parachute Regiment is still operational - unlike PIRA...

Anonymous said...

I believe the Dublinderry option should be on the table.

After all, gerrymandering unionist oppressors rammed Londonderry down the throats of the nationalists for a long time.

It will help their understanding of the nationalist community.

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Paddy Canuck said...

Watcher said...

"I don't recall expressing any wish for all Catholics to leave Northern Ireland..."

I don't recall that being the sole defining criterion for a being a sectarian bigot...

Paddy Canuck said...

I agree, the idea of designating the walled city as Londonderry and the general area as Derry has a practical aspect and a positive cultural one, too. I think that one lets everyone win.