Fine Gael Minister denies ‘Londonderry’ gaffe
The 26-County Justice minister Alan Shatter appeared to confirm his government’s unionist credentials this week he referred to the city of Derry as “Londonderry”.
The name ‘Londonderry’ was imposed on the city by the British in the 17th century and is still rejected by the vast majority of its residents, who have long resisted the colonial rebranding. The name is almost never heard in Ireland, and Shatter’s use of it created a storm of protest on Wednesday.
Shatter made the blunder as he read a list of recent security incidents across the North into the record of the Dublin parliament. Such security briefings are routinely prepared for the 26-County government by British civil servants and the PSNI police in the North.
As he put through legislation to extend security powers under the Offences Against the State Act, Shatter inadvertently read out an unedited British document, including the ‘Londonderry’ name.
Mr Shatter said: “Two pipe bombs set off in Londonderry on January 19, 2012.”
But the Minister invited further public disdain when he later insisted that he routinely uses the British version of the name -- and that his use of it in the Dáil was something of a peace gesture.
As news of his gaffe trended on Twitter and other internet sites, Shatter absurdly claimed: “I would use either the term Derry or Londonderry interchangeably.
“It’s used by the two communities in Northern Ireland. The Catholic community refers to Derry. The Protestant community refers to Londonderry. It’s a place I want to see live in peace and I don’t have hang-ups about which name you attach to it.”
“I tend to use Derry more frequently than Londonderry, simply because of my interest in soccer and catching up with Derry City on occasions.”