A new effort is underway to have the name of Derry city officially recognised by the British government and internationally.
A majority of Derry City and Strabane District Council has backed a motion by Sinn Fein Councillor Eric McGinley to seek information on how to go about trying to change the city’s name, which officially remains ‘Londonderry’.
Derry’s name has been contentious since the Plantation of Ulster when the prefix -London was attached for Protestant settlers from the city.
Prior to the arrival of the Planters, the city was recorded as ‘Derry’, ‘Daire’ or ‘Doire’ meaning Oak Grove in Irish and had been an important trading port and ecclesiastical centre of learning during the Middle Ages.
The council took a fresh vote after being told that a request had been received for a public vote on recognising the ‘Derry’ name by way of an internet campaign.
An online petition, which was launched in May, has to date achieved support from over 2,700 people.
Previous attempts for an official name change have failed. In 1984 the council changed its name from ‘Londonderry’ to Derry but the city continues to be called ‘Londonderry’ by many government agencies.
Speaking on the matter, Councillor McGinley said it was the policy of the previous Derry City Council to change the name of the city back to Derry.
He said the proposal was not about airbrushing London from the history of the city but rather creating “a clear brand, one single name, one single identity” to promote it.
“Sinn Fein’s position hasn’t changed since March,” he added. “We would propose today that Derry City and Strabane District Council seeks to change the name of the city back to Derry and in that context writes to the DoE [Department of the Environment at Stormont] seeking clarity of the process that will allow that to proceed.”
Unionists opposed the change, pointing out that it had been blocked previously. DUP Councillor David Ramsey said the issue was one of equality and that a previous ‘Equality Impact Assessment’ was negative, meaning the council could not make the change.
“London stone masons built the city, full stop,” he said.
When the issue was raised previously, a judge ruled that it was only the English queen’s ‘Privy Council’ or special legislation which could change the name. Councillor McGinley said he had wanted the council to write to the Privy Council.
A recorded vote on Cllr. McGinley’s proposal was taken at the council meeting, with 28 Councillors voting to seek advice on how to change the name, and nine voting against.
The petition to assert the Derry name can be signed here: