Legal advice sought over ‘Derry’ name change

The Council have voted to pursue changing the city's name officially to Derry.
The Council have voted to pursue changing the city's name officially to Derry.

Derry & Strabane Council is seeking legal advice over the potential for having the city’s name changed officially to Derry.

A report on the matter is expected to be brought back before the Council in the autumn.

It is more than a year since the Council voted by majority to write to the then Environment Minister Mark H Durkan seeking clarification on how to go about the change over.

The motion proposed by Sinn Fein Councillor Eric McGinley was voted upon at the Guildhall in July 2015 and was passed with the full support of Sinn Fein, SDLP and the Independent Councillors, despite opposition from the minority unionist bloc.

The council took the vote after being told that a request had been received for a public vote on installing ‘Derry’ as the officially recognised name of the city. The request was made by the same person behind a Facebook campaign on the issue and Council Chief Executive John Kelpie received an e-mail, on the back of this, requesting that the people should be given the chance to vote and decide on the official name.

Speaking at the time, Colr. McGinley said changing the name would help market the city under a single name identity. However the move was branded ‘disgusting’ by DUP Councillor David Ramsey.

Back in 1984, the name of the council was changed from Londonderry to Derry City Council (which has since been adopted in the current supercouncil name), but the name of the city, for official purposes, was not changed.

During a previous challenge, the High Court in 2007 ruled that the name of the city could only be altered via a new law or via royal prerogative.

A spokesperson for Derry & Strabane Council has now told the ‘Journal’ that it “is currently awaiting legal opinion in relation to the issue and an update is expected to come before Council in the autumn”.

Derry’s name has been contentious ever since the ‘London’ prefix was added by Royal Charter in the early 1600s .

The Royal Charter was granted by King James I during the Plantation of Ulster.

The city has been variously recorded as ‘Derry’, ‘Daire’ or ‘Doire’ since the early Christian period, and was an important trading port and ecclesiastical centre during the Middle Ages.