Will ‘Free Derry’ be needed again for city?

Free Derry Corner.

Free Derry Corner.

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Derry City Council should declare it’s ceding from Northern Ireland. They should join the Republic or even go for independence. Come to think of it the, “Republic of Derry” has a ring to it.

If we wait until local government is finally reformed we can take Strabane with us. Do we want to? Can councils do that? Well Derry could because the Bogside has done it before. Just think of it as an extension of the old idea.

We’d need a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI). We wouldn’t need it if we had ‘Unprecedented Derry Investment’ (UDI). So we wouldn’t need a UDI if we had UDI.

Of course councils don’t have that sort of power. OK, so I’m trying to provoke. The point is that we need to be doing something instead of just whinging. If we did leave the North, some Stormont ministers probably wouldn’t notice and others would be relieved.

Even if it didn’t pay off in the short term, we could award ourselves more and more consolation prizes. We could call ourselves the Independent City of Culture one year, the Irish City of Culture the next, the North West City of Culture the next and so on. That would buy us breathing space to tackle the big problems.

If we do nothing, Ballymena will have a dual-carriageway to the north coast before we get a dual-carriageway to anywhere except City of Derry Airport. Derry remains the only major Irish city without a motorway. Under the Stormont regime the A5 upgrade is already on the long finger too, so we have nothing to lose.

Things are no better on the railway. Derry has 18, three carriage trains a day. Cullybackey has 38, six carriage trains a day. It might take a long time to get as many trains as Cullybackey but couldn’t we get as many trains as Cork? (That’s many, many more than Derry has now). But then isn’t Cork the country’s second city? Ah sure I nearly forgot, Derry is the second city in the North or are we just the second-class city?

The Jordanstown campus of the University of Ulster is to move to Belfast. The ‘business case’ for giving Belfast city centre its second university may or may not stack up but the business case for the radical expansion of Magee doesn’t even exist. “Magee is still the poor relation of the University of Ulster in student number terms,” wrote Seamus McKinney in the Irish News last week. Whereas the university in Galway was a major economic driver in that city; Derry isn’t even on the starting blocks in the race for university places.

Meanwhile, jobs lost in Derry can re-appear in a slightly different form in Belfast and be greeted with celebrations that would befit the return of the Prodigal Son.

But it isn’t just here that the benefits of leaving the North would be felt. Ministers at Stormont would be freed from two tricky problems. They wouldn’t have to provide hospital services for those who hold northern medical cards but who actually live in Donegal. They wouldn’t have to approve the Museum of Free Derry. So, are we going to be content with our lovely Peace Bridge and a superb looking waterfront along with a brilliant year of celebrations? If we are, we’re like a crying infant who cheers up on being given a shiny toy.