British Government blocks attempt to change city name to Derry

Guildhall Square, Derry.
Guildhall Square, Derry.

The British Government has blocked another attempt to have the name of this city officially changed to Derry from Londonderry.

A campaign by Sinn Fein and the SDLP to change the official title of the city and drop references to ‘London’ had been branded sectarian and divisive by unionists who lauded historic connections to “one of the world’s great cities”.

But more than 3,000 supported the change and said ‘Londonderry’ caused social and political problems; reminding victims of atrocities in a city scarred by the ‘Troubles’ and Bloody Sunday.

Government spokesman in the Lords, Lord Dunlop, said: “The Government, on occasion receives requests to change names of towns and cities.

“At this time the Government does not intend to change the name of the City of Londonderry.”

The London prefix was added to Derry when the city was granted a Royal Charter by King James I in 1613.

A petition said: “The name is a constant reminder to the families of the victims involved in incidents in Derry caused by the British occupation, therefore constantly reminding the families of the incidents.”

Ulster Unionist representative Julia Kee launched a rival petition to retain Londonderry as the official title of the second largest city in the North.

She said: “London is one of the world’s great cities and I believe we should cherish and seek to strengthen the historic ties between Londonderry and London.”

In 1984, the name of the nationalist-controlled council was changed from Londonderry to Derry City Council. The city itself will therefore continue to be officially known as Londonderry.

In 2007 a High Court judge ruled that only legislation or Royal prerogative could change the city’s name.

Sinn Fein has said its proposal, supported by the council, was not about airbrushing London from the history of the city but about ensuring it had a clear brand and single name.

The petition calling for the name change to Derry said: “The name Londonderry causes social and political problems, reminds victims of the atrocities that have been committed there, causes problems identifying the city and is against what the people of Derry wish.”