SDLP at odds over airport name change plan

Amelia Earhart landing in Derry in 1932. (2408C08)
Amelia Earhart landing in Derry in 1932. (2408C08)

SDLP councillors in Derry went against the advice of the party’s chief whip at Stormont in opposing a motion calling for City of Derry Airport to be named after aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart.

The motion was tabled by Sinn Féin councillor Elisha McCallion and discussed at the monthly meeting of Derry City Council on Tuesday afternoon. The motion was seconded by councillor Colly Kelly.

Proposing the motion, councillor McCallion said renaming the airport could help attract visitors to the city. “This coming May marks the 80th anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s record breaking solo flight across the Atlantic, which, of course, landed in Ballyarnett. The story of this epic journey is known throughout the world. We are often told that visitors from America are surprised that there is not more made of the connection.

“I am conscious that City of Derry Airport may be cautious of the cost of rebranding the airport but we feel that it will be a positive step,” she said.

SDLP colr. Brenda Stevenson said her party would not be supporting the motion and raised concerns that it could be confusing for tourists ahead of the City of Culture celebrations.

This comes just days after Foyle SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey called on Derry City Council to change the airport’s name to honour Ameila Earhart, describing the suggestion as “the single most important investment that Derry City Council might make in either 2012/2013.” He also called for existing funding to be reprioritised to accommodate the plan.

Despite Mr Ramsey’s call, SDLP councillors voted against the motion. The unionist bloc representatives also opposed colr. McCallion’s motion and it was defeated by 17 votes to ten.