Over 1,800 people have signed a new unionist counter petition urging Derry & Strabane Council to retain ‘Londonderry’ as the official name of the city.
Ulster Unionist Party spokesperson for Foyle Julia Kee initiated the Change.org petition on Monday evening following an earlier petition calling on the local authority to get the name changed to ‘Derry’.
On the back of this earlier petition- which has attracted over 3,000 people- the matter was raised at Derry City & Strabane District Council at its July meeting last Thursday.
During the meeting, a suggestion was made by Sinn Fein Councillor Eric McGinley that they write to Environment Minister Mark H Durkan for advice on the process involved in having ‘Derry’ officially installed as the city’s name.
Colr. McGinley’s suggestion was adopted after being supported by the SDLP and Independent Councillors, but sparked outrage and condemnation from among DUP and UUP Councillors.
Ms. Kee claimed there was widespread support to retain the name ‘Londonderry’ (as sealed in the 1613 Royal Charter) not only among the unionist community, but also among some moderate nationalists “who have worked quite hard to keep the link with London, mainly because of the economic benefit of it”.
Speaking about the Sinn Fein proposal, Ms Kee said: “I think it is another bit of an erosion of culture and I think it’s unfair.
“I understand there are two communities and people call it different names, that’s fine, but doing this is detrimental to the minority community.”
Ms, Kee added that she herself had previously worked in Good Relations for the local council and said that council officers had worked tirelessly towards being inclusive for the unionist and Protestant minority,
“When Sinn Fein start to do this it impacts locally on policy and social policy in a very negative way,” she said.
Ms Kee’s petition is entitled ‘Keep Londonderry as the official title of the second largest City in Northern Ireland’, and brands the new name change bid “completely divisive and unnecessary”.
The earlier Change.org petition by Edwyn Cassidy entitled ‘Change the name of Derry’, states: “If the majority of the people believe it should be Derry then the name ought to be Derry.
“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.
“The debate has been going for centuries. It’s 2015 now, and it’s time to make it official what the name is.”