What's in a name?

IS DERRY the only city in the world where you make a political statement by giving your address? Is it Derry or is it Londonderry? What's in a name?

What you choose to call the North's second largest city has for centuries been politically loaded. Popular opinion has it that nationalists call it Derry while Protestants call it Londonderry.

However, as with most things in Northern Ireland, it's not always as simple as that.

Many Protestants also refer familiarly to the city as Derry. However, for some Protestants, when a conversation takes a political turn - or if it's a unionist public representative speaking - it very often quickly becomes Londonderry.

This newspaper, along with the vast majority of its citizens, believe the name of the city to be Derry - it is the most commonly used name for the city, both locally and across the world. However, by the same token, we also respect the right of others to refer to it as Londonderry or, perhaps, Doire.

Unfortunately, the name Londonderry has, over the years, become largely politicised. Indeed, many nationalists view its use as petty political point scoring. However, notwithstanding this, the name does have strong historical significance for Protestants and, as such, cannot simply be erased at the stroke of a pen.

How then can an issue that is so divisive be positively resolved so that a shared city concept is achieved? If anywhere can achieve such an objective, surely it is here in Derry.

We have already made huge inroads in putting our troubled past behind us. We have also proved ourselves to be light years ahead of the rest of Northern Ireland when it comes to the concept of power-sharing. Crucially, however, we mustn't allow issues such as the name of the city to monopolise centre stage.

Yes, of course, the official name of the city should be Derry - after all, the majority of its citizens, Catholic and Protestant, are comfortable referring to it as such; its local authority is known as Derry City Council; its senior football team is Derry City FC, its main newspaper is the 'Derry Journal' and it's known across the globe as Derry.

However, it must be recognised and accepted that such a move could cause anger and, perhaps, hurt. It could deepen rather than bridge the community divide and it could very well be exploited by certain elements for their own selfish and sinister ends.

We can only hope that, in a mature political climate, a sensible, rational and tolerant debate - one taking account of the rich tapestry of the city's past - can take place.