Don’t let Walls become ‘political football’: MLA

A Derry MLA has warned against turning the city’s historic Walls into a ‘political football’.

Gary Middleton, of the DUP, spoke out in response to recent remarks by Derry MP Elisha McCallion who said ownership of the 400 year-old Walls should be in local hands.

The Sinn Féin MP says she had been meeting regularly with The Honourable The Irish Society - owners of the Walls - to discuss the possibility of transferring ownership of the monument to a Derry-based organisation.

She believes Derry City and Strabane District Council is ideally placed for such a role.

Gary Middleton, however, believes such a move could potentially lead to problems.

“Handing the Walls over to the Council could turn them into a political fooball,” he said.

“For example, there are certain events which take place on the Walls, such as parades, and I would be concerned about the policy Council might have in respect of these.

“Would Council be able to decide who could use the Walls and who couldn’t?”

Mr Middleton said the historic link between Derry and the City of London was an important one.

“The Irish Society has a very strong connection with this city and it has a large footprint here in terms of projects and investments.

“For a lot of people, the connection between London and Londonderry is very important and we would like to see that preserved. In fact, we would like to see it strengthened.”

The Irish Society, meanwhile, says any move to change ownership of the Walls will require “cross-party political support”.

The Irish Society says it first put the Walls into formal NI government guardianship in 1955.

“This means that the Department for Communities’ Historic Environment Division is presently responsible overall for all aspects of management and conservation of the Walls which it carries out in close co-operation with Derry City & Strabane District Council and other stakeholder agencies,” said Edward Montgomery, the Society’s secretary.

“The only way in law by which the 1955 management arrangement can be altered is by mutual agreement of the Department and the Irish Society. The Irish Society, which is a cross-community grant making charity operating in the North West of Northern Ireland, would only approach the Department in the circumstances whereby it was satisfied that such a move had full local and regional cross-party political support.”