NI: DUP move to block Derry rename motion

Cllr Drew Thompson
Cllr Drew Thompson

Lawyers are assessing the impact on the city’s unionist population of renaming Londonderry, following Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) moves to overturn a council motion.

The DUP wants to overturn a Derry and Strabane District Council motion proposed by Sinn Féin councillor Eric McGinley, which formalises the authority’s support for establishing the city’s official name as Derry rather than Londonderry.

The DUP has said it will exercise its right to “call in” the decision under a provision of the Local Government Act NI 2014, which is intended to create a safeguard similar to the petition of concern (POC) in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

If the local authority’s legal team agrees that the motion has a disproportionate impact on one part of the community, it will need to be re-approved by 80 per cent of councillors.

Cllr Drew Thompson, leader of the DUP group on the council, told the Belfast Telegraph: “Once the official minutes of the July meeting came out there was a five-day window in which we could make the challenge and we did that on Tuesday.

“A call-in is a mechanism put in place to protect minorities when the new super-councils took over, and it works a bit like a ‘petition of concern’ in the Assembly.

“We submitted our call-in to the council officials, citing that the changing the name of the city would have a detrimental affect on a disproportionate section of the community.

“It means that in order for something to be passed it must be supported by 80 per cent of councillors, and as the unionist bloc of 10 counts for 25 per cent of this council we are fairly confident this issue is dead in the water.

“Council now has to take legal advice on whether we have a case for the matter to be returned for discussion. Our office has been inundated with angry calls about the Sinn Fein proposal to change the name of the city and others who thought there were better things to be fighting about.”

While Derry and Strabane District Council does not have the power to rename Londonderry itself, the administration said it would write to the Department of Environment (DoE) following the motion in order to find out how it could be done.

However, the DUP condemned the move as “unionist baiting”.

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