Northern Ireland news

Controversy over Derry/Londonderry terms raised

Gregory Campbell protested about the use of the word Derry in a job advertisement

THE controversy over the use of the terms `Derry' and `Londonderry' surfaces in this year's releases from Belfast.

Following the British government's decision to permit the changing of the name of the local authority to Derry City Council in 1985, the council's Town Clerk, Colm Geary was instructed to write to the NI Secretary Douglas Hurd requesting that staff in government departments should be allowed to use either Derry or Londonderry in official correspondence.

In response to the council's demand, Londonderry Unionist Association said it reinforced the claim for a separate district council for the (mainly Protestant) East Bank of the Foyle.

Responding, Pat Carvill, a Stormont official said its real effect was to force council staff and the public to indicate where they stood on the name-change issue. As such, its effect would be divisive. His advice was that government bodies should employ the current terminology, using Derry City Council but Londonderry as the postal address.

The controversy over the city's name re-surfaced the following year in the DUP representative for the city, Gregory Campbell who protested to David Fell, the Permanent Secretary at the Department of Economic Development in Stormont about the use of the word Derry in a job advertisement for the Shantallow Area Workshop.

Writing on April 22, 1986, Mr Campbell told the official: "As you are probably aware, the way in which advertisements are worded can very often affect the type of people who apply. An ad placed in Londonderry with the term `Derry' is virtually certain to preclude many Protestants from applying."

In this case it suggested that the business in question was exclusively Catholic. He went on: "Whether or not this is the case I feel a workshop sponsored by the DED ought not to have an incorrect or politically motivated version of the city's name in the advertisement."

He asked if action could be taken by the department or if he should refer the case to the Fair Employment Agency for investigation. In a minute on the file, Trevor Pearson of the Stormont Central Secretariat commented on April 30, 1986: "The issue of the use of Derry or Londonderry drags on interminably. The government position is simply that the correct address is Londonderry and that Derry is used only when referring to the council. In the case of bodies funded from public money it is more difficult to apply the policy. If a body insists on using Derry as its postal address, the only sanction which the DED can impose is the cutting-off of funds."

He very much doubted if any government department would wish to contemplate such drastic action.

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