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Calls for 'unionist council' in name row

(Roddy McGregor, Irish News)

The Independent Loyal Orange Order has proposed that unionists in Derry should set up their own local authority if the official name of the city is changed from Londonderry to Derry.

It is understood the group has approached politicians and community groups with their plan following Derry City Council's decision last month to begin name change moves.

East Derry MP and DUP councillor Gregory Campbell said he would be prepared to meet the organisation but gave no indication that he would actually back the proposals.

Unionists reacted angrily to the joint SDLP/Sinn Féin motion. The DUP backed proposals for individuals to have the city referred to according to their own wishes on all official documentation. But unionists refused to endorse any change to the official name, claiming it would alienate Protestant and unionist identity.

Full equality, community relations and legal provisions are to be examined and a plebiscite held before any change is made. But the Independent Orange Institution called for the results of any plebiscite to be examined to find if there was sufficient support among unionists to split from the new Derry.

The proposal from the Mid Ulster District Lodge Number One suggests the separate authority could officially retain the name Londonderry and have autonomy in campaigning for the allocation of resources. Last night (Wednesday), Mr Campbell said he would be prepared to meet the Independent Loyal Orange Institution to discuss its ideas. But the former regional development minister did not say if he supported the proposals. SDLP group leader on Derry City Council, Pat Ramsey, said the institution's proposals "didn't make sense" in the light of the review of public administration.

A Sinn Féin spokesman said: "The people of Derry, that means the entire city, will decide in a plebiscite what the name will be. Whatever the people want, that will be the name".

February 14, 2003

This article appeared first in the February 13, 2003 edition of the Irish News.

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