Both in its Georgian architecture and its people Derry has bags of character. But argues (subs needed) Fionnuala O’Connor, in this fast moving modern world that is not enough. Its real deficit is economic development. In that respect, its once dependent hinterland in Donegal has begun to draw ahead of the walled city: and not least in the superior quality of its service industries. Recognising the damage done to its own cross community social capital during the Troubles might be a useful starting point in redressing its other deficits:
How today’s situation shakes down will depend on several factors, not least the psychology of coming generations of bright young Derry-born Protestants. Most of their parents may stay fixated on the most blatant change in the landscape. It is certainly hard to assimilate the fact that the city’s chief contemporary political representative, sharing the top post in a transformed Stormont with none other than Ian Paisley, is Martin McGuinness.
The McGuinness reputation was made 30 years ago, when he led the IRA while it bombed Derry’s commercial centre close to extinction.
But then for many Catholics across the North, Ian Paisley as First Minister is hardly a source of joyous contemplation either.
Protestant flight from Catholic-run Derry to Limavady and the east is not much of a slogan, and no way to live. Martin McGuinness has been local lad made good for a long time.
The IRA’s war in Derry was over, at least in the view of many republicans, several years before the first “cessation of military operations” was declared. In the view of many unionists, the reason was clear enough. The IRA would not bomb what its own people now controlled. There was little unionist-owned business left inside the walls and the Guildhall, seat of local government, had changed hands.
The council had become “Derry Council”, renamed by the upwardly mobile nationalist majority that relegated “Londonderry”. In the early Troubles it was Derry, not Belfast, that drew international attention for its radicals and rhetoric.
Like other places, Derry people resent disrespect from outsiders but are quick to jibe themselves. Some who saw the revolution begin wonder where the radicalism went. Only slightly joking, they mutter that a good few foot soldiers of the civil rights movement have joined the landlord classes.
Others simply want the rich to spend their money at home, and support a few good restaurants.