Derry Essays 1: Precarious future of the living Protestant heritage

The Guildhall, Derry. By permission of James Whoriskey.

“Derry/Londonderry” is either an expression or stalemate or a statement of intent to create a truly shared future. The UK City of culture bid should help decide which it really is. Outwardly, the Jerusalem of Ulster where I grew up over half century ago has survived far better than I could have hoped. The physical layout is still the perfect metaphor for Northern Ireland’s sectarian divide. Proud citadel towers over huddled masses in an area below obligingly called the Bogside. But within the citadel, all has changed utterly. People like me no longer exist. The citadel is an empty shell.

Our house within the walls was ringed by Church and State: the magnificent late Georgian courthouse; Irish Society House, the local base of the City of London livery companies; the Deanery and the old Bishop’s Palace, both paid for out of Presbyterian and Catholic tithes to the Established Church. And at the summit, the Planters’ Cathedral whose stones still speak eloquently of the great royal and English colonisation project of Ulster. The Bogside is 400 yards and a world away.

In my childhood the curfew bell, one of five bells personally donated by Charles 1, still rang out symbolically across the walled city. Does it still? Catholics in at nine in the morning, Catholics out at nine at night. Even in the late 1950s, Cardinal D’Alton’s motorcade was banned from the walled city. On Oct 5 1968 the Civil Rights challenge to the ban sparked the entire Troubles. Straight away the old order began to topple. In the following decade Mr McGuinness and friends blew it all away.

The flames have long since died down but the embers of sectarianism can flare up still. Last August, a portrait of the Earl Bishop Frederick Hervey was stolen from the cathedral and set alight on top of a Bogside pile along with a Union Jack, in imitation of a loyalist bonfire. It was a calculated and sinister reminder of where the power lies. Condemnation was universal and too much shouldn’t be made of it but it points to serious unfinished business. In our time it was the besiegers who won. Today Derry folk talk a great reconciliation game but social life is nearly as separate as Cold War Berlin’s. The Fountain, Derry’s Shankill, has been reduced to a tragic little ghetto where the people cling on to the last patch of historic territory. Something has to change.

Enter the Ilex regeneration project. In an inspired piece of social and physical engineering, work has started on the Peace footbridge spanning the Foyle from the waterfront behind the Guildhall to the Protestants of the Waterside. The city centre will be linked to the parade ground of the old Ebrington army barracks, where a new public space the size of Trafalgar Square is being created for big events or just hanging out. Fingers are crossed for a positive cross community response.

One obstacle should be cleared away. Will the name change nonsense ever end? I’m surprised how strongly I feel about it. Leave Londonderry alone and call it Derry as much as you like. Republicans can’t have a monopoly of parity of esteem. Will the politicians match the ambition of Ilex with a real drive for a warmer relationship? Grand projects alone won’t produce nirvana.

Behind the Derry experience lies a fundamental question. The city’s 80:20 Catholic/Protestant ratio is shared with the island of Ireland as a whole. Is it substantial enough to bring new life to an old world, or has the population slide passed the point of no return? The Derry project is a big test of practical pluralism, of whether heritage can be embraced for the common good or whether it will hang around our necks like a millstone and blight our future.

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  • While there is no desire to spoil the party for 2013, there is unease that the bid ‘inquiry’ is a shorthand for name-change, which would deepen alienation and certainly not promote a shared city.It is a political demand, not a cultural requirement. It is also denial in that there was no city, and barely a population before the City Charter of 2013.

    Like the absence of the Cathedral from local tourist guides last year there is a systemic disregard of the minority community in the city and an alienation of that community from civic engagement. It is sad. The failure to constructively and meaningfully engage at a structural level with that minority community is out of step with grass-roots community desires,it is self-serving of a majority polity and ultimately self-defeating.

  • Joe

    Its not so much that Londonderry is a protestant name or any of that, its more the fact that it contains the name of the CAPITAL CITY OF ENGLAND in it. And before the Irish part, naturally.

    I mean, if one wants to purposefully antagonise the locals, one has done a very good job. After all, its tradition.

  • Colin Stutt

    At a cross border development seminar last week Ilex said that the name issue was resolved, the new name is Legenderry! This is, of course, in the context of the UK City of Culture bid.

  • madraj55

    Brian Walker. I agree with you, about the name, in that there is no reason why a pet name for a city or town should become the official name, after all, Derry was almost always preceded, or followed by a second name, ie Doire Calgach, or Derry Colmcille.

    I would say, for the majority community, it’s less about London being in the name, and more about the use Unionist politicians, [and one in particular], put it to. Using it, to score petty political points off.

    They could suggest confining the prefix to the area inside the walls, [the only part built on at the time of the charter], which would be logical, and leave the rest of the council area with the old name.

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    The problem with our unionist friends is that they’re quite happy to demand parity of esteem, agree to mayoral rotations and generally live and let live when they’re in the minority, but there is no chance of it happening while they have a working majority.

    Their attitude to the Irish Language Act, cross border policing and Iris government funding ofnorthern roads just shows that they are out for pork barrel short term gain without any real strategic goal.

    Once the union is not in immediate danger they will happily do side deals that contradict policy, morals and long term goals, hoping any short term inconsistencies can beironed out by mass appeal to the loyalist working classes if the goin gets tough

  • Mick Fealty

    The problem we get every time we talk about Derry, is this resiling to ‘stereotypes’ (which Brian has I think successfully avoided). It is easy to make generalist points which draw down directly from our conflict and post conflict experiences.

    Brian draws on the past to ask pertinent questions about what kind of future the city really wants: single; double; or plural? I am not presuming a single answer to that, there must several and various responses to it.

    What I do really want to avoid this time is getting stuck in the old familiar swamps of Whataboutery (here’s a readable quote from our not yet working backlinks: http://url.ie/5uga)…

  • Chris Donnelly

    Rather than wishing the problem away, far better to propose a practical resolution that could draw a line in the sand.

    The excellent proposition that the city be officially known as ‘Derry’ and the inner walled region ‘Londonderry’ has the misfortune of seemingly being conceived by a republican.

    Still, it remains the best possible resolution.

  • Mick Fealty

    That’s a concrete proposition that’s already in the public domain. However, it’s also noticeably drifting away from the qualitative question at the end of the piece.

  • Drumlins Rock

    At present the city has dual names, and to some extent it always will, the debate should be to find a rough common ground where the line can be drawn, at present Republicans want to wipe out the London reference completely, and this is felt as a amounting to a desire to also remove the community that hold the name close.

    Most Unionists live with the dual names and use them interchangeably, and often only use the longer name in everyday speech to make a point, this would decrease if it was no longer contentious.

  • Neil

    Agree 100%. 50%+1 maintains the union but apparantly were Nationalists 50%+1 it wouldn’t be enough to remove the border. As in Derry, where Gerrymandering was enough to ensure Unionist control over a Nationalist majority City, now Nationalist control obtained fairly and democratically is not enough to exert the same control.

  • Drumlins Rock

    As for the big question Mick, it is going to be difficult for a vibrant community to survive at 20% if most of the other 80% are still relatively hostile and chipping away bit by bit at what they retain.

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    its not about whataboutery, its about reciprocation across northern ireland. Its very difficult to take broad based holistic approach in one town, when you see that this approach is scorned when the situation is reversed 30 miles down the road.
    Unfortunately unionist politicians have been brought kicking and screaming into the 20th century, not yet in the 21st, and there is still a sizable cohort who would quite happily continue the politics of exclusion.
    I may be wrong but Ihave yetto see one genuinely inclusive mood made by mainstream unionism when they didnt have to. Am I wrong?

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    or how about the people who live in the city chosse its name?? If that’s Ballygokissmearse, so be it.
    Mumbai choose to change its name. It didnt have to apologise or tiptoe around the achronistic sensibilities of an irrelevant, once privleged class of a bygone world to do it either.

  • Drumlins Rock

    “once privleged class of a bygone world” The fountain and much of the waterside are far from privleged, but it is they who would feel the effect of a name change.

  • Greenflag

    ‘I may be wrong but Ihave yetto see one genuinely inclusive mood made by mainstream unionism when they didnt have to. Am I wrong?’

    Unfortunately von Granules you are only too right . That contingent will coalesce in the TUV vote and also to larger than you might think extent in both the UCUNF and DUP .

    Never mind what they say just watch their actions particularly in those areas where they still command ‘majorities’ .

  • Greenflag

    Wiping out the London prefix will neither raise the living standards of the locals of either tribe or reduce them an iota .

    London the word is originally of Celtic origin

    “Before the 20th Century most ideas centred around the ‘don’ at the end of the name deriving it from ‘dun’ which is used extensively in the ‘celtic world’ as the name for a fortress or hill-fort. So London was thought to be either the ‘Lake Fort’ from Llyndid or Londinos’s Fort, from an otherwise unknown celtic personal name derived from Londo – which means fierce. So Londinos Dun might be translated as the fierce person’s Fort!

    Recently, Richard Coates has come to the conclusion that the name derives from pre-celtic Old European and from the name Plowonida. This springs from 2 roots, ‘plew’ and ‘nejd’. The former meaning something lto do with flowing, swimming, boating, washing away, the latter more simply to flow. The suggestion is that it was the name for the part of the River Thames below Westminster and before the Estuary which was too wide to ford – i.e. it means boat river or flooding river, river too wide to ford.

    When a settlement was set up by Plowonida the Celts added a place name suffix ‘on’ or ‘onjon’ giving Plowonidon or Plowonidonjon, but the British Celts did not pronounce the P and so through linguistic change it developed into Lundonjon and then Lundein or Lundyn which is the form of the name that the Welsh used and from which the Romans derived Londinium.

    Chris Donnelly’s suggestion above makes the most sense .

    As for the 80/20 population split ? That’s Pareto’s principle in action again 😉

    Twenty percent of the people give you 80% of the problems which is if I recall how the original pre 1922 troubles began 😉

  • Dec

    At present Republicans want to wipe out the London reference completely

    You obviously missed Chris’ post which referenced Mitchell McLaughlin’s suggestion.

  • Neil, it’s hard to know where to start with that line of reasoning.

    1. Are 100% of Catholics ‘Nationalist’? No.
    2. Are they commonly referred to as Nationalist? Yes. Does this make them Nationalists? No.
    3. Are 100% of the people who vote for nationalist parties nationalist? Absolutely not – IIRC about 20% of the people who vote SF don’t even want a united Ireland. Would SDLP voters be more or less ‘nationalist’ do you think?

    Even in the unlikely event that 50% + 1 of the voters were to turn out and ever vote unequivocally for a removal of the border in the even more unlikely event that they would be asked the question, would this be a mandate for constitutional change? A single ballot that is so contentious? Really?

    If you want some sort of revenge for past abuse of a gerrymandered majority and you want to give ‘Unionists’ (proabably about as applicable to every non-‘nationalist’ individual as the term ‘nationalist’ is to ‘nationalists’) a taste of their own medicine, maybe that’s what you should be saying?

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    I am not sure how they would feel the effect of the name change. I am no expert but I believe the vast majority of residents of the city drop the London in everyday use. It is merely a vestige of triumphalist protestantism that insists on using Londonderry as a means of reminding the majority of the population where they belong.

    The fountain and much of the waterside play a large role in turning the clock back to 1690 every July and providing the footsoldiers in the marching bands. If they choose this pastime to march in front o their neighbors rather than build a new culture that isnt an attack on another but a celebration of their own, then they will eventually wither on the vine.

    I am not in favour of this, but if unionism seeks to be reactive and negative at every turn, then this is the inevitable outcome as the young reject, educate themselves, move away or become indifferent to the confrontational nature of orangeism.

  • Brian MacAodh

    Why not a new name entirely?

  • Mick Fealty

    This is whataboutery lads. There really is no point in me asking people to write testing essays to get hit by a barage of point and counter point about an issue that is subject to a political stalemate. I’m just going to start cutting that stuff if it keeps coming up.

    Really let’s try and take this somewhere…

  • Anonin

    Staunch nationalist here but this was beautifully written.

  • magazine

    Surely the point here is not really about the name, it’s about the City of Culture bid and the potential transformative effect that this may have on the wider Protestant community and its sense of civic inclusion, participation and ownership in the City?

    So, how do Prods in the City feel about the bid?
    Are they represented?
    Have they tried to be?
    How would they like to be?

    Is it even accurate to look at this in terms of Prod culture and Catholic culture? Is it realistic that something like a city of Culture plan could even begin to address this?

    My perception in recent years is that the City is much more culturally integrated than many realise, albeit informally, but that overtly Unionist elements of ‘Protestant’ culture are not welcomed/supported, whilst culture imbued with Irish nationalism is embraced.

    Is this permissable for a City of Culture, or does the bid provide the opportunity to address it ina much wider and more public context?

  • Mick Fealty

    That said, we obviously have to have it out over the name… any one game for 400-600 words..?

  • Fabianus

    I do wish certain Nationalist commenters here would lose the broad brush. Unionists are not a homogeneous glob. Some of us are actually pretty fair-minded.

    But you can identify the bigoted Unionist pretty quickly. He’ll be the one to use Londonderry come hell or high water, sometimes twice in the one sentence. Others, like me, will use it once then switch to Derry for all subsequent instances.

    If nothing else, that wards off Repetitive Strain Injury.

  • Brian Walker

    Derry is at an interesting stage of reconcilation with its own past. The political parties are sometimes stuck in it. The name change compromise has been available in local usage for centuries. It would be a welcome sign of maturity to stop treating it as a nationalist party football and being so chippy about an intrinsic part of the identity.

    Moving on, civil society ( as we call other public bodies) is forging ahead. Social and economic forces have played as big a part in change as the troubles. A tiny class of mainly Prot owners has been replaced by a huge expansion of the Catholic middle classes, living in neat private estates stretching to the border and threatening to overspill into “Derry Donegal”.

    Prosperity is precarious – the Eamonn McCann thesis is not yet unviable- but self confidence has grown remarkably. Debate needs to be honest, not too nicey nicey.

    Role reversal will do Protestants no good. The UK competition is a reminder of the need to be outward-looking. We can only hope that Derry allows the Bloody Sunday report to lift a dark shadow.

    There’s a lot of past to live down. But I look forward to the PhD thesis on the embourgeoisement of the Bogside. I would enjoy Eamonn’s review.

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    I dont get to meet a lot of middle of the road unionists. I know this is off topic but in the interests of expanding my horizons I have a rake load of questions to ask about the unionist mindset. I am genuinely ignorant to the answers to these questions and would appreciate if you could answer in an open manner as possible

    – do unionists have any guilt over past discrimination? I dont mean daily hand wringing but an acceptance that it happened, it was wrong and went some way towards the troubles?
    – do any think that the IRA campaign was inevitable or justified?
    – were the troubles a war or was it a civil operation against terrorists?
    – how do unionists reconcile their politicians refusing to talk to Sinn Fein but regualrly meeting loyalist paramilitaries?
    – do unionists have any sense of incongruity in espousing the union but rejecting UK politics when it doesnt suit – conscription, mad cow disease, abortion etc
    – why is there an objection to schooling in Irish and the Irish language act?
    – why is there an acceptance of all ireland body for rugby and not for football?
    – what exactly do unionists fear from unification?
    – do unionists believe that there will eventually be unification?

    My apologies if this sounds naive or biased but these are genuine questions. I feel I know what the answers would be from a TUV supporter but I would appreciate your thoughts as a liberal unionist

  • Chris Donnelly

    Dec
    Don’t think Drumlin missed it; rather, it did not fit in with the narrative and was, therefore, ignored.

    Mick & Brian
    I don’t think there’s a need to be over sensitive about people pointing out where they disagree with Brian’s analysis- after all, I can think of threads where Brian’s faced completely unacceptable personal abuse (and that from a fellow pro-Union blogger on the site…)

    This is, typically, a well written and thought provoking piece by Brian, but there are a number of things that should be said about the position Derry finds itself in today.

    Derry, probably more so than the majority of other large towns/ cities in the north, has had some degree of success with practical pluralism (and I use the term ‘city’ in the very loose sense that we locally appear to label medium sized towns.)

    Compare it to Lisburn, Carrickfergus and Belfast and you’ll see a vastly differing experience for the minority community with regard to practical steps taken to preserve heritage or acknowledge the political identity of the minority tradition- though clearly, with regard to Belfast, changes have taken place since unionism ceased to have a majority at council level.

    Unionism is politically and culturally afforded a civic place in the city in a manner that simply does not appear on the radar in majority unionist towns like Bangor, Carrick, Newtownabbey and Lisburn. Power-sharing has been the norm- at least, since the gerrymandering system which kept nationalism at bay was abolished.

    Reading some of the reports and seminars where the charge of protestant alienation has been made, it is clear that parading and the name change issue matter to unionists- as they do to nationalists. But it is also clear that the issues alone won’t resolve the sense of ‘loss’ felt by those largely working-class protestants left behind. Many protestants appear comfortable blaming nationalists for the failings of unionist parties in the city- and elsewhere- to show leadership for their working-class communities. The middle-classes long ago fled to nearby safely unionist towns, consistent with patterns across the north- not least in Belfast.

    Addressing the parading issue and even agreeing the excellent compromise proposal regarding the dual name issue will be important, but the next morning things won’t likely be much different.

    Many would perhaps prefer a return to the halcyon era of Ulster’s Jerusalem, when all knew for whom those bells tolled.

    Ultimately, though, it is in nationalism’s interests to make Derry an inclusive city, and progress over parading was an important step in this direction.

    Also, the fact that the local council has openly made efforts to address perceived protestant alienation- for eg. through The Shared City and District Initiative- illustrates how far it is ahead of other councils on what is, admittedly, a lengthy journey.

    But, obviously, it takes two to tango, and nationalists are entitled to expect some give and take as part of the process of building that warm relationship.

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    Londaindoire – problem solved. Next

  • abucs

    Chris makes a good point about reciprocity.

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    I refer to my post at 4.28 on the 21st which was subsequently classed as whataboutery and not reciprocity despite the use of the word.

    To misquote an American VP, there are obviously unknowns that I dont know about

  • Neil

    Paul,

    taking your first three points as one, I don’t disagree with any of them. There’s little point in bandying about hypothetical catholic Unionists and protestant Republicans (both of which exist, I personally know representatives of both those groups).

    At the end of the day a border referendum will be the only way to nail down those figures, and in that instance when I say 50%+1 Nationalist I mean 50%+1 who would vote to remove the border. And just as 50%+1 maintains it, 50%+1 will destroy it.

    I’m not saying I want to give them a taste of their own medicine as you say, what I’m saying is that for a long time Unionists held control, and they used it in the furtherance of their own interests. Now Nationalists have control and in the furtherance of Nationalist interests they are accused of all sorts.

    It seems that Unionism in Derry, after having given it the never, never, never line for years with regard to changing the city’s name, who never once considered compromising with the disenfranchised Nationalist majority in that town, now feel that Nationalists must not only compromise, but actually, ‘drop the whole bloody silly idea. Be the bigger man, yes I know we didn’t but you should’. It’s hypocrisy.

    A compromise would be the best thing, put the argument to bed, for a while at least. But if the decision to change the name to Derry is taken, the Unionists should see it in the same way Nationalists see decisions made day and daily in towns across the North; democracy at work.

  • Anon

    Who are the really big losers from the tug of war on the name? Unionists in Derry can probably veto any name change, but if it bred a hardening of attitudes it would not be the majority community that came off worse for it. On a day to day basis, an insistence on “Londonderry” marks people out and perhaps increases a sense of alienation.

    There are compromises on the table and Nationalist politicians open to suggest compromise. One of the barriers here is that Unionism is, as ever, unprepared to move an inch. That is perhaps understandable as a fear of getting the thin end of the wedge. But that lack of trust is unhelpful, and it’s unclear how Ntaionalism can build it. As Chris points out, Derry is far ahead of most other councils.

    One should also note that Unionism argues that where a majority exists across the six counties Nationalists should be accepting of that until a coalition can be built for change. Then usually go further, suggesting that nationalism should actually embrace the situation due to the moral force of a democratic majority. Read 3000 Versts for a bit and that time of thinking will fall out quite a lot. Perhaps practicing what you preach may make that argument easier to make?

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Chris,

    I notice you use Carrickfergus whereas the majority of those who live there use Carrick. Exactly, the same as Londonderry/Derry. There doesn’t seem to be a groundswell of opinion by the residents of Carrick to have it formally changed. So, why is there in Derry/Londonderry?

    Couldn’t be good auld sectarianism by any chance? BTW, I recognise not wanting it changed is equally as sectarian. Therefore, the only non sectarian road is to not give a toss about the name. Can’t see that catching on though.

    BTW, would it be SF policy that Prods should “demand” that any “Dublin Road” in “their” area be just called “Road”? Parity of Esteem and all that. And whilst on that, is it time for the GAA to be banned from the workplace to provide a neutral environment for ALL workers.

  • madraj55

    Very good point, Fabianus. I recall reading that when the council name was changed in 1984, Campbell organised a campaign and rallies, [attended by a few hundred], to get it reversed.

    He boycotted the Guildhall for months until it sank in with him that Unionist voters saw what he was doing as petty pointscoring when they thought he should have been doing the job he was paid for. He slunk back in, but seems to have learned nothing from it.

    I believe neither community are terribly hung up about it for the most part, and it’s politicians, afraid of losing votes, newspapers afraid of losing readers and broadcasters afraid of losing viewers, who are obseessing about the name.

  • slappymcgroundout

    As an outsider, with no one horse in the race, let me suggest to you all how stupid the name thing is. Are the Apprentice Boys of Derry supposed to stand firm for the name Londonderry? And am I supposed to make revolution here in the US so that there is no longer a New York and a New Hamshire and a Pittsburgh? And when that’s done, do the Protestants, Buddhists, Hindus, animists and atheists revolt so that there is no more San Diego, Santa Barbara and San Francisco? And what were some doing naming their city after “chief” Seattle…

    And why this speaking to Unionist culture and Nationalist culture? I would hope that there is more to being a Scot Protestant than union with the UK just as I would hope that there is more to being a Gael Roman Catholic than union with the ROI. In other words, I would hope that if we took one of each of you to Ulan Bator, that the one could still be Scot Protestant and the other Gael Roman Catholic.

    Now on to language, instead of an Irish language act, why don’t you all have an Irish and Scots language act? I mean, if you’re Gael and complaining that some took away your language, well, aren’t the Scots in the same position as you? Matter of fact, make it a menage a trois. Those who want to learn Gaelic learn Gaelic, those who want to learn Lowland Scots learn Lowland Scots, and those who want to learn Scots Gaelic learn Scots Gaelic.

    Lastly, re you and your culture one more time, Denzel’s Biko in the film Cry Freedom:

    Let us remember that we are in this struggle to kill the idea that one kind of man is superior to another kind of man. Killing that idea is not dependent on the white man.

    In other words, if you define yourself and/or your culture in reference to another and her/his/their culture, then you have neither pride in yourself nor your culture, as both you and your culture should stand on their own and without reference to any other matter. And instead of being so hard on some, helps to also remember that if you were on the Shankill Road you might be them just as they’d be you if they were born on the Falls Road. None of you had any choice in that regard. Truly lastly, I won’t say whether I think it’s true or not, but in an otherwise mediocre film, one redeeming line in the film Mr. Baseball was when Tom Selleck’s Japanese girlfriend reported to him that Japan takes the best of the world and makes it her own. I call that a tasty recipe for self-critique and a critical exploration of the world.

  • smellybigoxteronye

    Anyone who makes an issue out of insisting on solely using either name is a narrow-minded sectarian fool. Both names have relevance.

    However, I think the Carrick/Carrickfergus analogy is a good one. Treating Londonderry in the same natural way as Carrickfergus is the only solution. The fact that we have got into the situation whereby Google (for example) have put it on the map as “Londonderry/Derry” (most likely after receiving nationalist complaints as it initially just said Londonderry) is ridiculous. On maps and formal letters etc. I wish some would get the chip off their shoulder and just let it be called the non-ambiguous and formal “Londonderry”, and then everyone will end up informally calling it “Derry” just as they do with Carrick.

    There is also a very interesting lecture from Prof. Eamon Phoenix ( http://ourfuturetogether.net/video/20100319-eamon-phoenix-upc ) where somewhere in the middle he discusses ‘derry and puts quite a lot of emphasis on how the only real settlement at Doire Calgaich prior to the plantation was a single monastery. The first real substantial settlement in the area (Londonderry) was formed and built with money from the London guilds. Since then the surrounding non-plantation population have moved in and expanded the city and now are attempting to change the original city name to that that only vaguely resembles the name of a single monastery!

  • Mick Fealty

    Just pointing out what we were drifting from the question posed…

  • Magazine

    I think we all know that the name debate is riddled with contradiction, zero-sum posturing and precious little new to be said. But as to how the bid for city of culture can/is/should be a vehicle to revitalise/reinvigorate participation in the city from the Protestant population is a new and interesting question. Can anyone see past the naming issue to the bigger questions raised in the post here?

  • Greenflag

    Fabianus ,

    ‘Unionists are not a homogeneous glob. Some of us are actually pretty fair-minded.’

    Nobody doubts that .It’s just that out of the mouth of Unionist politicians that’s not what Irish nationalists hear . What they hear instead too often is a ‘grudging’ and reluctant acceptance of ‘power sharing ‘ a sometimes barely concealed childish hostility to Irish language issues and an almost total lack of reciprocity in parts of NI which have ‘unionist ‘majority ‘ councils etc .

    What do Unionists expect then when OO parades become an issue in areas under demographic change ? The simple answer is that as you sow so shall you reap . Its up to Unionist politicians to lead their people away from self destructive political and cultural isolation in those parts of NI where ‘unionists ‘ are becoming increasingly minoritised .

    I believe most Irish nationalists and republicans are more than willing to reciprocate in such matters .

  • Drumlin Rock

    Count Eric, how dare you tell the unionist people of Londonderry to “change their culture” marching bands are a completely legitimate form of culture and more than that many of the bands are among the best in the world, they have served to foster some amazingly talented musicians over the year, not least of which is James Galway.

    Its comments like yours that bear out the fears highlighted in this thread and confirm the belief that Protestants will only be “tolerated” in a nationalist city if they keep their heads down gradually fade away, as has happened in much of the south.

  • Brian Walker

    I agree completely with Chris Donnelly and others about reciprocity. It’s regrettable to put it mildly that even after all these years unionist councils are still carrying on with their bad old winner-take-all habits and very much to the credit of nationalists – not always excluding SF – that they take an inclusive line in spite of decades of provocation. We have to press for a change of tack when powersharing settles down and a new code of conduct applies to the new councils. I’m the last to be oversensitive to criticism. I wrote a personal essay to reflect my background rather than give an overview of Derry as a whole, never mind the whole of NI society.

  • Odhran Moses

    Londaindoire would be a good compromise for the name.
    It would redress the phonetic hames made when Doire – an oak grove on a hillside – was misrepresented as Derry.
    It would retain the London prefix which is a leftover from an ongoing though diminishing imperial venture but if it makes the minority community here more secure then so be it.
    Can a unionist poster raise a valid objection to Londaindoire?
    I don’t agree with the UK City of Culture bid – this is an Irish city and Irish unionism traditionally accepted this analysis; the idea of this place being British is a recent innovation and is plain incorrect – or treating any group differently but again if Protestants, Unionists, Loyalists are so enamoured of it why not?
    So Londain retained, a charter of rights and protections for Protestants because of their unique history, continuance of the British City of Culture bid and the affordance of those who wish on the island a right to special status within the Windsor Commonwealth – can this be the basis for a 32 county union and the future of Lonaindoire.

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    The point I was making was that it would be beneficial to all if unionism concentrated on celebrating the positive aspects of their culture without denigrating another. I dont think I am alone in this view.

    I think there is a lot to be admired and indeed celebrated in protestant culture of the 17th, 18h and 19th centuries, however, in this day and age I fail to see how FTP bands and the like will engage their Catholic neighbours.

    You over-estimate my audience when you say I’m addressing the unionist population of London/Derry but as for daring to express an opinion, that will continue regardess.