29 April 2006

Court set to rule on Maiden city's name

Belfast Telegraph

By Brian Hutton
28 April 2006

The epic debate over the name of Northern Ireland's second largest city is to be decided once and for all by a High Court Judge, it was announced today.

Mr Justice Weatherup, granting leave in the High Court for an application by Derry City Council to have the city's name determined, said the issue was "loaded with history, conflict and debate".

Significantly, the Department of the Environment (DOE), representing the Government, welcomed a legal resolution to the contentious matter.

Appearing for the DoE, Bernard McCloskey said the Government is entirely neutral as to the outcome. "It's a pure question of law", he said. Mr McCloskey vowed that the DoE would participate in a "non-contentious and non-hostile manner" and give its "full co-operation" to the court.

"It has been a difficult question for a number of decades", he added.

Michael Lavery QC, representing Derry City Council, outlined three key issues it is seeking declarations on:

Is there a separate legal entity known as Londonderry at all?

Has that entity, if it exists, been absorbed into Derry City Council and is it now known as Derry City?

Has the functions of the corporate entity Londonderry City been absorbed by Derry City Council?

Derry City Council now has 14 days to set out its arguments and serve papers on the High Court, formally requesting a legal determination on the matter. The DOE will have six weeks from then to respond with an affidavit setting out its views. The case will be heard again on June 29.

In an anecdotal aside, Mr Justice Weatherup said a visiting friend of his from Geneva was recently confused about why the city was referred to Derry and Londonderry on some maps.

The judge said it gave him considerable difficulty attempting to explain the situation to his French-speaking friend.

"Maybe I'll send him this judgment, whoever writes it", he quipped.

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