'˜Danny Boy' sparks sectarian row in Limavady

Sinn Fein has objected to a new '˜Welcome to Limavady' sign on the basis that it celebrates the town as '˜The Home of the Londonderry Air'.

Meanwhile, nationalists say the roundabout on the Seacoast Road on the entrance to the town is in danger of becoming a ‘permanent memorial to division’.

Causeway Coast and Glens UUP councillor Richard Holmes says the welcome sign passed through sub-committee and committee level, but only became contentious when it reached full council.

“It’s always the little things that cause the most problems in council,” he said.

“Whilst the music score The Londonderry Air was collected by Jane Ross of Limavady, the famous lyrics of Danny Boy were written by English Lawyer FE Weatherly in 1910 and set to the music in 1913.

“Limavady is the home of the Londonderry Air and it is sad that yet another attempt is being made to airbrush the name of Londonderry from history.

“Instead of welcoming signs that respected our two traditions and history, Sinn Fein openly talked of signs being vandalised - obviously due to the offensive terminology being used!

“It seems that Sinn Fein’s idea of a shared future is all one way.”

Sinn Fein councillor Brenda Chivers said that there was no need to refer to the song as ‘The Londonderry Air’ as everybody knew it as ‘Danny Boy’.

“I think that referring to the song as ‘Danny Boy’ is quite sufficient,” she said.

“There is also a danger that by putting this sign up, it will become a target.

“If you see other controversial signs which have ‘Londonderry’ on them, they get marked out.

“We do not want to see that happening around Limavady.”

Ulster Unionist councillor Darryl Wilson responded: “It is rather curious that Sinn Fein concerns about signs being vandalised in the Limavady area are not shared by their party colleagues in Newry, Mourne & Down Council, who are quite happy to replace vandalised Irish language signs.

“Nor does the prospect of vandalism of signs seem to stop Sinn Fein demanding Irish language road signs throughout Northern Ireland as part of their demands for an Irish Language Act.”

Meanwhile the saga of the Seacoast Road roundabout, which was painted red, white and blue at the start of the summer, is a longer-running saga.

SDLP MLA John Dallat says that the vandalism sends out the wrong signals to visitors to the town.

“I feel passionately that we must have a neutral environment in every part of East Derry, and that goes for all kinds of flags, kerb painting, and in this case the takeover of a roundabout. Public spaces are there to be enjoyed by everyone and not used to promote the very issues which are holding back reconciliation, the promotion of industry and jobs and, of course, tourism.

Limavady is a good town which attracts shoppers from all quarters. The attraction of any town is the ability of its political representatives to ensure it is welcoming to all and that must be protected at all costs. For that reason alone, this roundabout must have its colour scheme restored to what is the norm in all other places.”

Mr Dallat added that it was understandable that Transport NI had other priorities, but that should not mean that the problem was ignored.

“Vandals took an awful lot of time to sectarianise this roundabout earlier in the year and understandably efforts to restore it to its original livery colours was deferred,” he said.

“However, it is now long past the ‘sell-by-date’ for retaining this memorial to sectarianism and division where none should exist.

“While I understand the pressures on Transport NI to maintain a basic service like filling potholes it is nevertheless important that public property under their control is not allowed to be hijacked by those who have no contribution to peace and reconciliation and want to put their thumb marks on everything.”