Sinn Fein closing door on Protestants, says DUP

Londonderry Guildhall
Londonderry Guildhall

Sinn Fein has been accused of trying to “close the door” on Protestants in Londonderry.

The republican party has inserted the Irish name ‘Doire’ into the branding of the newly-renovated Guildhall, and also attempted to remove the UK from a City of Culture display.

And DUP Londonderry councillor Maurice Devenney told the News Letter that all these proposals were to have been kept secret from the public.

“This was to be in confidential business and it was myself on behalf of the DUP that proposed to bring this out into open business because I thought it is important that people know what is going on here,” he said.

The row started at a special council meeting on April 15 when Sinn Fein proposed the inclusion of Doire to the branding of the Guildhall. This was voted through.

Mr Devenney said his party opposed it, as well as proposing including Londonderry in the address of Guildhall. But this was unsuccessful due to 2003 council policy that the address of any council properties be known as Derry.

Sinn Fein also proposed removing ‘the first UK’ out of an exhibition panel which was to read ‘the first UK City of Culture 2013’. However, this failed because the SDLP did not support it.

The SDLP is the largest party on the council with 14 councillors, while Sinn Fein has 10, the DUP has five and the UUP has one. Mr Devenney accused Sinn Fein of trying to “close the door” on Protestants.

He said: “This is Sinn Fein once again trying to strip away at more Britishness. I worry about this, especially in nationalist controlled councils.

“Sinn Fein said they wanted the Guildhall to be identified with all cultures, religious beliefs and political affiliation, yet by them pushing this through, they are closing the door on the Protestant/unionist/loyalist community. This is a time now when Sinn Fein are meant to be reaching out the hand of friendship.

“They might say we have to move on but within my community there is a lot of hurt. You’ve got to remember 20,000 people left the west bank of the river because of the problems and then you have all the people who were murdered by the IRA in the city. We’re into 15 years of a peace process, but it’s going to take a lot longer.

“The only faction in the Fountain that remains in west bank was getting attacked continually for a week. Thankfully that has calmed down now.”

Sinn Fein councillor Paul Fleming said he felt it is important that the new Guildhall be “inclusive of all opinions in the city”.