Sinn Fein councillors have been accused of attempting to “airbrush the name of Londonderry from history”
Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council is set to erect new signs welcoming visitors to Limavady, bearing the words ‘Home of the Londonderry Air and Danny Boy’.
But a row erupted after Sinn Fein councillors objected to the inclusion of the word ‘Londonderry’ and warned the signs could be targeted by vandals.
While the new signage was approved by 22 votes to 11 at the council’s monthly meeting on Monday, unionists have slammed Sinn Fein and SDLP members for attempting to block the move.
DUP councillor Aaron Callan branded Sinn Fein’s stance as “blatant sectarianism” and said the party was seeking to “eradicate anything British from the map”.
He added: “The five Limavady councillors (three DUP, one SDLP and one Sinn Fein) held discussions in August regarding plans for new signage welcoming visitors to Limavady, and there was cross-party consensus that both Londonderry Air and Danny Boy would be included.
“The proposal went through the committee stage earlier this month and it was only at the full council meeting on Monday that we heard any objections from Sinn Fen and the SDLP.”
Mr Callan said he was “disappointed but not surprised” by Sinn Fein’s position, adding: “This has been an ongoing issue on this council.
“Sinn Fein has struck up an anti-unionist and anti-British stance on anything that comes before the council.
“It is also worth noting that, despite all Sinn Fein’s talk about the Irish language, not once did the party ever push for the signs to include Irish.”
UUP councillor Richard Holmes said Sinn Fein’s idea of a shared future “is all one way”.
He added: “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.”
Sinn Fein councillor Brenda Chivers felt there was no need to include ‘The Londonderry Air’ on the new signage, claiming “everyone knows the song as Danny Boy”.
She added: “Londonderry Air is not all that well known, where as Danny Boy is world-renowned.”
She also described the sign as “political” and claimed it would be vandalised.
“There is a danger that by putting this sign up, it will become a target,” she added.
“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. We want a neutral town.”
SDLP councillor John Deighan said he had objected to the proposal due to what he described as a “lack of cross-party consensus” on the issue.
It is understood the new signage will be in place by the end of the year.