JUSTICE MINISTER ALAN Shatter caused a stir on Twitter earlier today when he referred to the city of Derry as Londonderry during a Dáil debate.
Discussing legislation to extend anti-terrorist powers under the Offences Against the State Act, Shatter listed a number of recent attacks on PSNI officers and other security personnel in the North when he made the reference to Londonderry.
The dispute over the city’s name has been a longstanding issue going back to the days of the Troubles. Traditionally, nationalists refer to it as Derry and unionists use Londonderry.
Shatter was outlining reasons why powers initiated in the wake of the Omagh bombings should continue to apply when he named one example of a recent attack: “Two pipe bombs set off in Londonderry on January 19, 2012.”
Later during the debate he explained his rationale behind the use of the name: “I would use either the term Derry or Londonderry interchangeably.
“It’s used by the two different communities in Northern Ireland; the Catholic community refers to Derry, the Protestant community refers to Londonderry. It’s a place that I want to see live in peace and I don’t have hang-ups about which name you attach to it.”
Legally, the city and county are called Londonderry while the local government district is called Derry. Road signs in the Republic of Ireland refer to the city as Derry while those in the North use Londonderry.
Reactions on Twitter varied from those who were outraged to those who reckoned Shatter had won the ‘West Brit of the Year award’: