Derry-born can choose city's name on passport

Thu, Apr 9, 2009, 01:00

RESIDENTS OF Derry who hold an Irish passport are to be offered an opportunity to have their birthplace recorded officially as Londonderry, Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin said yesterday.

Mr Martin said the decision was prompted by a series of representations on the matter from people who wanted their British identity acknowledged.

“In considering this request, I have taken into account the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, endorsed by the people of Ireland North and South,” Mr Martin said.

“[It] recognises ‘the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British’.”

Founded as Doire, meaning oak grove in Irish, the city’s name was anglicised to Derry and later changed to Londonderry after donations from London livery companies helped build a new walled city in the 17th century. The various names have been the focus of disputes between the city’s nationalists and unionists ever since.

Previously, only “Derry” could be recorded on Irish passports for those born in the city or county.

British passport applicants could record either name.

“This decision carries no implications as regards the official or legal title of any political or geographic entity,” Mr Martin said.

“Only through the practice of tolerance and mutual respect will we nourish and sustain relationships on this island.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs issues around 60,000 passports to people living in Northern Ireland each year. It was unable to say exactly how people had been in contact seeking to have their birthplace recorded as Londonderry.