April 11, 2009

Ireland makes concession on (London) Derry

The Republic of Ireland, in a concession to Protestants, says Northern Irelanders applying for Irish passports can give Londonderry as their birthplace.

The city's name is one of the many issues that divide Republicans and Unionists in Northern Ireland and the Republic from the North. To the Republic and to Catholics in the North, the ancient city is Derry, from an Irish word meaning oak wood.

More Northern Irish Protestants have begun seeking Irish passports, The Irish Times reports. The reason is economic, since Ireland charges far less than Britain for children's passports and provides them free to senior citizens.

Micheal Martin, the Irish minister for foreign affairs, called the new policy on Londonderry, or Derry simply an attempt to accommodate the different traditions on this island. He made the announcement Friday to mark the 11th anniversary of the Good Friday Accord on power-sharing in the North.

Martin said that the Republic is making no concessions on Derry's legal name.

Reaction was generally positive. But the Republican Sinn Fein Party called the move an assault on Irish national identity.