VFYW Dissent

Sep 29 2010 @ 11:39am

A reader writes:

I was really struck by the View from Your Window for 9/26, and experienced a three-part mental process that you might find interesting. First, "Derry/Londonderry"?  I thought – nonsense, it's always one or the other, never both. 

I studied abroad in Ireland (UCC) and made many great friends and travel back to Ireland regularly.  None of my friends in Cork or Dublin or Leitrim are particularly Catholic or Nationalist, but none of them would ever say "Londonderry."  If you're Irish, it's Derry, if you're English or Unionist Protestant (also Irish for some 400 years, but still …), it's Londonderry.

Second, I thought: WTF, Sullivan, pick one.  Which is it?  The Derry of Bloody Sunday, or the Londonderry of the Orangemen and their parades?  It's a mostly Catholic city in the North, so most people there would say Derry, but not all, and not all in the surrounding county.  Sure, the Good Friday agreements has made things calmer, but it's still contested ground.  Have VFYW photos of other contested spaces in the Middle East or elsewhere taken this Slash approach (have there even been others from contested spaces like this)?  I suppose it depends on which community/tradition the person sending the picture came from: in which case, dammit, it would still be one or the other, yes?

Then I had a moment of hope: perhaps person or persons who sent this lovely photo (the stained glass is marvelous) call the place both things.  A couple or family or some roommates in college, perhaps, mixing Catholic and Protestant, happy to call the city by whichever name. One can only hope.

No hope, alas. We ran the view with the title "Londonderry", because that is what our reader called it. Trust me, I know the controversy – my family has roots in Northern Ireland and the Republic (although they're all Catholics). But when Catholic Irish readers complained, I added the alternative. The Dish is not taking sides in this mercifully calmed civil war. But that a simple place-name for a window view can provoke such a reaction shows how deep wounds still run.