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‘The dogs on the street want it’ – Irish village to debate first historic name change in over 500 years

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The south Tipperary village of Ballyclerahan is to consider formally changing its name to what the community has been colloquially known as for decades – Clerihan.

Known in Gaelic as Baile Uí Cléireacháin or ‘the town of O’Céireacháin’, the community just outside Clonmel has been referred to since at least the early 20th Century by its shorter name.

However, on all forms of legal documents, maps and even tourist guides, it is referred to as Ballyclerahan.

Yet when the 1993 National Ploughing Championships were staged locally, the venue was referred to as Clerihan.

One Tipperary County Council member believes it is time for local residents to be given a say in whether the everyday name used for their community is officially recognised.

Councillor John Fitzgerald has commenced a formal process that, if ratified, will see Clerihan recognised as the proper name.

“I am a resident of Clara myself for many years. For nearly 30 years, the situation has been constantly spoken about – that the place name of the village be Clerihan, and not Ballyclerihan as it is on all the signage coming into it by the county council,” he told TippFM.

”I brought a motion before Clonmel Borough Council to set in train the process which will start now to have it changed.

“We have the Tidy Towns Committee, the Community Council, the GAA in Clerihan and anyone that you’re talking to … the dogs on the street in Clerihan say that they want it called Clerihan.”

”Quite a body of research has been done by local historians like Tony Lyons and others to make this point and to show historically where this was the desire.

”So it will require, I understand, a kind of process, something that will be set out to the people there to decide upon in, I think, late summer this year, something along the lines of a plebiscite.

”And I welcome that because it will kind of once and for all stop this debate.”

Councillor Fitzgerald said he believed the vast majority of people wanted the place name to reflect the reality of everyday usage.

“I think the vast majority of people there want to call it Clerihan and we actually have already bought signs,” he said.

“We have got funding for two vintage signs to name it ourselves, the council have agreed they will erect them but they have to go through this process.”

Name changes have been exceptionally rare in Ireland since the War of Independence.

While many towns changed their names after independence – for instance the Cork harbour town of Queenstown became Cobh – name changes have been quite rare in modern times.

However, new street and place names have emerged.

Following the completion of a major city centre retail development in 2009, Cork city centre secured its first new laneway in over 250 years with Opera Lane.

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