Moyle twins with Gaza

The Jewish Chronicle - - News - BY MAR­CUS DYSCH

ONE OF North­ern Ire­land’s small­est towns has of­fi­cially twinned with Gaza City, af­ter months of po­lit­i­cal ar­gu­ment.

The chair­man of Moyle Dis­trict Coun­cil at­tended a cer­e­mony in the Pales­tinian city on Mon­day night.

Moyle, in County Antrim, has a pop­u­la­tion of 15,000 and is home to the world-fa­mous Gi­ant’s Cause­way. Coun­cil­lors have been dis­cussing the pos­si­bil­ity of twin­ning for more than a year, and fi­nally passed a mo­tion last month.

Coun­cil­lor Padraig Mcshane ar­rived in Gaza on Wed­nes­day last week to em­bark on an eight-day visit. He met Ha­mas of­fi­cials and vis­ited med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties and schools be­fore at­tend­ing the cer­e­mony. A Moyle Peace Park will re­port­edly be built in Gaza as part of the agree­ment.

Cllr Mcshane had ini­tially pro­posed the twin­ning af­ter tak­ing part in a mis­sion to de­liver med­i­cal aid to the Pales­tinian city as a sup­porter of the Viva Palestina move­ment.

He held the cast­ing vote last month when seven na­tion­al­ist coun­cil­lors voted in favour of the twin­ning, and six union­ist coun­cil­lors and one in­de­pen­dent re­jected it.

The Ul­ster Union­ist coun­cil­lor, Joan Baird, told col­leagues who backed the twin­ning that it was “a dis­grace”. She said res­i­dents now joked that signs which fea­tured an Ir­ish fid­dler, wel­com­ing vis­i­tors to Moyle, could be in­ter­preted as show­ing a man “hold­ing a rocket-launcher”.

The “overt po­lit­i­cal move” would dam­age tourism in the area and act as a “mill­stone around our necks”, she said.

Cllr Baird failed in an at­tempt to over­turn the decision dur­ing a fol­low-up meet­ing last week.

Coun­cil­lors spent hun­dreds of pounds seek­ing le­gal ad­vice while ar­gu­ing over the im­pli­ca­tions for lo­cal res­i­dents. They were ad­vised by the coun­cil’s chief ex­ec­u­tive that the gov­ern­ment had of­fered no de­fin­i­tive an­swer on the le­gal po­si­tion.

North­ern Ire­land Assem­bly mem­ber David Mcilveen, of the Demo­cratic Union­ist Party, said he sup­ported col­leagues who had asked the North­ern Ire­land Equal­ity Com­mis­sion to in­ves­ti­gate the twin­ning.

Coun­cil­lor Mcshane ( left) at the twin­ning

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