Moyle prepares to sign twinning agreement with Gaza

Padraig Mc Shane, Independent Chairman of Moyle District Council in North Antrim, is currently in Gaza and is preparing to sign a twinning agreement later today with the Mediterranean coastal enclave. The twinning is the first of its kind in the UK or Ireland and the first anywhere in the world since the siege on Gaza began.

According to McShane: “The Council agreed to the twinning following a very positive response from the people of Moyle when we raised funds to deliver medical and educational equipment in a van to the Strip in 2010. It was evident that support existed right across the community following this project. The support was of a humanitarian nature and as such most of my colleagues felt they could move forward with the twinning project.”

He continues, “Why not twin with Gaza? All around the world people twin for cultural and friendship ties. Gaza is entitled to the same respect as anywhere else in the world. The right to dignity and common bonds of friendship should be universal.”

As to the aims of the twinning project, McShane says, “We hope to develop and strengthen the ties between the people of Moyle and the people of Gaza that began in 2010. This is a normal twinning between two communities who have many similarities and many differences to explore. The joy will be in learning of those differences and particularly the rich historical culture that Gaza has to offer.”

According to the Mayor of Gaza, Rafiq Mekki, the people of Moyle are "Truly the messengers of peace."

The twinning agreement has met with some resistance in Moyle District Council, with Ulster Unionist councilor Joan Baird last week calling for the council to “revoke and totally dissociate itself” from it. Responding to Baird, McShane said councillors should respect the “democratic will” of the council, which had twice voted in favour of the agreement.

Says McShane, “The possibilities that emanate from the twinning agreement for the improvement of the life chances of the citizens of Gaza are endless. Several projects have already been discussed. Because of the chronic lack of public spaces in Gaza, we are forming an opinion together to promote the use of green spaces to develop the Moyle Peace Park and children’s play area. The question I would ask is: Who is afraid of a kids’ play area?”  {jathumbnailoff}

Image top (Padraig McShane with Rafiq Mekki): Joe Gilmartin.