Twinning links under scrutiny

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The current overseas twin towns encompassing the former three councils which make up the new ABC super council could be consigned to the back burner, according to DUP Councillor Jonny Buckley.

There are no fewer than seven ‘twins’ of various towns and villages in ABC, dating back to the former set-up – one in Craigavon (LaGrange Georgia), four in Banbridge (main one Ruelle in Central France), and three in Armagh (mainly Messancy in Belgium).

Mr Buckley said, “The twinning arrangement have, over the years, been set up in a rather ad hoc manner. There is a feeling within ABC that they happened for rather romantic, social reasons.

“A working group was set up recently, and we felt that the new council should be perhaps more focused – that we should try to twin with areas that matched our industries, like pharmaceuticals agri-foods and engineering, with real jobs created.

“For example, Moypark is Brazil-based, North America has a thriving pharmaceutical industry, and parts of Asia are on the march. So far, our area in general has not really benefitted in the industrial sense from our twinning arrangements. We should be perhaps more hard-nosed about things.

“We have discussed the possibilities with local industry and the issue has gone back to the council’s economic team for further consideration. There is a feeling that ABC should act in a more collective way rather than the piecemeal ways of the past.”

The issue came to light last week when members of the Craigavon-LaGrange committee complained there had not been a meeting of the group since October 2014 to discuss future links between the two centres.

Committee chairman Councillor Kenneth Twyble said there had been valuable educational, health and social contacts across the Atlantic, but that the council seemed to be lukewarm on any future plans.

He added he would not like to see the project wither on the vine, while fellow committee man Brian Courtney felt that the links were of mutual benefit, “but it all seem to be lost somewhere within the larger council group, which has been impersonal from the start.”

Mr Buckley said, “There is no reason why the existing links within the historic councils cannot continue. Buy they would be on a community basis rather than a united council thrust.”