During the November County Council meeting, I spoke with respect to a report on international relations that I have been involved in overseeing as a member of the Twinning Committee.
The county has long-standing connections with locations in France, Wales, Japan as well as a more recent connection established with a city in China. However the county has no connection currently with any location in North America and I indicated my viewpoint that establishing one should be the first new international relations priority for the county.
I recommended that there ought to be three main criteria availed of to find a suitable North American location to establish either a formal twinning connection or more informal friendship ties with:
a) The location should have a strong Irish-American or Irish-Canadian community and evidence of a prominent St.Patrick’s Day parade held annually would be an example demonstration in that respect.
b) The city/county should be conveniently reached by a frequent direct flight from Dublin Airport. Also the typical pricing of such flights would be a factor in my view – certainly I would like citizens from both sides of the Atlantic participating as much as is possible in shared cultural, sailing events etc. run as part of any co-operation and so for me the relative economy of flight fares is important.
c) The potential to establish strong educational ties between an Ivy League university and our third-level institutions, especially given that Ireland’s largest university UCD is within the realm of our county.
I indicated that Providence in Rhode Island would meet all of the above criteria as a case in point – additionally this city has a similar population to Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown (which is just over 200,000) – at any rate a location on the East Coast of North America would most likely fit the criteria above, especially given the strong Irish-American communities in cities there plus the availability of multiple flight options and potential educational connections with prestigious universities in New England.