Let's be twins, Irish council asks Gaza

By Marcus Dysch, April 8, 2011

Northern Ireland's smallest district council has agreed to explore the possibility of twinning with Gaza, sparking a war of words among local politicians and residents.

Moyle, in County Antrim, is home to just 17,000 people. Councillors voted last week in favour of a twinning project with Gaza City, and will now investigate possible link-ups.

The motion was proposed by Independent councillor Padraig McShane, a member of the Antrim to Gaza group, which is part of the Viva Palestina charity. Last year he drove to the Palestinian city to deliver medical aid. Councillor McShane said he wanted to create a "peace park" in Gaza.

His proposal was backed by the SDLP and Sinn Féin, but Unionist councillors claimed the motion had been timed to coincide with a Unionist meeting, meaning their councillors would be absent for the vote.

DUP councillor Robert McIlroy said the SDLP had previously opposed the plan, but had suddenly performed a U-turn to vote in favour.

Council chairman Price McConaghy cast doubt on the plan, saying Moyle was the smallest council in Britain and would not have the resources to help Palestinians.

Steven Jaffe, co-chair of Northern Ireland Friends of Israel, said: "Is Moyle District Council prepared to turn a blind eye when it invites Hamas officials to tea at the town hall?"

Last updated: 3:49pm, April 8 2011