Moyle district council, the smallest in Northern Ireland, has secured what is claimed to be an international first. It has reputedly become the first local authority in the world to twin with the Hamas-dominated Gaza municipal council.
In a questionable advance in Hamas’s drive to obtain international legitimacy, seven councillors at Monday night’s council meeting in Ballycastle voted to twin with the Hamas-appointed Council as “a humanitarian gesture”. A Hamas minister recently told Gazan TV that his movement would soon “sweep the siblings of pigs and apes from our land” (meaning drive the Jews from Israel into the sea). The Hamas charter famously looks forward to the death of the last Jews in hiding (article 7).
No wonder Northern Ireland’s minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Arlene Foster, has questioned the “sensitivity and sensibility” of the move by a district desperate to attract international tourism. The minister couldn’t help wonder if the twinning might “run contrary to what we are trying to do with those global perceptions [of Northern Ireland].” Moyle’s new partner’s assets are frozen across Europe and North America as a result of the movement’s terrorist associations.
Although the impact of the twinning on Gaza may be questionable, it has unfortunately sown sectarian division in Moyle itself. All Unionist councillors and at least one independent opposed the twinning (which secured a majority of one). It will be up to Moyle council to explain how its twinning resolution fits in with its duty to have regard to cross community relations, and whether twinning with an anti-Semitic organisation complies with Northern Ireland’s tough equality and anti-racist legislation. There is no doubt local government guidelines requiring cross party support for international initiatives have been flouted.
Moyle council (population 17,000) faces the chop as a result of local government reorganisation.