Northern Ireland

Bethlehem mayor welcomes plan to twin with Derry and Strabane as proof of bond between Ireland and Palestine

Twinning plan follows successful motion council motion in January

People hold a giant Palestinian flag in Manger Square (AP)
People hold a giant Palestinian flag in Bethlehem's Manger Square. PICTURE: AP (Mahmoud Illean/AP)

A plan to twin Derry and Strabane with Bethlehem in the West Bank reflects an “unshakable” bond between Irish people and Palestinians, it has been claimed.

The Mayor of Bethlehem’s city council welcomed the application to twin the two municipalities in a letter to Derry and Strabane District Council.

The twinning request was agreed following a motion at a full meeting of Derry and Strabane Council in January.

The motion, by SDLP councillor Catherine McDaid, aimed to support Palestinian people following Israel’s invasion of Gaza, and to “develop links for education, culture and economy”.

In a letter, Bethlehem mayor Hanna Hanania wrote: “On behalf of Bethlehem city council and the citizens of the town of the Nativity, I thank you and the Irish people on your steadfast position and support to our Palestinian just cause.

“This decision reflects the historical unshakable reaction between the Palestinian and the Irish people, and our shared commitment to fostering mutual understanding as well as strengthening the bonds of cooperation and friendship between our two cities.”

Ms McDaid said: “As the genocide in Gaza continues, it’s incumbent on us to take every step possible to demonstrate similar solidarity with the people of Palestine. I believe that the twinning of our two cities demonstrates on a global stage that Derry, and indeed Ireland, recognises the plight of the Palestinian people and stands in solidarity with them.

“Twining with Bethlehem is also an economic and social opportunity for our region. This connection will allow us to build on our shared culture and to link local schools and colleges with educators, as well as open new economic links for the benefit of people in both of our regions.”

SDLP leader and Foyle MP Colum Eastwood said both Bethlehem and Derry and Strabane have “both shown such solidarity to the plight of people in Gaza”.

“We have much in common with Palestinians in both our pursuit of peace and rejection of oppression,” he said

“This will allow our two regions to build on that solidarity and open up new channels of collaboration. This is another step that we can take to demonstrate the strength of feeling in this city against the unbearable genocide being perpetrated on the people of Gaza. The people of Derry have always stood with Palestine and this will only strengthen that bond.”