The potential of the twinning arrangements involving different parts of the new borough council area needs to be a focus, a local councillor said this week.
Cllr. Gregg McKeen (DUP), said that the recent visit to Carrickfergus by a group from Danville in Kentucky had helped highlight the potential to develop links and encourage tourism.
He said that having been involved in the twinning between Larne and Clover in South Carolina over many years, he believed that there were social, cultural and economic benefits for everyone.
However, with the merger of the three local councils into Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, he acknowledged that there needed to be consideration as to how the links operated into the future.
The local representative said that there should be a focus on the economic potential and how the Sister Cities organisation, to which the council belongs, can assist development of links.
“The council has to consider whether the twin towns will be mainly connected with individual areas as they were with the previous councils or with the new Borough Council generally,” he said.
“Up to now there have been other priorities to resolve with the bringing together of the three council areas, but now we should start looking at how we promote the twinning arrangements and what form they will take into the future”.
The Mayor of Larne’s twin town of Clover, Donnie Grice, recently sent a message which was read out at the Friends’ Goodwill festival in the town.
In it he highlighted that connections made between Larne and Clover “continue to run deep throughout Clover and York County, South Carolina.”
“The Larne influence has inspired our cultural, residential and business development. In Clover, there is a Larne Elementary School and also the Larne Building…There is a housing development in Clover called Irish Downs, and one in York called Larne Glen. And Antrim Business Park in Rock Hill is an economic driver for our community,” he said
The Mayor also referred to the annual Feis Clobhair, which celebrates links between Ulster and America.
“I look forward to the continued relationship with Larne and finding new ways to strengthen it,” he added.
The link with Clover developed during the late 1990s and groups including Roddensvale School and Larne Harbour Accordion Band have been involved in exchange programmes while official delegations have also crossed the Atlantic in both directions.
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council was contacted to confirm the present twin towns for the area and what stage future planning was at for the twinning arrangements, but had not done so at time of going to press.
Among the towns in the United States which are linked with the area are believed to Danville and Morehead in Kentucky and Clover and Anderson in South Carolina.
Other links include that between Ballymena and Gibraltar, which came about as a result of the evacuation of people from ‘the rock’ to County Antrim during the Second World War.