DUBLIN (POPULATION 1.2 million) has been officially twinned with Beijing, (population 19.4 million) and Lord Mayor of Dublin Gerry Breen hopes it will give business in Ireland’s capital a boost.
On a balmy day in the Chinese capital yesterday, Mr Breen and vice mayor of Beijing Hong Feng signed the agreement, which twins two cities that superficially have little in common, but which share the hauteur that comes from being their respective countries’ seats of government.
Mr Breen said three main areas should benefit from the twinning – third-level education, tourism and business – via foreign direct investment.
“This twinning means as much or as little as we make it,” he said. “There’s a return visit by the mayor in the autumn, and now it’s the turn of the private sector, be it the third-level institutions, the tourism companies or the private companies, to take up the cudgels.”
There are about 4,000 Chinese students in Dublin at any one time, and the Chinese community is about 30,000 strong in the capital. The number of Dubliners in Beijing is not clear.
One plan that attracted a lot of interest from Mr Hong was the Dublin Bike scheme, which has massively encouraged bicycle travel in the city.
While Beijing is famous for its bicycles, years of economic growth has seen a dramatic decline in their number, and there are calls at senior levels to bring back the two-wheelers as the city’s streets becoming thronged with cars.
To facilitate Chinese people coming to Ireland, Mr Hong said he hoped to see the issuance of visas made easier, and welcomed recent plans to give a visa waiver to Chinese tourists who visit Britain first.
Mr Breen also met the director of Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism, Lu Yong.
The Beijing delegation included representatives from many of the capital’s universities and colleges.
Among those taking part in the Dublin delegation were city manager John Tierney, Eric Byrne TD and Gina Quin, Dublin Chamber of Commerce chief executive.
“The essence of doing business in China is having government endorsement, and twinning with a city of the stature of Beijing is an amazing development,” said Ms Quin.
“From the perspective of supporting business efforts and education and tourism, this will excite more interest. We need to get more companies out here to capitalise on the government endorsement.”
Once migrants and those living here illegally are factored in, Beijing has a population of 22 million, although the recent census came up with the figure of 19.4 million.
Some rights organisations had opposed the move to twin with Beijing, including Amnesty International, because of China’s poor human rights record, but the agreement to twin with Beijing was reached in December.
City councillor Mannix Flynn mentioned Dublin’s good relations with China and the successful twinning recently when he expressed concern over the safety of outspoken artist Ai Weiwei, who has been detained by for 60 days without charge.