Sister City links in doubt

Mayor of LaGrange, Jeff Lukken, presenting the Key to the City of LaGrange to Mayor of Craigavon, Councillor Carla Lockhart, together with the Craigavon delegation and the Council Members of the City of LaGrange.
Mayor of LaGrange, Jeff Lukken, presenting the Key to the City of LaGrange to Mayor of Craigavon, Councillor Carla Lockhart, together with the Craigavon delegation and the Council Members of the City of LaGrange.

Craigavon’s 23-year City Sister linkage with LaGrange, Georgia, is in limbo.

Committee members of the successful trans-Atlantic project told the Portadown Times this week that there have been no meetings since October 2014, shortly after Craigavon Borough Council was replaced within the new ABC set-up.

“There seems to be a marked of lack of interest within the various council departments,” said committee chairman Councillor Kenneth Twyble. “In fact, it’s difficult to decipher which of the four departments is responsible for the Sister City linkage which seems to be considered a minor project within the overall council set-up.”

The four departments are - Place, People, Position and Performance, each with a wide range of activities. After almost two and a half years of the council’s life, a chief officer still hasn’t been appointed to Performance.

Said Mr Twyble, “The exchange visits across the Atlantic have, to all intents and purposes, ground to a halt. In the 20 years of exchanges, these involved health, education, cultural and other useful visits both ways.

“Both areas really benefitted, broadening the whole thinking of Craigavon and LaGrange. I know that one or two council officers keep in unofficial touch with LaGrange people, but the ties are loosening.”

Sister City committee member Brian Courtney said that the “current mood of inertia from the ABC Council is significantly weakening what was an extremely beneficial link.”

He added, “My wife Sylvia and I were involved in one of the visits to LaGrange and we were really impressed. The world-renowned golf equipment manufacturers Callaway, for example, have a major influence in LaGrange and they were firm supporters of the Sister City project. Nothing but good was coming from it, and now it’s in limbo.

“Our committee has been kept in the dark by the ABC Council, and it was significant that the signs on the approaches to Craigavon that we were twinned with LaGrange were taken down six months ago. Again, we were given no information. We’re wondering just what’s going on. There a total lack of information, and I’m sure the Americans are annoyed at what seems more and more like a snub.”

The ABC Council issued the following statement - “There is on-going work to develop an international linkage framework which will provide a context for decisions on future council linkages. In the meantime, existing linkages will continue.”

There is currently a total of eight linkages from the three former councils - three from Armagh, four from Banbridge and one (LaGrange) from Craigavon.