THE TOWN of Fermoy in Co Cork has officially terminated its twinning relationship with Nowa Dęba in Poland after the latter was designated an “LGBT-Free Zone.”
Originally conceived as a way to foster closer relationships in the wake of World War II, the twinning of towns has also proven effective in encouraging tourism and fostering business links.
But while the process of twinning has been largely welcome, there has been growing concern across Ireland over Poland’s stance on LGBTQ issues.
Poland is one of six European countries that has yet to legalise same-sex marriage. A number of towns have also been designated 'LGBT-free' in early 2019 – including Nowa Dęba, which was twinned with Fermoy.
Back in March, the Fermoy Twinning Committee announced its intentions to begin the process of terminating its relationship with the Polish town.
Fine Gael Councillor Noel McCarthy, who is a member of the committee, said: "We must stand up to people like this. You can not do this in 2020 and be seen to be able to get away with it.
“I want to compliment the Twinning Committee for taking this stance and asking us as councillors with my colleagues that we will take the next step by terminating or suspending our links with Nowa Dęba."
The municipal district council in Fermoy went on to issue a letter to officials in Nowa Dęba in July saying that they could not support the Polish views on the LGBTQ community
“We have nothing against the people of Nowa Dęba, it’s the people that represent them,” McCarthy told The Irish Times in September.
“We have to show a message to them that we are not going to accept discrimination against any community, not just LGBTI.”
PRESS RELEASE - CORK EAST BRANCH
The Cork East branch of the Social Democrats welcome the decision by the Fermoy Twinning Committee to terminate the twinning agreement between Fermoy and the town of Nowa Dęba in Poland which has been designated an “LGBT-Free Zone”. pic.twitter.com/G5XZiW7DQ7
— Cork Social Democrats (@CorkSocDems) October 12, 2020
The relationship has now been officially terminated with the Cork East branch of the Irish political party Social Democrats welcoming the decision.
Saoirse Mackin, the chairperson of the Cork East branch of the Social Democrats, said: “Poland, one of just six European countries to not yet legalise same-sex marriage, designated a number of towns as 'LGBT-free' in early 2019.
"In Ireland, we have seen real progress on social issues in recent years including marriage equality, repeal of the eighth amendment, and the Gender Recognition Bill.
“Therefore, as a society, we are empowered to take a firm stance against the discrimination and erasure of the LGBT+ community.”
Co-Vice Chair Ian O’Ceallaigh added: “Cork East Social Democrats believe that Fermoy’s twinning with Nowa Dęba is clearly untenable and we are glad the Twinning Committee have taken the decision to pursue a termination of the twinning agreement between the two municipalities.”
There has been widespread condemnation of Poland’s approach to the issue.
Back in September a collective of 50 Ambassadors to Poland, including the Irish Ambassador Emer O’Connell and the Northern Irish Ambassador Anna Clunes, wrote an open letter to of support "for the efforts to raise public awareness of issues affecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community and other communities in Poland facing similar challenges."
An online petition is now calling on Cobh to follow suit by breaking its twinning ties with Kolbuszowa.