A delegation from Huqiu, Suzhou in China is due to arrive in Kilkenny next Monday, to sign a memorandum of understanding with Kilkenny borough and county councils.
The agreement will result in a twinning of Kilkenny and Huqiu, one of the principal tourism and heritage centres in China. It is hoped that the move will promote economic and cultural ties between the two.
The group will sign the memorandum at a special ceremony on Monday morning in Kilkenny Castle.
The delegation will spend Monday in Kilkenny, as part of a four-day visit to Ireland. The trip takes place as Taoiseach Enda Kenny returns from his own four-day visit to China, at the head of a trade delegation.
However, a number of councillors have expressed reservations over the decision to sign the agreement. Earlier this month, at a meeting of Kilkenny Borough Council, Green Party Councillor Malcolm Noonan voiced his concerns over the move.
“I think any developments with regard to twinning have to be done with meaning and backup,” he said.
“We need to have a coherent policy in place before we consider other twinnings. I am not questioning the motive - but is is solely economic? Or what other social or cultural benefits are there to this?”
Cllr Noonan also said he had consistently raised the topic regarding human rights issues in China.
Labour’s Cllr Sean O’ hArgain said he shared some of his colleague’s concerns.
“I am a little concerned with the speed at which this came forward, and the level of communication with elected members,” he said.
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