MAYOR Jim Long is heading to China for the second time in three months, this time with a view to developing links with the ancient capital of Xi’an.
The trip could result in a formal twinning arrangement with a city of over eight million people which is home to the world-famous Terracotta Army.
Mayor Long expects to travel to China in mid-June with a group of TDs and senators, having been invited by Chinese officials.
Fine Gael TD for Dublin Terence Flanagan said the twinning proposal was at “a preliminary stage”.
“Dublin is twinned with Beijing while Galway also has a Chinese sister city which leaves Limerick as a major city which isn’t twinned,” said Deputy Flanagan.
Mayor Long commented: “My clear information is that the authorities in Xi’an were looking for me to come over and explore various links that would include twinning and trade, educational and cultural possibilities. I am delighted to take up that invitation and I’m confident there will be a positive outcome in terms of investment and jobs for the region”.
Xi’an, the mayor said, had a fast-growing software industry and there was “significant potential” for investment in the Mid-West. “They are also keenly interested in Shannon Airport as they have a significant avionics industry,” he added.
It was unclear at the time of going to press who would be funding the mayor’s trip with Deputy Flanagan saying “that level of detail is not yet finalised”. But Mayor Long insisted on Tuesday the visit would come “at no cost to Limerick City Council”.
In March, the mayor rejected criticism of his and Cllr Kevin Kiely’s five-day visit to Nanjing, which he said had been “worth every cent” of the €2,000 spent by City Hall.
At the Mayor’s Ball on Friday, Cllr Long said “real progress” had since been made “and we are in talks with the Chinese authorities to open a Nanjing office in Limerick to further investment in education, trade, avionics, agri-food, tourism and electronics”.