Mayor, Elisha McCallion is hopeful Derry and Strabane District Council will develop a sister city relationship with Berkeley in the United States.
Speaking following a four-day visit to Berkeley and the wider San Francisco Bay area last week, Mayor McCallion said the meetings were extremely positive and she was quietly confident a formal arrangement between the two cities could be established.
She said: “Berkeley and Derry have very close connections and they are both very similar in terms of their history and outlook.
“The trip last month was hugely successful and provided me with a great opportunity to further develop those links and connections and tap into their economy to identify new opportunities for investment, education and culture.
“Council will be attending the Sister Cities Summit in Dublin in the spring of next year to further pursue this proposal and we will also be extending an invitation to the Mayor of Berkeley and his team to visit Derry prior to the summit in an effort to further bridge the relationship between the cities.”
The Mayor added that she was also very keen to use the city’s participation in the 15-16 Clipper Round the World Race, as an opportunity to promote the city and district and to revisit Berkeley to get the maximum value of the trip when the city’s activation team are in Seattle.
One of the positive outcomes of the trip was as a result of meetings with academics from the University of California, Berkeley, who agreed to send 20 of its students to the Ulster University’s Irish Language Summer School in 2016 and a further 30 students in 2017 and thereafter.
“This is fantastic news, not only for the Ulster University, but for the entire and city region who will benefit economically from these additional student placements. It is worth an estimated £80,000 in direct fees alone to the University but it is significantly higher in terms of local spent in the economy,” she said.
Dr Malachy Ó Néill is the Head of the School of Irish Language and Literature at Ulster University said that he was delighted to welcome the additional students to the growing international provision at Magee Campus.
“The visit was a very beneficial exercise for us and a great opportunity for us to showcase the University and the suite of courses in Irish Studies available to the international student market. The University of California, Berkeley is ranked third on the U.S. News’ 2015 Best Global Universities, so attracting additional students from Berkeley is a wonderful news for us.”
During the trip, the Mayor met with Invest NI and their West Coast team to update them on recent developments in Derry. They hosted a breakfast that the Mayor chaired with key members of the North West Diaspora in the Bay Area and also with a number of companies with potential investments into NI and Derry. There were specific discussions with members of the Diaspora around stimulating philanthropic investment into initiatives such as a scholarship fund for US students to Derry/Strabane.
We also met with the Bay Area Council, a business-sponsored, public policy advocacy organization for the nine-county Bay Area, to discuss a number of opportunities including the possibility of Derry hosting an inward mission of companies from the Bay Area in 2016. All in all it was a very successful visit in forging real and positive links with Berkeley which we are confident will bring new opportunities for Derry and Strabane in the months and years ahead,” she said.
Mayor McCallion also presented the Book of Condolence from Derry and Strabane to the families of those bereaved in the terrible tragedy in June of last year when five Irish students on summer visas tragically died when the balcony they were standing on collapsed.
“I was able to pass on the sincere condolences of the people of the city and district to Kevin Byrne from the Irish Consulate and Fr Brendan McBride, who hails from Donegal, when I met with them during my visit. It was important to me that the victims’ families know they have the sympathy and support of the people of this region following their tragic loss,” she concluded.