DUBLIN has been twinned with Beijing in a move that could lead to a massive boost in tourism to Ireland from China, according to Lord Mayor Andrew Montague.
Having first opposed the twinning on the basis of China's human rights record, the Mayor said that he could also see that there are many benefits to the idea, including in tourism. The cities were twinned on Friday.
Mayor Montague told the Herald: "I voted against the twinning when it was proposed, and my personal opinions have not changed, but the proposal was approved by Dublin City Council by 25 votes to 14.
"I cannot complain about the democratic process in China and then not respect our own democratic process here."
He ratified the twinning at the official reception attended by mayor of Beijing, Guo Jinlong, in the Mansion House.
The Irish Falun Dafa Association, which represents practitioners of the spiritual Falun Gong movement living in Ireland, protested outside.
The proposal to twin the cities was advanced by the previous Lord Mayor, Fine Gael's Gerry Breen.
"There are 50,000 Chinese people living in Dublin and the Chinese economy is set to be the biggest in the world, which could have obvious benefits for us regarding investment and tourism," said Mr Montague.
And he also holds out hopes that the Chinese may reform their human rights record.
"The middle class is expanding in numbers, and it is the middle class who always push for reform, so maybe in time things will improve."
Labour councillor Mr Montague voted against the motion last December. Speaking at the council meeting he said it would be wrong to twin with a dictatorship which engaged in torture and executions.
He told the meeting he had a friend who was a member of Falun Dafa who had experienced torture at the hands of the Chinese regime.
"We should not be giving political rewards to the Chinese unelected leadership until they stop their torture and until they stop their executions," he said.
Speaking at the official twinning ceremony the Mayor said the twinning would allow the cities to build "real and lasting bonds of friendship."
"Both cities will benefit from the twinning economically, socially and culturally," he said.
Mr Guo will also meet the Taoiseach and the Tanaiste during his visit.