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Mayor had to accept Beijing twinning - quitting his job and perks would be torture

Lord Mayor of Dublin Andrew Montague is the man who just keeps on giving.

Back in December, when the twinning of Dublin with Beijing -- which came into effect this week -- was first mooted, and Montague was but a city councillor, he condemned the suggestion on the grounds of China's appalling human rights record, and spoke passionately of the torture that a friend of his had experienced at the hands of the Chinese regime.


He then followed up this honourable stance by voting against the motion when it was brought before Dublin City Council.

To the untrained eye, this could hardly be the same Andrew Montague who in the past week not only ratified the vote, but proceeded to get positively moist about the economic and social benefits of the twinning at the official ceremony.

"It is vitally important we forge a friendship with cities like Beijing," he said, "and this twinning will build real and lasting bonds of friendship." He couldn't wait to welcome the Major of Beijing, Guo Jinlong, and show him the Dublin Bikes scheme, about which young Andrew is so proud.


But of course Montague has form when it comes to U-turns. Back in June, his previously rabid anti-car stance mellowed when he discovered the joys of his new mayoral Mercedes, and conveniently decided to park his objections to this chariot.

Even more laughable is Montague's excuse for his latest volte-face. "I cannot complain about the democratic process in China, and then not respect our own democratic process here," he explained, missing the rather important point, of course, that China does not actually have a 'democratic process'.

"My opinions are my opinions, but it is my job to carry out the democratic wishes of the council," he continued, before admitting that he was in "a delicate position, but politicians are often put in a delicate position. That's part of the job". All of which sounds like a bit of a cop out...

Crucially, the idea that Montague couldn't do anything is untrue. Unlike his counterpart in Beijing, Montague could have refused to ratify the vote, he could have spoken out publicly at the official twinning ceremony or -- and here's a thought -- he could have resigned in principle against such a decision.

In so doing, he would not only have made a telling political point, but also given himself the moral high ground in any future political campaign of his.

But that would have meant giving up his annual salary of €100k a year, luxurious Mansion House pile and a top-of-the-range, chauffeur-driven Merc to whisk him around. And on mature reflection, having weighed up the pros and cons of the situation, Montague made his decision.

Sure, what many Chinese people have to go through is awful. But having to stick to your principles, and give up a mayoral job and its perks -- now that would be torture...