Irish town cuts ties with ‘LGBT-free’ Polish twin in growing culture war

Nowa Deba, Street 'John Paul the Second'. [Wikipedia]

The Irish town of Fermoy has cut ties with its Polish twin Nowa Deba over a motion opposing “LGBT ideology”, in the latest European bid to counter Poland’s increasing homophobic stance.

All six councillors in Fermoy in southern County Cork voted to sever the town’s 14-year relationship with the eastern Polish town, which had included exchange visits and cultural events, said Noel McCarthy, the councillor who proposed the vote.

“We terminated because we felt that their local authority had discriminated against the LGBT community,” McCarthy told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, referring to a motion passed by Nowa Deba in 2019.

“We have nothing against the twinning committee of Nowa Deba or the mayor, for that matter, we just feel that we couldn’t be associated with a town that does not change their stance on their LGBT+ community.”

Officials in Nowa Deba did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gay, bisexual and trans rights have become a divisive issue in Poland since 2019 when the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) said in election campaigns, laced with homophobic rhetoric, that they undermined traditional family values.

International criticism has been growing of nearly 100 Polish municipalities – dubbed “LGBT-free zones” by activists – that have passed resolutions against “LGBT ideology” in the last year, with several European towns ending twinning relationships.

The European Union has rejected six town-twinning applications involving Polish authorities that adopted such motions, although they appear not to have been followed by discriminatory legislation against LGBT+ residents.

EU chief backs LGBT rights in row with Poland

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen defended LGBT rights on Thursday (30 July) after a row erupted over the EU’s refusal of grants to towns in Poland accused of discrimination.

Nowa Deba’s 2019 resolution pledged to “defend our tradition, culture and religion against aggressive, deceptive and harmful LGBT ideology”, according to the Atlas of Hate, a map created by local activists which tracks “LGBT-free zones”.

Polish government officials have said discrimination is not tolerated in the east European country, but LGBT+ activists say the symbolic motions allow homophobia to flourish.

The Dutch municipality of Nieuwegein voted to sever its ties with Pulawy, and France’s Douai commune suspended its “historic friendship” with the southeastern Polish city earlier this year over a 2019 resolution against “LGBT subculture”.

France’s Nogent-sur-Oise also put its ties with the eastern Polish town of Krasnik on hold and Saint-Jean-de-Braye suspended its relationship with Tuchow, which later lost EU funding from the town twinning scheme.

Polish LGBT+ activists expressed mixed feelings about small towns like Fermoy, home to some 6,000 people, severing ties with Polish “LGBT-free zones”.

“Cutting ties is always a solution which should be done as a last resort,” said Magda Dropek of Krakow-based LGBT+ group Queerowy Maj.

“We try to convince twin cities to use their influence, experience around diversity and knowledge to show local authorities in Poland that diversity is something which should be nurtured.”


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