Fermoy officially terminates twinning arrangement with 'LGBT-free' Polish town

The Twinning Committee in Fermoy has officially ended its twinning relationship with 'LGBT-free' Nowa Dęba while fears are growing that human rights in Poland are facing a 'paralysis'.

Fermoy photo shows a Rainbow Pride Flag Blowing in the Breeze against the Blue Sky

The Twinning Committee in Fermoy, County Cork, has decided to officially end its twinning arrangement with the Polish town of Nowa Dęba because of its declaration as an ‘LGBT-free zone’.

Concerns for the LGBTQ+ community in Poland have risen further since the re-election of the openly homophobic Andrzej Duda as President in a closely fought race. In the run-up to the election, Duda announced “LGBT is not people, it’s an ideology,” his openly anti-LGBT+ views giving further voice to homophobes, while around 30 regional assemblies in Poland have now declared themselves “LGBT-free Zones”, stating they would be free of “LGBTQ+ ideology”.

In July, the municipal district council in Fermoy discussed the situation and sent a message to Nowa Dęba, one of those towns involved.

The decision taken by Fermoy to terminate the relationship was welcomed on Monday by the Cork East branch of the Social Democrats.

Poland, one of just six European countries to not yet legalise same-sex marriage designated a number of towns as “LGBT-free” in early 2019. In Ireland, we have seen real progress on social issues in recent years including marriage equality, repeal of the eighth amendment and the Gender Recognition Bill. Therefore, as a society, we are empowered to take a firm stance against the discrimination and erasure of the LGBTQ+ community,” said Saoirse Mackin, Chairperson of Social Democrats’ Cork East branch.

Ian O’Ceallaigh, Co-Vice Chair of the branch, added: “Cork East Social Democrats believe that Fermoy’s twinning with Nowa Dęba is clearly untenable and we are glad the Twinning Committee have taken the decision to pursue a termination of the twinning agreement between the two municipalities”.

Last month, the Irish ambassador to Poland, Emer O’Connell, co-signed an open letter from 50 Ambassadors to Poland expressing their support “for the efforts to raise public awareness of issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community and other communities in Poland facing similar challenges.”

Since the rise of anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in Poland, the EU has continuously spoken out against this harmful rhetoric. In July 2020, the Commission rejected the applications of six ‘LGBT-free’ Polish towns for community funding because their discriminatory political stance does not respect “fundamental rights”.

US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said the ‘LGBT-free zones’ in Poland have “no place in the EU or the world”, quoting the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Meanwhile, leading human rights organisation, The Venice Commission, has expressed concern about a “risk of paralysis” for the Polish human rights ombudsman.

While the term of the latest ombudsman, Adam Bodnar, ended in September, the Polish parliament has yet to choose a successor.

The internationally respected office under Bodner’s leadership often criticised the current Government which has led an attack on LGBTQ+ rights.

Bodnar is concerned that the Government will find a way to exclude the opposition from nominating a replacement Ombudsman.

The “protection of human rights requires stability and predictability. That is why the new Ombudsman should be elected in accordance with the constitutional procedure,” Bodnar said

The Venice Commission said if the ombudsman can’t function fully, it “would have a significant adverse effect on the protection of the rights of the Polish citizens and of all people living in Poland.”

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