Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman met with Northern Ireland’s highest executive officer during a three-day visit to the sister city of Newtownabbey.
Berman said he was touched by the United Kingdom borough and its support for the United States.
“It was extremely important for me to thank them for support of the war on terror,” Berman said of his visit with First Minister Ian Paisley.
Berman made the visit to celebrate the inauguration of Newtownabbey Mayor Nigel Hamilton and the borough’s 50th anniversary. He returned late Monday from his five-day trip, which included two days of travel.
While there, Berman was able to get an insight into continued, but lessened, tensions between the Catholics and Protestants, he said. He viewed war memorials celebrating people who bombed citizens in the attempts to release Northern Ireland from the U.K.
Berman said he visited a Catholic enclave where Hamilton asked him to hand out awards as a way to reach out to the community and relieve ongoing tensions.
“They mark off their neighborhoods, paint the curbs. In the Catholic neighborhoods they paint orange, white and green stripes, the color of the Republic of Ireland’s flag,” Berman said. “When you drive by it looks relatively subtle. But if you’re Protestant the message is crystal clear.”
And in some Protestant neighborhoods, the red, white and blue colors of Great Britain are painted on curbs, he said.
Berman said he played English lawn bowling, met with students at schools there, and spoke at a fundraiser for a teenager left partially paralyzed from a rugby injury.
Hamilton extended the offer to Berman, whose trip was paid for by the 25-member Newtownabbey council, after he had visited Gilbert earlier this year.
Plans are under way to continue trips between the two Newtownabbey and Gilbert, which already regularly share high school exchange students.
Among proposals, Berman said, is an idea to sent a contingent of Gilbert cowboys with the Gilbert Promotional Corp. to depict a pony express ride in Ireland. Berman said he’s also talking to members of the Gila River Indian Community to send visitors to Ireland.