ALDERMAN Stewart Dickson has described his recent visit to the American states of Florida and New Hampshire as a “great success”.
The Alliance Party delegate, accompanied by Councillor David Hillditch and Alderman Jim Brown, jetted off to America on July 24th to attend the prestigious ‘Sister Cities Convention’.
The convention, held in Florida and organised to highlight the positive aspects of towns and cities from around the world, featured workshops and lectures on a wide range of issues.
Tourism, economics, education, politics, cross-party relations and the environment were just some of the issues discussed at the convention.
Although the convention was “extremely important” to the Carrickfergus team, Mr. Dickson also described his meeting with representatives in the New Hampshire state of Portsmouth as “equally important”.
The Carrickfergus councillors spent the first week in Florida before embarking on their trip to Portsmouth where they discussed plans to organise transatlantic educational visits and websites.
Councillor Dickson, who returned from the visit last weekend, is now hoping to continue with the contact they established in Portsmouth.
“After the recent spate of trouble in the town, it was good to see something positive happening for Carrickfergus,” said the Alliance man.
“The convention enabled us to develop links with other cities and many of the delegates were impressed with what Carrickfergus had to offer.
“We were intending – despite the recent negative images of Carrickfergus – to set the record straight and inform the Americans of the positive aspects of our town.
“The convention was a great way of understanding other towns, cities and countries and I hope we can put our experience to good use,” added Alderman Dickson.
But Alderman Dickson, who narrowly missed out on a seat on the Northern Ireland shadow assembly, said the visit to Portsmouth would also stand as one of the “highlights” of the visit.
He said: “The convention we attended was a memorable experience – but so too was our visit to Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
“Portsmouth is the sister city of Carrickfergus and many of the delegates we met were determined to launch various projects between the two towns.
“An educational visit has been planned for next year but delegates from Portsmouth are also keen to establish a web-site between the two towns.
“Our visit to Portsmouth made front page news and we were also on television. Overall, the visit was a tremendous success and I hope that Carrickfergus is now seen in a better light.”