Mayor of Derry & Strabane Elisha McCallion is to hand deliver a Book of Condolence for those killed and injured in the balcony collapse at Berkeley, California, it has been confirmed.
The visit will be one of a series of engagements for Mayor McCallion, who will be accompanied by a local delegation.
Berkeley and Derry have very close connections and they are both very similar in terms of their history and outlook.Mayor McCallion
During the visit, the Mayor will present the Book of Condolence from the people of Derry and Strabane to the Irish Emigration and Pastoral Centre, who are expected to accept it on behalf of the families of the Berkeley balcony victims.
The visit to Berkeley and the wider San Francisco Bay Area in the United States next week will also involve a series of meetings and events to further develop economic, investment and educational links with the city and region.
Speaking ahead of the visit, Mayor McCallion said Derry and the wider North West region had very close connections to Berkeley in California, and that talks have been ongoing for some time about the possibility of developing a sister city relationship between the two cities and regions.
She said: “Berkeley and Derry have very close connections and they are both very similar in terms of their history and outlook.
“My four-day visit will be a chance for me to further build on the links we have already established, particularly during Council’s previous visit during the Clipper Race international activation in 2014.
“ I hope to further develop those links and connections that will benefit us in terms of opportunities for investment, education and culture.
“Berkeley, like Derry and the wider North West region, is known throughout the world for its promotion of civil rights and the work it has done to promote equality. We have close links to its university and the two cities have much in common in terms of our history and we are hopeful that this visit will bring about positive results for both cities.”
Accompanying the Mayor on the trip will be representatives from Ulster University and Derry City and Strabane District Council.
Over the four days the delegation will meet with a series of existing and potential investors with the support of Invest Northern Ireland and other key contacts in the Bay Area.
The group will also meet with the Mayor of Berkeley, Tom Bates, to discuss the benefits of the two cities developing a sister city arrangement and establishing formal links to develop economic, tourism and educational links.
The Mayor added that she was pleased to be afforded the opportunity to present the Books of Condolence from Derry and Strabane to the families of those bereaved in the terrible tragedy in June of last year when five Irish students on summer visas tragically died when the balcony they were standing on collapsed.
“I will be passing on the condolences of the people of Derry and Strabane to Kevin Byrne of the Irish Consulate and Fr Brendan McBride, who hails from Co. Donegal, when I meet with them during my visit. It is important that the victims’ families know they have the sympathy and support of the people of this region, following their tragic loss,” she added.