Symbolic signing of All-island Learning City Charter

Lord Mayor of Cork, Councillor Mick Finn joined counterparts from Limerick, Dublin and Derry on 13 May to jointly sign a Learning City charter to work together and to support each other through a programme of exchanges between their Learning Cities.

In his address the Lord Mayor of Cork stated ‘We all live on one island – by working on the basis of an all-island approach to Learning, this agreement has a North – South dimension at a time when solidarity is needed. Learning can bring tolerance and understanding, and by working together we build solidarity. We see today’s action is a demonstration of that.’

Each of these cities, together with Belfast, is committed to following the UNESCO programme for Learning Cities and has in the past six months formed an all-island network to support each other in these efforts. 

This charter, which was proposed by Cork, is in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and is a form of voluntary commitment, signed by the mayors on behalf of their cities.

Cork city has a long track record as a UNESCO Learning City, receiving a Global award in 2015 as one of the first 12 cities to be recognised.  In 2017 Cork was selected by UNESCO to host the third International Conference on Learning Cities and welcomed almost 600 delegates from cities worldwide.  The Irish Network of Learning Cities was formed in Cork in 2018 following a Learning Festival Seminar hosted by Cork Lifelong Learning Festival.

The timing of this Memorandum signing is significant in that it provides for city to city co-operation and links across the island at a time of uncertainty caused by Brexit around the European Union, and by the recent renewal of violence in the North, 21 years since the Good Friday Agreement.                                                                

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor John Boyle, said the new all-Ireland charter would place the focus on creating new opportunity and a brighter future through learning.

“I’m delighted to see the establishment of a national network of cities committed to the UNESCO ethos of promoting learning. While there are many cities around the world involved in the wider network, this MOU will strengthen our ties on a more localized level, creating new partnerships and fostering a culture and standard of skills and education that is consistent and appealing to people who wish to study and work closer to home.”

‘This signing is an important step along the road that we all share, as it brings political support at the highest levels to our shared work to develop our cities as places where all learning, lifelong and lifewide, for all ages, interests and abilities is promoted and celebrated. We are all committed to the UN principle of Leaving No-one behind’ Cork Learning City Co-ordinator Denis Barrett said.

The signing which took place in the Dunamaise Arts Centre in Port Laoise, a neutral venue in the centre of the island was described by Willie McAuliffe, Cork Learning City Co-Chair as a symbolic event.

All of these cities, with Belfast, as members of the Irish Learning City Network endeavour to create an island of learning, ensuring opportunities for accessible, life-long learning throughout Ireland.

Signing in Dunamaise Arts Centre, Portlaoise.  Picture: Jeff Harvey, Lord Mayor Cllr Mick Finn and John Boyle