Last week marked the beginning of the twinning of the town of Oranmore and the Breton village Clohars-Fouesnant, organised by the Oranmore Twinning Committee and its chairperson, Gerardine Costello. A group from the village arrived in Ireland and was greeted by members of the committee before they commenced their busy week-long visit to the west.
For those of you who are not familiar with the village of Clohars-Fouesnant, it is situated in a department of Finistère in the northwest of Brittany. The village has a strong community atmosphere, a very rich history and a healthy tourist market aided in no small part by the large nearby Odet golf course. The Mayor of the village, Michel Lahuec, sought out Oranmore specifically as a potential town to twin. Having already sent representatives over last year to experience St Patrick’s Day in Ireland, they were already on schedule for a very amicable and rewarding alliance.
Prior to the group’s arrival from Clohars-Fouesnant, the Oranmore committee members met with the French ambassador to Ireland, Parisienne Emmanuelle d’Achon. Amid tea, scones and a small photo shoot, Mrs D’Achon expressed her obvious support for such an undertaking and praised committee chairperson Gerardine Costello, the committee and all others from the area who were involved for their efforts in not only securing an EU grant to fund the events of the last week but also for the general effort invested by the community in making it all a reality.
Following their arrival, the representatives of Clohars-Fouesnant had two days of activities ahead of them witnessing some of the finer sights of the west of Ireland including the Salthill promenade, Spiddal craft village, the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher. Upon the groups’ return to Oranmore, local members of the Western Veteran and Vintage Motor Club collected the group in several classic cars and brought them to the Oranmore Lodge Hotel for the centrepiece of the week; the Charter signing ceremony. With the sun luckily shining down, the group was greeted at the door by members of the Oranmore town twinning committee as well some live traditional Irish music from local musicians Tommy Keane on the uilleann pipes and Jackie McCarthy on concertina. In attendance at the event were Galway County Mayor Michael Maher, Senator Fidelma Healy Eames and the Minister for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton, Councillor Liam Carroll and Galway city Mayor Hildegarde Naughton.
Once inside the hotel the ceremony began with a rendition of ‘Song of Joy’ by the choir followed by the speeches. Minister Creighton highlighted the importance of the new bond between the two towns. She stated that there were ‘not enough bilateral connections to other like-minded European towns’. These relationships between small towns are invaluable in the development and progression of both areas as well as making a stronger cultural, social, and political link to our European neighbours. They determined that the Charter was the beginning of growth in commonalities between the two towns. The integration of the visiting group with local host families would also be the start of similar arrangements in the future for visiting youths and transition year students on exchanges. This integration is especially relevant in the exchange of cultural customs, ideas and in breaking down any language barrier that exists between the people of both areas.
Signing the Charter
After this, Tom Broderick of the Oranmore Development Association and Mayor Michel Lahuec co-signed the Charter. Mr Lahuec expressed his great appreciation for the hospitality of the people of Oranmore and the opportunity it creates for Clohars-Fouesnant. As part of the Charter signing there was a presentation of gifts from the young people of Oranmore to the young people of Clohars-Fouesnant each one symbolising a different similarity between the two towns. The first gift was that of a hurling stick and sliotar to symbolise the sporting endeavours of both places; the second was a tin whistle and music book to symbolise their love of music and finally a model boat to celebrate both places’ dependence on the sea.
Oranmore committee chairperson Gerardine Costello finished the speeches with a word of thanks once again for all the support and effort put into the week’s events in particular the committee members who had spent so much time and effort in making the event a reality, the locality and host families who graciously welcomed the group and made them feel comfortable and at home for the duration of their stay, the political representatives who turned up to show their support and endorse the event as well as Monivea/Tréméven twinning committee representative Jack Frost for his valuable advice and organisational help.
As 2012 is in fact the Year of Active Aging and an important part of the Oranmore/Clohars-Fouesnant twinning, Ms Costello presented gifts to the aforementioned Jack Frost and local Oranmore resident Kay Davis who is a much loved member of the community, and the Oranmore Tidy Towns Committee and who brought Clohars-Fouesnant representatives on a tour of the village upon their first visit to Ireland last year. These gifts were to symbolise the appreciation of the locality for the accomplishments of Mr Frost and Mrs Davis, who are both distinguished and proud examples of the idea of active aging and its central significance to Irish rural towns and villages. Amongst the events that were organised for the rest of the week was a trip to visit and tour the National University of Ireland, Galway for the group to attend a lecture presented by Professor O’Shea of the university’s Department of Gerontology on creativity and aging. The group were so impressed by Professor O’Shea’s lecture that he has been invited to present it as part of the Clohars-Fouesnant Charter signing ceremony with the Oranmore delegation which will take place next year.
Finally, for those who wish to become involved in the Oranmore/Clohars-Fouesnant twinning organisation, log onto the event’s website www.oranmoretwinning.com Once there they can e-mail their contact details to oranmoretwinning @gmail.com or fill out the attached online membership form. Initial membership fees are €10 for individuals, €5 for full-time students, or €15 for families.