Fears for the future of a long running Longford-French twinning agreement have been allayed following a bold pledge by the county’s most senior local authority chief.
Tim Caffrey told a heavily congested ‘98 Hall in Ballinamuck this week council executives were united in their support for the continued survival of the north Longford village’s 15 year association with Essert de Belfort in Western France.
His comments came after several previous speakers, headed by the programme’s French president Marie Christine Grandjean, expressed doubts about the future sustainability of the programme.
“There were several references to funding and lack of funding here tonight,” as he apologised for deviating from a carefully prepared script. “I know that the mayor, Sean Farrell and the members (of Longford County Council) will ensure that there will be funding provided for the continuation of this programme.”
It was a statement which drew warm praise and a sustained applause from assembled guests and members of the programme.
Reflecting on a previous visit to the French province in 2007, Mr Caffrey said there was a lot to admire about the twinning agreement’s success which was first signed on May 9 1997.
“Some people say I have aged about 20 years in that time (since his visit) but I don’t believe that,” he smiled. “The large turnout here tonight clearly shows the success of the twinning programme and Longford County Council will endeavour to continue to provide the necessary support to the twinning programmes.
County Mayor, Cllr Sean Farrell was just as complimentary of the unsung efforts by both communities over the past decade and a half.
The Newtowncashel farmer said the initiative had demonstrated not just community spirit but the region’s vast tourism potential.
But it was the admission from Mr Caffrey surrounding the twinning agreement’s long term future which left Ballinamuck’s French contingent in high spirits.
“Only this morning we had a meeting to discuss future plans and the difficulties we were expecting in the future,” said a clearly upbeat Ms Grandjean.
Asked about the secret behind the programme’s success, Ms Grandjean likened the relationship between both communities to that of a tennis match.
“It’s like a bit like that in that we try to match their (Ballinamuck’s) hospitality. I think we are very different and at the time some people said it wouldn’t work but I think opposites do attract.”
And it’s precisely that attraction which Ms Grandjean and others hope will remain strong for at least another 15 years.