For this #ThrowbackThursday we go back two decades to 1997 and the revived Longford Chamber of Commerce Ball that was attended by Ambassador Jean Kennedy-Smith and was addressed by then Chamber President Seamus Butler.
During his address, Mr Butler suggested Longford could be a great town if we all pull together in a spirit of cooperation - words that are as relevant today as they were back then.
Here is a reproduction of the report that appeared in the Longford Leader following the Ball;
‘President outlines Chamber achievements in ball speech’
Chamber of Commerce President Seamus Butler addressed the newly-revived Chamber Annual Ball, thanking Ambassador Jean Kennedy-Smith for attending the ball, and giving a broad outline of the achievements and aspirations of the local commerce organisation.
“Your sojourn as Ambassador to Ireland is the formal recognition of your life's work as an ambassador for so many worthy causes and for the betterment of those who, by way of handicap and underprivilege, haven't had the gifts and advantages bestowed on us,” he said.
“Coming from such an illustrious family background it would have been easy, I'm sure, to have led a comfortable and undemanding life. Instead you sought to turn your advantage for the good of others and in this you are an example to us all.
“Thankfully, times are now much better in Ireland, and in Longford, to the extent that we are now experiencing inward migration of US citizens some of whom are with us tonight.
“To them I say you are welcome in Longford and for your contribution to industry, for example Masonite, and for your contribution to our spiritual life, for example Reverend Perkins.”
Mr Butler spoke of the Chamber's move to Harbour House as a major achievement, but said ‘a more fundamental sea change has occurred’.
“That is the level of cooperation and interaction we have established between Chamber and various other bodies here in Longford.
“In this I mention our great working relationship with the County Enterprise Board under chairman Michael Killeen and CEO Frankie Sheridan.
“Together we have ran seminars, workshops and have entered an arrangement for mentoring.
“With Longford County Council we are the only town in Ireland active in the Ecos Overture which is an EU programme for peripheral regions.
“In this we have linked with Finland, Sweden and Estonia and with Longford UDC, have facilitated a twinning programme with Noyal-Châtillon-sur-Seiche in France.
“Longford Chamber and the Longford Tourism Board have joined in the running of the new Regional Tourist Information Office in our new premises at Harbour House, and has worked with Longford Community Resources, Forbairt and the IDA.
“There is however one major initiative I want to see started before my tenure as President is over, and that is a move towards some form of third level education off campus facility for Longford,” Mr Butler said.
“At the moment we are being drained of the vitality of our young people as they leave Longford to further their education.
“I have had initial discussion with Dr Fenton of Athlone RTC who has responded very positively and I intend to call a meeting of all interested parties in the near future”.
“You know this is a good town and, to paraphrase Eamon Dunphy, it could be a great town if we all pull together in a spirit of co-operation.
“Finally I wish to thank the organising committee of tonight's event. To Rosie O'Hara, Anne Kane, Eddie O'Reilly, Kieran O'Regan and Gerry McInerney thank you. To the other council members who have worked so hard on this and other projects:-
“They are Vice President Michael Keenan, Secretary Alan Mitchell, Treasurer Kieran O'Regan and PRO Anita Hanley along with Jim Behan Retail Chairman, Noel McKiernan Industrial Chairman, and Tom Mulligan, Eamonn Glennon, Ken Davis, Michael Murtagh and Tom Crosby.
“You won't find a finer bunch of men and women and it is a pleasure to serve with them as President. To my wife Marie for tolerating my absence and obsessions and providing a degree of sanity in a busy world.
“To the Longford Arms Hotel for all their preparations for a great night. And lastly to our distinguished guests and to you Ambassador.”