Ballinamuck rolls out red carpet for French visitors

Chairperson of Essert's Twinning Committee, Marie-Christine Grandjean, presents a memento to Ballinamuck's Twinning Committee Chairperson, Paddy Howe, in memory of the late Terry McKenna. Photo: Michelle Ghee.

Chairperson, French twinning committee, Marie Christine Grandjean expressed her appreciation to the people of Ballinamuck for their “amazing hospitality” at a civic reception held in Ballinamuck on Monday evening.

The event was hosted by Granard Municipal District Chairman John Duffy who spoke in near-perfect French on the night.

The exchange saw a number of French children between 12 and 16 years descend on the historic north Longford village for the 17th year in succession.

“This exchange has definitely lived up to the high standards that we have come to expect,” enthused Marie Christine.

“From the moment we arrived 16 French kids have shared and enjoyed a wonderful range of activities with their Irish counterparts. Water sports, Irish games, hockey and the excellent art workshops - the results of which can be seen here tonight. We have experienced first hand Irish culture and genuine hospitality.”

Marie Christine then paid tribute to the late Mr McKenna who died suddenly before Christmas. Mr McKenna had been to the fore of the organising committee in Ballinamuck since the exchange’s inception 17 years ago.

“Terry was one of the driving forces,” she said, adding,“to him it made sense to invite guests with great local interest.”

“There are many people from Essert and the surrounding towns who have benefited from this initiative and they are very grateful to Terry.

“We will remember him as a wonderful organiser and generous host. Terry planted an apple tree next to our community hall in Essert; he did this on his second visit in 1999 and that tree has blossomed so that it can now shelter our exchange students from the July rain.”

Established in 1998, the twinning between Ballinamuck and Essert has gone from strength to strength in the 17 years since.

Paddy Howe, Chairperson, Ballinamuck Twinning Committee also paid tribute to Terry McKenna. “Terry died so suddenly before Christmas. He loved Ballinamuck and its history.

“Terry established our visitor centre and it is part of his legacy to this village that he loved so much. “He was very proud of what we achieved and I feel that the reason it has lasted so long is because of the commitment of both twinning committees. We have now established new opportunities for our young people to experience new cultures.

“Without the host families this exchange would not be possible and I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart.”

And in his best French, Cathaoirleach of Granard Municipal District Cllr John Duffy said that the civic reception was being held to honour “our visitors from Essert” and to mark the twinning agreement between Ballinamuck and Essert.

“Today’s twinning is forged on the friendships and bonds that have been exchanged between the two communities. This has been particularly beneficial to the young people who have had the opportunity at an early age to experience different cultures.”

Presentations were then made and Marie Christine gifted Mr Howe with a framed photo collage of the late Terry McKenna which included images from his many visits to Essert.

It was time, then to enjoy the food and entertainment all of which was part of a wonderful civic reception that was hosted by Longford Co Council.