At our last monthly meeting (Monday, January 9th), it was once again agreed that Letterkenny Town Council would send a delegation to the USA during St Patrick’s week, maintaining a tradition that has run for over a decade. I’ve discussed this in the local press this week, including on Highland Radio News.
When first elected, I opposed the Council’s trip to New York for the St Patrick’s Day parade. I didn’t believe that the trip offered value-for-money for the Town’s Rate Payers. I still don’t believe it did. Traditionally, the Council went to New York alone for the parade, and some functions with the Donegal Association. My opposition, and my motions to defer the trip, were voted fown 7-2 in the Council Chamber. As Deputy Mayor, it fell to me to travel on the trip.
I agreed to this, on the grounds that the trip was changed. Rather than travel solely to New York, we also travelled to Philadelphia where Donegal man Vince Gallagher was the Grand Marshall, and Elizabethtown in Pennsylvania, which is twinned with Letterkenny (and has been for a few years now). We then travelled North to New York, where we attended the St Patrick’s Day parade on Fifth Avenue, and a number of excellent functions with the Donegal Association.
The trip was hugely succesful, and indeed effective. During the trip, members of our delegation attended functions with the Mayor of Philadelphia, the Minister for Education Mary Hanafin TD, The Governor of New York, and New York’s Mayor Bloomberg. We were giving a fantastic welcome in Eliabethtown, which has borne great fruit for Letterkenny.
The traditional trip to New York has now developed into an important excercise in building relationships across the world for Letterkenny and Donegal. Every year, the Council’s budget for International travel is underspent, and our international relationships bring much more money back to the town than are spent on our travelling abroad. Our relationship with Elizabethtown regularly sees groups of more than twenty people coming to Letterkenny, whereas we send only four people. The Town benefits on educational, commercial and tourism levels from this relationship, which we can only further benefit from.
This year, I intend to take the Council back to Elizabethtown, with the end of our trip in New York for their St Patrick’s Day parade (on a Friday), and to meet with the Donegal Association there. I believe that we should be focussing on extending our relationship with our Sister City, without diminishing the support we show to the Donegal Association in New York.
If you have any thoughts on this matter, please get in contact.