Visit to Osterhofen 2015

The Ballybay flag was flying high on German soil over the weekend of 12-14th June, 2015 as an official delegation, made up of the then Cathaoirleach of the Ballybay-Clones Municipal District, CIlr. Ciara McPhillips and Cllr. Cathy Bennett, accompanied by Municipal District Co-ordinator, Kevin McNally visited Gergweis and Osterhofen, in Bavaria, Germany. 

This official visit coincided with the private trips of former Ballybay Town Councillors, Martin McAvinney and Bríge Rutledge and her husband John to the area. The people of Ballybay have enjoyed a rich friendship with the people of Gergweis, Osterhofen for many years and 2015 marks the 15th Anniversary of the official twinning between the two areas.

Mayor-Ciara-McPhillipsThe Municipal District members of the newly formed Ballybay-Clones area were eager to gauge public opinion before taking up the reigns and having consulted widely it became clear that the people of Ballybay and its hinterland were anxious that the links already forged would be maintained, and indeed that the new Municipal District would allow for opportunities for the wider West Monaghan area.  

With this in mind, when an invitation was received requesting a visit from the Ballybay representatives to Osterhofen, there was unanimous support. The Cathaoirleach, Ciara McPhillips and Cllr. Cathy Bennett (in lieu of her Sinn Féin colleague and Leas-Cathaoirleach, Pat Treanor) were chosen to represent the area on this official trip. The Councillors were to be accompanied by Municipal District Co-ordinator, Kevin McNally. 

“Having never previously visited Germany, I was unsure of what to expect but nothing could have prepared me for the warmth of their welcome. Ireland may be known for its ‘céad mile fáilte’ but our German counterparts are certainly not to be found wanting” Councillor McPhillips told The Northern Standard.

The Monaghan group attended a private function on the Friday evening, and on Saturday the Osterhofen Citizens Festival got underway. The German town is not much bigger than Ballybay but has a bigger hinterland, with a small selection of shops and bars. The festival was a real community occasion with food, drinks, music and family entertainment.

 Ballybay representatives visit to Osterhofen

On Sunday, there were some formal occasions and Cllr. McPhillips had an opportunity to return the favour and extend an invitation to the public representatives and people of Gergweis and Osterhofen to visit Ballybay. She also took the opportunity to recommend visits to some of the highlights of the Ballybay-Clones MD, such as Bragan Mountain, Annamakerrig House and the heritage town of Clones. 

Speakers on the day, from both Germany and Ireland spoke of ways in which links could be strengthened. Education was high on the agenda in this regard. The Ballybay group  had an opportunity to speak with the German Minister for Education & Culture who was supportive of an exchange programme. Cllrs.  Bennett and McPhillips, who both sit on the Cavan/Monaghan Education and Training Board, undertook to advance such opportunities.

On Monday, the group, accompanied by the Mayor of Osterhofen visited a number of industrial locations including the new livestock mart currently under construction and the Wolf-haus manufacturing plant. 

Cllr. Bennett had high praise for the people of Osterhofen and the twinning experience, “I would like to commend the people of Osterhofen on the warm welcome that they extended to us. The hospitality that we received in Germany was incredible and I would like to encourage the people of the Ballybay-Clones MD to become more involved with this twinning in the future. It offers our Municipal District the opportunity to experience a different culture and also to learn ways in which we can improve”. 

The Sinn Fein representative also described the experience as “unforgettable” and she thanked everybody involved in it. “The twinning of Ballybay-Clones with Gergweis-Osterhofen is invaluable to both communities and should be developed to its full potential”, Cllr. Bennett added.

Cllr. McPhillips echoed the sentiments of her colleague. “Ballybay, culturally and economically has gained a lot from this long-standing relationship and we hope that these links can now be intensified through educational, tourism and economic links, whilst extending the twinning to include the wider Ballybay-Clones MD”, she concluded.