The concept of Tramore twinning with other towns is one which Councillor Blaise Hannigan has pursued for a decade at Council level.

The twinning of Tramore with towns in both the United States and France could reap a rich commercial and civic reward for the area, Tramore Town Council was told last week.

It’s an issue close to the heart of Councillor Blaise Hannigan, who was raising the issue for the sixth time in 10 years at Council level, he informed colleagues attending the July meeting.

Cllr Hannigan (Independent) suggested that Tramore needs to seriously examine the benefits of twinning with not one, but two towns on either side of the Atlantic.

In a briefing document handed out at the meeting, Cllr Hannigan made a case for Tramore’s twinning with Belleville in the American state of Illinois. He also recommended twinning with a town in France, preferably one within the environs of Lorient given the ease of connectivity between both locations via Waterford Airport.

That Belleville is particularly keen to twin is beyond dispute, Cllr Hannigan asserted.

“Congressman Jerry F Costello has written to Tramore Town Council in support of Belleville twinning with us.

“As a resident of Belleville and a member of the Congressional Friends of Ireland Caucus, Congressman Costello believes that bringing both towns together like this would offer mutual benefits in terms of tourism and cultural exchange.”

Cllr Hannigan and Congressman Costello have maintained regular contact over the past 18 months, while an invitation to Tramore’s Mayor from the people of Belleville remains on the table.

“Twinning with Belleville would lead to the establishment of ties between the Chambers of Commerce in both towns and would provide us with an opportunity to learn about differing practices in economic development.”

He added: “Not only that, but the benefits to promoting Tramore as a tourism destination could be enormous and with all the doom and gloom we have at present, we could only stand to benefit from formalising such an arrangement.

“School exchanges and employment exchanges could also arise from twinning and such ideas can only be viewed in a positive light.”

Regarding a French link-up, Cllr Hannigan stated that two towns within 80 kilometres of Lorient are currently seeking to twin with towns in Ireland.

“If twinning was established, I believe we would be in a position to avail of EU funding and again, that could only serve to benefit Tramore for a whole host of reasons.”

Having recommended the establishment of a subcommittee to examine the issue, Cllr Hannigan’s forwarded the names of Cllrs Anne-Marie Power (Fine Gael) and Joe Conway (Independent) in any such grouping.

Cllr Lola O’Sullivan (Fine Gael) said this was a topic which the Council had come to “over and over” and that “little hurdles” had thus far prevented progress on the issue. “Let’s open the door and let’s see what they have to offer,” she added.

Her colleague Maxine Keoghan (FG), who visited Lorient during its festival (which she described as “excellent”) said that twinning with either Lorient itself or a town in its environs “was a great idea”.

Councillor Anne-Marie Power (FG) complemented Cllr Hannigan on “his in-depth work” on the issue and in turn nominated him for the subcommittee since “the project simply could not go ahead without him”.

Town Manager Brian White said that despite the cynicism which town twinning garners among some naysayers, “I am personally in favour of twinning,” citing the successful link-up between Dungarvan and Erie, Pennsylvania.

Cllr Joe Conway (Independent) said that twinning represented “a clarion way forward” for Tramore while Cllr Joe O’Shea (Fianna Fáil) said he was “100 per cent behind” the initiative.

The subcommittee, which also includes Mayor Paddy O’Callaghan (Labour) and Cllr Keoghan, will report back to the Council in due course.