Athlone should set up a new twinning arrangement with a city overseas which would help bring about “greater opportunities and interaction in tourism, education and business.”
That’s according to the town’s Mayor, Aengus O’Rourke, who raised the topic at the January monthly meeting of the Athlone Municipal District.
Athlone has been twinned with the town of Chateaubriant in France for the last 23 years, but Cllr O’Rourke said it was now time to “look further afield” for a “more dynamic” town twinning partner.
He pointed out that twinning was “increasingly being used around the world to form strategic international, commercial, tourism, educational and economic links that encourage trade and tourism between the town entities.
He said Athlone was “a business capital,” which “should be looking outward” in terms of town twinning.
“I am not coming with a suggestion for a city, although I do have some in mind. I think the public should become engaged with this and see where is a good fit for Athlone overseas.”
His predecessor as town Mayor, Cllr John Dolan, said he fully agreed with the motion. “There was nothing wrong in twinning with Chateaubriant but I think we should look at it again.
“I’m not saying we should have 20 town twinnings, but there shouldn’t be a major limit on it,” he commented.
Cllr Michael O’Brien said he had been to Chateaubriant a few years ago and it was “a lovely trip” but he found it “a bit formal”.
“I felt that we should be getting more out of (the town twinning partnership)... With Chateaubriant it was fine for a while, but I don’t think we gained a huge amount out of it.”
Cllr Frankie Keena said Athlone was “a fabulous town, and it would be to the benefit of other towns to twin with us.”
He said there should be consultation with AIT, the IDA, corporations based in the town, media groups, and local residents in relation to a twinning partner.
Westmeath County Council Director of Services Barry Kehoe recommended that a review of the town twinning experience with Chateaubriant be undertaken before a decision was made on a future town twinning arrangement.
A committee to review Athlone’s town twinning staus was set up at the end of the discussion.
The five-man committee will consist of: Cllr O’Rourke, Cllr Keena, Cllr O’Brien, Cllr Dolan, and Athlone Municipal District Manager Pat Keating.