Galway Lorient 40th Anniversary!!

In September 2015, celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Galway Lorient twinning.

An exhibition of old photographs and press articles from Galway Advertiser and Connacht Tribune was organised. President Michael D Higgins gave a warm welcome to the Lorient delegation with Mayor Norbert Métairie and Galway Mayor Frank Fahy.

Other events organised for this anniversary including a Breton market, reading of Celtic stories for kids in the library, Lorient Bagad, Breton dance and music in the Black Box.

Speech at the 40th anniversary of the twinning of Galway and Lorient

Printworks Gallery, Market Street, Galway City Saturday, 19th September 2015

Councillor Fahy, Mayor of Galway & Galway City Councillors
Ambassador Thébault
Honorary Consul Gagneux 
Mayor Metairie and special guests
Mr. Mc Grath, Chief Executive, Galway City Council
Ladies and gentlemen

It is with great pleasure that I join you all here today to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the twinning of Galway and Lorient. As a former Mayor of Galway, I am very conscious of the value of this link – and I am delighted to avail of this opportunity to meet once again with our friends from Lorient. 

The connection between Galway and Brittany is a profound one;   a connection which was formalised forty years ago by the twinning of Galway and Lorient, but one which had developed over time through the many innate characteristics which define our people and our cultures.

The ties which have, throughout the ages, brought us together are myriad; our sensibility to music, literature and philosophy, our similar landscapes and coastlines, the scripting of both our climates by the vast Atlantic Ocean. 

Many churches, chapels and villages across Brittany bear the mark, and often the name, of the Irish pilgrim monks – Columbanus, Brendan, Ronan, Fingar and others – who contributed to the spread of Christianity on the peninsula. 

The twinning of Galway and Lorient has enabled our two cities to foster new opportunities for the interchange of ideas, and to share numerous exchanges in the sporting, cultural and educational spheres. Interactions between our artists, poets and musicians have enriched and nurtured the artistic dimensions of our societies in many ways. Musicians and dancers from Lorient participate each year in Galway’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, the website Poemes-Galway-Lorient showcases poetry and writing from both our cities and last year I had the privilege of visiting Lorient for the Festival Interceltique’s “Year of Ireland”  where our music, literature, and dance found a natural home in that beautiful Breton city. A particular highlight of that event was the Glanmore Gala Concert  in honour of the late Seamus Heaney;  and I was delighted to have the opportunity to pay my own tribute to the great poet by reading his inspirational poem ‘The Given Note’.  

And of course the musical performances by Alain Stivel and Liam O’Flynn were uplifting reminders of the celtic heritage we share in common, and of the distinctive ways in which contemporary and gifted musicians weave that heritage with their own modern day influences, to create something unique and deeply personal.

Indeed, I have visited Lorient on many occasions over the years, always welcomed by my good friend Jean Yves Le Drian, (Minister for Defence & Veteran Affairs) and I have a great personal fondness for the city and for the people of Brittany.

Sport holds an important position at the heart of both our communities and our schools and sports clubs have been active and innovative in finding many new opportunities to develop, together, this shared interest. The reach and inclusivity of Ireland’s Gaelic Athletic Association and passion for Gaelic football and hurling has stretched, for many years, far beyond Irish shores. While the GAA continues to thrive across Europe this is nowhere more evident than in Brittany which has approximately eleven GAA clubs and its own Gaelic League. When we reflect on how closely intertwined the GAA is with Irish society, we realise the profound connection our joint love for Gaelic sports has created between the people of Galway and Lorient.

We both understand the proud legacy of a national language and its centrality to our culture and heritage; and, of course, our significant role in a contemporary world as the custodians of our ancient tongues – Brezhoneg and Gaeilge.

While the history of each city is unique and distinct, our shared attributes have enabled the building of a flourishing relationship between Galway and Lorient and a successful twinning founded on community, friendship and mutual appreciation. Both cities are sea ports; both have a history of trade with distant places; both have known the pain of a struggle for cultural preservation and historical integrity. In the contemporary period both have assigned a central space to the arts and culture, bringing them right into the heart of the community with their internationally renowned arts festivals.

It reminds us that, of all the regions of France, there is none closer to Irish hearts than Brittany and that nowhere in France is there more interest in Ireland than in Brittany.

The connections between Ireland and France today are stronger than ever but must never be taken for granted. We are partners in the European Union. France is one of the main markets for Ireland’s goods, services and agricultural products – not least our fish and seafood, a sector Brittany knows well. 

The strong twinning relationship that exists between our cities is an integral part of the connections between Ireland and France.   The shared vitality, which we are celebrating here today, of our civil societies; our dynamism and determination in valuing our heritage and nurturing it for future generations while also appreciating the culture of others; our capacity to mobilise around matters of shared social, cultural and economic interest; these constitute vital resources for the present and future of our fine cities. 

I know that in addressing the challenges of the present and future, our two communities can draw on a strong sense of their collective identity and shared values.

So the contemporary links between Galway and Lorient are stronger and more vibrant than ever. We must continue to work together to foster this relationship into the future. 

Our cities have now enjoyed four decades of successful partnership; decades during which our relationship has deepened. I am confident it is a relationship that will continue to thrive as future generations discover all that we share in common as well as the distinct characteristics that make each city unique, arousing our curiosity and a real will to learn from each other, and about each other. 
It has been a genuine pleasure to come here today and join in this celebration of that partnership. May I conclude by thanking all those who have travelled from Brittany to mark forty years of successful twinning.

Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.