French visitors set to arrive in Offaly as part of Town Twinning Initiative

Visitors will arrive to Ballycommon, Ballinagar and Geashill Area for second year in a row and enjoy all Offaly has to offer

French visitors set to arrive in Offaly as part of Town Twinning Initiative

The committee in the Ballycommon, Ballinagar and Geashill (BBG) Town Twinning project are busy preparing for visitors from Jaux, Picardy region, Haut de France, France this week.

Nine members of the Jaux area are coming to celebrate and experience the St. Patrick’s weekend festivities. This is the second visit of people from Jaux to our area and the itinerary is packed full of cultural and community events.

Following arrival late on Thursday, the group will be transported to their host families in Ballycommon, Ballinagar and Geashill. Friday sees the group visiting the three national schools where a parade and display will be provided by the children of the three schools of Cappagh, Geashill and Ballinagar.

The group is awaiting confirmation that the French Ambassador to Ireland, H.E. Mr Stéphane Crouzat or his representative, will be in attendance in the schools and in Edenderry for the official events on March 16. The French Ambassador has taken a keen interest in how a small rural area like Ballycommon, Ballinagar and Geashill have succeeded in gaining support from the local community and schools to participate in a project of this nature.

All schools have really engaged with and supported the French town twinning initiative with enthusiasm and now have over 150 children involved in French classes which are hosted by Alex Aubin, a French teacher living in Tullamore. The school halls of Cappagh, Ballinagar and Geashill will showcase the talents across the three schools followed by a refreshments kindly sponsored by the local Parents Association.

The group will then depart for Edenderry Municipal Council Chambers where an official reception will take place between the visitors including the Chair of the Jaux Jumelage committee, Jean-Christophe Augé, the Lord Major of Jaux, Michel Jeannorot and the current council members including Cllr Noel Burke (Chair),Cllr Noel Cribbon, Cllr Martin O’Reilly

Cllr John Foley and Mr Declan Conlon, Head of Finance, Offaly County Council. Following speeches and official presentation of documents the group will have lunch in the chambers and will return to their host families for a restful evening.

St Patricks Day will commence with mass in one of the local churches and all the visitors will then arrive into Tullamore to view the parade from around the podium.

The Chair of Jaux committee, the Major of Jaux and the Chair of BBG Committee Margo Sheil along with the French Ambassador will all be on the official stand and will be part of the welcoming committee. Meanwhile the children from the three local national schools Cappagh, Geashill and Ballinagar will be marching behind the BBG Town Twinning banner to promote and celebrate the town twinning.

If you would like to march, please come along in your school uniform and contact one of the committee members. The visitors will remain in town to soak up the atmosphere and my even climb Croghan Hill with their host families following the parade as per local tradition should the weather permit.

Sport, and particularly rugby, holds a strong bond between Jaux and the BBG area as members of the Jaux committee are avid French Rugby supporters. This along with Ireland’s recent victory of the Six Nations will prove a welcome draw for the visitors to watch Ireland versus England final rugby match and of course France versus Wales in Ballycommon House later on St Patricks Day. Ballycommon House will also sponsor food for the visitors following the rugby match along with some ceol agus craic for our French visitors.

The rest of the weekend will be more restful for the group who will visit some local attractions, businesses and hostelries like Birr Castle, Lough Boora, Kinnity Castle, Clonmacnoise, Mount Lucas wind farm, Croghan Hill, Slieve Blooms and or Dun Na Si in Moate to name but a few. They may even take in the Offaly v Sligo match in O’Connor Park. On Monday, the delegation will be given a tour and presentation at Glensik in Killeigh. The French visitors are intrigued by the rich culture and heritage and this will be a good opportunity to showcase what the midlands has to offer.

The Jaux committee too are planning a full list of events for this year to generate more interest in the Jaux community. The committee are hosting their own St. Patrick's Day festival which will take place on the weekend of March 24 and will showcase the highlights of their visit to Offaly this coming week. The Jaux committee have extended an invitation for their summer village festival in June 2018 and we would welcome any members of the Ballycommon, Ballinagar and Geashill area who are interested to partake in this invitation.

The Town Twinning committee welcomes interested people becoming host families to our new friends from Jaux France. If you would like to get involved at some stage in the future, please do not hesitate to let us know.

To see more information check out the facebook page bbgtowntwinning or call any of the members of the BBG Committee on 087 7825855. The BBG committee members consist of: Gerard Nolan, Mary O’Connor (Ballycommon), Greta Clear (Geashill), Mags Duffy, Denise Keoghan & Margo Sheil (Ballinagar).

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