WEST Cork is in line to be twinned with Scituate, ‘the most Irish town in America’.
The harbour town is located just 25 miles south east of Boston and the 2010 census shows that 47.5% of its residents listed their primary ancestry as Irish – which, allegedly, is the highest percentage of any town in America.
Members of the West Cork Municipal District have been presented with a detailed report on the benefits of twinning with the town which has a population of 18,133, by officer Justin England.
They were told that Scituate is synonymous with food and has a broad range of shops, restaurants, waterfront activities, entertainment venues and artists.
And every April it holds its Restaurant Week, which, like A Taste of West Cork food festival, showcases what the region has to offer in relation to food and food tourism.
Located midway between Boston and Plymouth, it has a harbour walk along its waterfront and was voted the 2015 Best Town Centre South by Boston magazine.
In addition to its food and entertainment businesses, Mr England said there are several maritime-related businesses, including charter, commercial fishing, recreational boating, and scientific research that takes advantage of its large and well-protected harbour.
In addition to boosting tourism, Mr England said a successful twinning brings scores of benefits to both the communities and respective municipalities.
‘By bringing people together from different regions,’ he said, ‘it presents an opportunity to learn from each other and create friendships through common interests and issues.’
He said twinning would also promote mutual business development, as well as commercial and professional exchanges. And it would offer an opportunity for youth exchange programmes.
The fact that Scituate is recognised as the most Irish town in America, and given the percentage of residents who expressed an Irish ancestry, also makes Scituate a perfect fit to twin with the West Cork Municipal District, according to the report presented by Mr England.
He also said now is ‘an opportune time’ for West Cork to enter into a twinning agreement with Scituate because Norwegian Air International opened a transatlantic service in July 2017 that goes three times a week to the greater Boston and New England region.
The fact that Scituate is an extremely popular leisure resort for Bostonians also ties in with West Cork’s appeal as a tourist destination.
The potential for educational enhancement was also outlined by Mr England, who noted that West Cork has 14 secondary schools and 77 primary schools, all of whom could benefit from sharing knowledge and skills with Scituate.
As chairman of the West Cork Municipal District Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) was the first to endorse the proposal – which met with the approval of all the other Municipal District members and will now go to a full meeting of Cork County Council for ratification.
According to Cllr Carroll: ‘This is a mighty opportunity for West Cork, we have to drive it on. We don’t know how big an impact this will have for us here in West Cork.’
Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy (FF) said a twinning of this kind would help coastal communities in West Cork to learn how to ‘capitalise on our coastline.’
Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) was similarly enthusiastic.
He said: ‘Their interests are the same as ours.’
And he recalled a time when ‘Bantry had a better football team in Boston than it did at home, due to the level of emigration.’
Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) said stronger links with the US would help to offset the negative impact that Brexit is having and the drop off in more than 300,000 UK visitors this year alone. And he also made the point that US visitors typically spend three times as much as UK visitors.
Cllr Mary Hegarty (FG) praised Mr England for the professionalism of the report and made the point that the Cork to Boston flights would help sustain the twinning link.
She also said that the new marina in Bantry would make the town more attractive to sailing enthusiasts from Scituate, and that they would find plenty to see and do in other popular coastal communities, such as Baltimore and Schull.