Town seeks similar for friendship, and maybe more

Dublin has just been twinned with China's Beijing

Dublin has just been twinned with China's Beijing. It's a tradition that harks back to the second World War, writes CIAN TRAYNOR

MODERN TOWN twinning is a little like online dating. On, a website that connects towns or cities interested in establishing cultural and commercial ties, prospective partners outline a little bit about themselves and what they’re looking for. The Serbian town of Sjenica, for example, is known for its outdoor activities and seeks a similarly proportioned English-speaking partner interested in agriculture.

In its more traditional form, the concept first caught on in the aftermath of the second World War, when European governments encouraged towns to link up as a gesture of reconciliation, but today it’s more about practicality, mutual interests and a spark of serendipity.

Some are tenuous connections: Bandon in Cork and Bandon in Oregon are namesakes. Others share a deeper affinity: Buncrana in Donegal and Campbellsville in Kentucky have both gained and lost Fruit of the Loom factories. And rather than merely providing a junket for town councillors, some towns are dedicated to visiting their twins as much as possible.


Clonakilty, Co CorkIn 1982, a German brass band from Waldaschaff placed an ad in Irish newspapers seeking another ensemble interested in exchanging visits.

There were two replies frombands in Waterford and Clonakilty. The latter turned their hospitality into a civic reception, which grew into an official twinning that has spawned ties in sport and education, as well as St Patrick’s Day parades in both towns. “The two towns are very similar in size and personality: we both work hard and play hard,” says Michael Kenneally, Clonakilty’s original twinning-committee secretary. “We all made friends out there, and that has continued. There have even been a few marriages out of it.”

Cork cityAfter 10 years of deliberation, Dublin was officially twinned with Beijing on Thursday following a link between Cork and Shanghai which partnered in 2005.

When the Department of Foreign Affairs first broached the idea with Cork City Council as part of the government’s Asia Strategy, it prompted a year of soul searching, says Pat Ledwidge, the council’s director of services. “There were issues of logistics, scale and distance,” he says. “So we agreed that we’d need to see tangible benefits every year.”

This means working with the Industrial Development Agency and with Enterprise Ireland in Shanghai, exchanging students and artists, welcoming 20 delegations to Cork every year and teaching Chinese in more than 30 schools around the county.

“It’s been hugely successful,” Ledwidge says, adding that Cork and Shanghai have more in common than first realised: they are two cities built on trade that define themselves in contrast with the capital.

Newbridge, Co KildareThe idea for Bad Lippspringe to approach Naas apparently stemmed from a Kildare local living in the German spa town, says the Newbridge town clerk, Anne Greene. But Naas declined, having been twinned already with other towns. Newbridge was happy to step in, and there has been a steady flow of scouts, students, boxers and football teams in both directions since 1996. "If you mention Bad Lippspringe around Newbridge, they'd all know exactly what you're talking about," says Greene. "Everyone knows someone who's been."

Newbridge found a second twin in 2008 when the Florida town of Ocala, known as the horse capital of the world, sought out its Irish equivalent, sending over its police and firefighters for the local St Patrick’s Day parade and taking on Kildare jockeys for summer work programmes.

Bray, Co WicklowPupils from St Kilians Community School in Bray were on a tour of Germany 20 years ago when they learned that Kilian was the patron saint of Würzburg and that John Millington Synge, a playwright with Wicklow roots, had studied there. Inspired by the connection, they began student-exchange programmes, and by 2000 Würzburg officially became Bray's third twin, after the French town of Bègles and the Californian town of Dublin. (The latter materialised when Dublin, Ireland, turned down a twinning proposal from its American counterpart just as Fr John O'Connell of Bray was visiting his cousin Marie Cronin in Dublin, California.)

“People will say, ‘What’s that place we’re twinned with? We’ll look it up while we’re over there,’ ” says Christine Flood, Bray’s town clerk, who has been to Würzburg several times. Curiosity between all three twins, she adds, has led to sharing of research facilities and hosting of rowing expeditions, and their combined network of sister cities is regularly tapped into for fairs and exhibitions.

Oldcastle, Co MeathThere's a story in Oldcastle of a local man's father trying to send a telegram home from India only to be asked, "The Oldcastle in Canada or Ireland?" The anecdote inspired Dot Power of Oldcastle Enterprise to write to representatives in Tecumseh, Canada (of which Oldcastle is a part), requesting more information.

They responded by sending history books revealing the area’s Irish settlers, including some from Meath with the same surnames as present-day locals. When Power proposed twinning the two towns, in 1999, the Canadians were thrilled, she says, and they have been visiting each other ever since.

“The women were all for it, and the men said it would never work,” says Power. “But, by golly, we did it.”

Irish twins: Some of the towns Ireland partners with

Galway city

Lorient, France;

Bradford, England;

Aalborg, Denmark;

St Louis, Milwaukee, Seattle, Cambridge and Chicago, all in the US;

Moncton, Canada;

Qingdao, China;

Waitakere City, New Zealand.

Limerick city

Quimper, France;

Starogard Gdanski, Poland;

Limerick Township, New Brunswick and Spokane, all in the US.

Dublin city

Liverpool, England;

Barcelona, Spain;

San Jose, US.

Cork city

Cologne, Germany;

Coventry, England;

Swansea, Wales;

Rennes, France;

San Francisco, US;

Shanghai, China.