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Pittsfield Welcomes Officials from Sister City Ballina Ireland
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
11:55AM / Wednesday, July 06, 2022
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Officials pose in City Council Chambers with the guests from Ballina.

Gifts were exchanged between the two Sister Cities at Tuesday's event, with Ballina Councillor Mark Duffy, right, and Irish Sister City Committee President Robert Dwyer. 

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Officials from sister city Ballina, Ireland, in Mayo County traveled to Pittsfield this weekend to experience its culture and build international relationships.

Ballina Municipal District Councillor Mark Duffy and Head of the District Declan Turnbull arrived on Saturday. Since then, they have been shown the ins and outs of the city, dined at Patrick's Pub, and even got to see its historical Fourth of July parade.

A reception was held at City Hall on Tuesday before the two returned home. Duffy was recently elected as this year's Cathaoirleach, something of a mayor or president of the council, and Turnbull is the senior executive. 

"America supported Ireland when it was needed most," Duffy said. "In the mid-1800s we had the potato famine,1 million people died, over 2 million more people emigrated, and that's what makes the Irish American story what it is today."

He and his colleague came to the states to sport cultural connections and friendships on this occasion.  Duffy said the two communities have a lot to learn from each other.  

Though Ballina is a town of about 10,000 people and Pittsfield is that of around 40,000, both are faced with the challenge of sustainability. The town aspires to become the greenest in the republic with multimodal transportation, carbon-neutral energy options, and green space to promote biodiversity.

Pittsfield has taken up similar initiatives such as the Complete Streets project and the Bicycle Facilities Master Plan, both of which aim to improve quality of life and reduce emissions.  

A number of open space and green space projects have also been completed in the last couple of years including the West Side Riverway Park and the literary-themed Kellogg Park.

Duffy pointed out that planners in Ballina would also like to bring light to their town's center and make people want to live in, which can be compared to the city's efforts with North Street and the greater downtown area.

Turnbull pointed to the city's bike lanes and green space and said Ballina is trying to do the same thing, having already introduced some. Similar to Pittsfield, residents across the ocean have varied views of the bike lanes, he added.

"It's been brilliant," Turnbull said about the trip.

Irish Sister City Committee President Robert Dwyer said the two communities have a lot to learn from each other with "twinning," which is what the committee refers to the sisterhood as.  

"It's a great way to get communities to be involved with each other," he said.

Pittsfield and Ballina have been sister cities since 1998. Dwyer said former Mayor Gerald Doyle and former committee President Anne Gagnon pushed for the partnership to happen.

Over the years, sports teams, dancers, and scholars have been exchanged between the two communities.

Committee member Marie Gormalley said the sister cities had usually visited one another yearly outside of pandemic times. The visitors are kept busy with a plethora of activities and meet many different people.

In 2023, Ballina will celebrate its 300th anniversary. Duffy and Turnbull urged officials and interested residents to come to the Irish town and experience its culture, especially for the celebrations.

City Council President Peter Marchetti spoke on behalf of Mayor Linda Tyer at the event. Also in attendance were state Rep. Tricia Farley Bouvier, Councilor at Large Pete White, School Committee Chairman William Cameron, and various city department heads.

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