Address by Willi Kiefel on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of
student exchange, Tuam - Straubing in Tuam Library on 31/08/2009.
Tuam - Straubing Twinning
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Your Excellency Ambassador Busso von Alvensleben, Father Stephen Farragher as the representative of Archbishop Michael Neary, Mayor of Galway, Tom McHugh Sally-Ann Flanagan as the representative of the Mayor of Tuam, Tom Reilly, Representatives of galway County Council, Town Councillors, Sr. Angela and visitors from Straubing, Emer and the staff of Tuam Library, Tuam-Straubing Twinning Committee Members, Ladies and Gentlemen and friends. My name is Willi Kiefel. I am Vice Chariman of the Tuam-Straubing Twinning Committee. I am orginally from Steinach, some 10 km from Straubing which was my secondary school town. For the last 28 years I have been living and working in Tuam, initially in Pulse Engeneering and then until May this year in Valeo Vision Systems fomerly known as CEL. As the Curator of this exhibition here on 25 years of Student Exchange Tuam-Straubing I have attempted to capture in 10 posters these past 25 years. The posters consist mainly of published material. I established initial contact with Sr. Angela when I called into her school, the Ursulinengymnasium or Ursuline College during the Christmas holidays in 1983. I had learned prior to that from my sister that Sr. Angela is looking for a school exchange in an English speaking country and I suggested Tuam to her during this initial meeting. Sr. Angela came in August 1984 with 6 pupils from her school. This is the visit which we now celebrate as the beginning of the Tuam Straubing link. This is the topic of *Poster 1* titled „*The beginning – 1984“*. Actually the real beginning would go back to 1973 when I married Maura Crowley from Ennicrone in Co. Sligo. Without this connection I dare say there would have been no Tuam-Straubing connection as we know it. Incidentally this was also the year when Ireland joined the EEC. *Poster 2* illustrates the build up to the *town twinning* proper. It shows copies of some of the initial communication between Tuam and Straubing resulting in the official twinning in Sept. 1991. While this documentation on its own would suggest a straightforward development often as in life, it wasn't. First I had to work hard to convince the honourable fellow members of the initial twinning committee that Straubing would be the best choice. Dr. Claffey had suggested that Tuam should twin with a town in central Europe with strong celtic links and ideally also have a bishop seat. Another member of the initial twinning committee, Niall McGinn had suggested Waldkraiburg near Munich where he had established links through Ceamhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann. In the end we could agree on Straubing mainly because of the established link through Sr. Angela and the prospect of an ongoing school exchange programme and my links with the Mayor of Straubing, Dr. Martin Wackerbauer. So once we had agreed on Straubing we had to overcome concerns from some Straubing councillors which pointed out that Tuam had about a tenth of their population and „infrastructure“. Ambassador, I dare say that this, too,required considerable diplomatic skills. But we managed. However, after we finally received a favourable response from the officials in Straubing we had to overcome another major obstacle: Tuam had no offical town crest or Coat of Arms. No better man then Dr. Claffey who initially proposed the crest which Tuam now has. He also got it officially endorsed by the Irish Herald's office in record time. Incidentally the Tuam Straubing Twinning Committe is also the registered owner of the Tuam Broken Wheel. Registered on June 11, 2003 in the Irish Patents office, No. 225452. Sally-Ann for Mayor Reilly and Town Council please take note. We might have a friendly chat.