LIMERICK could be set for a link with two top Australian colleges after Cllr Maria Byrne led a Rotary club research mission down under.
Cllr Byrne, whose family owns Bobby Byrne’s pub in O’Connell Avenue, led a team of four young professionals on a month-long trip to Brisbane in Australia.
While there, she established contact with Mount Gravatt College in the suburbs of Brisbane, who are looking to set up a ‘sister college’ relationship with one of Limerick’s institutions.
And she also met with the director of the Southern Queensland Institute of TAFE, Trevor Schwenke, who is due to visit Limerick shortly.
Cllr Byrne said she is going to plan a meeting with LIT president Dr Maria Hinfelaar.
As part of the trip, Cllr Byrne, a member of the Limerick-Shannon Rotary Club, was linked to clubs in Brisbane, the mountain town of Toowoomba and Wynom Manley, on the outskirts of the city.
During the trip, Cllr Byrne attended council meetings of the Brisbane City Council, where she compared this to Limerick City Council.
She also visited rugby league matches, took part in a six-hour trek up some of Queensland’s toughest hills, and travelled to museums and art galleries in the region, as well as the state parliament.
But the main part of Cllr Byrne’s visit was to deliver a series of addresses to Rotary clubs across the state.
The Fine Gael councillor addressed nine different Rotary Clubs - and hundreds of rotarians - on the political history of Ireland.
Meanwhile, the other delegates, including Dooradoyle secondary teacher Lorina Bourke, spoke on Irish tourism, sports, culture, and education.
Cllr Byrne even landed a slot on former rugby league star Warren Boland’s show on ABC Brisbane during the week leading up to St Patrick’s Day.
“He brought me in to speak about St Patrick’s Day, and as there were elections going on over there, he also spoke to me about local and national elections, and our cultural exchanges,” Cllr Byrne explained.
As part of her trip, Cllr Byrne - a rotarian for the last 15 years - stayed in the homes of rotarians, an experience which allowed her the chance to experience Australian culture first hand.
One of the highlights, she says, was the “camaraderie” which existed.
“One thing which came across very clearly was that people had a great interest in Ireland. An awful lot of them had Irish ancestry. We were showing them things like the online census, and many of them traced their ancestors as a result,” she said.
As a result of the trip, Cllr Byrne is expecting many rotarians to come back to Limerick City.
“In the tourist guides, people hear about the Ring of Kerry, and they hear about the Giant’s Causeway, and Dublin. But we gave a flavour of what the rest of the country is about. And they were fascinated. I know three couples who we met, who are coming to Ireland in the next 12 months,” she concluded.