A DELEGATION led by the Mayor of Kansas City has visited Limerick for the first time since the establishment of a formal twinning partnership between the US city and Ballylanders.
While the formal twinning partnership was formally established in 2009, the County Limerick town’s links with Kansas date back more than 160 years to when Irish emigrants helped to establish the State of Kansas’ third largest city.
Ballylanders native Fr Raymond J Davern’s name is also well established in Kansas having served in the Archdiocese of Kansas City from 1958 until his death in 2005.
The late John Gallahue, who came from Anglesboro near Ballylanders, played a central role in the development of the twinning link.
The former councillor and cathaoirleach of Limerick County Council was remembered during a visit by the Kansas delegation to the offices of Limerick County Hall in Dooradoyle.
The delegation also visited Foynes Aviation Museum and the Lough Gur Interpretive Centre, and were the guests of honour at a function in Ballylanders.
Welcoming the Kansas delegation to Limerick County Hall, Cllr Jerome Scanlan, Cathaoirleach of Limerick County Council stated: “It is a great honour for County Limerick to have been selected by Kansas City and Wyandotte County as an Irish twinning partner. Such relationships allow community representatives and institutions to explore a wide range of opportunities for the residents of both communities.”
Councillor Scanlan said the visit presents a useful opportunity to exchange information and views on how Kansas, Ballylanders and the wider Limerick area can further strengthen the twinning partnership.
“With Shannon International Airport just over ten miles down the road from Limerick County Hall, there is no reason why tourism and business opportunities cannot be explored further and in the future nurtured.”
“Furthermore”, he said, “the presence of three third level institutions in County Limerick and a range of top class educational facilities in Kansas presents the potential for the establishment of educational links in the future.”
Cllr Scanlan acknowledged the role played by the late John Gallahue in establishing the twinning link.
“By further developing this relationship, we will be honouring my former colleague’s memory and the memory of the many thousands of Irish people who contributed to the history and life of Kansas City through the past 160 years. This includes Father Davern who made a significant impact in Kansas, not just in the church itself but also within the community at large,” he concluded.
Kansas city mayor, Joe Reardon, commented on the background to the formal establishment of the twinning link.
Mayor Reardon, a graduate of Bishop Ward High School where Father Davern was once principal, explained: “My father, Jack Reardon, was mayor of Kansas City and Wyandotte County from 1975 to 1987. During his term in office, he wanted to establish a sister city relationship with an Irish community, but it didn’t come together. I knew it was something on his agenda and that he had made a couple of trips to Ireland and formed some relationships. It wasn’t long after I became mayor that I had several citizens, that had been involved at that time, come to me and ask if was an agenda item that might move forward. I thought it was great idea.”
The recently established ties between County Limerick and Kansas City go back over 160 years to the time when Wyandotte County was actually first established in 1859. It was Irish labourers who erected the very first bridge, the old Southern Bridge, across the Kansas River. Within four years, there were enough Irish immigrants living in the county to form a company in the Union Army.
In the years that followed, Kansas City’s thriving Irish community made the city and surrounding area their home.