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Pittsfield celebrates 25 years of city sisterhood with Ireland’s Ballina, County Mayo

 Pittsfield, Massachusetts Mayor Linda Tyer and Councillor Michael Loftus of Ballina, County Mayo, Ireland.
Josh Landes
Pittsfield, Massachusetts Mayor Linda Tyer and Councillor Michael Loftus of Ballina, County Mayo, Ireland.

Pittsfield, Massachusetts is celebrating 25 years of its relationship with a town in Ireland.

City council chambers were filled with song, gifts, and declarations Friday as representatives of the two communities formally acknowledged a quarter century of transatlantic sisterhood.

“On March 17th, 1998, the city of Pittsfield and Ballina, County Mayo, Ireland officially formed as sister cities, creating a longstanding friendship between our communities," said Mayor Linda Tyer. “The Pittsfield Sister City Commission serves to provide opportunities for exchange of ideas and culture and fellowship while promoting peace, tranquility and diversity. Ballina, the salmon capital of Ireland, is a dynamic community enriched with a vibrant art scene, wonderous natural scenery, with many options for all types of cuisine. And today we celebrate our commitment to supporting a more peaceful and prosperous future through continued exchanges of people and values and ideas.”

“I want to say thank you, and thank you for allowing us to be here today. It is a great occasion. It always is a great occasion when we come to Pittsfield. I was here in 2016. I was due here in 2020, but unfortunately, that awful thing COVID affected us. We were actually in New York, ready to come up here to actually enjoy the celebrations. And unfortunately, I actually brought home COVID with me," said Councillor Michael Loftus of Ballina. “I just want to say what it means to us as a community in Ballina- This is so important, I mean, the 25 years, just as a testament to both your committee and the committee in Ballina for keeping it going. And it really takes an awful lot of effort and work to do that. And I want to say well done to everybody that's been involved.”

Loftus acknowledged that Tyer will be stepping down after eight years.

“You've greeted us, and you've given us great respect, and you're so good to us," he said. "I believe this is your last year, we won't see you next year. And I just want to say thank you, it really meant an awful lot. And what you did and have done for the community here and for our community really has been appreciated. You know, it's easy to, you know, St. Patrick's Day, the hype and the celebrations and everything. But it really means an awful lot to us to be able to come here and enjoy facilities which you and enjoy it here, because you're part of our family and it's so, so important to us.”

To celebrate Ballina’s 300th anniversary since its founding in 1723, a delegation of Pittsfielders will be heading to the Emerald Isle later this year.

“There's a massive group coming over in the summertime and we're so looking forward to it," said Loftus. "We will be, I hope, having a civic reception for you in our chamber.”

The communities exchanged gifts including Irish whiskey for beers brewed in Pittsfield.

State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier was on hand with a message from the legislature in Boston.

“Be here by it known to all that the Massachusetts House of Representatives offers its sincerest congratulations to Pittsfield, Massachusetts and Ballina, County Mayo, Ireland in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Irish sister cities," she read. "The entire membership, there's 160 of us, extend its very best wishes and expresses the hope for future good fortune and continued success in all endeavors, given this 10th day of March 2023 at the statehouse, Boston, Massachusetts, and this is signed by Ronald Mariano, our Speaker of the House, and Tricia Farley-Bouvier, state representative.”

Bonded by a shared battle against the scourge of potholes, the Pittsfield and Ballina representatives followed up the ceremony with a luncheon at Patrick’s Pub and pints at Hot Plate Brewery.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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