By Kevin Kelley
With Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny scheduled to attend the Mayo Society of Greater Cleveland’s annual Charity Banquet and Ball at LaCentre Conference and Banquet Facility Saturday, many Westshore Irish are likely excited at the chance to meet a sitting head of government.
But Westlake Councilman Michael O’Donnell has already met Kenny.
The Ward 4 councilman, his wife, Ann, and their two daughters, Jackie and Katie, both in their 20s, traveled to Ireland in August.
O’Donnell spent two days in Westlake’s sister city of Tralee, in the southwest of Ireland. He attended the Rose of Tralee Ball, part of the weeklong festival centering on the contest in which a young woman of Irish descent is named the Rose of Tralee. The councilman met the Irish prime minister at a private reception prior to the Rose Ball, he said.
O’Donnell said the people of Tralee were very welcoming.
“They really take this sister city thing like you’re one of their own,” he told West Life.
O’Donnell attended a Tralee Town council meeting as part of the continuing efforts to share ideas between the two communities.
“The thing I was interested in was their energy conservation,” he said.
O’Donnell also was impressed by a visit to the Tralee Bay Wetlands Center, a recently opened nature park designed to attract ecotourists.
Shortly after O’Donnell’s visit, Tralee Town Clerk Michael Seannell wrote Westlake Mayor Dennis Clough about O’Donnell’s visit, calling him an “exceptional ambassador.”
“It is very much appreciated by Tralee Town Council that our sister city Westlake continues to support the (Rose of Tralee) festival both by hosting an event in your own city and also by traveling to Tralee, which I realize is a significant expense to the people involved,” Seannell wrote.
Seannell was referring to the 2-year-old Northern Ohio Rose of Tralee contest, whose winner competes in the international Rose of Tralee contest. This year’s Northern Ohio Rose, Ashley Speaker, did not advance to the final round, but will attend Mayo Society and other public events over the next six months.