Irish celebration brings Derry mayor to New Bedford

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NEW BEDFORD — 03/12/2011 - St. Patrick's Day is approaching and members of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick have already begun to celebrate their heritage, bringing the mayor of Derry in Northern Ireland to New Bedford. Accompanied by the mayoress Rachael Parks, Colum Eastwood, 27, toured the city Friday with Friendly Sons president and Derry native Chris Donnelly.

As a member of the Social, Democratic and Labour Party, Eastwood was elected to the Derry City Council in 2005 and became mayor in June 2010. The council chooses one of its members to serve as mayor for a one-year term. Eastwood is the youngest elected mayor to date, and he views his city's future with optimism, he said.

Photo credit and caption: JOHN SLADEWSKI/The Standard-Times Derry Mayor Colum Eastwood, left, walks the Joseph Abboud Manufacturing Corp. factory floor with Richard Motta, vice president of operations during a tour of the plant on Friday.

"We've had a couple of decades of conflict, and that obviously has affected the economy. But the vast majority of people want a peaceful future," he said. "We have a regeneration plan and everyone has signed up to it — unions, business, schools and the community. So we've done things like expand the university and we're teaching the right courses to make sure that young people are skilled for the modern economy."

Friday morning, the group visited the Normandin School and toured Northern Wind, a scallop processing plant in the South Terminal, followed by a lunch at the Celtic Coffeehouse. A meeting with New Bedford Mayor Scott W. Lang and a tour of Joseph Abboud Manufacturing on Belleville Avenue completed the day's itinerary.

The visitors arrived from Dublin on Thursday, at the invitation of Lang and the Friendly Sons. Eastwood is the guest of honor at the Friendly Sons annual banquet in White's of Westport tonight, where more than 500 people are expected.

Bringing the mayor of Derry to New Bedford for this year's banquet was a no-brainer, according to Donnelly.

"It's our 70th dinner this year and I always try to promote Derry whenever I can. I go there every August, so I invited Colum over when I was there," Donnelly said. "We are very pleased to have him and Rachael with us.

"New Bedford and Derry have many similarities, and the Friendly Sons want to build relationships wherever we can."

This is Eastwood's first visit to the U.S. as mayor, and he has meetings scheduled with business leaders in Boston and Cape Cod before returning to Ireland on Tuesday.

This article (written by Don Cuddy) originally appeared on the Standard Times website here:
http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20110312/NEWS/103120337