My introduction to Co-operation North as it was in the beginning came as a result of my being an elected member of Clare County Council.

In 1988 in order to try and do something positive and meaningful, I proposed that Clare County Council “twin” with a Council in Northern Ireland. It was decided to send that request to Co-operation North.

At the time Tommy Fegan was acting CEO of Co-operation North and being from the Newry area, gave the first option to Newry and Mourne District Council. They accepted our request and we became the first Councils North and South to twin.

I’m ever grateful to Co-operation Ireland and it gave me an opportunity to meet many people in Northern Ireland who would be opposite to me in religion and politics.

I’ve made fantastic friendships over the years especially with those who differed from me. Tommy Fegan invited me to run the New York Marathon for Co-operation North in 1993 and that I did in 1993 and 1994 at the age of 49 and 50 respectively. The 1993 Marathon was recorded by UTV. It was a wonderful experience.

As well as twinning with Newry and Mourne Council I also arranged school exchanges between my school in Inagh, where I was the Principal teacher, and St. Peter’s Cloughreagh, Newry, St. Mary’s Primary School, Banbridge, and Ardstraw Primary School in County Tyrone. These were all wonderful experiences for me, other teachers, parents and the children.

I also introduced a Tourism Conference to Clare and with our organising committee succeeded in getting representatives from all 26 Councils in Northern Ireland to come to Clare annually for 25 years. I could write on and on but suffice it to say that Co-operation Ireland made me a better man.

Flann (right) is pictured with former Co-operation Ireland CEO Tommy Fegan.