PEOPLE ACROSS Inishowen joined last night in the Plaza in Buncrana to celebrate a quarter of a century of Spanish students coming to the town.
From what started with 32 Spanish students visiting the town in the summer of 1989, has now developed into a massive annual event with more than one hundred students staying throughout Inishowen every year.
Scoil Íosagáin principal Sinead McLaughlin said the length of the project has shown the success of it over the years.
Sinead said the idea came to her 25 years ago when she was visiting Dublin.
“I saw the huge amount of Spanish students in Dublin at that time and I thought I wonder is there any way of getting them students north to Inishowen,” explained Sinead.
“At the time I was a member of the Buncrana Town Council so I put a motion to the County Manager and it grew from there. The County Manager put me in touch with the Spanish leader, who had also expressed an interest in bringing some of her students to Ireland.”
She added: “It just grew from there – it was perfect timing really as there was two people involved who were interested in driving the project further.”
Ms. McLaughlin said the Spanish exchange programme has social, economic and cultural benefits in Buncrana.
“I think everyone loves to see the Spanish students coming because it marks the start of summer,” said the primary school principal. “However, some students now don’t just spend the summer – they are here at schools all year round, whether it be in Carn, Buncrana or other parts of Inishowen.
“It’s a great experience for everyone involved and we have developed great cultural and social links with them. There is also a great economic spin-off from this project across the peninsula.”
Sinead said the 25-year celebration is a way to celebrate and remember how the project has grown and see how it will continue to grow in the coming years.
The exchange programme continued to grow year-on-year despite two of their group, Fernando Blasco Baselga, 12, and Rocio Abad Ramos, 24, a group leader, being killed in the Omagh Bomb in 1998.
Last year however the Spanish students from Buncrana visited Derry – the first time they were allowed across the border since restrictions were put in place after the bombing.