Clonmel High School celebrates Austrian link

Clonmel High School celebrates Austrian link

Ambassadors have a reputation for hosting glamorous receptions but on this occasion the roles were reversed as Clonmel High School welcomed a distinguished visitor to the town on Monday .

Paying his first ever visit to a school in this country since he accepted his credentials  last May  from President Higgins the Austrian Ambassador to Ireland Dr.Helmut Freudenschuss                          arrived in Clonmel   enhancing further the  very special link  the school enjoys   with Austria established   through the Irish Austrian Society for over  two decades.

Clonmel High School, through German teacher Martina O’Reilly  and her students ,  is one of the most successful secondary schools in the country to participate in the prestigious  Irish Austrian Society national essay competition.

The competition, now entering its 21st year , forms part of the Irish Austrian Society programme to generate stronger ties  between Ireland and Austria raising greater awareness among Irish students of environmental,economic and tourism issues.

Clonmel High School students have an excellent track record in the competition  having secured sixteen scholarships to Austria  during that time and winning numerous other prizes.

The ambassador's party was welcomed by   Principal Karen Steenson. The ambassador was accompanied by  his wife Sigrid, Wilhelm Nest ,a commercial counsellor with Advantage Austria  and Ulrike  Scholler of the Irish Austrian Society. The  group  represented the  political,economic and cultural arms  of the Austrian presence in Ireland designed to strengthen  the  partnership between the two countries.

Ambassador Freudenschuss, who addressed German, business and economics students  and was entertained by school musicians and dancers ,  said he enjoyed visiting the school and was delighted to engage with the students about Austria and its links to Ireland.

Ambassador Freudenschuss said he was  very impressed with the standard of German  and the level of enthusiasm there was to learn the language in the school and he paid tribute to the school leaders, German teacher Martina O Reilly and the students.

“The annual essay competition provides a wonderful opportunity for Clonmel students to visit Salzburg, immerse themselves in a different culture and use and improve their  German language skills.At seventeen  I first visited Ireland, to visit a new country at such a young age is a great experience,  and I became very fond of Ireland and I choose it as my last posting before I retire. Irish people are very hospitable and coming from a land locked country to witness the different landscape, the sea and the cliffs  is wonderful” said the ambassador  who was presented with Apple Farm products during his visit..

Karen Steenson, Principal said the board of management, staff, and the students were honoured to welcome Ambassador Freudenschuss   to the school and to Clonmel.

She said the school was very proud of its record  in the national essay competition and students from the school who returned from their scholarship always did so energised and enthusiastic  about their experience and grateful for the opportunity to enhance their German.

She said students in the school were queuing up to study German and that was down to the professionalism and drive  of German teacher Martina O' Reilly.

The school principal said partnership in the community was at the centre of the school ethos and the partnership that existed between the school and the Irish Austrian Society was an example of the partnership  model in action.

Martina O'Reilly, recognised by the  Austrian government  in their  honours  list for her contribution to the promotion of the  language, said it was a great honour for the school to welcome the ambassador.

“The competition gives the students an opportunity to go to a German speaking country where they realise how important it is to be able to speak and understand another language.It shows that  the use of the language is not just about getting a result in the Leaving Certificate, it goes beyond that,”

High School student Brian Lacey, who won this year's two week scholarship  for  his essay on the use of artificial snow in the Alps, spoke about his experiences  in Salzburg this summer.

He thanked Ambassador Freudenschuss  for visiting Clonmel and the Irish Austrian Society for affording Irish students the opportunity to study and use the German language in Austria.