The leader of the visiting Chinese delegation already had an Irish connection before ever the twinning deal between Kilkenny and Suzhou was sealed on Monday.
Addressing the assembly in flawless English, the Director Aixian Wang revealed that she occasionally adopts another name in English-speaking countries.
“Eileen was the name given to me 20 years ago by my teacher in the States,” she said.
“I am told that it is an Irish name.”
‘Eileen’ appeared very impressed at the trilingual welcome offered by Mayor David Fitzgerald in the Great Hall of Kilkenny Castle.
Having addressed the room first in English, the mayor then greeted his guests as Gaeilge, before finally bursting into flowing Mandarin Chinese. It prompted a spontaneous round of applause from his guests when he finished.
“I hope I have not caused a diplomatic incident with that,” he joked. The mayor spoke of the rich histories and heritage of both Kilkenny and Suzhou, and said he looked forward to the benefits that the twinning agreement will bring.
“Let today be the beginning of a long and lasting friendship,” he said. Cathaoirleach Paul Cuddihy said it marked the culmination of two years of communication between the two to strengthen their relations.
“For some time, we have been planting the seeds which have now come to fruition,” he said.
“This is an important step for County Kilkenny, and follows the steps taken by Glanbia in opening a plant in Suzhou in 2008.”