Ray Rooney was a remarkable man. Tall, distinguished, elegant, articulate, he was the kind of person you’d want on your team batting for your side. The people you want standing on the wall, someone to look over you. As an ambassador, he was most impressive, and although officially the Honorary Norwegian Consul in Ireland, it was for his native Galway that he was most often on diplomatic duties. When he passed away last weekend after a short illness, there was tremendous shock at his death, not least because he was still very much part of what is happening around Galway city and county.
He was not a person from the past, but someone whose imprint was very much on all that was currently happening here, most recently the Volvo Ocean Race, for which he canvassed most vociferously. Indeed, he was a man who would undoubtedly have continued to champion Galway for many more years, were he to have lived longer than he did. But alas, such is life, and its fickleness.
Someone who could mix with prince and paupers and who could make each feel equally at ease, it was ironic that he should have passed away in the Croi facility that he had campaigned so much to construct. Croi itself admits that without Mr Rooney’s drive, enthusiasm and boundless energy, it would not have fulfilled so many of its goals. And while it was unfortunate that his sudden illness was so grave that he could not be saved in that facility, it may be of some comfort to his wife Helen, sons Niall, Ronan, and Ross as well as extended family and friends, that countless others around the west of Ireland have lived because of what Croi and Ray Rooney provided.
And these are people who are the vulnerable, the sick, the poor and the elderly who would not be able to verbalise their concerns in the great way that Ray Rooney could and did. A man generous of his time, he used his considerable presence, guile and charm to achieve goals that contributed enormously to the betterment of life in this region.
I am always keen to pay tribute to the people who have created the Galway we know and love, the Galway that took on and showed the world what it can do last month; the Galway that has become home to so many because of the plan that Ray Rooney and many others had for it.
In the great relay race of life, Ray Rooney carried the baton for many decades in this city and never did he let it drop as he represented us admirably on many stages, not least the horseracing stage, a sport so synonymous with this city and this region.
To his family, we extend our deepest sympathies. I hope they can take solace from the knowledge that Ray was a key architect in the construction of Galway life and for that he will never be forgotten. We thank them for their generosity in sharing him with us and allowing him to devote so much of his time for public causes.
Ar dheis Dé go
raibh a anam dilis.