Galway, as we know it, did not just happen by accident. As a signifier of a wider context, what we associate with the city came about because of coincidences of time and place and ability and the juxtaposition of character.
Culturally, the stars aligned in the 1970s; meetings of mind were convened and what was created was the basis for what formed our bid for Galway 2020.
Economically too, in the tailspin of the Digital closure, the synergies created gave Galway an intellectual base that paved the paths for the burgeoning IT and medtech sector we have here.
But perhaps most importantly, the realisation that this was a place apart came about through the endeavours of a different group of people. People who went forth and sold the notion of Galway as a place that, through visiting, would enhance the lives of many. They were a group of people who mingled with the best brains in the business and created the tourism industry that is now the biggest contributor to our local economy.
And this week, we lost one of the brightest stars of those endeavours.
The passing of Mrs Breda Ryan late last week brought great sadness to the west, because she had touched the lives of so many; her legacy writ large into the history of Galway, forging even a link to Camelot through her role as the city’s First Lady during the poignant visit of JFK in 1963.
Age could not defeat her enthusiasm for life, her desire to use her profile, her energy, her joyous personality, and her connections to bring betterment to the lifes of others, knew no bounds. There probably wasn’t a cause in the city and county that did not at some stage benefit from her desire to help it, to make the vulnerable feel less so.
She was Galway’s ambassador to everywhere and everyone — always able to represent us capably; always painting a bright picture of all that we could deliver in terms of tourism, and art, and culture, and bonhomie.
Her passing is one that has brought great sadness to the city; not only to her family and friends, but to the many charities that have benefited from her largesse of soul, and her extreme kindness. Her legacy will be one of duty, of style, and of honour.
It is a largesse that she has passed on to her family and business. Through recognising the humanity of her fellow beings through her work for so many causes, unwittingly, she paid herself her most gracious tribute.
Mrs Ryan was one of those who made Galway what it is. The hard yards put in by herself and Mary Bennett and others have sown seeds that will reap fruit for this generation and many more to come. By creating Galway as a desirable place to visit, they opened the locks to the city and encouraged everyone to flood in; to work, to study, to holiday, to visit, to live.
Galway can never fully repay the work that has been carried out by Breda Ryan and Mary Bennett. They were the key creators of the Galway phenomenon and we all owe them an enormous debt for shaping the place.
To the Ryan family, we thank you for sharing such a wonderful woman with us for so many years.
Let her legacy live on in the kindness she always espoused.