Now that the main festivals in Galway are over, and we thrust the booster rockets into the autumn and the project beyond of Galway 2020, it is time to think about how we define Galway, in more than just terms of culture, of sport.
Is there anyone among us who has not felt the hand of kindness from a random stranger; someone who has proven a hero at the moment such a person is required. Probably not. Now is our turn.
The Galway Sanctuary Runners, which was established in September 2018, are looking for more people to wear their iconic blue tops this Saturday August 10 in the Streets of Galway 8k road race.
Over the last nine months the group has been building, running weekly at the 5km Parkrun in Knocknacarra, but they are hoping the Streets of Galway will be a launchpad to help recruit even more runners.
The aim of the movement, set up by journalist Graham Clifford, is to enable Irish people to run alongside and in solidarity with those in direct provision. But it is so much more than just a running club — it is a sign of solidarity and welcome that we all should applaud, especially in the light of the incidents in the city early last week when the mosque was attacked.
And when I talk about sanctuary, I am not limiting this to those who have come here for refuge, but also to those who live here, to all who need to feel the benefit of being recognized. Those who are vulnerable, who are being taken advantage of; who find themselves slipping down an invisible ladder of recognition.
There is nothing as painful as being invisible in full view, of being ignored by the faces of thousands as you walk through the streets. I remember well the pain in the gut that one has when you walk penniless in the streets, just looking for an opening, a chance, to be noticed, to be welcomed, to be recognized as someone worth knowing.
If I could help devise a blueprint for the Galway of the present and future, (although that is a task for more learned minds ), I would wish it to be one based on a principle of empathy, of nurturing, of sanctuary. That it would be a place where everyone would see the fulfilment of their dreams as a possibility, not necessarily realisation. Seeing your dream as a possibility engenders hope, and hope is a quality that this generation feels is in short supply.
I would hope that the city would take on this badge with distinction, that it not just implements these polices of inclusiveness and welcome, but that it makes it a virtue, a standard to which every aspect of the city would adhere.
That in the same way a planning application has to include an environmental aspect, that every new project or grouping has to outline its plan for empathy, nurture, and sanctuary. Events like the Streets of Galway this weekend are a start, and will highlight the Sanctuary Runners. I would ask you to roar all the runners along when the race snakes through the streets from 7pm, but especially those who live in direct provision in our city — a system that I have no doubt will have us hanging our heads in shame in a decade or two, when the true horror of all that comes to light.
There are 372 asylum seekers in Galway today, 210 in the Eglinton Centre on the Prom in Salthill and another 162 in the Great Western House (an all-male centre ) in Eyre Square. Runners from those centres will make up the team, joinedmby some special guests.
If you have already registered to run in the Streets of Galway and would now like to do so in the colours of the Sanctuary Runners, simply send an email to [email protected] with your sign up number and running size. They will then get a running top to you which you can wear on the evening. There is no cost and no fund-raising is required.
Let Saturday night be the start. Let Galway be a beacon for empathy, for human rights, for making everyone feel valued, welcomed, and wanted. That we no longer see the Other when we meet another. This above all else, would be the best gift we can pass on to the next generation.