Having now completed six months of my term as Mayor of Galway, I reflect on issues I have come across, some of the people I have met, and some of the communities I have visited.
Since June, I have attended almost 250 events, functions, and ceremonies and have had the pleasure of meeting so many people across Galway city, and indeed county. I have always had a connection with community, and in particular sporting and youth groups. However, my eyes have truly been opened at the level of volunteerism carried out on a daily basis in various sectors. I am amazed at the commitment and dedication that is ongoing in all corners of Galway, and therefore I must pay tribute to all those who volunteer in Galway.
I had the pleasure of attending Croke Park earlier this year on a number of occasions as our Minor sides reached the top of their game, but the atmosphere and record crowd for the Ladies Camogie final was special. We have also had many other sporting successes with Katie O’Brien, Olympic Boxing Club and Black Dragon Kick Boxing Club all doing exceptionally well. A special mention must also go to Galway WFC who won the clubs first ever trophy with their U17s successful in what is hopefully the start of a great future for the club. Galway is certainly served well in sporting terms.
We are about to embark on a cultural journey with the eve of Galway 2020, European Capital of Culture almost upon us. I am genuinely excited about this once in a lifetime event that will not return to Ireland until at least 2035, and when, and if, it does, it will most likely will be awarded to another part of Ireland.
Galway 2020, like all other capitals of culture has had its issues early on but it has turned a corner and the sense of anticipation and wonder ahead of the near 2,000 events is palpable. This year also saw Galway chosen as the fourth best city to visit in the world by the Lonely Planet Guide. This is an extraordinary accolade to receive and one we must all be proud of.
At Christmas time
As we face into the festive period I want to wish the people of Galway, at home and abroad, the very best this Christmas and may it be filled with love, peace, joy, and happiness. Christmas can be a very lonely time for many and it is important we are aware of this. Many have lost loved ones this year so Christmas simply will not be the same. Many have family and friends abroad also. This will leave many an empty chair at the dinner table on December 25.
I do hope our diaspora enjoy their Christmas wherever they may be. Equally, 24 per cent of those living in Galway were born outside of Ireland. I think it is important we comfort them as they may feel alone and away from their homeland and loved ones this festive season. It is also important we check in on elderly neighbours and ensure they are safe and well.
There are a number of people who deserve special mention. Members of the emergency services who will work around the clock over Christmas caring for others, members of the defence forces stationed abroad missing their families, and our own outdoor crew at the Galway City Council who remain on standby in the event of any poor weather conditions. All of these people deserve huge praise.
The homeless crisis
Housing and homelessness remain the single biggest issue of concern in Galway. The numbers are stark. Since 2016 we have seen increases in the need for emergency accommodation go from 17 families to 83, from 47 to 200 children and an over all rise of 388 per cent of people in need of emergency housing services in Galway. Those spending Christmas in hotel, hostel or B&B accommodation must be remembered in our thoughts and prayers as it is an extremely difficult time for them.
Throughout 2019, and since my election as mayor in June, I have found school children inspiring as I continue a schools tour where I plan to visit each of our city primary and secondary schools before my term ends. The next generation are aware of issues we face, they are knowledgeable and they and enthusiastic about bringing about positive change around climate change, housing, and environmental protection, to name but a few.
Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed my term to date and look forward to meeting so many more as I enter the final few months as Mayor of Galway city. I thank all those who have made me feel so welcome at the various events I have attended to date and look forward to meeting so many more throughout 2020. On that note, I would like to again wish the people of Galway and those abroad this Christmas the very happiest Christmas and best wishes for 2020.