Row looms over timing of Freedom of the City for Volvo heroes

A proposal to give Enda Ó Coineen, John Killeen, and Eamon Conneely - the men who brought the Volvo Ocean Race to Galway - the Freedom of Galway city will be put before councillors at Monday’s city council meeting.

The proposal is likely to meet with the approval of all 15 city councillors, however there is some concern and disagreement among them as to when the conferring ceremony should take place, a matter that could cause some heated debate in the council chamber next week.

At Monday’s meeting, The Mayor of Galway Cllr Declan McDonnell will propose that Messrs Ó Coineen, Killeen, and Conneely be given the Freedom of Galway city.

It is understood the Mayor is keen to grant them this honour for having successfully secured a Volvo Ocean Race stopover in Galway in 2012.

The return of the event, which proved so popular and successful last May, will give a major boost to tourism and the local economy in the city.

If granted the Freedom of the City, Messrs Ó Coineen, Killeen, and Conneely would join Druid’s artistic director Garry Hynes; Irish presidents Douglas Hyde, Eamon deValéra, and Sean T O’Kelly; US president John F Kennedy; Pope John Paul II; former SDLP leader John Hume; and Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in having received the honour.

The freedom of the city was also granted, albeit controversially to US president Ronald Regan in 1984.

In order for someone to be conferred with the Freedom of Galway s/he must first be proposed by the Mayor and the nomination be accepted by all 15 city councillors.

However it is understood that the Mayor is interested in proposing that the Freedom conferring ceremony takes place at the Mayoral Ball, which will be held on Saturday May 29. It seems to be this latter point with which other councillors disagree.

Many feel the conferring ceremony should not take place during the mayoral ball as it could “politicise” what is a charity event.

They argue that a separate gala ceremony should instead take place on a different date, possibly within St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church.

Others argue that the conferral should not occur until the Volvo Ocean Race arrives in Galway in 2012.

These councillors feel a major ceremony honouring the three men would be an impressive way of “showing off” Galway, as members of the Volvo corporation, Bord Fáilte, and An Taoiseach, whoever s/he may be at that time, will be in the city and could be made guests of honour at the ceremony.

As a result, a motion calling for the Freedom of the City be conferred on Messrs Ó Coineen, Killeen, and Conneely is almost certain to be passed.

However the date and location of the ceremony are likely to be subject to some debate.

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