John Killeen will have to sit back, fold the arms, throw back the ears and listen to a lot of compliments in the next few days. And all of it is richly deserved. Before he gets to scribble his name onto the scroll of those who have been granted the Freedom of Galway city, he’ll be made to blush a few times. He’ll hear again how his dream secured the Volvo Ocean Race for Galway, not once but twice. How he beat the odds and defied the doubters, how he managed to make the city the envy of the rest of the country’s sailing ports. John is a jolly man, whose demeanour and personality allows him to make friends and to listen to his argument. And he has used this to great effect to achieve what he has achieved in his own life, in business and in sailing.
However, what he probably won’t hear is that he is someone who has played a key role in days like yesterday when Galway was once again the recipient of a timely jobs boost. When companies like EA decide to come to a place, they take a lot of factors into consideration. They take the location, the infrastructure, the availability of support from government and education, but they also have to be convinced to buy into the experience that is Galway. The Galway experience, the Galvian Way is something that is intangible but it hangs in the air. It is a sense of joie de vivre, a coolness that is needed for chic cool companies, a place where they can make chic cool games.
A lot of factors have gone into creating this over the years, most notably the arts festival and Macnas, the Film Fleadh, the oyster festivals and so on, but it was John’s dream and his success in getting the Volvo Ocean Race that gave Galway a world stage and this has not been lost on the IDA and on the companies they are trying to attract here.
John Killeen’s dreams and drive have shown that Galway has something to aim at in the summer of 2012. There is something there now for every business and every local person to strive towards. It will be a golden opportunity for the region and the city.
So John, enjoy Saturday when you become a Freeman of the City. Looking through the long list, it goes without saying that you are perhaps one of the most deserving of the accolade. Enjoy the driving of your sheep through Eyre Square, but for God’s sake don’t let them loose at the Moneenageisha lights, for they’ll be lamb-in-ated. You will undoubtedly be proud come Saturday lunchtime, but not half as proud as the rest of us will be that someone who has made such a contribution gets rightly rewarded. We tip our hats to you, sir. Enjoy the event