We can take a lot from the life of Marty Walsh, the Mayor of Boston who comes here next month. Not alone is his story one of inspiration for so many Irish people who have had to travel far from home, but it is one of immense pride to the people of this county and especially Connemara that one of their own can do so well without sacrificing any of the moral fibre which has taken him thus far.
His decision this week not to take part in the Boston parade because he felt it was lacking in its definition of inclusivity is one that deserves to be lauded, but only so far in that such standards should become the norm for leadership in a civilised democracy. Walsh took his stance just months after his election, showing a bravery and a determination that one might not expect from a new candidate who just a short while ago would have been canvassing the very same people who are now discommoded by his decision.
He is a man who sees the big picture. He says that as mayor of the city, he has to do his best to ensure that all his citizens are free to participate fully in the civic life of the city. Walsh tried in vain to reach a compromise between parade organizers and an openly gay group of veterans seeking to participate in the parade and so felt he was left with no alternative but to refuse the invitation to participate.
And while his actions may have angered sectors of his core support, in doing so, he illustrated that he was a leader for all of the city, for those who voted for him, and those who did not.
The need to ensure inclusivity in all sectors of civic life is one that should be paramount in all our representatives and media. Policies, decisions, articles, features, journalistic discourse can all play its role in ensuring both exclusion and inclusion. It is paramount that the privileged minders of these beacons bear that in mind and do not lose the run of themselves once emboldened with the power to shape minds.
There are still many parts of this city deemed inaccessible to people in wheelchairs. There are some institutions in this country that deny access to some minorities and genders. There are school acceptance policies designed to maintain a set demographic.
This week a study compiled at the Whittaker Institute at NUI Galway has illustrated the educational inequality that exists between the migrant and non-migrant communities. In plain terms, children of the Irish and the children of the New Irish are denied the opportunity to equally compete for places in higher education because of the differing levels of achievement. The reasons for this are severalfold, but they can be counteracted if all other social, economic, cultural barriers are broken down and we become a community and a city for all the people who live within our imagined walls.
Over the next few months, we meet and decide on our new councillors in the city and county. We hope that they will become Marty Walshs rather than Party Talkshops. That they will endeavour to work together so that Galway at least becomes a place where everyone feels included, or feels they have the capacity to earn the right to be included.