In a word . . . Ballaghaderreen

When she returned to Dublin she wrote a ‘Syrian love letter to Ballaghaderreen’

An esteemed colleague from another newspaper told me how she and her son had been watching a Prime Time programme recently on the warm welcome given by people in Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, to Syrian refugees since their arrival last March. Her son remarked how it made him proud to be Irish. He should be from Ballaghaderreen.

I have been bursting with a (sometimes) restrained pride many times this past 12 months or thereabouts when visiting the town and/ or seeing/hearing/reading yet more reports on the efforts people there have made to help these desperate, dejected, unfortunate refugees as they adjust to a totally different reality.

Not that people in Ballaghaderreen have been brandishing their natural-born humanity and generosity like some crass, brassy trophy such as you might find in the current White House. They just get on with it, being who they are.

And right from beginning too, with local woman Mary Gallagher's heartfelt " could you say no?" In fact it was on another Prime Time programme in January of last year she said: "If somebody is needy and they were driven out of their homes and you see a child being picked up in Aleppo out of the clay, how could you say no?"


Mary has had her own sorrows since, with the unexpected death of her husband Michael last June.

That comment of hers and the response of other local people at the time prompted Syrian Razan Ibraheem, who had been living in Ireland for the previous six years, to visit Mary and other people in the town.

When she returned to Dublin she wrote a Syrian love letter to Ballaghaderreen in which she said "I met so many lovely people including Mary Gallagher, the true soul and heart of Ireland."

More recently the reception afforded the Syrians in the town prompted a truly unexpected response from an official at the Department of Justice in a letter to Roscommon Co Council last December.

It referred to the “most wonderful response from the local community in Ballaghaderreen and its environs” to the Syrians. This had “received recognition far beyond Ireland’s shores and generated very positive publicity for this remarkable community”, it said.

Let the word go forth, there can be soul and heart in Justice too.

Ballaghaderreen,- 15 letters, nine consonants, six vowels - from Bealach a’ Doirín, meaning `the way through the little oak wood’.