A beaming Marty Walsh declared "Tá mé go maith" at Shannon airport this morning as he was given a rapturous welcome on his first visit to Ireland as mayor of Boston.
The son of two emigrants from Rosmuc and Carna, Mr Walsh received a hero’s welcome from relatives and friends from the Connemara Gaeltacht who had braved an early morning thunderstorm to meet their prodigal son.
The airport has a special resonance for Mr Walsh (47), whose parents flew out of Shannon to start their new lives in Boston in the 1950s.
Mr Walsh - who has dual US and Irish citizenship and grew up in a household in Boston where Irish was spoken- has travelled back to Connemara over 30 times during his life, but today was his first visit since being elected mayor last November.
Mr Walsh’s mother Mary came back to Connemara a week early to prepare the family’s house at Rosmuc for the homecoming. “If someone told me 59 years ago that I would have a son who would be mayor of Boston someday, I wouldn’t have believed it. It is very emotional, it really is,” Mrs Walsh said. “A lot of my people are gone and I wish they were here today to see all of this.”
Mr Walsh, whose father John died in 2010, said this trip would be particularly poignant. “My cousins are here living in the house my father was born in and my grandmother was born in. It does mean a lot to me. The conversation on the way was about ‘what would he say and what would he think about all this fuss?’ and he would be sitting in the back very happy.”
At a press conference, Mr Walsh quipped that he would be stuffing his suitcase for the trip home with brown bread, sausages and black pudding. “I got to be careful of what I say because I’ll be going through customs, but I’ll be fitting as much as I can in the suitcase.”
Mr Walsh will attend mass at Rosmuc tomorrow as part of a 11-day trip to Ireland that will also take in Dublin, Letterkenny, Knock, Galway city and Belfast.
Former Government minister Eamon O Cuiv also travelled to Shannon to greet Mr Walsh. "It is a fantastic achievement for a small place that somebody like Marty Walsh can achieve such an exalted position. It is an extraordinary situation, he is one of ours. Who knows, he might be president one day."