On Thursday night Marty Walsh, Boston’s mayor-elect is expected to attend the Irish Emigrant/IrishCentral salute at Faneuil Hall to Irish heroes of the Boston Marathon bombing and Sandy Hook massacre.
Many of those who acted heroically are friends and acquaintances of the first Irish mayor of Boston in two decades.
Those Irish roots were on display during his run for office. On his final day canvassing Boston’s new mayor, Marty Walsh, went to his Irish neighborhood in Dorchester and to the Greenhills Irish bakery.
“This is as home turf as I can get,” he said as a plate with Irish soda bread was passed around the shop, full of Walsh supporters.
Among the officials joining him in the bakery were: State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, married to the family that produces the Boston Irish Reporter.
On election day Walsh's late father was on his mind as his mother, 71-year-old Mary Brennan Walsh, came to the voting booth with him and shed a tear remembering her husband John who died in 2010 aged 82.
“He’d be so proud," said Walsh.
His mother, from Connemara, is still a fluent Irish speaker. Several relatives from the West of Ireland were on hand for the victory. The Galway-based Connacht Tribune led with the news of a local boy made good, excitedly reporting Walsh said his first trip abroad would be to Ireland.
There are always tight bonds between Boston and Connemara. They will never be tighter than now.
Marty Walsh did not have an easy childhood. He had cancer as a child and almost died, missing several grades in school. At one point he was given months to live. His mother credits bringing him to Knock in Ireland among other religious sites for his miraculous recovery.
Walsh, 46, developed a taste for politics from an early age when he would sit around the kitchen table at the family home listening to his father John and Uncle Pat talk shop on the issues of the day. His father had gone to work at 18 after arriving from Ireland.
Both men belonged to the Laborers Union, Local 223, and were active in serving the community. As soon as he could, Marty followed in his father’s footsteps and became a union laborer. After having spent his life listening to discussions surrounding local politics, the labor movement and the importance of service, it came as no surprise that in 1997 Marty ran and won election to the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
Since Labor Day, both Walsh and his team of campaigners were busy with a non-stop meet and greet of all voters in every neighborhood in the city.
Despite his busy schedule, Marty was relaxed as he met IrishCentral/Irish Emigrant for a cup of coffee during the campaign.
As is always the way, talk soon turned to Ireland. Walsh is extremely proud of his Irish heritage but even more so to be the "son of immigrants." Having parents that emigrated from Ireland, Walsh has had a firsthand understanding of what life is like for immigrant families in the city of Boston.
Growing up in Dorchester, considered to be the most diverse district in Boston, allowed Walsh to develop an appreciation for the important and positive contribution that immigrants from all over the world, including Ireland, have made to his home city and the United States. This explains his straightforward position on the national debate surrounding immigration reform: “We are a country of immigrants and this country was built by immigrants.”
Another issue of concern for voters is jobs and Walsh, having traveled extensively to Ireland, is keen to attract some of Ireland's indigenous high-tech firms to use Boston as a hub location for their American operations. He also wants to work closely with Irish organizations and companies to further develop the strong working ties between his city and his parents' homeland.
Of course, the first priority for Walsh now is to carry out his duties as the 54th Mayor of Boston, but his story is one of hope for every immigrant family in the city and indeed across America that “anything is possible and can be done.”