This is the first visit to his parent’s homeland and also his first foreign trip since he was elected Mayor of the city of Boston last November
“There’s so much pride,” Walsh told reporters on Wednesday. “I clearly didn’t grow up there, but in a sense it is going home.’’
The Dorchester native, along with a small entourage, departed from Boston to Shannon airport late Thursday night.
Shannon, the airport from which Walsh's parents left Ireland for America and the location of JFK's last speech during his 1963 Ireland trip, was a symbolic starting point for the Boston mayor's Irish visit.
Waiting for him were his mother, relatives, 10 mayors from all around Ireland, and a crowd of reporters. After a press conference and interviews, the mayor attended a business breakfast hosted by Shannon Group.
“Shannon is a place where the relationship between Ireland and American has taken flight,” Walsh said shortly after his arrival.
“Today we stand at the same transatlantic gateway that brought my parents to America and brought American presidents to Ireland.”
Touching upon the speech by Shannon's most famous visitor, JFK, Walsh said "We can take heart from the president’s final words, when he told the crowd gathered, ‘I am taking, as I go back to America, all of you with me.’
"In an important way, that is exactly what he did. His time in Ireland changed the Irish-American relationship permanently.”
Walsh said that during the flight over to Ireland, he was thinking about "how my father left from this airport in 1956 and my mother left from this airport in 1959, they came to Boston separately and got married, and would they ever have thought that someday their son would return [here] as Mayor of the City of Boston?"
Speaking with reporters, the mayor's mother, Mary Walsh, answered that question. "If somebody told me that I'd have a son who'd be Mayor of Boston one day, I wouldn't believe them," she said. "It's very emotional. I'm very proud, very proud."
Walsh is the first Boston mayor to visit Ireland in 16 years. He will be taking a few days off from public life before commencing a trade mission across the island of Ireland early next week.
He is spending the weekend between Rosmuc and Carna, the two villages in the Irish speaking region of Connemara in the West coast of Ireland where his parents grew up.
His parents emigrated separately from the region in the 1950’s before meeting in the legendary dance halls of Dudley Street, Boston.
The return to this scenic corner of the world after a four year absence will be the excuse Walsh has needed to take some personal time in what has been a non-stop twelve months for the new Mayor.
He will spend quality time with those closest to him including his mother who traveled with other family members the week before, as well as take the time to recall his many childhood trips to Connemara, a stunningly wild place where the rugged mountains of Galway meet the wild Atlantic.
“I’ll go back to the pier at the end of the road and I’ll take a walk through the fields and think about being a kid,” Walsh said before his trip.
Of course, whilst there, Walsh, will meet and greet with his local neighbours as well as elected officials who are eagerly awaiting the return of one of their own.
Donal Lyons, Mayor of Galway told reporters “Whilst the president of the United States coming to Ireland is a very big thing, this is more personal. Here’s a laddie coming back to his roots!”
On Wednesday, September 24, Walsh will head north where a jam packed itinerary sees the incumbent head of Boston, travel from his family home to meet with a wide and varied mix of elected officials, business delegates, and well wishers in the counties of Mayo, Donegal, Derry and Antrim.
His visit to Donegal will be hot on the tail of MA Senate President Therese Murray, who announced during her own recent trade mission to Ireland, the expansion of the Massachusetts incubator spaces in counties Donegal and Derry.
Walsh will also spend time with communities on both sides of the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland with a planned visit to the Apprentice Boys of Derry Museum before meeting families of the Ballymurphy Massacre at An Chulturlann in Belfast.
To finish off his visit, Walsh will make an appearance on national television show in Dublin "The Saturday Night Show" before returning home to Galway to say goodbyes to his family and friends.
He is set to return to Massachusetts on Monday, Sept. 29.