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Walsh to import Ireland’s heritage tourism model

Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s visit to Ireland was heralded with signs such as this one displayed in the village of Rosmuc in County Galway in Ireland. Walsh’s father was born here.Aidan Crawley

GALWAY, Ireland — Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston said Monday he wants to increase tourism in Boston by replicating Ireland’s commitment to its cultural heritage.

In an address to the Galway County Council, Walsh told an audience of 50 elected officials and guests that the Irish wisely invested heavily in heritage-
inspired tourism in places such as his parents’ native region of Connemara .

“We don’t necessarily have that in Boston, and we’re going to try to build that in Boston, to have a cultural understanding of where we came from and what our city is all about,” Walsh said. “In Boston, we have 22 million tourists who come to our city every year. We have an opportunity to expand that.”


Walsh did not say how he planned to boost such tourism beyond Boston’s Freedom Trail and Revolutionary War-era sites.

The mayor said he planned to meet Monday with business leaders and academic specialists to discuss life sciences and high tech businesses opportunities. Boston and Galway have a strong presence in both industries, Walsh said.

The mayor also said Ireland had succeeded in making education affordable for more of its citizens.

“That’s something I’m also looking at while we’re here,” Walsh said. “It’s important for us to see and learn from your educational system and how it works. . . . We have a lot to learn on educational access.”

He spoke at the National University of Ireland, Galway, in a Gothic stone building covered in red ivy. It marked Walsh’s first official public appearance in Ireland after spending the weekend with family in his parents’ native villages, located about two hours outside Galway City.

Walsh was presented with a model of a Galway hooker, a ship intrinsically linked to Connemara. The craft has a single mast and three dark red sails that allow it to maneuver in shallow water and rough seas.


Walsh in turn gave the Galway County Council a silver Paul Revere bowl.

Even as Walsh pivoted to the business portion of his trip, he continued to speak about his deep connection to this region. He described seeing the pride in the faces of people in his parents’ villages and his new-found understanding of the sacrifices they made immigrating to America.

“This is one of the memories I will cherish my entire time as mayor of the city of Boston,” Walsh said.

Walsh is not the first Boston mayor to be greeted with a hero’s welcome in his ancestral hometown in Ireland.

Mayor John B. Hynes traveled to Loughrea, the town where his father was born about 30 miles east of Galway City, according to a relative, Pat Hynes, a member of the Galway County Council who attended Walsh’s speech Monday.

Hynes made the trip in 1953, a few years before Walsh’s parents immigrated to Boston. Loughrea honored Hynes with a civic reception.

“There was a huge turnout,” Pat Hynes said, “from the people of the town and county and particularly the Hynes clan.”

When he addressed the Galway County Council Monday, Walsh recognized Pat Hynes and noted his relative’s role in initiating the redevelopment project that would become Boston’s Government Center.

“He’s responsible for the new City Hall,” Walsh said. “He began the conversations.”

Walsh did not mention that one of his own campaign promises was to bulldoze City Hall.


Andrew Ryan can be reached at andrew.ryan@globe.com.