Mayor Walsh to be honored by his parents’ home county, Galway

Mayor Martin J. Walsh greeted residents M. Geraghty's store in the village of Carna, Co. Galway, Ireland during a visit to his parents' home towns in September 2014. Photo by Bill Forry

Mayor Martin Walsh is slated to receive a major honor from his parents’ homeland.

The Galway County Council proposed a motion earlier this week that would make Walsh an honorary “Freeman” and citizen of Galway County.

"It is an incredible honor to be recognized as the first freeman of County Galway,” said Mayor Walsh in a statement. “As the proud son of emigrants from Connemara, it's no surprise that Galway holds a very special place in my heart and that this recognition means a great deal to me."

Walsh added: “To all those who helped make this special recognition possible, I say go raibh maith agat" — a phrase that means “thank you” in the Irish language.

Nowadays, the title of Freeman is a prestigious honor, but only ceremonial in name. It is typically bestowed upon visiting dignitaries, celebrities and valued members of the community.

In medieval times, freemen and freewomen were exempt from serfdom, afforded unique privileges, and obliged to certain duties. Many Irish cities allowed freemen to transport goods through city walls untaxed, as well as graze sheep on the city commons.

Duties of freemen included bearing swords and longbows and defending the city from attack. It is not expected that Mayor Walsh will be called upon to fulfill these duties.

The mayor’s mother Mary (O’Malley) Walsh is from Rosmuc in County Galway’s Connemara region. His father, the late John Walsh, is from the nearby village of Carna. In 2014, Mayor Walsh returned to Ireland for his first visit as Boston's mayor and was greeted in Galway as a returning hero.

The mayor would be the first-ever freeman of Galway County.