A Donegal man has become the first person from the Republic of Ireland to become mayor of the London borough of Islington.
Troy Gallagher from Letterkenny took the oath of office on Thursday 20 May. The Irish tricolour flew over Islington Town Hall during the ceremony.
Troy Gallagher told us that the issue of mental health is something he is determined to tackle during his term in office.
Troy said told The Irish World: “I’m very, very proud. I’m overwhelmed. To be the first Irish Mayor in the borough is just such a great honour.
“I am particularly proud that both Letterkenny and Donegal are the town and the county that can claim the title of having the first mayor of Islington from the Republic of Ireland.
“Of all the Irish councillors that are currently with Islington and have been in the past, no one has ever become mayor. So I hope to be the pride of all by becoming the mayor.
“It was very special getting all the messages and texts from people, some of whom have been living in the borough for much longer than me, with the Irish flags flying.
“To all the Irish community across London: My mayoralty is also your moralty. Let’s get in the Irish spirit and work together.”
The Labour councillor has lived in Islington for over 20 years and was first elected to the council in 2010.
Troy started in politics by canvassing for former Letterkenny Labour politician Seán Maloney. After studying at Westminster College, Oxford he moved to London and joined the civil service. He works in human resources in the Ministry of Justice.
He has a strong family connection to the borough as his parents, Girlie and the late Hughie Gallagher, lived in the borough in the 1970s.
“I don’t think when my mam and dad were living on Holloway Road or Finsbury Park they thought for one second I would be a councillor let alone the first Irish Mayor.
“I just want to pay tribute to my parents. It was all their hard work that got me through, all the sacrifice and raising us to respect ourselves, respect each other, respect other people and respect where we came from.
“It is as much a testament to my parents and my family and all the struggles through the hardship of the 80s, and always saying that education is the only way forward and doing everything they did for us to get us where we are. I am really grateful to them both for that.”
Throughout his term he has chosen to support the charities ICAP, which supports people from the Irish community facing mental health struggles; Forum+, which works to promote equality for LGBTQ+ people in Islington and Camden; and James Place, which works to reduce male suicide.
He told us that he is passionate about tackling the issue of mental health: “It really is critical and very urgent. 6,000 commit suicide each year and ¾ of those are young men. The truth is that the clock is ticking until we actually tackle the issue head on about mental health and suicide amongst young men.
“They don’t feel comfortable to talk about it. We need to start changing that culture and having a difficult conversation. it’s only by understanding our own discomfort that we’ll be able to listen to the young men that need it.
“It’s showing us how much counselling and therapy is actually needed. I believe iCap had 200 requests for support in the last two weeks and that’s getting higher.
“It is really urgent and in time I want to go into schools. I want to go out into the community, remove the taboo and making it a subject that they can talk about. Making the change that’s needed.”
In his first speech as mayor, Troy said: “If we are to seek a newer world, a newer tomorrow, let it be on the founding principles of respect, equality, and opportunity for all. And at the very heart of it let it be one of community.
“There can be no greater honour in this borough than to be elected mayor of Islington, and I also have a very deep sense of pride to be the first mayor of Islington born in the Republic of Ireland.
“I enter this office with a sense of humility, compassion and empathy, but also with great confidence in our borough and the spirit and resilience of our people and community.
“If we are to build a new tomorrow, then we must talk of mental health, and tackle head-on the issue of suicide among young men.
“That is why I have chosen the brilliant charities ICAP, forum+ and James Place as my official mayoral charities.
“These excellent charities are at the very centre of this crisis and use their own lived experience to help prevent suicide and make that change.
“This mayoralty will make it a priority to visit our neighbours lying alone in hospices and hospitals, and the support the participation of the most excluded in our society including the homeless and those marginalised.”