Directly elected Mayors would bring us into line with the rest

Former Mayor of Baltimore Martin O'Malley with his Galway jersey on stage with the Saw Doctors.
Former Mayor of Baltimore Martin O'Malley with his Galway jersey on stage with the Saw Doctors.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Acouple of weeks ago I interviewed Martin O’Malley, the former Mayor of Baltimore and Governor of Maryland who was also a candidate in the Democratic primaries for the US Presidential elections – only to finish a distant third to Hillary Clinton and Bernie Saunders.

O’Malley’s Irish credentials are impeccable. His ancestors came from the Maam Valley in Connemara and he still has strong family connections there.

No mean musician, he has led his own traditional Irish band for well thirty years and has played support for the likes of the Pogues and the Saw Doctors on their tours of the US.

Indeed he is a very good friend of traditional musicians, Luka Bloom and the Saw Doctors’ Leo Moran.

One of his favourite anecdotes surrounds his inauguration as Governor of Maryland. After the ceremony his wife asked him was his highlight of the day the moment he became governor, or singing ‘The Green and Red of Mayo’ with the Saw Doctors.

“That’s not a fair question,” he protested.

O’Malley essentially made his name as a young mayor of Baltimore in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In interviews, he repeats stump lines that it was America’s poorest, most violent and most addicted city when he took over and he transformed that.

One of the measures he used was the murder rate which came down during his time. He also talked about going in and cleaning up the corners where drug dealers openly sold their corners.

There was also a massive increase in the arrest rate during his time, 100,000 per annum for a city of about 650,000 inhabitants. It was not arresting everybody but arresting the 10,000 persistent offenders over and over again.

It did make a difference but how much has been hotly debated.

One of O’Malley’s most severe critics is David Simon, creator of The Wire (the celebrated hard-hitting and gritty TV series based in Baltimore) who partly based his mayor character on O’Malley.

In less than diplomatic terms, he has said O’Malley did well in other areas but has exaggerated his record on tackling crime.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.