Lord Mayor Cllr Fitzgerald, congratulations on a great year – you did this city and your community proud.
I think the theme of connections served you very well.
Opening your year by celebrating the 230 years of the present chain’s existence created the framework of your ship of sorts, you created a ferry of ideas that the chain is the connector of all civic debate and citizens across space and time. You noted throughout the year, the chain you wear is the most powerful, connective, mnemonic and enduring symbol of all of Cork’s heritage. Indeed, your ongoing conversations on the connection paradigm opened up many reasons on why the chain has endured.
You mentioned in your speech yesterday about the city’s history linked to the contemporary. It was forged in a time of change, where the city’s canals disappeared and broad streets such as St Patrick’s Street, Grand Parade and the South Mall were filled in and emerged, and bridges such as St Patrick’s Bridge were constructed. Citizens worried about the impact of filling in the canals in a city whose inspiration one hundred years previously were cities such as Amsterdam and Venice.
In the 80 years previously, Cork’s population had grown from 20,000 to 80,000. Nearly ten years before the forging of the chain the first docklands plan emerged.
Ironically 230 years later, all of these ideas are still being debated – the use of public spaces, harnessing the water front, the future of docklands, the advent of the city’s population growth are all ongoing – but as you pointed out in your speech yesterday, this city on a river remains on its journey.
The journey the chain took you on this year went from the mountainous heights of the UNESCO Learning City Conference last September to the peak quadrant of the Prince Charles visit yesterday. And yes whilst you would expect the Lord Mayor to be present – you took the chance symbolically perhaps to represent the smaller links of the chain, which physically keep the SS Links, the medieval Watergate and Coat of Arms medallion together but sometimes are not always championed.
Your interests in social inclusion, a city of welcomes, community engagement, the power of education, sharing life experiences. constructing a healthy cities narrative, building friendships of equals and honouring people who just endure, survive and keep the darkness in our communities at bay – these are all very important themes to champion in this city on the river – these themes during the year infused the gold on the chain with extra social qualities, which gave the chain a compassionate and inclusive shine.
I would also like to thank Georgina for her grace and honesty she brought to the Lady Mayoress role. Wherever she arrived she was a beacon of positivity and a beacon of welcoming. The same beacons were sent out by Deborah and Michelle, whose company, fun and wit I very much enjoyed over the year.
I also like to pay tribute to the Deputy Lord Mayor, Cllr Fergal Dennehy. When the city ground to a halt twice this year. Fergal stood strong at the helm and took the city through a hurricane and a snow blizzard – and assisted in helping to get municipal life back on course. Indeed, he should get his own honorary admiral’s hat. He also spoke very well at his engagements and always gave very insightful, heart-felt and meaningful speeches.
To conclude, you and your team rallied a cry to embrace citizenship and the corners of community life in our fair city. Indeed tá sé soléir go d’amhráin tú amhrán na bhFiann ar do bhealach.
In your own way you sang a soldier’s song with a cheering rousing chorus,
And as your ferry turns for its next harbour, and especially after your event yesterday you can be proud to symbolically fire your cannons from the hallowed ground of Knocknaheeny, and rejoice amidst Le gunnaí scréach faoi lámhach na bpiléar,
Go raibh míle maith agat arson do bhlian specialta,