Happy New Year to everyone, very best wishes for 2022!
Europe Day is upon us once again. Traditionally, the 9 May is marked by senior European politicians recalling the history of the EU, its treaties, coupled with the EU’s added value and solidarity, and outlining the priorities and challenges of the EU in the modern world.
The European Committee of the Regions (COR) remains at the heart of the EU narrative. It is an assembly of local and regional politicians from across the 27 member states. Through my membership, I have been involved in many discussions on the frontline role of the EU’s cities and the 281 regions in how they approach issues from poverty to climate change, from enterprise to connectivity and how they faced down the COVID pandemic. The crucial role of local and regional government is plain to see. I have seen first-hand the importance of sharing knowledge and experience to help each other, create more sustainable cities, towns and regions and to feed into present and EU future policy areas.
On this year’s St Patrick’s Day, Cork City Council projected onto the old concrete R & H Hall grain silo in Cork’s South docks an old Irish proverb. It ran – “ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine” – which means – it is in each other’s shadow we live – which invokes the sense of community and interdependence. And it is clear that both the member state and the local and regional authority both live in each shadow and both are dependent on each other. Consistently the COR asks to be partner with the European Council and seeks to bring the idea of community back to the top table in Brussels and Strasbourg.
Resilience and solidarity, more so than ever before, are needed across the EU in the next few months as European cities and regions continue the massive task of organising vaccinations.
The battle with the pandemic is, of course, not over yet and there are still many challenges ahead. In the first place, a fine balance between, on the one hand, the measures we need to take to limit the spreading of the virus as much as possible, and on the other, the strong need of many of our businesses to go back to work and the long-awaited wish of our citizens to go back to normal life and to enjoy their social life and freedom of movement freely. We also need to look towards recovery and ensure that it is felt across all sectors of society. It is my belief and that of the Committee of the Regions that regional and local government needs to be to the forefront of national recovery and resilience plans.
Local and Regional governments are on the frontline in building the future of Europe. We are the story builders, strategy builders, the capacity builders. We build ideas from scratch and bring them to life. We are more than the sum of our parts. If you empower the Regions the EU will be a success.
In the past year I have been fortunate to be President of the European Alliance political grouping with the COR. In the past few weeks with my secretariat, I have organised events focussing on the bigger picture challenges of recovery in the post pandemic. Most recently we have explored the impact on tourism and on regional airports. We also organised a very interesting event “Preserving ‘PEACE’ on the island of Ireland”. The PEACE programme is vital to ensure cross-community project development in Northern Ireland and to avoid a border on the island of Ireland.
My group’s members are continuing to focus on topics ranging from green recovery to rural revival, from smart specialisation to SME development, from Cohesion Policy critique to urban policy – to name but a few. We continue to push these positive priorities for the benefit of our regions. There is much to learn from each other.
I have also been very proud to see Cork City Council’s involvement in an array of EU co-operation programmes. In 2019, CCC appointed a full-time EU Affairs Coordinator, Ronan Gingles, to facilitate and fully inform access to quality engagement in EU opportunities and initiatives. The role has a whole-of-organisation remit to support European activity that clearly contributes to and informs Cork City Council’s objectives and the development of Cork as an inclusive, future-focussed, sustainable, and competitive European city of scale.
Cork City Council continues to be involved in EU projects such as URBACT, Interreg, H2020, EU Urban Agenda, Digital Cities – they all help local government to gain further perspective on how it is ahead or behind in thinking upon a topic or in the provision of infrastructure. The projects are providing opportunities to significantly broaden our horizons by means of in-depth exchange and collaboration on specific issues.
Cork City Council also currently maintains memberships of a number of European networks as a means to enhance engagement in EU activity, create interaction with peers, access to knowledge and tools, including best practice; and identify opportunities including project bids.
Europe Day this year will also coincide with the launch of the Conference on the Future of Europe. It needs to be a truly bottom up approach and local and regional government and citizens are best placed to provide clear and understandable input into the discussions. The Committee of the Regions commits to be actively involved with this process and to ensure that it leads to real benefits and tangible outcomes.
It is in each other’s shadow we live, but it is how those shadows blend together to create solidarity, to celebrate diversity and ultimately showing that the European project is leaving no one behind – that are all crucial in the European Union of today.
Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy serves on the Irish delegation to the EU Committee of the Region in Brussels (CoR) for 2020-2024. The 329-strong body of elected representatives from across Europe’s cities and regions provides the formal mechanism for sub-national input into the EU policy process. Kieran is currently the President of the European Alliance political grouping in the CoR; read more at www.web.cor.europa.eu.
Debate on “The New European Bauhaus and its territorial dimension” high-level event with Ms Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth and Ms Elisa Ferreira, European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms. 14 April 2021
by Cllr Kieran McCarthy
Sturdy on a table top and lit by youngest fair,
a candle is blessed with hope and love, and much festive cheer,
Set in a wooden centre piece galore,
it speaks in Christian mercy and a distant past of emotional lore,
With each commencing second, memories come and go,
like flickering lights on the nearest Christmas tree all lit in traditional glow,
With each passing minute, the flame bounces side to side in drafty household breeze,
its light conjuring feelings of peace and warmth amidst familiar blissful degrees,
With each lapsing hour, the residue of wax visibly melts away,
whilst the light blue centered heart is laced with a spiritual healing at play,
With each ending day, how lucky are those who love and laugh around its glow-filledness,
whilst outside, the cold beats against the nearest window in the bleak winter barreness,
Fear and nightmare drift away in the emulating light,
both threaten this season in almighty wintry flight,
Sturdy on a table top and lit by youngest fair,
a candle is blessed with hope and love, and much festive cheer.
Douglas Road Councillor Kieran McCarthy has been blogging about the centenary of the War of Independence in Cork in 1920. His website at www.corkheritage.ie contains links to his newspaper articles and pictures. Kieran’s work attempts to provide context to this pivotal moment in Cork’s history. The centenary of Terence MacSwiney’s death after his 74-day is fast approaching on 25 October and Terence also once lived at Eldred Terrace on Douglas Road with his wife Muriel. Kieran notes: “Terence is truly a colossus in Cork history who has attracted many historians, enthusiasts and champions to tell his story. His story is peppered with several aspects – amongst those that shine out are his love of his family, city, country, language comradeship, and hope – all mixed with pure tragedy. In many ways, the end of his 74 day hunger strike changed the future public and collective memory narrative of Cork history forever”.
Continuing Kieran details: “The blog pieces also explore Cork in 1920 and how the cityscape was rapidly becoming a war zone. Risky manoeuvres by the IRA created even riskier manoeuvres as ultimately the IRA took the war to the RIC and Black and Tans. Reading through local newspapers each day for 1920 shows the boiling frustration between all sides of the growing conflict. Tit-for-tat violence became common place”.
Earlier this Kieran released a new book Witness to Murder, The Inquest of Tomás MacCurtain with John O’Mahony. The last time Tomás’s inquest in full was published was in the Cork Examiner between 23 March 1920 and 18 April 1920. Despite the ordeal and daily fallout from the interviews, over time the fourteen hearing sessions have not overly been revisited by scholars of the Irish War of Independence. The verdict has been highlighted on many occasions by many historians, but the information of the inquest has never been overly written about or the narratives within it explored.
Great to have a slot on The Business (show) on RTE Radio 1 yesterday speaking about the history of Cork in 1920 and the creation of the Irish International Trading Corporation (Cork).
“The future around Brexit remains unclear for Irish exporters. This week hauliers in the UK learned of potential two day delays at a de facto border in Kent. We could probably learn a thing or two from the 100 year old history of the Irish International Trading Corporation, based in Cork. Kieran McCarthy has been looking at their history”.
Full PDF Document: Irish Government Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business 1st May 2020
The Roadmap is guided by a number of over-riding principles. That is, an approach which is:-
Safe –informed and guided by a public health assessment of risk.
Rational – includes consideration of the social and economic benefits and impacts of any modifications of restrictions and their feasibility.
Evidence-informed – uses all of the data and research available to us to guide thinking.
Fair – Ethical and respects human dignity, autonomy and supports equality.
Open and transparent – decisions are clear, well communicated and subject to the necessary checks and balances.
Whole of Society – based on the concept of solidarity and supporting cohesion as we exit over time.
Happy Easter to everyone. Stay safe everyone. We Will Prevail.
Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy wishes to remind people of the Community Response Forum phone number specifically to provide support to vulnerable citizens during the COVID-19 restrictions. The telephone number is 1800 222 226. Over its first week the forum received over 300 calls. The freephone helpline operates seven days a week from 8am until 8pm.
Cllr Kieran McCarthy noted: “The majority of calls to the helpline have related to the collection and delivery of groceries, prescriptions, fuel and other essential household items, and the delivery of meals. Cork City Council staff, the HSE, An Garda Siochána and community organisations such as Meals on Wheels are amongst the partner groups who are responding to these requests for support”.
Requests for support due to an increasing sense of social isolation have also figured in phonecalls received – with a number of people experiencing loneliness as they stay at home. Those who have contacted the phone number have also been put in contact with Friendly Call Cork who provide a listening ear and a friendly voice on the phone to anyone experiencing loneliness. Friendly Call Cork is set up to tackle loneliness among older people, those with physical and mental disabilities and those who are socially isolated. It has expanded its services to deal with Covid-19 and the Cork City Partnership team have brought on more volunteers to meet the increased demand.
Cork City Community Response Forum Co-Ordinator, Denis Barrett said: “Cork City has been broken into 16 local area teams with a Cork City Council community worker and HSE community worker in each area who will work with ‘local champions’ – the existing voluntary organisations and groups who know their locality and can help match need with service delivery”.
Cllr McCarthy continued; “Corkonians have also contacted the helpline wondering how they could register to volunteer their service in this crisis. Would-be volunteers are asked to contact Volunteer Cork on 021 4251572, Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or on firstname.lastname@example.org. They maintain a database of volunteers and are coordinating the volunteer effort in the city. Many thanks to everyone involved”.
Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr. John Sheehan said: “We are delighted to see that the people of Cork are using this helpline and we would encourage people, who maybe have never asked for help before, to not be afraid to pick up the phone. These are unprecedented times for us all – but don’t forget we are all in this together and we will likely come out the other side with a deeper appreciation of the important things in life – and that includes living in a city which is rich in community supports and community spirit”.