Dear Corkonian, as you read this I am at my half way mark in my term as Lord Mayor of Cork. So far it has been a great adventure since my term began in late June this year. As a chronicler of Cork’s history, there is one thing researching Cork, but there is another when one becomes part of its story board, and one gets to wear the 236-year old Mayoralty chain every day and become Cork’s ambassador. The chain has been witness to many stories across time and the urban space of Cork.
My days have been filled with meeting groups across many thematic communities in Cork – from sporting to general community groups to the business community. On average, there are seven to eight events to attend a day – so 35 to 40 events a week is easily the average. So, todate there have been just over 850 events attended in the first six months of my office. The diary is time-managed, curated and packed solid with meetings and opportunities. Days are long but the meeting experiences are very interesting and very enjoyable.
In my first six months, the chain has been witness to all of my key activities, from representing the city in meeting President Michael D Higgins to playing a diplomatic role in hosting Ambassadors from various countries to being head of delegation of the sister city twinning meeting with the Mayor of Shanghai and his various departments from health to culture.
On the ground in Cork it has been important to me to promote local economic development, to highlight the City Council’s work programmes from housing to roads mobility and parks works programmes, to highlighting the history and heritage of our city through the Council’s decade of commemoration programmes, to highlighting arts and culture in the guise of the new urban sculpture trail or through the Community Heritage Concert and Christmas Gala Concert in aid of key charities in our city.
It has been fun and important to actively participate in and showcase festivals such as the Pride Festival and Cork International Film Festival and helping lead this year’s edition of the Dragon of Shandon, platforming the importance of climate action and projects such as community gardens, hosting charities and giving them a space to chat about their work in City Hall. There has been lots of showcasing Cork’s sporting events including honouring our Cork camogie teams. In truth the list of activities is long. And sometimes, there also has been a song along the way.
It has also been an honour to formally open new pedestrian and cycle bridges such as Vernon Mount and mark the completion of public realm works such as MacCurtain Street. To be able to showcase their immediate and surrounding histories and memories has been a privilege.
The 118-school visit programme left me humbled, emotional, and exhausted from a rollercoaster of meeting so many young people on mass but also full of great memories for years to come. To meet the bones of over 35,000 dynamic young people or Cork’s up and coming generation, complete with teachers and principals of city schools, is one of the largest projects on democracy development each Lord Mayor takes on every year. One of my core reflections was that Cork City is very fortunate with a generation coming through that is curious, dynamic, diverse, unique, enthusiastic and ‘up for the match’ to be the next guardians of what we as Corkonians are proud to call home.
I created a social media film series called Voices of Cork, which gives voice to some of the people I have met. My social media encompasses the hashtag Got Cork and WeareCork and ProudofCork, which is also my continued focus on all things positive that Cork people engage and promote.
For me as well, showcasing the voices of different communities matter. Whereas, the daily themes could be diverse from each other, all of the groups I meet are pursuing an aspect of importance to Cork’s DNA and its evolving development. All of the groups are everything that is great about our City – its sense of caring, its sense of place, its sense of pride, its sense of frankness and honesty, its sense of identity, its sense of camaraderie, its sense of life affirmation. Such groups are writing the best version of the city’s evolving story.
All of the groups pack an enormous punch to the heart by bringing people together who volunteer to carve out and create a space for the common good. It is not random that the Latin motto on the city’s coat of arms is Statio Bene Fida Carinis or translated as a Safe Harbour for Ships. However, after the first six months I am of the view that the motto could also be interpreted a safe harbour for people or safe place for people.
Such groups have spent years supporting the city or a specific neighbourhood. They are hard grafters, who are intrinsic to the future of many people’s lives, the important moments in people’s lives. ideas of hope and solidarity, and what I call saving people’s souls. They create incredible special moments of human connection. That tenacity and vision needs to be noted – the holding firm needs to be noted. As a city we need to rejoice and embrace in such a vision.
Such communities of people are genuinely interested in connecting people together, and supporting and helping each other. Building stronger communities brings more opportunities to talk, share, support each other. and to learn.
A more connected community builds a stronger community for everyone in our city. In the world, we find ourselves, supporting each other matters more than ever before. Togetherness matters more so than ever before. What the communities stand for matters more than ever before. These elements of Cork’s DNA need to be minded carefully as the city moves forward into the future.
One cannot buy that energy or connection but it is so important to have in a city such as Cork whose heart when it comes to social and cultural capital beats very passionately.
So, there are lots of moments to reflect upon in the first six months. Sincere thanks to Lady Mayoress Marcelline and Finbarr Archer, Nicola O’Sullivan and Rose Fahy in the Lord Mayor’s office as well as the team in Corporate Affairs ably led by Paul Moynihan, and Chief Executive Anne Doherty, for their partnership, curation of activities, story board creation, support and advice over the past six months.
The Power of Place:
They say that stories have the power to stop, impress, make one question, make one wonder, make one dream, make one remember, make one be disturbed, make one explore and make one forget – a whole series of emotions. In a historic city such as Cork, one could easily say that such emotions run rampant in approaching all aspects of the city’s stories.
Indeed, the more one studies the vast narratives at play in Cork City, the more they pull you in to study them more. The more they pull you in the more one gets under the skin of our historic city, one becomes even more enamoured by the rake of very interesting narratives, which created our beautiful city.
There were two events at which I recently spoke at and launched, which re-connected the relevant areas back to their history.
A Bridge Through History, Vernon Mount Bridge:
There has been much anticipation for and much looking forward to the opening of the pedestrian and cycling Vernon Mount bridge for many years – mainly down to the dedication, ambition and vision of the immediate community in Grange in particular on the northern ridge here.
Indeed, much of the call for a new connecting bridge has also been bound up with the strong sense of pride and place in the area and the need to renew and reconnect the sense of pride and the sense of place up physically and symbolically to nearby neighbourhoods.
There is now a new bridge now re-connecting the proud neighbourhoods of Grange to the proud neighbourhoods of Ballyphehane and Douglas and Turners Cross. In the past, before the motorway was connected up you could wander across the Tramore Valley river plain across the many historic and informal human pathways.
Indeed, where the bridge is located there are many stories, embedded in the local landscape – the story of Ballyphehane townland, where Tramore Valley Park stands. Baile an Feitheáin stands for the townland of the sharp grass or marshland; the story of the public commons land on this swamp in the eighteenth century; the story of the sailcloth factory, which created Douglas village in the early eighteenth century; the creation of the beautiful Vermon Mount House and estate by the Hayes family; in the mid nineteenth century, the story of the adjacent Cork Union Workhouse; in the late nineteenth century, the advent of the two railway lines Cork Macroom Railway Line and the Cork Bandon Line and how they were built on raised platforms through one side of the swamp.
In the early twentieth century, one has the story of the Irish War of Independence and the volunteer training that went on here and the story of the Civil War executions near here; the stories of recreation of wandering, hunting and courting out here in the twentieth century; to the story of the traveller community; the story of the landfill from the 1970s for over 40 years, the creation of Tramore Valley Park and in our time the Creative Ireland Kinship programme, which explores our connection to the natural environment here through artist and community participation.
Several of the locations around the new Vernon Mount Bridge possess a strong sense of character, sentimentality, place and belonging, symbolic ownership and are a source of inspiration. Cork people deem such sites as being appealing, timeless, ancestral, eternal, enshrined or sacred in conjuring and summoning a sense of place.
A Street Through Time, MacCurtain Street:
Similarly the recent completion of the revamp of McCurtain Street allows us to take back in for the first time in many decades, through widened footpaths in particular, the array histories, heritage and memories and champion MacCurtain Street’s rich sense of place. street is in the history, heritage and memory of the city and how it connects to the overarching sense and power of place.
The historical DNA of this corner of the work of Cork is rooted in the story of an emerging in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries where the city was branding itself as one of the Venices of the North and the Athens of Ireland in terms of cultural output.
When the Corporation of Cork the time invested in planning St Patrick’s Bridge in 1787 it opened up this quarter for development. The 1790s coincided with the creation of St Patrick’s Hill – a hill-up avenue from Bridge Street, which aligned with an old windmill, the foundation of which is now incorporated into Audley House. The decade also coincided with an early MacCurtain Street– back then known as Strand Street and later King Street, named after MP Robert King in Mitchelstown House. The earliest eighteenth buildings can still be seen at the western side of the street.
One by one, some of Cork’s greatest architectural structures were added to the area. Between 1801 and 1832 Summerhill North built as well a new myriad of new residences; in 1855, the Cork Dublin Terminus & tunnel opened – the tunnel in its day one of the major features of engineering in western Europe and part of plethora of railway networks beginning to appear in Western Europe. In 1861, Trinity Presbyterian Church was opened at the foot of Summerhill.
In the 1880s, the former Ogilive and Dobbin Wholesaler buildings were revealed and are now the Greene’s Restaurant and Isaac’s Hotel complex. About the same time, the elaborate twelve-bay five-storey structure building, which hosted Thompson’s Bakery emerged as well as the seven bay three storey Victoria Buildings. In 1892, the Baptist Church building was opened. In 1897, Dan Lowry opened the building as a luxurious new theatre called The Cork Palace of Varieties.
It was the energy of all those sites that led to the development by the brothers Stuart and Thomas Musgrave of the Metropole Hotel, designed by Arthur Hill in 1897. The prospectus for the hotel in 1897 sold its luxuriousness and embraced the brand of modernity – a modern hotel for a city of modern vitality.
The Coliseum Cinema opened in September 1913. By the time the street name changed in April 1920 from King Street to commemorate the then recently martyred Lord Mayor Tomás MacCurtain, the modern street had emerged with an enormous array of services but also a set of buildings with diverse functions and narratives.
Of course, I haven’t mentioned the people involved in creating these sites and their background and ambition. I haven’t mentioned the architects, the business people, the old families, the old shops, all of which we can gleam from old street directories or even legacies of great musicians like Rory Gallagher immortalised in this historic premises.
MacCurtain Street is full of places of tradition, of continuity, change and legacy, of ambition and determination, experiences and learning, of ingenuity and innovation, places of nostalgia and memories, places that are cherished and remembered with fondness. All such places, Cork needs to mind in its future as well.
Third round of public consultation on the Sustainable Transport Corridors for Cork
The National Transport Authority has launched the third round of public consultation on the Sustainable Transport Corridors earmarked for development as part of the BusConnects Cork programme.
The latest round of public consultation centres on the Preferred Route Options which have been identified. These preferred route options brochures are available to view and download below. This comes following the first round of public consultation on the Emerging Preferred Routes between April and June 2023.
Following the first and second rounds of public consultation, the NTA has been reviewing the submissions made by the public and engaging constructively with 35 residents’ , business and special interest groups across the city. Community Forums were also established for each corridor to enable a two-way dialogue with local communities to help inform the review process.
The closing date for submissions is Monday, 18 December 2023
View here now: Sustainable Transport Corridors | Busconnects
Press Release: Lord Mayor McCarthy Welcomes New Bridge Name
Cork’s new 4m wide pedestrian and cycle path bridge, connecting Grange to Tramore Valley Park, has been officially named Vernon Mount Bridge. Lord Mayor Cllr Kieran McCarthy would like to thank all members of the public who made submissions during the selection naming process.
Over a period of a month, a total of 598 nominations were received from the public through a naming submission process set up by Cork City Council.
Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Kieran McCarthy noted: ‘Many thanks to the general public for engaging in the naming process. This process has been used in recent years, for example in the naming of Mary Elmes Bridge. It is a process that my colleagues and I will continue to use, knowing that it provides the public an opportunity to be involved in shaping the culture and history of the city. This new amenity will provide much-needed connectivity for the residents of Grange and Frankfield, enhancing the active travel offering in the city.
The 63-metre pedestrian/cycle bridge and the adjoining kilometre-long cycle/ pathway will provide connectivity between Grange/Frankfield and the southern suburbs and will support residents, students, and commuters to opt for active travel and thereby reduce traffic congestion.
Funded by the National Transport Authority (NTA), the kilometre-long pathway will provide a public amenity for local residents through the wooded area south of Grange Road, allowing direct access across the N40 dual carriageway to Tramore Valley Park via the new pedestrian and cycle-only bridge.
The four-metre-wide pathway will also support people with mobility needs and will include environmentally sensitive public lighting. The bridge and pathway are due to be opened to the public in the Autumn.
To mark the naming of the new bridge, Kieran will conduct a historical walking tour of Tramore Valley Park and the Black Ash story on Saturday afternoon, 29 July. Meet at the Halfmoon Lane gate, at 2pm. The tour is free and no booking is required.
Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Kieran McCarthy has called on the executive of Cork City Council for a more hands on future proof strategy for Cork’s historic English market In a recent format visit to the market. Several traders noted to the Lord Mayor of their concern of empty stalls lying vacant for too long, the need for repairing the roof and an overall business plan development.
The Lord Mayor noted: “It is an annual tradition for the Lord Mayor to engage with English Market traders in the first few days of office through a meet and greet. The market is a historic gem down down through the ages and dates back to 1788 – just one year after the Mayoralty chain was created – and has had many high end publicity wins and events in recent years. The market is a civic space all Corkonians can be proud of and I know many Corkonians make weekly attempts to support the SMEs within the space. I am regular punter there as well.
On my formal walk around this week, the traders I met had many questions on a small number of vacant stalls. In recent times there have been a number of retirements of stalwart stallholders, who occupied large stall space and with such retirements have left noticeable vacant spaces. The northern aisle in particular needs a plan with a small number of stalls vacant.
There is a big opportunity to have more foodie start up stalls. Cork City Council does have a food strategy and through the Council’s involvement in the local enterprise board it promotes SME development. Unit 3 within the Market is a start-up stall for foodie SMEs but there is much scope to support more foodie start-ups. I have made my comments to the Council’s management team on the market and have asked them to present a strategy for the market at the Council’s finance committee.
And when I say all of this I say it in the context of future proofing the trade of the market. And above all, it is crucial for all of us in Cork to support the Market or to rediscover it if one has not bought from there in a while”.
“Got Cork” – Adventures in the Southern Capital
Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Kieran McCarthy,
23 June 2023
The Diary Entry:
Dear colleagues, [dear TDs, senators], dear Chief Executive, dear family, dear Lady Mayoress, dear Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends;
Cork 1863 – A letter is dispatched to the UK to a young architect letting him know he was successful with his design proposal for a new cathedral.
William Burges, the newly appointed architect of a new St Finbarr’s Cathedral, immediately and proudly remarked in his diary, “Got Cork” and with that embarked on a remarkable piece of building work, a voyage of discovery into the origins of Cork history. He created an iconic structure relevant for his time and forged a structure as it was seen at the time as [quote] “worthy of the name cathedral” [end quote].
And proudly I can write in my diary this evening also “Got Cork”.
Mar sin ar dtús báire, ba mhaith liom mo fíor buiochas do mo mholtóir Comhairleoir Des Cahill agus do mo thaiceoir, Comhairleoir Terry Shannon, an bheirt iar-Ard Mhearaí Chorcaí, agus a chomhghleacaithe daor as do mhuinín a chur ionam, agus as bronntanas dom an noiméad seo “Got Cork”.
Many thanks dear colleagues for your trust in me here this evening.
Such a term “Got Cork” has always stayed with me through many years since my first reading of them.
And this diary entry by William Burges leads to many questions on what it is to “Got Cork”.
William was tasked to be a guardian of a key part of the city’s heritage – to carry out a project, with multiple roles – some of which included remembering and representing a legacy, projecting and re-animating the origins story of the city’s patron Saint Finbarr.
He built upon past legacies of former churches, He assembled striking architectural designs in a historic medieval style. He managed a team, and most interestingly conducted archaeological excavations and move skeletons and burials because the new cathedral was twice the size of the church it was replacing.
Whereas this evening, you are not entrusting me to build a Cathedral or to move graves [I hope not, but I cannot confirm I have read all of the terms and conditions with the role!].
But we are, I feel, in our own political cathedral where “Got Cork” takes on new meanings– we are in a space of guardianship, representation and inheritance.
In our ancient ceremony of handing over the chain at our annual general meeting this evening from Cllr Forde to myself – that strong sense of guardianship is ever present. There is a guardianship over the chain as an object of high symbolism – firstly a gold medallion with the city’s coat of arms and its Latin inscription Statio Bene Fida Carinis or translated A Safe Harbour for Ships,
Secondly a portcullis showcasing the ancient water gate of the medieval walled town of Cork thirdly the SS chain links symbolising sacredness and guardianship, and lastly the medallion inscription where 1787 marks its creation.
There is the guardianship of how this chain links the past to our present, almost seamlessly – that one could argue that the chain links are not just physical links but if it could speak it has seen the highs and lows of Cork history from boom to bust and vice versa. The chain has been a witness to it all in its over 230-year history;
…to the creation of the term of Lord Mayor in 1901 with Daniel Hegarty to the tragedies of office holders such as Tomás MacCurtain and Terence MacSwiney and then woven into a myriad of personal connections by those who have engaged with office holders.
…and then there is the guardianship on how its essence the chain projects the city into the future as debated during the recent boundary expansion scheme. That of all the elements of those contentious debates, which emerged a few short years ago was that the chain and its societal connection meant much to the people of Cork.
And indeed, when you mix the guardianship elements of the past, present and future, one gets a strong mix of high emotion and a deep attachment to the title of Lord Mayor of Cork.
A Personal Journey:
And for someone like me, it’s not lost on me what this chain means.
I was the child on the annual Lord Mayor school visits who felt a deep attachment to the essence of the chain and its connection to the sense of place and pride in Cork– something that made me feel proud, made me connect to my city, driven by proud parents and teachers of Cork. Thanks Mum and Dad, and to my sister Deirdre and my brother Aidan for everything.
I was someone who likened the Lord Mayor’s visit to a form of Christmas and that they had some sort of super powers and that the medallion of the chain was an actual key to a rich box of stories and papers of my city. I look forward to seeing it later.
I was the child who wanted to be Lord Mayor when I grew up
I was the teenager who pursued civic education projects of former Lord Mayors– someone who began to research and photograph the city – its buildings and public spaces – and someone who consumed history books written about the city.
I became a someone who has studied and written on the high and lows of Cork history across time encountering mayors and Lord Mayors like ghosts walking across my research of historic books and newspapers;
A someone who created walking tours, a someone who wrote books on this historic city, and ultimately an epic voyage that has led me straight into this hallowed political gladiatorial space to meet and work with you good people,
to work with different Lord Mayors of differing political hues and interests, to learn more about how this city ticks and develops,
to work in the European Committee of the Regions and now this journey has come to this enormous moment this evening.
So, what my 11 year old self engaged with 35 years ago has brought me on a voyage of epic personal proportions where “Got Cork” has a very high emotional value.
A House of Democracy:
But perhaps it is my journey since I joined the Council in 2009 that has been the most enriching.
I have had wow factor memories, deeply worrying memories and very proud memories.
I have been very fortunate to work with colleagues who care deeply about Cork’s communities – its essence and people, who represent its people and neighbourhoods, where every meeting is a chance to make a difference. In my time, some evenings we have won incredible things for this city and during other evenings, we remain pushing forward inch by inch, or stuck, or we have gone back to the drawing board, but we have always remained true to a forward-looking path.
Indeed, in the past four years of this Council as a significant house of democracy, we have achieved so much.
In this Council term alone, we have gone through many challenges – the expansion of the city’s boundaries, which feels like years and years ago, brought us many nights of debates.
In 2019 in a special booklet to mark the boundary expansion of the city the Council commissioned poet Theo Dorgan to reflect on the winds of change and the related challenges and visions. He wrote:
“Great changes are coming, the worst of the old ways are dust in the wind and the new energies are crackling with light and variousness of daring thought and music. Go on, said one of my brothers, give us a mad vision of Cork in the coming years. That’s Easy I said, it will be the Athens of a new republic, the dream city where a noble past will give birth to a glorious future. He looked at me and said, would you ever cop yourself on. Fair enough I said – getting a bit carried away…but all the same though. What if”.
Again, a sense of “Got Cork” but little did we know what was ahead of us.
We pushed forward through the significant challenges of Covid. We created an online digital platform to enable us to interact. We created a strong Climate Action team. We established a strong Women’s Caucus. We hosted a strong and rich commemoration programme. We passed an ambitious development plan. We found new ways forward to serve in more ambitious ways our respective local electoral areas or neighbourhoods, to placing a focus on our City of Welcomes paradigm, and much much more.
We kept the Council’s work on the road.
This has been due in no small part to your dedication dear colleagues and our strong Executive led by our CE Ann Doherty.
At this juncture I would like in particular like to thank our former Lord Mayors of this Council Cllr Dr John Sheehan, Cllr Joe Kavanagh, Cllr Colm Kelleher and the outgoing Lord Mayor, Cllr Deirdre Forde for leading us through days ranging from “is this our life now sitting 2 metres away from people” to re-opening the city sprinkling it with hope, positivity and charm, to beginning our journey on the development plan, to championing the rebooting of business and community life” and much much more.
We kept this house of democracy going – the importance of guardianship, democracy and representation never wavered.
I am reminded of the words of Tomás MacCurtain in his Lord Mayoralty speech in late January 1920 where he noted:
[quote]: “I expect from the members of the new Corporation a sacrifice of time and a sacrifice, perhaps, of personal interest…that no self-interest would be put before the interest of the community at large”.
And in our time to each member of this chamber you have made sacrifices to your personal lives to make sure this chamber forges paths forwards through its multitude of its work programmes.
The Hope for Tomorrow:
And so now as we face into the last final 12 months of this Council, there is still much to do. There is much work to finish and much work to start.
And when I say all of that I am very conscious that our citizens and their voices and requests must continue to be listened to, new ideas forged and implemented, and need to be the bedrock of Cork’s DNA building into the future.
In our City, democracy matters. It is renewed every time we have a meeting. It will be renewed with the impending local elections next year.
Lord Mayor Terence MacSwiney in his book Principles of Freedom spoke about people gifted with certain powers of soul and body. That it is of vital importance to the individual and the community that one be given a full opportunity to place a value on developing one’s talent, and [quote] “to fill one’s place in the world worthily” [end quote].
He also wrote about the citizen and a hope for tomorrow. As he noted:
“The citizen will fight for that ideal in obscurity, little heeded – in the open, misunderstood; in humble places, still undaunted; in high places, seizing every vantage point, never crushed, never silent, never despairing, cheering a few comrades with hope for tomorrow. And should these few sink in the struggle the greatness of the ideal is proven in the last hour”.
And in a similar vain Eamon de Valera opening this City Hall building and our chamber on 8 September 1936. Addressing the masses, he noted:
“I am sure the people will not shrink from the work that is necessary so that the efforts of the past are not to be in vain. The people of this city have clung tenaciously to their nationality with courage and hope even in the darkest hours. Surely that courage and that hope will not sway them now when the dawn is at hand”.
We will have myriads of meetings ahead of us in our final year where the “hope for tomorrow” can make sure our citizens are the front and centre of our priorities such as reducing homelessness, making sure our construction of our new social housing projects keeps on track, as well as keeping our affordable housing programmes on track, to making sure we are put on a firm footing to be Climate Neutral as part of the EU led Horizon Mission,
We need to keep adding to sustainable mobility plans; we need to keep enhancing the offering of the city centre; we need to make sure we keep creating new amenities, and we need to continue to make sure our communities are future proofed by weaving them with the sustainable development goals and the WHO Healthy Cities project. The list is a long one.
And then we need to sprinkle all those priorities with the energy and ambition that a second city brings or what I call Ireland’s southern capital and one gets an exciting future for our city by the Lee.
Cork City Council is on the frontline in building the future of communities in Cork. The Council is a story builder, a strategy builder, and a capacity builder.
In addition, one would be hard pressed to find a community within the city’s boundaries and in its outliers that doesn’t have a strong sense of place and identity – where building community capacity, family nest building, ambition and creating opportunities matter, and when compiled create a very strong Cork Inc.
Without doubt my Lord Mayoralty will champion these many priorities but in particular I would like to offer a voice to many of our citizens through my theme of Building our Communities Together and through a pet project I will be calling the Voices of Cork. My interests in heritage, history and education will be at the heart of this project.
So, at our Annual Meeting this evening, we continue to carry with hope, with confidence, with passion, with wit, with leadership, and all of that bound to the city’s hopes and dreams, which burn brightly for the future. This great city keeps moving and the tests of our time demand continuous action.
And so this evening I can proudly inscribe in my diary “Got Cork” with its multitude of meanings that we all continue to explore, engage and push forward with.
To conclude, I am also reminded of the words of two famous composers, Rogers and Hammerstein who once penned the most beautiful lyrics.
“Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day, I got a wonderful feeling, everything is going my way,
eh, O what a beautiful day”.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh arís ar an onóir seo.