Kieran’s Lord Mayor’s Echo Column, 8 June 2024

Over 1,600 moments to Cherish!

Dear reader, as you read this it’s my last Lord Mayor’s column. A full year has passed in my Mayoralty term. Time does indeed fly.  In the next fortnight I hand over the Mayoralty chain to the next incumbent. This is a tradition that has been ongoing for centuries and just like receiving it I look forward to passing it onwards. The chain may be rooted in tradition and history but my experience the last 52 weeks is that the essence of the chain is that it looks forward.

The Forward Looking Chain:

As Lord Mayor it has been a great honour and just looking at the diary since the last Cork City Council AGM in late June last year I have been engaged with over 1,600 events. On average there have been about 30-40 events a week depending on the season. The days have been long and the diary has been very demanding but to get to explore Cork and all its stories has been very fulfilling. One day can feel like three days when there are so many diary events to juggle.

One hour one could be at presentation of cheques, or the presentation of certs, and the next you journey on and could be praising someone for their sporting achievement or helping open a new business, or giving a talk at one of Cork’s great schools or giving a tour of the Lord Mayor’s Office to various community groups.

All of these events look forward and build a sense of identity for Cork’s future. Some events have been varied ranging from a one person engagement to thousands of people. However, the common denominator has always been Cork. There are thousands of people in Cork engaging in its life and story. Everyday someone is doing something great for Cork and its communities. Much of it goes without being seen but the office of Lord Mayor’s gets to what I call “deep dive” down into the stories and moments. In our city such stories matter or indeed such moments to be cherished.

A Safe Harbour for People:

The essence of forward looking support and togetherness runs deep in our city. At the start of my term of office, I wrote about my theme of Building Communities Together. The sense of togetherness and the stories in Cork I have promoted and spoken at length about all year.   In particular I have harnessed the city’s coat of arms as a message – the two towers and the ship in between and the Latin inscription – Statio Bene Fida Carinis – or translated a safe harbour for ships. Whereas the element of shipping has almost moved from the city’s quays, the inscription could also be re-interpreted as a connection to people – that the city is also a safe harbour for people and community life. This is its greatest story and one the City needs to keep vibrant and to keep working on.

Objects of the Future:

The sense of pride in this city is one that should not be taken for granted but as city we need to keep working on.  In my tour of the Lord Mayor’s office I intentionally showcased a number of historical objects from the eighteenth century to the present day. I usually began showing the four silver maces from 1738 whose craftmanship was done by French Huguenots. For me the attention to detail in the craftwork was an important link to the work of community groups and championing of detail in supporting people.

With the admiral’s hat I could link the tradition of the throwing of the dart and that maritime tradition to the idea that there is still much to discover about Cork and its communities in the various corners of our city and region.

The gold key, which Éamon de Valera used to formally open City Hall in September 1936, I used a metaphor that there is still much to unlock in our communities in Cork. The portraits I have used to link to the tragic stories of former and martyred Lord Mayors Tomás MacCurtain and Terence MacSwiney. The current historic building is dedicated to their memory. Their memory though is filled with ideas of democracy and building hope for the future, which are elements the city also needs for its future.

Future Re-Interpretations:

In another room, I showcase all of the pictures of the previous Lord Mayor’s and remind visitors that all has back stories and interests in Cork’s future and all came from a variety of contexts and backgrounds, which is also an important part of Cork’s future DNA. I added a modern section during my term of office – from the international deaf flag to pictures of the Pride Parade, the women’s caucus of Cork City Council to Mary Crilly of the Cork Sexual Violence Centre receiving the Freedom of the City in 2022. Such latter topics are also essential to Cork’s future but to also remind the visitor of the city’s must recent important stories.

One of the last images I finish with is a vibrant and colourful piece presented to the office by artist Jason O’Gorman, which is a re-interpretation of the City’s coat of arms. It is a reminder that there is an onus on all Corkonians to create a vibrant and colourful future and for all of us to work together on that.

Thank You:

Sincere thanks to Lady Mayoress Marcelline Bonneau and Finbarr Archer, Nicola O’Sullivan, Rose Fahy and Caroline Martin 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 year.