News » Archived News 2007

Speech by incoming Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr. Michael Ahern on Monday, 26th June 2006, Council Chamber, City Hall, Cork

In recent times Ireland has become one of the best places in the world in which to live. This city is one of the best places to live in Ireland. We are lucky to be the beneficiaries of this time.

A year in the life of a city is a very short time. In a year many things change. Many things start and many things finish but very few major projects start and finish within the same year.

The city keeps changing and if there is a theme to the things that I hope will progress during this year the best word to describe the theme would be expansion.

  • Expansion of the docklands
  • Expansion of the City Hall
  • Expansion of employment opportunities
  • Expansion of our roads network
  • Expansion of our communications and marketing
  • Expansion of our city boundary.
  • Expansion of our litter free areas
  • Expansion of our airport
  • Expansion of ideas for city centre area
  • Expansion of ideas for our western suburbs
  • Expo 2010

I will talk very briefly about all of these. These may be the things that will dominate the mayoralty for the next year.

I would hope to lead the Council to progress the expansion of the Cork City Boundary. We need this. We need this to have sufficient land for social and affordable housing. We need it because we do not have sufficient land for industrial and commercial expansion. We need it because it would be fair. We in the city are, more and more, supplying the services for the quickly increasing numbers that are living outside of the city. Services provided by the city such as libraries, parks, swimming pools, sports facilities and fire services. We in the City Council pay for them but have no rate base in these areas to raise funds for the services that they use.

The last expansion of our city was in 1965. That was opposed despite the fact that two of the boundaries at that time were the Gaol cross and Denroche’s cross. They look ridiculous now. The current expansion will also be opposed but the current boundaries will look just as ridiculous forty years from now.

Expansion of the docklands has gathered considerable momentum in the past few years with the completion of some studies to bring about its regeneration and development.

I have no doubt that the expansion there, will, over perhaps a long number of years, transform Cork city and change it very much for the better.

I would hope, during the year, to focus on one aspect of the Docklands reports to date. I would like that these reports be analysed and very clear statements extracted to:

  • Identify what the next level of “leading edge, international employment is likely to be. and
  • Determine what we need to do to generate that type of employment in the docklands area.

It would I believe be a missed opportunity if we do not use this last remaining land bank to set new employment in the city at a different level, driven upwards by such things as fourth level education and the research that it generates.

We will shortly have the completed new civic offices available to us and it is envisaged that all of the Council offices that are now scattered in many locations will be relocated in the expanded city hall. The savings on rent together with the sale of some buildings that we currently own are expected to pay for this consolidation of central services into one location.

The expansion of our airport is now complete and it will, I believe have a very positive impact on the life of our city. The funding of this expansion has been the subject of much discussion in the recent past and as Lord Mayor I am certainly prepared to join in the work to seek a suitable solution for Cork and its citizens.

Lord Major Family

Newly elected Lord Mayor Of Cork, Cllr. Michael Ahern with his wife, Eileen, and family

The Airport expansion is one of the reasons why our roads network needs to be upgraded as many would agree that access from the airport to the city has been very slow for a number of years now. The grade separated interchange at the Kinsale Road roundabout will be in place in the coming year and it will, I believe, lead to a huge improvement in the traffic flow.

Preliminary work on similar grade separations at the Sarsfield Road and Bandon Road roundabouts has already begun and I look forward to progress on these also. I cannot leave the subject of road-works without mentioning traffic in the Bishopstown area. Everyone is agreed that it would be greatly improved if the proposed link road from the Curraheen dog track to CIT/Rossa Avenue was built. I will, in so far as I can, lobby for funds for this road during my year as Lord Mayor.

 

Most recent Lord Mayors have included the problem of litter in their first speech. I am no different. A clean city is a most desirable thing. I believe that we have come a long way, in this regard in the past ten years.

I am proposing that we designate one day in the next year, perhaps in April/May as “spring cleaning day”. I would envisage that all communities would, on that day, become involved in giving just one hour or two to making their area a cleaner place.

I would love to involve the schools in this. It would perhaps have a double impact in that it should leave our city cleaner than it has ever been and perhaps focus the minds of young and old on the need to keep it clean.

The city centre, that part of the city which sits between the two channels of the Lee and known as the island is the heart of what we know as Cork. Here our totality converges to an area that we all love and have used throughout our lives to shop and sometimes maybe to strut and sample the spirit of our combined living experience.

This area is very important to each and every one of us and it is for that reason that I will be requesting that a local area plan be prepared for this. I feel that we should set down how we want it to develop. City centres generally are under attack from suburban shopping centres and I feel that a local area plan would concentrate the minds of all of us as to how to keep it vibrant and attractive to our city population. A local area plan would invite submissions from all our citizens and interested groups and would therefore give everyone who wishes an opportunity to input to the plan.

As a member for the south west ward I hope to welcome early in my mayoral year a local area plan for the Bishopstown. This will hopefully set out the future and stymie the excesses generated by leaving the planning to developers only.

I know that we have great pride in our city. I believe that those who come here and experience the city agree that this pride is not misplaced. Marketing the city will encourage more people to come here and in this regard the European City of Culture in the year 2005 was the greatest marketing event this city has ever experienced. But this city cannot stand still and bask in the glory of that year. We have to keep up the momentum of improving the city and communicating to the rest of the world what a great city we have.

Expo 2010 is our next chance to make a major impact internationally and planning of this will be taken to another level in the coming year.

Despite the progress of our city in recent years I am very much aware that many of our citizens are excluded from the fruits of our progress. We have many who, for a variety of reasons, live very difficult lives. We must always be aware that hardship exists and use our increased wealth to generate programmes that will help to alleviate the social problems of 2006.

This was a great city long before we in this chamber arrived on the scene and it will survive as a great city long after we are gone.

I hope that my year in office will help to keep the momentum towards expansion of all that is good.

Is iontach an cathair ata againne agus ag deire an bhlian seo cughainn ta suil agam go mbeidh se beaganain nios fearr na mar a bhfuil se anois.

Go raibh mile maith agaibh.

Cllr. Michael Ahern,
Lord Mayor of Cork.

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