News » Archived News 2007

Election of new Lord Mayor

First night lord mayor 2007 1

Cllr. Donal Counihan was handed the chain of office by outgoing Lord Mayor Cllr. Michael Ahern with City Manager, Joe Gavin, in the background.  

Lord Mayor Cllr. Counihan and his Family

New Lord Mayor of Cork 2007-2008 Cllr. Donal Counihan with Lady Mayoress
Breda Counihan, and their family Gillian, Kieran and Niamh.

Address by Incoming Lord Mayor of Cork,Cllr. Donal J. Counihan at the Annual Meeting of Cork City Council on Monday, 25th June, 2007 in Council Chamber, City Hall, Cork.

A Chomhairleoirí, a Bhainisteor na Cathrach, a Aire Micheál Ó Máirtín, a Theachtaí Dála, agus a chaírde uaisle idir chleír agus tuath.

An onoír atá bronnta orm anocht – is deachair é a shárú. Tá mórtas agus umhlaíocht orm as a bheith tofa mar Árdmhéara ar Chathair Chorcaí – an chathair stairiuíl ghleígeal seo.

Is é an céim is airde a bheadfadh aon Chorcaoích a bhaint amach – a bheith ina Ardmhéara ar a chathair fhéin.  Dá bharr san, braithim an-uamhal nuair a chuimhním siar ar na fir agus ar na mná uaisle agus cróga a d’imigh romham sa phost seo.  Cuimhním go h-áirithe ar an mbeirt Ardmhéara chróga – Tomás Mac Curtaín agus Traolach mac Suibhne -daoine uaisle a dhein an íbirt iomlán ar son an oifig seo a chosaint breis agus ochtó bliain ó shin.

The single honour that you, my fellow colleagues in Council have conferred on me is indeed awesome and awe-inspiring.  I am deeply honoured and privileged to have been chosen by you to be Lord Mayor of this ancient, historic and vibrant city.

It is the apex in municipal government that any Corkonian can achieve – to be chosen as Lord Mayor of one’s own native city and to wear the chain of office which was worn by so many back as far as 1787 A.D.  I am, therefore, humbled when I look back and recall the outstanding personalities who have held this office.  Some of them are here present to-night.  Each has left their own individual imprint on the civic affairs of this city.  I remember especially Tomás Mac Curtain and Terence Mc Swiney - both who made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve this office almost 90 years ago. Initially I wish to pay tribute to the outgoing Lord Mayor – Cllr. Michael Ahern for the quiet, dignified manner in which he conducted the affairs of the city both within the Council itself, where he gave each member ‘cothrom na feíne’ at Council meetings, and with the wider Cork citizens. He was very ably assisted in his role by his Lady Mayoress, Eileen, who showed great courtesy and graciousness to all who came in contact with her. They were excellent ambassadors for the city.  All here present, I’m sure, will wish them every success in the future and a well earned rest for a job well done.

I come to this office at a time of unprecedented change in our community.  When first elected over 20 years ago, Cork was a very different place. Unemployment, poverty, emigration and poor housing scarred the fabric of our city.  But now what do we see?  as Sir Christopher Wren, that most famous of English architects who designed and built St. Paul’s Cathedral in London said “If you were to seek a monument to past generations – just look around you”. As we do so, we see so many developments of this era. I will mention some of the principal ones but I’m sure there are many more:

The regeneration of the city centre in all its aspects such as streetscapes, office development sector, commercial sector and the retail function. This is in line with the late Sean Lemmas’ thinking that local authorities should evolve into development corporations for their areas.

The European Capital of Culture in 2005 attracted an additional one million visitors and generated an extra €90 million benefit for the local economy.

While all this economic activity was taking place, aspects of our cultural development were not sidelined as the following will indicate: 

  • An extension to our city Museum.
  • The opening of the Lifetime Lab on the Lee Road,
  • The visitor centres at both North Main St. and Blackrock Castle,
  • The Gluckman Gallery provided by U.C.C.,
  • The acquisition of St. Luke’s Church,
  • The conversion of Jack Lynch’s former family home in Cork to a residence for artists,
  • The development of Christchurch as a music and visual arts centre, and many others.

The physical development of our young Cork citizens has its place in the scheme of things too.  Some few years ago Council appointed a Sports and Community Facilities Development Officer with a dedicated budget to liaise with the various sporting organisations and to develop sport and recreational facilities for our young people.  We will be seeing more Sonya O’Sullivans, Derval O’Rourkes, Christy Rings, Roy Keanes and Ronan O’Garas in the future.

There are, I’m sure, many other sporting/recreational plans coming to fruition also but the general thrust of my remarks will be understood by all.

All these developments could not be carried out by City Council on its own. The Council is a planning authority, a housing authority, a roads authority and a sanitary authority with such powers and functions as are granted to it by government.  What it can do, and what it has very successfully been doing, is to create a climate in which some of the foregoing developments can take place either with state, commercial, private or semi-sate sectors participation.

The City Council’s route map is our development plan, renewed and revised at 5 yearly intervals, and materially contravened whenever necessary for the benefit of the city.  It represents the collective wisdom of our 31 members here in partnership with the City Manager and his staff, setting out as to how best our city can be improved for the future. Partnership is a relatively new buzz-word in contemporary Irish affairs.  It has evolved in governmental policies in recent years as  a mechanism bringing together government, trade unions, the farming community, the social partners and others. Its objective is primarily to ensure economic stability by the avoidance of industrial strife.  This concept is not new to us in local government and has been with us since the major reform of 1898.  What it in effect means is that the 31 members and the City Manager acting collectively, chart the future developments of the city. It is a concept not fully appreciated by some quarters of the general public. No one side has dominance over the other and the very best is achieved by the harmonious interdependence of the two. It’s a bit like the song – “Love and marriage – go together like a horse and carriage – you can’t have one without the other”!

An area of activity on which I would wish to devote some time to during the forthcoming twelve months, would be in the field of community development. Arising from this interest, I have come across a seminal research work by a well known American Sociologist-Robert Putnam, entitled “bowling alone” which examines the community scene in the United States. It’s not the same type of bowling that our esteemed Bishop John Buckley is so adept at!  What I refer to is indoor bowling. This in depth study of American community life is based on a range of activities such as local leadership, time diaries, watching TV. etc.  The conclusions of this study show that “The broad picture is one of declining membership in community organisations over the past 25 years in the U.S.”.

The community organisations in Cork contain many ordinary people (and I include myself as such an activist) doing extraordinary things.  All have the focus of caring and sharing for their neighbours.  This city has a network of community councils and could be regarded as a community based city.  Their members operate to a philosophy of working with people rather than for people, since their establishment in the late 1960s by Canon Donal Linehan and one of my predecessors Alderman Pearse Wyse.  Each council is parish based and its membership is comprised of local people elected by each street/estate together with representatives of the various statutory and voluntary agencies in the area.  These locally elected councils in conjunction with the City Council members, interact with the City Council itself in varying degrees on local issues. However, there are warning clouds gathering on the horizon regarding the effectiveness of their future role and the voluntary input which motivates their membership.  The virtual demise of the co-ordinating body for these associations i.e. Cork C.A.N. and the declining membership in some community groups are some of these symptoms.

It would be my intention to fully/address these issues so that Cork C.A.N. can develop a new and more effective role in the future with a fresh mandate by the development of leadership in local community organisations.  The membership of community organisations in Cork is owed a great debt because they carry out an indispensable role in the provision of services and activities stretching from young people to senior citizens.  No monetary value on the social capital inherent in these activities could ever be assigned to them.  They are invaluable and priceless.  The sign of concern that I see is principally the decline of new volunteers into these associations.  More and more of the same stalwarts, many of whom are involved from day 1 since their inception, are still willingly undertaking an ever increasing level of responsibility in a declining membership situation.  This holds true for some sporting, social, cultural and political organisations also.

Tá suim faoi leith agam fhéin ó aimsir m’óige in ár dteanga dhúchais – teanga na Gaeilge. Táim Fhéin im bhall den ghrúpa stiúrtha anseo i gComhairle na Cathrach agus táim bródúil as an meíd dul chun cinn atá déanta ach is feídir níos mó fós a dhéanamh.  Aithním go bfhuil an teanga chomh tabhachtach lenár gceol, ár rinnce agus ár  gcluichí. Geallaim díbh go ndéanfaidh mé mo sheacht ndícheall an teanga naísiunta a úsaíd ar gach ócaíd is féidir, ach go mór-mhór I measc an aos óg.  Tá dul chun cinn aírithe le feiscint i roinnt des na siopaí mór-thimpeall na cathrach ach is doigh liom gur féidir linn an sceál a fheabhsú.  deánfad mo dhicheall chun tacaíocht a thabhairt do gach iarratas a cuirfear fé mo bhraíd chun ár dteanga uasal, ársa, a cheiliúradh, a chothú, agus a fheabhsú sa bhliain atá le teacht.

While I have referred to a brief number of issues so far, there are many more that are also being dealt with in great depth.  Since a local authority is a multi-faceted entity, the following are of no less importance and require equal attention:  The exciting docklands development; a borough boundary extension; waste management strategy; transport and traffic management (incorporating parking policy in the city); further implementation of the C.A.S.P.. (Cork Area Strategic Plan) in so far as it affects the city; declining population in the city centre (recent surveys show a 3% fall between 2002 and 2006 - population now at 119,000 people); urban planning policies; progress on the rapid programmes, development of the River Lee as a potential tourist attraction for the future; the social assimilation of our fellow European brothers and sisters who have come to live and work in our city; a combined event/conference centre in which this Council is planning to put €12 million as an equity investor (which signifies that it will take a share of the business); the re-development of Kent Station.  I’m certain there are more.

All of the above developments clearly show that Cork has finally ceased the whingeing about the other capital, Dublin, failing to share out the spoils of development. Our new “let’s do it ourselves” approach is clearly achieving results.

I wish to express my sincere appreciation in many directions:  to my fellow party colleagues for selecting me as a candidate for this office, to the members of the other parties who supported my nomination, and to those who did not, I bear no ill-will. To my late parents for providing me with life’s opportunities, to my wife and family who have supported me in my role in politics by their understanding of absences from home at various times; to the members of the Fianna Fáil Party organisation who put me on the political road first day; to the many friends who gave me unstinted practical support and advice all over many years but most particularly of all at election time; to the electorate of the south east ward who elected me to this Chamber, to my friends and working colleagues in local government.  I have spent almost half of my working life there and which experience enabled me, when I crossed the “Rubicon” from one side as an official to the other side as an elected member, to bring that experience to bear on my thinking here i.e. to understand the things that can be done and the things that cannot be done.

To my working colleagues in the university where I then came to share friendship and to understand better the true values of education.

To friends and relations who travelled distances to be here tonight. To the City Manager and his dedicated staff for their courtesy and assistance since his joining the staff here.  I feel confident that this will continue.

Cork is a great city.  It has the potential to become greater still.  The position of Lord Mayor holds a special place in the affections of the people of Cork which has been earned by previous occupants down the centuries. So therefore, let us all Council members, City Manager and staff, the various representative groups in the city and above all, the people of Cork generally work together so that in 100 years time, it can be said of us at that future time that “we in our time” did out level best on behalf of the city we all care about so much”.  I trust I have made no omissions.   With God’s help and yours I hope we can achieve that objective together.

Go raibh míle maith agaibh agus go gcumhdaí dia sibh go leír.

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                        

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