At a special meeting of Council held on Thursday, April 24th, 2014, the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr. Catherine Clancy and Cork City Council bestowed the Freedom of the City of Cork on President Michael D. Higgins in recognition of his membership of Dáil Éireann for 25 years and his membership of the Seanad Éireann for 9 years, his life of dedication and commitment to public service and his outstanding achievements in advancing civil rights and social justice nationally and internationally. A passionate political voice, poet, writer, academic and statesman.
In her speech, the Lord Mayor paid particular tribute to the public life of President Michael D. Higgins which has been notable for many achievements, all of which have been inspired by his passion for justice and equality.
“In everything that he has done and written, as an academic, as a Senator, TD and Minister and now as President, his overriding concern has been for people. Again and again, his own experiences have moulded his outlook on life. He has been an outspoken champion of those on the margins of society both here in Ireland and abroad, reminding all of us of the plight of those caught up in inter generational poverty.”
The Lord Mayor also paid tribute for his support and love of the arts and culture and recalled in particular his attendance at and support for events such as the Cork Film Festival and Feis Maitiu. The Lord Mayor also recalled his recent visit to Cork to meet with residents, traders and businesses affected by the city centre floods earlier in the year.
Deputy City Manager Dan Buggy, Lord Mayor Cllr Catherine Clancy and President Michael D. Higgins
In response the President in his speech stated that “it is a great honour and a great pleasure for me as Uachtarán na hEireann to receive the Freedom of this great city from the City Council and from the people of Cork”
His speech also referred to the significant role that Cork plays in facilitating interaction and dialogue between peoples, and that Cork stands as a symbol for hospitality and friendship between nations. President Higgins stated “For centuries Cork was the gateway between our island and the Atlantic, and indeed the world. This harbour and those living and working in it have been positioned centre-stage in each of the major acts in Irish history. Cork was central to development of transatlantic trade in the 17th century, to the growth of naval power in the 18th century and to the tragedy of famine and emigration in the 19th century”
The President also recognised in his speech that Cork is rightly known for its great prose writers.
The President’s speech concluded with him stating “You can understand that, with such a stirring invocation of the city of Cork offered by one of your own, it is with a great sense of humility and appreciation that I gratefully accept your conferring of the Freedom of Cork City on me”.
The ceremony was attended by a large crowd including Ministers, politicians both local and national, dignatories, civic and religious leaders and invited guests.