9th June 2022
This accolade is the highest honour a city can bestow upon a citizen or eminent guest and over 250 guests attended the historic ceremony which began with Mary Crilly entering the Concert Hall, accompanied by the Deputy Lord Mayor and Cork City Council CE, Ann Doherty, behind mace bearers Sean Finn and Noel Kearney.
Ms Crilly was enrolled in the Roll of Freedom “in recognition of her unstinting support and advocacy for survivors of sexual violence over four decades” and “her tireless work in raising awareness of its prevalence, encouraging two-way dialogue with younger people, and working with government, statutory and voluntary agencies to change and influence social policy”.
Deputy Lord Mayor, Mary Rose Desmond said: “Mary Crilly’s extraordinary resilience and fortitude has driven her work and the work of the Cork Sexual Violence Centre for almost 40 years. Not only have thousands benefitted from this work and dedication, but she has driven societal change in the way that sexual violence is now dealt with in this country. That Cork is recognising this remarkable woman with the Freedom of the City is so very fitting and a proud day for Mary and for the City.”
In her speech, Mary Crilly said: “Today is such a special day, not alone for me, but for all survivors of sexual violence in Ireland…Today is not just about looking back and seeing what has been achieved in our city and in our country and what has not been achieved. It is also about looking forward. It is about moving forward to fight the fight and make a difference. And together, we can make a difference”.
“As a society we need to have a zero tolerance for sexual violence. We need to keep talking. We need to keep challenging. We need to change the culture that tolerates sexual violence,” she said.
Having signed the Roll of Freedom parchment, Ms Crilly was presented with a cylindrical freedom casket, raised and ‘planished’ by city centre-based Carroll Silversmiths who have been making freedom caskets for generations.
A specially commissioned piece of poetry ‘This Poem is a Zone of Sanctuary’, written in honour of Mary Crilly, was read at the ceremony by its author, poet Paula Meehan. Music, including renditions of ‘A Little Help from My Friends’ ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ and ‘Feeling Good’, was provided by the Defence Forces Band of the Southern Command and Cork-based soul and blues singer, Karen Underwood accompanied by acclaimed pianist, John O’Brien.
The Roll of Freedom parchment, which includes Ms Crilly’s name, signature and the formal citation setting out why she is being honoured, is beautifully inscribed by local calligrapher, Des Meade and will be bound by Barbara Hubert Bookbinders into the ‘Register of Freemen from 1930-Present’ which is held at the City and County Archives in Blackpool.