Over 140 guests attend commemorative Special Meeting of Council

First republican council Jan 1920

Pictured: The first meeting of Cork City Council elected by proportional representation and by universal suffrage meeting on 30th January 1920 (picture credit: Cork City and County Archives)

30th January 2020

Former Lords Mayor of Cork, the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, Oireachtas members, representatives of the Armed Forces, Naval Service and An Garda Siochána joined Government officials, members of the Expert Advisory Group on Commemorations and representatives of family members elected to Cork Corporation 100 years ago at a commemorative Special Meeting of Cork City Council tonight.

Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr John Sheehan said: “The 1920 local elections played a key transitional role in Irish revolutionary history and this commemorative meeting is a focal point of Cork City Council’s programme of events to mark this defining year”.

“Tonight’s meeting, attended by close to 146 guests from the worlds of politics, business and the community and voluntary sector, commemorates the election of Tomás MacCurtain as Lord Mayor of Cork, the Council’s Pledge of Allegiance to the Dáil Éireann, the extension of the right to vote to women ratepayers and the use of proportional representation in an election for the first time,” he said.

City Archivist, Brian Mc Gee presented the 1920 minutes book to the meeting. Dr John Borgonovo from UCC’s  School of History and Dr Fiona Buckley from UCC’s Department of Government and Politics also spoke in the Chamber.

Mr Borgonovo said: “The republicans were a new force in Irish politics and its leaders had been largely unknown in the city prior to 1916. Their victory in the 1920 local elections was an expression of the public’s clear desire for Irish self determination. The election in Cork was also connected to the rapid expansion of popular democracy in Ireland and in Europe in this period as seen by Cork Corporation’s 1920 election of its first female councillor and of an unprecedented number of labour and trade officials to the Chamber".

Dr Fiona Buckley said:  “Contemporary newspaper accounts, such as those in The Cork Examiner, spoke of considerable voter turnout ‘including many women’. Across Ireland a total of 1800 seats were up for election. Women won 42 of those seats including Anne Sutton of Sinn Féin, representing the North East electoral ward on Cork Corporation. The presence of women in local council chambers across the country was a very welcome development, but as historian Dr Margaret Ward of Queen’s University Belfast assesses, ‘hardly the “fair proportion” as claimed by the Irish Independent".

Representatives from Comhairle na nÓg, the trade union movement, the 50/50 group and from communities across the city also participated in the meeting.

Sixteen members of the current council read extracts from the minutes of the meeting of Cork Corporation on January 30, 1920 and from local newspapers.

White roses, a symbol of hope and new beginnings, were worn on the lapels of Elected Members. Fifth year student at St Angela’s Secondary School, Emily Gunn presented the Lord Mayor with a white rose.

Harpist, Ruth Mc Donnell performed at the event, playing ‘Air to St Finbarr’ as part of her set while legendary Cork singer, Sean O’Sé closed the meeting with a rendition of ‘Amhran na bhFiann’.

The event was also streamed on www.corkcity.ieand more than 110 members of the public watched the streaming at an event at the Atrium of the New Civic Offices this evening.

This event was planned by a cross party committee of Elected Members, under the steerage of the  Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr. John Sheehan .

This year, Cork City will commemorate the death of the city’s two martyred Lord Mayors, Terence MacSwiney and Tomas Mac Curtain and the Burning of Cork City.