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Archive News 2006 Freedom of the City presented to President Mary McAleese

Remarks By President McAleese On The Occasion Of The Conferring Of The Freedom Of Cork , On Tuesday, 30th May, 2006


Dia dhíbh go léir. Is onóir mór dom bheith i bhur measc inniu ar an ócáíd seo agus tá mé thar a bheith buíoch díbh as an chuireadh agus as an bhfáilte chaoin a chur sibh romham.

Between the Heineken Cup and the Palme D’Or, Cork’s credentials as the “real capital” of Europe, whatever about Ireland, have never been stronger!!! When I gave Sean Óg O’Hailpin a distinguished graduate award at his alma mater, DCU, a few weeks ago, he told me disarmingly and seriously that he would next shake my hand in September at Croke Park. It is that “Cork-sureness” so often mistaken by the ignorant as “cocksureness” that is the driving spirit of the people of this city and county. It is also the very attitude, the pose which gives the rest of us not born near “the banks” a lifelong inferiority complex. For most of us that accident of birth over which we had no control , is unalterable, unchangeable. We are destined to go through life apologising for not being from Cork, and being starved spectators at the feast that is Corkness. But for a very small and lucky band, history can be rewritten and today I am privileged to have conferred on me the freedom of this mighty city. Now at least, if I cannot say I was born in Cork, I can say I am a freewoman of the city of Cork, an honorary citizen. When explaining in future that, without my consent, my parents chose Belfast as the city of my birth, I can now say proudly that Cork chose me.

I would like to thank you Lord Mayor, and each and every member of the City Council for this lovely honour which has so gladdened my heart and rectified my deficient c.v. presidents visit2When I looked over the list of those honoured in the past I am delighted to find myself among Presidents Douglas Hyde, Eamon deValera and Mary Robinson as well as two of my own great sporting heroes Roy Keane and Ireland’s greatest living Sportsperson, Sonya O’Sullivan both of whom of course are Cork through and through. Cork holds in its soul something that stirs Ireland, something that stirs Irishmen and Irish women no matter where they are born and reared. We know that we do not need to be awarded the freedom of the city to feel at home here, to feel part of Ireland’s family here, for this is a city with a fáilte and a freedom of spirit that has kept many a poet busy at his or her craft.

I am so proud to have been written into her roll of honour this day and I’ll let the eloquent words of poet, librarian and Literary Programmer for Cork City of Culture, Tom McCarthy describe the city as she stands today-

No lovelier city than all of this
Cork city, your early morning kiss:
Peeled oranges and white porcelain,
Midsummer Sunday mists
That scatter before breakfast.

The people of Cork, their love of life, their fidelity to their Irish and European heritage, and their openness to the stranger, makes the honour I am receiving today all the more treasured by me. My many visits to Cork have left me in no doubt about your commitment to working with each other and for each other, for the betterment of this great city, and with wonderful results. Cork’s essence, its willing acceptance of diversity, of change, its characters, its unique soul, its ancient immortal spirit are at its very core – it is a place with personality, with pride, with welcome, with humour, with tradition – no wonder it attracts so many, many visitors. Cork is a place which loves life in all its ups and downs, all its strengths and failings, all its mysteries and revelations. As European Capital of Culture in 2005, it displayed its unique verve and panache, and showcased to great effect its genius and its life. All of Ireland took pride in what you achieved because here was shown the very best of what it is to be Irish.

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Mr.Connor Clune, Lord Mayor Of Cork Cllr. Deirdre Clune, Uachtarán Na hÉireann, Mary Mc Aleese and Dr. McAleese

Cork is blessed in her people, in their ambition for their city and their energy in working for her and for her future. Local Authority of the Year Award won last year by Cork City Council itself is another telling indicator of the impulse for excellence that infuses so much community endeavour here. I take this opportunity to say thank you to all of you, for all that you do, and do so well and willingly, for and on behalf of Cork and her people. Many’s a time I have sung of John FitzGerald’s great song but at last I can sing with a different kind of conviction:

I have roamed through all climates, but none could I see
Like the green hills of Cork and my own lovely Lee.

You’ll be relieved to hear I won’t be back next week with a few Dublin sheep and cows to graze in the Lee Fields. The shock of what they have been missing all these years might be too much for the unfortunate animals . . .

Again, my thanks to the Lord Mayor and all of the members of Cork City Council for bestowing on me Cork’s highest Civic honour.

Is cúis mhór áthais agus bróid dom an onóir seo. Míle bhuíochas díbh arís.

Gurb fada buan sibh.

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Speech Of The Lord Mayor Of Cork, Cllr. Deirdre Clune At The Presentation Of The Freedom Of The City On Uachtarán Na hÉireann, Mary Mc Aleese On Tuesday May 30th 2006

Úachtarán, Fellow Councillors, City Manager, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Today we are gathered to bestow the highest honour our city can award to Úachtarán na hÉireann, Máire Mhic Giolla Íosa. Bestowing the Freedom of the City is not something that is entered into lightly. To date the City of Cork has honoured only three others who have held this high office. Mary Robinson, Eamonn de Valera and Douglas Hyde, though in the case of Douglas Hyde it was for his contribution to the Irish language some 32 years before he became President. Is mór an onóir domhsa mar Ardmhéara an mholadh seo a chur ós comhar an cruinniú speisíalta seo den Chomairle agus aontáim go h-iomlán leis.

It stands to reason that the person to whom this award is given must be exceptional or have achieved greatness in some particular field. I don’t think there can be anybody present here today who would argue that President McAleese more than meets those criteria. If it were not enough to be the only elected Head of State in history to succeed another female Head of State, the aims the President has set for both of her presidencies have not only been met, they have largely been surpassed.

Mary McAleese graduated in Law from the Queen's University of Belfast in 1973 and was called to the Northern Ireland Bar in 1974. In 1975, at the frankly staggering young age of 24, she was appointed Reid Professor of Criminal Law, Criminology and Penology at Trinity College Dublin and in 1987 returned to her Alma Mater, Queen's, to become Director of the Institute of Professional Legal Studies. In 1994, she became the first female Pro-Vice Chancellor of the Queen's University of Belfast.

President McAleese is also an experienced broadcaster, having worked as a current affairs journalist and presenter in radio and television with Radio Telefís Éireann. She has a longstanding interest in many issues concerned with justice, equality, social inclusion, anti-sectarianism and reconciliation.

I don’t feel I am disrespectful of any of her predecessors when I say that in the public eye, until the present generation, the presidency of Ireland was largely considered to be a ceremonial role and in some way a reward for services to the State. While that might in some part be true, the recent holders of this esteemed office have been anything but ceremonial. I hope the President won’t mind me quoting from her first inauguration speech but I feel she summed it up perfectly when quoting Cearrbhal O’ Dalaigh’s comment in his inauguration address in 1974:

"Presidents, under the Irish Constitution don't have policies. But.... a President can have a theme."

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Lord Mayor Of Cork, Cllr. Deirdre Clune Presenting The Freedom Of The City On Uachtarán Na hÉireann, Mary Mc Aleese

President McAleese’s theme of bridge building, which has been the cornerstone of both her presidencies has been, by any objective measure, a tremendous success. We stand, not for the first time, but more tantalisingly with our grasp than ever before, at the brink of the closest accommodation between the communities on our Island. Her tireless work, both in the public eye and more importantly and unreportedly behind the scenes, to make this dream of generations a reality has not gone unnoticed. At times when people might have lost faith or hope in the process, her resolve, energy and belief in the end goal have been inspirational.

The theme of her second term, that of community, has opened up the office of the presidency and indeed the Presidential residence more than at any other time in the history of the state, to make every citizen of the island a stakeholder not just in the presidency but in their own future and destiny.

I remember on her inauguration for her second term the particular phrase The President used in describing her theme:

“Community cannot be created by government and it doesn’t happen by coincidence. We make it happen ourselves by unselfishly committing our talents, our money and that precious commodity, time, to the service of each other”

It has been a hallmark of her period in office that the door to the President and to the Presidency has never been more open or inviting to the marginalised, disenfranchised and excluded. Community workers, schoolchildren and volunteers, especially those involved with the Special Olympics World Games which were such a resounding success, found the door to the Áras open and welcoming at all times during her presidencies. As is often the case, much of the work she does with such organisations and communities goes unreported but thankfully not un-acknowledged. In some instances merely the acknowledgement of the organisation by being invited to the Áras can be a catalyst for such organisations to receive more necessary attention.

I know that the President and Dr. McAleese are equally passionate about sport and attend matches of all codes when the occasion allows. Cork had a good start last Sunday in Thurles but it’s a long way to September. Here’s hoping you will get to shake hands again with Pat Mulcahy, Seán-Óg and the rest of the team.

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Lord Mayor Of Cork, Cllr. Deirdre Clune At The Presentation Of The Freedom Of The City On Uachtarán Na hÉireann, Mary Mc Aleese

As patron of Cork – European Capital of Culture 2005, the President’s support, particularly in attending the Opening Ceremonies and the Carol Service towards the end of our reign was recognised and much appreciated. The designation of Capital of Culture does not come easy or often, and it will be some time before that accolade is bestowed on any Irish city but the President’s help in elevating it to the world stage has certainly raised the profile of Cork and Ireland internationally. We are now reaping the rewards of that designation and its legacy, having just last weekend seen the second Ocean to City Race, an event that was such a resounding success last year as part of Cork 2005 that the City Council was proud to lend its support to making it an annual event.

All Presidents are ambassadors for our country when they travel abroad on official business of State but few have done so with such effect. The most recent state visit to the United States of America is a perfect example of this. As Ireland’s foremost ambassador, President McAleese introduces Ireland to other cultures and peoples. Using the profile that such an important visit creates, the President has facilitated the development and strengthening of trade links. She has assisted Irish companies in the development of new markets and in doing so, helped secure the on-going well being of our nation.

A Úachtarán, go raibh maith agat as ucht an obair as cuimse atá deanta agat, agus as filleadh ar ais go Corcaigh.

On behalf of the people of Cork we are proud to bestow this, our highest honour to such a deserving recipient. We thank you for the work you have done on our behalf and on behalf of all the people of this island and wish you and your family long life and happiness.

Go raibh maith agat .

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Guard Of Honor for President McAleese On The Occasion Of The Conferring Of The Freedom Of Cork City

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