Lord Mayor says the upcoming centenary commemorations must be Cork-centred

Lord Mayor says the upcoming centenary commemorations must be Cork-centred

One of the few building facades still standing on Patrick Street following the burning of Cork in December 1920.

THE Lord Mayor says Cork was so central to the Irish historical events of 1920 that the city and county should be the focal point of national commemoration.

With that in mind, he has asked the Government to commemorate next year’s centenary events in Cork.

Hosing the facade of The New York House, Patrick Street, adjoining the old Roches Stores on the morning after the burning of Cork. The establishment sold handmade cigarettes and Indian cigars. Firefighters from Dublin, Limerick and Waterford came to the city to fight the fires.
Hosing the facade of The New York House, Patrick Street, adjoining the old Roches Stores on the morning after the burning of Cork. The establishment sold handmade cigarettes and Indian cigars. Firefighters from Dublin, Limerick and Waterford came to the city to fight the fires.

“Next year is particularly important, with the [anniversary of the] burning of Cork and two of our mayors dead,” Mayor Mick Finn told The Echo. “I asked the Taoiseach for the national commemoration to be held in Cork next year over Dublin, given the significance of 1920 in Irish history.”

The assassination of Lord Mayor Tomás MacCurtáin in March 1920, followed seven months later by the death of Lord Mayor Terence MacSwiney, were seminal moments in the battle for Irish freedom.

Lord Mayor of Cork Tomás MacCurtáin lying in state at City Hall.
Lord Mayor of Cork Tomás MacCurtáin lying in state at City Hall.

However, Mr Finn warned that Cork City Council was still waiting to hear what it would be allocated nationally and that it ‘won’t be enough’ for what is required, given the scale afforded to recent grand commemorations of 1916 in Dublin.

He said that plans were being made for commemorations, but despite a public consultation on the ‘Decade of Centenaries’ last night, budgetary issues have yet to be sorted.

Crowds of children-praying-for Terence MacSwiney outside the North Cathedral
Crowds of children-praying-for Terence MacSwiney outside the North Cathedral

He added that if plans were done right, the events could be rolled out ‘fairly quickly’, due to Cork’s strong existing community groups, which would be an advantage.

“I think Cork does that well, better than any other city, which is why I call on all community groups to show an interest,” Mr Finn said.

Sinn Féin Councillor Mick Nugent, who is on the Cork City Council Commemorations Committee, said the funding from Creative Ireland for these events was a “limited enough” five-figure sum, the same allocated for all local authorities.

“Considering what went on in Cork in those years, people would make the case that Cork was the epicentre of that period, and the funding should match that,” Cllr Nugent said.

The RIC Auxiliaries, K Company at Cork Railway Station, October 1920.
The RIC Auxiliaries, K Company at Cork Railway Station, October 1920.

Despite this, the Lord Mayor said that local events, such as those with museums and community groups, would be relatively easier to organise and fund.

In particular, there are ideas to decorate MacCurtain Street, possibly with signage trails, restoration, new plaques, or even an interactive map app.

The Lord Mayor also said that celebration events would ideally be “right across the board,” with all faculties, groups and branches of UCC involved, among others.

The committee has already engaged with University College Cork on preparations, attending preliminary discussions with historians and other experts.

Terence MacSwiney’s funeral makes it way through the street of Cork in October 1920.
Terence MacSwiney’s funeral makes it way through the street of Cork in October 1920.

A recent meeting, chaired by Professor Gabriel Doherty of the Department of History, was attended by Fionnuala MacCurtáin, granddaughter of Tomás MacCurtáin.

RTÉ’s flagship series looking at the events of 1916-1922, The Irish Revolution, was heavily based on the scholarship of the University College Cork team behind the best-selling Atlas of the Irish Revolution, and UCC were involved in its production.

A Cork audience was given an exclusive first view of the landmark TV series in January, which was also attended by President Michael D Higgins, who acknowledged the crucial role Cork played at the time.

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