VETERAN elderly rights activist Paddy O'Brien has expressed his surprise and thanks at public calls for him to be given the freedom of Cork City.
Mr O'Brien, who has been organising the Over 60's Talent Competition for 41 years, said that he was shocked to hear about the public campaign to add him to the bill, discovering it only when he was called to appear on radio.
Yesterday, he congratulated rugby legend Ronan O'Gara, who was announced as the recipient-to-be at Monday night's City Council meeting.
“It is a wonderful achievement, indeed it's one of the greatest honours bestowed on any person and I would say well deserved," Mr O'Brien said.
“In relation to myself I have to say this, and I have to be honest and sincere, when I started the Over 60's many years ago I never sought any glorification, not for headlines.
“I had one objective and that was to try and improve the quality of life for elderly people.” At the age of 14, Mr O'Brien began working as a messenger boy around the city, and it was from this time on that he began actively helping the elderly.
“I worked in an area where there was awful poverty and that was my first occasion getting involved with the elderly doing messages for them," he recalled.
“What I noticed was the loneliness and that they loved to sing and those were my reasons for starting the Over 60's years later.
“Regarding the talk about the freedom of the city, I am not disappointed whatsoever because I don't think I would ever be in that league.
“Would I love to get it? Of course I would, but I hadn't even thought about it until such time as people started ringing me about it."
He added his congratulations to O'Gara's family, for whom "this is a wonderful time."
“I should say to the people of Cork that we should all rejoice that this honour is being bestowed upon him .”