THE Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Colm Kelleher has said he is in no doubt that “brighter days are ahead” for Cork and has spoken with enthusiasm about projects in the pipeline for the city.
Speaking to The Echo at the halfway stage of his mayoralty, Mr Kelleher acknowledged that many people are fatigued of Covid restrictions but that public health has to remain the top priority.
“We aren’t where we thought we would be.
“Obviously this is a very serious situation.
“The virus is changing - it’s adapting to its new environment and all the shields and protections that we as a society have put up against it to try to bury it, which hopefully I still do believe will come.
“Obviously the restrictions that have been put in place are for public health and public health has to be paramount and everything else, unfortunately, will take a back seat.
“I know that that’s the Government’s priority but I also know that that is Cork City Council’s priority, the protection of people’s lives,” he said.
“But I’m a businessman myself. I’ve seen the restrictions impact my business first hand,” he continued.
Mr Kelleher lauded the supports Government has put in place during the pandemic to help businesses to survive and to safeguard livelihoods.
“I really don’t believe the Government has been found wanting in relation to subvention that it has given the private sector, subvention given to the public in relation to weekly payments and things but also subvention that they would have given to council.
“We as Cork City Council passed a budget there recently that was an additional €14m on the previous budget - almost a quarter of a billion euro - but a lot of that came from subvention from central Government,” he said.
Looking ahead, Mr Kelleher said he is confident Cork can bounce back after Covid-19 and is optimistic about the vision for the city.
“To look at everything that’s in the pipeline for Cork city and Cork as a regional capital and Cork driving Munster as a region, it’s very exciting,” he said.
Major plans recently unveiled for the city include the NTA’s draft new bus network for Cork, which closed to public consultation earlier this month.
The redesign of the bus network is one of the nine key elements of BusConnects Cork that aims to transform the city’s bus system, making public transport more useful to more people.
Significant plans to transform the city’s South Docklands were unveiled last month by O’Callaghan Properties with proposals including the repurposing of the landmark Odlums Mills building, a new rehabilitation hospital, and the construction of a number of multi-storey office and apartment buildings.
The first phase of Cork’s newest park, which when fully completed will be six times the size of Fitzgerald’s Park, also opened to the public earlier this month.
Detailed design is underway on the next phase of Marina Park, which will see the development of another 60 acres of parkland from the Atlantic Pond to Blackrock pier, leading to the creation of a ‘regional eco park’.
This month, the chief executive of Cork City Council also issued an update on the city’s long-awaited events centre.
Ann Doherty informed councillors during a full council meeting that “Cork City Council has been advised that the Live Nation / BAM consortium has commenced final detailed design of the Cork events centre”.
“It’s understood this will be completed in the third quarter of next year.
“This brings the events centre a further step on the process,” she continued.
Ms Doherty also informed councillors of the “next step” in the project from Cork City Council’s perspective.
“In line with all the diligence processes required under the public spending code, we now will proceed to the phase of finalising the business case and will be advertising in the coming days to procure the relevant expertise to undertake that work.
“That’s the next step from our perspective,” she said.
Speaking about the project to The Echo, the Lord Mayor said he believes the funding for the Beamish and Crawford Quarter Infrastructure Public Realm Improvement Scheme and the Bishop Lucey Park Regeneration Scheme has been a huge boost and has sparked progress with the events centre project.
“One of the key indicators here is the fact that we received funding from Central Government in relation to the upgrade of Bishop Lucey Park, Counting House plaza, Tuckey Street, Proby’s Quay - the areas that surround the proposed area for the events centre,” he said.
“We are doing our bit in Cork City Council in preparation for the events centre.”
Mr Kelleher said these schemes will be transformative for the city.
“I’ve seen drawings and I’ve seen pictures and it’s going to be a massive addition to the city.
“It’s really going to open up Bishop Lucey Park.
“There’s even going to be a commemoration to Cumann na mBan in there which is very tasteful. It will really mark the achievements and contribution women gave in Irish history,” he said.
Stepping into the role of Lord Mayor back in June, Mr Kelleher said he was confident that Cork could not only “bounce back” but could “bounce back and better” post-Covid - an assertion he still stands by.
“We’re going to be the fastest-growing city in the Republic over the next 40 years.
“Our population is set to double and we’re putting the correct infrastructure in place to facilitate foreign direct investment and to compliment the multinationals that we already have in situ.
“All of this is being done under our City Development Plan which is also active at the moment,” he continued.
Mr Kelleher said Cork City Council has set its sights on achieving a 15-minute city, a concept whereby people should be able to walk and cycle to access resources and facilities such as local commercial services, a bus stop, open space and childcare facilities within their neighbourhood.
He pointed to the fact that the Cork Metropolitan Area has been successful in attracting a significant level of foreign direct investment and indigenous enterprise, a trend that has accelerated over recent years.
“The big thing that we have that Dublin is lacking due to its urban sprawl is the fact that you can be in a business meeting in City Hall at 3 o’clock on a Friday and at six o’clock you could be fishing down in Kinsale.
“That’s what these multinational companies are aiming for, for productivity from their point of view, they want happy employees who have a great quality of life.
“I believe Cork has a unique position that it can offer that quality of life that no other city in the Republic can offer at the moment.”
THE Lord Mayor of Cork has spoken of his proudest moment so far during his time serving as the city’s first citizen - a memory which he said he will treasure forever.
The Ballincollig-based Fianna Fáil councillor has had a busy schedule of events in the first half of his term as Lord Mayor.
“When I took office on the 18th [of June] restrictions were easing and the diary filled up fairly quickly.
“I’ve had the pleasure of welcoming ambassadors, members of the Naval Service and indeed the President and the Taoiseach to City Hall.
“I’ve been to Dublin at the National Day of Commemoration. I made it to England for the London Cork Association Annual Dinner - myself and the County Mayor attended.”
Mr Kelleher also travelled to the Cork/Limerick border where he met the Mayor of Limerick with the pair raising hurleys at dawn in jest ahead of the All Ireland Senior Hurling final back in August.
The Lord Mayor also provided some much-needed humour last month when he took part in the charity initiative ‘Movember’ and true to his word dyed his moustache red for the last day of his charitable endeavour after surpassing his fundraising target.
Amongst the many highlights thus far, however, one occasion particularly stands out for him.
“My proudest moment as Lord Mayor so far was that as Lord Mayor you’re also Admiral of the Port and I had the privilege of leading a flotilla of Irish naval ships up from Haulbowline up the Lee and docked at Kennedy Quay.
“I got to bring my young fella with me.
“To come up the mouth of the river and to see Blackrock Castle on your left-hand side, the Lower Road on your right-hand side - the amount of people that were lining the banks of the Lee in appreciation of our national services on National Services Day and to be there as Lord Mayor with the Taoiseach and the Minister for Defence and my son next to me was a really proud moment.”