ENSURING that the city centre revitalisation plan “takes centre stage”, driving the sustainability agenda, and furthering female participation in politics through Cork City Council's Women's Caucus are some of the key priorities for the newly elected Lord Mayor of Cork.
Fine Gael’s Deirdre Forde made the comments in her maiden speech as Lord Mayor after she was officially elected during the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Cork City Council this evening.
“On this day 63 years ago, on June 24 1959, the first ever woman first citizen Jane Dowdall was elected.
“Cork City’s Women’s Caucus was launched on International Women’s Day last year to promote women in politics by exploring barriers and challenges to political participation. It is already blazing a trail,” Ms Forde said in her mayoral speech.
It is a “great statement”, she said, that the Lord Mayor and council’s chief executive are both women.
“For democracy to survive, politics to function and a society to thrive, inclusivity and diversity is essential.”
Ms Forde also spoke of how the city “is defined by its warm and welcoming people, its sense of community, its thriving art, culture, and heritage”.
“We must endeavour to support our hardworking business community, those who create jobs and come up with ideas, those who give employment and who are critical to the economic growth of our city.
“Despite the uncertainty ahead, we must continue to be optimistic and ambitious, building connections through air and sea links to Europe and beyond,” she continued.
Ms Forde also pledged to be “a listening Lord Mayor”.
“My door is open to anyone who has an idea or solution to any or all of our opportunities and challenges,” she said.
The Douglas-based councillor was proposed by her party colleague Shane O’Callaghan for the position and seconded by Green Party councillor Colette Finn.
It was the first time since 2019 that the AGM was held in the council’s historic chamber in City Hall, with the previous two AGM’s taking place elsewhere to facilitate social distancing requirements during the pandemic.
The meeting was also live-streamed.
Ms Forde was elected 21 votes to five over the other nominee, Sinn Féin councillor Fiona Kerins, who was nominated by her party colleague Mick Nugent and seconded by Independent councillor Paudie Dineen. There were two abstentions.
At the AGM tonight tributes were paid to former Lord Mayor, Fianna Fáil councillor Colm Kelleher for his leadership over the past year.
His party colleague, councillor Fergal Dennehy said Mr Kelleher “opened City Hall to the people of Cork” after Covid-19, while Fine Gael councillor Des Cahill said Mr Kelleher brought “great energy” to the role.
Labour Party councillor John Maher lauded Mr Kelleher as “a guy about family, community and his city” while Green Party councillor Colette Finn said Mr Kelleher has been a “fair” chair of Cork City Council and is an elected representative who is a “passionate advocate for his constituents”.
Fine Gael Councillor Damian Boylan was elected as Deputy Lord Mayor at the AGM.
Mr Boylan takes over from Fianna Fáil councillor Mary Rose Desmond.
Ahead of the AGM, a rally highlighting the housing crisis took place outside City Hall.
Organised by the Cork branch of the National Homeless and Housing Coalition (NHHC), the rally featured a live rendition of singer songwriter Martin Leahy’s, ‘Everyone Should Have A Home’.
The song is described as a “visceral and fiery reaction to the current housing crisis in Ireland”.
Another rally, also organised by the NHCC, is set to take place at 1pm tomorrow in Daunt Square.