A VERY happy Christmas to all of you, from everyone in the Lord Mayor’s Office and across City Hall.
I hope many of you will manage to safety catch up with relatives and friends this year, that perhaps you mightn’t have been able to celebrate Christmas with last year.
Christmas is such a special time of the year – and for the past two years, it has been a welcome light in a dark winter.
I sense a real tiredness in people this year. People seem a bit drained from the relentlessness of this virus and how it has changed our everyday. We think we’ve found a way to confound it and then it finds another way to re-assert its dominance.
It’s hard to deal with the constant uncertainty but the vaccine programme brought life much closer to ‘normality’ this year and hopefully, the booster programme will be another shield to help fend Covid off.
I think the only way to really get through this period of our lives is to keep telling ourselves ‘ this too will pass’. Humans are a resilient bunch and we will overcome this pandemic just as previous generations did.
Christmas can be the best of times and the worse of times for people. I love seeing the city skyline light up when the ferris wheel returns to Grand Parade and it was great to see ‘Glow - A Christmas Celebration’ back at Bishop Lucey Park - and thank-you to all involved in the pantos at Cork Opera House and the Everyman, who literally demonstrated ‘the show must go on’ despite altered public health guidelines.
For many, Christmas is a time to enjoy family and friends, to over-indulge, to spoil our kids, to chill out for days on end in front of the telly.
For the lonely, the bereaved, those struggling, those who are having difficulties having children, it can underline all that is missing from their lives.
For those under financial pressure, the relentless advertising and pressure to be ‘the perfect family’ can be hellish.
At Christmas time, please reach out to anyone who might be suffering; even if it’s a box of biscuits, dropping in for a cup of tea or even just dropping a card in the letterbox, we all know the importance of human contact and connection.
Voluntary organisations across the city are doing trojan work as ever to reach out to the vulnerable. Every month, the Cork City Community Response Forum meets online. Led by Cork City Council, it sees voluntary groups from across the city work with the HSE, An Garda Siochána to ensure that the vulnerable are getting the necessary supports through all this uncertainty.
Throughout the pandemic, Cork City Council has been working hard to support communities and this year was delighted to win the Chambers Ireland Local Authority of the Year Award for its resilience, agility and innovation since Covid-19 entered our lives.
The weatherproofing of the city’s outdoor dining offering is one of a number of initiatives implemented by Cork City Council since the start of the pandemic. Three more Cork streets have just been unveiled as outdoor dining destinations following the installation of Failte Ireland-funded infrastructure that will further enhance the city’s outdoor dining experience.
Union Quay, Caroline Street and Beasley Street have been architecturally remodelled to support outdoor hospitality while incorporating the unique personality of each street. Parasols, awnings, trees, festoon lighting, windbreaks, heaters and purpose-built planters have been installed.
This year, tens of thousands of visitors to the city availed of the weatherproofed dining facilities at restaurants and bars on Princes Street. Similar works will be completed on Pembroke Street in the coming months.
Pedestrianisation of the city centre, provision of more cycleways and walking routes, supporting the Ardú street art trail and the installation of the parklets have all combined to greatly enhance the experience of the city.
Cork City Council also continues to meet and exceed its national social housing building targets. In the last five years, 704 new build properties were developed and managed for tenancy directly by Cork City Council (571) or developed by Cork City Council but managed by an Approved Housing Body (133).
We all have a newfound appreciation for our parks and green spaces. The first phase of Cork’s newest park, which when fully completed will be six times the size of Fitzgerald’s Park, opened to the public earlier this month. An official opening ceremony will take place next year.
Visitors to the park can look forward to green space for play and relaxation, water features, lighting, seating, new pathways, bridges and upgraded public parking near Shandon boatclub.
This is a fantastic new amenity for the people of the city and for visitors to our city. This park’s design is based upon accessibility for all ages and abilities, encouraging physical activity and supporting ecology, biodiversity, culture and outdoor events. The development of this park also demonstrates how Cork City Council want the nearby Cork City Docklands to be first and foremost a great place to live as well as a great place to work in and invest in.
Over the past 22 months, I have seen the very best of Cork. I’ve seen communities and voluntary organisations mobilise and pull together to support the vulnerable, businesses adapt and change with incredible speed and consumers supporting local like never before.
The Irish people have responded incredibly to public health guidelines and to the vaccination programme. Cork and Ireland may be increasingly global but we remain rooted in our communities and in our collective will to look after each another. For that, we must all be grateful.