Lord Mayor: The Echo showcases the true character of Cork city

Lord Mayor Colm Kelleher shares his pride in his city, county, community - and all things connected to Cork - including The Echo - as the paper marks its 130th anniversary this week
Lord Mayor: The Echo showcases the true character of Cork city

Maurice Gubbins, editor of the The Echo and Echolive.ie presenting the Overall Community and Voluntary Award to members of Cork Missing Persons Search and Recovery. The awards took place at Cork City Hall. Also included is Ann Doherty, Chief Executive, Cork City Council and Cllr. Colm Kelleher, Lord Mayor of Cork. Picture: Brian Lougheed

AS a Corkman, my default setting is an unfailing pride in my city, my county, my community, my sports teams and anything at all connected to Cork – Cork people are born that way, hard-wired.

However, during my year as Lord Mayor of Cork, I’ve had the privilege of seeing up close the reasons why Cork people harbour this famously robust pride in their identity, and I’m pleased to say we’re not wrong!

We’re in a phase of great change in Ireland and have been for some years now, and the pandemic has only accelerated the pace.

Attitudes are changing, people’s priorities are changing, the way we live is changing, naturally our city too is changing. It grew in 2019, with the biggest boundary extension in our history bringing 85,000 new residents into the city. My own town of Ballincollig became a part of the new city, and I was proud to have been elected Lord Mayor last June in my old alma mater, Coláiste Choilm.

The growth of the city is backed up by a confidence in Cork at national level. There is a very strong momentum behind us and a lot going for us.

Post-Brexit, Cork is the second largest English-speaking city in the European Union and has been positioned by Government as the fastest growing city in the country in the next 20 years. It is also being primed and supported to develop as a city of sustainable urban growth; providing a counterbalance to Dublin.

Lord Mayor Cllr Colm Kelleher. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Lord Mayor Cllr Colm Kelleher. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

Cork is also a great place to do business. The level of employment in Foreign Direct Investment businesses here has doubled in the last 10 years. On top of that, there is over €1.8billion Exchequer funding in the pipeline for Cork, in transport, housing, culture, the public realm, and flood protection.

Cork City will see enormous change in the coming years, not least in the Docklands which is the largest regeneration project in the country and has received up to €353 million in funding from the URDF. The 146 hectare area will become a ‘town within a city’, providing homes for 20,000 and almost 29,000 jobs over the next 20 years. We recently launched the first phase of Marina Park, which is set to be a new regional eco-park in the heart of the Docklands, covering an area five times the size of Fitzgerald’s Park.

Our city is a city changing. It is also an international and outward looking city. We are a UNESCO City of Learning, a WHO Healthy City. We have formal international relations with six cities, including strong relationships with San Francisco and Shanghai.

The past two years challenged everyone to think differently about how we live, especially those of us in urban settings.

 Despite challenges the pandemic presented us with, Cork City has rolled with the punches and reinvented itself, coming back stronger than ever.

The Reimagining Cork programme accelerated the vision that Cork City Council has for our city, driving the pedestrianisation of 17 streets, fast-tracking the delivery of new and improved cycling and walking infrastructure, and making Cork City an outdoor dining haven.

Our forebears raised this city from literal ashes in 1920, and a century on, the people of Cork embody the same resilience, strength of character, and irrepressible good humour that allows our city’s greatness to endure through good times and bad. There is a confidence in Cork that is reflected in government policy and national investment programmes and you only had to walk over town today to see that old vibrancy coming back. And it’s not just about the sound of tills ringing, it’s about the sense of place and community that Cork City Council is working hard to foster.

Only last month we held our 18th Lord Mayor’s Civic, Community & Voluntary Awards ceremony with our friends The Echo, honouring the work of those people whose hands-on involvement and commitment have greatly enhanced the lives of those in their community. The knock-on effects of their positive contributions radiates out from their community, right across our city, like summer sunshine. Just as the whole city feels its warming glow – our whole city is the better for the work and dedication of these individuals.

The city’s response to the Ukrainian crisis mirrors this too – the speed with which the interagency relief effort was coordinated and stepped up was second to none, and the compassion shown to those in their hour of need has been astounding.

The Echo, as Cork’s community newspaper for the last 130 years, has been a touchstone for local journalism, and has been crucial in the incredible work that goes on behind the scenes in our city to make it a better place in which to live.

Its coverage of local issues over the years has sparked both debate and innovation. It has showcased the true character of Cork City, which ultimately, to my eyes, is a city of communities and togetherness, of good neighbours and helpful friends.

My congratulations to all at The Echo on this milestone, long may you continue this invaluable service to the people of Cork.

Together, we have pressed the ‘re-set’ button for Cork City. We now face the twin challenges of the aftermath of a global pandemic and the ever-increasing threat of climate change. Cork is a compact city and the plans are to keep it that way, a liveable and sustainable city. We need to get the ‘inside’ bits right at the heart of the City, to keep life in the City. Cork needs to remain compact, be light on its feet, be a big personality, and one of the best, if it is to thrive.

The ‘Reimagining the City’ strategy is just the opening salvo in this journey. We have only just begun.

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