We’re on an amazing journey and hopefully, we’ll do the city proud

The role of Lady Mayoress of Cork can be a major commitment, with up to ten events to attend some days — add to that family and work commitments — but Georgina Fitzgerald is relishing the role. She talks to COLETTE SHERIDAN about meeting the love of her life, aged just 14, raising two daughters and working in the city’s hospitals
We’re on an amazing journey and hopefully, we’ll do the city proud
The Lady Mayoress of Cork, Georgina Fitzgerald at her home in Hollyhill, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

BEING constantly in the public eye, photographed at events with the great and good of Cork, is not something that the Lady Mayoress, Georgina Fitzgerald, ever sought out. But this clerical officer at the outpatients’ department at the Mercy Hospital and mother of two grown-up daughters, is getting used to her public role and is encouraged by the positive response she and her Fianna Fáil husband, Cllr Tony Fitzgerald, are receiving as they meet and greet dignitaries and celebrities as well as the ordinary people of the city.

“What we’re both getting is that Tony is ‘one of our own’ and he has worked hard and deserves this,” says Georgina. “I’ve always stood by him in whatever he has done. 

"For me, it’s a big challenge. I used to just stay behind. But I’m getting into it. I will talk to anybody. I have no problem with that.” 

Georgina, who lives with her family in a bright cosy bungalow on Harbour View Road in Hollyhill, said the previous Lady Mayoress, Ankie Janssen, advised her to just be herself. 

“That’s good advice because there’s no point in trying to be something that you’re not.” 

Shopping for clothes has never been so important for Georgina who likes to make sure she’s not turning up at events in outfits that she has been recently seen in. 

“I like retail therapy – any excuse to buy a dress! If there’s a bargain, I’ll pick it up.” 

Not given to buying designer fashion, Georgina keeps it simple. 

“I’m very down to earth. I go to Oasis and Warehouse and I’m wearing Swamp today,” she says. Her dress and jacket is mostly cream with a pastel coloured pattern. Georgina continues to go to her regular hairdresser in Dublin Hill.

Lord Mayor of Cork, Tony Fitzgerald with Lady Mayoress Georgina Fitzgerald (left), pictured at the Bonfire night "Family Fun Event" in Kilmore Rd, Cork.Picture: Michael O'Sullivan/OSM Photography
Lord Mayor of Cork, Tony Fitzgerald with Lady Mayoress Georgina Fitzgerald (left), pictured at the Bonfire night "Family Fun Event" in Kilmore Rd, Cork.Picture: Michael O'Sullivan/OSM Photography

The most functions that she and her husband had to attend in one day were ten different events. 

“It’s enjoyable but it can also be tiring. Where ever you go, there’s a camera on you. I’m trying to look my best all the time. I might have to put on more lipstick in the car between functions. 

"The morning after Tony was elected, we started off at a Ford vintage cars event and went from there to the Show Grounds for the Cork Summer Show. We went to a Down Syndrome event and a parish celebration. We were at the Metropole Hotel anniversary event and we visited two bonfires. It’s a tradition. There’s one on Popham’s Hill and one on Kilmore Road that are run by the council. We went on to a concert in City Hall and after that, I came home to take off my clothes and drop into a ball gown for a CUMH anniversary event at the Maryborough Hotel.” 

The celebrity that Georgina most enjoyed meeting so far was Ryan Tubridy who was in Cork for Elton John playing at the Marquee.

“We asked him if he’d like a visit to City Hall. He came in, no bother. He’s a lovely guy. I’m looking forward to meeting Brendan Grace when he comes to the city to perform at the Cork International Hotel.” 

Because of the demands on her time, Georgina has cut back her hours at work, working for just two days a week for the duration of her husband’s term as Lord Mayor. She has been working outside the home for nearly twenty-four years.

“I started working in the North Infirmary in 1974 until it closed in 1987. It was very sad to see the lights in the hospital floors go out. Then, I didn’t work for six years because I had the two girls. After that, I joined the Mercy Hospital.” 

Georgina enjoyed her time at home with daughters, Michelle (now 30) and Deborah (27.)

 “I was at home when they started pre-school. We had great parents. Both my parents have died since but between them and Tony’s parents, we never had to worry about getting babysitters. The girls were very well looked after.” 

Georgina says that it’s hard for parents today, both of whom usually have to work.

“Going to work is not something some women choose.” 

The Lord Mayor’s job, before he took up office, is as a community support worker based in the youth centre in Hollyhill. He has been involved there since 1996. Initially, Tony combined it with his day job as a hospital porter but the community work became his full time job after years of working around the clock, fulfilling both roles.

“Sometimes, I wouldn’t see him until midnight,” recalls Georgina.

The couple were teenage sweethearts, living close to each other in Knocknaheeny. Georgina was fourteen when she started going out with Tony, who is two years older than her. They have been married for thirty-two years.

Although, like her husband, Georgina comes from a strong Fianna Fáil background, she has no political ambitions for herself. But the couple’s daughters are both members of the Fianna Fáil Wolfetone Cumann. Deborah, a big fan of Kate Middleton, works in marketing at Teamwork in Blackpool.

“I would be very interested in Fianna Fáil, watching the news to see what Micheál Martin is saying,” says Deborah who is engaged to an army man.

“When we were growing up, we were made watch the 6pm news and encouraged to read newspapers. Joining Fianna Fáil was never pushed on us.” Would she consider running for office?

“I’m not sure. Never say never. You don’t know what opportunities will come. At the moment, we’ve just bought a house and I’ve changed job so that’s my focus for the next couple of years. I have an interest in local issues and local politics. I’d like to keep my options open. Cork has a lot of needs, particularly housing needs.” On a more frivolous note, Deborah admits to having an obsession with Kate Middleton and has studied the lace detail on her wedding dress.

Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Tony Fitzgerald with his wife the Lady Mayoress Georgina Fitzgerald and daughters Michelle and Deborah at City HallPicture: Eddie O'Hare
Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Tony Fitzgerald with his wife the Lady Mayoress Georgina Fitzgerald and daughters Michelle and Deborah at City HallPicture: Eddie O'Hare

Michelle is a teacher of geography and CSPE at St Vincent’s Secondary School which has just had its Deis status reinstated.

“I teach music and religion too. I’ve been newly appointed as the school’s home liaison co-ordinator.” Michelle has a master’s degree in coastal management. She moonlights as a singer at weddings and funerals.

“I’ve always sung and my dad loves to sing. His song is ‘Country Roads’ and he loves ‘The Boys of Fairhill.’” Would she consider going into politics as a career?

“I’d never rule it out,” she says, sounding like a politician wishing to keep things vague. 

As far as first ladies are concerned, all three women were big fans of Michelle Obama. Asked what she thinks of Melania Trump, Georgina says: “No comment.” 

Both Deborah and Michelle think Mrs Trump has a tough role.

Georgina has had a tough time with a problem with her oesophagus. She has undergone two operations and can only eat small quantities of food. But she’s not complaining.

The family is very proud of Tony’s parents, 84-year old Maura and 86-year old Dominic.

“My nana is chairperson of the senior citizens association in Knocknaheeny. She’s tech savvy,” says Michelle.

When Georgina is asked whether her husband would consider running in a general election, she replies: “I think he’ll have to see how being Lord Mayor goes. It’s a great honour. The respect you get from people is amazing. We’re on an amazing journey and hopefully, we’ll do the city proud.”

Michelle is a teacher of geography and CSPE at St Vincent’s Secondary School which has just had its Deis status reinstated.

“I teach music and religion too. I’ve been newly appointed as the school’s home liaison co-ordinator.” She has a master’s degree in coastal management, and moonlights as a singer at weddings and funerals.

“I’ve always sung and my dad loves to sing.

Lady Mayoress Georgina Fitzgerlad, dancing with husband, Lord Mayor Cllr Tony Fitzgerald, with Cllr Declan Hurley, Mayor of County Cork on the Bodhran and members of Douglas Comhaltas, at the Launch of the 2017 Fleadh Cheoil na Mumhan Corcaigh, recently. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Lady Mayoress Georgina Fitzgerlad, dancing with husband, Lord Mayor Cllr Tony Fitzgerald, with Cllr Declan Hurley, Mayor of County Cork on the Bodhran and members of Douglas Comhaltas, at the Launch of the 2017 Fleadh Cheoil na Mumhan Corcaigh, recently. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

His song is Country Roads and he loves The Boys of Fairhill.” Would Michelle consider going into politics as a career?

“I’d never rule it out,” she says, sounding like a politician!

As far as first ladies are concerned, all three women were big fans of Michelle Obama.

Asked what she thinks of Melania Trump, Georgina says: “No comment.” Both Deborah and Michelle think Mrs Trump has a tough role.

Georgina has had a tough time with a problem with her oesophagus. She has undergone two operations and can only eat small quantities of food. But she’s not complaining.

The family is very proud of Tony’s parents, 84-year old Maura and 86-year old Dominic.

“My nana is chairperson of the senior citizens’ association in Knocknaheeny. She’s tech savvy,” says Michelle.

When Georgina is asked whether her husband would consider running in a general election, she replies: “I think he’ll have to see how being Lord Mayor goes. It’s a great honour.

“The respect you get from people is amazing. We’re on an amazing journey and hopefully, we’ll do the city proud.”

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