New Lord Mayor of Cork: ‘Fair compensation’ for county council in city boundary extension

The new Lord Mayor of Cork says he is confident that a “fair compensation package” for the county council can be worked out to secure a city boundary extension.

Outgoing mayor Des Cahill hands over the chain of office to new Lord Mayor of Cork Tony Fitzgerald at City Hall. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The new Lord Mayor of Cork says he is confident that a "fair compensation package" for the county council can be worked out to secure a city boundary extension.

As Northside Fianna Fáil Cllr Tony Fitzgerald vowed last night to build bridges between communities, he reached out to the county council against the backdrop of divisions over the proposed city boundary extension, unveiled last week.

"Good democracy distributes wealth fairly," he said.

"I am a democrat, and in my role as Lord Mayor I hope to lead this council through the necessary implementation steps for the McKinnon Report, including a fair compensation package for our neighbours.

"The region, and the country, cannot waste the unique opportunity that implementation of the Mackinnon report represents."

Nominated by FF Cllr John Sheehan, and seconded by FG Cllr John Buttimer, Mr Fitzgerald was elected 25 votes to four during last night's AGM of Cork City Council, defeating the only other nominee, Worker's Party Cllr Ted Tynan.

Cllr Fitzgerald's party colleague, southside Cllr Fergal Dennehy, was elected deputy Lord Mayor.

Mr Fitzgerald praised outgoing mayor, FG Cllr Des Cahill, for his commitment to the office over the last 12 months.

Mr Fitzgerald, 57, who has lived in Knocknaheeny for over 40-years, is a dedicated community worker who was first elected to the city council in 2004 in the then five-seat north west ward.

He was reelected in 2009 in the reduced four-seater ward and again in 2014, coming second in the poll.

A former hospital porter, who wheeled the first patient into the newly opened Cork Regional Hospital in Wilton in 1978, he has been employed for several years by the HSE as a community support worker on the city's northside.

He is involved in a range of youth, justice, and health projects which work with a diverse group including teenagers and active retired groups.

In a wide-ranging speech, he said he would like to build bridges between people.

"Not the bridge of ‘bricks and mortar, or steel components’ connecting one bank of the river to the other, but a ‘citizen’s bridge’ connecting different ‘peoples’ in our city, one to the other, and to wider Cork," he said.

"My vision is to help build an even more inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable city of the future - a city that continues to make connections locally nationally and internationally."

He pointed to a raft of new office development in the city centre, and the potential presented by the launch next month of direct transatlantic flights from Cork to the US east coast.

He stressed the importance of a Cork to Limerick motorway but said one of his priorities would be to push for a Northern Ring Road which he said would transform the city and create new development opportunities across the northside.

He stressed the importance of investing in children, in families, in social housing provision and regeneration of ageing council homes.

"A good and quality home is not a gift from government; it is a citizen entitlement," he said.

"Regeneration is more than investment in bricks and mortar. To be meaningful, effective and sustainable regeneration has to be about people, families and communities.

"That is why all the investment in bricks and mortar must be matched by investment in the infrastructure of community supports and learning."

He said he also hopes to build on Cork's Healthy Cities and Unesco Learning City status.

Mr Fitzgerald was joined last night by his wife, Georgina, their children, Michelle, 29, and Deborah, 27, his parents, ToTomm, 86, and Maura, 84, his brothers, Thomas and John, sisters Christine and Ann, and their extended families, as well as Georgina's family, the Healys.

Among the guests were Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin, Billy Kelleher TD, Senators Colm Burke, Mark Daly and Denis O'Donovan, and former Lords Mayor John Dennehy, Donal Counihan, Danny Wallace and his son, Damian Wallace.

Mr Fitzgerald returned to his parents' home on Harbour View Road after the ceremony for a brief celebration with neighbours before joining friends and supporters for a larger celebration in the Common's Inn later.

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