Tóibín to be made freeman of Cork

The legendary actor and comedian Niall Tóibín is to be made a freeman of Cork despite an “agreement” last year to put a stay on the award for five years.

Lord Mayor Cllr Mary Shields had to defend her efforts last night to honour “one of the finest actors of our time” after a row flared over the political process used to choose a candidate.

She also rejected accusations from councillors, including members of her own party, that she went on a “solo run”.

“I went through what I was told was the proper process,” she said.

“I contacted the family first and then brought the issue to the party whips.

“It was meant to be kept confidential, but somebody was told. What I am most concerned about now is that embarrassment would be caused to the family.”

Several councillors stressed that Tóibín was an outstanding actor and ambassador for this city, and an excellent choice to be made a freeman of his native city.

But they said there was an “agreement” last year when council voting arrangements were being hammered out under the D’Hondt system for a moratorium on the awarding of the honour.

However, they also pointed out that they failed to agree a system on how the freedom honour would be handled.

Cllr Terry Shannon (FF) was one of three councillors to vote against the proposal.

“I’ve said it before. It is being given out too often, willy nilly,” he said.

Deputy mayor Ken O’Flynn supported the proposal, describing Mr Tóibín as a “national treasure”.

Cllr Des Cahill (FG) said he was surprised that Tóibín had not been honoured before.

Chris O’Leary (SF) abstained on the vote and criticised the estimated €45,000 ceremony cost at a time when he could not secure grants for disabled adaptations for council houses.

Ms Shields said her choice was non-political and she was anxious that given his age, Tóibín, 85, would be honoured by his native city.

Councillors finally voted 23 for, three against (FF’s Terry Shannon and Sean Martin and Ind Mick Finn), with two abstentions (FG’s John Buttimer and SF’s Chris O’Leary) to confer the honour on Tóibín.

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