The new Lord Mayor of Cork has pledged to help reignite the city's economy as the country emerges from lockdown.
Fine Gael Cllr Joe Kavanagh was speaking last night after his election during a unique AGM of Cork City Council which took place in line with strict physical distancing guidelines.
Nominated by FG Cllr Des Cahill and seconded by FF Cllr Tony Fitzgerald, Mr Kavanagh was elected 20 votes to eight, thanks to the support of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, the Green Party and some independents, over the only other nominee, Ind Cllr Thomas Maloney, who was nominated by Ind Cllr Paudie Dineen and seconded by SF Cllr Henry Cremin.
Mr Kavanagh said: “The flames of economic growth were burning brightly at the beginning of the year but unfortunately the horrendous effects of the coronavirus pandemic quenched these flames.
“But working together, we can fan the flames and reignite the glowing embers of our local economy by supporting local businesses to get back on their feet and by working with key stakeholders to attract new business, both small to medium sized businesses as well as FDI."
Mr Kavanagh, who has represented the north east ward since 2011, also pledged to oversee a reimagined Decade of Centenaries programme and to foster environmental awareness in communities on issues including littering, fly-tipping and dog fouling.
The AGM is normally held in the historic council chamber, its public galleries packed. But last night's meeting was held in City Hall’s concert hall.
Everyone who attended had to sign a Covid-19 compliance form and sanitise their hands before entering the hall. There was no formal procession featuring the historic silver maces and councillors sat two metres apart.
Mr Kavanagh, who was joined by his wife, Stephanie, was allowed just five guests - his sons, Glenn, 35, Philip, 25, his parents, Brendan and Marie, and his sister, Maeve - who sat physically distanced on the balcony.
The outgoing mayor normally places the historic chain of office on the incoming mayor’s shoulders.
But following the vote, outgoing mayor, Cllr John Sheehan, removed the chain and placed it on a table where it was sanitised before Mr Kavanagh placed it on his own shoulders.
Tributes were paid to Mr Sheehan, a GP, for his leadership in recent months.
He was centrally involved in the decision to cancel the city’s St Patrick’s Day parade before a national decision was made, he led calls for a full lockdown before a national decision, and he returned to work on the Covid-19 frontline in recent months.
"You became the city's GP and you helped lead us through the pandemic and for this we will be truly grateful," FF Cllr Tony Fitzgerald said.
Mr Sheehan, who is on duty with SouthDoc this weekend, paid tribute to the gardai, the naval service, and the city's management team for their devotion to public service during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We couldn’t possibly have wished for a more competent Lord Mayor to navigate our city through this pandemic and the difficulties it presented, in particular we are thankful for your medical background and significant leadership skills."
Born in Cobh, Co Cork and educated at St Colman’s College, Fermoy, Mr Kavanagh has a degree in marketing from CIT. He worked as a tennis coach for 20 years before his coaching career was cut short by injury. He now works in sales.