The new Lord Mayor of Cork has pledged to harness the drive to adapt, which emerged during the pandemic, to fight for and build a better city.
Fianna Fáil councillor Colm Kelleher, 35, was speaking after his election in a school sports hall tonight during an historic city council AGM — its first off City Hall campus.
Last year’s AGM was held in City Hall’s Millennium Hall to adhere to public health guidelines.
But because it is being used as a mass vaccination centre, this year’s meeting was held in the sports hall of Coláiste Choilm in Ballincollig.
Mr Kelleher, who is from Ballincollig, was first elected to the city council in 2019. He runs a tyre business with his siblings in the town, and is a past-pupil of Coláiste Choilm.
He was proposed by party colleague, Mary Rose Desmond, who was elected deputy Lord Mayor, and seconded by Fine Gael councillor Derry Canty.
Independent councillor Paudie Dineen was nominated by Cllr Thomas Maloney, but Mr Kelleher won the vote 21-7, with two abstentions, under the pact between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Greens, with the support of some independents.
Mr Kelleher said he believes he is the city’s youngest Lord Mayor since Taoiseach Micheál Martin in 1992.
He paid tribute to outgoing mayor, Fine Gael councillor Joe Kavanagh, for his work during a year curtailed by Covid-19.
He said the past year has taught us what is possible when the will and the urgency exist, and he pledged to harness the urgency to adapt, which became so evident during the pandemic, to find solutions to help build a better city.
“In the year ahead, let us inject the kind of urgency and determination we showed during the pandemic into our work, such as the speed the council exhibited rolling out cycle lanes and pedestrianisation and improving our outdoor facilities,” he said.
Attendance at the AGM was restricted to adhere to public health guidelines.
Mr Kelleher’s parents, Stephanie and James, and his children, Adam, 13, and Emile Rose, 7, watched from the hall, while his brothers, Pádraig, Seamus, Michael, and Don, watched a live stream of the event from elsewhere on the school grounds.
Mr Kelleher paid a personal tribute to two women who, he said, played a huge role in his life — his grandmother on his father’s side, Hansie Kelleher, a businesswoman from Ballymakeera, who ran a general store with her husband Paddy Kelleher; and his mother’s mother, Eileen Bolster McAuliffe (Eily), a businesswoman from Mallow.
“Hansie’s business acumen was well known and, in fact, it was locally joked that you could call to Hansie for the paper and come out with a washing machine on your back. Some say the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree in relation to my own sales skills,” he said.
He described Eily, who grew up behind a shop counter in Ballydaheen, who came to Cork City to train as a bookkeeper in Skerries in the 1950s, and who later opened a furniture store in Perry St, as his second mother.
"It is a personal sorrow for me that she was not around to see my success in business and furthermore that she is not here tonight,” he said.
“Being a business owner in Perry St, Eily was more often than not in conflict with the then corporation and she used to say ‘Colm, if you ever make it to City Hall go in there and sort them out’.
“Well Eily, I’ll try my best.”