Our boys in the USA
THE mayor of Co Cork, Cllr Noel O'Connor, has insisted that the massive media coverage he received during his St Patrick's trip to the US will reap huge dividends for Cork's tourism industry and its wider economy.
The Mallow councillor led an Economic and Tourism Development delegation to Cook County in Illinois, which has been twinned with Cork County since 1989, to participate in their St Patrick's Day celebrations.
With 5.2m residents in Cook County, the sheer scale of his potential audience was not lost on Cllr O'Connor, who took part in three television and one radio interview during his five-day visit.
Speaking to The Corkman following his return, Cllr O'Connor said those who regarded trips such as these as being a waste of time and taxpayers' money were missing the point.
"The exposure I received as mayor of Cork County through the media was immense. One morning TV show I was a guest on has an audience of more than four million viewers alone," said Cllr O'Connor.
"During that particular interview I was able to mention Cork on at least a dozen occasions. Imagine how much a four-minute advertisement reaching so many people would normally cost on a commercial TV station. Cork received that exposure for free," said the mayor.
As well as participating in the Cook County St Patrick's Day parade, Cllr O'Connor and the delegation attended numerous meetings. "To suggest it may have been something of a holiday would be a bit disingenuous. The delegation had a full programme, which entailed having to get up at 5.30am for two of the morning TV shows," he said.
"Each day was packed with meetings, which went on until after 11pm each night. We flew to the States on regular seats and used public transport whenever possible. In terms of cost, this delegation represented huge value for money in terms of exposure for Cork, goodwill and potential tourism and business spinoffs," said Cllr O'Connor.
What surprised him, however, was the recognition of Cork that already existed in Cook County.
"The people there are hugely proud of their Irish and Cork links. In fact, as I walked around the area with mayoral chain on I was approached by numerous people who said they had seen me on the television," said Cllr O'Connor.
"Delegations such as the one I took part in serve to underscore that sense of goodwill towards Cork and help to foster new business and community links, and build new bridges between both communities," he added.
Cllr O'Connor also took part in the New York parade at the invitation of the city's Corkman Association. "The association does great work to help young Cork people in New York and ensure that existing bonds between the 'Big Apple' and the 'Rebel County' are maintained and enhanced," said Cllr O'Connor.
"I am convinced that trips like these to the US are vitally important and it is important that these links are maintained into the future," he added.