The Chief Medical Officer received the honour of behalf of all health care workers
CHIEF Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan has officially accepted the Freedom of the City of Dublin.
Dr Holohan met with Lord Mayor Hazel Chu at the Mansion House in Dublin on Wednesday to sign the Roll of Honorary Freedom and accept the Freedom of the City.
The CMO received the honour on behalf of all health care workers for their efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dublin City Councillors voted in July last year to propose Dr Holohan for the honour.
Earlier today Dr Holohan faced a grilling from Leinster House politicians at the Oireachtas Transport Committee over a number of issues.
The CMO repeated his reservations about the level of reliability and use of antigen tests in some settings, but also paved the way for fully vaccinated people to travel abroad without PCR tests from mid-July.
Green Party councillor Ms Chu originally proposed Dr Holohan be awarded the freedom of the city last July on behalf of the nation's health care workers to acknowledge his work, and that of his team, during the Covid 19 pandemic.
The motion received cross-party support and was ratified by the local authority. However, the ongoing pandemic emergency and the illness and subsequent death of Dr Holohan’s wife delayed the acceptance ceremony.
An award, a piece of specially commissioned sculpture by Stephanie Hess, was made on behalf of councillors by Ms Chu.
In an email to councillors on Wednesday she said Dr Holohan thanked the members of Dublin City Council for the award and for their recognition of the sterling work done this year by the public health team.
“As discussed at the September meeting, this ceremony was always planned as a small gathering with just his family, the CE [chief executive], and my office present. A Freedom of the City would usually be a public occasion, but unfortunately current restrictions prevented that,” she wrote.
The Freedom of the City of Dublin was introduced in 1876 and since then eighty-two people have been honoured under the process.
The list of honourees include politicians, public servants, humanitarians and entertainers who have made a positive contribution to Dublin or Ireland in general.
Recipients of the award are referred to as ‘Freeman’ or ‘Freewoman’ of Dublin and are also honorary citizens of the city.
One of the most recent recipients was Jim Gavin, the Dublin GAA manager who steered the team to win five All-Ireland’s in a row. He was conferred on January 18, 2020.
Former US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle were also decided to receive the city’s highest honour, however, they have not yet attended a ceremony to accept it.
Mostly just seen as a huge honour, the award has some archaic benefits, most of which don’t make sense in the modern world.
According to Dublin City Council “No financial or other benefits are attached to the Freedom of the City.
“However, it does carry significant prestige, as well as some interesting symbolic privileges and duties.”
The privileges of a freeman or freewoman include the right to bring goods into Dublin through the city gates, without paying customs duties.
They are also given the right to vote in municipal and parliamentary elections and the right to pasture sheep on common ground within the city boundaries, this includes College Green and St.Stephen’s Green.
This is why in 2000 U2 members Bono and the Edge famously brought lambs to graze on St Stephens green after being given the coveted award.
Along with these benefits, freemen and freewomen have several duties that they have to fulfil.
These include each Freeman/Freewoman having to be ready to defend the city from attack and that they can be called on to join a city militia at short notice.
Other recipients of the coveted honour include Brian O’Driscoll, Peter McVerry, Gay Byrne, Bill Clinton, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II, Éamon de Valera, John F Kennedy, George Bernard Shaw, Douglas Hyde and Hugh Lane.