CORK’S newly elected Mayor, independent councillor Danny Collins, overcame a temporary muting of his microphone for online participants at Friday’s County Council AGM, to send a strong signal to Government that he would be pressing for more funding for the local authority, which is three times the size of most other counties in the country.
Cllr Collins, who hails from Goleen but is based in Bantry, is a brother of TD Michael Collins and he wamays elected unopposed to succeed Fianna Fáil’s Gillian Coughlan who handed over the chain of office following the election are the County Hall at lunchtime on Friday. North Cork Fianna Fail councillor Deirdre O’Brien was elected as Deputy Mayor. Fianna Fáil and the Independent councillors of the authority have made an arrangement to share the mayoral positions during this term.
Cllr Collins was quick to set out his stall in a punchy opening address and he came to the point quickly: As far as the new mayor is concerned, Cork is not getting its fair share of funding from central government and he referred to the All Ireland Research Observatory report which was published last year and which pointed to the discrepancy in public funding for Cork, which has three regions, each of which is the size of another county, but only receives funding as if it were one region.
"This report showed South Cork with a population of 151,000 is on par with the entire population of our neighbours, County Kerry, and then you have West Cork with a population of 89.974 and North Cork 90,498 and they are similar to Kilkenny and Westmeath in geographic size
“West Cork would the eight largest in Ireland, North Cork would be the tenth largest and South Cork would be thirteenth.”.
Mayor Collins said he wanted to ‘blow the dust’ off the report which showed Cork wasn’t getting its fair share of funding through Clár, the Rural Regeneration, Road Maintenance, the Local Improvement Scheme and Coastal Funding.”
“This is a massive issue as we have over 230 piers and inlets dotted around our county and a lot of these need emergency funding to do emergency works on.”
In his opening speech, Mayor Collins also referred to the centenary of the Civil War which he described as ‘doing untold harm to our country’ and ‘sadly divided many families’ and took the lives of many people.
"During the next 10 or 11 months a number of communities will be remembering civil war events in their own areas and I know that reconciliation will be the theme of many of these events,” he said.
"From August 14-22, the Michael Collins Centenary commemoration festival will be held in Clonakilty and, of course, on August 21, the centenary remembrance day will be held in Béal na Blath, remembering the death of this great man this will be a very poignant time for me and for all . Cork County Council are delighted to be part of these events again remembering all these great people.”
Also in his speech, the Mayor recalled his roots, growing up in west Cork. “I was raised in the Mizen Peninsula in a place called Lowertown Schull, my parents Patrica and Seamus were hard grafters we had a small dairy farm and my father worked 48 years for Drinagh Co Op, not missing one day
"My mother Patricia was a house wife rearing five of us in family, she was also involved in a lot of different voluntary organisations and gave a lot of her time to these groups.
"She passed away in 1993 aged 54when I was 16 and this left a big gap in my life as I was the only one at home with my father but we soldiered on connected and bonded well .
“My father died suddenly in 2006 but I believe now they are and always will be looking down on me and all my family guiding us through life.”
Mayor Collins said he wanted to visit as many towns and villages as possible during his year of office. .”I want to meet with different voluntary organisations whether they are tidy town and village groups , festival committees ,tourism groups , sporting organisations or agriculture show committees.
"I know some of of these organisations have struggled to restablish themselves since Covid but I do see most of them have come back in strength doing great voluntary work for their communities and I want to recognise this work and I want to meet these groups and get the word out to them and let them know Cork County Council has been and will be there to support or advise their future endeavours.”
He also pledged to visit as many as possible general and community hospitals and our nursing homes to recognise the important role played by health workers..
"I want to recognise the important role our healthcare people play and have played especially during the pandemic and this is not forgetting the people in emergency services , shops education and other businesses that had to stay open during the two years of Covid.”
Cllr Colllins described his election as a ‘very emotional and proud day’ and took the opportunity to congratulate outgoing First Citizen, Cllr Gillian Coughlan, and Cllr Cathal Rassmussen, her deputy, on a ‘splendid year’.
Even though Cork is the county with the largest area in the country, Cllr Collins will not be taking a Mayoral car for his year in office though he will be supported by a driver ‘for health and safety purposes’. He thanked his partner, Noreen, and his family and friends for their support – a large west Cork contingent were in County Hall for the election.
Earlier in the meeting, the outgoing Mayor, Cllr Coughlan, had made a speech which was at times emotional to express her gratitude to her fellow councillors for their support and, in particular, to Council offiicals who had been of great assistance during her year. What followed was a chorus of praise from all attending councillors - and those who were connected online also – in which Cllr Coughlan was commended for her stewardship during the past year.