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Cork Profile: Lord Mayor Cllr Tony Fitzgerald

Thursday, 31st August, 2017 9:46am

When you were small, what did you want to be as a grown-up?
I enjoyed going to work with my dad when I was younger. He was a driver but it wasn’t until later in life that I decided that I’d go into community works and politics.

Tell us about your career progression to your role today?
 I was first elected councillor in the North West ward in 2004 when it was a five seat ward. It changed to a four seat in 2009 and that was a big challenge, but I took the third seat and then in 2014 I was re-elected again, taking the second seat. In June of this year, I was honoured to be elected Lord Mayor.

What is the most enjoyable aspect of what you do?
Helping people. I love being involved in big projects such as the Knocknaheeny Regeneration Project.  

What motivates you? 
As before, it’s helping people with issues like housing. It’s brilliant to think that as a public representative you can help give people a good quality home and a healthier living environment for themselves and their children.

What advice would you give your 15 year old self?
Focus on your life-wide experience. As Cork’s Lifelong Learning Festival has shown us, education is not just about text books but happens right through your life. Be aware of your skills and talents through your life and develop them.

If you weren’t in the job you have, what would you be doing? 
At the moment, I am the Lord Mayor of Cork but if I wasn’t doing this I’d be in my job in the HSE community work department, based at the Knocknaheeny Youth Project. I manage the centre there and oversee a number of services with a fantastic team; community services such as the pre-school, crèche, senior citizens centre and NICHE.

What is your greatest life or career achievement to-date?
Definitely being elected Lord Mayor last June.

Who has had the biggest influence on you in your life? 
My parents. They always encouraged me to do what I wanted do – even though times were hard, growing up. Dad worked hard; Mum was at home. 

What is the life dream now? 
To serve the people of Cork well during this my year as Lord Mayor. 

How do you switch off? 
I love spending Saturday in the garden. I like trimming the hedges, cutting the grass and planting flowers. 

What is your favourite Cork memory?
Cork winning the football and hurling All Ireland Finals will always stick out for me but 1990, when they won the double, was a great year.

What is your favourite place in Cork? 
Fitzgerald’s Park. When I was growing up we’d go there from school at the North Mon and lots of my schoolmates used to think that my father owned it. I used to go along with it.

Do you have a favourite quote or motto? 
Do the best you can with the skills and resources you have. 

When are you at your happiest? 
When I am with my family and all are happy and healthy.

Any regrets?
Maybe that I should have pursued my career as a youth and community work earlier. After my Leaving Cert, I worked at St Finbarr’s Hospital and as a porter at the Cork Regional Hospital when it first opened.
I was always involved voluntarily in community work with the church and the youth centre but I didn’t stop and think that I could use these youth work skills as a day job until I hit my 30s.
Then I realised, ‘hang on a minute, the health board is both hospitals and community work and I can apply for a transfer’. 
Community work led to me to politics as I began to work with politicians like Danny Wallace.

What is your hidden talent?
 I sing. I like bringing people together around music. I sing things like ‘Country Roads’. 

What might we be surprised to know about you?
I am a coeliac and follow a gluten-free diet. It took years for it to be diagnosed and because I didn’t have the diagnosis I had a lot of illness before. 
The diagnosis has allowed my health to return to some kind of normality.

Anything else you’d like to share with us? 
Share this year as Lord Mayor with me and if there’s any group that I can support, please make contact with me at City Hall.

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