11 September 2020
By Elaine Murphy
An Taoiseach Mícheál Martin, the first former Lord Mayor of Cork to hold the office of Taoiseach, visited Cork City today to officially open a new 1920 Centenary exhibition and to pay a courtesy call to the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Joe Kavanagh at City Hall.
The visit comes as a result of a letter of invitation sent to the Taoiseach by the Lord Mayor in June.
The Taoiseach visited Cork Public Museum to officially open the exhibition “Suffering the Most – The Life and Times of Tomás Mac Curtain and Terence MacSwiney”, which tells the story of the Cork City’s first two Republican Lord Mayors, set against the backdrop of the local and national events of the War of Independence. Here, he also met with Fionnuala Mac Curtain and Cathal Brugha MacSwiney, descendants of the exhibition’s subjects, the two martyred Lord Mayors.
Separately at the Museum, he enjoyed a private viewing of the Jack Lynch Collection and met with former senator and Cork City Councillor Máirín Quill. Ms. Quill and her family gifted the Seamus Murphy-sculpted bust of Éamon de Valera, which stands outside Cork Public Museum, to the people of Cork in 2016, to mark that centenary year.
To mark the occasion, Dan Breen, Museum Curator, presented the Taoiseach with a framed photograph of Éamon de Valera’s secret visit to the Museum in 1946, where de Valera viewed exhibition on 1916 with then Museum curator, Professor Michael J. O’Kelly.
The Taoiseach then paid a courtesy visit to the Lord Mayor at City Hall, and was presented with a copy of “Witness to Murder” a joint publication from the Irish Examiner and Cork City Council on the inquest into the murder of Tomás Mac Curtain, before proceeding to view the “Cork 1920 – The Burning of a City” exhibit in St. Peter’s on North Main Street.
The Taoiseach Mícheál Martin said: “It is my privilege, as a former holder of the Office of Lord Mayor, to be in Cork today to officially launch, as part of the 1920 commemorative programme, the exhibition ‘Suffering the Most – the Life and Times of Tomás Mac Curtain and Terence MacSwiney’.
“I am pleased to again have the opportunity to meet with the family of the city’s two patriot Lord Mayors. Despite the challenges posed by Covid-19, Cork City Council has an ambitious and creative programme planned to mark the events of 100 years ago when, just as now, the city and country was sorely tested, but demonstrated remarkable courage, solidarity and dignity.”
Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr. Joe Kavanagh said: “It’s an honour to have the Taoiseach formally restart Cork’s 1920 commemorations that were put on hold by Covid-19. The remainder of this year presents a unique opportunity for the people of Cork City and beyond to respectfully remember the landmark, but often very difficult events that took place in Cork in 1920; events which had such a lasting impact on our country. We are experiencing difficult times now but as a city and county, we have always proven our resilience.”
Mícheál Martin is the first former Lord Mayor of Cork to hold the office of Taoiseach. He served as Lord Mayor of Cork from 1992 to 1993.
The exhibition “Suffering the Most – The Life and Times of Tomás Mac Curtain and Terence MacSwiney” tells the story of Cork’s first two Republican Lord Mayors, focusing on aspects of their lives, achievements and deaths, set against the back drop of a country at war and a city in turmoil. The exhibition contains personal possessions, original images and documents that bring the period to life and highlight the impact and legacy of 1920 on Cork and its citizens.
The exhibition forms part of Cork City Council’s Decade of Centenaries programme, commemorating the deaths of the city’s two martyred Lord Mayors, Tomás Mac Curtain and Terence Mac Swiney and the Burning of Cork City in December 1920. The exhibition will run into early 2021.
The Jack Lynch Collection was bequeathed to the museum by his wife Máirín Lynch in her will following her death in 2004. This is a large collection made up of personal possessions, gifts, mementos, awards and other objects he received during his life as a public figure, on both the sporting and political fields. There is also an impressive photographic archive of images showing him, as Taoiseach, meeting many foreign leaders and celebrities including Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Charles de Gaulle, Muhammad Ali and many others. Máirín Lynch also donated her dress collection to the museum, which contains beautiful pieces designed by well-known designers of the 1960s/1970s such as Sybil Connolly and Ib Jorgensen. The collection is not currently on public display.
“Cork 1920 – The Burning of a City” is also a part of Cork City Council’s Decade of Centenaries programme and focuses on the events of December 11th and 12th 1920, when Cork City was burned by Crown Forces. The Burning of Cork inflicting huge physical and economic damage to the heart of Cork City, with over 40 business premises and 300 homes destroyed. The exhibition also features the stunning portrait of the grieving Muriel MacSwiney, widow of Lord Mayor of Cork Terence MacSwiney, by local artist Jeanette Collins.