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2020 - 2029

Honorary Citation by Professor Des MacHale for Jim Corr

6 Mar 2024
UCC president, Professor John O'Halloran (left) enjoys a light moment with Honorary Conferring recipient, Jim Corr while signing the UCC guest book

A Uachtarán, a chéimithe, cuarteoiri, a dhaoine uaisle agus a cháirde go leir, is mór an onóir domsa é, agus tá an-athas orm, bheith tofa chun cúpla focail a rá anseo innu faoi saol agus eachtraií Jim Corr ar an ócáid athasach seo. Tá an céim a bronnfar air innu, Doctuir Ealaine, fíor-tuilte aige as ucht saol fada neamh-leithleasach i seribhís do muintir Corchaí, muintir na hÉireann agus fiú amháin, muintir an domhan ar fad.

President, graduates, visitors, friends, and colleagues, it is a very great honour for me, and I am thoroughly delighted to have been chosen here today to say a few words about the life and accomplishments of Jim Corr. The degree to be conferred on him, a Doctorate in Arts, Honoris Causa, is very well deserved, because of a lifetime of unselfish service to the people of Cork, the Irish people and even the world at large. 

Jim Corr was born in Cork City in 1934 and recently celebrated his 90th birthday, a wonderful milestone. He is a graduate of University College Cork, achieving a first-class honours MA in Geography in 1967 and later a Higher Diploma in Education. He taught in Nigeria for six years with his beloved wife Lilian. Sadly, we lost Lilian in 2014; I had the pleasure of meeting her on a few occasions and she was a beautiful and dignified lady. Sadly too, they lost their son Paul in 2021. May they both rest in peace and rise in glory. 

After his return to Cork, Jim Corr taught for thirty-five years at Presentation College, where he rose to the rank of Vice-Principal. He was a respected and much-loved teacher there and produced a textbook on Geography for schools. He was also a skilled and enthusiastic teacher of mathematics. But Jim Corr was not just a classroom teacher. He concerned himself with community education also. For thirty—nine years he was a very active member of the City of Cork Vocational Educational Committee, serving on interview boards and on the boards of management of several VEC schools. Indeed, I first met him when we served together on the board of management of Nagle Community College in Mahon in the 1980’s. Needless to say, I was impressed by his industry, his wide educational knowledge, his tactful manner, and his kindly sense of humour. 

In later years he was instrumental in the setting up of Cork Regional Technical College, now Munster Technological University, and was an active member of its Board of Governors for twenty-one years. He also played a big part in the foundation of the joint UCC/MTU School of Architecture. In addition, he was a member of the UCC Governing Body for two terms. 

It has been said that all politics is local, and this amazing man immersed himself in local politics in Cork to a degree that is never likely to be surpassed. In June 2014, he completed forty—one years of continuous membership of Cork City Council as an elected Alderman. He was twice elected as Lord Mayor of Cork City and held this office with distinction in the years 1979—1980 and 1996—1997. As Lord Mayor, he set up the Cork Midsummer Festival, now in its twenty—third year. 

But Jim Corr did not limit himself to educational activities and local politics. He was very active in the Arts also. For twenty-two years, from 1982 to 2004, he was chairman of the Cork International Choral Festival and made an immense contribution to music in Cork and Ireland by way of this jewel in our artistic crown. He served too as a director of the Cork Opera House for thirty years and was deeply involved in the theatrical life of our city. In addition, he has been involved as a director of the Crawford Art Gallery, enthusiastically promoting artistic activity. 

Jim Corr has been largely responsible for the establishment of one of Cork’s most magnificent and popular tourist attractions, resulting from the restoration of the South Presentation Convent on Douglas Street. It now contains a Heritage Centre, a restaurant, a concert venue, a bookshop, and a memorial garden. Called the Nano Nagle Centre, in honour of one of our most illustrious educationalists, it is a superb project, and I urge you to visit it—you are in for a treat. 

But there are even more sides to Jim Corr’s character. He has for example a very well-developed social conscience and was a trade union activist. Unusually, he was a member of Fine Gael with socialist leanings consistent with Declan Costello’s Just Society. He was a very active member of the Rehab Board for many years and promoted its aims. In 1996, he was appointed by the Government as founding Chairman of the Cork Local Drugs Task Force to oversee over twenty projects throughout our city and its environs to protect people, especially the young, from the injurious effects of experimentation with illicit drugs. More recently, he has chaired an international United Nations committee with the same objective. And he served for five years as Director of Bórd Gáis Éireann, when that company was extending its network throughout Ireland. 

As a politician, Jim Corr is probably unique in that he commanded the respect of all of our political parties and shades of political opinion, and I have never heard anyone of any party speak ill of him. He was twice elected as TD for Cork South Central, on both occasions for short periods at a time of political unrest in Ireland. 

My own belief is that he was too good for Dail Eireann and the type of politics that sometimes goes on there and I often sensed that he was disillusioned by national politics of the type he saw in Leinster House. His decision therefore to concentrate on local politics, where real and concrete results can be achieved in one’s own community, was probably a very wise one. 

Jim Corr is a proud Corkman through and through, but I was delighted to learn that his ancestors came from my own native county, Mayo. His father was a Garda Sergeant born near Irishtown County Mayo, a historic village where Michael Davitt founded the Land League. In his generosity, Jim sometimes supports the Mayo football team and was present with his uncle in Croke Park when Mayo last won the Sam Maguire in 1951. Since then, Mayo have contested an unbelievable thirteen All-Ireland Men’s Senior football finals without winning a single title.

What do you call a Mayo man with an All-Ireland medal? It is an old joke, and the answer of course is an antique dealer!

I have known Jim Corr for many years and I know that he is a man of principle, a man of action, a hardworking man, a man of integrity and character, a good family man, a man who is universally liked and respected in our community and a wonderful unselfish benefactor to our society. But above all he is a modest man, who wears his learning and accomplishments very lightly. I am proud to be his friend and to propose him for the degree of Doctor of Arts Honoris Causa which I know he will wear with great pride and distinction. 

Praehonorabilis Cancellarie, totaque Universitas, praesento vobis Hunc meum filium, quam scio tam moribus quam doctrina habilem et idoneum esse qui admittatur, honoris causa, ad Gradum Doctoratus in Artibus, idque tibi fide mea testor ac spondeo, totique Academiae.


Bronnadh Céimeanna

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