The adversity I faced in my early years, gave me strength to deal with life's challenges, says new county mayor, who is looking forward to representing the people of West Cork in his new role
POLITICS is a natural fit for the new County Mayor, Patrick Gerard Murphy. It suits his temperament, his training, and his outlook on life.
Everything about Patrick Gerard Murphy – his upbringing in the Fianna Fáil fold; his education: first engineering and then a graduate diploma in entrepreneurship and small business; followed by his career move as manager of the National Learning Network in Bantry and Clonakilty – all point in one direction: municipal service.
But there is something even more fundamental in his nature that makes Patrick a good local representative and that is he knows adversity, having become paralysed in a car accident in 1993 and overcoming it in the most pragmatic way.
Basically, his attitude to all the big questions in life is: ‘Get on with it.’
That is not to suggest a ‘suffer in silence’ mentality. Far from it. His personal philosophy goes to his strength – not just his physical strength, but his inherently strong, independent, down-to-earth, and rather manly approach to life.
His experience in the Fianna Fáil fold, his engineering know-how, and his business acumen have taught him how to identify a local need, or a project, and approach it in a step-by-step way that makes a successful outcome inevitable.
That approach was evident in the community and voluntary work he was doing before he ever got involved in politics.
Patrick was a member of West Cork Development Partnership, as well as one of the founding members of Cork Local Link and Employability West Cork.
But when he was approached in 2008 to fill the seat vacated by Cllr Donal Casey, Patrick saw it as an opportunity to do the same work but with the level of access that only public service can bring.
Patrick is strategic and dogged, yet everyone across the political divide gets on well with him. Invariably, people describe him as ‘affable’ – the very definition of which is ‘friendly, good-natured, easy to talk to.’
There is, quite simply, no other side to him and even at his most strident he is merely pressing home a well-considered point at a West Cork Municipal District meeting, a Western Committee, or a Cork County Council meeting.
In his arsenal, Patrick has also got a killer smile and a quick –sometimes wicked – sense of humour.
Patrick is from Eyeries. As a youth, he played for Urhan and Beara and he is still heavily involved with the GAA today. The GAA is like family to him.
Both of Patrick’s parents, Mary and Patrick, have passed away. In 1987, Mary was tragically killed in a car accident in Kealkil. Patrick was a passenger in the car that day because they’d left Eyeries to do some Christmas shopping and to find a suit for Patrick’s debs.
Patrick admits it was ‘horrific’ and ‘a difficult time’ to lose his mother at the age of 16. But he is philosophical too saying: ‘I faced adversity from an early age but I think that gives you an inherent strength to deal with whatever challenges come your way.’
A few short years later, in 1993, Patrick had to dig deep and call on the same reserves of strength to see him through his own car accident, which resulted in him sustaining life-altering injuries. He took one year out, learned to work with his injuries, and the following year he was back at the books, back at college, living life.
Patrick has two brothers, Michael and Noel, with whom he is very close; and, when pressed, Patrick said he does date but there is nothing serious – ‘yet’.
At the age of 46, he is now embarking on what promises to be one of the most challenging and interesting years of his life. Having a disability gives Patrick a unique perspective and he said it will influence his role as Mayor of Cork County and that it could also serve to highlight what is possible. ‘People will see that there are opportunities there if you want to take them,’ he said.
County Hall is fully wheelchair accessible and Patrick will, as part of the job, have a driver to take him to all of his meetings and the extensive list of weekly duties and functions that is known as ‘The Mayor’s Diary’.
Patrick believes these functions are important because it brings the work that the local authority is doing to the people. He said there is a huge amount of work going on in the background and the Mayor’s Diary is a showcase of this work in action. Patrick said he represents all of the people of West Cork but there is no denying his area is, by and large, along the old constituency divide from Drimoleague west to the Kerry border.
Roads, public lighting, piers, housing, planning and everything else in between is part of his remit, and he does apply himself diligently.
Patrick is of the opinion that there needs to be ‘a push’ in towns like Bantry, Dunmanway, Castletownbere, because other towns in the eastern side of the constituency have fared better in terms of funding.
He believes there is room for significant development in each of these towns and, at the risk of sounding parochial, he points to Eyeries, which sought and secured funding for a whole slew of projects that has made the village and its infrastructure an example for others to follow.
Patrick said it is about knowing what you want, setting out your objectives, having the community working together as a team, and working with the local authority – not against them – and progressing every stage of the project on a step-by-step basis.
He said projects take time but that is part of the investment. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes people with optimism, vision and strength to bring them to a successful outcome.
And that, in a nutshell, is what Patrick Gerard Murphy represents.