John Major 'touched' to receive freedom of Cork


FORMER BRITISH prime minister John Major has written to Cork City Council to express his gratitude at being chosen, along with former taoiseach Albert Reynolds, to receive the freedom of the city of Cork tomorrow.

Mr Major said he was "enormously touched by the granting of the freedom of the city of Cork and much looks forward to attending the ceremony on June 20th", when he will be honoured by Lord Mayor Donal Counihan.

However, the ceremony tomorrow afternoon at Cork City Hall looks set to be boycotted by four of the 31 councillors, with Socialist Party councillor Mick Barry joining Sinn Féin councillors Jonathan O'Brien, Annette Spillane and Fiona Kerins in shunning the ceremony.

Mr Barry said he was opposing the granting of the honour to the prime minister who led Britain into the first Gulf War in 1991, which resulted in the deaths of many innocent civilians.

"This was a war for oil in which tens of thousands of innocents were slaughtered. It beggars belief that this can be put to one side 17 years on and the man be awarded a prize for services to peace."

Mr Barry said he was also opposed to Mr Reynolds receiving the freedom of the city because he was a senior minister at the cabinet table when Cork's North Infirmary Hospital was closed in 1987.

"A man who played such a role in inflicting one of the greatest wrongs of recent times on the people of Cork should not be the recipient of Cork's highest municipal honour," said Mr Barry .

The decision has been strongly defended by the lord mayor, who told The Irish Timesearlier he believed that both Mr Major and Mr Reynolds deserved recognition for helping to kick-start the Northern Ireland peace process, negotiating a ceasefire and bringing the Downing Street Declaration into being.

"George Mitchell and John Hume have already received the freedom of Cork city and I felt John Major and Albert Reynolds also deserved this honour for the hard work they did in laying the groundwork for what was put in place by Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair," said Mr Counihan.