Being a Lady Mayoress without being a dolly bird

I have been a Lady Mayoress for half a term now. After the Lord Mayor’s account of the first half of his mayoralty, it is my turn to account for my first entry into the role of Lady Mayoress.

Launching the Cork Craft Month, 28 July 2023

In these first six months, I have had the opportunity to meet with wonderful people and to become familiar and support many projects borne by Corkonians:

Even if this list is not exhaustive (and sorry for the events I have missed out…), this year has already been quite busy, even if I do not live in Cork. I have learnt so much, discovered so many committed, interested, engaged people but also “normal” people – who make our cities, our local communities.

I have also learnt so much about local politics, the balance between political game, influence and the need to act concretely and efficiently. I have also learnt so much about the role of a Lord Mayor, which is not part of my native culture.

A real public figure

Many close friends have been skeptical or estranged (though mostly curious) about the title of Lady Mayoress: Was it a nobiliary title? Had I become someone’s property? Would I stop being independent, fighting for my ideas? Would I keep on working? Wasn’t it super traditional and old-fashioned? Did I want to be this kind of woman? (NB: whatever that means…)

I have felt that, altogether, we are, indeed, seen as the King and the Queen of Cork. I need to start by precising that I have made a test when travelling to Cork, sharing on the train, the coach or the plane, that my partner was the Lord Mayor of the city. Many people had no idea who he was. And did not really care. It is interesting coming from cities (Paris and Brussels), where we have elected mayors: everybody knows who they are, have an opinion about them, or at least know that they rule their cities. This does not seem to be the case in Cork (notwithstanding the overall support I also see for the Lord Mayor).

Many people have had also no idea that the Lord Mayor could have a Lady Mayoress. To the extent that, when attending events with the Lord Mayor, I have been even asked several times – even if I had been introduced and wearing my Lady Mayoress’ medallion – who I was.

[On a side reflexion, if the Lord Mayor (male or female) as a male partner – would that make him a Lady Mayoress? ]

Being the King and Queen of Cork makes us celebrities that people want to approach take pictures with and want to question, know everything about. On a gender note, it is very interesting to distinguish the sorts of questions we have had:

For the Lord MayorFor the Lady Mayoress
How tall are you?

Where are you from?

How heavy is your chain? When was it created?

How long will you be a Lord Mayor for?

You have a beautiful voice


When did you meet? How?

How long have you been together for?

Are you married? When is he going to propose?

Do you have any children? Do you plan on having any?

We hope for some news this year!

You are very nice and pretty

You look so young

I have myself been astonished to see how direct and intimate – sometimes inappropriate – people have been with me. I don’t take it badly – but I do take it personally: as in, I understand – I observe – that people, are curious and I am a public figure and they feel excited about it. I am definitely not used to that. And I do note that people do not ask the Lord Mayor questions about us as a couple…

I feel that overall people like the Lord Mayor. Maybe because as opposed to elected representatives, they do not, usually, take strong positions (NB: one of the times the Lord Mayor supported a cause, in Summer 2023, he was attacked online and then in person). It is also for sure that we meet people who are either supporter or neutral about him. It is also either the young ones (e.g. through school visits, various competitions) or the elderly ones (e.g. involved in community activities).

The many challenges of being a Lady Mayoress

As noted before, there is no manual to be a Lady Mayoress and this role seems to me not to have been yet clarified. I do know I need to create a role for myself. Though, had I been Corkonian, active locally for years, I would probably have embarked on the steps of Mrs Goldberg, Lady Mayoress in 1977-1978 (notably founder of meals on the wheels and highly engaged with voluntary organisations).

I must say, I have felt like a dolly bird, more than once. Not so much for because I was not acknowledged for my intellectual skills or putting forward my aesthetical efforts, but rather because I was not really finding a space for myself. I do suffer of an imposture syndrome because I am not Corkonian. I have also felt not at my place when there has been nothing for me to do except for sitting on a chair next to the Lord Mayor and patiently listen to some speeches. Or to merely smile for pictures (though some photocalls have been pretty fun). In those instances, I did have the impression of being the “faire-valoir”. In order to overcome this very traditional look on heterosexual political couples, the Lord Mayor and myself played around the narrative to make us a “couple” rather than a Lord Mayor and his “woman behind the great man”.

One solution has been for me be selective on the events I attend. After a few mitigated attempts, I therefore decided to go on and attend arts and culture related events – where I would be interested and could exchange with the participants and hosts – and community events – where it is always nice to chat with people and discover so much local energy and creativity. I wish I had had more occasions to join events related to my fields of interest and expertise – sustainable food, urban agriculture, circular economy. Who knows, that might come in the next couples of months.

I have had to accept that I am here with this title because I am the partner of the Lord Mayor and this does not really give me access or right to anything. Which, in the end, is ok.

Not living in Cork, and working full time with a busy and travelling job (which I love), I have been unable to support the Lord Mayor the best I could, mostly in practical terms. I am not the woman being the great man. Yet, I do understand the need for someone to back up those who are busy. This applies to all genders of course. The Lord Mayor working more than full time, I have observed the difficulties for him to manage practicalities (e.g. dry cleaning or eating healthy – merely eating enough). If this role is not borne by wives anymore, how can men continue in this being “great men”. Would men bear this role for women – in opposite roles? If both partners have busy lives (notwithstanding gender), how can they support each other – without externalising their support?

I was expecting to being able to get more involved as well by bringing my knowledge and expertise of working with a variety of municipalities and public administrations throughout Europe to the benefits of the City of Cork, to share the learnings and experiences of Cork to a wider audience throughout Europe. Yet, one the one hand I have no mandate for this (I am not elected representative nor a local civil servant), on the other, I already have a full-time job. I have done so, to a limited extent. Certainty not to the extent I was hoping.

The next 6 months

I have decided to embark on a renewed journey for these last 6 months of the mayoralty, as the Lady Mayoress of Cork:

  • My first crucial moment and highlight will be the Lady Mayoress’ Coffee morning on 14 February 2024, in aid of Marymount. This is THE thing a Lady Mayoress is almost obliged to do;
  • Joining the Lord Mayor in singing: this is a great artistic and couple experience, as well as raises interest in my person when I am present;
  • Continuing expanding my knowledge of the City and Communities of Cork;
  • Fine-tuning my support to the Lord Mayor – along with tiredness and new elections coming up;
  • Getting some renewed energy to support projects from the people I have met and who have supported me as well with the Coffee morning: the Malagasy community with Erguestine Andria, the Alliance Française and the French-speaking connection with Valérie David-McGonnell and, Josselin Le Gall, Vincent Guérend, Karen Van Vlierberge; and all the wonderful performers – the Kalyna Ukrainian Community Choir, the Voices of Cork Community Choir, Daniel Cremin the psychological magician Daniel Cremin,the juggling aficionado Captain Cormac.

Next meeting to account for my journey as the Lady Mayoress of Cork: sharing my experience of the Lady Mayoress’ Coffee morning!