On the evening of 31st January, in the magnificent Luttrellstown Castle, Pat Ledwidge was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to lasting relations between Shanghai and Cork by Susan Barrett (ex-Chairman) on behalf of the Ireland China Business Association.
‘The spectacular growth of Shanghai’s relationship with Cork is one of the great success stories of China and Ireland’s recent shared history. It encompasses the Shanghai Cork Sister City Agreement, but goes beyond it, spanning a wide range of areas from education, government, innovation, business to culture, the arts and many others. It also extends geographically into the Greater Shanghai area and the wider Munster region. For Irish regions and cities seeking to establish closer links with China, it is an inspiring model.
While many individuals and bodies can take credit for this great success, in both China and Ireland, it is widely recognised that one individual stands out. This is Mr Patrick Ledwidge, Director of Strategic Planning and Economic Development in Cork City Council.
Pat Ledwidge is often described as the central ‘common thread’ in the success of Cork-Shanghai. He was there at its inception and he has steered its strategy down the years.
This story has its origins as far back as 2002 and the establishment of the First Consulate in Shanghai.
From the outset, the aim of forging a special relationship between the second cities of China and Ireland was a clear goal.
Remarkably, within a few short years in 2005, this was achieved. Cork was selected, ahead of some of the world’s greatest cities, as a Sister City for Shanghai. This was a major turning point.
What followed has been expansion across many areas, too numerous to mention here.
In 2007, a Confucius Institute was founded, based in the School of Asian Studies in UCC, serving higher and further education colleges and secondary schools in the entire southern region – and as far north as Galway.
In May 2015, Cork-Shanghai celebrated 10 years of the Sister City Agreement. As a tribute to his leadership, Pat was awarded the Magnolia Silver Medal, one of the highest awards of the Shanghai Municipal Government.
Further accolades followed. Most recently in October 2018 Mr Ledwidge was made a Laureate of the Gold Magnolia by the Mayor of Shanghai, Mr Ying Yong. He was one of ten recipients of this award and the only one from Europe. A singular honour for the man often referred to as ‘Mr China’ and for the City of Cork.
In 2019, Cork-Shanghai’s successful bilateral links show that ‘the best is yet to be’. As Cork and the Southern Region embark on major plans for expansion and transformation, economic links with the extraordinary global city of Shanghai, represent further opportunities. The wider regions will also gain, as more agreements are signed with regions and cities including Hangzhou, Wuxi, Jiangsu province amongst others.
In today’s roller-coaster world, the terms ‘vision and visionary’ are often mis-used and over-used. In the case of Pat Ledwidge, they are completely apt. Since 2002, Pat Ledwidge, has more than delivered on his mission. A great gift has been bestowed, providing inspiration and models for many others in China and Ireland.’