“The smallest idea on learning can have a huge ripple effect on someone’s life” noted Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy at the spring European Committee of the Regions plenary. During a debate with European Commissioner Dubravka Šuica on the 2023 European Year of Skills Cllr McCarthy highlighted the importance of lifelong learning and Cork’s ongoing work including its annual festival.
Speaking at the plenary Cllr McCarthy emphasised this week’s organisation of the annual lifelong learning festival with over 100 events and the motto of “investigate, participate, and celebrate”.
Cllr McCarthy observed: “For me, yes, it’s important that jobs and human capital have a focus; but we not only need to build an economy, but also we need to build a society, and put focus on society building and building society capacity as well”.
“In my city, out of the lifelong learning festival, we’ve also created learning neighbourhoods. We’ve brought together an ecosystem of people with different interests, and I’ve seen first-hand in my own community the building of community capacity, building upon the sense of place-making, inclusiveness, and sense of empowerment”, Cllr McCarthy observed.
Cllr McCarthy concluded; “I think the smallest idea on learning can have a huge ripple effect on someone’s life, on a citizen, on someone maybe who hasn’t changed anything in their life for a while. I think one of the keywords that has been appearing is that the world is change, but I think to change as well you need to learn – we all need to learn – new abilities through life”.
Cllr McCarthy’s upcoming Cork Lifelong Learning Festival Walking Tours:
Saturday 1 April 2023, An Introduction to the development of Cork, meet at Elizabeth Fort, Barrack Street 11.30am, in association with South Parish Learning Neighbourhood and fort activities on the day (free, duration: 30 minutes, no booking required).
Saturday 1 April, Shandon Historical Walking Tour; meet at North Main Street/ Adelaide Street Square, opp Cork Volunteer Centre, 2pm (free, 2 hours, no booking required).
Sunday 2 April, The Cork City Workhouse; learn about Cork City’s workhouse created for 2,000 impoverished people in 1841; meet just inside the gates of St Finbarr’s Hospital, Douglas Road, 2pm (free, 2 hours, on site tour, no booking required).
Robbery, sniping and arson were all part of the Anti-Treaty IRA movement in Cork City in March 1923. From late February 1923, several postal pillar boxes in Cork were closed off. Of the ninety odd pillar boxes and wall boxes in the city, about forty were not in use. They were closed by the postal authorities in order to safeguard public property and correspondence. During hold-ups the keys of those boxes were taken from the postmen and consequently there was no alternative but to close those boxes until new locks could be fitted.
The Cork Examiner records that on 5 March 1923 at 9pm members of the National Army at the Cork terminus of the Cork Bandon Railway were sniped at, and one soldier was rather seriously wounded. The shots – seven or eight in all – were fired from the ruins of the City Hall, the fire being directed chiefly at the sentries on duty at the gates of the railway. None of the sentries were hit, but Michael Sullivan, a married man, employed as engine-driver on an armoured train, who was returning to the station and was near the gates when the shots were fired was wounded. A bullet struck him in the thigh, passing clean through and fracturing the bone. He was removed to the Mercy Hospital for treatment.
With the exception of a few panes of glass being broken, no other damage was caused by the snipers, who ceased to fire when the troops opened fire in their direction. A few minutes after the attack matters were again quiet. One arrest was made.
On 8 March shortly after 8pm, the Cork Examiner records that Commandant Scott of the National Army was seriously wounded at Blarney Street. He had just arrived at the residence of Mrs Powell, a sister of Michael Collins, when an attempt by Anti-Treaty IRA volunteers to burn the house down, was initiated. The house was saturated with petrol and oil and those involved were ready to set the house alight. Even the children, who had been in bed, had been ordered out by the raiders. When the Commandant knocked at the door, the door was opened by one of the raiders, a youth of less than twenty years of age. The lad, recognising that a miliary officer was standing at the door, immediately whipped out a revolver and fired point blank at Scott, hitting him in the right arm.
Several shots followed, the disturbance being the signal for the raiding party to get away as speedily at possible. They exited the house and got away under fire from Commandant Scott’s escort. One of the raiders that was captured was in possession of a Webley revolver and six rounds of ammunition, two of which had just been fired. Commandant Scott was operated at in the Mercy Hospital. One of his bones in his right arm was fractured.
On 12 March, a raid on a sweet shop on Penrose Quay in a disused loft – the property of the Cork Steam Packet Company – four canvas life-belts were discovered. The cork was removed from the life-belts and Thompson ammunition was found inside. The four belts contained 2,108 rounds. In another nearby raid, 1,000 rounds of Thompson gun ammunition were found concealed.
Elsewhere telegram wires were cut at Glasheen Road. Troops were at once on the scene and fired a few shots after the raiders who got away across the adjacent countryside. In the same day in the course of a search in Donoughmore, a six cylinder Buick car was discovered covered with Furze bushes. An empty dug-out was also found.
On 13 March in a raid in a sweet shop near Parnell Bridge, fourteen rounds of ammunition were found and some anti-treaty literature. A Miss Nolan was arrested. On the same day an ammunition dump complete with revolvers and two bombs was discovered near the wall of Mayfield Chapel. The intention was to use them in a night attack on troops passing Dillon’s Cross.
On 14 March, William Healy, 52 Dublin Street, was executed. He was arrested under arms during a raid on a house on Blarney Street. He was court-martialled on a charge of possession of arms and was executed by firing squad at Cork County Gaol on Western Road. On 16 March, Mr William G Beale, aged 52, and unmarried, residing at Elm Grove, Ballyvolane Road, and a member of the well-known form of Harris and Beale, Grand Parade, was shot and seriously wounded near his residence by men who stated that the act was a reprisal for William’s execution.
On 20 March 1923 the Cork Examiner records that an extensive raid was carried out on the Cork Lunatic Asylum. In the course of an extensive search a number of revolvers and several rounds of ammunition were discovered behind the fireplace in a room occupied by Warden Fitzgerald. In a room a large quantity of field dressing was captured as well as a bundle of seditious literature in one of the wardresses’ rooms. An empty Mills bomb case was found in another room. The warder Jerry Fitzgerald with four of his male staff George Wycherly, Charles Hyde and John Murphy were arrested. Three wardresses were arrested, who were all prominent members of the Anti-Treaty Cumann na mBan. They were Kathleen O’Sullivan, Miss N Connolly and Miss H Clery.
In addition, on 20 March 1923, an attempt was made to destroy the residence of Maurice Healy, solicitor, Ballintemple, by fire by a number of men, some of whom were armed. Petrol was freely sprinkled in the upper storey and set alight. The incendiaries, apparently fearing being surprised while on their work of destruction, retired rather hastily. A member of the household, with the aid of chemicals, soon had the fire quenched. Little damage was done beyond two rooms and the corridor being slightly scorched by the flames.
Kieran’s April Tours (free, no booking required):
Saturday 1 April 2023, Shandon Historical Walking Tour,meet at North Main Street/ Adelaide Street Square, opp Cork Volunteer Centre, 2pm, in association with the Cork Lifelong Learning Festival.
Sunday 2 April 2023, The Cork City Workhouse; meet just inside the gates of St Finbarr’s Hospital, Douglas Road, 2pm, with the Cork Lifelong Learning Festival.
Saturday 15 April 2023, The Friar’s Walk; Discover Red Abbey, Elizabeth Fort, Barrack Street, Callanan’s Tower & Greenmount area; Meet at Red Abbey tower, off Douglas Street, 2pm.
1194a. Liam Healy executed on 13 March 1923 (picture: Cork City Library).
Early Spring 1923 coincided with tit-for-tat skirmishes between Anti-Treaty republicans and the Irish Free State Government. Some skirmishes and events were more extreme than others. For example, on 2 March 1923 St Mary’s Hall, opposite the North Cathedral, was blown up by a land mine by Anti-Treaty IRA supporters. The bomb was attributed to the refusal on the part of those responsible for the management of the Hall to close on the occasion of another hunger strike by Mary MacSwiney’s in a Dublin jail. On that occasion all Cork houses of entertainment were ordered to close by Anti-Treaty Republicans. All did so with the exception of St Mary’s Hall.
The Cork Examiner records that at about 10am, four men, two of them wearing trench coats and hats, and two dark coloured colours coats and hats, drove up in a motor car from the Blackpool direction and stopped outside St Mary’s Hall opposite St Mary’s and St Anne’s North Cathedral. Entering the Hall, they ordered the woman engaged in cleaning the premises outside, where one of the men held her up at the point of the revolver. The other men apparently laid a land mine and left the building.
Immediately afterwards a terrific explosion occurred, which could be heard all over the city. The people in the area got a serious shock. Many were physically pulled to the ground by the force of the explosion. Glass and ware were broken in many houses.
At the North Cathedral across the road, where the 10am mass was in progress, some remained in their seats whilst others feared that it was the Cathedral itself that was being attacked made a rush for the doors. All soon returned though and the mass was proceeded with as if nothing had occurred. The same feeling of shock was felt in the nearby North Infirmary where patients feared for their lives.
The bomb caused serious damage to St Mary’s Hall. The Hall was an important community asset to the North Parish. The hall’s foundation stone on a plot of land off Bailey’s Lane was laid on 27 June 1887 by Bishop O’Callaghan and was opened on 20 November 1887. It replaced a smaller community hall within the North Parish on Eason’s Hill called St Mary’s League of the Cross Hall. The Cork Examiner on 22 November 1887 nods to the the untiring energy of the Rev. Canon John O’Mahony. Great credit was also given Mr J Coakley, the architect, and to Mr John McDonnell, the builder. The building was illuminated from the outside with gas jets representing a harp and shamrocks, and was also lit within, by the firm of Mr M Power & Son, Marlboro Street.
In October 1912 St Mary’s Hall was fitted out as a picture drome to host moving pictures or films. Hence by the bombing of March 1923 the building had four sections – it was a theatre where concerts and films were shown. On Sundays the children of the parish received religious instruction. It was also available for meetings of clubs and social parish work. A gallery had recently been constructed in the theatre, which aimed to host 1,000 people between the gallery and downstairs. The theatre was completely wrecked and the machinery connected with the cinema destroyed.
In the other portions of the building a savings bank for the parishioners, a penny savings bank for children, and the National Health Insurance business was conducted. Deposits in the ordinary savings bank amounted to about £35,000, and in the penny savings bank £2,000.
At least three persons were injured as a result of the explosion. An emergency exit door onto Bailey’s Lane was blown out and struck a Mrs O’Brien who lived in the area seriously injuring here. A boy named William Doyle was struck on the head by a flying slate, sustaining a nasty scalp wound for which he was treated at the North Infirmary. A girl, also on the way to school, was struck by a flying slate.
A soldier of the Irish Free State government on duty in the Butter Market district, ran at once to the scene and detained three men.
The Cork Examiner records that the raiders on planting the bomb then drove to the foot of Fair Hill where the car was found later and brought to the vicinity of St Mary’s Hall, where the military took possession of it. It was stated that the car was taken the previous night at 9pm from Murphy’s Brewery by armed men.
Two days later on the 4 March, the city’s Roman Catholic Bishop Daniel Cohalan began his sermon by condemning the bombing; “The Bishops of Ireland have on more than one occasion, declared the law about the activities of the Republicans against life and property…I condemn the outrage with all my heart. I convey my sympathy to the priests and the people of the Cathedral parish on the injury done to them. And I pray that the culprits and all engaged in the Republican physical force campaign may get the light to see the unlawfulness of this campaign and the grace to abandon it”.
St Mary’s Hall was quickly reconstructed in the weeks that followed the bombing and remained as a prominent community hall and picture drome until the late 1940s where the site and Bailey’s Lane was cleared as part of ongoing Cork Corporation slum clearance plans.
1193a. St Mary’s Hall c.1920 (source: Shandon History Area Group; to learn about this great group and their talks, writings and poster displays, log onto their informative Facebook page).
Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy is to restart his free historical walking tours during the month of April. Tours will be of the old Cork City workhouse site on Douglas Road in St Finbarr’s Hospital, the Shandon quarter, and the Barrack Street/ Friar’s Walk area respectively.
Cllr McCarthy noted; “This year my talks and walks reach their 30th year. There have been many walks given since my teen years. I have pursued more research than ever in recent years as more and more old newspapers and books are digitised these have allowed greater access to material and hence more material to create historical walking trails of some of Cork’s most historical suburbs”.
“I am also trying to sharpen the tours I have and to create new ones in a different suburb. The three areas I am re-starting with for the 2023 all have their own unique sense of place, their own cultural and built heritage, their own historic angles, some really interesting ‘set pieces’ and add their own stories to how the city as a whole came into being; they also connect to the upcoming 2023 Cork Lifelong Learning Festival”, concluded Cllr McCarthy.
Full details of Kieran’s April tours are below:
Saturday 1 April 2023, Shandon Historical Walking Tour; explore Cork’s most historic quarter; meet at North Main Street/ Adelaide Street Square, opp Cork Volunteer Centre, 2pm, in association with the Cork Lifelong Learning Festival (free, duration: two hours, no booking required).
Sunday 2 April 2023, The Cork City Workhouse; learn about Cork City’s workhouse created for 2,000 impoverished people in 1841; meet just inside the gates of St Finbarr’s Hospital, Douglas Road, 2pm, in association with the Cork Lifelong Learning Festival (free, two hours, on site tour, no booking required)
Saturday 15 April 2023, The Friar’s Walk; Discover Red Abbey, Elizabeth Fort, Barrack Street, Callanan’s Tower & Greenmount area; Meet at Red Abbey tower, off Douglas Street, 2pm (free, duration: two hours, no booking required).
Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy has called for more consistent and meaningful communication between the NTA and Residents Groups. Proposals for 12 Sustainable Transport Corridors including Maryborough Hill to Douglas Road for BusConnects Cork were published in June 2022 as part of the first round of public consultation. The consultation closed in early October last year.
Following the first round of public consultation, the NTA has been reviewing the almost 3,000 submissions made by the public. The BusConnects Cork team has also met with 33 residents’ and business groups across the city since summer 2022 with meetings ongoing. The engagement process has resulted in a number of revisions and alternatives to the initial proposals and these will inform part of the next round of public consultation for people’s feedback.
However Cllr Kieran McCarthy has noted that some of the feedback has been haphazard; “I am hearing that some residents groups in the Douglas area have had multiple meetings and others have had none. The communication process must be consistent. We will entering phase 2 of the public consultation process in early April and it important that compromises and alternatives, where relevant are actually discussed and explored – otherwise the consultation element is just a tick the box action”.
“I remain deeply worried for the built and natural heritage of several areas of the NTA plans. The decision to omit the bridge proposal over the Mangala is welcome but the thought of kilometres of trees and garden space being ripped out along route ways such as Douglas Road, Boreenmanna Road and Well Road is very worryingly indeed. Hence why meaningful dialogue is very important between stakeholders”, concluded Cllr McCarthy.
Recasting Cork: The Irish Chambers of Commerce Come Together
This month Chambers Ireland celebrates its centenary since its formation in early 1923. At the heart of its foundational story is Cork Chamber of Commerce as well as four other Irish chambers of commerce. This story is the subject of a book commission I have been engaged with Chambers Ireland, and which has recently been published.
After the separation from Westminster government policy, the creation of an Irish government and against the backdrop of the lingering physical effects of war on businesses in townscapes and cityscapes, it became apparent that work similar to that performed by the British Association of Chambers of Commerce would have to be performed by an Irish association in Dublin.
In early November 1922 at a meeting of the Council members of the Cork Chamber of Commerce expressed its approval of the early formation of an Irish association of commerce. There is a reference that they supported the move as far back as May 1922 similar to a call by the Dublin Chamber of Commerce. It was hoped that such an association would represent not just a section of Ireland but the whole of Ireland.
The suggestion of the Dublin Chamber that the association should include only those bodies within the 26 counties was not supported by the Cork Chamber. The Cork Chamber argued that such a suggestion would mean the endorsement of the commercial partition of Ireland into 26 and six counties, respectively, referred to in political circles as southern and northern Ireland.
In January 1923, just one month into the official Irish Free State, the Chambers of Cork, Drogheda, Dundalk, Dublin, Limerick, New Ross, Sligo and Waterford expressed their intention to co-operate and to draft a new combination for a chamber of commerce for Ireland and to create a level of excellence for commercial development.
On 1 March 1923, representatives of the above chambers of commerce assembled in the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin for a morning meeting to discuss the question of establishing an Association to include both the chambers of commerce of the six counties of Northern Ireland as well as those of the Irish Free State.
Mr James Shanks, JP, Dublin, presided. During the meeting all present agreed to create the Association of the Chambers of Commerce of the Irish Free State.
Mr John Callaghan Foley, President of the Cork Chamber of Commerce, felt that since Ireland had left the United Kingdom, and had secured full fiscal autonomy, that there was a necessity for such an association in order to keep in touch with the different ministries of Dáil Éireann. His wish was that any new association would be able to speak and to act with the full combined authority of all the Chambers, on behalf of the commercial interests of the country.
John moved an amendment to the effect that the Association be called “The Association of Irish Chambers of Commerce”, instead of “The Association of Chambers of Commerce of the Irish Free State”.
John believed there should not be any coercion used by the Association. They in the south of the country traded with Northern Ireland with the “greatest harmony and friendship”, and he was sure that spirit would always continue. A chamber of commerce of the Free State would operate in the four provinces, and that they should have a title covering the whole country.
At the Shelbourne Hotel meeting a deputation consisting of the Presidents of the “southern chambers” was appointed to discuss the question with the Northern representatives. The upshot a few weeks later was a reply by the Northern Chambers they could not “usefully merge themselves in an Association such as that suggested and that having regard to the community of interests, fiscal and otherwise, in Northern Ireland and Great Britain as a distinctive federation of Northern Chambers was considered necessary”.
On 9 October 1923, the first meeting of the Association’s Executive Council was held. The Chambers of Commerce in Dublin, Cork and Limerick and the Cork Incorporated Chamber of Commerce and Shipping were noted as the first members. The President was John Good TD (Dublin); the Vice Presidents were John Callaghan Foley of Cork Chamber of Commerce and George R Ryan of Limerick Chamber of Commerce.
The Association had as its object the criticism of the Irish Government economic policy in a constructive manner, and to endeavour whenever possible to place its views before Government ministers. It was necessary to do this before the Minister’s views had crystallised, and before any proposed bill was actually drafted. Once a bill was drafted Ministers, to a certain extent, were bound by it.
The above story is a part of a wider book publication, which is now available from Chambers Ireland in Dublin. This publication adds another important lens to exploring life in the early Irish Free State – hitherto unexplored – on how such an organisation founded in an era of profound change for Irish society evolved over ten decades taking in the needs and challenges of the business sector and their voices. This book draws on the archives of Chambers Ireland and in particular from its rich press coverage and its elaborately published journals and magazines over the past one hundred years. It highlights the big stories of the chamber’s past but also the subtler elements – the messages, the conversations, and speeches.
In the age of national and provincial newspapers now being digitised, it is more accessible than ever before to not only find relevant historical information but also follow threads of information to be able to explore sub-topics more. The National Library, Dublin and the British Library also hold very rich content from non-consecutive runs of the national association’s journal and magazine productions from 1926 to the present day.
Championing Ireland – Chambers Ireland 100 Years Advancing Business Together (2023) by Kieran McCarthy is a book commission and is published by Chambers Ireland.
1192a. Front cover of Kieran’s new book Championing Ireland – Chambers Ireland 100 Years Advancing Business Together (Chambers Ireland, 2023).
Late February 1923 and early March 1923 coincided with AGM reports for the Great Southern and Western Railway (GSWR) Company and for the more local railway companies.
During the latter half of 1922, railway property was subject to a concentrated campaign of destruction by the anti-Treaty Republican forces. After their defeat in the Four Courts in Dublin in early July 1922 they intensified their campaign and targeted all operational railway infrastructure. The GSWR Company had a 1,800km network of which 240 miles (390 km) were double track. It was looked upon as the lines of communication of the National Army and therefore damaged with the object of preventing the movement of troops.
Numerous bridges over and under were totally or partially destroyed, signal cabins and other buildings burned down, and engines derailed. A map produced in the Dublin newspapers on 6 January 1923 showed the extent of the damage – 467 breakages in a “permanent way”, 55 overbridges damaged, 236 underbridges damaged, 3 engines destroyed, 86 engines damaged, 109 rolling stock destroyed, 260 rolling stock damaged, and a multitude of signal cabins and buildings were destroyed by fire. Approximately, a million in pounds sterling represented the losses incurred by the shareholders of Ireland’s principal railway. Claims for compensation in respect of these damages were made to the Irish Free State government.
The effects of civil war on rail traffic of the GSWR company were felt in various ways. It closed up altogether considerable sections of the line for long periods. At one time as much as 400miles of line were out of action and in early March 1923 there was a mileage of 250 miles of line on which no trains were ran. War created a general feeling of insecurity and restricted the general trade of the south and west of Ireland. The uncertainty of transit owing to constant damage to the railway temporarily turned trade to other channels. The serious delay to goods in transit reduced business. Less credit was being given. There was also a constant pillage of merchandise and trains being held up by armed forces.
The breaking of the three large viaducts in the south of Ireland practically isolated the County Cork and portion of Kerry and deprived the company of its long-distance traffic, which was the most valuable traffic they had. Passengers only travelled when absolute necessity arose. They could not rely on many parts of the line.
On 27February 1923 an AGM report for the Cork Blackrock and Passage Railway (CBPR) Company was published in the Cork Examiner. It relates that on 8 August 1922 one of the spans of the Douglas Viaduct was destroyed by explosives, and in consequence it had not been possible ever since to run any trains whatever. Such destruction hit the earning power of the line, caused unemployment for employees plus seriously inconvenienced the residents of the district.
The CBPR Company did their best to provide a substitute on the river and they took on a vessel called the Hibernia, which, jointly with the vessel called Albert, carried passengers upstream and downstream to various stations. The public were left only three days without connections with Cork and other stations. The company also put on a second goods steamer for the convenience of traders.
Furthermore, at the end of January 1923 the station buildings and signal cabins at Blackrock, Monkstown and Passage were burned to the ground by anti-Treaty Republicans, also the signal cabin at Rochestown, and, in addition, at Passage the workshops were seriously damaged and several carriages burned to cinders. The Company lamented: “At the time the train service had not been restored, and one may ask what purpose this latter act of brigandage effected? The people who will really benefit by these outrages are the bridge constructors, the carriage builders, and signal manufacturers outside Ireland. As you may readily imagine, the cost of restoration will be very heavy, so much so that unless the Government provide the money the line must remain derelict”.
On 1 March 1923, the Cork Examiner published the AGM report of the Cork Bandon and South Coast Railway (CBSCR) Company. During the War of Independence years, 1920 and 1921, damage was done from time to time to the Company’s line and many bridges were badly damaged. They were able, nevertheless, to continue working until the 9 August 1922. On that date, however, the Chetwynd Viaduct near the city was so seriously damaged by a huge explosion that it was impossible to run trains over it. Consequently, the line had to be closed for all traffic, and it remained closed for the rest of the year. The necessary stops for repairing Chetwynd Viaduct were taken as soon as protection could be obtained for the bridge repair contractors and by early 1923 trains ran again over it.
On succeeding days in August 1922 several other bridges at various parts of the Cork Bandon line were destroyed by explosives as well as other infrastructural damage.
In January 1923, ten of their stations and signal cabins were burnt down and five engines were destroyed. By early March 1923, the (CBSCR) Company was running a limited service between Cork and Bandon for passengers, goods and livestock.
1191a. Bandon railway station, c.1920 (source: West Cork Through Time by Kieran McCarthy & Dan Breen).
Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy has called Local Enterprise Week as a very important calendar of the work of Cork City’s Local Enterprise Office, which is based in City Hall. Organised every year by the 31 Local Enterprise Offices across the country, this year’s Local Enterprise Week takes place from Monday, 6 March to Friday, 10 March.
Cllr McCarthy noted: “Local Enterprise Week has built a profile as a highlight of the Cork business calendar in recent years and this year is no different. The Week is a chance to reinforce a valuable supportive atmosphere. The continuance to support talent and improve expertise is highly important as new challenges and new opportunities arise”.
All of the week’s events are free but booking in advance is essential. For further information on the LEO Cork City’s complete programme of events for Local Enterprise Week and to book your place online. Visit https://www.localenterprise.ie/CorkCity/
In the first two months of 1923, there were some important movements in the reconstruction narrative in Cork City Centre. It was just over two years on from the Burning of Cork in December 1920. By early January 1923, only a few buildings had been rebuilt – namely the Munster Arcade buildings off Oliver Plunkett Street and several buildings on the side streets. However, no rebuilding work had started on St Patrick’s Street.
In the first week of January 1923, the general conditions governing a competition for designs was published for the reconstruction of a new City Hall. Cork Corporation’s Law and Finance Committee oversaw the competition, which was limited to architects living and practicing in Ireland. Mr Lucius O’Callaghan FRIAI was appointed by the Corporation to act as assessor. The prize for the best design was £500, second, £200, and the third £100. The style of architecture and the materials to be employed were left to the discretion of the competitors, but it was essential that the buildings would be of “good architectural character, expressive of their purpose, and without unnecessary elaboration”. It was desired that Irish materials be used as far as possible.
One of the preferrable conditions was that the new assembly hall or concert hall should have seating accommodation for 1,400 persons. Provision was also to be made for a platform for concerts, lectures to accommodate 150 persons, space for organ, retiring rooms. There should also be a suite of rooms for the Lord Mayor, accommodation for caretaker, and better accommodation for staff. That being said correspondence was received by the Corporation that funding for the rebuilding of City Hall was still not in place at central government level.
By early February 1923, a large number of compensation claims in Cork had been considered by the Shaw Commission or the Compensation (Ireland) Commission – a joint partnership between Westminster and the Irish Free State, where Westminster paid up through the Irish Free State. A total of 31 assessors were employed on the commission. The commission considered damages to goods and property. Indeed, the new chairman Sir Alexander Wood Renton was about to take over from Lord Shaw, who had stepped down from his chairman role. By mid-February over £400,000 in compensation for destroyed goods, in particular, had been settled for Cork businesses affected by the Burning of Cork.
In mid-February 1923 at a meeting of the Corporation’s Cork Reconstruction (Finance) Committee, Thomas Kelleher and John Sisk, representing the builders who had contracts in connection with the reconstruction scheme, appeared before the Committee. Mr Kelleher highlighted to the committee that the position of the contractors was becoming practically intolerable owing to the treatment from the financial point of view that has been meted to them by the Irish Free State Government. In order to advance progress on rebuilding schemes, the Government were paying for large parts of the reconstruction in Cork. The members of the committee knew that in ordinary commercial life when an architect or engineer gave a certificate for work done on foot of a contract that they were paid in a few days and sometimes within twenty-four hours. The position was that some certificates running back as far as the previous October 1922 had not been paid – there was £15,000 due on these certificates alone. Unless some arrangement was made towards expediting payment there would be no alternative for the contractors but to stop work.
It was on the suggestion of the Reconstruction Committee that these works were started, but now the contractors felt let down financially. Mr Kelleher, builder, noted that he has read in the press some months previously that certificates had been passed for payment for £6,000 to the Munster Arcade, a job, which had been completed but for which the contractors had not yet got a received a penny from central government who was administering payment.
Certificates for £15,000 were, Mr Kelleher understood, now in the hands of the Committee or the Town Clerk, and the builders were entitled to certificates for practically a similar amount or the work that had been done since October 1922. He deemed it futile to look for certificates for a second instalment when the first had not been honoured.
The Chairman J Kelleher, Town Clerk, said that as far as the committee were concerned they fully appreciated the position of the builders. He believed himself that the government were simply playing with the matter.
At the meeting, it was also discussed how much of the Shaw Commission payments could go towards or supplement actual construction. The vast amount of the almost half a million pounds claimed by business establishments for the replacement of stock did not even in many instances afford full compensation to the proprietors for the loss of goods that were destroyed by fire.
In the immediate days following the meeting, a deputation representing Cork Corporation i.e. Jeremiah Kelleher, Town Clerk, and Cllr John Horgan went to Dublin to raise concerns and questions. There they met Cork TD Robert Day and proceeded to the offices of the Shaw Commission. There they were informed that the amounts already paid in respect of compensation to Cork traders were for stock and other effects destroyed, and that the balance of the money awarded, and which was being withheld was in respect of buildings, and would be paid on the architect’s certificate according as the work of rebuilding the destroyed premises was proceeded with.
Messrs Day, Kelleher and Horgan also interviewed the Secretary of the Ministry of Finance in connection with a recent letter dealing with the stoppage of the payment of awards in compensation claims for actual re-building.
What became apparent in late February 1923 was that the Minister of Finance would pay for the actual physical building work after it was built but the initiative rested with the owners of destroyed properties to get the work started. The worry by Corporation officials was that large scale business establishments with available cash flow could embrace successfully such a government initiative. An architect’s certificate weekly or monthly would bring government money in appropriate and welcome tranches. However, for the smaller shopkeeper the challenge remained where would they get own resources to be able to start work.
1190a. Advertisement for Munster Arcade, Cork, 1925, from Guy’s Directory of Cork (source: Cork City Library).