Monthly Archives: November 2019

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 28 November 2019

1025a. Front Cover of 50 Gems of West Cork by Kieran McCarthy

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 28 November 2019

Kieran’s New Book, 50 Gems of West Cork


    There were two words – raw and epic – which constantly came to mind as my 400cc scooter motorcycle traversed the roads and byways of West Cork whilst researching this new book in the past year. Both words came to mind as I felt almost swallowed up on my small bike disappearing on routeways, which duck and weave through hollowed out rock scarred by glaciation movements 20,000 years ago or parked up on coastal beaches where the folding of the rock can be seen from near the origins of the universe.

     This new book, 50 gems of West Cork, builds on a previous publication called West Cork Through Time (Amberley Publishing 2015), which explored the fascination by post card makers one hundred years ago of West Cork in its scenery, its culture and its people. This new book returns to some of those sites chosen and details new ones exploring how these key sites became the focus of attention and development – and how their stories, memories and the making of new narratives were articulated in an attempt to preserve an identity and/ or communities locally and nationally at sites or to create new identities and communities.

    Several sites in this book came into being in the fledging years of the Irish Free State where tourism and story-telling about the nation’s history were highlighted or some sites were created from the burgeoning boom time of 1960s Ireland, where the focus was on developing industry and recreational amenities. For example, the promotion of areas such as Inchidoney Island for more tourism was driven by the Irish Free State’s Irish Tourist Association (ITA), which was established in 1925 to market the young Irish Free State as a tourist destination internationally. Small resorts along the West Cork coastline were developed simultaneously at sites such as Courtmacsherry, Glandore, Bantry Bay, Glengarriff and Berehaven.

   The title book explores 50 well-known gems of the West Cork region. It brings their stories together in an accessible manner. It is not meant to provide be a full history of a site but perhaps does try to provide new lenses on how heritage is looked at and the power of narrative construction and collective memory in West Cork. The book takes the reader from Bandon to Dursey Island, from Gougane Barra to the Healy Pass.

    Researching West Cork, the visitor discovers that each parish has its own local historian, historical society, village council, sometimes a library, tidy towns group, community group and business community who have inspired the collection of stories, the creation of heritage trails and information panels, and the championing of a strong sense of place and identity. Relics from the past also haunt the landscape with prominent landmarks ranging from Bronze Age standing stones to ivy clad ruined houses and castles, churches and old big houses, to beacons, cable cars and lighthouses. All add to the narrative of the spectacle that is West Cork.

    The origins of the beautiful towns of the West Cork can vary from medieval times to the early twentieth century. On walking around them what is particularly impressive is the nineteenth century fabric, which make for very photogenic spaces to capture. There are old and colourful shopfronts, old narrow laneways and streets, ornate water pumps, cobbled surfaces, historic market places, eye catching churches as well as two hundred year-old bridges and older bridges. These latter traits define the look of and layer with stories much of West Cork’s towns. For example, on a sunny day as the sun sets, the colourful shopfronts of Bandon’s Main Street with its stone-built fabric bridge are illuminated.

    Where much is written down and attempts made at compiling local histories in West Cork, there is a need to compile the macro historical picture of West Cork. Certainly, the work of Fáilte Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way has been key in bringing many threads of stories together, kickstarting long forgotten traditions and empowering communities to present their story to the visitor. In particular, this book draws on the brilliant Irish Newspaper Archive where the past editions of the Cork Examiner and the Southern Star are digitised and provide much information at different points of a site’s evolution. With a building, statue or a view, looking closely at the human detail can reveal nuances about how places are seen and understood and ultimately can be championed going forward into the future.

    In all, this book comprises a myriad of stories of different shapes, patterns and colours just like a painter’s palette of colours. Every site or gem presented is charged with that emotional sense of nostalgia – the past shaping and inspiring present thoughts, ideas and actions. However, this book only scratches the surface of what this region has to offer. West Cork in itself is a way of life where generations, individuals and communities, have etched out their lives. It is a place of discovery, of inspiration, a place of peace and contemplation, and a place to find oneself in the world. What’s the best way to see West Cork – travel through it, sense it and enjoy it!

50 Gems of West Cork by Kieran McCarthy is available in good Cork bookshop.

The book is being launched at a book signing by Kieran in Waterstones, St Patrick’s Street, Saturday 30 November, 3-5pm. All welcome.


1025a. Front cover of 50 Gems of West Cork by Kieran McCarthy

1025b. Main Street, Bandon, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy)


1025b. Main Street Bandon, present day

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 21 November 2019

1024a. Advertisement for Royal Victoria Hotel, 1919


Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 21 November 2019

Kieran’s New Book, Championing Cork, Cork Chamber of Commerce, 1819-2019


   Championing Cork, Cork Chamber of Commerce, 1819-2019 is my new book and has been funded and published by the Cork Chamber of Commerce. Following on from last week, below is another snippet from the book– focussing on some aspects of its early history and the creation of its commercial hotel, which became known as Royal Victoria Hotel.

   Circa 1819, the Committee of Directors of the Cork Commercial Buildings Company made a rule banning campaigning on political or religious matters and possibly Catholic Emancipation. This displeased many of the subscribers who left and formed the Cork Chamber of Commerce. On 8 November 1819 a meeting of subscribers of the new chamber met at Mr Shinkwin’s Rooms (later the site of the Victoria Hotel on St Patrick’s Street) to discuss the rules of governance, to be based on “liberal principles”. The meeting was chaired by Mr Murphy while Mr Alex McCarthy presided at the inaugural General Meeting of 13 November.

   A set of rules for the organisation was drawn up and it is significant the word “chamber” was used in the antique sense, it being the intention of the organisation to provide literally a room where merchants, local and visiting could assemble to conduct business. It was also envisaged that the Chamber would act as a repository of commercial intelligence and accordingly newspapers were provided daily.

   The early minute books of the Chamber indicate that the committee members were designated and did not appoint a chairman in the modern context of the word. It appears that the chairmanship alternated between the members, each one taking it in turn to chair meetings. Such was the degree of stability between 1819 to 1831, the same members were returned by ballot at each succeeding annual general meeting, and so not more than nineteen chairmen officiated. These comprised James Daly, Martin Mahony, Richard Ronayne, David Baldwin, Thomas Fitzgibbon, Richard O’Driscoll, Robert Honan, James Hackett, Charles Sugrue, Joshua Hargreaves, George Waters, Daniel Murphy, Denis Mullins, John O’Connell, Dan Meagher, J Barry, Paul McSweeney, Thomas Lyons and Edward Penrose. It should be noted that this list is not in chronological sequence.

   An examination of the occupations of the members reveal that practically all were involved in trade as opposed to the professions and many of their domiciles and/or business premises were situated in the centre of the city. They were glass manufacturers, distillers, butter and tallow chandlers, woollen manufacturers and food processors.

   Policy papers didn’t get published straight away – their first forays into galvanising support was through hosting networking dinners, setting up a reading room where all the weekly newspapers of the day could be read, honouring notable Cork emigrants abroad such as Daniel Florence O’Leary, an aide de Camp in Simon Bolivar’s government in South America, honouring the Catholic Emancipator Daniel O’Connell and his diplomatic work in Westminster, and interviewing prospective candidates for membership of Westminster and asking them what their policies were.

   From the earliest minute book of the Chamber it appears that no president was elected. For several years, the Chair was taken by various members of the committee, who were elected each year. In 1822, Thomas Worthington was President. He had an eminent position in the city as Surveyor-General of Customs of Goods. By 1832 Mr D Meagher generally presided, and from that date until 1838 he is described as president. Then Mr Thomas Lyons was elected president, and he continued in this role until 1850. Thomas Lyons was active in local politics. He became an Alderman in Cork Corporation and became the first Roman Catholic mayor of Cork since 1688 after the Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Act of 1840 reformed the system of local government. He took a dynamic role in the early 1840s in promoting campaigns by Daniel O’Connell on the ongoing repeal movement of the Act of Union and Fr Theobald Mathew’s Temperance campaign. The firm T Lyons and Co was a major commercial drapery factory located on Cork’s South Main Street.

   In the early 1830s, the Chamber wished to have its own property and on 25 March 1831 two leases of property were taken out. One lease was for 479 years – the premises being described in the lease as containing 35 feet in front, 35 feet in width at the rear and 67 ½ feet from St Patrick’s Street down Cook Street. The other lease was for 649 years and was described as the ground on which the dwelling house of Catherine Anne Barrett stood and also its back yard and back kitchen. From 1834 onwards, the Chamber built a hotel and reading room at the corner of Marlboro Street and 104 St Patrick’s Street under a trust deed led by James Daly, Thomas Lyons, Charles Sugrue and various shareholders.

  The overall Chamber building facing onto St Patrick’s Street was a plain unornamental building, faced with cut limestone. Its reading room was described as a spacious apartment. The lower portion of the building was let into shops, and the rere was occupied as a Hotel.

  In 1838, the Chamber of Commerce Hotel was renamed the Royal Victoria Hotel, on the occasion of the accession of Queen Victoria to the throne by Mr Thomas McCormick, senior. The Royal Victoria was patronised by the Royal Families of England, France, and Prussia, by the Grand Duke and Duchess of Saxe Coburg and Gotha, his Royal Highness Prince Phillippe, the Princesses Amelia and Clotilda, and other Royal personages.

Text Extract from Championing Cork, Cork Chamber of Commerce, 1819-2019 (2019) by Kieran McCarthy and published by Cork Chamber of Commerce. The book is available from Vibes and Scribes on Lavitt’s Quay or the Nano Nagle Centre Book Shop on Douglas Street or through the Cork Chamber of Commerce, 021 4509044 or



1024a. Advertisement for Royal Victoria Hotel, 1919 (source: Cork City Library).

1024b. Front cover of Championing Cork, Cork Chamber of Commerce, 1819-2019 by Kieran McCarthy and published by the Cork Chamber of Commerce (2019).


1024b. Front Cover of Championing Cork, Cork Chamber of Commerc


Kieran’s Speech, Nano Nagle Centre, 23 November 2019

Cllr Kieran McCarthy, deputising for the Lord Mayor at the Nano Nagle Centre, 23 November 2019


Narratives of History

Deputy Lord Mayor, Cllr Kieran McCarthy,

Nano Nagle Centre, 23 November 2019


Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

Many thanks for the invitation here this afternoon.

It’s two years since the Nano Nagle Centre opened and for two years the management team here with its board have worked very hard to make the site and all its components work and make it sustainable. Phase one – the re-imagining of the site here was ambitious but phase 2 has also brought that ambition to life but also new readings of this place –  how places are made and remade, surprises out of the programming process, seeing what works and doesn’t work, and the looking toward other possible components for this place – and in essence forging new methodologies on the challenges facing such an important heritage site from the local to the international.

Certainly management and the board have underlined the importance of having an open mind and an open debate on the splicing together of different genres of thinking about concepts of heritage – in areas around the place of cultural heritage in national and international narratives, how we make local history within a cultural heritage framework relevant, the place of local history in supporting a city’s future, and in areas such as how we remember and how we approach local history and public story telling in the 21st century.

All these concepts may sound similar in their character but in essence are all different avenues of thought, which if aligned make place-making stronger. Some of these concepts such as the writing output of local history in a city such as Cork have been highly championed – Cork has a high calibre of people who study and write about it – passionate local historians, public agents of history, and local historical societies,

but on the other extreme, as a city we can be poor as developing new story telling methodologies and new ways to make our cultural heritage relevant in an ever changing world. And sometimes the narratives are stuck in the same topics with a truckload of sub topics sent to a purgatory of stories waiting for a champion to draw them down and to make them relevant again and some never breaking through to primary narratives in our local history.

The story of Nano Nagle in the city’s collective memory or memory bank of stories has always remained active for over two centuries leading the site here to become a pilgrimage centre to an exhibition centre- the Presentation School movement making sure her story was never forgotten from generation to generation -the social inclusion which still place on the site. Hence Nano’s story has always been up there with the primary historical characters remembered in the city – like Fr Theobald Mathew, Terence McSwiney and Tomás MacCurtain.

What I have seen in the past two years is that the Nano Nagle Centre has strived to create new ways of thinking about Cork’s heritage and its role in a wider context – I think that process is ongoing – the past two years has seen this centre amass justifiable awards – even the bookshop even before we have officially opened it this afternoon was given a national bookshop award last week.

I think we have seen nothing yet with the adjacent school of architecture. We will read more and more about the narrative of its positive effects on the study of architecture and its different sub-disciplines and its transformative thinking on thinking around public architecture. Certainly a walk through its halls on any open night such as Culture Night one can see many local buildings drawn out and some really exciting proposals for them as well as bigger questions such as heritage management in cities such as Venice.

This afternoon marks another launch of another phase in this site’s development -perhaps phase 6 or 7 when one adds in the educational programme, lecture programme and event programme, and the genealogy centre programme, social inclusion work and the exterior work which management engage with around what type of City Cork could be in the future. All of these have created their own methodologies and cross disciplinary thinking and all splice together like some kind of cross-wiring to create an enormous light of sorts – a lighthouse in this corner of Cork’s world.

Today new wires are added in terms of the heritage of a map room where the city’s historic maps are on display, the launch of the bookshop, and the Cork Print Makers room. I welcome these new collaborations with Cork Council’s library service and the fantastic and always thought-provoking Cork Print Makers, and I know many local writers are quite happy to have a new space to sell their books.

I am particularly enamoured by the fact that the narratives behind how the city’s historic map collection came into being. For me it is important to speak about the City’s second public librarian Eugene Carbery who took on with energy the job from James Wilkinson, the city’s first public librarian. Eugene Carbery laid the seeds of the founding of a local history library in the emerging new city library over 1934 and 1935 and gathered a map collection from different sources, sources he published in the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society. Eugene also continued the quest to rebuild the library’s book collection after the Burning of the Carnegie Library in 1920.

I can be biased and say I have spent over 25 years of my life being a regular visitor to the local studies room and from my travels I have yet to see a better local history room collection. So I am delighted to hear of this collaboration here today, which for me is about celebrating the 75th anniversary of the local history library as well.

It is also important that the stories behind the cartographer’s maps are outed and that we begin to unpack their narratives and meanings. I know a scan of John Rocque’s 1759 map features in the exhibition space and will now be getting an extra focus as well as others on what maps can tell us about a city’s contemporary development but also why it is important to read between the lines of a historic artefact and history itself.

By John Rocque’s Map of Cork in 1759, the medieval town walls of Cork were just a memory- the medieval plan was now a small part in something larger – larger in terms of population from 20,000 to 73,000 plus in terms of a new townscape. A new urban text emerged with new bridges, streets, quays, residences and warehouses built to intertwine with the natural riverine landscape. New communities created new social and cultural landscapes to encounter.

The 1759 Map is impressive in its detail. John Rocque (c.1705–62) was a cartographer and engraver of European repute. He could count among his achievements – maps of London, Paris, Berlin and Rome. In Britain, his many projects included plans of great gardens, several county and provincial city maps and a great and a great, highly innovative, survey of London which resulted in a 16-sheet map of London and its immediate hinterland (1746), and an immense 24-sheet map of the city itself (also 1746), laid out at a very large scale close to 200 feet to an inch.

Of course as all of who use maps know they tell lies and never give you a true sense of a place. John Rocque’s map shows off key sites of interest all connected to the Georgian era of kings– and the Georgianisation of British towns and cities – on the Cork map and on the later 1773 map sites such as Hannover Street, public squares, the custom house, the butter market, the Theatre Royal, the King George II horse, tree lined canals, sailing ships, riding track circles, bowling greens – all of these though are all given preference over the lighter delineations of the laneways and poorer housing, where the majority of the city’s population lived and where Nano frequently visited. Indeed, truth being told Nano’s mind map is probably the opposite to John Rocque’s one.

It is known that Nano walked this great city a lot – there are multiple constructed narratives of her physically holding a lamp and weaving in and out of the dark streets of Cork  – as the city’s public lighting was only large wicks in oil. From a metaphorical perspective, I like to think that people on the streets of Cork through her lamp knew she was present and cared – she searched out and engaged with the disenfranchised. She sought to give them a voice.

In those late 1770s and early 1780s Nano would have encountered an Atlantic city of great export – where the harbour and the sea was a huge economic asset – a multitude of wooden sailing ships creaking and bouncing off each other as they were tied up– a diversity of sailors from different backgrounds trying to communicate with each other– a port where the languages of Irish or English were in the minority – a multitude of goods awaiting their shipment, paper work as long as people’s arms – Cork docks was where a Corkonian one day could jump on a ship and a few weeks later emerge from the deck in the Caribbean or in the food markets of Lisbon.

In the year 1780 Nano’s world of Cork City had a population of 80,000 people, which had risen from 20,000 eighty years earlier – it is a world where one could estimate that just over 20 per cent were employed and many lived and struggled in poor conditions.

I have no doubt that Nano would have listened to debates about the city centre and its expansion from walled town starting around 1700 to populating 75 % of its marshy islands by 1780 – complete with busy quays, mud filled streets,  over-flowing canals – and new local electoral areas – and new neighbourhoods all being politically defined as the city expanded..

In 1780 Nano in her wanderings in the city would have heard the debate about filling in the canals of the city – the great dumping of rubbish in them over many years – in particular the great canal which once filled in would create St Patrick’s Street.

Worries reigned with the owners of quaysides who did not want their mooring posts taken away and their mooring rights done away with. They were challenged with a new vision for the city – a move from ship movement to more pedestrian movement.

Nano would have heard before her death the debate in the Council Chamber in the commercial centre called the Exchange on Castle Street about creating a new bridge on the north channel. She would heard the physical uproar from ferry crossing owners about how the new proposed bridge of St Patrick’s Bridge would put them out of business.

In 1780 Nano would have possibly seen the 1780 drawing for the south docks where a main street and 20 side streets were planned.

And finally, I always think Nano would have heard about the debate, cost and dilemma and quest by the Councillors of the emerging city for a new Mayor’s chain. Nano didn’t live to see it being placed on the shoulders of Mayor of Cork Samuel Rowland on 9 June 1787 or to see two gold chains being given to the city sheriffs. All were voted on by the court of D’Oyer hundred – or the city’s assembly of freemen.  The sum of £500 was given as a bond by the then Mayor who needed to be paid back, and the money sent onto the London goldsmith. It is unrecorded if he was ever paid back, just in case an ancestor from late eighteenth-century Cork ever appears within Cork.

Ultimately when you look at that time of the eighteenth century Nano Nagle viewed a modern Atlantic City evolving within its time complete with a micro world of challenges and worries – which all still linger in our time –and in truth all still in echo in this Atlantic city and drive this city’s ambition and its future proofing.

So today as this phase of the Nano Nagle centre is launched there is much to celebrate and much to reflect upon. The Nano Nagle Centre has travelled far within 24 months to get to this point today – to be a lighthouse- The splicing of different ideas and openness, and a hard work ethic has opened up new avenues and new questions on the role of this cultural heritage space within Ireland’s southern capital and further afield.

I wish everyone the very best going forward – the team and the board.

Thank you for listening to me.


Cllr Kieran McCarthy’s Comments, Cork City Council Budget Meeting, 14 November 2019

 Lord Mayor,

Can I thank the CE, the Finance Officer John Hallahan and Cllr Martin, the chair of the Finance Committee for their work on this draft annual budget book.

History is being made this evening as this marks the first budget of the extended city in its current size. We now have to budget for 210,000 people and a city five times more in size with more challenges and more calls for funding.

Reading through the various sections you can see the strengths of our directorates and the ongoing work programmes – the 28 per cent of our income spent on Housing with over 1,000 social housing constructs coming on stream in the next two years – and near 20 per cent on roads with several construction and public realms projects ongoing. The continued investment in community grants, sports grants and arts grants are all very welcome.

I welcome as well the reference in the document of strong financial management and budgetary control and in particular the pulling back of the revenue deficit.

I am happy to support the budget.

I do have a few concerns from reading the document;

Firstly, the increase in expenditure of e.5.8m in homelessness services will help those that need it but I do hope that the increase will actually provide better services to those who need support services to get out of the homelessness trap, and that the funding doesn’t completely disappear into emergency accommodation, with no long term strategy really emerging.

Secondly, from a business perspective, I have an issue that that 43 per cent of the Council’s income is from rates- I feel that’s not sustainable in the long term – But I do welcome the Economic Development Fund and all its moving parts plus the work of the Local Enterprise Office and the cultural festival scheme in Cork– I still think there is a job of work to really promote measures more in the Fund, the enterprise office and the cultural festivals to the general public – all provide very useful tools to help businesses to respond to commercial changes.

Thirdly, I would like to comment on the ongoing issue of the unresolved compensation package to the County Council. It is not positive that it has not been resolved before this evening – and I do think there needs to an appendix in this draft annual budget saying how the compensation figure of e.13.5m was reached plus a little about previous expenditure in our new areas– I would suggest it might go on pages 12 and 13 with its graph showing the expenditure increase showing a breakdown of figures. I say this in light of the County Council narrative as well earlier this week regarding the County suggesting it is losing significant income through the city boundary extension and no reference in their press releases to the compensation package.

Fourthly, it is welcome to see where sections of the LPT will go towards – I do note with unease though in the introduction the allocation of e.176,500 towards “tree cutting”  – I would like to see that for every tree cut we plant two – and that for the most part the tree budget is going towards planting trees – that is this document the words “tree cutting” would be replaced by the words “tree management and tree planting”.

That leads me quickly to my fifth and last point – which is the understating of the narrative around the Council’s investment in environmental and climate change adaptation work plus even in the sustainable development goals –I think all these aspects should come to the fore more and get their own primary paragraphs in the introduction.

–for example, in the introduction there is a huge section on parking regulation but very little on the campaign to get more park and rides, cycling initiatives plus more bus incentives – in terms of transport in this budget document one could argue there is a significant car focussed narrative.

We need to create a more modern urban agenda narrative as much as we can.

I wish to thank John Hallihan and all in the finance department again on this work and I look forward to seeing the implementation of the work programme for 2020.

Many thanks Lord Mayor.

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 14 November 2019

1023a. Front Cover of Championing Cork, Cork Chamber of Commerc



Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 14 November 2019

Kieran’s New Book, Championing Cork, Cork Chamber of Commerce, 1819-2019


     Championing Cork, Cork Chamber of Commerce, 1819-2019 is my new book and has been funded and published by the Chamber of Commerce. Established in 1819 the Chamber has consistently led a mission to be the leading business organisation in the Cork region. For two hundred years, it has committed itself to ensure the city and region’s prosperity, vibrancy and competitiveness through sustainable development. Researching the history of the institution through the rich archival material that has survived, every broad period of growth and decline has empowered the institution to carry on to challenge and resolve the issues of the day. The contribution has been immense.

    Circa 1819, the Committee of Directors of the Cork Commercial Buildings Company made a rule banning campaigning on political or religious matters and possibly Catholic Emancipation. This displeased many of the subscribers who left and formed the Cork Chamber of Commerce. On 8 November 1819 a meeting of subscribers of the new chamber met at Mr Shinkwin’s Rooms (later the site of the Victoria Hotel on St Patrick’s Street) to discuss the rules of governance, to be based on “liberal principles”. The meeting was chaired by Mr Murphy while Mr Alex McCarthy presided at the inaugural General Meeting of 13 November.

    Established in an economic decline and as a champion of Catholic Emancipation, the Chamber emerged not only to provide a physical space where its members could come and read the up todate news of the day and plan for the future, but also to challenge the status quo. It grew rapidly from 1819 to the Great Famine years campaigning for more rights for the Catholic merchant middle class and more investment opportunities.

   Post the Irish Great Famine, the economic decline that followed led to the emergence of new forms of party politics being connected with the Chamber. The quest for Home Rule and the Irish National Land League campaign split the membership in the 1880s with the Incorporated Chamber of Commerce and Shipping appearing on the commercial landscape of the city. The city now had two chambers that pursued issues such as the need for better and quicker transport modes and more business education. Both of these core issues led the Chambers to the era of the First World War, where once again economic decline ensued. There was a distinct shortage of labour as many Irish labourers went out to fight the war. Following this the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil war disrupted business. It was only in the late 1920s that the two Chambers reframed their strategies to push the future of the Irish Free State. Growth for over a decade through industries such as Fords and Dunlops and reclamation projects such as Tivoli industrial area were again stifled by the advent of war – this time the Second World War.

    Cork in the decades of the 1950s and 1960s was a regional powerhouse in Ireland as Haulbowline Steel Mills, ESB projects such as the Lee Hydroelectric Scheme and Marina Steam plant came into being followed in quick succession by Verolme Dockyard, Whitegate Oil Refinery, Cork Airport, and a new Regional Technical College. The decade of the 1980s brought economic decline again and the Chamber once again shifted its focus on strengthening the supports for local business into the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. The creation of a full time Chamber executive team with creative thinking capacities provided platforms to think about the future of Cork as Ireland’s southern capital and region.

    This book draws on the Chamber’s archives in Cork City and County Archives and from its press coverage over two hundred years. It highlights the big stories of the chamber’s past but also the subtler elements – the conversations, speeches, the messages, the creativity, the elements of empowerment – the intangible pulses, which drive an institution forward. The book presents six chronological chapters, whose headings are meant to connect with the present-day strategic aims of the Cork Chamber. The chapters help showcase how much lobbying work the Chamber has covered, the topics that have come up over and over again, and the ones, which form the foundation of the ongoing elements of the Chamber’s forward-looking vision.

    Chapters two to seven map out the variety of campaigns across three centuries – from the early nineteenth century to the 21st century. Chapter two, entitled Setting the Scene, outlines the context to the establishment of the organisation and the first sixty years. Chapter three entitled Transforming Cork relates a multitude of campaigns to transform Cork physically especially its infrastructure. Chapter four entitled A Vision of a Region highlights a number of core events, which for the Chamber were a key part in setting out a vision for Cork in the future. Chapter five entitled Empowering You maps out many of the campaigns the Chamber engaged in to enable social change. Chapter six, entitled Supporting Business showcases several of the initiatives to help businesses in Cork City and the wider Region. Chapter Seven, Plans for a New Millennium, details projects completed and ongoing in the early 21st Century City and Region and beyond.

Championing Cork, Cork Chamber of Commerce, 1819-2019 is available from any good Cork bookshop or through the Cork Chamber of Commerce.



1023a. Front cover of Championing Cork, Cork Chamber of Commerce, 1819-2019 by Kieran McCarthy and published by the Cork Chamber of Commerce.

1023b. St Patrick’s Street, during the recent Cork Jazz Festival (picture: Kieran McCarthy)

1023b. St Patrick’s Street, during the recent Cork Jazz Festival

Cllr McCarthy Launches New Book on Cork Chamber of Commerce

A new book Championing Cork chronicles the history of city region and that of the Cork Chamber of Commerce, which was founded 200 years ago on 8 November 1819. 

Early last year, Douglas Road local historian Cllr Kieran McCarthy was commissioned to research the history of the Chamber, and the book was launched at a dinner to celebrate the Chamber’s anniversary last week. 

 This book draws on the Chamber’s records in Cork City and County Archives and from its press coverage over two hundred years. It highlights the big stories of the Chamber’s past but also the subtler elements – the conversations, speeches, the messages, the creativity, the elements of empowerment – the intangible pulses, which drive an institution forward.

 Speaking at the launch of the history book at The Metropole Hotel Cork, Chamber President Paula Cogan said, “This book brings together 200 years of history of the region. It gives a wonderful flavour of the Chamber’s activities through the decades, describing them in relation to the socio-political and economic context at the time. Kieran took on the responsibility of bringing together 200 years of history with great enthusiasm and with an appreciation of both the importance and impossibility of such a task!”

 Cork Chamber has lobbied on behalf of its members on key projects that have transformed the Cork over 200 years. Some of the early campaigns included the first railway services in Cork and supporting the establishment of the further education institutions.

 Over the years the Chamber has been a strong advocate for infrastructure developments, such as the growth of Cork Airport, the Port of Cork and the docklands. Working to raise the profile of the region nationally and internationally has been a key part of the Chamber’s mandate and this continues to be a core activity.

 Commenting on the book, author and historian Cllr Kieran McCarthy said: “Two hundred years ago a small group of gentlemen met at Shinkwin’s Rooms on St Patrick’s Street – a small two storey building not overly developed. Minutes were kept, a chair appointed, and the rules of the new organisation were set out as their winter meetings progressed.

 As the years passed, the new Chamber etched out its own vision and pursued development, across themes such as docklands development, the need to harness new technologies, the need for enhanced commuter belt transport, the need to mind and enhance the City’s appearance, the role of Cork Harbour in the city’s economic development, Cork’s relationship with the UK, diplomatic opportunity building, branding the city – to name just a few. In essence, this new book explores the Chamber’s journey and lobbying work into these themes over two hundred years and much more”.

Speaking at the launch, CEO Conor Healy said: “While some things change over time, the core of the Chamber’s remit of supporting our members through good and more challenging times remains unchanged. The Chamber values of being dynamic, purposeful, inspiring and above all responsible, underpin our vision and purpose, and we look to the next chapter of our history with confidence”.


Photo of the launch of Championing Cork, Cork Chamber of Commerce, 1819-2019,

Kieran’s Question to CE and Motions, Cork City Council Meeting, 11 November 2019

Question to CE:

To ask the CE for an update on the progress of Coach Hill Road Works Scheme, Rochestown? When will plans be presented to the public and funding be put in place? Cllr Kieran McCarthy)



In light of the ongoing demographic change and the emergence of many new families living in the area that a new playground be made a priority for delivery in Ballinlough. The current very small playground in Ballinlough Swimming Pool Park is out of date and is not fit for purpose for such an area with a rapidly growing number of families (Cllr Kieran McCarthy).


That the lines for the car parking spaces at the start of Blackrock Amenity adjacent Blackrock Castle be re-painted as they are faded. In particular drivers are unable to note the delineations of the designated wheelchair spaces (Cllr Kieran McCarthy).

Kieran’s Speech, Launch of New book, Championing Cork: Cork Chamber of Commerce, 1819-2019

1023a. Front Cover of Championing Cork, Cork Chamber of Commerc

That Sense of Cork

Championing Cork: Cork Chamber of Cork, 1819-2019

 Speech, Cllr Kieran McCarthy

Friday 8 November 2019


An Tanáiste, Dear distinguished guests, Dear ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for the opportunity to speak here this evening at such an important occasion. This book took 18 months – a year and a half – to compile, piece together and publish, and all of its roads led to this evening – the actual 200th anniversary date of the Chamber being established.

Eighteen months though is only a very small proportion of time of the 200 years of the Chamber’s history. But for me and all behind this book, this publication celebrates the nature, essence, energy, character and the power of knowledge and marks a group who came together and continue to champion Ireland’s southern capital and region. So for me this book is not just a history book but a toolkit where a cross section of a multitude of moves by the Chamber over the 200 years are documented and mapped.

Two hundred ago today, on a wintry evening a small group of gentlemen- not over a dozen in number – met at Shinkwin’s Rooms on St Patrick’s Street – a small two storey building not overly developed. Minutes were kept, a chair appointed and the rules of the new organisation were set out as their winter meetings progressed.

We are very lucky that those original minute books and 98 per cent of the minute books survive and are now minded in Cork City and County Archives as well as a vast majority of the minutes were written up in local newspapers such as the Cork Examiner. The Cork Examiner in our time is now completely digitised and completely readable online going back to 1841.

On the 8 November 1819, some of the merchants of the city were aware of the need for a Chamber. Dublin and Waterford already had their chamber for many years. The first members of the Cork Chamber don’t jump out of Cork history as highly recognisable figures. But they do come across though as people who cared about the city and region, as hard sloggers, and that they were acutely aware of the challenges of their time and of the acquisition of knowledge to resolve such challenges.

Policy papers didn’t get published straight away – their first forays into galvanising support was through hosting networking dinners, setting up a reading room where all the weekly newspapers of the day could be read, honouring notable Cork emigrants abroad such as Daniel Florence O’Leary, an aide de Camp in Simon Bolivar’s government in South America, honouring the Catholic Emancipator Daniel O’Connell and his diplomatic work in Westminster, and interviewing prospective candidates for membership of Westminster and asking them what their policies were.

So what has changed from those first policies- the dinners are ongoing, the Chamber still honours Corkmen abroad interestingly the Columbian Ambassador recently unveiled an info panel to Daniel Florence O’Leary at Elizabeth Fort recently. The chamber still asks questions of this city’s politicians of what are your policies- and our senior politicians now pass on questions to present day Westminster candidates.

Indeed probably the only aspect that has changed since those early policies is the ability to read 20 newspapers for free in one place– but one can argue that aspect that has been replaced by the glossy and always thought provoking Chamber Link, which always faces the viewer in every corner of the Chamber’s Summerhill North residences.


Awareness and The Power of Place:

I like to think that those members who signed up on the 8 November and in subsequent weeks were aware of their city, walked its streets, had ideas on where Cork needed to go. That their awareness had many facets.

  • They were aware of Cork’s economic position in Atlantic Europe, not just in Ireland, aware of competitiveness within that space – from Spain through France through the UK and through Ireland.

  • They were aware of its physical position in the middle of a marshland with a river – and from this the hard work required in reclaiming land on a swampland. I like to think they saw and reflected upon the multitudes of timber trunks being hand driven into the ground to create foundational material for the city’s array of different architectural styles.

  • They were aware of its place with an Empire, the relationship with Britain with barracks high upon a hill and across the County, and forts within the harbour area.

  • They were aware of the importance of its deep and sheltered Cork harbour for shipping.

  • They were aware of the shouts of dockers and noise from dropping anchors- the sea water causing masts to creak, and the hulls of timber ships knocking against its wall, as if to say, we are here, and the multitudes of informal international conversations happening just at the edge of a small city centre.

  • And they were aware of much unemployment and economic decline following the end of the Napoleonic Wars.

The Power of Vision:

Within this framework of awareness, the new Chamber of Commerce etched out its own vision, which aimed to provide one of the voices in economic development highlight business and provide a networking platform. The process was slow at the start but gathered momentum in accordance with the enthusiasm and energy of its members in getting things done.

The Chamber though was one of several other voices two hundred years ago who also had a vision for Cork plus were responsible in creating the foundations of our modern city and region. They set threads of thought, which the Chamber followed in time.

The early nineteenth century Corkonian had a rich vision for their city and region, much of which still resonates quite strongly in our present day and the Cork of the future.

The Cork Harbour Commissioners, founded in the 1810s created a new custom house complete with bonded warehouses, built enlarged docks spaces at Lapp’s Quay and pushed the extension of the docks eastwards, all of which set up our modern day North and South Docks.

Two hundred years ago the Cork Steam ship Company also came into being which harnessed the age of steam engines and influenced the adoption of this new technology in emerging breweries and distilleries in the city, as well as the creation of a more effective pumped water supply – and in a few short years steam was harnessed to create a commuter system of railways lines feeding into the city and out into the wider region.

The Wide Street Commission aimed to clean up slum ridden areas and dereliction in the city centre and create new and enhanced drainage systems– their greatest achievement was to plan for a new street, which opened in 1824 called Great George’s Street, which was later renamed Washington Street. Indeed, if one walks the older historic streets of the old medieval core such as South Main Street and North Main Street, one can see a form of rough red brick, which once you see it once you can see how much rebuilding was pursued c. 1820 to c.1830 and how much dereliction was cleared.

The inspection methods of the Cork Butter Market reigned supreme but also their vision to create new routeways for their customers from Kerry and Limerick – to become known as the Butter Roads.

The Grand Jury of Cork comprising local landlords and magistrates complimented this work by lobbying Westminster to give funding towards bridge construction across County Cork’s river valleys – such as the Lee, Bandon and Blackwater.

The knock-on effect of the improvement of roads and bridges led to new mail coach systems established in County Cork.

Reading the minute book of Cork Corporation meetings, one can see their continued investment into re-gravelling streetscapes, taking down and replacing of inadequate bridges, dealing with the decaying fabric of the eighteenth century city and investment into a proper water supply scheme.

The Cork Society of Arts emerged in the 1810s and asked for philanthropic support for artists and sculptors. They also welcomed the Antonia Canova Sculpture Casts to the city– the society, which was informal and small in its initial set-up – within a few short decades led to the creation of the Cork School of Art and a municipal art gallery.

Emerging artists adorned the city with the images of the Coat of Arms and also a branding strategy emerged to reflect its history – one can see passing remarks in travelogues two hundred years ago to Cork being one of the “Venices of the North” – of Northern Europe – a reference to a glory age of democracy in Europe plus a direct reference to canals in eighteenth century Cork, which were filled in the 1780s due to mass over silting. It’s not a strong branding platform but flickers every now and again in narratives about the city in the present day.

There also political visions to end the penal laws and enact Catholic Emancipation.

There were also visions to provide new residential spaces for the growing Roman Catholic middle class –Mini mansion in places such as Blackrock and Ballintemple came into being.

The Cork Chamber of Commerce was born in the midst of all these visions – some of the institutions I have described merged with other bodies as time went on- some were done away with economic decline – some survived and evolved into stronger institutions – but the themes I have described the small Chamber took on with gusto as the decades progressed –

– docklands development, the need to harness new technologies, the need for enhanced commuter belt transport,

 the need to mind and enhance the City’s appearance, the role of Cork Harbour in the city’s economic development, our relationship next to the UK,

networking and creating opportunities, diplomatic opportunity building, branding the city, breaking silos, working together – all define the core themes of the Chamber’s work over two hundred years.

– indeed in turning the pages of all the minute books over two hundred years – history repeats over and over again, some themes advanced and some themes have regressed but the Chamber and all its members through out the ages kept fighting for a better Cork – some times that road led forward, sometimes led back and sometimes it even split the membership – but in the overall scheme of 200 years – consistency of lobbying shines through.

The Power of People:

The minute books record names of people who stepped up to offer advice, to offer leadership and to lobby. Certainly reading between the lines of the minute books and chatting to members  today listening and cultivating action has been very important to the Chamber survival for two hundred years – plus to also to ignite people’s passion for their city and region plus harnessing the concept of their openness, their skillsets, and knowledge.

So this evening we also remember the people connected with the Chamber for over two hundred years. Sometimes history can be just reduced to dates and figures – so in this book you will notice it contains the quotes of past speeches by Presidents and even letters from the general public.

On the aspect of people, I have no doubt there were moments in the early days when the founder members held firm on why they established the Chamber. Tonight, we remember their tenacity and vision.

I have no doubt there have been moments where the Chamber suffered the blows of members who left for various reasons or who passed away. Tonight, we remember past members and not just that we rejoice in the skills and talents of the present members – from the 15 original members to the over 1,000 members now.

I have no doubt there have been moments in the multitudes of meetings where complex issues confounded and angered even the sharpest of members and later in time the Executive, but both members and the executive stood tall in the face of unfolding events. We remember all the past committee members and the executive for their dedication and vision.

I have no doubt that there have been moments in a break of a meeting – when a fellow member asked “is there anything wrong” to another member and a worry was shared -and in that quiet moment – the power of solidarity and friendship prevailed to soften the blows of life. We remember those guardians of empathy and the listening ear.

There have been moments when members knew that at a moment in time – they were the guardians of the city and region and the city’s DNA – an intangible quality of all things Cork – is also embedded into the members.

There have been moments whereby the Chief Executive and his staff felt they has changed something. In particular I would like to highlight the work of Michael Geary and Conor Healy for their respective visions.

Over the past two hundred years, there have been many moments, which this book aims to document. To be a guardian of Cork is no easy task as it filled with much ambition.

In my meetings this week, a member of the EU’s URBACT programme noted to me – you know Cork is all over our social media at the moment – there is so much happening in your city” – I replied – “yep, good, we’re not finished yet, you should see what else we are up to!”.

So tonight, we celebrate 200 years, we reflect on the two hundred years of its history and everyone associated with in the past, present and going forward.  We sincerely thank the Chamber for the journey they have taken the city and region on, and we think about the journey going forward.

My sincere thanks to Chamber 200 Committee and Paula Cogan and to Conor, Katherine, Imelda of the Chamber, Robin O’Sullivan, as well as the Chamber Executive or their consistent positivity, ongoing energy and charting a vision my thanks as well to Kieran in the Irish Examiner for help and assistance with the old photographs, to Brian Magee, the City Archivist, and Cliodhna in Coolgrey for her design and patience.

Thank you for listening to me.