Kieran’s Speech, Blackrock Community Association AGM, February 2017

The Entanglement of Place

Cllr Kieran McCarthy

Madame chairperson, colleagues, committee members, ladies and gentlemen,

Thanks for the invite this evening to this my eighth AGM; time flies.

It is great and frustrating to meet adjacent a building site – a half finished but ongoing project with lots of complexities to complete, entanglements to disentangle and lots of odds and ends to tie up, which we can discuss at length later this evening.

But it is clear that the DNA of the village is transforming once again and its public face is being redrawn and renewed,
– where the element of what makes up a place gets unpacked and repacked,
– where mixed emotions and questions move and are fluid,
– where childhood and family spaces are turned over,
– where the everyday movements of people get muddled and turned upside down,
– where routine is broken and remade,
– where an assembly of old stones get taken down and become re assembled as new structures,
– where old transport routes and rails re-appear,
– where stones become cobbled spaces,
– where no through signs become obstacle courses, where the past haunts the future,
– where phone calls and email boxes to public reps like myself become full with queries and suggestions,
and what should a living heritage quarter of a city look like,

It’s all one big entanglement for this old fishing village, which is clearly passing through a significant phase of development, which will be spoken about and remembered for years to come. It shows clearly the power of place in this quadrant of the world and how the powers of place are multiple in nature. In essence, place matters. In a world where globalisation reigns, more than ever place matters.

This is also apparent in the proud DNA of Rockies and those who wish to be one!

With Blackrock, we are dealing with immense scenic perspectives.

We are dealing with gorgeous, original and well invested architectural, and rich stories.

We are dealing with historical DNA is rooted in ancient Cork from the sixteenth century.
We are dealing with an area that really emerged in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries where the city was branding itself as one of the Venices of the North and the Athens of Ireland in terms of cultural output.
People wished to live here and be inspired here; they built big houses and estates here; but their culture though was filtered down by the strong hardworking fishing village present here, which was part of a necklace of fishing villages in Cork Harbour. One by one great institutions from the Marina, the Ursuline convent, the churches, the railway line, the pier, the tram lines were all added to provide services but also built in a way to enhance the sense of place.

And of course, the most important historical element from one hundred years, which is getting a lot of press recently is the centenary of the construction of the Ford Plant.

In November 1916, Fords made an offer to purchase the freehold of the Cork Park Grounds and considerable land adjoining the river near the Marina. Fords, Cork Corporation and the Harbour Commissioners entered into formal negotiations. In January 1917, it was decided to obtain parliamentary powers to permit the sale of the necessary land, which would enable the Company to erect buildings of a size demanded by the extent of the proposed output.

Under the agreements drawn up between parties involved, the Company acquired approximately 130 acres of land, having a river frontage of approximately 1,700 feet, the company agreeing to erect the buildings to cost at least £200,000 to give employment to at least 2,000 adult males, and to pay a minimum wage of one shilling per hour to them when employed in the factory after completion.

And of course, the new factory brought its own building site in November 1917 when the foundations were laid.

The plant being laid down by the company was specially designed for the manufacture of an Agricultural Motor Tractor, well known as the “fordson”, a 22 horse power, four cylinder tractor, working with kerosene or paraffin, adaptable either for ploughing or as a portable engine arranged for driving machinery by belt drive.

The demand for such tractors was universal and great. Large areas could be brought under food production with the minimum of expense and labour. The Cork factory was to provide ‘fordsons’ to local, regional and national farmers and further afield on the European Continent.

And culturally transformed this corner of the city – industry came to Blackrock, and a steady wage – as well as opportunities to join Fordson Soccer team, build new housing estates paid for by workers as well the creation of new public houses.
Of course the list goes in exploring the rich heritage of this area; we are lucky to have such heritage here, which offers so much thought and complex levels of thinking about place and home.


I would also like to thank the people of Blackrock for their interest and support in my own community projects over the last eight years now.

–  The Discover Cork: Schools’ Heritage or Local history project, got some nice work this school season from 50 schools of which Beaumont BNS and GNS have pursued some great work on the history of this locality and some really great what I would deem lost family histories are re-emerging.

– The local history column in the Cork Independent, in the books I have been lucky to publish – two last year in terms of Cork City Centre Tour and Cork 1916, Examining everyday life.

– McCarthy’s Community Talent Competition is in its ninth year.

– McCarthy’s Make a Model Boat Project on the Atlantic Pond, also in its ninth year.

– and the walking tours through this ward; there are now ten of these – developed over the last number of years – and are ongoing and attract many interested people – people are interested in community, their roots, their identity and sense of place and the Blackrock Tour attracts many new residents who have many questions and are delighted to find a home in this quarter of the city or corner of the world

– With Cork City Musical Society, I directed Crazy for You in the Firkin Crane in Shandon.

– The appointment by the Minister for the Environment as an Irish delegate to the EU’s Committee of the Regions, is a busy one every three weeks of so. The 350 member committee gives advice to the European Parliament on local authority issues. I have shared the importance of small but significant projects such as yours from outings to get togethers. I have had the opportunity to see many new place and encounter situations from the Atlantic to the EU’s eastern borders in eastern Bulgaria– and ultimately everyone I have met is looking to live in places with opportunities and to be able to live or raise a family in safety. The importance of education, lifelong learning and building community capacity are consistently themes I encounter, even in the most impoverished places I have been sent to. At the end of last year, I was sent to a camp on innovation to Gabrovo in Central Bulgaria, where they earn on average e5,000 a year and where a average cost of a house is e35,000. And those I spoke with appreciated the Irish sense of community and believed in social innovation. I still firmly believe that communities and community groups such as yourself should have a stronger voice in driving and dictating social policy.

– Thank you for your continued courtesy towards myself. You always learn something new about yourself in Blackrock, indeed here is a place where you get stopped on the road for a chat, are challenged, encouraged, supported, helped and always pushed!

– Best of luck in the year ahead as you refocus the lens of this community space in the finished village renewal scheme. In these AGMs, there should always be the sense of thanks and renewal of spirit. Thank You.