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.
Fleadh Cheoil na Mumhan comes to Cork in July and with it 15,000 visitors over the week-long event. Following a successful bid by Douglas Comhaltas Éireann, Cork City will be hosting the Fleadh Cheoil na Mumhan in July 2017. Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy noted that in recent years Cork City Council has successfully championed the city as a venue for traditional music; “Cork City Council is actively engaged with Douglas Comhaltas in the development of their business plan around the event and the finalisation of a programme of events. Great credit is due to those who bid and won this event. The hosting of this event represents an important exercise of learning for the stakeholders that are key to the running of a Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann event. This will be the first time that the Fleadh Cheoil na Mumhan has been staged in a city centre. The awarding of the Munster Fleadh to Cork represents a fantastic opportunity to showcase traditional Irish music, song, and dance in Cork, enhancing the cultural experience for the people of Cork and its many visitors. It is going to be a great week”.
Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy has called for Cork City to rebrand itself as Ireland’s Southern Capital and lose such words as Ireland’s Second City- noting such terms as outdated and downgrading the city’s ambition. In this week’s debate with the City-County Expansion/ Merger advisory group under Jim MacKinnon, Cllr McCarthy cited his experience as a member of the EU Committee of the Regions to note that second tier cities within the EU, more than ever, are making their mark in the macro picture. He noted that Cork City should not be relegated to just a municipal district but should be scaled up to be an Atlantic Maritime City of Innovation. Commenting Cllr McCarthy; “This city has an obsession with looking towards Dublin but misses the opportunity to reconnect with cities in the Atlantic Maritime Region, where historically it traded with and had vast partnerships with. Cork punches way above its weight and is known by many European Commission officials who have visited Cork and the region on business and in a personal capacity as a holiday visitor. Small cities across Europe are tweaking, rebranding and repositioning themselves strategically in a very competitive European and global market of commerce. One gets to see that it is not a time for second tier cities to stay still or be diluted but an exciting time to explore their assets and to scale-up. There is a need to create a stronger narrative for Cork City and to scale up and reposition and capture its energy and expertise – not only as a strategic gateway in the south of Ireland but also in north west Europe”.
Continuing Cllr McCarthy commented; “Cities, large and small, in the European Union are now more than ever before, the powerhouses of economic growth, innovation and employment opportunities. Cities are facing ever greater social challenges in respect of the environment, transport and social cohesion. The Urban Agenda for the EU aims to address those challenges”.
“Vast sums of European structural funds are now being invested in cities and the public interest– to address poverty, housing, innovation, waste management, climate change measures; urban mobility. Much of Cork City’s key infrastructure, the last twenty years, has been for a large part funded by the EU – our new streetscapes, waste management, transport mobility, mechanisms and our larger public parks and amenities. We secure funds because we are an ambitious and strategic city with a vision for its future within a bigger picture – however whilst saying this we cannot secure large scale funding to provide ambitious housing and transport networks without enlarging the city’s boundaries and population. We cannot become part of eminent European urban projects such as Eurocities without have a population capacity of c.250,000″.
Cllr McCarthy stressed that in the macro picture, bigger cities are seen as stronger mechanisms that have population capacity, which can create better funding models: cross-sectoral financial instruments; they can simplify use of funds, and combine funds to more possibilities– the larger the city the more funding its attracts. “The potential for the future of Cork city is enormous. It has the potential to be a really important player in the development of this country but also a trusted player in the Atlantic Region of the European Union. Such ambition should not be thrown onto the fire of efficiency but should be allowed grow with the proper and most effective framework in place”.
Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy has warmly welcomed the initiative by the City Council’s tourism unit (TEAM) that it is in the process of establishing a Cruise Ambassador Programme on a pilot basis and will be working with external stakeholders i.e Port of Cork, Cork City Council City Centre Co-ordinator, CBA, Iarnród Éireann, Cork, and Visit Cork. It is anticipated that the cruise ambassadors will service more than 65 cruise liners, which are due to visit Cork during the 2017 season. The cruise Ambassadors will embark the ship on its arrival into port and interact with the passengers on board who are not already booked on the ship’s organised tours. Each Ambassador will provide a warm welcome to Cork and distribute necessary information such as maps, tourism information leaflets, and advise on all that Cork City has to offer the cruise visitor to enhance their visit.
Cllr McCarthy noted; “it is important that the city showcases its positive and scenic assets. Through giving tours of the city, tourists always enjoy exploring Cork’s ancient port city history; we have a great story to tell to visitors; the fact that over 60 per cent of people will arrive on one of the 65 cruise liners this summer with no pre-booked plan, there is a huge opportunity for stake-holders to come together to create a sustainable package to bring a large percentage of undecided cruise liner visitors from the harbour to the city”.
Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy has welcomed the addition of new interpretative signage at tourist strategic sites in Cork City. Fáilte Ireland have commenced with the installation of orientation signage as part of Ireland’s Ancient East at five locations in Cork City – Cork City Gaol, Blackrock, Butter Museum/ Shandon, Cork Public Museum/ Fitzgerald’s Park, St Finbarre’s Cathedral. The signs are strategically located at popular stopping points and inform visitors of nearby tourist attractions and points of interest that are part of Ireland’s Ancient East Story and within up to 60 minutes-drive away from the sign location and encourage visitors to extend their stay. The installation of further signs at other sites like the Lifetime Lab will happen shortly.
Whilst welcoming the signs, Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy re-iterated his recurring point to the City Council’s tourism committee that it is important that Cork gets its share of publicity from Ireland’s Ancient East; “Additional interpretative signage telling Cork’s story is always great; But I am worried though from looking at the national picture – at the marketing campaign of Ireland’s Ancient East that there is a strong marketing focus on counties such as Meath, Carlow, and Kilkenny. This is also shown very clear on the marketing boards in Cork Airport and online. Cork City (and parts of the county to the north and east) as a southern terminus for the trail must get its fair share of publicity. The City was told 2-3 years ago that because we are not on the Wild Atlantic Way we would feature strongly on Ireland’s Ancient East. I acknowledge Fáilte Ireland has funded new heritage projects at the Lifetime Lab and Blackrock Castle but the publicity so far for Cork, I feel, has generally been underwhelming. I have called that we construct a stronger relationship with those in Fáilte Ireland driving Ireland’s Ancient East that we invite them into the committee to see what further work can be pursued.