A Cork citizen’s dialogue was hosted by City Councillor and Member of the European Committee of the Regions Kieran McCarthy (IE/EA) under EU’s ‘Reflecting on Europe’ campaign
The City of Cork hosted a citizen’s dialogue in St. Peters Church Tuesday 27 March under the title ‘Innovative Minds and Real Capitals – European Regional Cities and the future Europe’.
The event was part of the Reflecting on Europe campaign, an initiative of the European Committee of the Regions launched in March 2016 to give citizens a voice in shaping the political debate on the future of Europe.
Councillor McCarthy opened the debate calling local and regional authorities to support citizen’s engagement. “Citizens have a key role to play in our cities’ transition towards more sustainable, healthier and inclusive communities. The role of citizenship should not be underestimated but encouraged”, said Councillor McCarthy.
“We have a great responsibility to bring Europe closer to our citizens. Europe has a role to champion social inclusion more, to invest in community building, work on developing people’s skills and make citizens more engaged. There is an ongoing debate on the future of cohesion and social funds in Europe today. These are at risk and we must together ensure its continuity”, added Councillor McCarthy.
A panel composed of local project leaders (Mad About Cork, Cork Cycling Campaign, Meithal Mara and Red Sandstone Varied Productions) briefly presented some ongoing initiatives such as a campaign to promote daily cycling and a community initiative to connect people through arts projects.
Attendees debated around some of the issues most discussed in urban areas today such as the appropriateness of banning cars from city centres to give space back to pedestrians.
Attendees expressed concerns on how the city communicates on new initiatives, as levels of engagement in public consultations remain repeatedly low. On the question, do you think you have a voice in Europe, some recognize local politicians are able to convey their messages at the EU level yet they remain uncertain on its impact.
The event was the occasion to present some of the results of the Reflecting on Europe survey in Ireland.
When asked about the main problems their city or region faces, Irish respond mobility and public transport (27%), unemployment (25%), youth policies (25%), environment (10%), integration of migrants (8%) and security (3%).
Irish believe that the EU is the most suitable level of government to deal with security, terrorist threats and the environment. National is the level of government Irish rely most on (42%), followed by the EU (34%), their city (17%) and region (8%).
A large majority of Irish (71%) believes there is not enough solidarity between European nations. 27% suggest EU countries should show more solidarity by jointly tackling the negative impact of the economic and financial crisis. 25% believe reducing inequalities between richer and poorer should be subject to more solidarity. 20% think Europe should foster cooperation to jointly face the consequences of migration and the refugee crisis. 20% believe EU member states should show greater acceptance of the diversities amongst them.
Since March 2016, members of the European Committee of the Regions have organised over 140 citizens’ dialogues in 21 Member States. Local debates have actively involved more than 15 000 citizens. Insights from local events and those of the Reflecting on Europe survey will be gathered in an upcoming opinion to be shared amongst EU institutions after its adoption later this year.
Officials of the Regional Policy Directorate General of the European Commission are to come to Cork to Cork City Hall for a one-day workshop on EU funding initiatives for cities and towns, on Tuesday 27 March. The invite was sent by Cllr Kieran McCarthy, who is an Irish delegate member of the European Committee of the Regions and is currently working as a rapporteur on an assessment of the EU Urban Agenda. Cork City Council and the Southern Regional Assembly are hosting the event and invites have been sent to each local authority in the Republic. Attendance is free and open to the public. Registration and agenda is online on www.southernassembly.ie.
An Urban Development Network Workshop aims to exchange ideas and find solutions to common challenges in implementing sustainable urban development strategies in Ireland and to learn more about the Urban Innovative Actions and what cities in other Member States are doing in addressing these challenges.
Cllr McCarthy noted: “there is not a meeting goes by in Cork City Council whereby the need for funding for larger projects is discussed. The meeting aims to share EU funding initiatives and share practice especially from the Urban Innovative Actions.
“The workshop is open to the cities and towns in Ireland implementing sustainable urban development and cities/towns with an interest in the Urban Innovative Actions. Organisations active in urban development as well as ERDF/ESF Managing Authorities are also welcome to attend. I wish to also reach out to Chambers of Commerce and Colleges”.
All participants will have the possibility to be actively involved in the discussion and solve technical questions on potential projects with experts.
The workshop will be closed with an Urban Conversation framed within the Committee of the Regions’ initiative entitled “Reflecting on Europe”. Citizens will have the opportunity to dialogue with European institutional representatives on the current challenges that the EU face.
“Regions such as Cork cannot afford to underestimate the effects of Brexit on the local and regional economy. many sectors are affected such as tourism, cross-Channel transport, UK residents settled in adjacent countries, trade exchange with the UK in fishing industry, agriculture and agribusiness. The list of effects is long. This day long workshop is also an opportunity to lay the challenges of smaller cities such as Cork and smaller towns on the table of the Regional Policy unit of the European Union, and to make sure we are not forgotten about as talks begin on the EU budget beyond 2019 and 2020”, noted Cllr Kieran McCarthy.
To celebrate the 60th anniversary of Cork City’s twinning with Coventry, Cork City Council has part funded a new exhibition telling some of the experiences of Cork and Irish people in Coventry over many decades. ‘Irish Heart, Coventry Home’ will be held at the Herbert Art Gallery, Coventry for one month from Friday 9 March 2018 when the exhibition launches at 8pm, after 12 months of research from the Coventry Irish Society. This evening event is open to the public and will include well-known Irish musicians, actors, activities and storytelling in the medieval undercroft. It is hoped to bring the Exhibition to Cork at some point this year.
Cllr Kieran McCarthy, represented Cork’s involvement in the project and helped with overseeing the creation of the project in its early stages. He noted that telling the story of Ireland’s diaspora is very important; “The narrative of Irish history and emigration sometimes stops at our ports and airports. There is a continuing and large job of work to continue to document l the story of what happened to Irish people abroad, and then incorporate it into our school curriculum and the popular narrative stream on Irish history”.
“The new exhibition tells the true experience of Irish families settling in Coventry over three decades from their point of view. Sixty-five people were interviewed as part of the project, including many who moved between 1940 and 1970. These interviewees will feature in a 30-minute documentary put together by the society, who spent hundreds of hours with interviewees to understand their journey to Coventry. It will also see a diverse collection of photographs and personal items which will go up on display to form what should be an enlightening and entertaining exhibition”.
The ‘Irish Heart, Coventry Home’ project has been supported by the UK Heritage Lottery Fund as well as Cork City Council, the Deeley Group and Coventry City Council with a four-strong steering group helping bring the exhibition together alongside Project Officer Ciaran Davis.
Simon McCarthy, Manager of the Coventry Irish Society, said: “We are incredibly excited to be able to tell the fascinating story of so many people who have contributed massively to the culture, infrastructure and history of Coventry after moving from Ireland”.
“The most successful element of the project has been the breadth of our interviewees. We have spoken to a wide variety of people including poets, builders, teachers, musicians and more. Furthermore, we are pleased to have involved so many female interviewees. Women are sometimes left out of narratives of Irish migration, even though they came to England in significant numbers”.
Francis Ranford, Cultural and Creative Director at Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, said “We are passionate about showing exhibitions which reflect the vibrant and diverse history of Coventry”.
For more information about the Irish Heart, Coventry Home exhibition visit www.ohs.org.uk/irish-heart-coventry-home
For more information about the Coventry Irish Society visit www.facebook.com/coventry.irish or www.coventryirishsociety.co.uk
Happy Christmas, time to slow down and enjoy!
Last week the European Committee of the Regions adopted with unanimity their member Cllr Kieran McCarthy’s opinion on the European Commission’s Communication “Building a European Data Economy”.
The Data Economy is an important element of the Digital Single Market (DSM). It involves generation, collection, storage, processing, distribution, analysis, elaboration, delivery and exploitation of data enabled by digital technologies. This data enables market players to create applications with a great potential to improve daily life. Cllr McCarthy focussed on the collation of machine read data as opposed to personal data. Local and regional authorities are keys in developing DSM via their roles in providing digital services, which represent the engine of economic growth at local and regional level offering opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship.
Cllr McCarthy describes; “local and regional authorities have a key role in creating a database of public information on aspects such as transport movement, climate change, energy demand, providing data security, developing necessary digital and entrepreneurial skills, and securing and facilitating funding for broadband networks. I call on the European Commission to support local and regional authorities in their financing activities by continuing to authorise priority deployment of the European Structural and Investment Funds towards digital infrastructure in all European cities and regions including small cities and regions such as Cork and similar size”.
In the opinion, Cllr. McCarthy proposed four lines of action to build a European data economy: Firstly, that a clear and adapted policy and legal framework be adopted for the data economy, removing remaining barriers and risks to the movement of data and addressing legal uncertainties created by new data technologies. Secondly that potential virtual criminality be combated against through effective and coherent preventative cybercrime strategies, which includes training for local and regional authorities. Thirdly that interoperability be improved – to make existing clouds or clouds under development at national, regional and possibly local level interconnectable and interoperable or intertransferable, exploring the potential for standardisation.
Representatives of the European Commission welcomed Cllr McCarthy’s opinion as a clear and important message, that local and regional authorities need and want to play a key role in the sustainable roll-out of the EU’s Digital Agenda and the building of the EU data economy.
The European Committee of the Regions, the EU’s assembly for democratically elected local and regional politicians and public representatives, has a consultative role in EU policymaking.
Cork has been successful in its bid to host the third UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities Conference in Sept. 2017. The two previous conferences were held in Beijing 2013 and Mexico 2015, each involved over 600 delegates from countries worldwide. The conference will be presented by UNESCO Institute of Lifelong Learning, held in Cork City Hall, from Sept 18th -20th 2017, supported by Cork City Council and Cork ETB hosted with its Learning City Project partners, UCC, CIT, and other agencies in the city.
This is a first for Ireland and for Europe:
Cork is the only Irish city currently recognized by UNESCO for its excellence in the field of Learning, and was one of just 12 cities globally, and 3 in Europe, presented with inaugural UNESCO Learning City Awards in 2015. A case study of the city was published by UNESCO Institute of Lifelong Learning (UIL) in Unlocking the Potential of Urban Communities, Case Studies of Twelve Learning Cities also in 2015. The other two European cities are Espoo (Finland) and Swansea.
Cork successfully bid against 3 other European cities to host the conference because of its track record. The international conference presents Ireland with a unique opportunity to further cement the reputation of the country and the city as a centre of excellence in education and learning. The UIL Directorate team visited Cork during the Lifelong Learning Festivals of 2015 and 2016 and selected the city following a strong bid prepared with the assistance of the Cork Convention Bureau who have recognised experience of hosting international conferences of this scale in the city previously.
Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 31 August 2017
The Wheels of 1917: A Fire at Cork Spinning and Weaving Company
On Friday 24 August 1917, the premises of the Cork Spinning and Weaving Company at Millfield in Blackpool was the scene of an outbreak of a great fire. It resulted in the loss of large and valuable stocks of flax and other manufacturing materials. The fire was first discovered just before noon in the roughing and hackling departments of the spinning mill and by that time it had secured a solid grip on the buildings and spread rapidly. On the alarm being raised all the hands employed in the different departments escaped into the adjacent yard spaces. There, they were marshalled away at a safe distance from danger by the heads of the firm. The departments affected ran parallel and were divided by a stout wall over which the flames leaped sending the whole roof toppling in.
When the Cork Fire Brigade arrived, they found several male workers endeavouring to hinder the spread of the fire to the rear of the premises. Within an hour after the outbreak, the spread of the flames had been brought under control. All workers were instructed to return to work and provision made for diverting those hitherto employed in the destroyed departments to other branches of the business. About 1.40 pm, when it seemed that danger had been averted, it was found that sparks from the destroyed departments had ignited some of the material in a small adjoining storehouse at the rear, and what looked to be a devastating position was only overcome when the fire brigade intervened. Had the fire reached the main storehouse close by the major portion of the company’s stock might have been burnt out. The brigade worked under Deputy Superintendent Higgins and the City Engineer, Mr Delany, was present throughout.
The main building, a five storey brick building, was constructed between 1864 and 1866 and was the brainchild of William Shaw. Designed by Belfast architects, Boyd and Platt, it was the first industrial linen yarn-spinning mill outside of Ulster. The Millfield Mill was operated by the Cork Spinning and Weaving Company whose directors chose the site outside the city’s municipal boundary due to the fact, the company would not have to pay rates to Cork Corporation. One of its most famous directors was its acting chairman John Francis Maguire, a Westminster MP for Munster and also founder of the Cork Examiner. During construction, the Belfast designers of the mill made sure that fireproof jack-arched floors were present throughout the building and these were supported by cast iron columns supplied by the King Street Works in Cork. The mill began operating on 15 February 1866 operating with 900 spindles and the following year, the company was employing seventy Belfast linen workers along with 630 local women, girls and boys.
By the beginning of the twentieth century, the mill was one of the most important flax spinning mills outside of Ulster. As a symbol of local enterprise, the mill was also operating looms for weaving and by 1920 was employing upwards on 1,000 people. The 27th annual report of the Cork Spinning and Weaving Company (available in Cork City and County Archives) reveal that the trading conditions in 1916 were under great difficulties due to scarcity of raw materials. However, the government had secured supplies of Russian flax to keep the mills going. Prices were described at being at a dangerously high level. By 1917 supplies from Russia had been stopped. Irish flax was controlled by Government and spinners were required to spin yarns suitable. A year later, there had been an increase in working capital required owing to enormous increase in price of materials and costs of production.
By January 1921, between 600 and 700 hands were made temporarily unemployed as a result of the closing of the flax mills of the Company. This action was rendered necessary by the fact that the company had sold very little of their stock within the previous few months, and indeed the whole trade was practically at a standstill.
The year 1924 marked the closure of the Cork Butter market adjacent Shandon and the opening of a knitwear factory on the site by William Dwyer. In the 1930s, Dwyer transferred his factory from Shandon to the Millfield textile factory Blackpool in order to expand his business. Three decades later, the Dwyer factory in the 1960s, the factory was witnessing much success and employed 1,100 people. It also attracted other smaller firms to the complex and was one of the city’s largest employers. The House of Dwyer also operated the Lee Hosiery Factory, Lee Shirt Factory and Lee Clothing Factory.
On 8 October 1945, the solemn blessing of Cork’s new Church, the Church of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin took place. It was a gift of William Dwyer to the North Cathedral Parish.
In the mid-1970s, the Millfield Factory was sold to UK firm, Courtaulds. Subsequently, in the 1980s, the factory employed over 3.500 people and in the early 1990s was taken over by Sunbeam Industries Limited, based in Westport. In 1995, Sunbeam Knitwear closed and the site became home to many local enterprises. The old nineteenth century block was devastated by fire on 25 September 2003.
Kieran’s new book, Secret Cork, is now in Cork bookshops.
910a. Advertisement for Cork Spinning and Weaving Company, 1917 (source: Cork City Library)
910b. Plan of Cork Spinning and Weaving Company from Guy’s City and County Directory of Cork (source: Cork City Library)
Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article
Cork Independent, 3 August 2017
The Wheels of 1917: The Cost of War
The first week of August 1917 coincided with the third anniversary of the declaration by Germany of war against Russia, France and Germany. The 16th (Irish) Division and 36th (Ulster) Division both spent the war on the Western Front and sustained enormous casualties. Large numbers of Corkmen served in the 16th (Irish) Division. The 16th Irish Division was subject to a terrible gas attack in Easter Week 1916 that killed 550 mostly Irish soldiers at Hulluch, in northern France. The 36th (Ulster) Division had substantial casualties on the first day of the Somme offensive, the worst day in the history of the British army. The division sustained about 5,500 casualties on that day, 1 July 1916.
The 16th Irish Division and 36th Ulster Division were involved in the successful Battle of Messines, at Ypres, in May 1917. Their actions are marked by the Island of Ireland Peace Park, at Messines, which was opened by President Mary McAleese and Queen Elizabeth II in 1998. Both divisions suffered terrible casualties at Passchendaele in August 1917. The battle took place on the Western Front, from late July to November 1917, for control of the ridges south and east of the Belgian city of Ypres in West Flanders. Passchendaele lay on the last ridge east of Ypres, eight kilometres from a railway junction at Roulers, which was vital to the supply system of the German 4th Army.
As at the Somme the previous year Passchendaele proved a highly costly failure. The 16th Irish Division and 36th Ulster Division were completely exhausted after 13 days of moving weighty equipment under heavy shelling. The battalions advanced through deep mud towards well-fortified German positions. By mid-August, the 16th had suffered over 4,200 casualties, the 36th almost 3,600, or more than 50% of their numbers. Papers such as the Cork Examiner, counted the human cost of World War I as they spread the pictures of dead soldiers across its pages.
There were also media supplements on the effects on shipping, exports and imports. The ocean-going, vessels on the United Kingdom register, before the War represented between 17 and 18 million tons gross. Of this tonnage over 15 million tons were regularly employed in trade with the United Kingdom, the remainder being engaged in trades between foreign countries, the various parts of the British Dominions. A large amount of this distant trading was cut and brought home to deal with war need. By 1917 the ocean-going shipping on the United Kingdom register was a little over 15 million tons, of which 14 million tons were employed in the home service. Of the 14 million tons employed, however, only about one half was available for the trade of the country. About 6 ½ million tons was allocated entirely to the needs of the Navy, the Army, the Allies, and the Dominions overseas. A further million tons was available for imports.
From the beginning of the war, British ships were steadily being requisitioned by the Government and run in the National instead of in the private interest. The rates paid to shipowners soon became lower than the freights, which could be earned by their own trade. The situation reached a stage where it was necessary to take complete control of all British shipping. All British liners were requisitioned and were run on Government accounts. The owners received hire fees at Government rates, and the profits derived from private freight carried at market rates went to the Government, and not to the shipowner. In many instances, the trades built up by the shipowners suffered severely from the depletion of shipping caused by the diversion of the steamers from their usual routes.
A considerable number of the fastest and most efficient vessels of the mercantile marine was converted into auxiliary cruisers, and others into floating hospitals. A whole fleet was engaged in raking coal and oil to the Navy; many of the mercantile ships were converted into transports, and were constantly carrying troops from Great Britain and the British Dominions to all fields of war: many were occupied in taking supplies from all parts of the world to the Navy and to the Armies at the various fronts; others in mind-sweeping and patrol work in all seas. A very substantial number were assigned to the Allies to supply their urgent needs for munitions and other imports, and a large number have been sold off to carry wheat and other essential foodstuffs to the Allies. With regard to personnel, the total numbers moved across the seas up to Spring 1917 were 8 million men, over 9 million of supplies and explosives, one million sick and wounded, over one million horses and mules with petrol alone amounting to 47.5 million gallons.
The diversion of liners from long distance to short distance trades inflicted injury on many British export trades (particularly to India and the Far East). A very far-reaching programmes of restriction of imports was put into effect. Luxuries (including many commodities produced by Colonies and Britain’s Allies) were excluded, and the import even of essential articles was reduced to the lowest level compatible with national security. The restriction of coasting facilities created inevitable hardship for coastal towns up and down Britain’s and Ireland’s coastline, which traditionally rolled out sea-borne supplies.
Kieran’s historical walking tours for National Heritage Week in August (19-27) are now posted at www.kieranmccarthy.ie and will appear here next week.
906a. Commemorative Round Tower at the Island of Ireland Peace Park, at Messines, Belgium, which was opened by President Mary McAleese and Queen Elizabeth in 1998 (picture: Kieran McCarthy)
906b. Menin Gate Memorial Ypres, Belgium; it is dedicated to the British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient of World War I and whose graves are unknown. It was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield and built and maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission; it was unveiled on 24 July 1927 (picture: Kieran McCarthy)