Marie Claire takes a shine to Cork!

The following article was written by Trish Halpin for Marie Claire – travel.


“Cork is the city break you probably never thought of (but really should).”

Food, music, history, shopping and culture plus a healthy dose of fun make Ireland’s second city the perfect mini break

Why go? For the craic of course. Cork city really is the place to eat, drink and be merry, with pubs, bars and great restaurants tempting you inside along every street and alley you wander down. Friendly locals are always ready to strike up a conversation, whether you’re asking for directions or ordering a pint of Guinness, and a young student crowd gives the historic city a hipster vibe.

While you’re there, it’s worth adding on an extra night or two to explore other parts of the county, such as Kinsale, just 18 miles south west of the city. The starting point of the Wild Atlantic Way – a 2,500km touring route of Ireland’s magnificent Atlantic coastline – the craic continues in many of the pretty harbour town’s pubs.

When? Any time of the year for the weather hardy (be prepared for Ireland’s frequent grey skies and ‘mizzle’) but time it with one of the many festivals such as the Midsummer, Folk, Harbour or the St Patrick’s day parade, and you’ll see Cork city really come to life. We arrived on the last day of the Guinness Jazz Festival, and the whole place was strewn with bunting, music playing everywhere from the headline acts at Cork Opera House and Everyman Theatre to the Jamie Cullem-esque piano singer in our hotel bar.


The River Lee hotel

Stay at: The River Lee Hotel, the perfect location for exploring Cork city, with everything you’ll want to visit no more than a ten minute stroll away. The lobby, bar and restaurant are spacious, light and airy, thanks to glass walls everywhere – even the lifts are glass so you get a great view of the city each time you whizz up and down to your room. Modern and contemporary décor (mainly neutral colours but with the odd bright purple, red or yellow chair and sofa dotted around) make the bar and library areas a nice place to hang out, or if the weather is up to it, the terrace on the river. Bedrooms have views over the river or towards city landmarks such as St Fin Barre’s cathedral, and come with a flat screen TV and Nespresso machine. Our bed was super comfy with crisp white linen, and goodies by The White Company in the bathroom.

In Kinsale, at stay at The Trident Hotel is a real treat, as rooms are super chic, having just been very tastefully renovated. Each one has fantastic views of the pretty harbour where you can watch the comings and goings of the boats, or the take offs, landings and fly bys of the herons and gulls that seem to have designated the hotel roof a landing spot for their aerial adventures.


You really must: Visit the English market, which has been the social hub of Cork city since 1788. You’ll see – and want to taste – the best of Cork’s foodie scene with meat, fruit, veg and seafood aplenty, plus locally produced cheeses (a special mention for Toons Bridge Dairy’s ricotta and mozzarella), chocolates and even fermented foods. A brisk stroll might be in order after that, so pick up one of the excellent Cork Walks leaflets from the nearby tourist office and discover the history of the city centre island, the Shandon area, the South Parish or the University area. Weaving our way through parks, past Georgian buildings and through the university campus then along the river was a great way to get a feel for the city.

For exploring the city by night, follow the Cork Heritage Pub Trail  and discover some really unique and characterful watering holes. We loved The Oval off South Main Street. Once through the door and behind a heavy curtain, you’ll find an oval room lit only by candlelight. It was dark and intimate with really cool music playing in the background and band posters (from Radiohead to Talking Heads) all over the walls.


Kinsale harbour

In Kinsale, it won’t take long to wander around the pretty streets away from the harbour, and whichever route you take you’ll most likely end up spotting an impressive old white building with red doors – The Old Courthouse, which is now a museum. The huge anchor in the front is from a ship in the Spanish Armada fleet and the crane is from the Lusitania, which sank off the coast of Kinsale in 1915, with the loss of 1500 lives. Both point to Kinsale’s strategic importance in maritime history.

To stretch your legs even more, a walk around the harbour to the coastal path known as the Scilly walk, will take you from the town up to Summercove and Charles Fort. You’ll get glorious views of Kinsale and work up some property envy at the fabulous Grand Design houses overlooking the water.

The dining room at the Farmgate Cafe


Dine at: Farmgate Café on the top floor of the English Market in Cork city. The lunch menu will make your mouth water with classics such as Irish Stew and sausages with puy lentils and mash, all cooked to perfection. The menu is created each day based on what the chef chooses from the stalls in the market down below, or sourced by owner Kay Harte from producers across the county. Another must eat in the city is a slice of pizza at the Franciscan Well Micro Brewery, located on the site of the ancient Shandon Friary. Serving great craft beers and hot from the oven pizzas, it’s a nice place to hang out for a cheap bite and great beer.


A mouthwatering Fishy Fishy creation

In Kinsale, we had a scrumptious dinner at Fishy Fishy. We were guaranteed the seafood would be fabulous given that owner Martin Shanahan is a former fishmonger and our organic sea trout and pan fried John Dory certainly didn’t disappoint.


Bring home: Scrumptious artisan chocs from Danero Cork Chocolate (95 South Main Street, Cork City) – make sure you have one of their sensational hot chocolates while you’re there. At Cork Craft & Design you’ll find lots of interesting local crafts to browse, likewise at the Kilkenny shop, which has fashion and jewellery too.


To read the original article click here. 

And the finalists are………..

We are delighted to announce this years “Cork Business of the Year Awards” finalists.

The overall winners will be announced at our annual gala dinner and awards night on Saturday 20th January at the Páirc Uí Chaoimh conference centre.

Our awards, which are run in partnership with JCD, the Irish Examiner and AIB, recognize the outstanding contribution of businesses and individuals working diligently across varied sectors of business in Cork City and environs.


This year’s finalists are:

Best New Business in Cork, sponsored by LEO Cork City:

  • Republic of Works
  • Cask
  • The Health Zone


Best Cork Family Business, sponsored by Musgrave:

  • O’Connor Bros
  • The Flying Enterprise
  • Herlihy’s Centra


Best Cork Hotel, sponsored by King Laundry:

  • The Montenotte Hotel
  • The Kingsley Hotel
  • Cork International Hotel


Best Cork Café/Restaurant, sponsored by The English Market:

  • Nash 19
  • Idaho
  • Café Velo


Best Cork VFI Pub, sponsored by Vintners Federation Cork:

  • The Oliver Plunkett
  • Cask
  • The Oyster Tavern


Best Cork Retail Business, sponsored by Cork City Council:

  • Azure Jewellery
  • Cork Flower Studio
  • Keanes Jewellers


Best Professional Services Business, sponsored by The Mainport Group:

  • Investec
  • Cork Convention Bureau
  • AM O’Sullivan PR


Best Tourism Art Event, sponsored by IHF:

  • Cork International Choral Festival
  • Crawford Art Gallery
  • Cork City Gaol


As we celebrate 60 years in business this year we would be delighted for you to join us on the awards night, 20th January, for what is guaranteed to be a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Commenting on the finalists, our Chief Executive Officer, Lawrence Owens, said: “This year we received a record number of entrants and I would like to congratulate each of our very deserving finalists.”


Book your tickets for the CBA Annual Gala Dinner and Awards here.

Cork Business Community Welcomes Revised Flood Defence Plans



 Cork Business Association and Cork Chamber have welcomed the progress shown in the detail and design of the Lower Lee flood relief scheme following the publication of the OPW consultation report.


Both organisations believe that the development of an appropriate flood-defence scheme is critical for business in Cork. The proposed OPW scheme provides comprehensive protection from tidal and fluvial flooding through a raft of measures from upstream bunds to the restoration of 3km of walls in the City Centre.


Chamber President Bill O’ Connell said,

We’ve been consistent in our support of the scheme, provided that it is finished to a high standard and respectful to the heritage of the city.  It is important to note the extensive lengths being taken, not only through the provision of flood protection but through innovative measures at locations such as North Mall and Sullivan’s Quay. We highlighted the need for improved design during the consultation and the inclusion of full retractable demountable barriers at these locations show the lengths being taken to listen to stakeholders. We welcome the improved design published today.


Speaking on the concept of a tidal barrier, Cork Business Association President Pat O’Connell said,


“The published OPW report shows that even if a tidal barrier were viable from a planning, environmental, navigation and cost perspective, the current scheme is a necessary first step for fluvial flooding and to reduce the dependency on any potential future barrier closures. At a minimum, the provision of City Centre flood defence is a critical component of any long-term additional solution.”


Both organisations look forward to the lodgement of the Morrisons Island Part 8 application which will mark the first phase of the project. The Part 8 process will provide the opportunity for further consultation on this element. Following completion of Morrison’s Island, the project will move upstream away from the city with works being carried out on a phased and incremental basis.


Pat O’Connell said, “With the threat of flooding in the City repeatedly looming in the past few months, the time to act has never been greater. It is great to see the project moving towards commencement with Morrisons island which will provide an urgently needed first step towards protecting City centre businesses. We look forward to reviewing the Part 8 application once available in the coming week or so.”


Bill O’Connell said, “The OPW scheme marks the State’s largest ever investment in flood defences and one of the largest ever investments in Cork. The business community will stay engaged with the project team to ensure that the quality of design and finish is upheld to the highest standards for the businesses and people of Cork.”


GLOW: A Cork Christmas Celebration


Experience the festive season on the Grand Parade as the much-loved festival GLOW, A Cork Christmas Celebration opens this Friday December 1st. Attended by over 160,000 people in 2016, GLOW will run every weekend in the build up to Christmas, and also Christmas week from 20 to Friday 22 December.

Presented by Cork City Council, GLOW sees Bishop Lucey Park magically transformed into a winter wonderland by Cork’s own Dowtcha Puppets. The theme this year is Santa’s Cork Workshop.

Visitors will see the preparations underway for the big day – the elves are busy sorting, testing and wrapping the presents, the sleigh up on blocks getting ready for the big trip and the reindeer in the back field having some final training.
The sacks of presents are being lined up, children are posting their letters and you can catch a glimpse of Santa waving down from his balcony.
Dowtcha are bringing their puppets and performers to the people this year, and visitors, both young and young at heart, will have magical meetings with hard working (and sometimes confused) elves as they try to get presents FOR EVERYBODY ready in time!

This lit-up trail features ten superbly costumed performers, six elf puppets, two reindeer puppets and a giant Santa, all set to fantastic original Christmas themed traditional music commissioned by Edel O’Sullivan.


The Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Tony Fitzgerald said,

“Cork is really a special place, and this Christmas and we encourage everyone to come into the city to experience the wonder of GLOW, and to shop locally. With fantastic Christmas food markets, choral performances, a 30-meter Ferris Wheel and Santa’s Cork Workshop in Bishop Lucey Park, there is so much to see and do this year at GLOW, Cork’s Christmas Festival.”


GLOW will take place on the following dates:

Friday December 1st to Sunday December 3rd
Friday December 8th- Sunday December 10th
Friday December 15th- Sunday December 17th
Wednesday December 20th- Friday December 22th


Bishop Lucey Park will be open on these days from 4.30pm to 8.30pm and the Christmas Food Markets on the Grand Parade will be open from 12noon to 8.30pm. The Ferris Wheel will be open each day from 12noon to 9pm. See for full details.

The opening of GLOW this Friday, with the Switch On of the Christmas Lights kick start the city’s seasonal celebrations, and with them a promotional drive by Cork City Council and the Cork Business Association to encourage people to come into the city centre and to shop locally in the lead-up to Christmas.


Cork’s 96FM, C103 and the Evening Echo are the media sponsors of GLOW 2017.


For further information contact Eimear O’Brien PR
086 8900364/

Cork Better Building Awards 2017 announced

The winners of the annual Cork Better Building Awards were announced at our awards luncheon in the Imperial Hotel on Friday November 10th. Organised by the Cork Business Association, the buildings were judged on their design, maintenance and presentation, noting signage, pavement litter, planting as well as the impact of the building on the streetscape. Here is a list of the winners and reasons listed by the judges.


 Best in Retail: The Cork Flower Studio, Douglas Street.

With its stunning window displays and enlivened presentation onto the street, the Cork Flower Studio rightfully celebrates 10 years in business on Douglas Street. Its colourful and cheerful shop front sets a wonderful example for neighbouring businesses to follow suit by brightening up their shopfronts, contributing to the enhancement of the entire area.

Retail Special Merit Award Azure, George’s Quay 


Azure is a perfect example of how a successful business can thrive and also help rejuvenate a previously, neglected quay front through the use of attractive colour, signage and window display.

By renovating this protected structure, Azure has improved this section of George’s Section drawing shoppers across the river from the traditional, island destination.

Best Cafe/Restaurant  Spitjack Rotesserie:

The judges were impressed by the way in which a vacant unit, previously in use as Cork Film Studios was sensitively renovated and changed into a vibrant new restaurant, adding to the culinary scene along Washington Street. The subtle use of colour on the ground floor shop front with replacement, timber, sash windows and painted signage overhead, compliments the red brick terrace of nineteenth century buildings, providing an attractive frontage onto the street.

Best  Commercial Building Frontage The English Market

As one of the city’s top tourist attractions and diverse places to shop and do business; the English Market has traditionally been accessed through its more prominent Prince’s Street entrance. However the provision of new signage and attractive painting of the Grand Parade entrance, has succeeded in highlighting the western entrance to the market, enticing pedestrians to further explore the delights of one of oldest municipal markets of its kind in the world.

Best New Development The Capitol on Grand Parade and Patrick’s Street. 

 New Development: The Capitol on Grand Parade and Patrick's Street.

The Capitol has breathed new life into the western end of St. Patrick’s Street and the Grand Parade, with the addition of new retail and office space and also the reopening of the historic Oyster Tavern. Following the closure of the Capitol cinema in 2005 with the site lying vacant for a number of years, this new development has rejuvenated the area and ensured the economic well-being of the city centre continues to flourish into the future

 Best Heritage & Conservation CIT/Crawford College, Grand Parade. 

Reputed to have been designed by the Pain brothers in circa 1840 as a dwelling, with a riverside annex, portico and balcony along Grand Parade, added later by another important Cork architect Sir John Benson for its use as the City Club House; 46 Grand Parade is a stunning building located at a prominent position on the Grand Parade and Southern Channel of the River Lee. As the new home of part of the CIT Crawford College of Art and Design, its careful restoration and re-purposing for this use, has ensured that this important protected structure will thrive once again and be admired by future generations of Corkonians and visitors

 Best Tourism / Arts & Accommodation The Montenotte Hotel.

Following its recent stunning refurbishment, the Montenotte Hotel provides a unique visitor experience; taking advantage of spectacular views of the city and surrounds from the Panorama Bistro and Terrace, housing Cork’s first hotel, in-house cinema and investing in the exquisite sunken Victorian Gardens. The Montenotte Hotel sets a new bar for hotel accommodation, providing a destination within a destination for visitors to the city

 Best Pub : Cask, MacCurtain Street.

Image result for cask cork

Image result for cask cork

Set in the heart of Cork’s Victorian Quarter, Cask provides a wonderful example of how stunning lighting and Art Deco-style interiors can contribute to the vibrancy of the street, attracting customers through its full-height arched windows onto MacCurtain Street. Formerly an antiques shop and part of the imposing, four-storey, former ‘Hibernia Buildings’, Cask is a unique, new cocktail bar with a cosmopolitan feel making perfect use of the seating area in the outdoor courtyard area and former carriage arch adjacent

Judges Choice St. Angela’s College St Patrick’s Hill

 Judges Choice: St Angela's College, Patrick's Hill. Pic: Denis Scannell

Opening its doors on its current location on St. Patrick’s Hill in 1888, St. Angela’s College has recently been redeveloped to huge success. Working with an extremely difficult, sloping site, the results are nothing short of spectacular. The judges felt that recognition was well deserved for this unique project because of its contribution to the continued operation of a city centre school, adding vibrancy to the area, the way in which its new build elements complement the setting, with the sensitive restoration of heritage buildings and take full advantage of its unique setting, framing diverse views of the surrounding city.

Hurricane Ophelia: Will bring about Closures, delays and disruption

Schools and Colleges: The Department of Education has ordered all schools and colleges to close.
Buses: Bus Éireann have cancelled all services on Monday from 5am to 2pm.
The company said it would review the situation in the morning, and would attempt to provide some level of service in some parts of the country in the afternoon, but it is likely widespread disruption could continue for most of the day.

Cork Airport Management at Cork Airport have confirmed that some 24 Aer Lingus and Aer Lingus Regional schedule flights in and out of the airport on Monday have been cancelled as a result of the Red Weather Alert for Hurricane Ophelia.
Cork Airport Marketing Manager, Kevin Cullinane said that the first three Aer Lingus Regional flights between 7am and 9am are scheduled to depart but all remaining Aer Lingus and Aer Regional flights are cancelled and he urged intending passengers with other airlines to check with the airlines.
Hurricane Ophelia is due to make landfall in Ireland on Monday and is predicted to be one of the worst storms we have seen in more than 50 years.
Shortly after 8pm Met Éireann broadened its status red weather alert to cover the entire country.

The forecast is for the storm to cross directly over the country during day time on Monday bringing gusts of up to 130km/h.
Met Éireann said “violent and destructive gusts are forecast with all areas at risk and in particular the southwest and south in the morning, and eastern counties in the afternoon.”

Heavy rain and storm surges are also forecast which may lead to flooding.
The storm is expected to make landfall in Co Kerry at around 6am and track slowly northwards across the country during the day although all forecasts are subject to change as Met Éireann continues to track the storm.
Counties Kerry, Clare, Limerick, Waterford and Cork are likely to be the first to experience the powerful winds from early tomorrow morning and early afternoon, before the storm moves in a northerly direction across the country.
Cork City Council advised residents and businesses in areas subject to tidal flooding to take measures to protect their property in advance of high tide which is due in the city at 4pm, said the city council

Public able to vote on Cork’s best building

THE Cork public are being asked to nominate the city’s best-looking buildings for the annual Better Buildings Awards.

The awards honour the best-designed and best-kept buildings in Cork City and suburbs.

They are organised by the Cork Business Association (CBA) together with Cork City Council and the Evening Echo.

Aimed at rewarding staff, managers, property owners, developers, architects and designers for high standards in building design, conservation and creativity as well as those involved in the maintenance and upkeep which protect, enhance and improve business buildings in the Cork City area.

This significantly contributes to a positive public perception of the city as a vibrant and dynamic place to live, visit, invest and do business in.

The CBA is urging every business, heritage building owner, architect, conservation project and tourism facility in the greater Cork area to enter the awards before the October 23 deadline.

“Whether you have recently upgraded the exterior of your building, have designed a stunning new build, painted or decorated your building, invested in the upkeep of an old building, introduced a new use for your building or you are just extremely proud of how your building looks, don’t delay and enter online or pick up an entry form explaining which category or categories you wish to be considered for and why,” CBA chief executive Lawrence Owens said.

The categories for the awards are Best in Retail, Best in Heritage & Conservation, Best in Cafe/Restaurant, Best in Pub Front, Best in Commercial Business Frontage (excl. retail), Best in Tourism, Arts & Accommodation and Best New Development. There will also be a Judges Choice.

The closing date for applications is October 23, to afford the judges time to inspect and visit the nominated buildings.

To nominate a building, fill out an application form on or call 021 4278295.

Businesses urged to enter for awards

Cork Airport Overall Winners 2016

Cork Business Association (CBA), which is celebrating 60 years, is calling on members and businesses throughout the city to enter its annual Cork Business of the Year Awards.

The awards ceremony will take place at a black tie dinner in Páirc Uí Chaoimh conference centre.
In partnership with awards sponsor JCD, event partner AIB, and media partners the Irish Examiner, the awards recognise the outstanding contribution of businesses and individuals across varied sectors of business.

There are 10 categories, including best new business, best hotel, best Cork family business, best Cork cafe or restaurant, best Cork VFI pub, best Cork retail business, best professional services business, and best tourism art event. There is also the Cork Business of the Year awards for large and medium-sized businesses, both sponsored by the Irish Examiner and JCD.

CBA chief executive Lawrence Owens said: “I think what separates our awards from others is that it doesn’t matter whether you are a large business with a fleet of staff or a one man band multi-tasking to provide a great product or service.

“There are certainly plenty of stars out there on the Cork business scene. The CBA, along with our sponsors and partners, seek to recognise the hard work and good business acumen demonstrated in Cork in 2017.”

Mr Owens said the many benefits of being part of the awards process include recognition, plus marketing and networking opportunities.

To enter the Cork Business of the Year Awards 2017, a business must be based in the greater Cork city area or be a member of the CBA.

Nominations are now open and entries for all award categories should be completed online at no later than November 6.

Shortlisted finalists will be contacted via email on November 20.

The awards ceremony will take place at a black tie dinner in Páirc Uí Chaoimh conference centre on Saturday, January 20. Tickets are priced at €110 or €1,000 for a table of 10 (plus booking fee) and are available to purchase through Eventbrite or direct from the CBA office by calling 021 4278295.

For more information on Cork Business Association and the 2017 Cork Business of the Year Awards, see

CBA Welcomes Ambitious Plans for Horgan’s Quay

A new €160 million development at Horgan’s Quay will be home to 5,000 employees, more than 200 apartments and a 136-bed hotel.

The ambitious plans also include almost 3,000 sq m of restaurants and retail, as well as a significant investment in the city’s public realm.

The project is to be developed by HQ Developments Limited, a joint venture by Clarendon Properties and BAM Ireland, with a planning application due to be submitted this week.

It marks the latest stage in a two-decade long saga to redevelop the unused site at Horgan’s Quay, adjacent to Kent Railway Station.

The office, retail and residential project will sit on 6.1 acres, including some 160 metres alongside the River Lee.

A computer-generate view of the planned Horgan’s Quay development.
A computer-generate view of the planned Horgan’s Quay development.

The Horgan’s Quay development could be one of Cork’s biggest employment hubs when completed.
Plans include three office blocks, with space for up to 5,000 employees.

In addition, some 237 apartments are planned in a further four blocks. According to developers, these are being constructed for the private rental market, providing an essential boost to Cork’s struggling private rental market.

A 136-bed hotel, including a rooftop restaurant, is planned for the Lower Glanmire Road side of the side, while some 2,900 sq m of restaurant and retail space is proposed for the new development.

Developers have planned to restore three significant buildings on the site: the Station House, the Carriage Shed and the former Goods Shed, while provisions have also been made for some 5,000 sq m of public realm enhancements to better link Kent Railway Station to the city centre.

Tony Leonard, managing director of Clarendon, described the development as ‘key to unlocking the future development’ of the city’s docks.

“This development presents Cork with an excellent opportunity to provide centrally located Grade A offices, residential and hotel accommodation together with ancillary retail and restaurant facilities in the heart of the city,” he said.

“As the provision of high quality residential accommodation is a major factor in attracting new office tenants to the city, preference will be given to these tenants for the private rental accommodation in the development.”

Theo Cullinane, CEO of BAM Ireland, added, “In addition to opening up an old industrial area of the city to habitable and public friendly space and enhancing the River Lee as a public amenity, this investment is creating much needed residential and office space and, indeed, jobs for Cork.”

A computer-generate view of the planned Horgan’s Quay development.
A computer-generate view of the planned Horgan’s Quay development.

Cork Business Association welcomed the announcement of the development, describing it as a ‘critical’ site in the city centre.
CBA CEO Lawrence Owens said, “We are pleased to see a broad mix in the proposed plans for the site incorporating office, retail, residential, hospitality, plus an extensive public realm space fronting the River Lee.

“Cork city must continue to develop its infrastructure in order to be an effective counterweight to Dublin and projects such as Horgan’s Quay will ensure Cork has the framework in place to attract FDI and obtain whatever opportunities that the fallout from Brexit will bring.

“However we are only too familiar in Cork with proposals that never come to fruition, our desire is to see cranes in the skyline along Horgan’s Quay in the very near future and this exciting and transformative project underway.”

If planning is approved, it is expected that construction will commence in 2018.

State must help Cork become true second city

Cork: If the city has any ambition to develop as a metropolitan scale city-region of European significance, it urgently needs new governance structures to reflect those aspirations. Photograph: Getty

The Government is soon set to make two critical, once-in-a-generation, decisions about the future of Cork. The outcome of these dual major public policy choices on the horizon for the state’s second city will dictate the shape of development and the scale of ambition for Cork, as well as the economic prospects for the entire southern half of the country.

The first of these is the role the Government’s new National Planning Framework assigns to Cork as part of its emerging spatial strategy, while the second relates to the shape of the new local government arrangements in the city and county. These decisions are pivotal public policy moments, which will have national as well as local implications. These are not merely local issues; they are in the national interest because Cork is Ireland’s only realistic prospect for delivering an alternative growth centre to the greater Dublin area.

Both of these issues have been subject to years of research, consultation and deliberation. The Government has put huge effort and resources into these processes, and there is now a clear prescription for what needs to be done; in summary, this means developing the Cork city region as an urban centre of national and European significance – with a metropolitan-scale governance structure to match.

International observers such as the IMF are becoming especially interested in the effects of an overheating Dublin and the underperformance of our second-tier cities.

What is becoming clear is that there is now a major expectation that Cork will play a central role in anchoring an alternative development framework for the entire country. However, this expectation is accompanied by a sense that Cork now needs to step up to the plate and demonstrate that it is ready to fulfil this role.

The city continues to perform very strongly in economic terms, and has retained its role as the country’s second economic powerhouse through the recession and recovery; the city centre and the docklands area in particular are belatedly responding to the huge opportunities for regeneration and development.

Region’s role

This is crucial – after all, a successful city centre is absolutely central to the success of the surrounding area and for fulfilling the region’s role as a counterbalance to Dublin. There are now numerous active and imminent projects in the commercial office, residential, hospitality, educational, tourism and retail sectors; by my calculations, there is about €1 billion of private sector development investment under way or in the planning process for 28 substantial projects in the city’s core and the docklands area. However, the State needs to secure this momentum by investing sufficiently in municipal infrastructure to ensure that the city provides the necessary backdrop to support such growth.

If Cork has any ambition to develop as a metropolitan scale city-region of European significance, it urgently needs new governance structures to reflect those aspirations. Cork’s administrative boundaries are out of date and increasingly problematic in terms of efficient and united territorial and economic management; spatial and environmental planning; and local democratic coherence. The city authority is severely constrained in managing its functional constituency, while the county authority is forced to oversee this urban overspill while at the same time managing an extremely large and diverse territory. This was the overwhelming conclusion of the recently published report by an advisory group chaired by former chief planner for Scotland Jim Mackinnon, which is now being advanced to implementation stage.

An appropriately located boundary will allow Cork to institute governing arrangements that allow it to plan and prosper as a strong and dynamic city-region, competing effectively with its European counterparts. The precise location of the boundary distinguishing an enlarged city and county area has been subject to much discussion, and Cork County Council is understandably concerned about the financial and logistical implications of a substantial boundary extension. There are, however, clear legislative mechanisms in place that are designed specifically to accommodate such changes, which will ensure that both local authorities in Cork are on a sound, sustainable financial footing.

Important clusters

Cork city should have a rate base commensurate with its size and standing as an urban centre. This will allow the city to help drive regional economic development and investment and to evolve as a real counterbalance to Dublin. Cork county will continue to function as the largest local authority outside the greater Dublin area, with a strong mix of metropolitan, urban and rural economic functions. All of theses aspects have their own particular economic profiles, with important industrial, commercial, agricultural and tourism services that produce rateable income – including one of the most important clusters of economic activity in the entire State in Ringaskiddy/Cork harbour.

Cork performs so strongly at an international level – the region’s GDP in 2014 for example was double that of the EU average (euro per inhabitant) and ranks in the top 5 per cent of EU regions in economic performance. This is a testament to the strong partnership between city and county councils, which created the conditions for this remarkable but often overlooked regional success story. It is time now to recalibrate and renew this partnership and make sure that both councils are governed in such a way that protects their best interests, and which secures the joint approach to the city region’s planning and development.

Cork’s success and prosperity is thus clearly aligned with the State’s basic economic interests, and it is clear that Ireland needs Cork more than ever to drive the regional development agenda for the southern part of the country. Equally, Cork needs explicit public policy supports to complement its credentials as Ireland’s key opportunity for effective regional development.

Put simply, Ireland needs Cork to work