Cork is buzzing and exciting developments can be seen throughout the city and county. We are seeing the start of the most significant growth period for Cork since independence, writes Tánaiste Simon Coveney.
Ireland's population will rise by at least one million between now and 2040.
Some 75% of the predicted growth in population will be outside Dublin. It needs to be. It is essential we rebalance Ireland away from the east coast.
For Cork, this means opportunity and some of that opportunity is already paying off.
Cork is buzzing and exciting developments can be seen throughout the city and county. Simply put, we are seeing the start of the most significant growth period for Cork since independence.
The city is on track to be the fastest growing in Ireland for the next 20 years. We’re talking about population growth of at least 125,000 people in the city alone, with 150,000 in the county.
In 2018, the Government unveiled Project Ireland 2040, which is a spending plan underpinned by a planning framework. Its objective is to put in place the major infrastructure and funds to enable Ireland to make the most of the opportunities that arise and to deal with dangers like Brexit.
The headline figure of the investment plan is €116bn in 10 years — however that is just the Government’s side. The idea is that private investors and foreign direct investment will see the money spent by the taxpayer at least matched, if not multiplied.
Recent private sector decisions, like the huge development at Horgan’s Quay, show there is massive private sector appetite for Cork.
For all of this to happen we need more homes and the Government’s primary domestic priority remains fixing the housing market. That means having a stable rental market that allows more people to buy their homes but also having a housing stock that allows us to provide sustainable solutions for homelessness.
Rebuilding Ireland is our five-year housing plan and as the figures from the CSO show we are seeing steady and clear progress on the numbers of houses being built.
The Government introduced rent caps to protect tenants and, while that has had an effect, the ultimate solution is increased supply of private and social housing. This takes time and we have had challenges. I know that is frustrating in a crisis but month after month the figures are showing supply coming through.
Last year, the number of new homes built for Cork was 1,700. In 2017, that number was 1,400. In 2016, 977 homes were built. In 2015, it was 778 and in 2014, it was 561 homes. As you can see delivery has increased every year and planning permissions and sites underway in Cork give further signs of the pipeline flowing strongly in 2019.
As well as homes, we also need quality jobs to sustain the population increase and this is where Cork has a unique advantage.
Some 150 global companies already operate out of Cork including 60 global tech firms and eight of the world’s top 10 pharma companies. This is in no small part because of the quality graduates being produced by UCC, which remains in the top 2% of global universities.
Our unemployment rate is low at 5.6% and Cork has youth in abundance, half of the population are under 35-years-old. Those over 35, like myself, still have plenty of energy and shouldn’t be written off either.
Cork has many champions and they will continue to work hard for us, but next month we all have the opportunity to create a really significant office for Cork and Ireland.
I passionately believe we should vote yes to establish the office of a directly elected mayor. Cork’s Lord Mayor is already a much respected office and voting yes will enhance this.
A directly elected mayor will have wide ranging powers including budgets, the ability of the mayor to appoint his or her own staff and a programme of office to deliver over a longer term of five years.
The electing of a mayor will coincide with the boundary expansion that has seen Cork City’s population increase by 100,000 people.
I hope you too will vote yes for this historic first for Ireland and Cork to mirror major cities like London and New York, where the mayoral office is a significant position.
I’m excited about what is happening in the part of the country I represent and in the week’s and month’s ahead I will continue to work to protect Cork and the whole country from the effects of Brexit in my role as Tánaiste.
We are protecting an economy and a peace process and the Taoiseach and I have worked night and day to make sure Ireland isn’t a casualty of a British decision.
Finally, it’s important not to dwell on, but still worth remembering, that a short few years ago the International Monetary Fund was still overseeing all Irish budgetary affairs. All of our decisions on spending had to be approved by the IMF, as well as the other funders, who had bailed our country out.
Cork has gone from being a city and county under massive unemployment pressure seven years ago to now being the leading growth centre for employment outside Dublin. We are seeing people who had to emigrate coming home and there is a strong demand for multiple skillsets.
Unlike 10 years ago the Cork economy is much more balanced and is not totally reliant on construction and has seen new exciting companies across a broad spectrum open in Cork. We have worked hard to create these conditions and now Cork is going to build on them.
Simon Coveney is Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and TD for Cork South Central
If you cannot see the audio embed above please follow the link here to listen to the documentary.
Please feel free to send us your own contribution on what you feel Cork's future holds, what direction you feel the city is heading and what you want Cork to be in the decades ahead? Find out how to send your readers blog contribution for consideration here.