Campaign launched to keep Port of Cork building in public ownership

A campaign has been launched to keep one of Cork City’s most historic buildings — which is earmarked for sale — in public ownership to promote the city’s maritime heritage.

People have been urged to attend an ideas forum in the city tomorrow to help prepare a blueprint for possible future uses for the Port of Cork’s Custom House Quay building and adjoining Cork Bonded Warehouse structures.

The committee behind the campaign said they would like people to re-imagine the site’s future — as was done some 200 years ago when the old Custom House on Emmet Place became part of the complex which today houses the Crawford Municipal Art Gallery.

The meeting comes ahead of the expected offer for sale this month of the entire complex, which could fetch between €5m and €7m. The sale has been prompted by the Port of Cork’s planned relocation of its city centre port activities to Ringaskiddy.

Committee spokesman, Martin O’Donoghue, said the sale provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reclaim one of the city’s most iconic sites for public use.

“We, the people of Ireland, own this site. Once sold, its future ownership, access, and custodianship could well be lost to us citizens.

“Realistically, Cork City Council does not have the budget to purchase the site but they could help support an initiative which retains public access and usage.

“This site, the buildings and its heritage are invaluable. We the people of Cork need to make our voices heard and communicate our desire for this site to remain in public ownership.”

The Custom House, designed by Abraham Hargrave, was built in 1818 and became the headquarters of the Cork Harbour Commissioners, now known as the Port of Cork Company, in 1882. Its magnificent boardroom, built in 1906, is one of the finest examples of the commercial interior design of the time.

The adjoining Bonded Warehouse structures were built by prison labour in 1820 to hold imported goods until duty was paid. It was the focal point of the city’s port activities which consolidated its prominence as a centre of international trade.

While public access has been restricted to the Custom House board room which hosts civic functions, the Sounds from a Safe Harbour Festival was granted access to the Bonded Warehouses over a weekend last September, which attracted some 2,000 people.

The ideas forum will take place at Blackrock Castle Observatory at 6.30pm.

People can register their interest by emailing ideas@

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