Cork traders join calls for new plan to save street trading tradition

James Cogan, whose family has run a shop on the street for four generations. Picture: Denis Minihane

Some of the longest-serving traders in Cork’s historic street market quarter have backed calls for a new strategy to save its street trading tradition from extinction.

Third and fourth-generation shop owners on Cornmarket St said City Hall needs to overhaul its entire approach to the management of the Coal Quay street market amid claims that its vision to rejuvenate its street trading tradition has failed.

They said the council’s proposals — first unveiled in 2009 — to create a thriving open-air market on the back of a €4m investment in the area which was completed in 2011 — has just not been delivered.

At lunchtime yesterday, just one of the handful of stalls was trading, and for only a few hours. The Murray sisters, who have been trading in the area for two generations, declined to comment.

But James Cogan, the fourth generation of his family to run McCarthy’s on Cornmarket St, established by his great grandmother Nora McCarthy, then run by her daughter Nora, and then his father Charlie, said everybody wants a thriving street market to succeed.

“But it’s not being managed properly, and there has been little or no consultation,” he said.

“There is a tradition of trading here. This is where people came to shop, to be entertained. They tried to change it, to improve it, but they took the wrong approach and it just hasn’t worked.

Traders on Cork’s Cornmarket St in 1937. Picture: ‘Irish Examiner’ archive
Traders on Cork’s Cornmarket St in 1937. Picture: ‘Irish Examiner’ archive

“There are unique shops in this area — shops that give Cork its character — and stalls that you just won’t get in any other city. This is ours. It’s our place. And it’s bursting for something to happen.”

Brenda Harte, who was born in a building on Cornmarket St, and who like her mother and grandmother before her has worked in nearby Twomey’s shop, for 62 years, said Cornmarket St should be managed properly.

“There was loads of people traded here years ago, and when they did the road works, they were supposed to develop the market more,” she said.

“But there are a few stalls at the top that only open a few hours a day, then they have a food market on Saturdays at the other end, and there is a big gap in the middle.

“This is Cork’s designated market and they don’t utilise it properly. We have a big path now, with nobody on it. It’s not our fault that they didn’t fulfil their promises.”

They were responding to calls on Monday from publican Benny McCabe for round-table talks on the future of the street’s market trading tradition.

He said he is considering legal action against the city because the vacant market stalls are blocking the listed building which houses one of his landmark pubs, the Bodega.

The stalls that have been erected. Picture: Denis Minihane
The stalls that have been erected. Picture: Denis Minihane

He insisted he wants a street market to succeed and thrive in the area but he said the stalls should be designed and managed properly.

But not everyone shares his view. Ann Horgan, from Togher, has been shopping with the Coal Quay street traders three times a week for the last 35 years.

“I used to come in as a little girl with my mother, and remember the other markets, and since they done it up, it’s brilliant,” she said.

“I’m quite happy with the stalls I come to. It’s the craic, and the shopping, we talk about old times, and if you have a problem, you can share it with the staff running the stalls.

“I come down for the chat, it gets me out of the house, we’ll have the chat and the laugh, and it’s many the bargain I got here — bed clothes, pillows, duvets, you name it, I get the best here.”

A spokesman for City Hall said the city council has invested heavily in the public realm in the historic area and is committed to working with everyone in the area to ensure that the Coal Quay contributes strongly to the economy of the city centre.


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