Michael Moynihan: How would Cork score in liveability rankings?

The city wasn't included in a recent report ranking cities all around the world according to liveability, so I'm just going to have to rank Cork myself — an entirely unbiased and objective appraisal, of course. Watch this space
Michael Moynihan: How would Cork score in liveability rankings?

The quality of public healthcare provision in Dublin is rated at a stark ‘uncomfortable’ by the Economist Intelligence Unit; that’s a rating anyone who has recently visited Cork University Hospital would struggle to deny. Picture: Dan Linehan

You may think of it as the least entertaining version of Eurovision ever invented, but any time there’s a poll ranking various cities, I just have to get excited. When the cities are ranked by liveability I might as well be watching Bucks Fizz winning it all back in 1981.

I have no hobbies. What can I tell you?

According to the Euronews website last month, Austrian capital Vienna scored a near-perfect rating in a report from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), which ranked cities all around the world according to liveability.

Austrian capital Vienna scored a near-perfect liveability rating.
Austrian capital Vienna scored a near-perfect liveability rating.

According to Euronews: “The concept of liveability evaluates which cities around the world offer the best living conditions.

“The report quantifies the challenges that might be presented to an individual in any given location and then compares the results between locations. 

Every city is assigned a rating for relative comfort for over 30 factors across five general categories: stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure.”

Vienna, then, scored a close to perfect score across the categories — for instance, 99.1 (out of 100) in its final index; 100.0 in stability, 100.0 in healthcare, 96.3 in culture and environment, 100.0 in education and 100.0 in infrastructure.

As for the bottom of the list, Damascus (30.7), Lagos (32.3), and Tripoli (34.2) occupy the last three spots.

Cities with serious challenges

As the EIU itself puts it, these are cities with serious challenges which “continue to languish at the bottom of the list in the face of social unrest, terrorism and conflict”.

The bad news is that Cork isn’t one of the cities included in the list, but Dublin is, which gives us a chance to make a reasonable comparison and apply some of the same criteria at least.

(No, I am not saying any negatives can be dismissed as applying only to Dublin. You’re the one saying that.)

For instance, the five general categories break down into some pretty interesting sub-categories. Taking the ’stability’ category as a an example, it subdivides into the following: prevalence of petty crime; prevalence of violent crime; threat of military conflict; threat of civil unrest/conflict; and threat of terrorism.

I’m not sure exactly what to make of the fact that Dublin rates from acceptable to tolerable across all of these sub-categories, though it casts my visit there last weekend for the hurling in a rather different light now.

Healthcare

Non-Dubliners might quibble with acceptable to tolerable, while natives of the capital would probably dismiss those ratings, but for our purposes of comparison the healthcare sub-categories are probably closer to the bone.

The availability of private healthcare, quality of private health provision, and availability of public healthcare are all ranked as tolerable, as are general healthcare indicators as well as the availability of over-the-counter drugs — but the quality of public healthcare provision is rated at a stark ‘uncomfortable’.

That’s a rating that anyone who has recently visited Cork University Hospital would struggle to deny, this particular patient included. The normalisation of waiting times and patients on trolleys, our acceptance that this is the way things are, doesn’t last long when compared objectively to health systems which function properly overseas.

I am not saying any negatives can be dismissed as applying only to Dublin. You’re the one saying that.
I am not saying any negatives can be dismissed as applying only to Dublin. You’re the one saying that.

Dublin scores reasonably well on education, with the availability of private education, quality of private education provision, and general public education indicators all acceptable, but the ratings really begin to bite when infrastructure within the capital is evaluated.

The rating of tolerable for availability of good quality housing will surely raise eyebrows, for instance. That seems completely at odds with the experience in many areas of the country and Cork in particular — where rents have never been higher, the demand for accommodation has never been keener, and yet the sheer number of vacant properties is staggering.

The quality of energy and water provision as well as telecommunications infrastructure is rated as acceptable, but transport?

Public transport

The quality of road network and quality of public transport in Dublin are both rated as tolerable: if the quality of public transport in Dublin, with two separate light rail systems as well as a wide-ranging bus network, is merely tolerable, where does that leave Cork? Where does that leave other urban areas in Ireland, come to that?

Finally, the culture and environment ranking was largely acceptable across the sub-categories of climate/ humidity-temperature, social religious restrictions, level of censorship, sports, culture, food and drink rating, availability of consumer goods, and services.

if the quality of public transport in Dublin, with two separate light rail systems as well as a wide-ranging bus network, is merely tolerable, where does that leave Cork?
if the quality of public transport in Dublin, with two separate light rail systems as well as a wide-ranging bus network, is merely tolerable, where does that leave Cork?

The ranking dropped to tolerable in two significant sub-categories here — climate: discomfort to travellers and cultural hardship: corruption.

Are we kidding ourselves in Cork if we declare the People’s Republic less corrupt than the capital? If we feel Leeside is a more emollient climate for the overseas visitor than the capital with its national headquarters and head offices?

Tongue-in-cheek or not, this last point of this last point shows up an inherent flaw in a ranking system like this. At the most basic level, you are not only comparing apples and oranges — how a city like Vienna could be compared to somewhere like Tripoli on even the vaguest of terms is baffling — but the system also begs one obvious question.

Who is it for?

“There is some truth in the idea that the Global Liveability Index was set up mainly with the idea of companies and individuals looking to relocate in mind,” EIU analyst Nicholas Fitzroy said a couple of years ago when asked that question. “But since then, interest in it has greatly expanded, and it gets a lot of broader international attention. It’s something people genuinely care about.

“And I’d say that information provided for people who are relocating still has a lot of relevance for people who have been living in a city long term. There isn’t a huge difference there.”

Outside perspective on one’s city

Fitzroy is correct. An outside perspective on one’s city is always welcome. The fact that somewhere like Cork is so dependent on the energising and vitalising input of newcomers means an awareness of how the city is perceived is always welcome. Correction: how the city might be perceived by those considering it as a new home.

On that basis, a frank self-evaluation does no harm: we had to extrapolate from Dublin’s example to work out where we might rank, but that won’t do. The challenges and advantages which are exclusive to Cork need to be taken into consideration, and we can’t wait around until the EIU Unit decides to head to Heuston Station and travel south.

Or perhaps we shouldn’t bother to wait. Hence my decision to rank Cork according to the liveability index, an entirely unbiased and objective appraisal which you’ll see here soon.

Hopefully rankings such as uncomfortable, undesirable, or even intolerable won’t be needed.

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