In an age defined by seismic change, the ability to adapt, to innovate, to sustain, and to extend traditional expertise, skills, and crafts to remain relevant — socially, culturally, and commercially — is ever more important. Flux is the only constant, the capacity to embrace deep change ever more necessary. In a region on the very edge of Europe, those challenges take on a sharper meaning. Geography adds layers of complexity no longer pressing in communications-rich continental countries. They demand a level of engagement and energy; they demand an awareness of how change is reshaping certainties; they demand an understanding of how the nature of work is changing and how climate-collapse obligations have permanently moved the goalposts. The risk of ignoring these dynamics goes far, far beyond the commercial.
All of these issues are alive in Co Cork and today we focus on how some are managed, how others remain unresolved, while still others have yet to reach the priority list. Today’s review is Cork specific, but the issues are alive across the country, especially in areas tying to live in the shadow of all-consuming, Dublin-centric growth.
Like Co Cork, there is hardly an area that does not need better roads (especially better secondary roads) or better schools, public transport, and water services to match new housing and to support growing communities. Every area faces a housing crisis, even if the scale varies. In many areas, the infrastructure requirements are known — some for many decades — yet they remain aspirations, deferred time and time again. A direct motorway linking Cork and Limerick is but one example. The Macroom bypass is another. Bandon and Mallow face similarily disruptive issues. There are fears that delays around upgrading the pivotal Dunkettle Interchange might continue to have a disproportionately negative impact. The difficulties underline how very dependent we are on good roads, despite a growing realisation that a new kind of transport policy seems unavoidable. That Cork County Council’s 2019 budget for road works is, at €60.2m, still €22m below the 2008 figure of €82m, points to a major issue, and several side issues, that must be confronted. The development of Cork Port continues apace and records are set almost annually. Last year, the number of cruise-ship visits almost doubled. This trend may continue as more and more European centres begin to question the sustainability of mass tourism. Investment in an €86m container terminal will, in turn, add to the pressure to upgrade roads and even how Cork Airport is administered.
These are just details in an ongoing story of pragmatism and ambition that has sustained the county for centuries. That pragmatism has not been lost, nor has ambition wilted. Indeed, the great success of the pharma sector suggests otherwise and points to a valuable lesson. When hundreds of Ford and Dunlop jobs were lost in the mid ’80s, an air of gloom gripped the region, but those jobs were more than replaced by the pharma sector. If that flexibility is matched with resources and a more energetic development of infrastructure, then that success story will continue for generations to come.