Two years ago when we were still struggling with economic meltdown in Ireland I did a blog wondering when if ever Ireland and Cork where I live, would get back to some kind of economic normality.
At that time I highlighted the visit of The Queen to Ireland as a particularly important event which I felt was going to improve considerably the relationship between us and our UK neighbours. The walkabout that The Queen decided to undertake through the streets of Cork was one of the highlights of her visit. She also made a few profound and very important speeches. The other wonderful happening, was that on her visit to the English Market in Cork, she and the Duke of Edinburgh met with Pat O Connell who runs a third generation family fish business in the market.
Last Sunday I listened with fascination to Pat talking on Cork Community Radio with James O Sullivan on The Business Hour. James himself is from a 4th or 5th generation Cork family business and he does great work to promote Cork and Cork business owners, especially family owned ones.
The Queen and Pat O Connell hit it off immediately, and she seemed to love his infectious Cork humour. They had some great laughs in the few minutes they spent together in The English Market.
Pat as well as being a charmer is also a very astute business man and decided to do a little marketing on the back of The Queen’s visit. On the anniversary of her visit which coincided with the opening of the salmon fishing season on the River Lee in Cork he contacted Buckingham Palace to see if The Queen would accept a fresh salmon from him. She confirmed her willingness and so Pat dispatched a lovely fresh wild salmon, caught that morning on The River Lee and had it delivered by private courier to the palace
Sometime later a letter was received by him from the palace thanking him for the salmon and saying that “It had been judged to have been delicious”. Soon after he was invited to the palace and again met The Queen, this time, at a private reception. When asked by James how did that go, he said they had great fun together. The first question The Queen asked him was “Well Pat did you bring any fish from Cork with you”?
James and Pat talked about the importance of her visit to Cork and the window of opportunity it gave to both countries to accept that mistakes had been made. They felt that the visit gave both countries the chance to learn from those mistakes and move forward and grow stronger in friendship and in business. This seems to be happening and certainly the number of visitors from the UK to Cork has grown enormously since her visit.
Pat has recently taken over from Claire Nash as the president of the Cork Business Association and was talking also about the positive happenings in the city and as he was talking I started to realise that the recovery of Cork was indeed well underway.
He talked about the convention centre that is about to start on the Beamish & Crawford site which will create much needed employment in construction. When finished it will bring substantial business to the city. Across the river on Sullivan’s Quay that awful monstrosity of a building that housed the tax office will be transformed by BAM Construction into an office block of 120,000 square feet and a 180 bedroomed hotel.
They talked then about the redevelopment by John Clery of The Capital Cinema site which will link The Grand Parade and Patricks Street. This site will house 95,000 square feet of retail and office space and old corkonians like me who used to enjoy a pint in the Vineyard Bar followed by a steak cooked by Jimmy Martin in The Oyster Tavern will be pleased to hear that these two old Cork institutions will be rebuild and form part of the new development. In addition there will be some extension and upgrading of The English Market.
Photo from the Grand Parade above.
At the same time the main GAA stadium on The Marina in Blackrock is being demolished and a new state of the art stadium capable of housing 45,000 fans will soon be under construction.
In addition a major office block has just been completed on Albert Quay by John Clery and another hopefully will start soon by developer Owen O Callaghan on his site situated on Albert Quay and Anderson’s Quay, a building of 150,000 square feet that will house about 2,500 people.
What is very interesting is that bang in the middle of all this new office accommodation is Corks and Ireland’s tallest building The Elysian Tower. Wonderful building, great location but poor timing as it was completed in 2008 by Michael O Flynn just as the Irish Economy was tanking. The good news is that Michael has been appointed recently by Blackstone to fit out the remaining 137 apartments which will make wonderful accommodation for those working in these new offices.
Whilst it was lying empty for a few years the local wit in the Idle Hour Pub around the corner aptly christened it The Idle Tower!
So yes I think it is true to say that finally the recovery of Cork is well under way. In fact for a small city like Cork what is happening is more than a recovery. Over the next 2 to 3 years Cork will undergo a positive transformation of immense proportions. Perhaps soon we will once again be able to look Dublin in the eye.
You heard the story of the Cork person with an inferiority complex. They thought that they were only as good as everyone else!
Ted Dwyer Family Business