That Spike Island is now Europe’s leading tourist attraction underlines what I have been writing about in this column – that Cork should be Ireland’s maritime capital.
Our city, the River Lee, the magnificent harbour we have and the resources they provide, with considerable economic potential, underlines this.
Spike beat off competition which included the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Colosseum in Rome, the Acropolis in Athens and even Buckingham Palace.
It shows what we have in Cork, but it also highlights the imperative of balancing industrial development with tourism, leisure and lifestyle.
Meitheal Mara, the community organisation which has done wonderful work in highlighting Cork’s maritime and boat-building tradition and runs the annual Ocean-to-City Race amongst other events, is a member of the design for the Spike Island Masterplan.
It has protested the exclusion of boat access to Haulbowline Island, just across from Spike, in the €60m remediation plan for the East Tip dump left behind on Haulbowline after the closure of Irish Steel.
“A €60m spend, but no access to the water for boats, this is not joined-up thinking,” Meitheal Mara say.
Indeed, it is not and where does the lack of such provision leave the international sailing centre which was touted by the Government to be located on the island, if there is not boating provision?
The organisation made a submission to the planners for boat access, but have been ignored. It is extraordinary that Meitheal Mara was involved in Spike, but its views have been dismissed on Haulbowline.
After a wait of two weeks, the Minister with Special Responsibility for Defence, Paul Kehoe, replied to my question about the future of the Naval Base on Haulbowline Island in the light of the identified threat to its operations from the Indaver incinerator proposed for Ringaskiddy.
His reply was an example of political equivocation which provides a reply, but not answers. It quoted a comment made many months ago about the ongoing An Bord Pleanála examination of the proposal. The Minister did not respond to “strategic implications for the State" or "operational requirements."
The Fianna Fáil Press Office sent a reply on behalf of party Leader and local TD Micheál Martin: “We maintain our objection to this application as we believe that it would be contrary to proper planning, particularly in light of the clear position of the Department of Defence.”
“Look around you, can you see the water from here?” That was the question posed to me by a few Ringaskiddy residents in the village on Sunday which has great maritime history and should, in the promotion of Cork as a maritime centre, be at the forefront.
I did look around, but you cannot see the water from the main street of this harbourside village. It's extraordinary but fences and buildings do block the waterside view. “If any village has been abused by industrial development, we have,” the local people told me.
It is no wonder they are angry at the treatment of what should be a primary harbourside community.
Tomorrow in ECHO SPORT SAILING – First week of the October Leagues.