GE 2020: Cork's top seven election issues

GE 2020: Cork's top seven election issues
Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision


With just over three weeks before Cork voters go to the polls, we look at the seven election issues that will decide the winners and losers in General Election 2020


HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS

HOUSING and homelessness make up two of the “three h’s” that every candidate will be focusing on during the upcoming general election. 

The average house price in Cork city is now €278,000, according to the latest figures from property website daft.ie.

Prices in the final quarter of 2019 were 1% higher than a year previously, compared to a rise of 6% seen a year earlier. 

Two homeless people sleeping rough just off the South Mall in Cork City, Ireland. - Picture David Creedon
Two homeless people sleeping rough just off the South Mall in Cork City, Ireland. - Picture David Creedon

However, that’s now 69% above the lowest point seen in the recession.

Residential Tenancies Board figures for quarter 3, 2019, show the average rent for Cork City at €1,192, up 1.4%. 

Year-on-year it’s the lowest annual increase in Cork since the same quarter in 2015. 

However, the number of homeless has increased in the South West region by 20% from November 2018 to 2019. 

Latest figures show 592 in emergency accommodation in the region.

A number of housing protests have taken place in Cork over the last number of months to protest the “lack of action” by the Government in relation to the housing crisis.

HEALTH WILL BE ONE OF THE MAIN ELECTION ISSUES

Health is one of the “three h’s” that will of central focus to voters in the upcoming general election. Overcrowding at Cork’s hospitals over the last number of weeks led patients’ families to tell The Echo that conditions in Cork University Hospital’s (CUH) Emergency Department were “third world”.

One woman said she couldn't wait for politicians to start knocking on her door to hold them accountable.

The overcrowding crisis had been worsening and peaked in the second week in January, with 760 patients recorded on trolleys nationally - the highest number since records began.

This led to the cancellation of elective surgeries at CUH and the Mercy, which prompted consultant Dr Anthony O’Connor to tell The Echo that it was “a catastrophic failure,” and was “the sign of breakdown”.

An elective hospital for Cork had been touted which would aim to free up capacity in other acute hospitals. However, despite rumors an announcement was imminent around Christmas, it seems that there has still been no decision on any site for the hospital. 

VOTERS SET TO DEMAND PROGRESS ON ROADS INFRASTRUCTURE

Roads infrastructure in and around Cork city won’t be far from voters minds - particularly with the recent revelation in The Echo that the Northern Ring Road project won’t be delivered until after 2027.

That’s despite it being in the pipeline for more than 15 years. 

Locals and politicians in the area have claimed the northside of the city hasn’t seen as much development as the southside as a direct result of not having adequate transport systems in place.

Tailbacks in both directions on approach and exit from the Jack Lynch Tunnel at Mahon, Co Cork.Pic: Larry Cummins.
Tailbacks in both directions on approach and exit from the Jack Lynch Tunnel at Mahon, Co Cork.Pic: Larry Cummins.

That road is a complementary but separate standalone scheme to the M20 Cork to Limerick motorway project. A contract has been awarded for technical advisors, and design work has begun on the project which has an estimated cost of anywhere between €500m - €1billion.

The Dunkettle Interchange Project has also come up against some delays and it’s understood the project is due to be re-tendered, but Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe confirmed last week that the project would proceed.

Construction on Phase 2 of the major project is scheduled to begin later this year

VOTERS STILL WAITING FOR LONG-PROMISED EVENTS CENTRE

VOTERS in Cork will remember that the sod was turned on the events centre project in Cork city prior to the last general election in 2016. 

Then Taoiseach Enda Kenny was on hand, alongside now Tánaiste Simon Coveney. 

At the time of the sod-turning, developers Bam said the project would be completed in 2018.

A computer-generated image of the revised events centre plans submitted by Bam following a request by planners for further information. Pic: G-Net 3D
A computer-generated image of the revised events centre plans submitted by Bam following a request by planners for further information. Pic: G-Net 3D

However, the development still hasn’t gotten off the ground and isn’t likely to do so for at least the next six to eight months. That’s despite a €50 million Government once-off payment package being agreed.

Detailed internal designs still have to be put together on the €85 million project, which is expected to be worth approximately 585 jobs both directly and indirectly.

Should the 6,000 seater venue finally move forward, the average annual turnover is expected to be worth around €36 million to the city in annual spend over the first five years.

UNEMPLOYED NUMBERS DROP IN PAST DECADE

OVER the past decade or so since Fine Gael has been in power, there’s been a significant drop in unemployment across Cork city and county. 

They were initially part of a coalition Government from 2011.

In December 2011, there were 18,785 in Cork city on the live register. 

Pic Daragh Mac Sweeney/Provision
Pic Daragh Mac Sweeney/Provision

That’s now dropped to 5,725. In the entire county in 2011, there were 43,651 people signing on. There are 15,068 as of December 2019.

There were also a number of big job announcements across the decade in Cork, however, according to the latest report from the Central Statistics Office on Foreign Direct Investment 2018 shows a decrease of €24bn over the year nationally.

Pharmaceutical company Novartis recently announced 320 job losses in Cork, while a number of businesses in the city centre have announced closures or moves to smaller locations in recent weeks. Eason is set to move from its location on Patrick’s Street, while Finn’s Corner is also set to close.

CLIMATE CHANGE

It remains to be seen whether the so-called Green wave in the local and European elections will continue through this general election, however, climate change and protecting the environment are issues that have risen to the fore in Cork in recent years.

Cycling infrastructure, adequate public transport, and calls for more trees to be planted are just some of the issues local activists have pushed for.

Significant concern was raised in recent months when it emerged that Cork city had one of the worst levels of air quality in Europe, while the most recent IBAL report has highlighted Cork’s northside as littered. However, it showed Cork city centre to be clean, while Mahon was moderately littered.



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