Same harbour but two very different stories for Cork port

Same harbour but two very different stories for Cork port

THE contrast could not have been more obvious between Upper and Lower Cork Harbour, says Tom MacSweeney

THE contrast could not have been more obvious between Upper and Lower Cork Harbour.

In the upper area a big Government public relations operation was underway. Local and national dignitaries had been brought out for the media. TV cameras, photographers, reporters were all there for a development announcement about “regenerative State investment, new communities and potential economic profiles.”

In the lower harbour it was different. Communities there had been told that a long-awaited judicial decision was to be announced in their battle against a company which has been an unwelcome presence in their lives for 20 years. Down there the emphasis was about communities trying, as they saw it, to protect their lives. There were no local or national dignitaries and no media present in the lower harbour. 

It was Friday March 19 and the contrast between both locations struck me forcibly.

At the city docklands, Taoiseach Micheál Martin led the announcement of a €405m investment which he described as “game changing” for Cork. 

There was also €4m for Mallow and €817,500 to be shared between Carrigaline, Passage West and Ringaskiddy in the lower harbour ‘cluster’.

An Taoiseach Micheál Martin on the Cork Dockland.
An Taoiseach Micheál Martin on the Cork Dockland.

Ringaskiddy is probably the village in Ireland which has experienced most impact from concentration of industrial development.

“The comparison of a shared €871,500 out of €405m says a lot about concern and consideration for lower harbour communities,” 

I was told locally during the weekend as harbour communities also analysed the High Court finding of ‘objective bias’ against An Bord Pleanala.

There has been commitment by some firms towards local groups but, driving through Ringaskiddy, there is not a huge lot to be seen of community development emanating from the industrial concentration. 

Haulbowline Island new park and the maritime facilities at nearby Paddy’s Point are pointed to by Cork Port, the County Council and State as examples of community benefits.

Harbour communities banded together in mutual support to oppose Indaver and An Bord Pleanála.

“We’ve been badly treated since 1978 when the IDA and Cork County Council showed what they thought of our area,” I was told.

That goes back to the setting-up of the Raybestos Manhattan plant in Ovens and the decision to dump its waste asbestos at Barnahely in Ringaskiddy. There was massive local opposition which eventually stopped the dumping.

Public meetings in Ringaskiddy protesting Indaver have shown the depth of community feelings and opposition.

After the High Court decision, CHASE – the Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment- Chairperson, Mary O’Leary, said, “This is a huge community win”.

CHASE and the community of Cork Harbour are delighted with the decision.” 

The Alliance said it would seek the quashing of the planning decision for Indaver.

“We’ve got a bit to go yet and it will be a challenge to get the application thrown out, but that’s another day’s work.”

My phone and email buzzed since Friday, reflecting a general feeling that harbour communities have had to stand alone against State and local agencies who supported development proposals.

“Communities had to raise all the money to fight their case and didn’t get any help,” I was told. 

Other comments said: “Cork Harbour has become skewed towards industrial development, there is need for balance.”

“The harbour is a natural resource not just for development, but also for life, for people to live in.”

Cork Harbour, regarded as the second most beautiful natural harbour in the world, has economic potential and resource.

The Cork Docklands development is possible because port shipping has been moved to Ringaskiddy, another impact on that community and the harbour generally. 

An economy’s primary role is to benefit the people. The lack of a public forum where communities have equal standing with State agencies and development proposals affecting the future of where they live was again highlighted to me at the weekend. It is a reasonable point. Harbour communities have had to accept major changes - massive wind turbines, huge traffic, noise impact. What is essential for the future is to give the communities which live in the harbour equal concern with developmental requirements.

“We’ve taken part in two public enquiries and won both of them. Bord Pleanála’s own inspectors rejected Indaver twice as a result of those inquiries. Twice the Board over-ruled its own inspectors. Now the communities have won in the High Court. We have lives to live too,” is amongst the points put to me from harbour communities, amongst which there was a question that deserves an answer from State and local agencies: “What more do we have to do to be treated with respect and understanding?”

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