Midleton on the rise again after darkest of years

As Midleton emerges from the pandemic, businesses and community leaders say the future is looking bright for the town. John Bohane reports
Midleton on the rise again after darkest of years

Fergus McCarthy, owner, outside McCarthy News, Midleton. Picture: Denis Minihane

MIDLETON continues to thrive with a noticeable hustle and bustle in the East Cork town as businesses gear up for a very busy summer.

Despite its significant population surge in recent years, Midelton has still managed to maintain its sense of identity and community spirit, and as the town emerges from the pandemic, businesses and community groups are optimistic about the future.

Fergus McCarthy, who owns McCarthy News, said the town is doing great.

“We are over 60 years in business. I am second generation. Midleton is doing great. Even throughout the lockdown, it did very well. The shops that were allowed to stay open were thriving. There was a rough couple of months at the start but once the initial lockdown eased we did really nicely.”

The newsagent said the town is constantly ‘evolving’.

“It evolves all the time. You always see a few shops closing, but the footfall on the main street is huge. It does attract business and they all seem to do quite well. It is unrecognisable from when I was a child. The population has more than doubled since I was in school. Midleton is a really good place. A lot of towns are rightfully envious of us.”

Kevin Aherne, who is the owner/head chef of Sage Restaurant, said their reopening in recent weeks has been very ‘positive’.

Kevin Aherne, proprietor, with his wife Réidín and their children Cuan and Lía in the courtyard at Sage, Midleton, Co. Cork.
Kevin Aherne, proprietor, with his wife Réidín and their children Cuan and Lía in the courtyard at Sage, Midleton, Co. Cork.

“Everything has been positive. Customers are happy to be back out and everybody is in good form. We are fortunate that we have a nice covered area. It has been busy.”

Mr Aherne also spoke of the evolution of the town.

“I am a local boy. I have grown up with the town. I have seen how it has grown from a small commuter town in Cork to now being one of the more dominant towns in Cork. It is still growing in terms of population, stature and in infrastructure. The greenway will bring more customers and holidaymakers into the town.”

He added: “It might be one of the biggest commuter towns in Cork, but we are still a country town at heart. The people are really friendly.”

Stephen Belton, who is the MD of both the Garryvoe Hotel and the Bayview Hotel in Ballycotton, said despite the setbacks of the last few months, there is a “positive feeling” in the town.

“Things are going great. We are really happy. The most important thing is we are open. We have people from all over the country staying. We are very solid until the end of September. Everybody is delighted to be working again.”

Mr Belton, who is also president of the Midleton and Area Chamber of Commerce, stressed that businesses can’t afford to close again.

“We were closed last year for nearly half a year and then we closed again after Christmas. It was soul-destroying. The last lockdown was the hardest for all businesses. The government support was well received and was needed. We can’t close again. The economy can’t close again. It is important that all the bars and restaurants open soon. Everybody has to be patient and hopefully, we will all get through it together.”

Mr Belton praised the unity of the business people in Midleton which contributes hugely to the success of the town.

“There are fantastic business people in Midleton. It is such a varied town for businesses. We have fantastic shops, bars and restaurants. There is such a positive feeling about Midleton.”

Cllr Ann Marie Ahern, who runs her own business Ahern Auctioneers, said the demand for houses in Midleton and local hinterland is ‘extremely busy’.

“It is extremely busy because we have a lack of stock. The demand is far exceeding supply at the moment.”

Ms Ahern said Midleton is very attractive for prospective buyers.

Ann-Marie Ahern, auctioneer and county councillor, pictured in Midleton, Co. Cork.
Ann-Marie Ahern, auctioneer and county councillor, pictured in Midleton, Co. Cork.

“There is plenty to do in Midleton. We have a fantastic soccer club, rugby club, GAA club, bowls club, cubs and scouts. We are trying to get a public swimming pool into the area. There will hopefully be a fantastic walkway and linear park coming into Midleton in the near future. 

"We have great active retirement groups in the area. We also have great historical sites and arts around Midleton. The town has become more inclusive. I would be confident Midleton will continue to be very successful and rewarding to people living in the area.”

Ms Ahern highlighted two issues that need to be addressed to ensure the town continues to thrive going forward.

“The upgrade of the treatment plant in Midleton which is stopping the growth of building in the area is a huge issue. School places are also a challenge in East Cork. All political representatives are working hard to resolve this issue.”

Sport continues to play a prominent role in Midleton. The Midleton hurlers are synonymous with success.

Midleton, Co. Cork.
Midleton, Co. Cork.

Vincent Reddy, who serves as the secretary of Midleton GAA club, said the club currently caters for 1,200 members.

“We have 1,200 members which covers adults, underage and ladies. We combined the ladies football, camogie and the GAA club into one organisation. It has been a great success. We also have the Magpies All-Stars who train every Sunday and they are going very well.”

Midleton GAA Club is constantly seeking to improve its facilities for all its players.

“It is vital to provide top facilities for the players. We are really lucky to have so many people willing to help out. The town has always been so supportive toward the club. We bought land a few years ago and we opened our first two pitches this summer. We hope to start work on a 3G pitch before the end of the year.”

Vin Reddy, secretary, Midleton GAA Club, at the club's grounds and clubhouse in Co. Cork.
Vin Reddy, secretary, Midleton GAA Club, at the club's grounds and clubhouse in Co. Cork.

Mr Reddy said it is all about ‘participation’ for Midleton GAA Club.

“The club has a big history and a bright future ahead. Winning is great, but it is about participation. We are always trying to be more of a community organisation. The plan is to be more broad-based and be an outlet for people socially.”

Colette Barry, Business Development Manager with the Midleton and Area Chamber of Commerce, said the pandemic has had positives for the town.

“We have weathered the Covid storm really well. Covid has brought us together more than ever. People are shopping more locally than they previously would have been. A few businesses closed down but we also have had a few open up. There is a great community spirit in the town.”

Colette Barry, business development manager, Midleton & Area Chamber, at Midleton Tourist Office, Co. Cork.
Colette Barry, business development manager, Midleton & Area Chamber, at Midleton Tourist Office, Co. Cork.

Ms Barry said the town has a bright future ahead.

“Everything you need is in Midleton. We have got some of the best restaurants in Cork. The businesses are very good to support all the organisations in the town. It is a strong town with a good future,” she added.

Looking to that future David Stanton, Fine Gael TD for Cork East, said Midleton offers an ‘excellent quality of life’ but said there are challenges in areas such as education and housing they will have to negotiate.

“With such rapid development comes numerous challenges such as housing, education and the subsequent need for wastewater services. We are fortunate to have many modern local primary and secondary level schools offering a very high standard of education, but proposals need to be progressed to ensure that future educational demands are catered for. The need for both social and affordable housing is also evident and plans to increase local wastewater capacity to accommodate new builds are well underway.”

Fianna Fáil TD for Cork East, James O’Connor, is excited with regard to the ‘potential’ of Midleton.

“Midleton town has huge potential. Midleton has enjoyed remarkable economic investment through jobs in factories and facilities within close proximity to the town. Investment in education is key. There is also the potential for Midleton Library to be redeveloped into a state-of-the-art community facility. The primary objective is to make sure Midleton remains a top-class town and a wonderful place to raise a family.”

Sinn Féin TD for Cork East Pat Buckley said there are lots of exciting things in the pipeline for the town.

“We are also lucky to have so many sporting organisations here which contribute to positive mental health. The greenway will add another dimension to the town and boost tourism in East Cork. Flood relief works will start in the near future and hopefully by then the rest of the townscape should be complete. It’s a great town to live in.”

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