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“You can gloss up the image of any place in the world... but cast your eyes down to ground level at night and you will see people huddled in city centre doorways, wrapped up in sleeping bags complete with plastic cups for money,” said Colette. Picture: Stock
“You can gloss up the image of any place in the world... but cast your eyes down to ground level at night and you will see people huddled in city centre doorways, wrapped up in sleeping bags complete with plastic cups for money,” said Colette. Picture: Stock
SOCIAL BOOKMARKS

If we are truly Cork, then we should respect all our citizens

NO amount of branding Cork (or rather, rebranding it) can disguise the fact that the city has a chronic homelessness problem.

‘We are Cork’ is the slogan that consultants came up with as part of a marketing campaign for the county. It ain’t rocket science yet it cost almost €300,000 to come up with this bland bit of market-speak and a marketing strategy for the region.

That the logo is similar to existing brands in the UK and Barcelona just goes to show what a waste of money was involved in rewarding consultants for this tosh.

You can gloss up the image of any place in the world and light up the buildings in red (as happened in Cork city recently) as part of a marketing campaign, but cast your eyes down to ground level at night and you will see people huddled in city centre doorways, wrapped up in sleeping bags complete with plastic cups for money.

No longer the preserve of people addicted to drugs and alcohol, homelessness is affecting a growing cohort. It is a blight on our streets and a terrible indictment of capitalism, gone wrong.

With extortionate rent now the norm and house prices far from affordable, not to mention waiting lists for virtually non-existent local authority housing growing all the time, sleeping out on Patrick Street is the only option for some.

Seven years ago, just 35 people were recorded as sleeping rough in the city throughout 2011 — an average of two people sleeping rough every night.

But Cork Simon’s 2017 report shows that the nightly rough sleeping figure has gone up to 19.

Think what could be constructively done with the sum of nearly €300,000 spent on trying to manipulate the public’s perception of Cork?

It could have gone on repairing abandoned or decrepit houses so that homeless people could live in them. But no, the market loves a bit of branding because it involves dosh lining the pockets of the well-heeled, who can always make a killing out of adversity.

Why are we so beholden to consultants? What exactly is their level of expertise when it comes to nebulous stuff like improving the image of Cork by stringing a few words together — words, that, by the way, constituted the strap-line for radio station, 96fm, for the past 15 years?

‘We are Cork’. Crikey. It’s not exactly worthy of any praise for being either distinctive or catchy. Because it’s neither of those things.

It’s just a tired recycled formation of three words that is supposedly going to contribute to the regeneration of the city and county in the imaginations of the public and the business sector.

Meanwhile, oblivious to this exercise in money-wasting are the homeless who will try to get into a hostel tonight or will sleep under the stars — in the freezing cold.

Cork has been rebranded five times in the past few years. What is that about? Can we not just make the city more attractive to the public without hiring a cabal of consultants hired to dream up a wheeze?

I can’t quite understand the thinking behind car-free Pana in the afternoons. Patrick Street was hardly a place where people ever parked in the first place. Now, the city’s main street can be forlorn and half empty on weekdays.

As a city centre cafe-owner remarked to me, trade in Cork city suffers hugely because of expensive parking costs. Reducing parking costs for shortish periods of time isn’t enough. Promoting the use of public transport would be far more useful than coming up with a moronic slogan.

Cork has never been shy about blowing its own trumpet. Its second city status means that it is always shouting, even if it is doing so slightly away from the main action.

We don’t like being called culchies and we hate it that everything is so Dublin-centric. But we have a beautiful city. That can only be accentuated when the homeless are housed.

We can’t with impunity pass by the destitute. If we are truly Cork, we should respect all our citizens. That means making sure that no-one is condemned to sleep on a footpath.

As the director of Cork Simon, Dermot Kavanagh, has said, the housing supply problem “must be addressed urgently. More people remain stuck in our shelter for longer because they are effectively locked out of the housing market.”

The ‘We are Cork’ brand and campaign needs to be prodded into the real world. No branding can work when the basics, such as housing, are ignored. We could all be consultants regarding our city. We’d do it for a lot less money than those recently hired. And we’d talk a lot more sense... like.