Cork: A Tale of Two Cities

Workers’ Party Cork Councillor Ted Tynan discusses how new statistics released by Cork City Council highlight the stark disparities in access to health, education and other important services between the Northside and Southside of the city.

Published in June, the City Council report – a Strategic Plan for the Library Service 2010-2014 – contains two maps which show the levels of relative affluence and educational achievement in each of the city’s 73 electoral divisions during the supposed height of the Celtic Tiger boom.

Unsurprisingly, the unemployment map shows a swathe of dark red, indicating economic disadvantage, across the Northside of the city with an unbroken red patch stretching from Hollyhill to Mayfield shopping centre marked as “Extremely Disadvantaged”.

By sharp contrast there are only two red patches on the entire Southside of the city, one in Lower Ballyphehane and the other consisting of the former NBA estate in Togher. Mahon on the Southside, which is also clearly disadvantaged, does not appear in red as it is diluted by the much more affluent areas surrounding it.

The relationship between poverty and young peoples’ educational attainment is borne out by the maps, with the distribution of early school leavers mirroring that of economic disadvantage.

These statistics were complied four years ago and unfortunately the situation will only have got worse and is set to deteriorate further, particularly with the imminent downgrading of the Orthopaedic Hospital – one of the Northside’s last remaining major service providers.

Some years ago the Workers’ Party distributed thousands of leaflets across Cork city highlighting the disparity of services and facilities between the two sides of the city.

The message is clear: Cork is two cities, one privileged and with all the best facilities – a university, an institute of technology, three large general hospitals, nearly all the big places of employment, a large government department (the CSO) and many other such facilities, and nothing is being done about it.

This is not about begrudgery. It is right and proper that the Southside of the city is well served by facilities, but it is completely wrong that the Northside is so blatantly discriminated against. This is not to suggest that there are no problems on the Southside, but the disparity between North and South is far too great in a city the size of Cork.

These statistics from 2006 relate to a period when the Celtic Tiger was supposedly at its height, a so-called economic miracle which is supposed to have transformed the Republic into a rich country. Clearly that vast wealth has not been shared, and for every bent banker like Sean Fitzpatrick and Michael Fingleton there are 10,000 people living on or below the poverty line.

In 2006 the government itself stated that the economy was awash with money. Now it has all gone, swallowed up by corrupt bankers and speculators and no benefit has trickled down to places like the Northside of Cork.