Government must raise growth targets for city – Cork Chamber

City has potential to become driver of regional growth like Manchester – president

River Lee: The Government must recognise the position and ambition of Cork as Ireland’s second city, according to Cork Chamber. File photograph: Google Street View

River Lee: The Government must recognise the position and ambition of Cork as Ireland’s second city, according to Cork Chamber. File photograph: Google Street View


The Government must recognise the position and ambition of Cork as Ireland’s second city and driver of a thriving southern region and increase its growth targets for the city in plans such as Ireland 2040 and the National Investment Plan, according to Cork Chamber.

Cork Chamber president, Bill O’Connell, said the initial Government 2040 paper sets out how it is in Ireland’s national interest to promote growth outside Dublin to alleviate pressure in the Greater Dublin area, but he questioned the targets set out in the document.

The Ireland 2040 plan includes several projections and predicts that the Southern Region, which includes all six counties of Munster along with Carlow, Kilkenny and Wexford, should grow by 350,000 to 375,000 persons to bring the population of the region to around 2 million by 2040.

But Mr O’Connell said that “Cork Chamber does not consider the draft growth targets for cities other than Dublin to be ambitious enough”, given the stated objectives of the plan to try and alleviate the pressure on the Greater Dublin Area.

“With the current proposed figures, existing economic imbalance across Ireland will perpetuate, which has a real risk of threatening the attractiveness of our country for future investment and jobs growth,” he told Cork Chamber’s seventh Annual Dublin Dinner at the Clayton Hotel in Dublin.

Population growth

Mr O’Connell said Ireland’s city regions and in particular Cork, have a role to complement Dublin for the benefit of all, and Cork Chamber had a vision for the city that would see its population grow from 500,000 to 850,000 and create another 120,000 jobs by 2050.

“The job-creation performance of Cork and the southwest speaks to the potential of the region. In the past year, the southwest has seen stronger job growth than any other region in the country including Dublin, now having the lowest unemployment rate in the country,” he said.

“The Cork 2050 submission made by our city and county councils, supported by all stakeholders including the Chamber, is focused on delivering a population of 850,000, with 500,000 living in the Metropolitan Cork area. The vision will require 120,000 jobs to be created in Cork.”

Mr O’Connell said Cork had the potential to become for the southern region of Ireland what Manchester had become for the north of England, an innovative city of scale driving regional growth and national competitiveness.

“A simple but powerful barometer of Manchester and the Northern Powerhouse is the investment in infrastructure – high speed rail will make the journey from the northernmost cities to London an accessible commute, benefitting northern cities and the UK as a whole.

‘Creating resilience’

“Despite the enormity of Brexit, our neighbours are forging ahead investing and creating resilience in the regional and national economy. How immensely powerful would it be for Ireland to be delivering on a similar vision? A one-hour train journey from Dublin to Cork would be a game changer.”

Such central government vision, coupled with ambitious investment, was critical to creating a competitive national economy, and the recent announcement by the Government to proceed with the M20 linking Cork to Limerick was another welcome critical enabler, but more was needed.

Mr O’Connell said if the high-density, vibrant cities envisaged in the Ireland 2040 plan were to become a reality, Ireland must quicken its pace of development and grow cities up rather than out. In that regard, the Government should actively stimulate brownfield development in urban areas.

“We believe the Cork Docklands are of national strategic importance, and their development will prove the vision of Ireland 2040 and showcase the collaboration between government and industry to make Ireland and Cork the most attractive location to live, set up and invest,” he added.