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Cork City

Cork (Irish: Corcaigh) is the second city of the Republic of Ireland and Ireland's third most populous city after Dublin and Belfast. It is the principal city and administrative centre of County Cork and the largest city of the province of Munster.

The city proper has a population of 119,143 (2008 census), however this increases to 238,649 (2008 census) if the immediate suburbs of the city in the Cork County Council area are included. In the "Cork Joint Housing Strategy", it states that the 2008 population of Metropolitan Cork stands at approximately 274,000, while the Greater Cork area stands at 380,000 in 2008.

The city's name is derived from an Irish word corcach meaning "marshy place", referring to its situation on the River Lee. Cork has a reputation for independence dating from 1491, when some townsmen tried to overthrow the king of England, but more recently referring to its participation in the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War. This has given Cork the nickname of "the Rebel County". It is not unusual for Corkonians to refer to Cork as the "true capital of Ireland" or to feel they have a distinct identity from the rest of Ireland.

The River Lee flows through the city, an island in the river forming the main part of the city centre just before the Lee flows into Lough Mahon and thence to Cork Harbour, one of the world's largest natural harbours. The city is a major Irish seaport — with quays and docks sited along the broad waterway of the Lee on the city's East side.


Cork's city charter was granted by King John in 1185. However, Cork has its beginnings in a much earlier monastic settlement, founded by St Finbar in the sixth century. Over the centuries, much of the city was rebuilt, time and again, after numerous fires and attacks by Vikings or Norsemen. The city was at one time fully walled, and several sections and gates remain. The title of Mayor of Cork was established by royal charter in 1318, and the title was changed to Lord Mayor in 1900. The centre of Cork was gutted by fires started by the Black and Tans in the War of Independence, part of the policy of reprisals at the time; it was also the site of some fierce fighting between Irish guerrilla leaders and British forces. During the Irish Civil War, Cork was for a time held by anti-Treaty forces, until it was retaken by the pro-Treaty National Army in an attack from the sea.

Places of Interest

Cork city in general boasts some good quality architecture, capable of rivalling that of Dublin or Belfast. The main street, St. Patrick Street, was remodelled in the years up to 2004. As the main shopping street, it boasts striking buildings along its broad avenue (much of which is given to pedestrian use). The adjacent Grand Parade is a tree-lined avenue, home to many offices and financial institutions. The old financial centre is the South Mall, with several banks whose interior derive from the 19th century, and are very deserving of a visit, particularly Allied Irish Banks which was once an exchange. Many of the city's buildings are in the Georgian style, although the modern County Hall tower is the tallest building in the Republic of Ireland. Across the river is Ireland's longest building, the Mental Hospital built in Victorian times, which has now been renovated and converted into a residential housing complex called Atkins Hall, after its architect William Atkins.

Cork's most famous building is the church tower of Shandon, which dominates the North side of the city. The North and East sides are faced in red sandstone, and the West and South sides are clad in the predominant stone of the region, white limestone. At the top sits a weather vane in the shape of an eleven-foot salmon. The clock tower on the church is known by locals as The Four-faced Liar, as from the base of the building, each clock face appears to show a different time. Shandon is accessible to the public, and the bells may be rung by visitors.

The City Hall, another splendid building of limestone, replaced the previous one destroyed by British forces on December 11, 1920 during the War of Independence in an event known as the "Burning of Cork". The cost of this new building was provided by the British Government in the 1930s as a gesture of reconciliation.

There are two cathedrals in the city: The Roman Catholic St Mary's Cathedral (commonly called the North Cathedral), and the Church of Ireland St Finbarre's Cathedral.

The modern Cork Opera House is one of the few such venues in Ireland.

Fitzgerald's Park, to the west of the city, is worth a visit — as are the grounds of University College Cork, through which the River Lee flows.

The English Market, accessible from Grand Parade, Patrick Street, Oliver Plunkett Street and Princes Street, is a covered market for fish, fruit, meat, spices and luxury foods. The origins of the market can be traced back to 1610, but the present building dates from 1786.

The cross-continent European walking route E8 trail starts at Cork, ending 4700 km away in Istanbul, Turkey.


Cork's cultural life is vibrant. Music, theatre, dance, and film all play a prominent role in city life. The Cork School of Music and the Crawford College of Art and Design provide a constant throughput of new blood, as do the active theatre components of many courses at University College Cork (UCC). Highlights include: Corcadorca Theatre Company, where Cillian Murphy got his start; Cork Film Festival, a major supporter of the art of the short film; The Institute for Choreography and Dance, a national contemporary dance resource; the Triskel Arts Centre; Cork Jazz Festival; the Cork Academy of Dramatic Art (CADA). The Everyman Palace Theatre and the Granary Theatre both play host to large amounts of dramatic plays throughout the year. Cork is home to the RTÉ Vanbrugh String Quartet[6], and to many musical acts, including John Spillane, The Frank And Walters, Sultans Of Ping, Fish Go Deep, and the late Rory Gallagher. The opera singers Cara O'Sullivan, Mary Hegarty, Nyle Wolfe,[7] Brendan Collins, and Sam McElroy are also Cork born. The short story writers Frank O'Connor and Sean O'Faoláin haled from Cork. Contemporary writers of national and international status include poets Greg Delanty, Sean Dunne, Thomas McCarthy, Gerry Murphy, and Maurice O'Riordan; novelist Conal Creedon and novelist and poet William Wall. There is a thriving literary community centering on The Munster Literature Centre and the Triskel Arts Centre.

Cork has been gaining cultural diversity for many years, with people immigrating from all over the world, particularly from Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and various African nations. This is reflected in the recent growth of multi-cultural restaurants and shops, including the standard fare of Chinese and Thai restaurants, and more recently French patisseries, Indian buffets, and Middle Eastern kebab houses. Though Cork saw significant Jewish immigration from Lithuania and Russia in the late 19th century, and though Jewish citizens such as Gerald Goldberg (several times Lord Mayor), David Marcus (novelist) and Louis Marcus (documentary maker) played important roles in 20th century Cork, the Jewish community is now almost non-existent, but it still retains a Jewish quarter and a local synagogue. There is a Mosque in the city as well as different centres for different Christian religions. A weekly mass can be said in Latin, Polish or in some areas, through Irish.

Recent additions to the arts infrastructure include splendid modern additions to Cork Opera House and the Crawford Municipal Art Gallery. The new Lewis Glucksman Gallery opened in the Autumn of 2004 at UCC, was nominated for the prestigious Stirling Prize in the United Kingdom, and building is about to commence on a new €60 million School of Music building. Construction of the €50 million Brookfield UCC Medical School complex was completed in 2005.

Cork was the European Capital of Culture for 2005. One of the key projects was the Cork Caucus. In 2005, a Smart Telecom wireless network was installed making the city centre (or, at least, a 1.5 sq kilometre block within it) one of the first in Europe with a complete high-speed Wi-Fi network.

There is a rivalry between Cork and Dublin, similar to the rivalry between Madrid and Barcelona, but Corkonians will sometimes view themselves as different from much the rest of Ireland also, and refer to themselves as "rebels" (The county is known as the Rebel County). This distinctly Corkonian view has in recent years manifested itself in an (often lighthearted) reference to the region as The People's Republic of Cork (no connection to Communism). Citizens of the True Capital adorn themselves with t-shirts and other items which celebrate The People's Republic of Cork printed in various languages such as English, Irish, Polish, Spanish and Italian. The Cork bicolour is flown at public and civic buildings (including city's main courthouse, bus station, railway station and major department stores). It is often flown along with the Irish tricolour, but sometimes on its own.


The city has many local traditions in food and customs, some shared with other parts of Ireland, but some specifically local. Famously traditional Cork foods include Crubeens and Tripe and Drisheen. Other traditions include the (now discontinued) celebration which marked the return of meat to local tables at the end of lent. Observed up to the early 19th century, and called Whipping The Herring, it involved a local butcher parading through the streets to the Lee while flogging a herring with a whip. Followed by local people, once at the river he would drop the herring into the water, and, picking up leg of lamb adorned with ribbons, he would then parade back to his shop. There he would distribute cuts of the meat to the joyous spectators.


The city's FM radio band is impressively crowded: as well as RTÉ Radio 1, RTÉ 2fm, Lyric FM, Radio na Gaeltachta (all run by RTÉ), Today FM, and Newstalk, there are local stations such as Cork's 96FM, 103FM County Sound, CUH FM, Cork Campus Radio[9] and Red FM.

Cork was also home to many pirate stations over the years most notably large scale stations South Coast Radio and ERI in the 1980s. Today some small inconsistent pirates prevail though a recent clampdown by Ireland's communications regulator, Comreg, has closed a number of higher profile pirate stations over 2005/2006 and this activity by Comreg has discouraged other operators of such stations from starting up with potentially heavy penalties for those who do.

Cork is also home to two television stations; RTÉ Cork broadcasts from its television centre in Fr. Matthew Street in the city centre and South Coast TV also broadcasts from Cork, providing a regional television station for the South of Ireland.


Cork is also home to one of Ireland's main national newspapers, the Irish Examiner (formerly the Cork Examiner) with its headquarters now situated on Lapp's Quay in the city centre, having moved from its original Academy Street location. It also prints the famous Evening Echo, which for decades has been connected to the Echo Boys, who were poor and often homeless children that had the job of selling the newspaper. Today, the shouts of the vendors selling the Echo can still be heard all over the city. Other local newspapers are also printed in the city, but are less well known.


The retail trade in Cork City is developing quickly with a mix of both modern, state of the art shopping centres and family owned local shops providing unique and often hand-made crafts. Department Stores can cater for all budgets, with expensive boutiques for one end of the market with many high street stores also available. Shopping centres can be found in many of Cork's suburbs, including Blackpool, Ballincollig, Douglas, Wilton and Mahon. Others are available in the city centre, with plans and excavation work on-going for the development of three more large malls (The Cornmarket Centre on Cornmarket Street - Opening Autumn 2007; Academy Street proposal and the Grand Parade scheme planned for the site of the former Capitol Cineplex, the first multiplex outside of Dublin in Ireland), expanding the capacity of the city centre, to rival that of the suburbs. Cork's main shopping street is St. Patrick's Street and is the most expensive street in the country per sq. metre after Dublin's Grafton Street. Other shopping areas in the city centre include Oliver Plunkett St. and Grand Parade. Cork is also home to some of the country's leading department stores with the foundations of shops such as Dunnes Stores and Roches Stores being laid in Cork City, the latter having sold its core business in 2006 to UK store chain Debenhams.


Cork City is at the heart of industry in the south of Ireland. Its main area of industry is pharmaceuticals, with Pfizer Inc. and Swiss company Novartis being big employers in the region. The most famous product of the Cork pharmaceutical industry is Viagra. Cork is also the European headquarters of Apple Computer where their desktop computers are manufactured and their European call centre is hosted. EMC Corporation is another large I.T. employer with over 1,600 staff in their 52,000 sq metre (560,000 sq. ft.) engineering, manufacturing, and technical services facility. It is also home to the Heineken Brewery which also brews Murphy's Irish Stout and the Beamish and Crawford brewery which have been in the city for generations. And for many years, Cork was the home to Ford Motor Company, which manufactured cars in the docklands area before the plant was closed. Henry Ford's grandfather was from Cork, which was a main reason for opening up the manufacturing facility in Cork. But technology has replaced the old manufacturing businesses of the 1970s and 1980s, with people now working in the many I.T. centres of the city. Much of Cork's economic success is due to its strategic location near a Harbour, a well educated workforce from two third level universities/ Institute of Technology and a pro business Government policy. Cork's deep harbour allows ships of any size to enter, bringing trade and easy import/export of products. Cork International Airport also allows easy access to continental Europe and Kent Station in the city centre provides good rail links for domestic trade. Also, Cork's suburbs have a number of modern industrial estates, with good road links and modern telecommunications to attract both local and foreign investment from Europe, the United States, and Japan. More recently, the online retailer, have set up in Cork Airport Business Park.



Cork Airport is one of Ireland's main airports and gateway to the South of Ireland. It is situated on the south side of Cork City in an area known as Ballygarvan. More than 10 scheduled airlines fly to over 50 destinations with over 50 flights a day. The airport continues to grow and a total of 2.730 million passengers used the airport in 2005, which makes it the second busiest airport in the Republic of Ireland after Dublin. The airport recently opened a second terminal able to handle up to three million passengers annually, and allowing for a pier extension which will boost capacity to 5 million. The airport plays a vital role in the development of Cork City, County and other surrounding areas and increased services to mainland Europe continue to develop. However, the national policy of requiring transatlantic flights to stop in Shannon in addition to Cork Airport's relatively short runway have hampered efforts to develop transatlantic services. Recent controversy regarding the new Cork terminal has come to the forefront, with a massive €180 million debt preceding the opening of the terminal, which opened on August 1st 2006.


Cork City's public transportation is provided by the national bus operator Bus Éireann. Routes connect the city centre to the principal suburbs, colleges, shopping centres and places of interest. There are also two city bus routes, Route Numbers 1 and 19, that provide orbital services across the Northern and Southern districts of the city respectively.

Buses to the outer suburbs, such as Ballincollig, Glanmire and Carrigaline are provided from the city's bus terminal at Parnell Place in the city centre. These suburban services include the Cork International Airport shuttle bus (Route Numbers 226 and 249). There is also a Park and Ride facility in the south suburbs, that allow easy access into the city centre. This is especially popular with students and commuters from not just the far suburbs but also the surrounding towns in County Cork.

Long Distance
Long distance buses depart from the bus terminal in Parnell Place to destinations throughout Ireland. Hourly services run to Killarney/Tralee, Waterford and Shannon Airport/Limerick/Galway and there are six services daily to Dublin. There is also a daily Eurolines bus service that connects Cork to Victoria Bus Station in London via South Wales and Bristol on an overnight sailing from Rosslare.

The Cross River Ferry, from Rushbrooke to Passage West, links the R624 to R610. This service is useful when trying to avoid traffic on the Great Island (Cobh). Cork Ferryport is situated at Ringaskiddy, 16 km SE via the N28. Direct sea links are available to Roscoff (France) with Brittany Ferries and Swansea (Wales) with Swansea Cork Ferries. A connecting bus service is available to the city centre from the ferryport. Plans for a water taxi service are being finalised to provide traffic free connections for both commuters and tourists alike.

The Cork area has seen improvements in road infrastructure in recent years, especially with regards to National Primary roads. The Cork South Link road (a dual carriageway), built in the early 1980s, linking the Kinsale road roundabout with the city centre was the first of many improvements. Shortly afterwards, the first sections of the South Ring Road (dual carriageway) were opened. Work continued through the 1990s on extending the South Ring Road with the opening of the Jack Lynch Tunnel under the River Lee being the most significant addition. The Kinsale Road flyover opened in August 2006 to remove a major bottleneck for traffic heading to the Airport or Killarney. Also in the 1990s work progressed on the Cork to Midleton dual carriageway and the N8 Glanmire bypass dual carriageway. Other projects completed at this time include the N20 Blackpool bypass and the N20 Cork to Mallow road projects. The N8 Glanmire to Watergrasshill dual carriageway bypass was opened in 2002. The N22 Ballincollig dual carriageway bypass, which links to the Western end of the Cork Southern Ring road was opened in 2004. City Centre road improvements include the Patrick St. project which reconstructed the street with a pedestrian focus. The M8 Rathcormac to Fermoy tolled motorway bypass (17.5 kilometres) has recently been completed and opened in October 2006.


Cork city was one of the most rail oriented cities in Ireland, boasting a total of 8 stations at various times. The main route, still much the same today, is that from Dublin. Originally terminating on the city's outskirts at Blackpool, the Glanmire tunnel now connects it to the city centre terminus of Kent Station. Nowadays actually a through station, the line through Kent connects the town of Cóbh east of the city. This also connected to the seaside town of Youghal, until the 1980s.

Other rail routes terminating or traversing Cork city were the Cork, Blackrock and Passage railway, lines to Macroom and Blarney, as well as the Cork, Bandon and South Coast Railway connecting Bantry, Skibbereen, Clonakilty and many other West Cork towns. West Cork trains terminated at Albert Quay, across the river from Kent Station (though an on-street rail 'system' connected the two for rolling stock and cargo movement). All that remains of the once-extensive public transport system is the line to Dublin and that to Cobh.

Within the city there have been two tram networks in operation. A proposal to develop a horse-drawn tram (linking the city's railway termini) was made by an American, George Francis Train, in the 1860s. These ideas were put into practice in 1872 by the Cork Tramway Company. However, the company ceased trading in 1875 after Cork Corporation refused permission to extend the line.

In December 1898, an electric tram system began operating on routes: Blackpool-Douglas, Summerhill-Sunday's Well and Tivoli-Blackrock. The gauge of the tramway was two feet, eleven and a half inches (90.2cm), and designed to be the same as the Muskerry Railway (although the two never shared traffic).

Increased usage of cars and buses in the 1920s led to a reduction in the numbers using the trams. The final day of operation of the trams was supposed to be March 31, 1931. However, after a few weeks of closure, it was realised that the Irish Omnibus Company did not have enough capacity to cope with demand, and the trams started running again in April. This was only temporary however, and the final tram in Cork ran on September 30, 1931.

Placenames today still tell of the routes, such as Tramway Terrace in Douglas.

Current Routes

Cork's Kent Station is the main train station in the city. From here, services to all over Ireland can be reached. The main line from Cork to Dublin, which is Ireland's busiest rail line, has eight direct departures daily and a number of connecting services. Irish Rail plans to upgrade this line to an hourly service in 2006. Direct InterCity services are also available to Kerry, with direct services to Killarney and Tralee (2 daily), although most services to Kerry involve a change at Mallow.

The Cork Suburban Rail system also departs from Kent Station and provides frequent connections to most areas of Metropolitan Cork with services to the north and east of the city including Little Island, Mallow, Fota and Cobh. This railway line provides essential transport for the thousands of commuters to the city every day from the city's suburbs. The east of the city is also a scenic route connecting several islands in Cork harbour with the city centre. The train is recommended for travel to Fota Island wildlife park, arboretum, golf club and Cobh Heritage Centre.

In November 2005, the Irish government announced the reopening of the railway line between Glounthaune (on the Cobh line) and Midleton as part of the country's 10 year development plan. New stations will be provided at Carrigtohill on the Midleton branch and at Kilbarry, Monard and Blarney on the Dublin line as part of the plan, along with the already operational Mallow station. The Midleton branch is scheduled to be reopened in 2008.

In December 2006, the Green Party/Comhaontas Glas unveiled their plan to introduce a suburban light rail system to Cork City. Phase One of plan would see a line running from Ballincollig to Mahon via the city centre. Phase Two would see the light rail system being extended to Passage West. Speaking at the launch of the plan, Green Party/Comhaontas Glas Cork South Central TD Dan Boyle said "We have already seen the huge success of the Luas in Dublin and we believe Cork should see the next roll-out of this excellent public transport system".[6]

In April 2007, Fianna Fáil (currently with the most seats in both the Dáil and Seanad) announced that the government was to carry out a feasibility study on brining light rail to Cork. [7]


Cork is an important educational center in Ireland. University College Cork (UCC), a constituent university of the National University of Ireland, offers a wide variety of courses in Arts, Commerce, Engineering, Law, Medicine and Science. The university was named "Irish University of the Year" in 2003–2004 and 2005–2006 by The Sunday Times. Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) was named Irish "Institute of Technology of the Year" in 2006–2007 and offers a variety of third level courses in Mathematics, Computing and IT, Business, Humanities and Engineering (Mechanical, Electronic, Electrical, and Chemical). The National Maritime College of Ireland also located in Cork and is one of the few places in Ireland where nautical studies are available. CIT also incorporates the Cork School of Music and Crawford College of Art and Design as constituent schools. The Cork College of Commerce is the largest post–Leaving Certificate College in Ireland and is also the biggest provider of Vocational Preparation and Training courses in the country. Other 3rd level institutions include Griffith College Cork (incorporating Skerry's College) which has been offering courses since 1884 and various other colleges. There is also a very large community of students from abroad, especially countries where Cork has twinned cities. The largest group of foreign students comes from China, Shanghai in particular. This is due to the exchange programmes on offer for Chinese students in universities in China. Other non-nationals come from Poland, India, America and Latvia, as well as "the old E.U." countries such as France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

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