It would be hard for an inveterate Corkonian to be taken aback by today’s news that Dublin is seeking to finally connect its many rail-lines by way of Ireland’s first urban subway system.
Living in Cork is a bit like listening to a continuous series of announcements of what’s better in the more sophisticated, more metropolitan and seemingly just plain better Dublin.
Since the times of the Pale and beyond, Dublin has dominated Ireland.Not only is it Ireland’s largest city; geographically it’s also a primate city, and for that reason it not just outshines the next largest city, Cork, but rather altogether eclipses it.
Corkonians are fond of calling Cork Ireland’s “real capital”. It’s a phrase bandied about to tourists as a sort of in-joke among Corkonians, but it unfortunately has no grounding in reality. Dublin isn’t just the capital, it feels like Dublin often is Ireland.
In late 2008 Cork threatened to make a bold push into national predominance with the construction of The Elysian, which at 17 storeys tall broke the record as Ireland’s tallest storied building. Writing this from the 21st floor of a Manhattan skyscraper it may be easy to laugh at a 233ft high structure being Ireland’s tallest, but that’s the way it is, and it was a landmark for Cork.
Unfortunately the time of the building’s construction couldn’t have been worse, and it remains almost completely unoccupied.
Rather than standing as a proud tall edifice to the new Cork, the progressing Cork, it has the look and feel of a ghost hotel, and casts a gloomy shadow that constantly harks reminder to passers-by of the dreaded recession and its consequences.
But even Cork’s minor almost-achievement in the form of the Elysian has already been overshadowed dozens of times over by Dublin’s relative magnificence and grandeur.
The recently completed Aviva Stadium, an architecturally and technically magnificent piece of work, is already a more impressive accomplishment than anything that’s been completed in Cork’s recent history, and that’s not to mention Dublin’s soon to be opened breathtaking slanted cubic Convention Center which hangs beautifully over the banks of the Liffey and will be another beautiful landmark for Dublin, as if it needed another. Meanwhile Cork’s GAA pitch and soccer and rugby stadia could have been pulled from another era and the most impressive feat of modern building we’ve had was the doomed Elysian.
When that’s added to the fact that seemingly every major office, center and headquarters in the country is in Dublin –not to mention almost all of our political and bureaucratic infrastructure– it’s hard not to feel like a distant poorer cousin that has never really stepped into the Pale which it was once excluded from.
Which is why today’s announcement that Dublin is to get another advancement to its transport network, which already far exceeds in advancement and scale anything we have down south in Cork, does not come as a surprise. It’s just another layer of icing on Dublin’s cake, while our own train network down South doesn’t extend far beyond the train - how ironically - to Dublin.
The final section of the M7/M8 motorway linking Cork to Dublin was recently completed and makes travel between Ireland’s two largest cities quicker than ever before.
Perhaps now would be an opportune moment to use any EU or domestic funding to make Cork a worthwhile destination.
By the way for fellow present or emigrated Corkonians who share my jealousy that Dublin’s getting an underground, the good old Peoples’ Republic of Cork website has long had a rather excellent graphic of what things would look like if we ever got once down South on its website here: http://peoplesrepublicofcork.com/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=341