A couple of little items about my home city of Cork caught my eye this morning.
As a boy, my daily journey to school took me into the city centre and even then when I knew little of alcohol, there seemed to pubs everywhere. Today I learn that indeed, Cork had the most bars per capita in the country but has also seen the biggest drop in the number of them with 25% fewer pubs now than in 2005. To put that in perspective, the number of bars in Dublin has remained the same during the period.
Well, I can explain this. On the quayside running from the main bus station to Patrick’s Bridge, there used to be six bars in total. That whole block was flattened years ago for a shopping centre and all six bars disappeared in a single year. Each of these pubs were tiny, as in they could possibly accommodate ten drinkers before becoming full. Three of them at the time were side by side and two of them were early opening bars, (7.30am). Cork pubs have always been small cosy places whereas Dublin pubs by comparison always looked like huge empty converted factories. They were barn sized with massive numbers in attendance daily.
Back in the seventies and eighties, thousands of people around the country moonlighted as barmen, (bar people), and the money was paid under the table. Many students were able to afford to live in Dublin bedsits, working three to four nights a week for cash while attending full time lectures during the day. The pubs were a cash business, (as were the bedsits), making all of this possible and official Ireland turned a blind eye because it could never have stepped into the breech to come up with the necessary money instead. Today though, such under the counter money is impossible and with the ban on bedsits, the crazy rental rates and high taxation, it is a wonder anyone of our youths can afford a third level education.
Another headline this morning announces, “Cork City centre quayside branded ‘TentsVille’ as more homeless pitch tents.” Now I need to explain that Cork is a very class conscious city and our version of the upper class speak with a very plummy, (and amusing) accent not heard anywhere else in the country. The wealthy in Cork have great pride in the city they consider their own, (as in it belongs to them), and several years back in recognition of the number of bridges spanning both channels of the River Lee, they christened Cork the, “Venice of the North.” Nothing could be further from the truth of course but it gives you a flavour of how far up their own arses these people are. So no surprise then that in response to Tentsville, Fine Gael councillor and former Lord Mayor Des Cahill said the makeshift encampment presents a “poor image of the city”. He called for the tents to be classed as litter and torn down.
Tentsville, such as it is, is purely a reaction by the homeless themselves attempting to put some class of a roof over their heads. The same city council ceased building social housing in 2008 and with the growing population since then and the influx of Poles Nigerians and assorted immigrants, something had to give. It isn’t good enough to sit on your pompous ass in the sponsored warmth of City Hall and call the shelters these people are forced to erect as just litter and the homeless themselves an eyesore. Here’s a little about the snooty councillor. The lad looks well-heeled and lives in the prosperous suburb of Ballintemple. One doubts that any of his clan will know homelessness.
So if the lad Des gets his way then the tents will be torn down, the homeless will disperse and in a couple of days time some other outraged middle class group will call on the authorities to move them from their neighbourhood where they will recently have resettled. It is akin to being hunted and persecuted for the crime of poverty.
I often wonder would these well off people like to see starvation on the streets? Would they disdainfully step over the dead bodies on their way to their secure jobs and elevated place in society? Perhaps they’d want those dead bodies classified as ‘litter’ and demand they be swept up. They are the same voices who destroyed the pub trade and got rid of those black economy jobs that so helped the poor but ambitious to climb the ladder.
This country is changing drastically and not for the better either.