A TROUBLESOME KNACK
Steve Jobs came to Cork in 1979 and set up his first manufacturing plant outside of the US. From the initial 14 workers who began operations there in 1980, the plant has grown to employ over 6,000 people now. Jobs had picked a greenfield site at the time, bought the freehold and had the building designed to look out onto open countryside of hills and valleys. It was, and still is a lovely view.
A small industrial estate sprang up behind Apple and beyond that towards the city, they built a large estate of social housing known as Knocknaheeney. For as long as I can remember though, on visits to the plant you had to drive past an itinerant settlement on the roadside about a hundred yards from Apple’s front door. It seems these people can just park themselves anywhere they wish and because they have a reputation for violence, the Gardai won’t intervene. On one visit, a meeting I was at, (in 2003 I think), was interrupted and the General Manager was called outside. He was told that the itinerants had taken over the entrance to the Apple staff car park and they wanted €10,000 in cash to vacate.
One way or another, that dispute was dealt with but I do not know if that particular scam was ever repeated. But the encampment across the road remained for many years and was a bit of an eyesore for senior managers when entertaining important visitors from overseas. As the years passed, Apple applied for and got permission from Cork Corporation to change the road layout at the front of the plant. In short, Apple procured the existing stretch of road from one side of the building/s to the other and in return, a new semi-circular detour was created consisting of about a half a mile of new roadway.
Then the Corporation approached the itinerants and offered to build them permanent homes if they would abandon their illegal settlement. The new estate was developed by the city council in 2013 and 2014 beside the new roadway. At the time we were told that round-the-clock Garda security on the housing estate building site cost taxpayers at least €300,000. We were not told just how much it cost, (at the time), to provide these brand new homes for the traveling community but there is a description of what was provided for them. It included seven one-bed bungalows, three three-bed houses, three four-bed houses, and nine spacious bays for caravans. The bays are each equipped with a standalone welfare unit which includes a kitchen/dining area, a living area, a utility room, a bathroom, and generous storage space.The homes came with solar panels and stoves with back boilers to maximise energy efficiency, built-in wardrobes, fully-fitted kitchens, and flooring provided throughout.There are hundreds of people on the housing list in Cork who would give their right arm for far less than that.
But the real grumblings of public dissent didn’t begin until we heard that, “A new community centre was built on the site to house community initiatives such as a homework club, computer literacy courses, learner driver courses, and boxing, but it was vandalised within months of opening.” Now if you know anything about the itinerants then you know that nobody from the settled community would have dared to enter that place and vandalise anything. There can be only one set of suspects for that act of stupidity. For the last couple of years on my visits to my sister’s home, I have often used a route that takes me past Apple and the new itinerant estate. There is no easy way to say it but the place is a filthy litter-strewn mess and again, that’s not down to the settled community.
This morning the Examiner has more news about the site. In an article entitled, “Illegal dumpers in Cork to avoid prosecution,” we are told that, “Prosecutions are unlikely against those responsible for a new wave of illegal dumping activity around a €5m purpose-built Traveller housing estate close to Apple’s European headquarters in Cork.” So it cost €5m of taxpayers money to house 16 itinerant families, (not counting the €300,000 for the Gardai), and in return, they have been illegally dumping suites of furniture, kitchen chairs, several white goods, plastic toys and containers, tyres, carpets, and metal over their back walls. The security cameras installed nearby to overlook the estate have also been subject to repeated damage and vandalism, said officials, meaning there is no proof of who has done this dumping, hence no prosecutions.
Incredibly, back when the site was finished, the members of three families on the halting site refused to move into the new homes and a standoff over facilities for horses and possible disturbance money ensued. Talks took place over several weeks and agreement was finally reached which saw all Traveller families relocate to the new housing estate in June 2015. Yes! You read that right. Beautiful new bungalows were built free gratis for these people not 200 yards from the shacks and caravans they were living in and the cheeky fuckers wanted “disturbance money” to move in. We’ll never know if they got that disturbance money either but what we do know is that when they did finally move, they made a filthy dump out of what was a really nice new custom made estate.
Let me pause to say also that I have met and known a few really nice and good itinerants but carry-on like the above really does blacken all of their names. The itinerants have been given the status now of a recognized minority so you may not tell the truth about them under fear of imprisonment. Because of that, I can only present the facts as I’ve laid them out here.
You can make up your own mind how you feel about it yourself but for God’s sake, don’t verbalise those thoughts to anyone else.