When we worked on the Cork Marketing Project I was so proud and excited that all of the stakeholders were working so well together and that we made great progress towards our collective goal of attracting people and investment to Cork.
So many people told me this level of co-operation just wouldn’t happen in Cork and I genuinely didn’t believe them – I had faith!
Now I am deeply saddened to read in The Irish Examiner this morning about all of the opposing views and in particular today the bitter war of words between the Cork Chamber and the Cork Business Association as well as local politicians.
The Cork Chamber are “all for the merger” quoting the benefits of greater capacity and a unified voice and the Cork Business Association are against it declaring that you cannot ignore the strong advice that came through in the minority report by the two UCC members who were on the committee charged with making the recommendations in the first place!
Guys …this is really lousy for Cork!
I have my own strong opinions about what should be done but at this stage I don’t really care about my opinions or anyone else’s because I feel the process which was adopted with such monumental consequences for so many of us Corkonians was not fit for the huge purpose that it was intended for.
I have gone out of my way this week to find out more by talking to many of the people involved and everyone has deep rooted opinions, lots of suspicions and theories, very opposing views and I am definitely not seeing anything in place that will sort out this awful situation in the near future.
Personally I can’t believe the insubstantial make up of the CLRG committee (it lacks sufficient expertise), the research undertaken can be challenged too easily (I don’t believe the committee had sufficient time or resources to do this properly), there seems to have been very little ‘real‘ consultation and I can see issues with the recommendations as I understand them (Read my blog post – Cork Merger Drama).
Most significantly the minority report prepared by Prof Keogh and Dr. Theresa Reidy (effectively 50% of the committee excluding the Chairman) totally undermines the whole process and cannot be ignored. I believe this was sufficient grounds for not publishing the recommendations until their concerns were properly dealt with.
Even worse my understanding is that there is no mechanism in place to take the recommendations from the report (maybe there is huge merit in many of them?) and evaluate them robustly by people with the appropriate expertise, assessing the benefits and potential downfalls of each. In particular this assessment must deal with all of the valid concerns and issues raised by the various stakeholders in Cork who for many years have been representing our many and varied interests.
Their opinions, experience and expertise are too valuable to ignore.
If the process was robust with all aspects and arguments considered and with all parties brought along then we might start to get some understanding and agreement and only then, move positively into the future.
The last aspect is dealing with those directly affected, namely the many employees in Cork City and County Councils who also deserve a very robust process, which they can understand and believe in.
I don’t think for one moment that this will be all plain sailing or that we will end up with agreement on all sides but as with any change programme it should at least be both transparent and robust and it must bring people along carefully.
To summarise what has happened is that a poorly thought out grenade has been thrown into Cork by the Minister and his team, the pin has been removed far too quickly and we are the ones who will suffer as a result.
This process has already done huge damage to Cork and it has the potential to do even more if corrective action is not taken quickly.
My request to all of us including our Cork Politicians and our representative organisations is:
“For the love of Cork can we please stop squabbling and instead focus on reversing this awful process with something robust that we can all believe in and one that will let us together move powerfully into the future”
We can’t afford to get left behind ..