Cork is set to become an even more vibrant city over the next two decades with the population set to grow by faster than the national average with the city and suburbs growing by up to 50 per cent, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has predicted.
Mr Martin told the Cork Chamber 2022 Annual Dinner the government is committed to investing €165 billion in regionally balanced growth before 2030 under the National Development Plan and Cork will be among the principal beneficiaries.
The plan involves the development of strong cities that will act as drivers of growth for their wider region, and the future of Cork and its surrounding region is central to achieving that ambition, he said.
Cork Airport will have a role to play in that growth, not just as a regional airport but as an airport with the potential to provide much wider connectivity internationally which will help attract more foreign direct investment, he said.
"Other projects are being funded with secured investment, including the Cork City Flood Relief Scheme, investments at the Port, the Events Centre and the development of a heritage quarter in Mitchelstown.
"I believe passionately that we have to invest in all of our communities so that none are left behind. That's why we have announced urban regeneration plans, which provide over €400 million for transformative projects in the Docklands, the Grand Parade Quarter, in Mallow Town Centre, and in the Passage West - Ringaskiddy – Carrigaline Harbour Cluster."
Mr Martin said growing communities need a more accessible, reliable, and faster public transport system and the spine of such a system was now being put in place on Leeside with BusConnects Cork which is creating 12 new transport corridors.
He said that every major advance in Ireland in the past 60 years rested on a foundation of opening access to education and the recent creation of the Munster Technological University was further evidence of the Government's commitment to investing in education.
"The Munster Technological University will complement the prodigious reputations of both UCC and the Tyndall National Institute, driving the economic development of not just Cork but the broader south-west," he said.
Mr Martin instanced the success of Global Shares in Clonakilty as an example of how innovators, educational institutions, researchers and government can lead to success with the company, founded nearly 20 years ago, now has nearly $200 billion under management.
And he pointed to Cork's success in being chosen by the European Commission for inclusion in the highly competitive, Climate- Neutral Smart Cities Mission whereby Cork will be supported in accelerating green and digital innovation.
Meanwhile, the Port of Cork is well positioned to benefit from the opportunities arising from developing offshore renewables sources of energy and as a consequence can become a national and international leader in the off-shore energy sector.
Turning to Ireland’s response to the Covid pandemic, Mr Martin said the pandemic was “the most profound public health emergency in over a century” which required the full mobilisation of the resources of the state.
“We have many lessons to learn from our pandemic response, but the evidence is overwhelming that Ireland came through the worst of the pandemic as one of the best in the world in terms of controlling its impact and utilising the vaccines.”
Mr Martin said that Ireland was able to deal with the pandemic through a strong community spirit, a responsive state and strong international partnerships with people rallying around to look out for the most vulnerable while the public service proved its effectiveness.
“Key challenges were responded to rapidly in order to limit the health and economic impact of the pandemic. In total, over €20 billion was provided to support businesses and workers. These interventions saved many businesses, livelihoods, and jobs.
“And I want to acknowledge the incredible work of so many companies and business leaders in finding new ways to keep as much employment as possible and to find innovative ways through the pandemic recession,” he said.