Dereliction of duty

IIt was their photo of a disused property north of Cork city that helped spark a national conversation about the scandal and the scale of abandonment in Ireland.

As work finally begins on repairs to this vacant detached house off Blarney Street, and the government finally announces details of its Town Center First policy which aims to tackle vacancy, combat abandonment and instill new life to downtowns, activists Frank O’Connor and Jude Sherry say they are encouraged by the signs of progress and political initiatives.

Frank O’Connor and Jude Sherry of Anois looking at an abandoned heritage building (c. 250 years old), Old Market Place near Blarney St., Cork. Photo Denis Minihane.

But the devil is in the details, they warn, amid concerns that there is still a long way to go before Ireland has a comprehensive, holistic and strategic approach to ending the scourge of vacancy and unemployment. long-term abandonment.

The couple, who run a sustainability consultancy, Anois, began focusing on quitting shortly after returning from Amsterdam to live and work in Cork in 2018.

Both towns are built on marshes, both steeped in maritime heritage, but they say their long walks through Cork City during the various Covid lockdowns proved to them that only one of the towns seemed to value its heritage.

“So we tried to start a conversation about abandonment, to shine a light on the problem, to challenge it, and to offer examples of what’s possible, to say that it doesn’t have to be that way, that it may be different,” Frank said. said.

“We want Cork to be more livable, more beautiful with more homes, but we felt the city was close to a tipping point – that if abandonment got worse we could lose the battle.

“I posted the first tweet in June 2020 and it started this conversation. I’m glad it happened, and thrilled it’s now national, and we’re thrilled with the support, because we wanted change.

They knew change would take time, says Jude.

“But it showed that other people feel the same way. Two people alone cannot solve this problem. As citizens, we all have to say that this is a problem for us,” she says.

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