Cork at a glance

Cork is the second largest city in the Republic of Ireland. It was founded as a walled port over 800 years ago and is situated on the south coast of the island of Ireland.

Cork stands on the River Lee which divides at its western end, and the city’s centre is located on the island created by the two channels.  At the eastern end of the city the two river channels converge, and the Lee flows around Lough Mahon to Cork Harbour, one of the world’s largest natural harbours.

Cork’s centre is compact and best explored on foot.  Some traces of its medieval streetscape can be seen in the alleyways off its North and South Main Streets, and there are some interesting buildings dating from the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly along its quays.

It was European Capital of Culture in 2005 and has long been known as  ‘FestivalCity’ with some of the most established festivals in Ireland taking place here – among them the Film, Choral, Jazz and Folk festivals.  Over the years they have been joined by many others, and today 22, including the Lifelong Learning Festival, are members of the Cork Festivals Forum – see

Cork has a vibrant economy, is a designated Healthy City by the World Health Organisation (WHO), has been developing as a Learning City for more than a decade, and has already taken steps to become a Green City.

An international gateway

With its spectacular natural harbour and impressive deepwater port, Cork is the international gateway to the entire south-west region of Ireland.  Economically, the area is effectively a microcosm of the national picture.  As the main economic driver in the region, Cork’s influence is felt in the surrounding hinterland and has led to the development of Metropolitan Cork – the greater city area encompassing a number of satellite towns. The current population of this Metropolitan Cork area is 275,000 and is projected to increase to 320,000 by 2020.

Strategic development of infrastructure linking Metropolitan Cork to main arterial routes has opened up the development of industrial and business parks. In particular, the completion of the Jack Lynch Tunnel, which runs under the River Lee, has assisted this process.

Sectors of excellence

In recent years the Metropolitan Cork area has enjoyed rapid growth.  Foremost amongst the factors contributing to this speedy development has been a deliberate emphasis on Industrial Clusters – groups of companies located in a particular area who are involved in similar enterprises.  This strategy encourages corporate and academic facilities, venture capitalists and other interested parties to congregate together, fostering greater innovation and entrepreneurship. Cork has been especially successful in attracting foreign investment in the following sectors:

      Pharmaceuticals and Healthcare
      Information and Communication Technology
      Internationally Traded Services

It also has a major centre third and fourth level education sector centred on University College Cork and Cork Institute of Technology.

Affluence & Deprivation

There have always been considerable differences in the relative affluence and deprivation between various parts of CorkCity; the most affluent areas are in the east and west while the south, and particularly the north, are the most disadvantaged. One indication of this is how publicly funded housing is concentrated in a number of areas, with most in the north of the city.

During the years of  the ‘Celtic Tiger’ Ireland had almost full employment and many without qualifications or skills found jobs, a lot of them in the construction industry. Sadly, they have been the first to lose their jobs, joined by many others in the retail and service areas of employment.

Rising unemployment has meant that many Irish are emigrating and many immigrants from the European Union, who came here over the last decade or so, have returned home.

Disadvantaged areas
A government programme called RAPID was set up during Ireland’s recent prosperous years. RAPID stands for ‘Revitalising Areas through Planning, Investment and Development.’ It’s aimed at targeting disadvantage and integrating services locally.   There are four RAPID areas in CorkCity. Three are on the northside: Knocknaheeny/Hollyhill/Churchfield; Blackpool /The Glen/Mayfield; Fairhill/Gurranabraher/Farranree.  The fourth – Togher/Mahon – is on the southside.

Community Education

The City of Cork Vocational Education Committee organises and funds Community Education. It has set up 10 Community Education Networks in the disadvantaged (RAPID) areas of the city which bring together local education providers to avoid duplication and share ideas and resources.  It has also established a Disability Education Network and Community Music Network, which operate citywide.

All these networks are central to the Cork Lifelong Learning Festival. For more information on Community Education see - see Cork – City of Learning for more information.