NO sooner do knackered parents recover from the strain of shepherding the sprogs through the Leaving Cert then more misery comes their way. In September, they must find accommodation for the whippersnappers about to begin their âstudies' in the Unee (UCC) or the Reege (CIT). Problem is, it's next to impossible to find a flat.Â
Perseverance, composure and tolerance are required as fruitless trips are made to garrets on Shandon Street or run down, battered residences on College Road until, like an old man who has just dug his grave, the penny drops to tell then that it's true: no âapartments' are to be had. They've all been snapped up by country boys from Kerry that would live in your ear.
Â Thus, after weeks of pointless quest, comes the belated realisation that the precious son or daughter might have to make a round trip from home to college every day, or face lodging in a hostel at horrific expense.Â
The fact of the matter is that although in Cork there are about 27 apartment developments (on-campus and private) that cater for 4,500 students, there is also a 1,000-bed shortfall.
Which is not to say that the property entrepreneurs are slow to fill the gap. Far from it!Â For instance, the UK based student accommodation outfit, Ziggurat, has approval for a five-storey development on Lancaster Quay, near UCC, that will house 242 students. Montesa Ltd has applied for permission to demolish the former O'Mahony Packaging premises on Melbourn Road and build 63 student apartments.
Cork City Council has granted planning permission to other developers for 43 apartments at Victoria Cross, 92 on the Straight Road, 33 on Copley Street, seven on Magazine Road/Dorgan's Road, 62 on Farranlea Road, and 49 on Bandon Road.
But the proposed buildout has not gone down well with Leesiders already at the end of their tether with college-boy drink and drugs mayhem.Â
Â They want no more student housing in their neighbourhoods. So angry are they that their rep, Corpo councillor John Buttimer, graphically described the student colonisation of âtraditional residential communities' as ethnic cleansing! Â
Other councillors complain of a âdeveloper-led free-for-all' that was of âsucking the life out of long established communities' around UCC and CIT.Â Bishopstown councillor Mary Shields revealed that residents in her area were close to having nervous breakdowns as a result of frenzied student behaviour.Â
Â And, while controversy surrounding the provision of student accommodation increases, the authorities in UCC and CIT are perceived as the chief culprits in the blame game.Â These learned institutions are accused of having opted out of their responsibility to furnish an adequate number of on-campus facilities, and of choosing not to exercise a duty of care for their students.
For their part, third-level colleges argue that the apartment problem is compounded by students entering the private market where they can't compete financially with young people who are employed in a profession or white-collar occupation.
Nonetheless college welfare officers are well aware that the real question at issue is the non-existence ofÂ any âlong-term solution' to the shortage of rented property. Indeed they're the first to recognise the warning in a recent Higher Education Authority report that there will be a nationwide shortfall of 25,000 beds a year for the next decade.
Buttimer says Cork needs a coherent planning strategy âto guide the future development of student accommodation in residential areas' and that UCC and CIT âcan't be allowed to continue to develop and expand in the absence of such a policy.'Â Sadly no one is listening, least of all the third-level sector.
And now for something different: Independence Alliance TD, SÃ©an Canney certainly likes to entertain his butties â at our expense.Â
According to recently-issued documents concerning the publicly-funded Parliamentary Activities Allowance, the ex-mini minister spent â¬4,489 on âentertainment' (bar tabs and food bills), the highest amount spent by any deputy. (For instance, senator and former TÃ¡naiste Michael McDowell spent a modest â¬1,339 on wine, presumably the Oireachtas' political plonk which is on sale in the DÃ¡il Bar at â¬21 a bottle âFrench Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc; not bad.)
Of course there's nothing wrong at all in the hospitable provision for the needs and wants of one's supporters âbut hang on a sec!Â Is this the same SÃ©an Canney who in January warned public sector workers, nurses, teachers and gardaÃ, that their demand for a restoration of pre-recession pay rates risked âdragging the country back to the bad old daysâ?
Never! That SÃ©an Canney was someone who responded to his master's voice (Dame Inda's) by severely lecturing the proles on the need to be responsible when the government had no money. It was still belt-tightening time, don't-cha-know, so why shouldn't the masses display a bit of self-denial and discipline?
Life is a dream
Strangely, for Corkonians, it's hard to tell the difference between dreams and reality, particularly when it comes to that colossal castle in the air, the proposed â¬73m events centre on the site of Cork's former Beamish & Crawford Brewery. So far, there's absolutely nothing to show for the Corpo and Government's pledge of â¬20m to the cause.
(Oops, we're wrong! A hole in the ground and a rusty shovel mark the spot where our once esteemed leader, Indakinny, and his faithful disciple, Simon Coveney, turned the sod and announced the commencement of the project. Considering thatÂ no construction work ever began, the election stunt did not impress Leesiders)Â
It now turns out, as Culture Minister Heather Humphreys has learned to her horror, that costs could be as high as â¬73m. The price soared from â¬65m, which was supposed to be the ballpoint figure last May after BAM, the developers, requested a further â¬18m on top of the â¬20m the government had already committed.Â
In other words, the developers seem to be looking for a blank cheque. Perhaps they're doing so in the knowledge that Leeside politicos can be fantastically generous with State money if they think they're securing a good deal! After all, there's the lovely precedent set by the Cork Airport terminal whose construction costs soared stratospherically, and nobody minded!
Interesting too that BAM wants to reduce retail space in order to stuff extra beds (currently standing at 471) into a block of student apartments on the site's northern zone.
Against the tide
Our man in Dinty's was in good form last week. No friend of Fianna FÃ¡il, he responded to reports about MichÃ©al Martin's never-ending promise of âpulling the plug' on the government with this comment: âYerra, that fella's idea of exercise is to sit in the bath, pull the plug and fight against the current.' Â
We all laughed heartily, although not exactly sure why!Â Maybe it wasn't funny.