With Covid well and truly over hopefully, it is great to get out of Dublin for an in-person conference in Ireland’s real capital by the Lee – Cork. I was off to a World Ocean Day conference  run by Fair Seas in City Hall. I had not been in the city for many years and was keen to see how it’s shaping up in the 21st. Century. I brought my e-bike on the train. Use of the guards van on the main lines to Cork and Belfast means bike transport is more straightforward. 

Before the conference opening, I visited friends in Blarney which is 8km on a hill out of Cork. Traffic was busy and fast on the secondary road. The grounds of Blarney castle were very scenic. I came across a little grebe family on the estate lake. I could see the mother with one of her chicks on her back, while the father came with a fish for one of the swimming chicks. It was a great sight through a good pair of binoculars. Blarney House was an interesting 19th. century construction. I’ve never had an interest in kissing the Blarney Stone and it will continue – the queue up the castle was 90 mins.! 

I needed to get back to Cork to attend the conference drinks reception in the posh Montenotte Hotel on a steep hill on the far side of the city. I arrived at the bottom of the hill in good time on my e-bike. I felt I needed to park the bike and walk up the hill. I was tight for time, so decided to see what the bike could do. I put it in sporting and turbo modes and I cruised up the hill in no time. I was impressed with my 2 wheels! The view from the hotel over the city and the river is very impressive. Grace O’Sullivan MEP made some good remarks about the need for the marine conference. 

The city is striking in its place beside the harbour and its 2 channels of the Lee before they meet. There are some fine buildings in the city, including the Victorian gothic St. Fin Barre’s cathedral, Triskell Arts Centre’s use of an old church and the Civic Trust-restored merchants house on Pope’s Quay. This beautiful Queen Anne house datesfrom around 1700-30, which is the oldest house in Cork and is considered one of the finest historic buildings in the city. The cycling provision is good, but the extensive one-way system needs getting used to. Patrick’s Hill is a sight to behold – I won’t be bringing my bike up there! 

The conference itself was very informative about the threats to our oceans/seas and marine life from climate change, over-fishing, pollution and habitat loss. A video from Al Gore was broadcast to the attendees urging us in Ireland to protect our seas. The conference is calling for a 30% marine protection area (MPA) in our territorial waters. Given our island status, our water area is 8-10 times our land area. What is meant by protection? Speakers stated that 10% must be strictly controlled – absolutely no commercial activity allowed to enable fish stocks to recover. Debate took place on whether offshore wind should be allowed in MPA’s. 

The highlight for me was a 4-hour boat trip around Cork Harbour for attendees after the conference. There is so much to see from a boat in the harbour: Blackrock Castle, Haulbowline naval yard, Cobh, Fota and Spike islands and out to Roches Point where the harbour meets the Atlantic. Various speakers, including Oonagh Duggan of Birdwatch Ireland kept us informed by loudspeaker of all aspects of the harbour as we passed. 

--Eric Conroy