Keeping Cork safe

Posted on: 13th November, 2017

Category: Features

Contributor: Mary O'Brien

Above: Ophelia batters Tragumna Beach, Skibbereen. Pic. Emma Jervis Photography

While Hurricane Ophelia wrecked havoc on the south west coast of Ireland, organisations such as Cork Safety Alerts kept the public informed and safe. Co-founder of Cork Safety Alerts, Patrick O’Leary, talks to Mary O’Brien about why and how this voluntary operation works.

A completely voluntary organisation, the aim of Cork Safety Alerts is simple – to keep the public safe by publishing alerts related to traffic, travel, or safety in Cork.

With over 83,000 followers on Facebook and 6,000 on Twitter, Cork Safety Alerts has gained a massive following, particularly during Hurricane Ophelia, with praise pouring in from the public on the huge part the organisation played in keeping the people of Cork County out of harm’s way.

Now in order to reach a wider audience, the group is trying to raise funds to create a Cork Safety Alerts mobile app.

“The app will allow users who may not necessarily use social media to keep up to date with us,” explains Patrick. “I know for one, my parents don’t use social media, so they will appreciate a mobile app.

“We’re hoping to have a facility to localise updates to the location of users of the app. If you’re in Midleton, there’s no real reason for you to see updates in Bantry (unless you want to, and there will be an option for that too).”

Cork Safety Alerts is currently fundraising via GoFundMe to raise the necessary €5000 to create the app (you can donate at:

Founded originally in early 2013 by Patrick O’Leary as ‘Cork Potholes’ with an aim to highlight the damage on local roads in Cork, the organisation gained a large following in a short period of time.

Later that year, ‘Cork Potholes’ was changed to ‘Cork Road Safety’ and Mick Mulcahy came on board, taking over the running of the group.

The next venture was ‘Cork Flood Alerts’, which was a great success following the winter storms of 2013/2014.

In January 2016, ‘Cork Flood Alerts’ and ‘Cork Road Safety’ merged and ‘Cork Safety Alerts’ was born.

Alongside Patrick and Mick, the team includes four other administrators, who dedicate their free time to Cork Safety Alerts.

“Ophelia was definitely my biggest challenge, as I am the newest member to the group, having only joined in February,” says administrator Amanda. “I was not expecting the volume of messages that hit the page in such a very short space of time. People were sending photographs, videos, informing us of fallen trees and roofs blowing off; it was quite busy for a number of hours but eventually you just get into the swing of things. We made sure to answer as many messages as we possibly could, whether it was on Twitter or our Facebook page, it was all hands on deck.”

“During Ophelia, over the course of 48 hours, we received over 1,900 messages and ensured that every single one of them was read and responded to,” says Patrick.

Prior to Ophelia, Storm Desmond is the extreme weather event that stands out in the mind of administrator Veronica.

“The damage caused by flooding was something horrific,” she says. “People depended on the page for updates, as many roads and towns were impassable from the floods, for example Bandon, Midleton and the N25, which was so damaged it remained closed for a number of weeks.”

“We frequently receive requests from members of the public to join the team as voluntary administrators, so we review all applications and contact good candidates who have social media experience, or a journalism background,” explains Patrick.

Cork Safety Alert’s information is almost wholly crowdsourced. “We receive hundreds of messages every day from the public informing us of different issues, whether its traffic, travel, public safety, school closures etc. We read and acknowledge every message we receive. We also have members of different organisations (both government and non governmental) contacting us…we receive lots of press releases from the likes of Met Eireann, the HSE, Bus Eireann and so on,” says Patrick.

“We also regularly receive updates from different members of the Emergency Services, from the Gardai to the NAS, Army, Civil Defence and Fire Service. We like to think that our service helps them too, as generally we’ll receive a report of, for example, a collision before they will. We generally receive reports of collisions or other incidents from followers who are at the scene at the time.

“We also try to help charities, so whenever information on a fundraiser is sent to us, we’ll always do our best to share.”

For an organisation such as Cork Safety Alerts to function, there has to be a certain amount of trust that the information received is correct, however some updates do require an official source, for example school closures.

“We do have a disclaimer on our facebook page and website informing our followers that while we endeavour to have 100 per cent factual information, lots of the information we supply is crowdsourced, therefore some information, sometimes, may be wrong or not 100 per cent.”

However, as Patrick explains, the most challenging part of running this service is not trust but the time involved.

“We’re all volunteers, and we all have full time jobs, children and families. Our admin team are amazing though, and through tough times everyone pulls together; an ‘unofficial’ schedule is created to keep coverage on the page 24/7. Through Ophelia, we had pretty much 24/7 coverage on the page ensuring messages were answered all day and night.

“We want to extend our thanks to the people of Cork and beyond. Without the public, Cork Safety Alerts would cease to exist! We want everyone to know what a pleasure it’s been over the past four to five years running Cork Safety Alerts. Onwards and upwards as they say, and hopefully a new chapter opens with our upcoming mobile app!”

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Wave to Mary! 65-year-old Mary Nolan Hickey is running around the entire coast of the Island of Ireland to raise funds & awareness for the RNLI and is currently running the roads of West Cork.

Mary is the only woman to have completed every single Dublin Marathon (all 38 of them). She’s also completed the grueling Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert, known as the ‘toughest foot race on earth’.

To mark her 50th year involved in Athletics Mary is taking on her biggest challenge yet (even though she thought she’d already done that when completing the Dublin Marathon when she was over six months pregnant!) She wants to raise as much money as possible for the RNLI.

Mary started her epic journey in Arklow, Co. Wicklow, on New Year’s Day. She aims to cover up to 5000 kilometers, using coastal routes, over the next five months. She hopes to get back in time to get her first pension payment in June when she turns 66.

Mary will stop off at as many RNLI stations as possible, on her once in a lifetime adventure. As far as she knows no other woman has ever taken on this challenge.

Speaking about her journey Mary said:

“I wanted to prove that age not a barrier. Coming from a coastal town I have a deep affinity with our local RNLI station & volunteers and have huge admiration for the brave men and women who risk their lives to save lives at sea”.

Mary, who’s depending on the goodwill of communities along her route for accommodation, has been astounded by the response so far. “The support has been overwhelming,” she said. “I have met the most amazing and encouraging people along the way”.

To see more about Mary’s adventures, and to pinpoint her location today, check out her Facebook page - rnlilapofthemap2018.
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20th March, 2018  ·  


This Saturday the 10th March, will see some magically curious activity as local Bandon national schools compete in a Wizarding Harry Potter Quiz. The prize will be the beautiful Bandon Banshee Perpetual Cup.

As any Harry Potter enthusiast knows, Bandon has the unique honour of having a character named after the town. The Bandon Banshee, was referred to as the nemesis of Gilderoy Lockhart in the Chamber of Secrets. The book grossed €60 million in sales and was the 7th highest earning film of all time.

Locals, looking to enhance the town for young people, saw the quiz as an ideal way promote the connection. The universally absorbing book series brings young readers on a huge adventure of magic, adversity and triumph. It is also an exploration of loyalty and friendship, good and evil – so it is not only popular way to engage young people, it is a hugely positive connection.

Zoe Tennyson, one of the organisers said they were delighted with the response from schools who ran a qualifying quiz as part of World Book Day. On Saturday Bandon Town Hall will be transformed into Hogwarts Great Hall, with proceeds going Bandon Playground Group, and to cover costs of the event.

Bandon Books will be rewarding the winning team with vouchers to each of the five members. The Bandon Banshee, or Bean-sidhe na Bandaan Perpetual Cup will be hotly contested – but which school will the Banshee go to??

If you have any questions please call Marguerite McQuaid on 087 900 9494
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8th March, 2018  ·  

Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition 23 February 2018

The inaugural Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition will take place in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen this Friday 23rd February. As part of Engineers Week 2018, leaders and members of Ballineen Foróige Club have organised an exhibition which will showcase a diverse and exciting range of engineering projects that have been undertaken by members of the club over the last few weeks, with the aid of leaders and a number of local engineers.

With the aid of local pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, along with the support of STEAM Education, a UCC based company focused on promoting science, technology, engineering, arts, and maths subjects in primary schools, Ballineen Foróige has been engaging members and leaders in all things engineering over the last six weeks. From researching, designing, and prototyping a project based on local problems, to participating in various workshops on coding and careers in engineering, Ballineen Foróige have been extremely busy in preparation for the exhibition this coming Friday night.

On the night itself, Michael Loftus, Head of Engineering at CIT, Fintan Goold, Manager at Eli Lilly and All-Ireland Cork winning Footballer, along with Geraldine Coughlan of GCA Architects & Designers, a local business, will act as judges on the night, evaluating the different engineering projects and offering some advice to the members of the club. Also in attendance will be the CEO of Foróige Seán Campbell, along with a number of local councillors, TD’s and Senators.

Leading the team of Ballineen Foróige leaders organising the event, is Rebecca Dwyer, a bioprocess engineer at Eli Lilly. Rebecca recently became a leader in the club and says that Ballineen Foróige Young Engineer Exhibition 2018 “promises to be a fun, challenging and rewarding experience for all involved and we look forward to welcoming parents, relatives, friends and members of the public to the exhibition and film screening on the evening of Friday 23rd February.” Overall, there are twelve projects entered in the exhibition. One project, led by Cian Kennefick and Charlie Nolan, members of the starting out club, examines the possibility of installing speed ramps on the road near local primary school. Fourteen-year-old Charlie says he got involved in the project as it was something to do and it gets you thinking. Cian says the most exciting part of the project was the building of the prototypes.

Both Cian and Charlie, along with thirty other members of the club will display their projects this coming Friday 23 February in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen. Doors open at 8pm and the event runs until 10pm. All are welcome to attend, and admission is free. Catering, including tea and coffee, will be provided on the night.
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20th February, 2018  ·  

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Main course

17th February, 2018  ·  

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