Ireland’s economy, and that of Cork city, began to recover in the late 1980s and record-breaking rates of economic growth were achieved in the 1990s, the era of the so-called ‘Celtic Tiger’ . The transformation of the city from its run-down condition in the 1980s has been remarkable. New hi-tech industries were set up in the city and its surrounding hinterland. Some of the giants of the electronic, computer and pharmaceutical industries established factories in the area. Unemployment levels fell dramatically. New shopping centres were opened both in the city centre and the outlying suburbs. The construction industry boomed with the demand for new houses far exceeding the supply. Unfortunately this had the effect of inflating the prices of new houses, a trend which continues today. The communications and transport infrastructures of the city were improved enormously. There was a rise in the standard of living for many. Cork began to take on a continental air with young, fashionably-dressed people sipping coffee and beer inside and outside an increasing number of stylish new restaurants. Cork diners could now be heard ordering cappuccinos and chorizos as often as the once staple tea and ham sandwiches. Nowhere was the transformation more complete than in the Huguenot Quarter around French Church Street, Paul Street and Carey’s Lane. In the late 1970s these streets had become dingy and shabby, exuding an air of gloom. Now they are among the busiest and liveliest streets in the city.
Of course not everyone benefited equally from the era of the Celtic Tiger. There are still pockets of high unemployment and comparative poverty in certain areas of the city. As is often the case, those who feel deprived and excluded from the increasing affluence around them frequently seek relief in drink and drugs which often results in violence and anti-social behaviour. Despite this, those emigrants who left Cork in the hard times of the 1940s and 1950s could scarcely have imagined the vibrancy and prosperity of modern Cork.