Oliver Plunkett Street is one of the main commercial arteries in Cork city. It is the longest street in the city centre and its intimate surrounds create a relaxing atmosphere for shoppers.
Today, Oliver Plunkett Street is home to a variety of food and clothes shops, pubs, cafes, restaurants, and it caters for everyone from book lovers to DIY and camera enthusiasts.
The construction of modern Cork as we know it was largely complete by 1800. The river channels surrounding the old marsh, on which George’s Street was built, were no more, as these were filled in with new streets: St Patrick's Street, Grand Parade, and South Mall. The nineteenth century, however, was one of struggle for Cork with the decline of the provisions trade, the adverse affects of trade restrictions linked to the new Act of Union, and the horrors inflicted by the Great Famine of the 1840s.
Cork city began the twentieth century as a cramped and stagnant port whose best days had long since passed. The streetscape of Cork as we know it today is outlined in Bartholomew’s 1903 map of Cork. The [General] Post Office — George’s Street’s standout building — is identified on this map. The 1900s also saw the city suffer the consequences of the independence struggle in Ireland. On the night of 11-12 December 1920, large parts of George’s Street and St Patrick’s Street were burned by rampaging British troops, causing widespread destruction in the city centre.
Irish independence brought a name change for George’s Street. In the in the early 1920s the street adapted the name Oliver Plunkett Street, after the seventeenth-century Archbishop of Armagh and Catholic martyr. Reference to this name change appears in Guy's City and County Cork Almanac and Directory for 1921. Before the name change, 'Old George's Street' was frequently used to identify the street. This name appeared in Aldwell's Directory from 1844 and was used primarily to distinguish the street from modern-day Washington Street, then known as Great George's Street. However, adaption of the name Oliver Plunkett Street was a gradual process. Oliver Plunkett Street appears in the 1925 directory, put refers the reader to George’s Street. By the 1945 edition of the directory, the Oliver Plunkett Street section is still accompanied by a reference to ‘Late George’s Street’, while colloquially the term ‘Old George’s Street’ remained in use.
With the approach of Cork’s year as European Capital of Culture in 2005, a major city redevelopment plan was brought forward, and a €3.6-million project was initiated that included the commissioning of Catalan architect Beth Gali, to make Oliver Plunkett Street far more pedestrian friendly. Construction work began in March 2004. What followed was a year of severe disruption for the street traders. However, a large amount of the work was complete by Christmas of that year and construction was finished by May 2005. The street was resurfaced, with the southern side paved with red clay bricks, protected by a number of bollards, and the northern footpath paved with white granite. The final step in the project was put into place in November 2005 when cars were prevented from accessing the street daily between 11am and 5pm, allowing Oliver Plunkett Street to become pedestrianised.
The redevelopment has made Oliver Plunkett Street one of the most relaxing and pedestrian-friendly streets in Cork. The street is home to some of the longest established retailers in the city. However, since 2005, Oliver Plunkett Street has suffered some difficult times due to the frequency of flooding in the city centre.