Thursday, February 26, 2009

Waterford Myths

This is the beginnings of a list of Waterford and Irish myths. I intend to add to it as things strike me, so bear with me!

ICTU had no hand act or part in getting us into the mess we're in. They are above reproach and totally blameless. (Yeah right - Pontious Pilate anyone?)

The new Accident & Emergency Unit at WRH. It's on the way. (Pull the other one.)

In some mystical future, everyone in Ireland is going to be working in the knowledge economy. (Oh please!)

The Government never saw this economic road crash coming. (Despite fuelling the juggernaut that caused it!) They were all looking the other way. LOL!
Picture: Government couldn't see the wood for the trees (as my mother would say)!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Local Councillors
Overpaid or undervalued?

This is the hoary old chestnut that rears its head every now and then. It's a fair question and one which I think Councillors ought to be prepared to have asked and to answer.

Are we overpaid or undervalued. Well obviously I think the latter. But I am prepared to defend it and illustrate why I think so. The electorate will get their chance to decide in a very tangible way on June 5th of this year.

I see two interesting and contrasting articles on this very issue covered in the pages of this weeks local newspapers (a mine of interesting information! I love them!).

One from the current Mayor of Tramore, a young man whose wife either just had or is about to have, their fourth child (congratulations on that). He is not running for election again as he simply cannot fit in family committments, with his job and his Council duties. That, to me, gives some indication of the type of time that is required, if you are committed and in it for the right reasons, to do this job properly. I commend Cllr Hayden and I wish him good luck. Perhaps we will see him back in politics one day when his family is older.

Then I read a 'Press Release' from a proposed candidate for the local elections - and not in my area so I have no vested interest in his winning or losing. He is basically indicating that Councillors are over-paid and not 'sharing the pain'. Now I'm sorry but firstly, the firgures he quotes (averaging €32,000 p.a) are certainly much higher than the city average - and much, much higher than on Tramore Town Council (from whence Cllr Hayden is retiring) but even outside of that it smacks to me of one who (a) doesn't know what he is talking about in regard to the amount of time (most) Councillors put into their work and (b) he is trying to be sensationalist in the hope that rounding on those whom he hopes to join will curry him some favour with a worried electorate.

For the record and to facilitate my arguement, let me deal with the amount of time I personally spend on Waterford City Council and related work. It would be difficult enough to list all the committees that I sit on but here's a lash: Waterford City Council itself, plus all workshops; two Strategic Policy Committees namely Planning & Environment and Transportation & Infrastructure; Waterford City Vocational Education Committee; Waterford Youth Committee (which I Chair); Waterford Area Partnership (which I also Chair); the South East Regional Authority; the Regional Planning Guidelines Implementation Committee; the Board of Waterford Youth Arts; the Governing Body of Waterford Institute of Technology and the Internal Audit Committee; the Board of Management of Mount Sion Primary School; the Board of Waterford Museum of Treasures, the Joint Policing Committee and several others which I can't bring to mind at the moment.

I'm expected to be fairly knowledgeable on all aspects of planning, housing, transportation, green issues, waste management, water services, budgets, auditing, legal issues, education provsion from primary through secondary and onto furthe education, adult education and third level, universty arguements, literacy issues, community development, poverty issues, youth issues, anti-social behaviour, local issues, pensions, job provision, health care provision, lobbying, and many many other things. And thats BEFORE I do a single thing to help those who need it in my constituency whether you are ever likely to get a vote out of it or not - mostly not probably.

Anyway. The point is: the time committment is, quite simply, enormous. I know people in full time employment who spend less time at their work than I do. Now, in case anyone is getting excited - I'm not complaining, merely stating the case. This is what I've signed up for and I love it. But it is, in all reality, practically a full time job.

I have three children aged from 15 down to 1. My husband works away from home most of the time and I can tell you, if I didn't have my mother and father stepping in, then the monies I receive from the Council simply wouldn't even pay for childcare!

When I initially ran for the the Corporation in 1999, there was no pay. It was a voluntary job and I was advised that it amounted to "about 2 meetings a month" and would easily fit into my schedule. I was running my own PR and communications company and had a young daughter at the time. Was that ever not accurate! I have had to give up the PR company (which I can assure readers was more profitable than being a Councillor) a decision I took when it became obvious that I wasn't 'superwoman' and just could not fit it all in. At that stage after asking people to give me their vote I couldn't turn around and whinge that it was all too much - afterall there wasn't even another woman elected on the City Council at that time. So I made my choice and I'm happy about it. But to say that it's part time, or easy, or overpaid is to quite simply, not have a clue what you are talking about.

However, I will concede that, as in every job there are some who are only in it for the money and are not in it for the right reasons and who do very little indeed. One can only hope that this is recognised by the electorate. One way or another, it has to be said that the electorate will get their chance to decide mine and all our fates later this year. And may I add that it is much easier to dump a Councillor than it is to get rid of an under-performing 'employee' in any other sector of society be it public or private.

Add to that that Councillors - even those with no other income such as myself - are forbidden from paying PRSI and may not therefore claim any benefits although we do pay tax. So at the end of it all I won't even have a Contributory Pension. I will get a lump sum payment - but nothing like the amoount needed to buy a pension.

And no, this won't stop people making wisecracks about us all being 'the same shower' or whatever. But I won't be laughing. I got into this game to try and make a difference. I think I do. I work very hard at it. If people don't agree with me - they are my ultimate employers and they may fire me. That's the way it works - and I wouldn't even be able to sign on!

Photo shows my three children in tow, waiting for their mother at yet another meeting.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Looking Forward
I know at times like this it can be difficult to look forward and not start engaging in 'who's to blame' politics - I have done it myself (see some earlier blogs!!). But I think it is very important, now more than ever, to focus on the positive.
We live is a great country with mostly fantastic, generous, friendly people. We are open, courteous, happy (ask any EU survey) and proud of who we are and where we have come from.
We have De La Salle in the All Ireland Club Championships Final on St Patricks Day! What an acheivement! We have the rugby team on a roll with a mouth-watering game in prospect against England in Croker on Sunday. The Irish Football Team is even doing well. A guy living in the County has produced the winning Irish Entry for the Eurovision. The teams in WIT are bringing home cups all around them in everything from Karate to Camogie.
And on the economic front, while there will continue to be tough times we have to be in a better position to deal with them than ever before. And all is not lost. Penneys have started their €8m re-development in the heart of the city centre, KRM from what we hear are beavering away getting all their pre-development boxes ticked and, lets face it, many retailers want desperately to come to Waterford.
Looking forward we have the Skyfest Fireworks display on the Saturday before St. Patricks weekend and then the clash of the parade/De La Salle match on the Saints day itself. (Personally I think we should bring the parade forward to Sunday - encouraging the vistors who come for Skyfest to stay, and then put a big screen on the Quay for the match with bands and entertainment and - weather permitting - an outdoor bar/cafe at the Tower Hotel a la the Tallships festival in 2005.
And speaking of the Tallships, don't forget it is returning in just two summers time in 2011. Now that really is something to look forward to. Remember what a lift that gave us as a community when it was here? There is no reason why we cannot go on to achieve all we thought was possible in those (now halcyon) days. In fact, the impetus is there now more than ever.
So lets do what we can do, protect what we can protect but not forget that we are and will continue to be a CAN DO community who can DELIVER long after these hard times are gone. In the meantime, our innate optimism and innovation should help us to keep ourselves going and pull ourselves up - by our proverbial bootstraps, if necessary.
So if you ever wanted to take a chance - see now as your opportunity. After all - what have we got to lose anymore? I firmly believe that the only way for Waterford - as the song says, is UP.
Photo shows Mary in sunny St Malo in Brittany at the Tallships Festival in 2006. Vive la difference!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

No Decision Better than a 'NO' Deccision!

I see in todays Munster Express the front page story by Tom Young titled 'University for Waterford It's a Big NO'.
Although I'm quoted in the article I have to say that the title does not yet reflect my actual opinion on where WIT's application currently stands.

On reading the letter Pat (Cllr. Pat Hayes) refers to in the article there is nothing new in here that suggests to me that the Government has made a decision one way or another (a crime in itself indeed). The reference to the different missions of IT's and Universities has been in all their letters and while it is not exactly positive, it isn't exactly a No either.

Believe me, if and when we are told no I will call it, but until then, I just have to continue to hope and pray - it is such a critical issue for the South East - that no decision is better than a 'no' decision.

I have heard through sources and those who claim to know him (I don't and have never met him) that Batt O'Keeffe is his own man and is not unfavourable to the idea. Who knows? We shall see. But where there is life, there is hope. WIT has received positive comment from many International Professors who are in this game; who have written reports for the OECD, who have adjudicated around the world on similar applications. Can it all really be denied?

It is one way for the Government to reasonably cheaply (on a cost benefit analysis basis) counteract some of the negativity that pervades our country right now. One way for them to demonstrate that they are thinking positively - rather than just fighting bush-fires all the time.

Until we are definitively told no, I think we should continue to fight; continue to believe; continue to dream that one day the reality of having a world class University on our doorsteps will soon be ours.

Lets hope its not a pipe dream. Because the way things are going in Waterford at the moment, if we lose this one, last one out can simply turn off the lights.
It ain't over till the fat lady sings!
Photo by the way, is my sister in law Catherine Keating who graduated last year with an Honours Degree in Architectural Technology, with Professor Kieran Byrne and yours truly (looking a little worn out it's true). Buala bos Catherine!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Things are bad, BUT....

You know I'm reminded amidst all this doom and gloom that I still have all the things that are really important and really make my life worthwhile. I have my kids. I have my husband. I have my mum and dad, my friends and colleagues - my health and their health.

All these things are the same as before all this s**t we've gotten into. So keep focussed on the positive stuff and don't let the media or the government make you feel bad just because things are tighter. If you still have the important stuff thats the main thing. Be happy about it. Everything else doesn't define us. It doesn't make us who we are. Not jobs. Not houses. Not cars. Not getting revenge. Look up I say and don't let the b*****ds get you down.
Photo shows the late lamented beautiful brigantine Asgard II now at the bottom of the ocean. At least we're not sunk yet!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

From Poster Boy Economy to Basket Case - Who Knew?

I think that with all this talk about falling tax revenues, property bubbles and what have you, we are being distracted from a very crucial question: who knew that this was on the way. And why did they not prepare for it?

The youngest boys and girls in the scouts for Gods sake learn to 'Be Prepared'. If someone had only acknowledged what was on the way and started to prepare BEFORE we landed neck high in it, how much better a situation might we be in?

But the Government, the Department of Finance and the Banks all continued in denial - and I'm not talking about the river in Egypt either.

"Commit suicide" Bertie told anyone who dared to open their mouths the Christmas before last and "buy houses now or they'll be even more expensive." And people trusted him. Why wouldn't they. He was our Taoiseach after all. The common man with the common touch - Bertie.

He and his finance people (including Cowen) must have known that the vast majority of revenue was from the building industry. They must have known that with a population less than Greater Manchester or Birmingham that couldn't go on. They must have (and did) know that we were becoming too expensive for firms to stay here. They must have known that the underlying tax revenues (if you take out all property and construction related monies including PAYE from that sector, stamp duty, VAT on houses etc. etc.) was not performing and that we were living in a complete construction fairyland.

They must have known but crucially - they mustn't have cared. It suited their political ends to keep the lie going as long as possible. To get re-elected in 2007 when everything must have been starting to go pear-shaped, on a bunch false projections and downright lies. It's sickening.

And why is it important to find out who knew? Surely there's no point in wasting time on recriminations or going back over what has happened that we can't change?

Well, for a start, the government would want us to think that. They wouldn't want us to realise that we had been lied to. Blatantly. They wouldn't want us to realise that they had gotten elected on completely false pretences. They wouldn't want us to realise they put their own lust for power before our very dignity and they wouldn't want us to realise that as a result of all that, they are governing on a false mandate.

I believe that nothing less than complete reform of the Dail is required. A complete change of guard. A new way of working it. The Dail has become a stale, irrelevant, distanced and antiquated chamber where the boys (and they are mostly boys) are members of the most exclusive and out of touch club in Ireland. Over paid. Overly sure of themselves. Up their own backsides a lot of the time with their preachy attitude and 'I'm better than you' opinion of themselves.

Well this time, their weapon of choice may have been the boomerang and I hope it comes back and clobbers them, their expenses and their pensions.

The sooner we take to the streets.....The better. Roll on the revolution!