Saturday, May 30, 2009

Is Politics Broken?

Politics is broken. I'm not talking about the tinkering around the edges, the numbers, the parties or even the corruption.

I'm talking about the seeming inability of elected politicians to be able to simply effect any change. That, after all is - or should be - why anyone goes into politics. I know there are some who go in for other reasons. Perhaps just because they can - maybe daddy passes them on a seat. Perhaps they like being in the spotlight. Perhaps they want to keep their party in power.

But most people I know go into politics because they believe they can make a difference. Make changes. And I don't think that's possible. Not where it matters anyway and thats in Dáil Éireann.

When TD's are running for election, they promise the world - and I guess maybe you have to on some level. But it must be the most frustrating thing to be a TD; to have promised the world; to believe in change; to want to deliver for your community.....only to be faced with a system that absolutely doesn't allow it. Not for the Opposition TDs. Not for back-benchers. Probably not even to any great extent for Ministers.

There is no way for TD's to individually make their mark, move their ideas or initiate any meaningful changes. Whether the party system has stifled it or it was ever there in the first place I don't know but it is broken and it needs fixing.

People need to have confidence that the TDs and the system that we are working under can reflect the changes that we as a society want. At the moment, the Dáil is an irrelevance - a circus sideshow not worth the time it takes to sit in the chamber (obvioused by the fact that so few bother to do so anyway).

It must be soul-destroying being so powerless in the most powerful - in theory - position in the land. No wonder TD's spend their time hoovering up local authority type requests - because they're the only thing they can actually deliver on - even though they've left the local authorities behind. It's why they run clinics. Because although they have a mandate to operate at national level - where are the mechanisms? Where can TD's initiate legislation or have it debated? Where can a single TD really engage with the public?

A real hard look needs to be taken at how the Dáil operates. It needs to become more relevant and flexible. It needs to give power to the people to whom the electorate have given power - the TD's and not just the 15 or so at the cabinet table. If TD's were actually able to make meaningful changes at national level I would hazard a guess that it wouldn't be long before they started getting their teeth into it (at least the ones who are in it to deliver change) and working on those national issues. I mean who would want to keep sorting out pot-holes when you can deliver on the big issues?

At local level, all elected Councillors - notwithstanding the odd inter-party clash - tend to work together on issues to deliver important things for their City or County or town. Why can not the Dáil or indeed the European Union operate like this? Why do Irish MEPs split up into different groupings in the EU and work against each other? Why are they not all on the same side? Why can TD's not initiate legislation on a cross party basis or even individually. Why can the Dáil not do 'what it says on the tin'? In extra-ordinary times, extra-ordinary measures are called for and choosing to go on in the same old way that we always have done is simply not good enough any more.

TD's need to work in a stimulating environment that is conducive to them being able to simply effect real change. Unless and until that happens, people will continue to be cynical and bored and disdainful of politics and politicians. And politicians will continue to be bored and un-inspired themselves.

Something needs to change and I would argue that it should be changed from within now, before its too late. TDs need to be allowed to work in the best interests of Ireland and the people who elect them and not merely serve as voting fodder in bewteen each election. They should all be required to deliver and the system should be changed to make sure that they do - and not the other way around as it seems to be at the moment.

Photo taken with Noel Dempsey, Minister for Transport - can national politicians really make a difference?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

'Below The Radar' Cuts

When the you-know-the-what hit the fan last year and cuts of every shape and size were on the horizon, the Government gave one committment: the Social Inclusion budget would not be touched. Well although there have been no 'announcements' to the contrary, there certainly have been cuts. Cuts across every measure from education for disadvantaged communities to youth projects to community groups, to home helps, to partnership companies.

I have met elderly people who have been 'visited' by HSE staff enquiring as to whether they 'have any family living in the area' - only to be written to a week later informing them they have had there homecare hours cut in half!

I am on the Board of Management of a local primary school which is a DEIS school (classified as disadvantaged) which is having to fight not to lose a teacher - because the rules have been changed and because the goal posts are being shifted. It is a disgrace.

I Chair Waterford Area Partnership which has as its sole aim to tackle social exclusion and we have just been informed of our second budgetary cut this year. A cut that will now have to be made in just six months - it being almost June, thereby doubling the impact on the budget. The cut is 3.5% for the year (on top of a 10% cut already!!) but because we have only been informed half way through the year, we will have to cut 7% now to make the additional cut in just 6 months.

I also Chair Wateford Youth Committee - and all the youth groups funded through the committee are suffering cuts.

None of these cuts are announced. You can still see the statements from the 'TeeDee' in the local papers welcoming the funding - conveniently omitting that it has been cut.

These cuts are all deep. They are all targetted at those people who most need intervention. Trying to break the cycle and support children and their families who are most at need. They are all happening 'below the radar'.
But there's still money for spin-doctors to sell us the Lisbon Treaty. There's still money for first-class travel for Ministers. There's still money for make-up and hair-do's. AND There's still €4 billion for Anglo Irish Bank.
What is going on? Have we lost the plot altogether? Why wasn't Anglo Irish Bank allowed to collapse - just as Lehman Brothers did? It's not like it's a high-street bank and judging by what I'm reading it seems to have had the vast majority of its lending tied up in a relatively small number of very big developers.
Something is rotten in this State. And it's called 'croneyism'. We don't know the half of it. Ties between the State, the Banks, the Regulators, the boardroom boys and even the media (national - not local). We don't know who is married to whose sister, or who drinks with whom, or who is scratching whose back. But it is going on and most of them are tied into it one way or another.
Somehow I don't think those people are 'suffering' in the same way as those at the bottom of the ladder. Those who, when the tide was lifting all boats, were anchored to the bottom! Those with mental health issues, or dysfunctional families, or learning diffculties, or who need help to stay living at home or those who are plain old poor. They're still with us you know - despite the PR spin to the contrary. Just ask the Society of St. Vincent de Paul who are trying to pick up the pieces.
These cuts are dishonest. They are sneaky and in the long term they will cost all of society. But you won't see the Government sending out Press Releases telling you that.
It's time we all decided whats important in Ireland: is it our society - our children, our elderly, our huddled masses. Or is it our economy?

Waterford Crystal Heritage Centre?

The future of Waterford Crystal as it currently stands in Kilbarry is gone. The workers have been let go. The visitor centre as it is currently operating is not viable longterm. What is the best that Waterford can hope for the future concerning Waterford Crystal? What would - if all parties are willing - be, if not quite the best of both worlds, the best that we can get from our Crystal heritage?

A renewed visitor centre, The Waterford Crystal Heritage Centre (perhaps) located in a city cente site is my hope and suggestion. It would need to be a fairly large scale operation with an opportunity for visitors to see craftsmen at work in all or almost all stages of the crystal production processes. It would need to encompass a cafe as the current visitor centre does and an extensive shopping offering with crystal and other complimentary goods for sale. It could include all the elements that the original Visitors Centre in Kilbarry offered with a simulated 'factory tour'.

This would do two things: it would keep the Waterford Crystal Visitors coming to the City and it would bring them right into the City Centre where they might shop and even stay overnight more extensively. An extra 300,000 visitors in the city centre would certainly be a welcome addition especially in the current climate.

But are KPS the new owners of the Waterford Crystal brand willing to be part of saving something for the people of Waterford whose blood, sweat and tears built the Waterford Crystal brand over many decades? I sincerely hope so. Are the Government willing to step up to the mark even at this late stage with investment in order to secure an attraction of this sort for the City? Again I hope so. Will the City Council stand up and play their part by compulsorily purchasing a site for such a proposal? I would certainly think so.

Of course there is no such proposal at the moment. I know that it is still early days but we must strike while the iron is hot. While the skills still exist and while the tourists are still interested and a visit to Waterford Crystal is still on Tour Operators itineraries.

Where could such a centre fit? In any of the current blocks along the South Quays if it were purchased and developed...perhaps down by Reginalds Tower? The North Quays...although I would prefer to see it on the south side of the River? Anything is possible.

I would earnestly call on all parties to actively seek to ensure that, while manufacturing sadly has ceased at Kilbarry, the Waterford Crystal name and association with our city will remain, will be invested in and will perhaps deliver in a new and innovative way for the future. We must all think laterally and, while licking our wounds is understandable, we must salvage what we can of this wonderful heritage for present and future generations. We may not have the luxury of wasting time. I am asking the City Council, KPS and the Government to act now.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Waterford V Kilkenny

I hear a lot about Kilkenny. Why I don't know. But Waterford people are for some reason always comparing our City centre to Kilkenny town centre. Above is a photograph which I took yesterday passing at the end of High Street, Kilkennys' main shopping street. As you can see, it is a narrow street with fairly narrow footpaths, no parking and is choc-a-bloc with cars. There are some people who actually think that this is a superior situation to the centre of Waterford with our wide boulevard type Square, ample paths and pedestrianisation and no polluting moving cars blocking up the whole place.

I can't for the life of me see where they win on any of these counts. Now don't get me wrong, I like Kilkenny and the odd day out shopping there is a nice change (if I can stomach the really really rotten road) - just as Waterford provides a nice change for those from outside, including Kilkenny who come here to shop.

And yes, Kilkenny is good for boutiques. Maybe its just me but it does seem to have more of them. And the castle is beyond compare as an asset in the heart of the town. But we have many assets in Waterford which we need to highlight, appreciate more and make more of. Reginalds Tower is the oldest urban building in the country. The Museum of Treasures (which has just won best Local Authority Museum in the Country - well done to all!) is spectacular and there is nothing like it in Kilkenny or anywhere. John Roberts Square offers a much more pleasant shopping environment. City Square is far superior to Market Cross in my humble opinion. Parking in Waterford is easier than Kilkenny too. We have gorgeous restaurants that can compete with anything in Kilkenny. La Boheme, L'Atmosphere, Bodega, Sabai the list goes on. We have Spraoi. We have Red Kettle and Garter Lane and our magnificent Central Library. They beat us for hotels, I'll give you that. In numbers and newness but I would argue that the Granville Hotel is top notch while the Tower has fantastic potential for expansion into that City centre 4 or 5 star that we so badly need. Are there too many hotel beds in Kilkenny? Time will tell.

So while Kilkenny is different to Waterford I contend that it is in no way superior or that what we offer is inferior. I don't want to shop in streets where I can't manoevre a buggy or get rolled over if I step off the path thank you very much.

Waterford has issues. Kilkenny has issues (saw plenty empty stores up there too). Waterford is motivated and moving in the right direction. Businesses are going to have lean years where it is going to be difficult but you can be sure that goes for shops in every city and town in Ireland. Waterford City centre is precious and needs to be protected and developed. Initiatives need to be taken urgently to increase footfall but everybody who makes up the city centre needs to play their part. The saving of the city is certainly not in the gift of the City Council. But it can help. Together we can ensure - with practical ideas - that Waterford can hang in through the tough times and emerge out the other side better, bigger and with more to offer. But its also down to the other players in the centre; landlords, retailers and in fact local shoppers.

We need larger shops (Enterprise Homecare & DIY site crying out for development/Regina cinema/Jenkins Lane/Exchange St). We need to limit out of town shopping. We need to monitor our neighbouring authorities and defend our city centre against their attempts to capitalise on and undermine it. We need to strengthen our offering in the city centre. We need owners to invest. We need the New Street centre to start. We need Penneys back in. We need common sense applied to rent reviews.

But most of all we need an attitude change. We need to realise that Waterford is a good place to shop and visit with plenty to see and do, places to eat, music to hear, entertainment to be had, places to party. We need to be confident and make things better without knocking the good things that we have. We need to go forward not backward and we need to think strategically. We need to know what we can do - and lets go out and do it.

Finally, we can support our city. Every one of us, by shopping here. Spending whatever we're spending here and keeping ourselves in employment. Eating out here, bringing our visitors around city attractions. Waterford has seen much tougher times than this and survived. I have no doubt that we will do that again. If we are careful and consider how we are using whatever money we have.

I appeal to all the players in the city centre to step up to the plate and put their money where their mouths are. The Landlords, the retailers, the shoppers and the City Council. It's in all our interests to make Waterford work.

Religious Orders

The Religious Orders don't want to give any more money to the Child Abuse Compensation fund because they want to channel the resources directly into services for victims......has it struck anybody that perhaps the victims might not want anything at all directly from the Religious Orders - considering the services they had directly received in their youth?

It's still about money - for the Orders, not the victims. Michael O'Brien spoke unbelievably on Questions & Answers last night about his 'experience'. He told us that this what the order who ran the home he was in - accused him of when he attended the non-adversarial compensation commission where he was cross-examined by 7 barristers. Non-adversarial? Some of the stories and questions asked of the victims which have emerged indicate a very combative and intrusive questioning of victims by the commission and the Orders in 'defending' themselves. They still haven't copped on that what they did was totally and utterly indefensible on any front or in any way. Utterly indefensible. Barristers of course will defend whoever is paying them obviously.

The 18 religious orders should pay up. They should had over their foul evil money and go back to the vows of poverty and chastity that they profess. Tell us what you have and atone in a very inadequate way for the sins done under your banner and protection.

If I were a victim, the last person I would want direct services from would be the orders who perpetrated the rapes, buggery, abuse, torture and even murder in the first place. None of this is putting the victims first or showing even a glimmer of understanding or remorse.

The calls from the 'church' to the religious orders are welcome but they will have the chance to demonstrate their own committment when the Dublin Diocese and the Cloyne reports hit the headlines in the near future. That will be the true measure of their words.

I don't know what would be enough. But I know one thing. The religious orders need to go back and examine their consciences and stop their preachy voices and false platitudes that are infuriating to the victims and to anyone who is horrified beyond reason by what has come into our homes and hearts and ears over the past week or so.

Do they have any idea of what they did? Do they have any idea?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Can Brian Fob Us Off: Get Out & Vote

Brian Cowen says he's going to carry on, regardless of the results of the Local, European and By elections. Can he really? I think not. And I'll tell you why.

Firstly let me say that IF Fianna Fáil get the verdict in the ballot box that they're currently getting on the doorstep (and, yes that is a big IF. I'm not convinced that there isn't some dastardly deed at play that force voters pencils down to the FF names!!!!!) then the Taoiseach in my opinion will be terminally damaged. On a number of fronts. Crucially he will be damaged as leader of his own party. Secondly he will be damaged as Taoiseach of this Country and finally but most damaging of all he will have been told by the electorate in no uncertain terms: we don't want you.

In the face of that verdict how long would it take for his Government partners and his own soldiers of destiny to tell him that they don't want him either - even if only to save their own skins.

He's putting on a brave face at the moment - almost a 'you might as well vote FF because we're not going away you know' attitiude. He's trying to stem the tide. But thats only serving to make him seem even more bully-ish - a fault I'm afraid that he falls into far too easily.

But I think that as Taoiseach he is removed from the real, almost physical anger that is out there for the FF party. People are spitting fire about FF on the doorsteps. They are feeling real and actual pain and they want to 'thank' Fianna Fáil for getting us here.

I don't think that even the Taoiseach will be able to ignore a result of that magnitude. Politicians by the very nature of democracy must have a mandate to Govern. If Brian and his party lose that mandate, then how can they justify continuing? They should not be allowed to fob off the electorate - that would be adding insult to injury in this current climate.

If it's that bad (IF people come out and vote, that is) then any democrats in government must surely see that they must give the electorate the courtesy of listening to them. They must resign the mandate which - although in my opinion they never had in the first place - they assumed they had.

Its a test: is FF a democratic party? Can they claim that and still remain in power? I don't think so.

But as I say: it's an IF. The die-hard Fianna Fáilers will vote. It is imperative that people use their vote because if they don't, then they don't have the right to complain or to demand anything - even accountability. It should be the first question asked of people with a complaint: did you vote. And if they didn't...well in my book, they are the designers of their own destiny.

It's the only FREE thing left to do in the country. GET OUT AND VOTE - whatever your preference on June 5th.

Suir River Walk

One of the things I have had a lot of feedback about from our canvassing newsletter 'The Roche Approach' is about the River Suir Walk, pictured above.

Many people were not even aware that this walk existed with some even asking for directions to get onto the walk.

The piece of the walk pictured above is accessed at the bottom of Maypark Lane just at the entrance to Kings Channel. If you turn left at the river bank there you soon access the path above. It's a fairly decent walk going in along the river bank and in good enough nick to roll a pram, for example. It has always amazed me that this walk isn't choc-a-block with walkers but perhaps most people don't know about it!

There are other entrances, down Island Lane, take a left after Powerscourt and some more further in. Not all parts of the path are as easy as the picture above so wear proper flat shoes. The views across the Suir to Great Island and Kilkenny & Wexford (even) are stunning.

The walk offers a tranquil and beautiful haven literally yards from the busy Dunmore Road and deserves to be visited by all Waterford people. It is a wonderful asset to this part of the City. As I mention in the newsletter, it is the City Councils' ultimate aim to make the walk longer with an aim in the Development Plan to make it accessible from Waterpark to Cheekpoint. However, this is proving extremely difficult with some crossings long gone (like the bridge accross the road at the end of the lane at the side of The Cove Bar) and in other places, people extending their gardens right out to the river bank.

Anti-social behaviour is also a problem on some parts of the walk and a trip down to the wooded part behind Ballinakill Downs will yield plenty evidence of fires and drinking. I have invited the Director of Services for Environment and our Horticulturist to walk this, with a view to filling in some of the more hidden nooks and crannies and to clearing out the lower scrub. This would make it much more difficult to hide in the area and may assist in the elimination of such activity.

All in all though the River Walk is a real gem in the City. Everyone should get out and enjoy it. Be aware that there is no lighting so the walk can only be enjoyed during the now plentiful daylight hours.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Is Waterford Being Downgraded?

A very interesting document was published recently by The National Competitiveness Council (NCC) entitled Our Cities: Drivers of National Competitiveness. This report examines Cities in Ireland and recommends investment priorities to the Department of the Taoiseach. And the most interesting thing about this document on Irish cities: the stark fact that WATERFORD CITY is not in it.

I find it absolutely extraordinary that a document of this nature can exist and exclude one city only. Waterford. Has Waterford City been downgraded by this Government? It would sure explain the lack of movement on the University issue. It would explain why the Government walked away from Waterford Crsytal. It would exlpain why we're on the hind tit for all and every type of investment. It would explain how the Tánaiste can come in to our city and say that the loss of Waterford Crystal is "no big deal" and why she's "not convinced" about the University arguement.

The report issued by the National Competitiveness Council states that "ensuring the long-term economic and social vibrancy of our main cities through the provision of targeted supports is essential for national and regional competitiveness". Is Waterford to be denied these targeted supports? Is the South East? The report recommends the prioritising of investment in the "Atlantic Corridor" which it describes as Galway-Limerick-Cork and the Belfast-Dublin Corridor. So it seems that the answer, as far as the recommendation of the National Competitiveness Council goes, is yes, we are to be denied that investment.

The Government is shortly to review and 'refresh' the National Spatial Strategy which was developed in 2002 and which sought to "build up a critical mass in a small number of large urban centres to enable them to drive growth in their wider regions". We must be alert to ensuring that Waterfords' designation as a Gateway City is not diluted in that review. Reports like this one give me cause to suspect that the Government is not serious about Waterfords' future.

In my experience, Government is very fond of referencing recommendations such as these when making policy decisions and it is essential that we send the message clearly that Waterford and the South East will not continue to accept standards less than those of other competing regions. Is the South East not to benefit from targeted investment? Will the development of Waterford not enhance the South East economy and indeed the economy of Ireland as a whole?

We must let organisations like the National Competitiveness Council know that we will not accept their downgrading. They have, with one swoop, completely ignored the development of the South East region with a population of almost half a million people. It is absolutley crucial that Waterford gets the investment it needs in order to drive the economic growth of this region.

This must stop now. Reports like this that exclude one city and a designated gateway, no less should be sent back to the drawing board. We must be on our guard and alert to these threats to our small, yes, but amazing city. Our people and this region deserve to be on a par with every other city and every other region.

Perhaps this report and others like it are the justification the Government is seeking. When are we going to stop accepting less and start fighting for our rights to be treated equally.
The report for anyone who is interested can be accessed at,3953,en.php

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Saddest Day

Listening all afternoon to the findings of the Report of the Commission Into Child Abuse has just been the saddest thing. How many young lives were ruined and lost. How many souls devastated and broken. How many people were thrown onto lifes dung heap and tortured, mentally, physically or sexually. How many lost sisters, brothers, sons and daughters.

How many people knew and just didn't care enough to stop it. How many people just shuffled the perpetrators around letting more innocence be taken. How many state bodies colluded by knowing that children were starved and beaten and cold and not cared for. Was it all just a money game. More children meant more money.

Those lives were broken. Some lucky few have managed to come out the other side. To regain their sanity. To rebuild their lives. But how many did not. How many died in the system. How many couldn't recover themselves and lost their lives to alcohol or drugs or depression. How many have since taken their own lives.

The numbers are so big and the obsenities so many that it is hard to comprehend the scale and the horribleness of the whole stinking sordid mess. The telling of each incident is terrible. Every small child who was beaten for wetting the bed. The older sister looking out for the smaller one. Trying to protect them from the next beating. The sheer lack of control of those who should have cared - even if only to salve their so-called Christian consciences.

This has been a black day for Ireland. One I hope we'll never have to see again. Or that our children will have have to experience again. Sometimes I despair of people and wonder how close to evilness we all really are. How little you have to scratch to see just what we're all made of. How little civilisation has done for us. Are we all savages just kept civilised by dint of being in view, as it were?

God help all those boys and girls and the years of pain and fear and terror they went through. God help the men and women they are now.

It has been a sad, sad day. Heartbreaking.
The image is just a computer picture done by my eldest daughter years ago when she was small. At least most children in Ireland nowadays grow up secure in the knowledge that they are loved and won't be dragged off to some hideous institution.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Oh Mary (Coughlan)! Why Don't You Get Some Sense?

Tánaiste Mary Coughlan was in Waterford on Friday of last week displaying in a very clear manner, the arrogance that has come to characterise Fianna Fáil in recent years and months. When asked, at the 'Innovate to Compete' conference in the Tower Hotel about the designation of WIT as a University, the Tánaiste admitted, that despite the advice of her IDA experts and officials to the contrary, she "doesn't necessarily agree with that strategy".

So, the people who are out all day every day fighting for Investment in Ireland and the South East, don't know what they are talking about when they tell her that "one of the reasons anyone would invest is if the area has a University", don't know what they are talking about. Minister knows better.

But the truth of the matter became evident when the Minister went on to state that Letterkenny wants a University! Letterkenny is a small town with an Institute of Technology in the Ministers own constituency. Letterkenny has not, nor ever has, applied for University status. But the Minister is prepared to sacrifice the futures of all of us here in Waterford and the South East and our children, despite the evidence, to quell any noises of discontent back home in Letterkenny. Despite the advice of her own IDA officials on the ground, and indeed every Industry Chief here in the region.

Is this an example of the spurious basis on which Government and Cabinet decisions are being made in this Country. Ministers are paralysed to act, even to fulfil their own Ministerial brief, even in the face of the best advice.

Minister Coughlan needs to realise that her brief is for Enterprise development in the entire State and not to keep the rest of us down so that Letterkenny won't be upset. Cork and Dublin IT's who have both written brief letters seeking designation (without any other documentation or work) are both located in areas which are already well served with Universities. Waterford uniquely has not - although the Port Report which was commissioned by the Government states that WIT is 'operating at University level' and that the case for designation deserves to be addressed by the Government.

Every independent assessment has said the same thing. But no matter. No matter what the case, or how pressing the argument, it seems that we are going to be denied by this Government because Letterkenny (which, remember, has never applied) might be unhappy. Or as the Tánaiste herself might prefer to put it: I know better than everyone.

Well, for the record, I can tell the Tánaiste and the Government that WIT is not going away and that we will not accept anything less than a University for Waterford and for this region. The IDA clearly knows we need it. In fact the dogs on the street know we need it. When will the Tánaiste and the Government realise that they don't know better than everyone else?

The sooner there's a General Election and this Government step aside a let someone else get their hand on the tiller, the better. For all our sakes. They're too arrogant. Too far removed from the rest of us. Too long in power.
And the photo? A bucketful of nothing! Just like what the Minister brought us last week!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Well Well! Auction Politics Have Begun.

I see now Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are vying with each other not to increase rates for the next however many years (depending on which party you are listening to). What a fine to-do and why are Fine Gael playing the same stupid game as Fianna Fáil?

That's great. Hold the rates if you will; as long as you replace the lost funding to run the nuts and bolts of local infrastructure that is the responsibility of Local Government with something. This, however, I suspect, is not the case.

Let me put this into perspective and argue why it is not good or responsible politics but is, in fact something which ransoms all of our futures in the name of electoral gain. Because thats the only gain in this for anybody. There's no gain in this for the man or woman in the street:

This City (Waterford) cost about €62 million to run last year. Of that, the government contributed around €8 million. The rest was raised through rates (mostly), parking and development charges. As we all know, the backside has fallen out of the development business so you can kiss any development charges goodbye. The government grant is contracting - and due to get even smaller. Now the rates promise (which by the way no party is likely to be able to implement as they aren't even running enough candidates to 'control' any councils) would likely strangle local government activity for God know how long. But sure, to national parties, Local Government is expendable.

That is until you wonder who is keeping the water running, or the waste flowing, or the traffic moving, or the roads surfaced, or the local playground in repair, or the library open, or the bins collected, or your son or daughter housed, or the flooding at bay, or the fire service on call, or the grass cut, or the streets cleaned, or the festivals funded, or the street market serviced, or the museum open, or the visitors coming to the marina, or the golf club open till dusk etc. etc. etc.

It's only when these and other services start to fall apart that we might question as to whether freezing rates is really the best thing for your environment or your community or your family. In the eighties, the Haughey Government cut 25% of hospital beds out of the system and they are still playing catch up since then, trying to plaster over the cracks. And while that no doubt, saved money in the short term, did it give us a better health service?

They are now, in the absence of plugging the gap (and if they are, then I take all this back, but somehow I can't see it happening) proposing to cut the investment of local government in all of the above mentioned services and many more. Is that a forward move? Is that going to make our enviroment better? Is that going to improve your quality of life?

In my opinion it is disgraceful, auction politics that is short-sighted and selling off your quality of life for their electoral salvation. Don't fall for it. I'm amazed at Fine Gael for dancing to this FF crazy tune. No-one wins if the city suffers and that includes businesses who think that freezing rates might be a good thing. What they may gain in one hand, they will surely lose with the other.

The photo above shows the Tall Ships visit to Waterford in 2005 which is due to return in 2011. Events like this cost money but the returns for the business community (amongst others) are enormous. We need to take a long view and invest in this and other beneficial projects for our city. Short term gain (for FF or FG) only leads to long term pain (for you) in this instance.

And anyway, it is undoable. If the City & County Managers cannot get a budget through the councils which give them adequate money to run their respective authorites, then they can simply adopt the budget over the elected members heads. (Thanks to that power being given to them by, yes, you've guessed it - central government!) So this debate is farcical on many levels.

But you don't hear the merits or otherwise debated. They'd rather hold our futures hostage - for a few desperate headlines.

Is it true? Are they all as bad as each other?

And anyway, in the current climate, rates increases may not be necessary with costs falling. Also, bear in mind that the rates in Waterford City last year were only raised by 0.6% on the insistence of the elected members in order to assist the business community. So its a moot point.

One way or another, when you read those headlines ask yourself: who gains? If its a political party, then be very suspicious indeed. Be under no illusions, their priority is themselves - and not you or your families future. Don't be fooled by the shiny lights. They're only there to distract you from the real issues. I trust and I hope that the electorate are more sophisticated than that.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ballot Paper Photo

This is the photograph that I'll be using for the ballot paper on election day. It has to be a photo taken within a year of the date of the election. For the record, mine was taken last Tuesday in a terrible rush by the ever obliging John Power.

My kids think I look a bit sad in it! (Sad unhappy - as opposed to sad pathetic, in this instance - though not always I can assure you...)

Some of the posters are using 5 year old photos so it will be interesting to see if the ballot papers are the same or comply with the rules!

St Bridgets Ward Rally Today

I attended the rally in town today organised by WCTU (Waterford Council of Trade Unions) to highlight the issue of the closure of St Bridgets Ward and to be honest I was in two minds about going. WCTU are very politically motivated and not at all neutral as they would attempt to present themselves - or at least many of them are IMHO.

Forgot the camera so no pics, sorry. But it was miserable. Pouring rain. Not a huge turnout, though respectable considering the weather. Many sitting and wanna-be politicians turned out. Even some lesser spotted Fianna Fáil candidates stuck their heads up over the parapet for while. It's a wonder they could tear themselves away from listening to the radio which, it seems to me, they have been haunting for the past few weeks.

But the most hilarious thing was the call by Dick Roche yesterday on the radio for people not to politicise the march; I mean, seriously.......Dick Roche. Pot....kettle? Wood.....trees? The man has usurped every activity of the WCTU over the past few years and claimed them all for his own personal cv. If I was a member of WCTU I'd be fairly peed off with Dick I can tell you. I actually laughed out loud! For those who don't know Dick Roche is a former Socialist Workers Party candidate, running in Waterford North. He is or was (I'm not sure) also centrally involved with WCTU.

On another point, I see Pat Ormond, another FF hopeful has an ad in the Waterford Today this week completely devoid of 'de party' logo. (See photo above). You can barely make them out on Brian Crowleys posters or leaflets either.

I wish these FFrs had the courage of their convictions.

Anyway, back to St Patricks and the march. In the end (obviously) I went. I owe it to the staff and patients. I totally agree with their stand that the new 50 bed unit should be built before any bed is closed. I too have had occasion to visit St. Patricks and a close relative of mine spent time and passed away there. But I have to put on record that I hate it when people use their elderly relatives as if they have some sort of a vote currency value in the election. It's like a poker game of "I'll see your gran-aunt and raise you my mother"! I think it's tasteless and disrespectful. The whole community needs St Patricks with as many beds as we can have, whether you have family there or not. And lets face it, we all hope it won't come to that. Not with a waiting list of over 200 and no new admissions since January anyway. It really is a disgrace.

I would also advise against the campaign associating themselves too closely with one party. It's election time and parties have ulterior motives for their support.

Unfortunately, on the St. Bridgets Ward issue I don't believe that anything anybody does will move the HSE. The march today, whether with 400 or 40,000 will make no difference to them. It's all about cost; the bottom line and I believe they will push ahead with the closure regardless of public opinion. Have they changed their minds anywhere? Any ward? Any hospital? They just trot out their '50 bed unit fantasy'.

And I note that Ms Harney has (finally) agreed to meet the local Oireachtas representatives next Tuesday. Could it be that there is an election in the offing? Some platitudes will issue no doubt to try and tide 'de party' over the line. Until after June 5th. Then they'll go the way of all other FF promises. Down the drain with the rainwater of this miserable May day. Cheers!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Fair Play to Georges Court!

I have to say fair play to Kathleen Fitzgerald and all the retailers in Georges Court who have initiated a great 'One Hour Free Parking' deal when you spend €20 in any shop in Georges Court!

Picture shows a photo taken of article in this weeks Waterford Today by John Power.

Handing In Nomination Papers

Yesterday we headed off to City Hall to lodge the nomiation papers for the Local Elections. For Independent Candidates we must either bring 15 assentors from your area to nominate you, or pay a €100 deposit.

Having brought the assentors on the last two occasions (an unbelievable hassle!) I opted for the deposit this time.

Pictured above with me are (back row) Carein Keating (my darling baby girl), Liam Keating (hubby no.1), Rose Roche (beloved mum), Liam Roche (uncle, chief supporter and campaign manager), Larry Roche (uncle and 'godamn Goddaddy' - as he puts it), Eileen Roche (aunt and only other woman canvasser besides me! Thank you Eileen!) and & Frank Roche (dad, car display chief and most faithful defender). The front row is Fergus Galvin accepting the nomination papers, Cillian Keating (no.1 and only fantastic son) and myself. (Missing is my 15 years old Ailish who was in school!)

I was the 15th candidate nominated to contest this ward (Waterford City East - formerly Ward 2) and the 30th in the city overall. Wow!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bitter Banks

It seems that the banks are very bitter. (Hence the lemons!) They have had it all their own way. Lending imprudently and without care. Constantly competing for bigger debt and projects. Not telling the truth to anyone. Not being regulated.

No-one was watching and the banks took advantage.

First they demanded and got the deposits guarantee. Then they demanded and got re-capitalisation. Now they have demanded and got NAMA. They have gotten everything. With no accountability. With no criminal proceedings instigated. With no pay consequences. With no-one to blame. "It wasn't out fault" says Dermot Gleeson of AIB at their EGM today! They still have their HUGE pay packets and sinfully large pensions.

And we took it all because we have been told that the banks are essential to keeping the economy going. Providing credit. Giving loans. Keeping the wheels of trade (i.e. cash) oiled and going.

So. The following bullet points were copied from the ISME (Irish Smals & Medium Enterprise Association) website today:

  • Bank lending crisis threatens small business viability.

  • Over half (58%) of companies refused credit by banks, up on previous survey.

  • 83% feel that the banks are making it difficult for SMEs to access credit.

  • European Investment Bank loans not being marketed.

  • The future of many companies now in the hands of errant bankers.

  • ISME calls for urgent Government action, forcing banks to free up badly needed credit.
So indeed. They are not doing that which they said they are doing. They are not lending. They are reducing over-drafts. They are, by extension, closing down small businesses and sticking a big huge stick in the spokes of the economy.

When are we going to tell the banks to go to hell. If they won't do what the economy needs, then we should do it ourselves as a nation.

My heart goes out to the small shareholders who have lost almost everything. But none of the interventions of the government have made any major difference to the share price so far. There is nothing to indicate that it will make a difference in the future.

But if the activity - or non activity - of the banks is strangling our economy, as it seems to be, then we need to loosen their grip on the economy. Thats the only way to breathe new life into it.

I have no faith in the banks. Not to bring the economy back. Not to tell the truth - not even to themselves. But sure what do they care. They're alright with their pay and their pensions. And sure it wasn't their fault anyway. Yeah!

Quayside Flood Relief Barrier

Above is a photo taken this morning of the first piece of the new Flood Relief glass barrier which is in place down by Adelphi Wharf Suites. This vital infrastructure has been some time coming but really looks beautiful, taking nothing from the view of the river or marinas which add so much to the vista of the Suir.
The work should proceed over the next weeks and months (12 months in total I am told) giving vital protection from future flooding. The work also includes the installation of special non return valves which will not allow flood water up through the storm drains - a large source of flood water onto the quay in recent incidents.
Phase 1 includes this barrier and some work on St. Johns River. Further phases (2,3,4 & 5) will commence in time providing flood barriers out to and including the Tramore Road. There is a newsletter available in City Hall for those with a keen interest in the progress of the Flood Alleviation Sceme.

Glass Industry in Waterford

Pictured above, is Sean Egan, who up until February last had worked for 35 years in Waterford Crystal. He has now set up a new business based in the Waterford Museum of Treasures at The Granary, engraving crystal.

Sean does beautiful artistic pieces, special commissions, sports trophies or personal items for anniversaries etc. You can see in the other photo above, the detail on a fantastic piece that Sean designed and made in memory of the 9-11 Twin Towers heroes.

I sincerely hope that Seans' business will take off and that there is some future for micro-crystal industries which might build up in the wake of the demise of 'the Glass'. I salute Sean, who is facing an uncertain future right now, for his bravery in taking this step and going it alone. It is a daunting task and can be a lonely one. I hope that the people of Waterford and surrounds will think of Sean and others like him and support them in their efforts both to keep some crystal related industry in Waterford and, indeed very importantly, to make a living.

I hope the tourists come in numbers to the Granary and I hope that Sean, trading as Sean Egan Art Glass can make it. It is at least good to know that there is somewhere that tourists can still see the magnificent artistry of Sean on display in the heart of the City. Sean works away all day in the (gorgeous) cafe downstairs at the Museum and his craft and skill is there for all to see.

It was a sad day for Waterford and Ireland (and an unforgivable one) when The Glass was allowed to go. I cannot understand it. Would Guinnesses have been allowed to go from Dublin? I suspect not. And why has everything gone so quiet? There is not one word about the factory, its' demise or the fate of the hundreds of men and women and their pensions or redundancy payments. I do not feel comfortable about the current state of play and feel that the workers and the city have suffered the worst possible outcome.

I regularly go out to Gatchells cafe in the Visitors Centre, and it is almost like a ghost town in comparison to the hive of activitiy it once was. The lack of a factory tour (visitors now simply watch a video in a small area where once they boarded the tour bus) has meant that the attractiveness of visiting the centre is much diminshed. It's just a shop now - although a nice one. But a shop, however nice cannot really serve as a visitor attraction strong enough to attract 300,000 visitors a year.

I hear that many tour operators are simply cancelling visits. Visits which it will be very difficult to re-instigate if and when a factory tour of some sort is ever re-introduced.

The whole issue for some reason I can't put my finger on, feels suspect to me. I can't help wondering who is benefitting from the whole sorry mess. For it certainly isn't the workers or the city. I really feel that we do not know the full story but that in time, this may emerge. I feel it in my bones, as they say.

I hope that at the very least, something good, in the form of linked industries like Seans, can grow and thrive it the wake of such a disaster. Support is what he needs. Come on Waterford, get in and support Sean, the cafe and indeed our precious and spectaular museum.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

HSE Cat Laughing?

I note the 'Cat Laughs' Festival is due to get underway in Kilkenny later on this month. I hope they have a good laugh - because someone in HSE HQ in Kilkenny (from where Waterford hospitals are managed) is having a laugh at our expense!
The HSE cannot have it both ways. It cannot use the HIQA (Health Information & Quality Authority) new standards for Nursing Homes to close beds and reduce the service in St. Patricks Hospital, while in the face of failing those standards required under the Cancer Strategy, as recently revealed, continuing to provide those services.
Those standards either have to me be met, or they don't. Two sets of standards being unmet, are dealt with in completely different ways. According to the HSE the failure to meet one set results with closure (of St. Bridgets ward). While the failure to meet the other (for Cancer Care) meets with more investment (questionable from where I'm standing but that's their claim nonetheless). Surely the Nursing Home standards should similarly illicit an investment response in order to meet them.
But of course, when there is money to be saved (despite a shocking lack of accountability in regard to the €50m lost as a result of the consultant contract) at the expense of the elderly and the future nineteen patients who might have been expected to fill those beds (from a waiting list of over 200 or so) at any one time, what does it matter. What does it matter if those high-dependency patients continue to occupy hopsital beds in acute wards; what does it matter if the type of care they require is not available in nursing homes - which are not equipped as geriatric hospitals such as St. Patricks.
I have said it hundreds of times that 'for profit' is not the correct motivation for any type of hospital care in my opinion. And the reduction in high dependency beds which the closure of St. Bridgets Ward will impose on the South East Region - in the face of nothing to replace them in the short, medium or long term, is unacceptable.
I, for one, am tired of the HSE's words, and talk, and promises. I simply do not believe or accept their word that a replacement 50 bed geriatric hospital in on the way. And even if it were, their demonstrated timescales for delivery of projects to date has been appaling. And for many elderly people, they simply do not have the luxury of time. How many will die earlier, or more uncomfortably than they otherwise might while the HSE gets its act together to deliver this unit? I would say hundreds.
And on Mr Brett, the gentleman on hunger strike up at St. Patricks. He is a brave man. A committed man and obviously, a frustrated one. He has had the courage to take action based on his beliefs. He is to be aplauded. However, his actions are not good for his own health and I worry about his mother and what him losing his health would do to her. (I am not aware of her condition.) The HSE are not worth the risk to him.
The HSE needs to be written off and consigned to the dustbin of history. It was tried. It didn't work (spectacularly). It added more beurocracy and no accountability. Anyone with any spine would send it to join the electronic Voting Machines - in extinction.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Sun Going Down on Fianna Fáil

If the reaction on the doorsteps is anything to go by, then the sun is going down on the current Fianna Fáil administration. Unless there is a miracle then I think it would be very difficult for Brian Cowen to justify clinging on to power without a mandate and after getting a trouncing from the electorate.

Yes I know its not a General Election but it is an election and one which, it seems the electorate are going to use as a means to deliver a clear message to the current Government.

As I have already stated, I believe that the Government has no mandate to govern under the current conditions. Not only that but, banking crisis aside, they are the ones who have ensured that the pain to be undergone by the Irish people is far greater than that of the citizens of any other country. We deserve our chance to send them a message and we deserve them to hear what the Irish people are saying. After all, there has been precious little listening being done by them up to now.

The arrogance with which they fritter away our money (another €50m on the Consultants contracts cock-up and yet again no-one is going to pay the price) is absolutelybreath-taking.

Other issues on the doorsteps are; Waterford Crystal and how the workers feel so let down (to put it mildly) that no-one saved their industry or their jobs; fixed rate mortgages while income levels are dropping faster than a bungee jumper - and set to drop even further in this months pay packets, while the banks are being 'saved' with our money; St Patricks hospital (closure of St. Bridgets Ward; total lack of investment in WRH and the cutbacks in front line nursing staff and others like that. None of which, it has to be said, are Local Authority issues. These are the most 'national' local elections certainly that I have experienced.

The Council members have certainly done what they can in the local media and politically but to say that we could solve any of these issues locally would be dishonest - and if anyone on the doorstep is telling you they can - ask them how? And then ask them why they haven't done it already.

All in all, the canvas is going very well, with a good reaction on the doorsteps. The next month will be hectic but hopefully it will be productive and I hope to keep representing the people of Waterford for at least anothe five years.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Hospital 'SAFE PASS' Should Be Developed

Hospital 'Safe Pass' Should Be Developed

Speaking recently to a friend of mine in the building community, he mentioned that he thought it would be a very good idea for everyone working is hospitals to get the medical equivalent of the 'Safe Pass' that construction workers need before they are allowed to even enter a building site.

Everyone who wants access to a building site must complete and acquire a 'Safe Pass' course before they can work in any way on a building site. It covers safety issues which might arise on sites and tries to equip workers with the awareness and skills to both avoid and not cause accidents on building sites (a very high risk job for work related accidents).

He suggested that anyone who wanted to work in any capacity in a hopsital, where, lets face it, infection and the spread of infection is now a very serious concern, should have to have completed and acquired a 'Safe Pass' which would teach them the special requirements to both avoid picking up or spreading infection in that sensitive environment.

It has to be asumed that medical personnel would already be aware of those requirements. But many people work in the hopsital environment whether as cleaners, porters, administration, management, catering or secretarial staff none of whom may have had any medical training.

I have to say that I thought this was a very good idea and it should be developed and introduced as one of many initiatives which will be required to eliminate the transfer of MRSA and C Diff etc. in our hospitals. At the very least, it certainly could not hurt.

I would go further I have to say. I would go as far as to say that hospital staff should not wear their hospital uniforms outside the hospital, nor should they wear their civilian clothes in the hospital. The current trend, for example of trouser hems dragging along the ground possibly carrying infections both into and out of hospital by staff must surely be a risky practice. Staff should be provided with lockers, showers and changing areas in order to reduce the risk of this type of infection as much as possible.

I would also curb visiting and visiting hours. Both on the basis of possible infection, but also on the basis that patients, by and large, need as much rest as possible. Of course for children or people who need family attendance this would be waived.

Many patients are extremely vulnerable and the trauma of additional infections and the pain and distress that this causes to both the sick and their families must be eliminated. Hospitals must make people better, not worse and I am sure that all hopsital staff would welcome anything which would make it safer for patients and indeed, for themselves.

I intend to write to follow up on this idea and suggest that the Government or the HSE might undertake to examine the possibility of introducing some kind of medical 'Safe Pass' training and certification. It would be in all our interests.

Photos shows my son Cillian during a visit to WRH a number of years ago - where it has to be said, he got excellent care.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Has George Bitten Off More Than He Can Chew?

I have to say, fair play to George Lee. He wants to be able to tell his children that he tried to be part of the solution. That's a good thing. Like a few of us, rightly or wrongly, we believe that politics can make a difference and we want to try and create that difference. So good luck to George I hope it works out for him.

I have my suspicions though, that George has opened a can of worms and I'll tell you why: the way the Dáil and Seanad are currently structured, I don't believe it is actually possible to effect any change, certainly not as a back-bencher and perhaps not even as a Minister. I think the Dáil and Seanad are out-dated, irrelevant and at this point almost totally discredited.

I think the same with the way political parties are structured. They are not structured to listen, determine and deliver as they should be in a democracy. Rather they are structured as mini-dictatorships issuing missives from on-high, where they are so far removed from the reality of peoples lives, concerns and problems, that at this stage they cannot even concieve what is happening with the very people whose concerns the are supposed to represent. Right now they are not representing the people, whatever it is that they are up to, it is not that. Every other concern, be it the IMF's, the EU's, the Banks or themselves; everything else bar the people seems to take precedence.

In the case of Fianna Fáil, if the enmity that we are picking up against them on the doorsteps transfers to the ballot box, they can expect a wipeout in the forthcoming elections, be they local, european or indeed, bye-elections. I am not yet convinced that it will transfer and June 6th (the day of the count) will tell a helluva lot.

If it does transfer, and Fianna Fáil get the drubbing at the ballot box that they are certainly evoking on the doorsteps, then in my opinion Brian Cowen is Dead Man Walking. I don't see how he could stand over that result. The main problem people have, while not liking the cuts, is not the cuts themselves. They know that whoever was in power would have to make cuts at this stage.

The problem they have with Fianna Fáil and with Brian Cowen is that they (FF) are responsible for getting us into this mess in the first place. They created the conditions for this to happen to us and never took any evasive action. Brian Cowen is intrinsically linked to this and although I am only involved in the Local Elections, they are the most 'nationalised' local elections that I have ever seen. People aren't asking by and large about local issues: they just want to know are you from Fianna Fáil and they are indicating that they will not be voting (to put it mildly) for that party.

As the saying goes.....we shall see.

And as for George? We need people of his calibre, but what capacity would he serve in Government? Richard Bruton would be seen as a shoe-in for Finance; Varadkaar in Enterprise. Would George be happy with a Junior position (they're so popular now)? What if he doesn't get elected? His credibility in returning to RTE would surely be compromised. If he was elected would he hold his seat in a General Election? Has one of the other candidates been offered a sweetener to step aside (a run at the Áras perhaps??)? Has he been promised a Seanad nomination if not?

George will have more to deal with than his (former) media colleagues, or even the electorate. Those with most to lose by his introduction will be his new Fine Gael colleagues. Are they happy to be passed over for the new boy? George might find that his worst enemies reside within the ranks of his new, rather than is old friends.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I won't be putting up posters for the Local Elections

After mulling it over for quite a while I have decided not to put up posters for the forthcoming Local Elections.

I don't believe that posters are popular with the public and as such I do not intend to erect any election posters in the run up to this years' election on June 5th.

Putting up posters has come to be seen as a defacing of public property with complaints about them increasing every time there is an election. I will have comprehensive literature with me on the canvass and I would hope that it and my track record of hard work over the last 10 years will see me through.

Putting up posters s a huge job anyway (for my dad!!!) and a thankless one. People do not want to see them on every pole.

I also welcome the new regulations limiting their use. Posters can not now be erected until May 7th, one month before the elections and must be taken down within 7 days of polling date.
Photo: You won't see me up on the poles this year!

City Centre Parking

Above is a picture of John Roberts Square in the heart of Waterford City at 9am one morning last week. Personally I think it looks very well (and very clean) and when the trees come into leaf it will green up nicely. There are plans to hold evening and afernoon events here in the summer evenings to encourage more people to come into the city centre and extend the usage to after hour times. You can see work on the new Penneys in the background. I sincerely hope that the find of the ancient burials will be dealt with sensitively and swiftly and will not delay significantly the opening of the new store. This is 'the' best location in the city IMHO (in my humble opinion) and we cannot afford to have it closed for too long.

My point is that I do now know exactly what would be achieved by allowing cars to fill the square either driving through or parking.I think it would detract from our award winning street scape and, in fact make us a laughing stock. It would be a major retrograde step.

On the price of parking. I would love to have cheaper and even a good deal more free parking in the city but for two reasons that is not practical. The first reason is purely financial. The City cost about €62 million to run last year. The central grant from the exchequer is a bit less than €8 million. The difference must be made up from rates (by far the largest contributor), parking and development charges. I'm not even including bin charges as what we raise in those charges does not even cover the cost of the collection and disposal service itself.

Waterford City Council, no more than any other Council is not a 'for profit' organisation. It is run as a public service organisation for the benefit of the local community. That means providing everything from housing to libraries; clean water to waste disposal and everything in between. We need the revenue from the parking fees in order to cover those costs. We have recently introduced the new pay and display parking machines which make it easier for people to save money on parking as they can pay for a part of an hour as opposed to having to pay for a full hour even when only staying 20 minutes for example, as was the case with the scratch card system.

We will also shortly be introducing a Visual Messaging System which is a display system telling shoppers and visitors alike how much parking is available and where. This should improve the situation drastically especially for visitors who can be directed to car parks that they might previously not have been aware of.

The other reason there isn't free parking is that, if it were free, there would most likely be no spaces for the all important shopper as they would be taken up by workers in the city centre and there just isn't enough parking to facilitate everybody all day. We are trying to encourage workers to use public transport and leave the parking spaces free for shoppers. Although we have provided a long stay/low pay car park at Millers Marsh, where you can park all day for the price of two hours. This is a much used and appreciated facility.

An independent analysis of the parking spaces available in Waterford City Centre shows that Waterford has sufficient spaces on a par with International norms. This will change for a while, if and when the KRM project goes ahead and those spaces in Newgate Street are gone for a few years. This will need an interim solution. I know there is a perception that spaces are few and far between but I always park on The Mall (about a 2 minute walk from City Square) and have never had a problem getting a space - even on Saturday afternoons. And add to that, it is a pleasant walk past the Bishops Palace with its colourful flower displays.

The cost of parking in Waterford is also comparable with other cities (we're cheaper) and in fact the one-third of city parking that is provided by the City Council is priced the same as, or cheaper than that provided by the commercial car parks - which are run by and for retailers, be that City Square Car Park or the Quay.

I know that these are very difficult times and we can and will do everything we can to maintain Waterford as a strong shopping destination. But what the City really needs more than extra parking, more than cheaper parking is the availability of larger shops, the lessening of rental on city centre shops and the delivery of a big anchor destination like the proposed Newgate Centre to attract in shoppers, leading to a higher footfall for everyone in the centre. These, unfortunately are things over which the City Council has no real control. We can only facilitiate. And we have done so. I hope that the delays in the KRM planning have not cost Waterford that attraction. I hope that the developers can, in this development unfriendly environment, find the money and the tenants to proceed. That is what would really underpin the future of Waterford as a shopping destination.