Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Shooting Ourselves In The Foot AGAIN

Am I the only person who thinks that when Jack Burtchaell - who won a recent Tourism award, had a rant (covered extensively in the local media) about the drunks in Waterford the only thing he achieved was shooting himself, his own business and every other tourism related business in Waterford, right bang in the foot?

I'm not going to repeat the bulk of his arguments here - suffice to say that they covered things like graffiti and drunks. Now whether he's wrong or right isn't my point, for the moment. My point is that what he did was counter-productive and destined to damage his own business!

On a related matter - to claim that tourists, particularly American, have never seen graffiti or drunks is testing credibility somewhat. But that's neither here nor there. It all amounts to Waterford people taking the wrong route, highlighting negative things about the city (which believe me is no worse than any other Irish City and in my opinion is far better) and doing damage to us all and to our futures in the process.

When are we going to learn? When are we going to stop throwing out the baby with the bath water? When are we going to become part of the solution? When are we going to put our brains in gear before we kick our mouths into action?

This type of action could really be defined as sabotage - but the real irony is that its not anyone else sabotaging our city or our product, it's self-sabotage.

Jack Burtchaell runs a fantastic Walking tours of Waterford business - built out of his own extensive knowledge and innovation. Fair play to him. But I have spoken to other people in the tourism business here in Waterford who are most upset at his comments and who are not and never have been affected by either drunks or graffiti.

Surely it would have been better for Jack to use the opportunity to promote his own business and Waterford - which may not have received the same covergage perhaps - but neither would it have had the same potential for damage.

It's just my opinion - but there y'go.

Photo shows a lively and active John Roberts Square

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Natural Burial Ground For Waterford?

Above is a photograph of something that is not yet available in Ireland - a Natural Burial Ground. Perhaps with the imminent development of the Citys' new graveyard at Kilbarry we have an opportunity to have one in Waterford.

During the Election Campaign I had an email on this issue and found it intriguing. I have put down a motion for debate at City Council requesting that part of the new graveyard at Kilbarry might be used for this purpose.

I am reproducing here the details of the information which was sent to me on this subject which you might be interested in:

A natural burial ground is one where instead of placing a more traditional headstone one has an option to plant a tree or a bush or simply some wild flowers. Over time a copse is created. Trees are normally planted at a ratio of one per grave and it is preferable to plant native species which reflect what is already growing in the surrounding area. Tree planting is often incorporated into significant social occasions and the tree planting could form part of the burial ceremony. In England there are now over 200 natural burial grounds and most are woodland burial grounds. Recently, a lot of attention was given to the celebrity Jade Goody who chose to be buried in Epping Forest Woodland Burial Park.

Increasingly people are looking at more environmentally sustainable alternatives to current or traditional approaches and this includes burial practices. Indeed natural burial has been one of the fastest growing environmental movements when one considers that the first natural burial ground in the UK was opened in only 1993 in Carlisle cemetery and now there are over 200.

The creation of a natural burial ground within the proposed new cemetery would offer choice to members of the public. For those who would prefer to rest in a place that embraces nature and the natural processes of death, a place where their loved ones could come to visit and enjoy, natural burial has much to offer. Those who would prefer a more conventional burial are of course also accommodated.

I understand that the cemetery is to be opened in two phases and that a wall or other structure will be erected to demarcate the areas of phases I and II. I would humbly suggest the erection of a beautiful polished wall of remembrance where families could pay to have the names of their deceased loved ones engraved at a nominal cost. Alternatively a discreet plaque could be placed on the grave with the name of the deceased.

For those seeking to remember their loved ones with a piece of art, an option could be given to allow (subject to obtaining planning permission) the commission of a piece of naturalistic sculpture or a piece of furniture such as a memorial bench which could be then used by visitors. Where concern lies around the identification of unmarked graves, electronic global positioning technologies could be used (and are used already in other natural burial grounds).

There is a lot of information on this issue on the 'net. Perhaps, dear reader, you might be kind enough to let me know what you think of this idea?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Disgusting Poo Problem

Dog poo, doo doo or whatever you want to call it - is now a big problem in Waterford. Why do people insist on leaving their dogs droppings all over pathways where people walk, children go to school, tourists visit, prams are rolled and children play?

This is an issue that I highlighted on my Election Literature as one which, quite simply, must be tackled. I got an email today from Oliver Dempsey congratulating me on my election and saying nice things about this blog. I had a look at Olis' blog (http://www.olidempsey.blogspot.com/) and this is also an issue (among others) which Oli has an interest in solving.
It is also one of the issues that was raised by Voice of the Young earlier this year when they presented to the City Council. I promised the young people I would try to tackle the problem.
The first thing I must say is that primary responsibility rests with dog owners. The minority of the dog owners of Waterford who show, by their action in leaving their dogs poo on our paths, how little they give a s**t about the rest of us! (Quite literally). Let me say before I go any further that I know there are many responsible dog owners out there who would not dream of leaving this mess on our streets and are very quick and discreet in getting rid of 'it'.
My own son goes to Newtown Junior School on Passage Road where there was a very bad poo problem. I won't go into too much detail but suffice to say that new offerings were on the path every morning right outside the school gates - often in a condition to indicate that whatever the dog had eaten certainly didn't agree with him!
The school tackled the problem directly, but also subtly, with colurful and clear posters drawn and printed up by the children and placed profligately at eye level on every pole along the pathway with various obvious messages on everything from the health risks to the smell to the inconvenience! Whatever walker was responsible clearly got the message and the poo problem has cleared up for now. Although I suspect this might simply be due to the dogs' walking route being changed as opposed to the owner cleaning up after him as he or she should.
I have been wondering about solutions to this problem - and postering certianly did work in this case - when I came across the two photos (and many more similar) on the internet. It seems we are not the first to experience this problem! And we don't have to invent the solution either.
Signage exists - as do various deisgns of Pooper Scoop dispensers. I thought the one above was the neatest. It's from Singapore if you're interested.
This type of signage and dispensers must be placed liberally around our city particularly in the suburbs and along popular walking routes. At least then owners would have no excuse and members of the public might be less inclined to accept dogs pooing on our paths.
I intend to raise this issue at the City Council until some action is taken. After all, even if you put aside the visual and nasal effects (ew) - there are very serious health implications.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Three Things That Bother Me About Breastcheck

There are three serious problems with Breastcheck that are bothering me at the moment. All are big issues and all need to be looked at with a fresh perspective.

The first, and most obvious, is simply that Breastcheck is still not available in Waterford. I remember when ex-Councillor Mary O'Halloran was our citys' first Lady Mayor she had a face to face meeting with the Minister for Health (at the Ministers own request) and was promised that Breaskcheck would be delivered that year. That was a long time ago. Needless to say the date came and went and still no Breastcheck. It was not the first or last promise broken in relation to the date for delivery of Breastcheck to the women of Waterford.

I would like to take this opportunity to commend Mary who during her entire term as a Councillor, along with other Council members, worked hard on and brought focus to this particular issue. It is a pity that she gained no electoral advantage herself for that work but at any rate I know that was not her motivation. I also know that as a private citizen she will do all she can to continue to support and assist in the delivery of the Breastcheck service to Waterford.

I am calling now on the Minister for Health, not only to deliver Breastcheck to Waterford but to initiate an investigation into why the service can have been promised so many times only for those promises - including her own - to be broken. This is not an acceptable position for the women of Waterford to be in and needs immediate and urgent attention.

The second thing that bothers me about Breastcheck, is that in advance of its delivery to Waterford, routine screening of women - especially those at high risk of breast cancer - is no longer carried out in WRH. That means that women whose mothers or sisters may have had breast cancer, thereby increasing the likelihood that they may get the disease, can not avail of screening.

A woman now has to present with an actual or suspected lump in order to receive a test. This is surely a retrogressive step and one which endangers the lives of many or our sisters, mothers, grandmothers, daughters, wives, partners, aunts, cousins and friends. Instead now of perhaps preventing or detecting breast cancer very early on, women must actually have discovered a lump in order to receive a mammogram.

This situation simply has to end and in advance of the delivery of Breastcheck (and God knows at this stage when that will come) a programme must be made available at the very least, for women at high risk, whereby they can be screened regularly.

The final thing that bothers me about Breastcheck is that, even if it were delivered in the morning, it would not be available to my mother. My mother is a healthy, vibrant 67 year old woman. Breastcheck is not available to women after the age of 64. This is a disgrace. It is discriminatory, ageist, sexist and in my opinion it should be illegal.

Only today I heard a call on the News at One for a Colo-rectal Cancer screening programme to be introduced for those up to 75 years of age. This is of course an excellent suggestion. Yet a cancer that affects almost exclusively, women, can only be screened up to 64 years of age. How can this be? Are women over 65 years somehow less valuable to society or less worth investing in than those under 64?

I am calling - no demanding - for this upper age limit for Breastcheck screening to be raised substantially. We, as a nation should not accept the notion that women over 64 are somehow less valuable than younger women. The average lifespan for a woman in Ireland today is well over eighty years long. It is not equal treatment for women in the last 20 years of their lives to be simply left without a screening programme.

Our over 70's displayed their unity of purpose and strength when it came to the medical card issue. Well here in another issue that also affects them directly and also needs fighting. It is a direct discrimination of women aged 65 and over, nothing more and nothing less. I hope that this fight will be taken up by the media and championed by the very same groups who sought and received concessions on the medical card issue.

Why should they accept this lesser treatment on the basis of age? The answer is: they should not.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Time To Reinvigourate University Campaign

In case anyone thinks that this one is going away - it is not. I am renewing my call for the Government to immediately designate WIT as the University of the South East. We now know (thanks to Ms. Coughlan) that the Ministers' own industry advisers aka the IDA are in favour of that designation and that the only reason for not moving, is parochialism.

I am calling for all lobby groups to re-activate and re-start the campaign with a new vigour. Once again the Government is attempting to fob us off with yet another interim group to assess 3rd and 4th level education in Ireland. How many times do we have to jump these manufactued hurdles.

The University Act is there. The process is laid out. WIT has made a substantial submission justifying our case. It is up to the Minister for Education to act and to quit the prevarication in the hope that we will all go away or give up.

We are not going away. We are not giving up. We need to continue to act to ensure that the Government does its job. Lets all keep pushing them. Lets find our voices again.

Come on Batt. Step front and centre and do your job. Get on with it now. Or do we have to wait for the run up to the next General Election for more empty promises (as those given by Bertie the last time) to keep us on the hook?

Wake up Waterford. This is the most important issue facing us and we've gone quiet on it. I know its hard when we seem to be getting knocked back all the time. But the delivery of a University would literally underpin the future of the entire South East Region.

We are Irelands' oldest and noblest City. We are a proud people and we are not taking NO for an answer. The sooner the Government realise this, the better. But we've got to mobilise again.

So come on, pick yourself up, dust your petitions off and lets keep the pressure on. Lets build up a momentum that is unstoppable. I don't see why we shouldn't. I don't see why we can't. I don't see why we should let them silence us. They can't win - it's just too important.

Designate WIT now!
Designate WIT NOW!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Limit Premium Phone Service 'Sharks'

Everything is proportionate. Losing a million would knock most of us out. But not if you've got a billion. At the other end of the scale losing €2,000 can knock you out if you are living with just enough income to pay your way. Why then, are phone services companies allowed to literally fleece people - often taking those kinds of sums and more - in a totally legal way?

I am talking about premium phone line services which are very misleadingly advertised. Why do the advertising standards authority allow these phone 'draws' for example to advertise entry to their competition with a 'FREETEXT' voiceover, while in tiny writing sometimes not even legible to those of us with 20/20 vision, the true price is flashed on screen?

It would be easy to assume you are entering a free draw - unless you can read the small print.

The small print can indicate a cost of anything from €2.50 for 'textbacks' to €6 every 5 days etc.etc. This means they text you back - as many times as they like until you text back stop. Now while I have a problem with this type of service per se (I think they are sly, dishonest and badly regulated) I realise that many people like to take part. My point is that the true cost should be voiced in and obvious. Texters should know what they are getting themselves into upfront. Not in some miniature writing flashed onto the screen, in an obvious attempt to mask the real cost or to make it extremely difficult to even see.

This leads me on to other premium phone services advertising psychics, friendship or even relationships. Again in my experience the people who ring for these services are vulnerable. Some have been bereaved. Some are lonely or even depressed and ill.
Yet they are preyed upon by these phone line services who promise advice and friendship while all the while merely running commercial operations designed to keep callers on the line for as long as possible, thereby ensuring their own coffers swell while the callers can see themselves left with huge phonebills which they can end up having no way to pay.

I believe that these services again should 'say what they are'. They should not be allowed make false claims of having psychics, or single guys and girls and they should be sold as the 'entertainment services' that they are.
There should also be limits on what they can charge in any phone-billing two-month period. Some people need to be protected from phone sharks preying on their lonliness, need or lack of self-confidence. Some commercial operations should be limited in their ability to literally put their hands into the purses and pockets of the vulnerable.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Keep It Up!!!!

To everyone who has been emailing, calling and texting their congratultions and good wishes - thank you very much and keep up the good work! I appreciate your comments as much as I did your vote!! I hope you get all that good karma is returned to you in spades.
Thanks again.

Vovlo Ocean Yacht Race Versus Tallships

It was impossible while over at the ship last Friday not to worry somewhat about the state of the North Quays (see above). With the Tallships 2011 Festival just 2 years away and no sign of any development happening there in the short, medium or long term - and its' continuing deterioration - including the quay wall where ships berth, I wonder how much it will cost to remediate this area to make it safe for ships and the public for this event? It is an awful shame that the North Quays were unable to proceed when cash was flowing. No use crying over spilled milk I suppose.

That leads me onto the visit of the Volvo Ocean Yacht race to Galway for the past two weeks - which, while a great event cannot compare in spectacle to the Tallships. Galway, it is reported saw an influx of 4-500,000 visitors over the two weeks and received €8m (yes, eight million euro) from the Government towards the hosting of this event.

Now the Tallships in 2005 in Waterford brought that many visitors to our city in just 3 days and the Government investment was much, much, MUCH less! As was the media coverage - with some notable exceptions.

I know it seems mealy minded but am I wrong is suspecting that Waterford is not getting a fair crack at the whip either financially or in terms of media coverage from our wonderful festivals and events? Will there be such a hoo-ha when the Tallships return here in 2011?

And if not, why not? Could it be because there simply aren't enough Waterford 'ambassadors' in the civil service and media institutions? Could this be because a journalism degree is not available in the South East? Could it be because we have traditionally had such a strong manufacturing offering that our best and brightest stayed here and worked rather than went to 3rd level and from there into the Civil Service in Dublin or into the national media?

Whatever it is, there can be no doubt but that there is a plethora of Galway people in both areas and a lack of Waterford people.

Of course, there is no doubt but that a University in Galway makes a huge difference as well. Another reason (as if we needed one) to continue the fight amidst increasing diffidence from the current Government, for the designation of WIT as a University.

Ah yes! It's good to be back. The fight goes on......

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Nice View

While I'm at it......it's not too often we see two Tallships in our City (not until July 2011 anyway when several more should be berthed there!) so here's a photo I got on Friday evening. It's taken from the North Quays through the mooring rope of the Stavros S Niarchos showing the Tenacious making her way up river on a beautiful sunny evening.

A Long Battle - But We Made IT!

It has been a long two days. Fifteen hours yesterday with a recount called at midnight. That meant another 6 or so hours today. But it has been worth it. I got elected to the fifth seat (of six) in this ward.

I would like to commiserate with my former colleagues Mary O'Halloran, Joe Kelly and Tom Murphy who all lost seats. All were disappointed but dignified. I would like to congratulate all who got elected, old and new and all who ran. It can be a pretty bruising affair and it's not an easy decision to put yourself in for that kind of scrap.

We're back to just one woman on the Council again unfortunately. A backwards step in my opinion. But as ever it is up to the voters and we must accept their decisions.

To Liam and Liam (husband and uncle), to Dad & Mum, to Kevin, to Larry, to Eileen, Annabel, Frances and Ailish (who cleaned the whole house AND babysat last night!!) a BIG thank you. You have been a great support all through the campaign and in the last few days.

To everyone who helped, haggled and made it happen, thank you. To everyone who voted for me - especially the number 1'ers - thanks a million. I hope that I can continue to deserve your vote for the next 5 years.

Please feel free to contact me by e-mail, thru this blog or on the telephone.

Now. The washing machine is mid-cycle. The oven has a casserole in it. The voice is still gone. But normal life is returning slowly. I enjoyed the campaign but I am glad that it's over!

Thanks again.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Please Use Your Vote

Waterford is a great little city. It offers a great quaity of life from pre-school to St. Patricks Hospital, from night-life to leisure centres, from parks and playgrounds to libraries and museums. The motorway is coming and that will change our perception and opprtunities.

Whatever you think about Waterford, good or bad, please take the opportunity afford by our democratic society to cast your vote. Whether you vote for me or not, please get out and exercise your franchise.

Each of us are equal at the ballot box. We have one vote, no more and no less. And those of us who put our names forward for election, do so at the complete discretion of the voter. Whether you think we have represented you to the best of our ability or not is now up to you to reward or punish.

To my Council colleagues, to a man and woman I wish them all good luck. They have been a pleasure to work with for the past 5 or ten years (depending on when they were elected). To new candidates I say well done for making the decision to throw your name into the pot. It takes a lot of guts.

Saturday will be an interesting day that will decide many futures. Some will be delighted. Some will be devastated. This can be a cruel business and I can still recall the upset on the faces of former colleagues from this day 5 years ago. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy - much less on people with whom I had served on the City Council and whom I respected for their personal committment to the city.

But that's politics and you have to accept whatever the voters decide. So please: if you want to have a say in the future of Waterford; if you want to make a difference; if you respect democracy and the people who fought for it PLEASE come out on Friday and use your vote.

Thank you.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

It's a Long Way to Come to Vote!

Pictured above is the sail training ship Stavros S Niarchos which is currently sailing to Waterford en route from La Coruna in northern Spain, where Liam joined her last Friday. He is heading up here to cast his vote on Friday, poor soul, probably in the knowledge that if he didn't there could be trouble!!! LOL. Well every vote counts you know.

Stavvie (as she is affectionately known) is the sister ship of the Prince William which Liam skippered into Waterford for the Tallships Festival in 2005 - but which sadly, is currently for sale.

Hopefully a fair wind will see them alongside in Waterford on Friday morning, departing again on Saturday morning. For anyone who is interested you can track the ships' location and find out more about sailing on board at http://www.tallships.org/.

Fianna Fáil and Developers

Before he is even elected I see a local Fianna Fáil candidate Gary Wyse is firmly aligning himself with developers. In todays Munster Express he has come out supporting the Marks & Spencer development on the Airport Road as "part of the solution" to the city centre.

Now even if you ignore previous unholy alliances between developers and Fianna Fáil, surely when Mr Wyse has heard only one side of the arguement - i.e. the developers side - he is not in a position to make an informed judgement.

It is interesting to note that practically all of Mr Wyses' city centre retail colleagues are very much against the location of Marks & Spencers anywhere other than in the heart of the city. As are the Chamber of Commerce and their Retail committee.

Developers will promise us the earth, moon and stars. They will even lead you to believe that they want to 'support' Waterford and 'underpin' the primacy of the city centre. When what they are really interested in is maxmising their own profits. Politicians, you would have thought might - having been burned by this type of association before - have learned their lesson. The public has certainly learned this about developers and Fianna Fáil.

At the moment I remain unconvinced by the Marks & Spencer arguement - even with a 'food store' in the City Centre. Lets face it: fewer and fewer people go into the City Centre for food shopping any more. And would Mr Wyse be happy if the location of M&S in the suburbs, cost us, say Debenhams and/or Penneys in the heart of the City? I cannot accept that M&S would refuse
a city centre location on the never never promise of a site that is not zoned for their type of activity. Even if the site was re-zoned (which I can't see happening) I doubt it would get through An Bord Pleanála!

If they (Marks & Spencer) want to sell to Waterfords' large shopping population (and we DO want them here) then they can agree tomorrow - even today - to come to a properly zoned and ready to go, with full planning permission already received, large shopping mall, right in the heart of the city. That's a win for all of us.

As for Fianna Fáil? Perhaps they will never learn.

Dishonest Fianna Fáil Election Promises

Copy of Press Release Issues to Local Radio Today:

"Fianna Fáils promises of recent days are merely a repeat of undelivered promises already made in the run up to previous elections", claims Independent Waterford City Councillor Mary Roche. "These have all already been welshed upon by Fianna Fáil and they have a cheek rolling them out again," she says. "Do they really believe that the electorate will fall for them again?" she asks.

I would caution people not to take any Fianna Fáil promises whether on University designation for WIT, or anything else too seriously, said Roche - as the electorate know well, we have heard those promises before and they have lain undelivered to this day.

Listing undelivered promises by Fianna Fáil, Cllr Roche cited public radiotherpay at Waterford Regional Hospital, University status and the delivery of Breastcheck as the most important and dishonest.

She urged the electorate not to believe current promises by Fianna Fáil who were in a desperate dishonest fight to salvage this election. "I would just ask people to examine their promise versus delivery ratio on the issues mentioned above," she said.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Size Matters

As everybody can tell you - size matters. When talking cities that is. Waterford is too small we're told. Well only if you follow outdated administrative boundaries that artifically limit they way you count the figures.

There's a new measure out - the Gateways Development Index (GDI) and in it, Waterford fares as the worst of the cities under all the markers. Now I can understand it on the educational index. We don't have a University. Full stop. And as long as this incompetent Government continues, it seems at this stage that we won't. But those days are numbered (if I'm to believe the electorate on the doorsteps). Friday will tell a lot.

But on the other measures I cannot see why Waterford does not score more highly. The only reason it seems to me, is size. We aren't big enough.

If 'Waterford' included populations on its verges - although not within city boundaries - and populations in the dorimtory towns surrounding us like Tramore, Dunmore East, Portlaw and South Kilkenny, we would be in the running, size wise, to compete. But no, we must labour under useless, ancient, meaningless borders and as a result, the whole region is held up. Because less numbers attracts less investment on every front from both National or International sources.

I hear every day, calls from politicians in the South East saying that we need to work together. When you read between the lines, what they really mean is that their little town or village or whatever should not suffer at the expense of Waterford City. If we are truly to grow as a region then I'm afraid the simple truth is, that investment simply does need to be concentrated in the City. But you will never get a consensus for that. And the way local authorities break down numbers-wise, Waterford City has very few in comparison to Kilkenny County Council or Wexford County Council, or Tipperary or Carlow. And certainly cannot counter-act them all together - even if Waterford County Councillors would support this premise (and they don't).

I have always thought that the East of the County, from aboout Portlaw eastwards should be a part of suburban Waterford. Adding in those towns would certainly give us the numbers - even if no-one is ever, ever going to be brave enough to take the right decision and extend our boundary into South Kilkenny (even on paper - while allowing the old traditional boundary to stand for all other purposes).

The National Spatial Strategy (for what it's worth at this stage) prioritised Waterford City saying that development in this region needed to be concentrated here. This, however is anathema to those in Kilkenny or Dungarvan or Wexford or Clonmel - or even Tramore. Short of pricking holes in the condoms sold in the city (LOL), unless and until we are allowed to count those people actually living in the city environs and dormitory towns, we are never going to have the population to justify the type of investment we deserve and need. Is anyone ever going to be brave enough to tell our neighbours the truth? And are they ever going to listen? Not IMHO.