Saturday, July 25, 2009

Anti-Social Behaviour

People ring Councillors all the time about anti-social behaviour and I've been having a good old think about it of late. How to actually get rid of it - as opposed to taking steps that make it look like something is being done - setting up another talking shop for example. The problem is -and it's something that I am certainly increasingly frustrated with - that yet another committee which meets and discusses the problem achieves absolutley nothing for people who are on the receiving end of what can only be described as 'a scourge'. Empathy is not what they want. Action is what they want.

So what about the anti-social behaviour office which seeks to take proceedings against the perpetrators of anti-social behaviour through the courts with a view to either preventing those people from entering certain estates or ultimately even evicting them from their homes. While this is probably a necessary ultimate sanction that should be available - it cannot be used to the extent that it would actually eliminate troublemakers - who can be and indeed, often are, very young children.

These children and young people seem to be almost immune to any sanction. Lets face it, no judge is going to evict a family over the actions of a 12 year old. No matter how much mayhem or even genuine fear that same 12 year old might be causing. And you can't evict everyone who commits anti-social behaviour. And even if you did then they would come under the homelessness act which means you'd have a statutory obligation to house them!

What about moving those who are 'under seige'? Well in some extreme cases this is a must. But what about if you are buying your house and can't move? What if every decent family moved out and the estate was left to the thugs? Who would have won then? And lets face it, quite a lot of anti-social behaviour emantes from the houses and homes of those living on private estates, with upstanding parents. It is by no means limited to those from council estates.

The solution has to have many facets. There is no easy quick fix unfortunately but there can and should be some early wins if everyone worked together.

The Gardaí have a central role to play. I'm concious that the term 'zero tolerance' has been bandied around so much that it has lost all credibility. But I believe that the Gardaí must act decisively - even (or perhaps particularly) with the younger age group that seem to be immune to the courts. Both because they seem to be so immune and because if they don't, then the younger ones will become progressively more violent and untouchable.

The approach should be many-fold: (i) Disruption - via confiscating their alcohol (if there is any which is very often the case), (ii) Removal - taking the trouble-makers away from the location and bringing them to the Garda Station and (iii) Parental control in the form of either calling them to or bringing them to the station to collect their little darling - regardless of the time of night and the disruption this causes. Ideally then (iv) an on-the-spot fine of at least €100 each and every time there is an offence of this nature would surely make people think twice - eventually.

If every time little Johnny or Mary had their cans taken away, and themselves brought to the station for a few hours to be collected by their parents who then had to pay a fine and wait a few hours to collect him/her then I'm pretty sure both little Johnny and his parent/s would get pretty fed up pretty quickly. This approach is immediate and doesn't involve the costly and time-consuming process of going to court.

This would of course demand a lot of committment and effort from the Gardaí but it would surely deliver huge benefits for communities in this City who sometimes feel like they are under seige and that there's nothing anyone, including the Gardaí can really do to stop it.

I'm also sure that there are some out there who would continue unabated such is their disregard for society - but they would have to be pretty committed in the light of such continued disruption. Also, even for parents who would not be (shall we say) 'model parents' at least they too would be disrupted and fined and made to take responsibility however unwillingly.

Of course the whole issue of alcohol and how young people are getting their hands on it also needs to be focussed on seriously, followed up and prosecutions undertaken.

I honestly believe that consistent offenders of this type of low-level but extremely disruptive for others anti-social behaviour will, if not stopped, sooner or later migrate onto more serious crimes. They might start throwing eggs at a neighbours door or spraying grafitti on a bus shelter but before long, if they get away with that, they'll be breaking mirrors off cars, drinking, perhaps doing drugs, then stealing, hitting people over the heads, moving on to unprovoked attacks, robbery, serious crime and perhaps even murder.

I would dearly love to be able to affect real change for the people who contact me. But in reality I, like them, feel helpless to do much more than just talk, debate, suggest solutions and try to bring about a different way of doing things. But I am also aware that the Gardaí didn't just come up the river in the last canoe and that they have been trying to tackle this issue with varying degrees of success or otherwise for quite a long time - and that I am certainly no expert.

But for what it's worth, these are my thoughts. My suggestion as to how this issue might be tackled. Are the resources there to do it? Is there a better approach? What can we all do to bring about actual change?

My role, I guess is to ensure that the Council has, and implements any relevant actions that are within our control. My role is also, as I see it, to try and suggest solutions which might lead to debate and ultimately, change.

I can't police estates. I can't tackle gangs (although have been known to try!) I can't take on the bad guys - although I would dearly love to sometimes. The one thing we cannot do as a society, is ignore this problem. Too many times if we choose to look the other way then things will only get worse until it comes to virtually our own doorstep.

And then we'll wonder how the hell it got that bad.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Another Waterford Ommission

I know it's another small thing but I am getting completely paranoid about Waterford being left out of things now.

Someone rang me today, incensed, having watched the one o'clock news on RTE to see Waterford left off of another map. I've just had the chance to view it now on their website and it was a launch by An Taoiseach of an Ogra Fianna Fáil 'Holiday At Home' campaign. And yes, sure enough there are big obvious routes plotted from Dublin to Cork, Limerick & Galway but none to Waterford (the home, lets not forget of the FF Minister for Tourism. (It's the first story - where they doorstepped him for his response to the Snip report).

When will people start copping on and realise that they cannot leave Waterford off these types of promotions. Rememer Cian Foley and his campaign with TV3. What about the Forfás report on our cities as ecomomic drivers - with no Waterford in sight.

The An Bord Snip Nua report recommends stopping funding regional aiports and has negative things to say on creating any more Universities. Like the Government needed something to hide behind on that one! Tough times are ahead for us all. And for Waterford. If it was an uphill struggle before (and it was) then it's going to be almost impossible from now on!

Can Waterford Ogra please ensure that this is (a) rectified and (b) does not happen again???

See the piece for yourself at

The 'Deserving' And The 'Undeserving' Poor

It's not PC to say it but there are 'undeserving poor'. There are people who abuse the system, sub-let their Council houses, claim benefits they are not entitled to, won't work because they are too lazy, have plenty money to cover all their needs or are plain criminals.

They get the 'deserving' poor a bad name. But they are protected as much as the deserving poor - because nobody has called them out. They skew the statistics; they make the budgets bigger; they are having a laugh frankly, at all our expense, but mostly at the expense of those who can least afford it.

It is somehow not allowable to question the credentials of anyone who claims to have needs - whether or not they actually have needs or not. There are a lot of half-truths told and a lot of spinning goes on making the subject almost untouchable.

This is a destructive position to be in - as destructive in my opinion as those who are so far removed from reality that they really believe that there aren't any 'real' poor at all. That's why they can countenance taking away 5% of their income and think it's not going to make any real difference.

Now if you take away 5, 10 or even 25% of the income of someone who is earning a cool quarter of a mil a year (as, say the authors of the An Bord Snip Nua most likely are, I'm sure) then losing that proportion of your income is not real pain. Maybe you can't change the Merc this year; maybe you book one less treatment at the spa this weekend; maybe you'll skip the champagne at dinner and stick to just the wine!

But if you take away €10 from someone who is living for the entire week, on the cost of a dinner and wine for six in many Irish Restaurants, then you're talking about that making a real, actual difference.

But people who claims benefits to which they are not really entitled, or houses for which they have no real need are stealing that money from the real, deserving poor. Not from the rich.

Anecdotally, everyone you meet will have a story about someone they know who is working and claiming, or illegally renting out their council house. I, for one, don't know what the proportion would be, but again, anecdotally, it seems to be a significant number.

This means that the Social Welfare budget is significantly higher than it would otherwise be, making it a target now for cuts across the board. Cutting from those who are barely making ends meet. Cutting from those who couldn't afford to run a car; have never seen the inside of a Spa or have never bought a bottle of Champagne.

I think it is right and proper that the 'undeserving poor' are called out. Are taken out of the system and are prevented from 'stealing' from the people who really need it.

Having said that, I think it is a very dangerous game to cut the income of the many people who are, in reality, living on the breadline - or below it. Yes there are poor people in Ireland. Yes there are people who can't buy themselves a warm winter coat, children who go hungry, those who can't afford any social life. There are people who will be excluded from 3rd Level if fee's are re-introduced. There are people who will not be able to afford to pay €5 for every prescription - making them poorer, the sicker they are! This is a crazy situation.

And I know - I KNOW - about the balance of income versus expenditure and that we're simply spending more than we can afford. I just think it's pretty obvious that An Bord Snip Nua was written by an urban based, Dublin-centric, wealthy elite who are not exposed to any needs, awareness or reality other than their own.

Lets hope the policy makers (ah me!) will be more aware of the need for social justice and for being very careful about cutting the incomes of the poor, the needy, the vulnerable, the elderly, the disabled.

I blame Fianna Fail or all of this. For either deliberately, or stupidly (only two options really) leading us to this pass where we are living on money we don't and never really had.

Why do I not feel hopeful?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Throne

I should have taken a phone photo last Monday night as I'm sorry I don't have a picture to display of the art piece which it is proposed to erect at the Bilberry Road side of Rice Bridge - the location of which I am totally against (although I have no problem with the piece in another less high profile location).

Imagine, if you will, a 6 metre high (big as a house!), stainless steel bar chair - with the high legs. It has a shelf on either side of the chair which is laden down with various types and shapes of bottles (stainless steel also I guess). At the moment it seems to be titled 'The Throne'. A fine piece, no doubt to commemorate the brewing activity which has taken place in our city over generations. No problem there.

Where I begin to have a problem is with locating this sculpture at the entrance to our city - in an extremely visible and prominent place which will no doubt make a statement about the city and how we see ourselves and how we want others to see us. And for me, this sculpture is not that piece.

Outside of this entirely I also have a problem with how the piece was selected - to the exclusion of the elected members of the Council and through them, the public.

Now before you go commenting that art is subjective and meant to stimulate debate or that I'm an old fogey or a tree-hugger or what-not; or even that I should have better things to be worrying about; please don't. I'm not and I have. But the small things make up the big things and I don't think the people of Waterford would thank us if we allow this to go ahead. I think the Council would be ridiculed by the Waterford public and I think the people of Waterford would be ridiculed by visitors to our city.

So, for what it's worth I will objecting to this particular piece in this particular location. If I can get a copy of the sculpture I will post it here and you can let me know what you think.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cruising On The Shannon

Just back from a great week cruising on the River Shannon. I must say we all really enjoyed it. It was our first time starting so far up on the river - at Athlone and we went north through Lough Ree and up as far as Rooskey in County Leitrim. Weather surprisingly was fine with a few exceptions. We visited Quigleys Marina in Glasson, Coosan Point, Manfreds (what a steak!), Tarmonbarry, Lanesborough and Rooskey. It's a really relaxing holiday.

Our lakes and waterways are a fantastic asset that probably should be exploited more by our own population. There is no shortage of Dutch and German people holidaying on the Shannon but comparatively few Irish people. Although I think -despite prices having come down - it is still pretty overpriced.

Unless we had borrowed a boat (thanks Matt & Carrie!) we probably couldn't have managed it this year.

Checking out the websites (just Google Shannon cruising) and it seems to be an average of €1,500 to €2,700 to hire a good sized boat (sleeping 6-8) for a week. You could take the whole family to a guaranteed sun location with flights, accommodation and full board for that - for a fortnight! Also remember that that doesn't include either insurance, or breakages deposit (around €800!!!!) or diesel, or berthage in commercial marinas, or any meals, or food, or transfers (if you need them) - not so much as a pint of milk on board for you.

This pricing puts it beyond the range or interest of most people despite it being a really enjoyable holiday, with the additional benefits to the economy of our money staying at home and the additional spend in the shops, pubs and restaurants in small towns along the river bank.

Anyway, all that aside; we really enjoyed it. We left a few tourist euros along the way and we will be back to explore even further north sometime.

Photo shows Cillian (my middle one!) in the orange lifejacket feeding the ducks at Athlone Marina - an activity of which he never tired. We didn't tell him, poor soul, about the duck on the menu in all the restaurants every evening! LOL

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Best Things About Waterford

In response to a comment received on an earlier blog (thank you) I have decided to start a list (not exhaustive by any means) of all the positive things about Waterford City. I'm going to limit it to physical things in the city (as opposed to events like Spraoi or Tallships etc, or proximity to sea/mountains or even the friendliness of the people etc.).

And yes, I know the City is not perfect by a long shot and yes I will be doing everything in my power to tackle each and every problem but I agree with the comment received that we also need to be positive.

Please feel free to add to this list via your own comments or you can email me at and I will add them in.

1. Our Quays
2. The City Centre Marinas
3. The Millennium Plaza
4. Reginalds Tower
5. The Peoples' Park
6. Railway Square Park (pictured above)
7. The City Walls & Towers
8. Geoffs Bar
9. The Book Centre
10. The River Walk on the Dunmore Road
11. The cherry blossoms on The Mall in springtime
12. Waterford Museum of Treasures
13. John Roberts Square
14. Christ Church Cathederal
15. Hillside walk at Bilberry/Gracedieu
16. Regional Sports Centre
17. The new bypass Bridge
18. Garter Lane Arts Centre
19. Greyfriars Gallery
20. The Chamber of Commerce Building
21. The stony steps

As I said, this is just a first attempt so, come on Waterford - what do you like about our city?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Emmigration Returns

It is a sad fact of life that once again emmigration appears to be returning to our country. I'm not talking about gap years or enriching ones life with travel but the enforced decamping of our most educated and talented to other countries. I spoke to someone as late as today who is heading off to Canada (pictued above) before the end of the year and is currently in the middle of the application process.

This person is fully qualified with an honours degree and no prospect at all of a job here - or even the opportunity to get experience. She has been qualified for over a year with no work forthcoming at all in that time. She detailed for me her former student colleagues and their subsequent worldwide travels in search of that elusive job. She, and they will be a loss to this country. We educated them and now we will not benefit as a country from that investment. At least they go well prepared for good jobs and will make a fantastic contribution to whatever country is lucky enough to get them.

I was listening to Vincent Browne the other night and he suggested that, global economic downturn aside, Irelands' current predicament could in fact be laid at the door of about 20 people. Twenty people! That's extra-ordinary.

Maddeningly, those 20 people it seems, have gotten off scott free with big pensions, big pay-offs, big houses and no worries about the recession. How can this be right? My suspicion is and always has been that there is a small 'you scratch my back and I'll scratch your back' clique in Dublin that includes politicians, bankers, regulators and various FF groupies who all look out for each other, who sit on boards, who cover the governments ass and who in turn, have their asses covered by government. They know where the bodies are, collectively and they aren't telling - as long as they're all looked after.

I'm sure if you were to conduct an assessment of who is on national boards, there would be a pretty small amount of people filling quite a few places all drawn from the same gene pool. Each one on a number of bodies (a sizeable majority from Dublin I would hazard). The same people sitting on conflicting boards perhaps? All with a nice little stipend thank you very much. And no consequences when anything goes wrong.

So while the fatcats sit comfortably, not worrying too much about being tied into fixed rate mortgages, being unaffected by levies or paycuts, not at risk of being cast onto the dole queue after decades of hard-work and service, unconcerned how they are going to find work at their age to put food on the table, while others are left to once again walk the emmigration plank.

It's a sad old state to be in to be sure. I wished my friend good luck with her job search across in Canada. Who knows if she will ever return or live here again.

I wonder will any of those 20 people be forced to emmigrate - or any of their families. Most likely they would be looked after by the old boys network. That's how Ireland works.

One way or another things aren't looking too good for the next, oh I don't know, decade or so at least. I wonder if the generations who emmigrate bewteen now and then will know or care who is or was to blame for their forced departure.

Personally at the moment I don't see where this is going to 'bottom out' or where those much sought after green shoots are going to come from. Must watch Vincent again tonight and see if he comes up with any answers - or at least, a few names we can hang this on!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Late Liam Curham & Tony Weldon

Two Waterford greats passed away on Sunday last: two time Mayor of Waterford City Liam Curham and the one and only Tony Weldon.

Both were geat men in their own ways and made two distinct but equally valid and lasting contributions to their city and their legacies will last a long time.

I was privileged to have known both of them. Tony through my work in WLR fm many moons ago and Liam - initially when, as President of the then WRTC Students Union, he agreed as Mayor to meet us when we went out on strike for three days! I think he spent the whole meeting trying not to laugh. I have good memories of both of them. They were good men, very droll and very wise in their own unique way.

My sympathy goes to their families and friends.

The bed of heaven to both of them - and in Tony's case, I hope he doesn't spend too long "in the feathers".

We won't see their like again.

God rest their sweet souls. RIP

Congratulations Dunmore East

Congratulations to all involved in last weekends Festival of Fun, Food & Fish in Dunmore East. It is great to see all the businesses in the village pulling together and attracting the crowds. Dunmore East is, in my opinion, the prettiest little village this side of the Mississippi and needs nothing more than a little innovation of this type to continue to attract tourists and visitors and to thereby thrive long onto the future. Everything is there, hotels, bars, restaurants, parks, walks, busy beaches, secluded coves, woodland, shops, tennis courts, adventure centres...everything - including a gem of a playground for the small people.

The only thing that bothers me is the disgraceful state of the road covering on the Dunmore East road in the vicinity of Bell Lake. It is a bad as that excuse of a covering that was put on the Tramore Road last year and which now has bollards and warning notices alerting people to it. But there is not a whisper about the Dunmore Road.

It is an awful pity and one that I hope will not remain for too much longer. So come on Waterford County Council. What's the story? Get your act together on this one. Resurface the Dunmore East and Tramore roads immediately.