Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Senator Ted Kennedy RIP

The photograph above of myself and Cllr Hilary Quinlan was taken in Senator Ted Kennedys' office in Washington. As you can see it was something of a shrine to the Kennedy family and indeed, their Irish heritage.

I was saddened today to hear the Senator Kennedy passed away last night. Although I shook hands with the man I didn't know him - although like others I am aware of his interest in and work on behalf of Irish immigrants in the US and indeed his tireless support for Ireland and all things Irish.

His was a long and distinguished career, sometimes in the shadow of unbelievable tragedy as when both his brothers fell to assassins bullets.

May he rest in peace.

Swineflu Pandemic

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a fairly level-headed person, not inclined to panic. But I have to say that I am increasingly questionning what the hell is going on with the swineflu 'pandemic'.

This issue hadn't caused me much concern over the ordinary until my eldest woke me the other night with a sore throat and a temperature and in a panic worrying "has anyone who has gotten swineflu lived?"!!! Turns out is wasn't swineflu and even if it was we had the paracetemol, the sponging down and the plenty liquids remedy plus lots of reassurance about how almost every one of the hundreds of thousands who had swineflu did indeed live! (Then why is there all this talk about swineflu deaths on the radio she wanted to know...)

So, with two of mine heading back to school in the next few days I have been listening and looking for the advice which amounts to: schools will open as normal with special precautions being taken. This amounts to children being asked to sneeze into tissues, then dispose of them and wash their hands in warm, soapy water. Now I wonder how feasible this is for a start.

Secondly, we have been told that children are amongst the most vulnerable of groups due to their lack of immunity which seemingly builds up over the course of your life. Thirdly, we hear that the swineflu vaccine has not been tested on children (how could it have been validly tested on anyone in such a short time I'd like to know?) And finally we are being told that this is no worse than ordinary flu. And I'll give you that - except that 1 in three of us are expected to get it.

And I am asking myself if I should really be sending my children into what is a veritable smelting pot of all known illnesses, where we already acknowledge that once they go to school, they 'pick up everything'.

I am telling myself that if I were the HSE population health experts I would be saying the same things as they are now: continue as normal; no need to panic. But then if I were a HSE population expert I would have a slightly different imperative than I have as a concerned mother. That probably being the greater good. But as a mother, my concern is very narrow: for my children, individually. And I have to say that I am not convinced that what is for 'the greater good' is actually the best thing for my children.

In truth I will probably send them to school - but at the first sign of or report of a sniffle....well, my resolve might start to wane pretty rapidly. I will be interested to see how the 'advice to schools' is implemented. Meanwhile I will be packing tissues into their schoolbags in the (vain I suspect) hope that they will use them. We shall see how this all pans out. Something tells me that the merdre (as the French say) is about to hit the fan on this one as soon as the schools re-open.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Non Alcoholic Drinks in Pubs

It is a small issue but one that annoys me no end - the lack of availability of non-alcoholic drinks in pubs. Now I have recently (don't ask me why or how I don't know but my Doctor tells me it can happen to any one at any time) developed an allergic reaction when I drink alcohol. I mean a really bad one which starts after about 2 sips and gets worse if I persist with even one measure up to and including swelling, cramps and lots of other unpleasant consequences. So needless to say I have been avoiding alcohol like the plague.

Hence I have been in many pubs of late ordering non-alcoholic drinks and I am really getting browned off with the lack of choice. Yes there is coffee - but it only lasts so long hot and you couldn't drink it all night! Yes there is/are non-alcoholic beers but I don't like beer. After that you're down to your cokes/orange juices/ginger ale etc. etc. all of which I certainly get fed up drinking and which I don't consider to be adult drinks as they're simply too sweet.

From my shopping forays I know that supermarkets offer a wide variety of much more pleasing (to me anyway) non-alcoholic drinks from Amé to Schloer and loads of others with Elderflower or spices or whatever you're having youself. And my question is: why can't they be on offer in pubs? I am sick of coffee and coke and I don't see - especially with the growth of non-drinkers as a result of the drink driving limits - why the pubs cannot expand the range they have available.

I often go to the cinema with my girlfriends and afterwards we generally head somewhere for a drink and a chat. We are all driving off in different directions and as a result none of us are drinking alcohol. But the range of drinks available to us is therefore very narrow.

Please please pubs. Can you expand the range of non-alcoholic drinks that you serve? I love the ambience of pubs but am getting so tired of the lack of choice that I'll probably start heading home straight after the cinema!!! Surely it would even make economic sense?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

TK Maxx in the Heart of the City!

And look! A TK Maxx in the heart of belfast City Centre. If Belfast has them in the City Centre adding to and underpinning their City Centre offering then surely a small city like Waterford needs them in the city centre even more. Same goes for Marks & Spencer I would say. Such a pity that the KRM shopping centre is not now underway. Waterford badly needs the retail offering that it would bring.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Rainproof Streets at the Belfast Tallships

Just back from a short visit on behalf of the City to Belfast who are playing host to the finish of this years Trans Atlantic Tallships Festival.
As you know, Waterford will be once again hosting the start of the race from June 30th to July 3rd in 2011 and the Mayor, John Halligan, Olivia O'Reilly the City Council Tallships Co-ordinator and I spent two days in Belfast meeting and networking with the Ports, Sail Training International and the Ships Masters and organisations of behalf of the event in 2011 continuing the good work being done to ensure a large fleet returns here for that weekend.
It was a bonus that my husband Liam, who Captains the sailing brig Stavros S Niarchos, was also at the festival. (Pictured above with the Mayor on board.)

Anyway, while in Belfast I took the opportunity to visit the city centre and was surprised and delighted to see that Belfast, in a huge programme of pedestrianisation and street improvement is making large tracts of their city centre weatherproof. As you can see in the photograph above it entails a light covering extending from the shop fronts a few metres out over the street and indeed further in towards back you can see a brand new shopping centre (very nice) which has been designed to mimic a street scape and feel.

This is the type of weatherproofing that I think would work well in Waterford City and it's nice to see it in action - even if I did have to get out into the rain to the the pics!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Pharmacists Playing Dangerous Game

Whatever way you look at it or whatever side you are on, it seems to me that the pharmacists are playing a potentially deadly game.

They have chosen, by withdrawing from their agreements to dispense drugs to medical card patients, to use their patients/customers as a central bargaining chip in this dispute. This is a very high risk strategy. Patients will become increasingly distraught as time passes and the delivery of their particular drug is delayed as the interim arragements come under pressure - which they are bound to do.

I can't see it taking too many incidents before people turn on whoever they see as to blame - and that will most likely be the pharmacists who have withdrawn their services.

Whatever their dispute I do not believe that people - especially vulnerable, sick people - should be used in this way.

The pharmacists could and should have come up with other routes for resolving their dispute. I sincerely hope that none of this leads to tears for any patients who need drugs, be that an avoidable attack or a more permanent, perhaps even fatal outcome. But that is a possibility.

The Future For Waterford

We are all well aware of the current diffilculties with Waterford Crystal but whether we like it or not Waterford City is intrinsically linked with that brand.

Despite the factories contraction in recent years, our city has continued to be hitched to those crystal wagons for better or worse. And how bad? It is a great brand and we, of all people, cannot give up on it.

We need to work together to make sure that Waterford Crystal continues to deliver for Waterford City. I mentioned in a blog some months ago that a move for Waterford Crsytal into the City centre would represent a win-win situation. This is still my contention.

I realise that Waterford Crsytal will never, for us, be what it once was but we must salvage for the city and for our heritage, what we can of the tourist element of the once mighty factory. We must keep 'the Glass' and the memory of 'the Glass' alive. People must be able to come to Waterford and experience an element of the factory tour, the Gallery showrooms and the restaurant.

We can not accept that the long and intertwined story of Waterford and Waterford Crystal does not have many more chapters.

But neither can we rely any more on the easy access to the hundreds of thousands of visitors that the Glass automatically delivered. We must work on what will be Waterfords' attractiveness for visitors into the future, alongside what can be salvaged of Waterford Crystal.

Why will people come here? What can we offer them? What has Waterford to offer that no other City has? What should be the defining attraction for our city, our 'USP' (Unique Selling Point) to try and both replace and support Waterford Crystal .

We are Irelands Oldest City - and all that that entails i.e. Viking heritage, historical importance, City Walls, Strongbow & Aoife etc. etc. This can and should be a very strong selling point. We have plans for the Viking Triangle and we should push ahead with this in so far as possible (in the absence of the Gateway Innovation Fund which was 'deffered' (read abandoned) by the Government).

That and 'free entertainment'! Entertainment - Spraoi can and should be the driving force for 'Waterford - City Of Summer' or the 'Funny South East' or some such. Can we not have free activity every weekend of the summer in Waterford and make us a city thats always buzzing?

And I'm not talking about landing the whole resonsibility onto Spraoi - we have a professional theatre company in Red Kettle; we have a vibrant youth arts & bands scene; we have a myriad of World Class choirs & bands. We have dance companies, artists, the market traders. We need a co-ordinated, vibrant, summer long city of activity and life and energy and music. We have the tools to make it happen. All we need is the buy-in of all the major (and minor) players in the city.

Perhaps the retail community would support such an initiative? Perhaps the Chamber would throw their weight behind it.

Yes it would take money and will and effort. But what else can we compete with? On shopping? Every dog and duck town is competing on shopping thse days.

On weather? After our lovely monsoon summer? We need to look at making our city an all-weather city. If wetter is the way of the future we need to meet that challenge head on. Couldn't we come up with a design for a light, transparent system for John Roberts Square and other central areas that would rain-proof us? Why not? It's not rocket science. We need to start thinking about what we can do - not what we can not.

We need to start pulling and working together, putting our cards - and yes, our money - on the table and get out there and start competing.

Come to Waterford (or H2O4D - as someone put it to me in a recent email), Irelands' Oldest City - a city full of life and entertainment where there is always something free for visitors going on. Where the rain won't soak you and the fun never stops!

How bad? One thing is for sure... We have to underpin Waterfords' future ourselves because there is no queue forming to do it for us.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

GAA & Job Creation

What a superb athlete a guy like John Mullane is. He is truly inspirational - both on and off the pitch. No-one can deny the mans' committment, his courage or his skill.

But every day he is denied the opportunity that is available in every other sport in the world that I can think of - to become a professional full time sportsman. Now don't get me wrong - I know nothing about John Mullane on a personal level and perhaps he would not want to be a professional sportsman but I am merely using John to ask a question: what have the GAA got against job creation?

The States has the 'World Series' in baseball - where they are the only Country taking part. Australia has Aussie Rules which no other Country plays. They have all successfully created professional leagues in these disciplines.

What would be so wrong about the GAA creating a professional league for Gaelic Football and Hurling? Why wouldn't it work? It's not like the GAA couldn't afford it. I'm sure there would be difficulties and things to consider as to how it would be structured - and indeed no County could be FORCED to have a professional set-up but I just can't understand why there is no room for the GAA to support professional athletes.

Lets face it, the guys who play for the top teams train and perform as professionals. In fact they deliver on a higher level than many other already professional sports and sportsmen and women. And yet they have to get up Monday to Friday and go to their 'day jobs'.

What have the GAA got against professionalism? They have all the pieces that would go into making a truly professional league but some unfathomable (to me) committment to 'amateurism' - like that's some holy grail - is stopping them creating it. Like creating a professional league would somehow destroy the parish and county committment to the great GAA sports? Why would it? It would only enhance it in my opinion - as young people would have a life to actually aim for. It is unfair to expect guys (mostly) to train to the highest professional levels - while they are still amateurs.

This country can and does support their GAA teams at a level which would support a professional league. Why can that step not be taken? What would be so bad about a guy making his living from being a professional GAA sportsman? I think it would be fantastic. And it is the logical next step.

Do I think it will ever happen? Probably not. But I still have to ask the question why not? Do the players not merit it? Is there not the money there to fund it? It seems to me that the reason is a principalled one. But is it the right ethos?

At the very least in these troubled times it would create an admirable amount of jobs in an economy that very badly needs them. We are desperately seeking entrepeneurism in every sphere of life. Why not in the GAA?

It's just a question to put out there..... Why are we so stuck on amateurism? And amateurism in name only - because other than not being paid - our GAA players ARE professionals in every other way. Is it really fair to deny them a living? Why?

(Yes, I am writing this from a perspective of knowing little to nothing about the internal workings of the GAA so you needn't slag me off! What's so different between Gaelic, hurling, and any other sport in the world??? I honestly think our sportsmen are being denied a fantatsic opportunity - but maybe I'm wrong. What do you think?)