Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mattie McGrath TD and those Drink Driving Comments!

Has Mattie McGrath (pictured above with the Taoiseach) been drinking I ask myself? I mean really? For anyone to make such a badly thought-out statement that drinking could actually be good for nervous drivers! Is this man be serious?

Aside from Fianna Fáil delivering this country into ruin; aside from closing childrens operating theatres: aside from all of that - this is the issue that Fianna Fáil back benchers choose to revolt on?

There is so much wrong with this whole argument that I scarcely know where to begin and I have to say that I am totally behind Noel Dempsey on this one.

This whole rural argument thing is getting ridiculous: what's wrong with rural farmers, who, Mr McGrath tells us have NO friends or neighbours in the world to speak of that they could share a lift with, heading down to the pub (his only social outlet on the planet and without which - if you follow the logic to its' illogical conclusion - said Farmer/rural dwellers life would cease to have any meaning) for a non-alcoholic beverage? Say a pot of tea, or a pint of rock-shandy? Same company. Same venue. No deathly alcohol influence on the drive home! No pedestrian left dead because of a swerve. No driver left paralysed because of impaired co-ordination.

There are scientific, validated tests demonstrating the effect that just one pint has on the average drivers behaviour. I have seen them. I was a member of the National Safety Council, the fore-runner of the RSA for many years and that committee did much work educating the public as to the dangers of drink driving.

The bottom line is that if people want to drink alcohol, they should not drive. And if they want to drive they should not drink alcohol. Is this cruel? Not if you are one of the many many families who have lost loved ones either through being the victim of a drink driver or through drinking and driving themselves. The sad fact is that drinking and driving causes death. After just one drink you are many times more likely to be involved in an accident than you are without any alcohol. FACT.

We have acknowledged for many years that we in this country have a very warped relationship with alcohol. We need to grow up. No-one is saying not to be social. No-one is even saying not to go to the local pub. Just plan not to drink and drive. That's all.

Will the family who lose their daughter, or uncle, or grandfather - directly as a result of someone who had just the one, killing or injuring them - think it's okay? Will they thank Mattie McGrath and his followers? Or will they think that perhaps it might have been worth the self-control of abstaining from that one pint? I think so.

Yes there are other problems and issues that need to be dealt with. But none of them take away from the fact that this one also needs to be dealt with.

This isn't make believe. Real people die as a result of drivers who have had just one drink. But that must be a price that Mattie McGrath thinks is worth paying.

I do not.

Monday, October 19, 2009

N25 Waterford City Bypass Opened Today

It was a great (but very very cold) experience to be out at the new N25 Waterford City Bypass opening earlier today. There was a good turnout from the City, County and from Kilkenny to do the official nicities and I must say that all spoke very well.

Credit where credit is due though and I think its' fair to say that if Martin Cullen hadn't been Minister for Transport at the time, we might still be waiting for this particular piece of infrastructrure and indeed the new M9 to Dublin which should be opened within a year. So fair play to him, he has certainly delivered for Waterford and the South East in this score.

The bridge is due to open for traffic frfom about 4.30pm today and I sincerely hope that it will take some of the heavier traffic out of the city and make life easier for those travelling the Quays or up over the older part of town which had also become something of a rat-run for these huge trucks - in an area that was never designed to take that kind of traffic.

It also ties in nicely with the plans announced recently to claim back our Quays from traffic in conjunction with the delivery of a new iconic tourism building which was announced last week.

People have taken to calling the bridge 'the cat flap' which I think myself is slightly disparaging to Kilkenny people but they seem to like it. And at this stage, in the absence of any other name, it might just stick.

Personally I think we should come up with some inspirational name. My suggestion, for what its worth would be Bridge of the Sun or Droichead na Gréine! I believe the harbour was many centuries ago named Cuan na Gréine - or Harbour of the Sun. I think that's a gorgeous name and the new name for the bridge would refer back to that old one.

So there you have it. At last it's open. we should stand back and enjoy it. It's a good news day for Waterford.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

More Great Things About Waterford

I was driving from a Waterford Area Partnership Board meeting this evening which was held in FÁS and I passed the re-developed Presentation Convent in Slievekeale which now houses the Rowe Creavin Medical Practice and Halley Solicitors. What a fantatsic job has been done up there! And a far cry from the poor, decimated and dishevelled old Ursuline Convent building.

This redevelopment really is one of Waterfords' gems and checking out their website I see it also houses a café. That's two new coffee stops for me to try out in the not-too-distant future (the Lemon Tree Café in the Theatre Royal being the other one).

The old Presentation Convent is an example of how an old and under-used piece of our city history and architecture can be brought both smack bang up to date and into everyday use with a little imagination, a lot of belief and determination - and no little finance I am sure! But it is safe to say that it must rank now amongst Waterfords' great treasures.

Halleys and Mark Rowe and Ita Creavin and all those involved in this redevelopment deserve a great deal of thanks for a job really well done. It is another example of the great drive, enthusiasm and determination that Waterford people have in spades.

I wish - and I know I won't be thanked for saying it - that those Waterford people who expend huge energies being negative and knocking this great city would sit back and take a look. Yes, we have challenges - we always have had and probably always will on some level or other. But there are GREAT things happening, great plans being laid - and Waterford has never stopped striving to be the best it can be despite the many challenges thrown our way. I wish people would spend half the energy they use moaning, on getting out there and being part of the solution.

Last night, the City Manager made public an initiative that has been worked on for the past 6 months concerning getting Waterford Crystal up and running again (in a small way initially it's true), manufacturing crystal in this ancient city. This facility has an aim of bringing 250,000 tourists (minimum) to our city EVERY YEAR. (This is what the project must achieve to break even). An interim solution is hoped to be up and running with 80 jobs or so by as early as next May in the ESB offices and old bonded stores behind it - including a tank furnace. It will be 'real' Waterford Crystal.

The medium term aim is to build out into the River Suir behind the Clock Tower over the next 4 years and deliver an iconic tourism building which will underpin the city centre as well as giving us back our 'most noble quay in Europe'.

What a great vision. The sooner the better I say.

And just to round it all up, I mentioned at the top of this piece that I had been at a Waterford Area Partnership meeting earlier this evening where we reviewed the performance of the Services to Unemployed measure and took a look at how it has performed and what it focusses on. It turns out that over the last decade or so over 680 jobs have been created - over 80% of which were still in place 3 years later - through the work that goes on in that one measure (in collaboration with other agenies and partners of course which is how the partnership works). Now you don't get that announced in the newspapers but if another agency had created almost 700 jobs in 10 years they'd have the Taoiseach down announcing it (before they were even in place no doubt).

So take a bow, everyone in the Partnership. There is a lot of good work going on that never gets highlighted but which is absolutely crucial. I, for one, am proud to be a small part of it.

It's time for us all to start being positive about our city. The future is bright and we are capable of making it so. All we need is a little faith.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Motorway to Open as far as Kilkenny for Christmas

A friend pointed out an article to me today, carried in this weeks' Kilkenny People newspaper stating that the new Motorway from Waterford as far as Kilkenny will be open before Christmas. Well hallelujah if that is so! What bliss not to have to drive that absolute excuse for a road that Kilkenny County Council has foisted on us since time immemorial.
The article sadly details that many people lost their lives on the road as it is currently - which is a terrible indictment on those who allowed it, as a major inter-urban National PRIMARY route, to exist in its current state for so long. Shame on them.
Hopefully that is now almost at an end and before long we can look at halving - yes, halving - the amount of time it takes to drive the mere 30 miles to Kilkenny from a disgraceful 1 hour, to 30 minutes. (For those who are interested the photo shows a glimpse of the 'Main Road' as it passes Jerpoint Abbey - the absolute worst stretch IMHO).
I know people are concerned about Waterfords' present and indeed, our future but there can be no doubt but that the opening up of that road will play a huge part in opening up Waterfords' opportunities for inward investment and for easing costs. It can't come soon enough. Roll on Christmas!

Will The Government Last?

Maybe I'm reading the signs all wrong but I don't think the Greens are going to pull the plug this weekend. (If they do, expect an apologetic blog next week!) I think the Greens are still naive enough to think that they can achieve a lot if they stay. I think the trouble for the Government is going to come from the Fianna Fáil back-benchers.
Lets face it: all the indications are, that whenever the next election occurs, Fianna Fáil are going to lose their shirts and that all but the safest seats will be lost. So a back-bencher has nothing to lose and everything to gain locally by being seen to stand up to local cuts.
I use Michael Lowry as an example. I know he's not a FF back-bencher but it illustrates the principle. Regardless of the consequences, Lowry has let it be known that he will withdraw his support for the government if Tipperary Institute (his local college with a pupil-teacher ratio at a reported 1 to 4!) is closed - as per the recommendations in the McCarthy report. This guarantees him returning to Dáil Eireann by a grateful local electorate.
Now say if you're a FF back-bencher in a dodgy seat. What have you got to lose by seeking to save your own seat - and ONLY your own seat - by pulling down the government on some local issue of principle close to your constituents hearts? The electorate in Ireland have shown time and time again that they will reward TD's who put local interests ahead of anything else - even the so-called National Interest.
All of the work that's going into re-negotiating the Programme for Government at the moment with its aspirations to lessen TD numbers (some hope!) and to reform the expenses system is merely tinkering around the edges of what is a broken system. I feel sorry for TD's in one sense: you get elected on a promise of what you can deliver or will do - and once you have your knees under the table you discover pretty quickly that you can deliver nothing at all and can do fairly little either. This is the ultimate frustration of politics. You aspire to change the world but the system is designed to stay the same. So you content yourself with keeping your own personal, local electorate happy. Telling them what they want to hear even if this means sacrificing the greater good to do so.
So that's my prediction for what it's worth. I reckon Fianna Fáil will survive the coming Green Conference but will have a much tougher time getting a painful and cutting budget through their own back-benches.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

To Pee Or Not To Pee.....

I have just been listening to the prinicpal of a Cork secondary school on the News At One who hit the headlines after writing to parents of pupils asking them to send in toilet rolls! This - though a novel approach - is not a new problem. I have heard of schools rationing and counting squares on toilet rolls with limits on how much a child can have, depending on 'what they are doing'!

Now this is not born from anything in said schools other than that toilet roll purchase can run into tens of thousands of euro worth - in what are becoming ever tighter budgets in schools.

I myself sit on a national school Board of Management and I can confirm that we mostly spend our entire meetings trying to solve problems related to money and the lack of it. Where we should be discussing the pupils and their development.

I noted on the news that the Department of Education sent in a statement to the effect that the school in questions' capitation budget had increased. True - as have the schools costs, helped in no small part by additional costs which have been introduced for schools in recent years - with no subsequent additonal funding to cover these. Costs such as waste charges, water rates (schools are not exempt), wage agreements, along with cost increases in every other area practically that you can think of.

Does the Department really expect anyone to believe that the funding they provide actually covers the cost of running a school? Do they have children in schools themselves? All parents know the energies (and ingenuity) that schools expend on raising funds.

I know schools that tell the children they can afford heating or activities - but not both! And I have no reason to assume they aren't being straight up. Our teachers and schools (most of them) do a very good job but any extra energy should be spent tackling those who fall through the cracks, those who have additional problems -not fund-raising for loo-rolls. If my childrens' school asked, I'd happily stump up some toilet rolls - as I stump up for the many myriad fund-raising activities in their schools. One or two rolls doesn't make much of a dent in a budget but start trying to pay for the amount needed for a school of say, 500 children? That's a different prospect.

That's one big load of ...........

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Red Kettles' Play In The Park

I attended the Red Kettle Theatre Company production of A Midsummer Nights' Dream in the Big Top last night. What a great night! What a different, magical, colourful experience. At only €10 a head it was a steal. And, thanks to the good people of Waterford, it was packed out.

The set (bad photo above, sorry - taken on my phone afterwards) was spectacular and extremely well used: climbed on by Puck and Oberon, slept on by Titania (the wonderful Jenni Ledwell), danced on, fought on, loved on - even hosting a brawl in a pool!

Red Kettle really seem to come into their own with Shakespeare! Last year with Romeo and Juliet (unbelievably good) and now this offering. I really think that they are not getting the national acclaim which they so richly deserve.

I know that I could be seen as biased towards the company but it is so long since any involvement I try to look at their work with an objective eye. And I have to say, that if what we saw in Waterford last night, had been showing in Dublin, or Cork, or Galway, the national media would have been all over it like a swine-flu bug!

Keep up the good work Red Kettle. You are a credit to Waterford.

I can't finish without mentioning the 'locals' especially the younger ones: Puck played by Freddie Quinlan, Hermia played by Holly Browne, Lysander played by Alex Browne. Anne Riordan as Helena and all the many more. I see blossoming careers in time and real honest to God talent. Not of course forgetting the maestro Ben Hennessy who has a gift here!

At the very least I wish them as much pleasure and enjoyment as I got from my involvement with Red Kettle and other productions when I was their age. Oh and Bottom - Seamus Power - and all the 'players' were also superb. What a great night out!

Review as it appears in this mornings' Irish Times

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
People’s Park, Waterford

Ben Hennessy’s spirited and inventive production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is an adventurous, fun-filled, family-friendly venture which remains utterly faithful to Shakespeare’s play. Despite being better subtitled Play in the Car Park, Hennessey creates a forest within Fosset’s Big Top circus tent with a landscape of layered plants which are laddered up towards the canvas ceiling to conceal entrances and exits in a magical way. Joe Harney’s original composition conspires with Chris Tyler’s sound design to enhance the supernatural atmosphere, and the purple and yellow hues of Conor Nolan’s lights also create an otherworldliness within the natural environment of the dressed tent.

A community collaboration, the play is performed by a mix of professional and amateur actors, but the less experienced cast members certainly step up to the mark, enlivening the subplot of the star-crossed lovers. Holly Browne and Anne O’Riordan, in particular, display a sophisticated understanding and enunciation of the verse. Meanwhile, a group of young performers from the area create a flurry of sparkling fairies, dancing across the earthen floor.

However, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is always stolen by the rude mechanicals, and with Seamus Nolan as the asinine Bottom/Pyramus, Ben Quinlan as Flute/Thisbe and Jamie Murphy as Starveling/The Wall, the best bits of Red Kettle’s production fall within the play-within-the-play device. At €10 a ticket, the Big Top was bursting with families, who remained engaged and animated until the closing moments, when “fairy time” descended on the night outside and the children were carried out home to their beds. This democratic pricing is to be applauded as much as the democratic production structure, which ensured that this production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream involved and engaged with as large a Waterford audience as possible.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Declan Ganley Wrong AGAIN

I listened to Declan Ganley on with Marianne Finucane today and subsequently on the news going on about how the YES vote to the Lisbon Treaty is a huge endorsement of the Government for the next three years.

As usual, Declan is putting his own spin on this and as with almost everything else he has said, I completely disagree with him. It is so far from the truth in fact, that I would hazard a guess that if anyone on the YES side claimed it, they might risk a physical assault! I, for one voted YES but that in no way reflected any level of satisfaction with this government. I still think NAMA is a disaster. I still think the Government is quite likely to fall - this side of Christmas.

The sight of the Greens going in to renegotiate the Programme for Government 'in a strong position' is even laughable. Sure if they don't get what they want - are they going to walk? I don't think so. I still think the biggest risk to the Government comes from Fianna Fail back-benchers. They can't renegociate anything or be seen to deliver anything and I would imagine when they see all the strutting the Greens are doing (and will do if they are seen to, for example, reverse the education cuts) they will become an even more restless lot.

Anyway, the day belongs to the Lisbon Treaty. I haven't seen many NO advocates around. I wonder have they taken shelter...waiting for the sky to fall in?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Theatre Royal Magnificent

I took a sneak preview peek at the newly refurbished Theatre Royal yesterday (the box office and Lemon Tree Restaurant are open since today) and I have to say that it looks magnificent. It is a credit to the Board, the City Council, the staff, Ken Wigham Architects and the Builders (Clancy Construction I think?).
The new 'old' foyer is quite stunning. Simple but most effective and really demonstrates that less can indeed be more. The limestone circular steps arrangement (pictured above) is really beautiful and adorned overhead with the real thing - Waterford Crystal chandeliers.
There are 5, yes that's FIVE female toilets - whoohoo! And a great new access from the old foyer to the new foyer without having to go outside! The new 'new' foyer with box office is very welcoming and the Municipal collection now on semi-permanent display really adds to the space. The 'Lemon Tree Cafe' on the first floor will double as a bar, to be run by The Munster Bars at night when the there are performances on and perhaps it will be possible to use the area outside for tables and chairs for the cafe when the weather permits? What a great sense of life that would bring to our beautiful historic Mall.
As for the Theatre itself? The new seating arrangement with, wait for it....leg room is a great improvement and the intimacy that the reduction in seat numbers has allowed should make attendance there a truly special experience. The rake (slant) is gone from the stage, the orchestra pit has been enlarged (and air-conditioned). The colour scheme is strong but un-intrusive and the theatre has lost none of its special feel and appeal (for me anyway).
Backstage has seen improvements too with a new access stage right - from a new green room with toilets and showers. Bliss! The dressing rooms, for the moment have been accommodated in what people would know as the Committee Room in City Hall (couldn't get that far yesterday) but they must surely be a far better solution than the old ones. There are plans, when money beomes available to tackle that end.
All in all, a huge amount has been achieved with a very modest investment IMHO and I would sincerely like to congratulate all involved. The Theatre Royal is now fit for the next 100 years as a magnificent and historic Waterford venue. It has been missed and I welcome its' re-opening whole-heartedly.
I see that the first performance will be taking place on October 21st 'Mad About The Musicals 2009' followed by a Youth Dance celebration on the 24th and a presentation of 'My First Time' starring Keith Duffy on the 27th.
I am looking forward to 'Wallace, Balfe and Mr Bunn' directed by Ben Barnes which runs from 5th to 14th November - with the official opening taking place on the night of the 5th (by whom I wonder?). More information and bookings can be found at .
I look forward to many more generations of Waterfordians enjoying the entertainment on show at 'the Royal' and many more young and not so young locals getting the chance to start, hone or display their own talents on its stage.
Of course it goes without saying that I dearly hope that the 50th Waterford International Festival of Light Opera will take place there next year. (Followed by the 51st, 52nd, 53rd.............)
Well done all.