Monday, January 25, 2010

And Speaking Of Better Days - WWRD & WIT

I'm sure that everyone in Waterford will have felt a warm glow when the news was 'officially' announced today in Dublin by Waterford City Council and WWRD Holdings Ltd, that Waterford Crystal will once again be manufactured in the City from this summer in the old ESB buildings on The Mall. You can see an artists impression above - and really fantastic it looks.

We sincerely hope, in the City Council that this project will kick start a rejuvenation of Waterford and the beginning of a new era of confidence. We hope that The Mall and Viking Triangle areas from Bolton Street to High Street will see and feel immediate benefits and that these will ripple out into the wider city - and indeed the psyche of Waterford.

We in Waterford have suffered a number of severe blows in recent times without doubt. And in fact there are still issues that need not to be forgotten about and fought for - like the pensions of those Waterford Crystal workers. But that does not belie the fact that, if we take it, we are on the cusp of an era of new opportunity in Waterford.

The final piece of the jigsaw for me and for many others would be the delivery - and soon - of University designation for WIT.

WIT is operating in my opinion (and the opinions of many others) at a higher level already, than some of the Universities in this state. It simply cannot be made to suffer an artificial distinction any longer. Once again I am calling on the Minister for Education - a man who is not afraid to make decisions - to designate Waterford Institute of Technology as a University without delay. This will ensure that Waterford and the South East will play a huge part in delivering the recovery of Ireland plc. This we guarantee!

Short of this - and heading into yet another year (is it four years now?) since we submitted our application for University designation, it was very interesting to read in the Sunday papers yesterday that one Michael Lowry TD has announced that he has 'saved' Tipperary Institute'. The Independent TD assured the Government that he would withdraw his support for them if there was any threat to carry out the recommendation of the McCarthy Report and decommission TI which is in the heart of his constituency!!!

Now I wonder if Martin Cullen (whose own colleagues - according to himself only last week - deserted him in varying degree when he was put through the ringer in the media in relation to those lies recently) or Brendan Kenneally were reading that story? And I wonder if they would consider putting the Government under the same pressure for WIT in their constituency?

Now that's something I'd personally love to see. And obviously, it works. Tipperary Institute is to be merged with Limerick Institute of Technology and its' (huge) budget is to remain untouched (according to Mr Lowry anyway). Good luck to them!

But I want to end on a positive note for Waterford. Congratulations to WWRD and KPS for their decision to stick with and invest in Waterford City and to continue to manufacture crystal here. I think it will prove a very positive decision indeed for everyone. The potential is there for the manufacturing facility to get bigger - and for the city to capitalise on the incomparable brand that Waterford Crystal is. Today is a good day!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sad Day - Better To Come

It's a sad day today. Mark it in your diary. Today, Friday January 22nd 2010 is the last day of Waterford Crystal as we currently know it. Today the showrooms and shop at Kilbarry close their doors for the last time. Those chandeliers will be turned off and dismantled. The crystal grandfather clock will be packed away. The staff will lock the doors to the public.

Good luck to all who sailed the good ship Waterford Crystal. Hopefully it won't be too long before she is refloated in calmer waters on The Mall in the City and she can once again raise the colours proudly as Waterfords' most famous and beloved flagship tourism offering.

That day cannot come too fast. It's a sad day indeed. But not one without hope. It could have been a whole lot worse. So here's to the future of Waterford Crystal. Here's to the staff who worked long and hard in the factory. I hope that they too will find ways to beat this gloom and to go from strength to strength in their own lives. Please God.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sinn Féin & the Allegations Keep Coming

If the stories as printed today in the Sunday Tribune concerning Gerry Adams and his knowledge of at least two other cases of rape and abuse by prominent Sinn Féin members are true, then he is finished. As he should be.

The stories are hard to read with some graphic and horrific detail of what a ten-year old girl went through. The Sunday Tribune claims to have seen and verified documentation from medical and other sources that seem to back up her claims.

What the hell is going on? How can ordinary decent members of SF continue to defend the indefensible? I have written before that this country is in a catharsis. That extends north of the border too it would seem.

Please, Mr Adams. If there is a modicum of truth that you knew these things about members of your party you and did nothing, then you must resign.

God help those poor women. They will need all the strength they can muster to break this wall of silence that they have encountered and to get justice for themselves and to protect other children from their terrible fate.

Friday, January 15, 2010

To be PC or un-PC???? That is the Question!

Okay, I did it: I called people who piddle in peoples doorways 'gobshites'! For that indeed is what they are. I have been an elected representative on Waterford City Council for over a decade now and, to my memory, have not used what is termed 'unparliamentary language' before. In fact, even now I contend that the term I used would be on the tame end of the scale.

But is it OK to use unparliamentary language ever? Well, IMHO, yes it is - when occasion demands. I challenge anyone who has witnessed the evidence accumulated by the residents of the Ballytruckle Road, who have had to put up with this type of activity for years, to come up with a more apt term for those who perpetrated it!

We have become a very Politically Correct society. We tend to not call a spade a spade any more! We don't name it - and we don't punish it. We don't punish low level nuisance - which is only low-level by the way, if it's not being peed in through your own letterbox! So we call it anti-social behaviour carried out by 'some young people'. Now technically correct as that is, it excites none of the outrage in us, that we should rightly feel when the actual activity is named.

Perhaps bringing back a little bit of passion into politics would be no bad thing. On the whole I have received a very positive reaction from the public since my contribution was broadcast by WLRfm on Wednesday last. I am happy to say that the robust, passionate and common sense people of Waterford are not going to pretend that they are actually offended by the use of such a term, or that they have never heard it before - or indeed used it? Fair play to them.

Maybe a little bit more calling a spade and spade might be good for this country. Maybe then people might actually go out there and understand what is happening to us as a nation and then we could start to change it.

As for my my use of unparliamentary language; am I sorry? Yes, if I caused offence. Will I be using it again......only if absolutely necessary.

Monday, January 11, 2010

More Tourism Potential

With my maritime connections, I have always been conscious that we need to make more of our magnificent River Suir which wends its way majestically through our City. It is something also, that people constantly refer to.

But what? The river is too fast-flowing and tidal for it to be safe for many water based activities. It is also a very wide river and all in all not someplace you could safely be recommending for swimming or even canoeing or such!

Also you don't want to do anything that would mitigate against the use of the river for Tallships and the like which need deep water, turning circles etc.

Would it, I wonder, be possible to use the river to install an impressive fountain? I have been and seen all over the world, fountains which can be really magnificent and evocative in the impression they can create.

I'm not talking about a monument or anything but one which uses the water itself, perhaps complimented by lights and music to create an actual performance, which could be timed to run at any particular time - say each evening after sunset, or at high-tide, for example.

I think that this would be a most beautiful and cost effective way of providing yet another visitor attraction - and a reason for people to come into the city in the evenings (or indeed all the time?).

Also the cliff-face on Mount Misery - or the North Quays, any surface - could be used for a laser light show. This is done with great effect in our sister city of Rochester in upstate New York. (I know I certainly am not the first to suggest this!)

We need innovation and some lateral thinking in order to capitalise on the amount of tourists that come here and to extend their visits, using the hook of Waterford Crystal getting them here in the first place. We want them to walk around, eat in our restaurants, shop in our shops, stay in our hotels and guesthouses as well as visit our museums and galleries (and Waterford Crystal of course). The longer we can get them to stay here, the better.

Finally, I have been speaking to many people with tourist ideas of late and one obvious gap it seems (to me and them) is a Viking Festival. If we are serious about capitalising on our Viking heritage and making Reginalds Tower into a Viking Museum, then surely a Viking Festival (perhaps with links to Norway, Denmark etc.) would be yet another way of underpinning our 'ownership' of the Viking title in Ireland. There could be academic, cultural and plain old fun events catering to a broad audience.

These are just some ideas that it shouldn't be necessary to move a mountain to put into place. There are very many more out there. Think of them. Do them. Come forward and speak out. Speak to me. Speak to anyone. In the absence of anyone else coming to our economic rescue, this is one way we can help ourselves out of the gloom we find ourselves in at the moment.

Manufacturing is not within our control (although the return of manufacturing of Waterford Crystal next summer has the potential to deliver so much, and the city council - specifically the City Manager - was instrumental in delivering that) but tourism is one area that we can develop ourselves. Ask yourself: is there anything I could do? Any little job(s) I could create on foot of that? Then go on and just do it!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Opportunity to Tap Into Diaspora for Waterford?

Of late, what with the quiet Christmas period and the icy roads, I have been spending some time searching through the 1911 Census of Ireland which is online and very easily searchable. Firstly, it is a fascinating thing to see your ancestors hand-writing, signatures, occupations, infirmities, relations, addresses, living details, literacy etc. all detailed in black and white. And if nothing else it certainly confirms how much of a mere link in a chain we all are.
Above is a part of the census return that I found for my maternal grandfather, William Walshe, who lived at the time (April 1911) aged just three in 2 Manor Street (The Manor House), now Peigs, with his parents and brothers and sisters. He was the baby of the family. But of even more interest is that after seeing this and asking my mum some questions, with the help of Facebook I have now tracked down and made contact with what I can only describe as an entire arm of the family across in the Southern United States, to where my Grandfathers elder brother Laurence emigrated during the '60's and with whom, by and large we had lost contact! There are first and second cousins out there in South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and more places, many of whom I interact with daily now thanks to technology! There are still many more to find and it is a most interesting an gratifying task!
Many, of course, express a desire to visit Ireland one day. Therein lies a huge opportunity. With the development later this year of the new manufacturing and visitor centre for Waterford Crystal right in the heart of our city, I believe a demand exists for a Museum of the Diaspora. Waterford Crystal, marketed the right way, would certainly be amongst the most visited of Irish attractions by 'foreign' tourists - as opposed to say tourist attractions like Dublin Zoo, which is mostly visited by Irish 'tourists'. Certainly as far as American tourists are concerned this would be the case. Surely the opportunity exists to capitalise on their visits here, with a museum where they could search out and discover their family histories?
The museum could detail the Irish Diaspora all over the world, from Argentina to Australia, Newfoundland to New Guinea and would, I'm convinced, be a major attraction for visitors - and indeed Irish people, to visit for research, information, just for fun or to get started on your family tree. Searching out your ancestors has never been more popular - with the advent of TV programmes such as 'Who Do You Think You Are?'
I could envisage this type of Museum - although museum is probably not the right word - being extremely popular. A major part of the attraction could also detail the many amongst the Irish Diaspora who have achieved high honour in their adopted Country. Think of American Presidents, for example. There would be a plethora of material for this type of project and it could be tailored to attract people from, quite literally, all over the world.
And with a huge number of tourists already coming into Waterford to visit Waterford Crystal, this project - or a similar one - could really underpin our importance on the visitor itinerary.
Perhaps this is the type of project that someone in the private sector might see as presenting opportunities? I am sure that there would be support at a National level for this type of venture - particularly if private investment were forthcoming. I am aware that City resources are already stretched and committed to delivering the crystal and other facilities.
I have said it before and I say it again. I entreat the private sector to come on board and support and even piggy-back on the initiative that the City Council is delivering with the development of the new Waterford Crystal manufacturing and visitor centre on The Mall.
If we don't capitalise on that opportunity and those presented by new motorways etc., to develop new industry and opportunity, then more's the pity for us. And tourism is one hell of an industry. Waterford has much more to offer. Why not develop it?

Batten Down The Hatches

With this kind of forescast (from the BBC) it may just be time to get in some staples and batten down the hathes folks! If this doesn't happen at this stage - my kids for a start will be sorely dissappointed! If it does - watch out for your neighbours.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Trip to A&E at Waterford Regional Hospital

I ended up in A&E on Monday night last with my 2 year old (pictured above but who is fine now thankfully) and I have to say that we received a really great service. I clocked into the car park at exactly 21.12 and clocked out again, all done, at exactly 22.12.

The A&E unit was fairly busy, although not overrun but we were seen very quickly and she was dealt with and sent home in what I thought was double quick time. So no problems there - and in fact no problems at all with the people or the service.

I do though, think that the A&E department in WRH is woefully inadequate. It is small, cramped and the toilet facilities are abysmal. WRH is, seemingly, one of the busiest A&E units in the Country but it has obviously seen no investment at all for many a long year. I have been going up there for quite some time now - since my eldest was a baby - and she's 16 now. There certainly has been no change (except for the addition of a hot drinks vending machine) in that time.

This is quite unacceptable. The single male and single female toilets enter directly from the waiting area - can this be hygienic, or indeed suitably private for people? I have been waiting in that A&E unit - not this time I hasten to add - when the toilets have been completely backed up and unusable. The seating area is very small and certainly offers no comfort.

In fact the hot drinks vending machine is probably not even a good idea in one sense. The last time I attended there was a very obviously drunk girl also waiting for treatment. She decided to get herself a cup of what turned out to be very hot soup from the machine and promptly proceeded to spill it all over the place, narrowly missing a waiting elderly patient! In fact, in my opinion, people who are excessively drunk should have a separate waiting area as they can pose a danger to themselves and to others!

So top marks for the service - but almost bottom marks for the physical layout. There has been the promise of a new A&E unit for some time now. When can we expect to see that delivered? I have ogled at the shots of beautiful A&E departments in other (less busy) hospitals featured on the news lately, as they detail the increases in fractures etc. as a result of the ice and snow. Waterfords' turn is surely past when a new A&E unit should have been delivered. Why have feet been dragged on this issue for so long and when will we have a new department in Waterford. With the exceptional results that the A&E in Waterford turn out time after time, it's the very least the patients, and importantly, the staff deserve.

Another feature I didn't like was the €100 bill that arrived in my door for the visit within 36 hours. In this day and age I think it is a travesty to be charging people for access to an A&E unit. It would be very interesting to know if the charge has decreased the amount of people attending at A&E - and if it has, why? Are people who really should attend, deciding not to because they can't afford it? I suspect this might be one factor. At the very very least, children and the elderly should be able to attend free. (Drunk people should be charged double!)

And while I'm in the general area of health, surely a factor in the increase in procedures that the VHI is claiming as causing them the increase their prices yet again - this time by a whopping 8% in a time of national deflation - must be the proliferation of private hospitals and the Consultants in those hospitals recommending people to have what are often, in my opinion, unnecessary procedures - in their own hospitals, in which many of them have an interest! Many of those hospitals are as yet, still making losses - but as the procedures increase, so too will the profits. Surely, this has to be a contributory factor? Well? Anyone?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Welcome to 2010

Apologies for not blogging for so long. I have been vegging out since before Christmas (well, except for the dinners, visitors, children, blah blah and all the rest of it). Here's to 2010. She is a welcome change to last year. A new year. A new decade. She holds a lot of promise. Lets hope she delivers!

I was shocked and saddened to hear, over Christmas, about Brian Lenihans' illness. I hope for him and his families sake that things are not as bad as has been made out in the media in the last week. The Brian show is the only show in town at the moment and the sooner it can be rolled out and we see if its going to work or not, the better!

Today I read with horror, a piece in the Sunday Tribune about the release next summer of one Larry Murphy who, they termed 'Ireland's only suspected serial killer' - a guy who was found by two hunters attempting to suffocate a woman in the Wicklow Mountains, after repeatedly raping her - who is also suspected of the deaths of at least 3 other women including Jojo Dullard.

Mr Murphy was sentenced in 2000 to 15 years in jail for that crime. Now the first question that begs is, why is he being released having served only 10 years?

Secondly, the Gardaí believe that this guy is such a threat to women that they (according to the Trib) have 'decided to post between 24 and 32 undercover officers' to follow him for an indefinite period'. I find this kind of thing very difficult to understand. Not the Garda decision to watch him like a hawk, but our states refusal that a life sentence should be just that - a life sentence. Why should this guy get his freedom again? And why should the Gardaí have to allocate these kind of resources to him? And why should women in County Carlow - where he intends to reside - or beyond that have to live with this man in their community?

I have said it before and I say it again that when it comes to crimes like the one this man was convicted of, or indeed paedophiles I have no compunction in saying that I believe they should be locked up - at the very least - for life.

We know enough to know that these kind of crimes are perpetrated by those with a very high risk of re-offending. Why do we impose those risks on our sisters, daughters, children? Surely they have more rights than criminals? But alas, it seems they do not.

Perhaps in 2010 we can actually grow up in this country and start concentrating on things that are important. Get our house in order. I'm certainly not a 'lock em and leave em' advocate, in the main. But for these types of crimes, I certainly am. How many women/children/people have been hurt, raped or abused or even murdered by people with a track record? By people who are on bail? By people who have criminal convictions of a similar nature? And why should we have to have people like Larry Murphy in our midst?

He's not co-operating with Gardaí by the way, on those other crimes of which he is suspected. So. Does he get away with them then? Either way, the crime for which he was tried and convicted deserved a life sentence. He got 15 years. Why is he at least, not serving that?