Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cyclists v Drivers

I went into Waterpark Primary School this morning to talk to the children in Mr Dalys 6th class about their ideas for improving the city that they live in. They were anxious that their ideas would, firstly be listened to, and secondly, taken on board if possible.

Their ideas were all very interesting and while not all were actually do-able within current constraints, they all had merit. I will detail them in brief a little further down.

But one thing struck me most forcibly was the story told by one boy who cycles to school every morning along the Dunmore Road. He detailed how, while cycling one morning, a motorist had slowed down, rolled down his passenger window, all the while bipping his horn and shouting abuse at the child, out the window! Now I am not sure about you but it made my blood boil. Aside from the utter ignorance of it; there was an obvious danger in that it could have caused the child (only 11 or 12 years old) to perhaps wobble and fall and maybe even get injured or worse.

Why is it that we feel as drivers that we can engage in the type of behaviour that we would never dream of engaging in, when we meet people face to face on the path for example? What kind of idiots do some people turn into behind the wheel of a car?

I have asked the City Council to put in place an awareness campaign to educate drivers mostly about the fact that cyclists do exist, they have as much right to be on the road as any driver and that drivers are going to have to make allowances for them - and indeed that we hope there will be many more of them on the roads in the near future.

We in the Council have made a firm commitment to cycling (and public transport) particularly on the Green Route which is currently being put in place on the Dunmore Road and be under no illusions but that the ultimate aim is to get children and even aggressive drivers out of their cars and onto bikes or buses.

I had one driver approach me just the other day demanding to know what would he do if there was a cyclist on his side of the road and a lorry coming against him which wouldn't leave enough room (in some places) for all three of them? I answered that he would just have to slow down and drive with due care and attention - and perhaps even be ready to stop! Well, you would think I had asked him to bite the head off a budgie!

Please drivers. You are simply going to have to drive while taking account of all other road users. End of. And please don't tell me about all the ridiculous things that cyclists can do. I know. But they are the vulnerable road user and it will sound very hollow indeed if you hurt someone - particularly a child - because you didn't drive with due care.

We are trying to get a substantial amount of people to make a modal shift out of their cars. Perhaps instead of yelling at unsuspecting children, that obviously wound up driver would have been better to walk or cycle off his stress or even take the bus. It is going to take time for all the ducks to line up but we are working on them all.

Meanwhile please take extra care with cyclists - remember they are vulnerable, many are children and one day, it could be you or your child. Drive accordingly!

The other ideas the children had included the renovation of the old cinema in Patrick Street as a kind of drop in/arts centre/cinema for younger children; the provision of mini-allotments aimed at children (about 1 metre square); bins at all bus stops; the instigation of a licensing system for Busking Boxes to be located in 8 or 9 places in the city centre and which would guarantee live music on Friday nights and Saturdays; a volunteer odd job scheme for people on social welfare and, of course an awareness programme for motorists about cyclists and their needs!

I hope to follow up on at least some of these ideas. I already have with the cycling awareness idea.

Thanks to all the boys & girls in Mr Dalys class for inviting me in to have the benefit of their ideas and I hope they will take with them through their lives the need for them to be responsible citizens who play a positive role in what is, after all, all of our homes: Waterford City.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

SOLAS paddle 2010 - please help!

Below is the story of a very old friend of mine, Bian Fanning who, having been through a hell of a lot in recent years, is about to embark on a 'cross the Irish sea' paddle to raise money for the Solas Centre along with Mick O'Meara who currently holds the record for the crossing. If anyone of you would like to contribute to this fanatstic fundraising event please contact me or the numbers below. Good luck to Brian and Mick - here's hoping you break that record!

Brian Fanning has lived in Waterford and Tramore all his life. He is husband to Anne and father of Lily (10), Anna (8) and Tommy (3). He’s, an electrician in Waterford Regional Hospital, a keen cyclist and a marathon kayaker. He’s fit, athletic and loves life.

In December 2007 Brian was diagnosed with stage three testicular cancer. Some time after an initial surgery to remove the tumour and multiple cycles of chemotherapy further cancerous cells were found in his thyroid gland. In January 2009 he underwent further surgery to remove his thyroid gland and subsequently received internal radiation treatment. During Brian’s illness and recovery he was supported by the South Eastern Cancer Foundation which provided counselling and alternative treatments to assist in coping with the stress and side effects of the diagnosis and treatment.

Set up in 1999, by Oncology doctors and nurses in Waterford Regional Hospital, the SECF is a charity which primarily provides practical support to cancer patients and their families by offering counselling and relaxation therapies. The organisation is currently based in a temporary rented suburban home which is without the expansion potential to cater for the increasing demand for its services. Contractors for the Solas Centre are now appointed and building work is to commence this month. However the South East Cancer Foundation requires further funds to fit out and finish the building and to continue to provide the support services to cancer patients and their families.

To mark his return to health and fitness Brian has formed a plan to raise money for the new Solas Centre. His plan is to kayak across the Irish Sea (from Rosslare to White Sands Bay, outside Fishguard) and beat the existing record of ten hours and seventeen minutes. The record was set in 2002 by two intrepid paddlers from Waterford– Brian himself and his long-time friend and paddling companion, Mick O’Meara.

Brian and Mick have paddled together since 1985. Together they have circumnavigated Ireland and Iceland by kayak and won a third place in the legendary Devizes to Westminster 125 mile kayak race and participated together in numerous Liffey Descent races. Together, in 2002, they set the record for the fastest time to paddle across the Irish Sea between Rosslare and St. David’s in Wales. The crossing is one of fifty miles and took 10 hours 17 minutes to complete. The plan this time is to aim for nine and a half hours at an average speed of about five and a half miles an hour and raise as much money for the Solas Centre as possible.
For more information on Brian and Mick’s paddle and/or to help raise funds for the Solas Centre contact Mick O’Meara on 087-2686529 or by email on

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cathederal Square: Discuss

Every time I throw out an idea it seems there's someone only too willing to knock it. However, undeterred I now propose to set out an idea for Cathedral Square - an area of the city currently in a sad state but which is due for renewal within the next short while as part of the Viking Triangle and the 'One thousand Years in One Thousand Steps' idea - the one thousand steps being between Reginalds Tower and the Franciscan Friary and the Millennium of history contained therein.

Firstly as to what we can or cannot do. We do not own the currently derelict properties in the square although steps are being taken to try and get those properties improved at worst, and at best into active and beneficial use so don't go suggesting that we sort them out. They're awful: we know - we're doing what we can. For what its worth I would suggest that restaurant usage would be ideal - for that entire side of the square which is currently houses. Obviously I'm not talking about Christchurch Cathedral itself or indeed the Motor Tax office.

What I would love to see would be the development of the square as an almost informal venue for performances. As somebody suggested to me today; the acoustics are fantastic there and it would make a gorgeous venue for singers and small acoustic music sessions.

Of course with our weather we would have to make it somewhat weatherproof and I would suggest some type of tensile structure a la the Millennium Plaza on the Quay. Alternatively a series of umbrellas could be located there a la the (lower) photograph above which is actually of a square in Barcelona. The top photograph is of Cathedral Square itself.

This would bring life and usage to a beautiful area of the city and the opening of one or more restaurants or cafés in the area would be enhanced by having a facility for their customers to sit outside and enjoy some evening warmth (assuming we are to get any but with global warming and all that perhaps!) while listening to a little gentle music.

This could be achieved relatively easily and it could also incorporate the retention of the trees in this area.

But please.....discuss and let me know your ideas or what you think would work in this historic area of Waterford City. All comments and suggestions will be carefully considered and suggested to the relevant meetings. Either leave your comments here on my blog or feel free to email me directly at . Thanks!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Should You Work For Dole?

This is one of those areas that seems obvious and makes sense to me. The dole in Ireland is a living. It is enough to live on and is designed to keep people in the basic needs. And although it isn't PC to say it, it is a lifestyle choice for some. Some people do not work, have never worked and will never work - by choice. They do quite nicely. Some even have cars and holidays. Housing is provided for many and lots of other supports. Living on the dole in Ireland - for some (not all) does them very nicely thank you! And much more nicely for example than the £80 or so you would get in the North of Ireland.

Just as there are those arguing that it would be a crime not to pair empty houses with those in need of housing; how can it be any different to suggest pairing people with no work, with work that needs to be done?

And yes I know all the arguments about the fact that this system could be abused - so I would suggest that none of this work could be carried out for the private sector. Only public authorities or those dealing in the social economy i.e. Partnerships, CDP's, Family Resource Centres etc. etc. would be able to identify work to be done and apply for workers to carry it out. If any one of those workers subsequently got a job in the private sector then they could leave with no notice.

People should also be given a choice and not merely have to accept the first 'job' that comes up. They should be consuted about their talents and interests. There should also be sensitivity about the type of work that is undertaken and thought should be given to peoples skill levels and talents.

Local authorities and community projects are under huge funding pressures and staffing levels being reduced (hugely in some cases), with we keep being told, more cuts to come. Many people who would love something to do all day long are currently on the dole - many because of one reason or other, are unlikely to find work again or at least in the near future. Some simply have no work ethic and need to be introduced to it.

Meanwhile we have elderly people who will never be able to afford it, needing to have some work done in their homes or gardens. We have community centres not being able to afford to get the place redecorated or perhaps improve the landscaping. You have community projects with ideas to run fantastic programmes but not enough staff to carry them out; there are people who need to learn to read & write; there are people who would love to do a gardening course; there are children who need help with homework or stories to be told to them; art to be taught, languages to be learned! There are an hundred million things that people could, with dignity, be asked to spend their time doing. Many would welcome it as the solution to a life without work or stimulation or mixing with other adults.

It's time we started making a few common sense decisions in this country. This, I contend, would be one of them.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Banks! Banks! Banks!

The above sign has been erected outside Anglo Irish Bank on St Stephens Green and I don't think there would be too many would disagree with its sentiments (mis-spellings aside). It's a kind of 'a plague on all their houses' against the bankers, politicians, unions and pretty much everyone except the poor taxpayer who is delivering the moolah to bale them all out. All very justified.

I still have a major problem though in that the banks are merely trying, through all of whats going on, to get back to where they were and what they were at before the proverbial 'merdre' hit the fan. Is this progress? The bankers are still being paid exorbitant amounts of money and paying themselves bonuses for Gods sake! Is this justified?

Surely if you are in line for bonuses there should be a corresponding sanction for the people who have delivered the banks, the economy and the country down the tube! If this was the case then most of them would end up owing their place of employment money, such is the extent of the bad job they have done for which they have all (paradoxically) been handsomely paid!

People keep telling us that we have to save the banks without telling us why. Every international competitor on the banking scene, who were introducing some (much needed) competition into the banking market, are now running away like scalded cats. This means that as soon as the banks get enough money into their coffers again (from us) they will be back to business as normal. They are all private companies with their main focus as delivering 'shareholder value' - profits into the private sector. They have no responsibility (imho) to 'get the economy rolling again' as we are being told - notably by politicians as the banks themselves are making no such claims!

Interestingly Vincent Browne on TV3 last night covered a new TASC report which detailed the amount of cross-pollination of directorships held by a small few people mostly in Dublin who populate the board rooms of the biggest companies in Ireland. Each non-executive director was likely to be paid (€66,000-€130,000) a huge amount for their part-time work and each was likely to hold around 10 other non executive directorships!!!!!!!!

This is absolutely extra-ordinary and applies, no doubt, in great part to the boards of our banks also! Whats the bet that many of those directors also have contacts/appointments related to our great independent media and political spheres also? I always think it would be a most interesting task to 'map' as it were all the connections, through marriage, family, appointments etc. between business, media and government. Wouldn't that make for interesting reading!

I won't even go into the extremely low levels of women sitting on these 'old boys networks'....oh, sorry I mean 'boards'!!!!!!

Anyway, as these self same people are forever telling us (although for very different reasons) none of this gives us the rope to drag ourselves out of this very deep hole! That I think will be provided by neither the banks, nor the government. It will be provided by the ingenuity of the Irish people who are already showing signs of imagining themselves out of this mess.

I say this because, as you may know, I am a judge on the Deise Den competition currently running on WLR fm which is offering a €25,000 prize pack for some lucky new or nearly new business in this area. I have been very enthused and heartened by the range and amount of entries to the competition and while unfortunately there can only be one winner, many of the entries and finalists offer the potential for people to at least create employment for themselves and who knows, even expand and possibly provide much much more than that in the not too distant future.

One thing is for sure though: there is a wealth of ingenuity and imagination and determination out there amongst people! They are all to be encouraged and congratulated on their bravery and their spirit. I salute them all. We need more like them!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ard RÍ Hotel An Eyesore - City Taking Action

Below is a Press Release issued by the City Manager today:

For immediate publication

Ard Rí site entered on Derelict Sites Register by Waterford City Council

Waterford City Council is to take action to have the old Ard Rí Hotel site cleaned up and put in good order. The prominent multi-storey building overlooking the city has been closed for several years and has now been entered on the Derelict Sites Register by the City Council.

The Council today confirmed it will now be pursuing the owners to have works carried out ‘to remove the site from dereliction’. A formal notice specifying the works to be carried out will be served on the owners in the coming week.

City Manager, Michael Walsh, said that unfortunately, the former Ard Rí Hotel has now become ‘a blot on the landscape’ and he will, with the support of the members of Waterford City Council, pursue all avenues legally available to have the owners carry out necessary works.

Mr Walsh added that he will be reporting to the Council at next Monday’s meeting and if the owners of the Ard Rí site fail to undertake the works specified within an appropriate time, the City Council will carry out the work and seek to recover the costs from the owners.

The City Manager added that, at a time when so much work and effort is going into presenting Waterford city at its best, he is not prepared to tolerate derelict sites such as the Ard Rí.

ENDS – May 5, 2010.