Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Speech Made at Mayoral Election Tonight

Fellow councillors, Members of the Oireachtas, City Manager, former Mayors, distinguished guests, Directors and staff, family and friends:

I wish to begin by thanking my proposer, Cllr. Cha O’Neill, my seconder, Cllr Davy Daniels and all the members for their support here this evening.

I’d like to begin by dedicating my election tonight to the memories of my grandparents William & Bridget Roche and William and Margaret Walshe all of whom I knew and loved well. While my family has no political tradition, it has a long tradition of service. Service to family and neighbours and to the wider community. My grandparents were decent, hard-working, ordinary people in a time when they knew what it was to have to struggle to make ends meet and to earn your living with your own sweat. I’d also hate to let the evening pass without mentioning my late in-laws Michael & Irene Keating who would most certainly have loved to be here this evening. Finally thanks to everyone for coming here and especially those who have travelled from as far as the Canary Islands! Your support is never taken for granted and is much appreciated.

This evening is the start of a year long voyage for me but I can’t begin without mentioning the formidable year that my predecessor John Halligan has just put in. Indeed he has set the bar so high that I will be able to limbo dance under it with no difficulty at all and as for trying to raise it even more, well I wouldn’t even try. Congratulations John. You were a credit to yourself and your family but most of all you were a credit to the historic office of Mayor of Waterford City.

The best I can hope for and what I intend to do is to put my whole heart and soul and effort into this job for the next 12 months and hope that I can, through that hard work, inspire and bring hope to our citizens. Hope that the sparkle of a new beginning that has been the opening of the House of Waterford Crystal across the Mall will signal the beginning of bright days for our city and for the people who share it.

While I want to strike a positive note tonight I do want to mention the plight of the workers who, when the old factory closed, lost their jobs and especially those who have lost their pensions. At a very late stage in their lives those men and women have found themselves cast adrift and I sincerely hope that they will be successful in their fight and will get the pensions that they have paid into with their own money – no more and no less and surely that is not too much to ask.

Waterford is a fantastic city, a beautiful city and I want all of our citizens to be proud of and feel part of the new energy and buzz that we are trying to create here. I want Waterford people both living here and abroad to become ambassadors for our city. I want them to visit and experience our attractions. I want them to make sure that they talk to their friends from outside about us.

I want people to sell Waterford and to make sure that when visitors do come here, they go away knowing that that Waterford is the oldest city in Ireland, that the Irish flag was introduced to this country by a Waterford man Thomas Francis Meagher and that it was flown for the first time in 1848 from 33 The Mall – directly across from here, just as is it once again flying tonight. Even that it’s thanks to Waterford that the world now enjoys the cream cracker and the rasher and of course, not forgetting the infamous blaa!!

I want them to know that Waterford has museums, galleries, theatres, parks, shops and restaurants to rival any other place and that our people, Waterford people, are the friendliest, warmest and decentest people in Ireland – as I surely know that we are.

There is much I would love to achieve during this year; University status for Waterford – very dear to my heart and something we have fought and will continue to fight for. We must leave the powers that be in no doubt that we will only accept a ‘yes’ answer on this issue. The spine of the education system in Ireland, from primary to University is based on a document written by Waterford MP, Thomas Wyse in the early 19th Century. This city has contributed so much nationally, particularly in the area of education, that is past time when we should be recognized with University status.

We will no longer stand for anything but the best. The M9 is almost complete, the new bridge is built, the Airport and Aer Arann are keeping us connected by air, and the port is continuing to grow, our Quays are about to change the very face of the City.

We have a story to tell and a city to sell! I intend to engage with the business and industrial community to see where there are synergies that they in partnership with us in City Hall, can deliver more for the benefit of our city. Waterford is open for business and I am exploring the possibility of leading our own trade delegation in search of jobs. We should not be prepared to sit back anymore and wait for other people to do this work for us. They have not been delivering.

We need to take that bit between our teeth, pack our courage in our suitcases and get out and sell ourselves to the world.

To those businesses who have survived these tough economic years – we salute your acumen and tenacity and the jobs that you have maintained and created. I would ask every business locally to look to the future and to consider whether they could possibly employ - even one more - staff.

I would also like to encourage and congratulate those who have set up their own businesses and taken the leap into self-employment.

Together we can and will fight our way back to prosperity and opportunity for more and more people. To our communities and volunteers and the wonderful work that is done helping people on the ground I say, well done. Your work makes a great difference to us and our city.

I also have plans to invite our schools to twin with schools in South Africa and I’m working on another linkage in that area which I hope will come to fruition during this year.

Traditionally, the Mayor has hosted a Mayors Ball in the Spring and I intend to continue this tradition. The charities that I have chosen are the Saint Vincent de Paul and the Solas Centre – both for obvious and very deserving reasons.

However I also intend to add in a third beneficiary and that will be a new fund which I intend to set up in memory of the late Nicky Fewer, Freeman of Waterford. The Nicky Fewer Memorial Sailing Scholarship will be used as a bursary to enable young Waterford people to go sail-training. Sail-training is a wonderful way for young people to begin to experience the world and make new friends as well as to start to know their own worth. It builds character and they will hopefully discover that the only limits are those we put on ourselves.

I have spoken with Nickys’ wife Maria and I am delighted to say that she has allowed me to proceed with this project in Nickys’ name and memory. And I would like to welcome Maria and Nickys sister Anne and her husband Michael, who have travelled to be here this evening.

Nicky was a proud Waterford man and one whom we should not forget for his vision, for his hard-work, for his never say die attitude and for his sheer determination to go out and make his ideas come to life.

We should not forget that it was Nicky who brought together the group of Waterford stakeholders who initiated the idea that Waterford Crystal must not be allowed to leave our city. He passed that mission onto the City Manager, Michael Walsh, who so ably led - indeed drove - its delivery. We need men and women like Nicky Fewer today more than ever. I hope that the Scholarship will go on in perpetuity and that Nickys’ name will be honoured and remembered through it.

I also hope to use my year as Mayor to encourage the Government to re-instate our National Sail Training Programme. The fact that the sail training programme sank when the STV Asgard II was sadly lost, almost 3 years ago now is a national disgrace, especially considering that it was funded by the National Lottery and not from central funds. Perhaps we here in Waterford, given our strong maritime heritage, can lead a campaign to have the sail-training programme re-instated. It is nothing short of disgraceful that, ahead of two visits by the Tall Ships fleet to our shores over the next two summers, we as a nation do not have a Tall Ship to replace the Asgard II, to fly the Irish flag and to continue in the role of Ambassador for Ireland which she carried out so magnificently during her 27 years of service.

I also believe very strongly that sport and the arts and culture are a very important part of our heritage here in Waterford.

I would like in particular to mention our mighty hurlers who continue to steadfastly chase and achieve glory in our name. I wish them God speed – and of course that elusive ‘bounce of the ball’ as they contest the Munster Final.

I am delighted that my friends in Red Kettle and Jim Nolan have come here tonight. The work that Red Kettle, Spraoi, the beautifully restored Theatre Royal, Waterford Youth Arts, Garter Lane, our writers, poets, painters, musicians and many others do, does so much to enrich our lives and I would like to take this opportunity to encourage people to become involved.

To do, to go, to see, and to enjoy the many performances and exhibitions that happen in this city each and every week. I would also like to congratulate Red Kettle and Waterford Youth Arts both of whom celebrate their 25th year of delivering joy and challenges in equal measure this year. We’ve all come a long way from Janey Mac!

I am particularly delighted that during this year we will see the Waterford International Festival of Light Opera return for its 50th Anniversary, incorporated as it is now into the Waterford Festival of Music. I have been energized and impressed by what I have heard of the plans so far and wish the organizers every success with this venture. May it be the beginning of another 50 years of success for the festival as well as celebrating those 50 years already gone.

Waterfords’ light entertainment heritage and talent should not be forgotten either and I have a number of plans for the year including an attempt to try and re-instate our own much beloved and once extremely popular and successful Tops of the Town. More anon!

There is so much that I want to do, but tonight is not a night for lists. Please God – and with the help of WLR fm and the Munster Express, Waterford Today & the News and Star – there’ll be plenty of time for that during the next 12 months.

I am anxious to build on and capitalize upon that new hope and confidence that has been peeping through over the past week here in the city. I find it impossible now not to walk along the Mall without an enormous sense of pride. I want all Waterford people to feel that pride – justifiably – in their city, in our city, in our home. I want the world to see and feel Waterford re-emerging with a new confidence.

As we build up to the magical Tall Ships Festival which will once again grace our noble quays next summer, I invite all of you and all of Waterford to come aboard; to fill the decks; to clamber onto the yards; to cling to the anchor if you have to because the good ship Waterford is taking sail – she’s been berthed in the shallows for too long and now with the wind beginning to fill her sails she’s heading towards brighter shores.

I invite you all to join with me on that journey.

Thank you.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Does the Boundary Issue Need to be Re-visited?

Waterford is indeed a historic city, with continuous settlement here since 914. We will have an historic anniversary to celebrate come 1014.

The work on The Mall and soon to be redesigned historic mile-long Quays are changing the way we view Waterford ourselves and the way Waterford is viewed from outside. At last, I believe the city is standing up, dusting itself off and beginning to look to the future with hope an confidence. The magnificent Tall ships will once again grace our city come next summer and with that and the activity surrounding the soon to be officially opened House of Waterford Crystal, things are beginning to feel right in Waterford.

But that is not the full story. Our neighbouring local authorities have demonstrated by their actions in the last few years that not only do they covet our prosperity, but that indeed they are prepared to put in place strategies which look to actively damage our historic city and along with it, our potential to deliver not just for for the narrow audience of our own citizens but also our ability to be a driver or the entire region.

This is demonstrated through, for example the huge Shopping Centre - one of the Celtic Tigers' worst examples of bad planning - now lying idle (as they were warned it would be) just outside the northern boundary of the city and also by the TK Maxx debacle, which was eating up jobs from our city centre on our western boarder.

Now it is my estimation that we have enough to be doing in looking after our own affairs that to be trying to fight rearguard actions on our flanks watching what those who refuse to implement proper planning are up to next. This is why I believe that if John Gormley is to make any meaningful changes in local authority systems, rather than just tinkering around and simply putting in place new unrealistic authority boundaries instead of old ones, any change that doesn't take a much closer look will be both a waste of time and a wasted opportunity.

Waterford City should be the administrative authority at the very least for the PLUTS area of South Kilkenny (leave them keep their addresses and GAA loyalties) and also for a large chunk of County Waterford out to and including the dormitory towns of Tramore, Portlaw, etc.

This would, I contend, lead to far better and more cohesive planning and balanced development in the entire area. I have long argued that East Waterford (County) has more affinity with, and in common with, the City than it ever has with those areas in the mid and west of the County.

What about regional authorities? Too many people on them continue to operate with a parochial mindset for them to ever be effective or indeed to place the good of the region over the good of their own small area.

So does the boundary issue need to be re-visited? Yes I would say. Will the boundary issue be re-visited? Well, that's the six-million-dollar question, isn't it?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Just So You Know

In case anyone needs reminding, among the news stories that happened this week but becuase of the Fine Gael leadership heave, you may not have heard them.....

....there was a motion of no confidence in An Taoiseach
....the financial controller of Anglo Irish Bank said that the €22bn that has been pored into the bank so far was a waste of money and
....the Minister for Finance announced that they will extend the bank guarantee to the end of the year. And the value of that guarantee? Four-hundred-and-forty-billion euro.

Just so you know.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Four Roads To Fianna Fáil (to be sung to the air of Four Roads to Glenamaddy)

Whether you choose banking, developing, regulating or politicking, all roads in this current debacle lead to Fianna Fáil! And stop there. They are the common denomintaor -where all roads meet, if you like.

And I blame them more than anyone, because is was their job to watch out for us, for Joe citizen in their role as this countrys elected government. None of the others mentioned above have as a central role, the protection of the citizens and their future. Not the banks - their role is to make money. Not the builders - their role is the same. Not even the regulators as they are neither appointed by, nor answerable to us.

Sorry to be going on about this but despite the polls, the public mood, the direct culpability - and even despite the fact that there are many decent hard-working Fianna Fáilers out there - Fianna Fáil itself seems to be either blissfully or deliberately unaware of their central, devastating, sycophantic role in this. Thinking maybe they can distrct the masses....not any more. The game's up now for sure.

They were so delighted to be sitting at the same tables as those they thought were bigwigs, that they allowed them to destroy the country. T.H.E. C.O.U.N.T.R.Y!

This is my last post on this subject. From here on in I intend to be inanely optimistic and positive. Okay.......??????

Friday, June 11, 2010

Three Lovely Laddies

Three TD's in recent months have been very vocal in their criticism of An Taoiseach Brian Cowen TD. Now we have had two seperate reports lay much of the blame for the countrys current economic meltdown at the feet of that self same Taoiseach.

Will Mattie McGrath (Tipperary), Ned O'Keeffe (Cork) and John McGuinness (Kilkenny) have the integrity to back up their words with action?????

Mattie has had a lot to say.
Vote of No Confidence to take place next Tuesday Mattie.
What will you vote?

Ned O'Keeffe has made a lot of noise in recent months.
Vote of No Confidence to take place next Tuesday Ned.
Will you have the courage of your convictions?

Now is John McGuinness' chance to show us what he's made of.
Vote of No Confidence to take place next Tuesday John.
You've done a lot of talking.
Now what are you actually going to do???

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Is The 'Big Cheese' About to Pass His 'Best Before' Date???

So; the government and Brian Cowen personally have had a large part of the blame for our current travails laid at their/his door. End of. Now we KNOW.

This raises a few points. Namely; is there now any reason for a prolonged, expensive enquiry to tell what has already been established?

Why has Bertie Aherns' name not come into this (that I have heard)?

Considering Brian Cowen sought resignations from Fianna Fail based on such things as expenses claims and house painting, surely the enormity of these latest 'wrong-doings' merits a similar response from An Taoiseach? Where is his credibility? He should resign as Taoiseach and a General Election should be called.

End of. As they say.