Thursday, December 29, 2011

Out with 2011. In with 2012

As we head out of an old year and into a new one many people (me inlcuded) have a little more time on their hands and I suppose time inevitably leads to reflection - particularly at this time of year.

And I suppose its fair to say that 2011 has been a seminal year for me - and indeed for the country.

Personally, the first six months saw the second half of my Mayoralty of Waterford City; my home City and a City which I love and am immensely proud of. It was a great privilege to serve in that role for a year and an experience which I will treasure and be grateful for, for the entire length of my life. Forever!

On the home front, we welcomed our first grandchild, little Mia - an angel and treasure; daughter to our eldest Ailish - who has done and continues to do a smashing job as a young mother. She is dedicated, loving and capable and I hope that I can give her as much help and support in that role as she generously and uncomplainingly gave to me when I was working as Mayor.

Our own youngest, Carein started school in September and is happily settled in with her big brother in Newtown Junior School where they both have a happy, open, multi-cultural experience in the Quaker run school.

My parents continue thankfully to be well - although we still miss greatly Liams' parents Michael and Irene, both taken suddenly from us in the last five years.

I have lost some of my love-affair with Facebook - although that has largely been replaced by my new obsession with Twitter! (You can follow me @maryroche lol).

Through friends I have learned that people are there for you when you need them - and if you let them and that you cannot take life for granted. It is fleeting and precious and you ought not sit around waiting for it to happen to you but go out and shape it into your own signature life. It is all any of us have so try to live in the now. Try to appreciate what you have and not to worry about the future if you can help it. Things have a way of working out - and if they don't, sadly, worrying about it changes nothing.

I am grateful for all the good things in my life and although I'm not too good at the silence (lol) I try to keep the lovely Desiderata in mind:

Go placidly amidst the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love; f
or in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy

If we can do that, we can survive whatever 2012 has to throw at us. I wish you
all a healthy and a peaceful 2012. Be happy :)

Mary x

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Submission to Local Government Committee concerning the Amalgamation of Waterford City Council & Waterford County Council

For the attention of the Waterford Local Government Committee

From: Councillor Mary Roche, Waterford City Council

(Representing the Independent Grouping, including Cllrs. David Daniels & Laurence Cha O’Neill.)

Date: 1st December 2011

To whom it may concern:

I refer to the call for submissions from interested parties concerning your commissions role of making a recommendation to Minister Phil Hogan on whether Waterford City Council and Waterford County Council should be unified and set out my objections to said unification. I have tried insofar as possible to stick to the questions raised for your examination under the Terms of Reference.

My submission, while stand-alone, can be read as part of a larger submission which is being made in separate parts by several members of the City Council. The larger submission covers the areas of History & Heritage; Drain on Resources, Finance, Organisation and the Status of the City as a Regional Driver – the latter being my focus.

We have looked at the areas including

• The potential outcomes to be achieved, including likely benefits and costs.
• The actions and arrangements that should be implemented in order to maximise savings, efficiency and effectiveness and achieve desired outcomes generally with regard to key elements of local government.
• Key issues that are considered likely to arise in the implementation of revised arrangements and how these should be addressed.

And we have come to the conclusion that the merger would not deliver substantial savings to the exchequer but could indeed do great damage to the City and its ability to deliver on our focus of renewal and economic development for our citizens.


If this is merely – as is alleged – a cost saving exercise (we ‘being where we are’ etc.) then by all means save costs. Offer a voluntary redundancy package for staff and cull the number of Councillors if need be. Eliminating Town Councils might tick that box. But please do not break what isn’t broken by ending Waterford as a City, or hindering the City’s ability to deliver to our ‘customers’ through a diversion of focus and resources. (The irony is that towns with a far smaller population than Waterford City may be left with Town Councils while the City would be left without a dedicated administration.)

In the recent amalgamation of Limerick City & County Councils the issues were different – as were the sentiments. And indeed I would question where the suggested savings of €15m will come from, without substantial costs also being factored in. It certainly has not been detailed in any documentation I have seen and seems rather to have been a fanciful figure which no-one is quite sure if or how it can be attained. However time will tell.

Waterford City is the oldest and most historic City in Ireland – and has a proud heritage which should not be sacrificed for short term and spurious financial gain. Is the year 2014 in which Waterford City celebrates its 1100 year anniversary to be the year of its demise?

I do believe that the City needs to expand. It needs to expand not just into its natural environs in the East of County Waterford, but it should also logically extend for administrative purposes into South County Kilkenny.

The future administration of Waterford City and County - and indeed the entire local government system in Ireland which badly needs an overhaul - should be looked at as part of a strategic, national framework rather than Waterford being singled out in some form of ‘pin the tail on the donkey’ exercise. There is simply no gain - but much energy to be wasted - on merely replacing on an ad hoc basis, old irrelevant boundaries with new irrelevant boundaries.

We need to look nationally at where we ought to be and how we can get there in a way that will instill confidence and encourage ‘buy in’ from all the citizens and stakeholders. There is simply no public ‘buy in’ for the demise of Waterford as a City.

Saving that, I believe that there are effective efficiencies to be gained in some sharing of back office functions on a National, Regional and joint basis between the two Councils. These could include, at National level, some Human Resource Functions, Payroll, Third Level Grant Applications, Motor Tax and some Information Systems. At a Regional level Waste Management and Major Emergency Planning. And on a joint basis, Procurement, Veterinary Inspections etc., some of which is already in place.

It makes no sense that citizens in the environs of the City, for example, should have to travel to Dungarvan or Kilkenny to tax their cars. However it is not clear if even these efficiencies could be merged or delivered without significant costs being incurred.

After that, saving office closures – with consequent redundancies and service diminution, it is hard to see where further significant savings might be delivered. Roads will still have to be swept and housing stock maintained.

The last point I wish to make before I get onto the topic of the status of the City is the drain on the resources of the City that this unification would give rise to – with one small example. I am certain that had the Councils been unified already, Waterford Crystal would not have been saved for the City.

Firstly, the financial resources simply would not have been available – taking into account the financial situation in the County (€6m deficit) and its statutory obligations. Secondly, I wonder would there have been much sympathy or understanding from amongst the majority of the unified Council – who would come from a County perspective – on the importance of such an investment in the City?

There would also, beyond doubt, be diminished resources available - from an already ever diminishing pot – to deliver for the day to day needs of the City from housing, to road repair etc. This could in time become a source of resentment from the citizens of the City.

Status of Waterford City as a Regional Economic Driver

The Status of Waterford City and the City’s ability to act as a driver of regional growth are paramount – even gaining special mention in the terms of reference for your consideration:

• The need to maximise the capacity of Waterford City , in particular, to act as a strong and dynamic focus and generator of growth for the wider hinterland under the National Spatial Strategy, and that of other urban and rural areas to contribute in that regard in the context of balanced development.

• The need to enhance the capacity of local government to promote the economic and social development of Waterford City and County as a whole.

• The need to ensure that that the particular status, identity, character and heritage of Waterford City are maintained and where possible, enhanced, within a balanced overall system of local government for Waterford City and County.

Waterford is a City in transition. It is moving from an old, strong portal and manufacturing base to a new economy based on the knowledge industry and tourism as our two strong economic drivers. Historically the City has suffered from the lack of a number of strategic game-changers which are now either in place or on the way. These include the Motorway to Dublin, the new Suir Bridge and Outer Ring Road, the waste water treatment plant, water supply, flood defenses and last but by no means least, a University. Indeed, everything that the IDA’s of this world have historically pointed to as impediments.

With this investment, the City is well positioned to take advantage of any upturn once it arrives. The City is a focus for the region with the majority of citizens from as far away as 30 kilometers relying on it for jobs primarily as well as shopping and other services. In the 2006 census - the most recent document for which these figures are available - there were 25,389 people working in Waterford City, with 11,685 of those jobs being filled by people not from the City. That amounts to over 40%. It is fair to say that anything that risks the City’s capacity to be able to provide and maintain jobs for that kind of workforce is not to be welcomed.

Waterford City Council only recently won the Council of the Year Award for 2010/11 from the Chambers of Commerce of Ireland – along with 3 other wins and several placings in other categories. The City was also voted a few short years ago as the best micro-City in Europe. These serve as independently verified reminders of the dynamic leadership role the City Council has played in recent years driving Waterford through this transition period.

Waterford has all the ingredients of a successful micro City. This is possible because of a number of things – but crucially because of clarity of purpose. Any analysis of successful cities which have regenerated themselves, from Barcelona to Bristol, reveals that they have certain things in common:

 clarity of purpose
 clarity of leadership
 clarity of governance and
 clarity of investment.

If you take away that clarity you will fatally damage Waterford City s’ ability to deliver - not just for our own citizens - but for the citizens of the region who depend on us to be able to attract and provide employment.

It is a simple equation: the majority of the population is in the County, meaning the majority of representation would come from County, meaning a majority of resources would go to the County, therefore reducing spend in the City. It is a truism that ‘all politics is local’ – and that is even more true of local politics. Is it fair or reasonable that Genzymes rates would be spent in Kinsalebeg? How would future potential investors view this?

Another element affecting our status as a City is Mission. Both the City & County Councils have completely different Missions – ours being as a Gateway City, expected to lead and drive economic growth in the Region but also to deliver relevant services and supports to an Urban population.

The County Council has a Rural Mission which is completely different in character and culture. Will there be any capacity or democratic will to maintain the investment in communities, in the Arts or, for example in social supports such as our refuse waiver scheme? Individual County Councillors have already cited publically the availability of the resources of the City, for the County, as a positive argument in favour of the unification. This would inevitably mean the City would be left with fewer resources for social, cultural, historical, economic, and day to day requirements.

The South East Region is unlike any other region in Ireland insofar as there are four other urban centres of considerable size all within 60 kms – Kilkenny, Wexford, Dungarvan and Clonmel. Any diminution of the City’s status and resources will hamper our ability to lead and drive the region and could damage Waterford City and the region to a serious extent.

As one of the five cities in Ireland Waterford City has a clear role and is competing not just nationally but internationally with other micro-cities. If we lose that status we make it that much more difficult to compete and indeed to deliver. Investors comparing a future down-graded Waterford with the dynamism of Galway, Cork or Dublin cities could not fail to make an unfavourable comparison. It would be much more difficult to compete.

Is the South East to be left as the only Region without a City? Regardless of what it would say on paper, an amalgamated Waterford City & County would NOT have the same status as the stand-alone City of Galway or Cork, for example.

Any unification would also mean the City having to deal with the Counties €6m deficit. This would inevitably lead to a severe leakage of resources – in an already stretched fiscal environment – from the City to the county and a consequent reduction in both focus and delivery. It is equivalent to putting an anorexic on a diet. The City would suffer enormously from lack of investment – which in an urban environment would become apparent quickly, and in a concentrated manner - as soon as the first pot-holes went unfilled due to lack of finance.

Waterford City has reduced our budget by €7m in the last four years and is - and has always been – at the lower end of the numbers of employees scale. We have no deficit to speak of. Huge efficiencies have been delivered. Why now should we be lumbered with a massive debt which would impoverish our City for who knows how many years to come?

If the object is to save money (as we can categorically say that it not part of any strategic plan) then that realistically and simply means diminished resources to a diminished body and inevitably, a diminished City. We will be left with a City with no leadership or focus, no administrative body with sole responsibility or capacity to drive the City in these difficult times. A City with massive debts and no finance for investment or delivery of our many projects from the Viking Triangle to the economic growth we are trying to nurture here and to attract. A City dominated by a governing authority with a majority who would have no understanding of or affinity with it.


I am begging the commission to consider the true cost of the proposed unification for the City. Not just fiscal, but also the perception it would give rise to, that Waterford City would not be on a par with other cities in Ireland; that our 1100 year history as a City would come to an end in 2014.

I would also consider that the timescale allowed simply does not give sufficient time to examine all of the issues in enough detail.

I ask you to protect Waterford City and its future. To protects its ability to deliver for the region and the country and not to throw away the proud heritage of our ancient and beautiful City for the 30 pieces of silver which it is sought to save.

It would be a short term and small saving, with, in my opinion, long term, negative consequences for the City, for our citizens and for our children and their children.

Please consider this issue with the utmost diligence. A truly weighty responsibility lies on your shoulders – one which future generations will reference for good or ill with the benefit of hindsight.

I am asking you to recommend against the unification of Waterford City and Waterford County Councils.

Thank you.

Prepared by: Councillor Mary Roche and submitted on December 1st 2011

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Actions Not Words For Waterford

You will have heard the unprecedented coverage from Waterford since yesterday, when the horrible news about TalkTalk and the 575 jobs which are to be gone in just 30 days, broke. There have been a lot of words but I still have heard nothing concrete that, in my opinion will actually create one single job. And while there are very many aspects of this story that one might rightfully rant about (the speed of TalkTalk's exit; how the employee's found out; the lack of govt investment during the good times, etc. etc); really the only show in town in jobs. Jobs. Where will they come from; how can they be attacted to the city/region; how can they be kept here?

Lets start with a little background. Yes unemployment in Waterford is high. Higher than other parts of Ireland. Yes the uptake of third level education in the region is low. Yes the level of companies locating here is miniscule. Yes locally created jobs growth is low. So how do we change that? What specific measures are companies looking for? We score well, from my discussions last year as Mayor with businesses on a number of fronts: we have a young, available, educated work-force. We now have far superior motorway infrastructure and an airport linking to major International hubs. We have an array of fantastic companies with International reputations already located here. It is a fantastic place to live, work and play. We are on the Eastern seaboard with good portal access to the UK and Europe. There is superior IDA grant levels available to companies who locate here. But despite all this, they have not come. Why?

Well firstly let me take Barry O'Leary of the IDA to task. Barry said on Morning Ireland this morning that he didn't think that the lack of a University was a corse issue in the lack of jobs coming to the region. I disagree. But if that is his opinion, Barry did not elaborate (and was not asked) what is the core issue then? He also said that he accepted that the bulk of investment goes to Dublin, Cork and Galway. There are only three things as far as I can see that distinguish us from all of those locations. One is size, scale. They are simply bigger than us. The second is an International Airport in Cork and Dublin although less so for Galway but with Shannon within a short distance you could argue (and I'm sure they do) that they tick that box also. And thirdly, a University. And while I'm not suggesting that a University is the cure for all our ills, it is definitely, unarguably a key component. And anybody who tries to tell you otherwise is being political, underestimating your ability to figure it out for yourself and quite simply, denying the obvious. Look at Galway, which a short few decades ago had a smaller population and far less industry than Waterford. That has changed - thanks to the University. In fact you could even make a plausible case that Galway has far fewer other advantages than Waterford being located as it is on the Western seaboard, away from ports and quick access to markets (and with worse weather!). But they have passed Waterford out. If it's not a University, Barry - then please tell us Barry, what exactly is it???? Tell us. We're willing to do it.

So that's the first thing. University designation for WIT. Simple. Clean. Do-able. Promised to us by the current Government parties in the run up to the election only a short 8 months ago. And absolutely crucial for our future development - and not just future development, but also to try and mitigate against further decline - a scary thought but a real possibility.

So. Stop waffling Government and don't bother coming down to visit us ulness you're bringing something worthwhile. I am amazed at how quickly those parties are now accepting the line that there will be no more Universities in Ireland - and selling it. While I will welcome a Technological University if it delivers equality to us with the Unversities, I sadly suspect that that will not be the case - as there is currently no such thing as a Technological University in Ireland - we can but speculate. But on past performance - of this exact same governmental coalition make-up - I wouldn't hold out that much optimism. (All politics is local.)

So. What else. Well firstly scale. We are very proud of our city status - rightly so. But in International terms, Waterford City at under 50,000 population is small - and while there are some great companies here, there are not enough to represent a so-called cluster. What's a cluster? Well, you know that 'birds of a feather flock together'? Well companies like to locate in an area where there are like industries. Now where we can win on this score in my opinion is to have a more REGION based approach. You zoom out a little from Waterford City, onto the South East Region, and suddenly you have a population of 470,000 people and an even better and more impressive industrial 'cluster' to sell, incorporating a whole plethora of International companies.

But the region is not marketed and does not operate as a recognisable unit. This, I believe, has to change. It is one of the things that has shifted in my view since my trip to the States on the Trade Mission for Waterford. The South East needs to get together, sell together and attract together. And yes, Waterford is the regional capital and gateway but we cannot operate on the basis of ancient, administrative, tribal boundaries. We need to stop working and pulling against each other and start fighting alongside each other. This, to my mind is crucial - because if there is one thing that is more important in my book than anything else - it is selling. Selling the City, selling the region. The Trade Mission proved it to me but it needs to be worked, nurtured, relationships built, information passed. If we had far superior attributes (and we do have many) what does it matter if no-one knows? And whatever Barry O'Leary says about the IDA office in Waterford having 5 people in it - it has not delivered and those people from my information - are more administrative positions. There used to be an IDA representative on the City Development Board and there is not now - because there is no IDA rep in Waterford. Simple. In fact my information is that Waterford is now 'looked after' from Athlone and not Cork - but that's neither here nor there. There use to be an Enterprise Ireland representative on the Board of the City Enterprise Board and there is now not one - because they too have no EI rep in the city. So both the IDA and EI have restructured to downgrade Waterford and they want us to believe it has no effect? Bullshit.

My idea is that the South East Local Authorities should adopt our Doing It For Ourselves motto and get together to fund (along with local private sector funding) and do the job themselves. This has beome something of a clarion call for me in recent years but it is the only way at this stage. Do it ourselves. Cut out the middle man. Develop our own contacts and leads. Sell directly to the market. We did it for tourism (and the City Council continue to do fantatsic work in this area - and I apologise to no one for saying it - that is and will create real opportunites and real jobs). But how much more important is it to do in the area of job creation?

It should concentrate on three areas; attracting jobs into the region; seeking expansion and diversification opportunities for locally based companies and it should cover the Services Industry - for which no state agency exists and seek to work with and develop new markets for their services. There is also the area of grant allocation etc. but I am trying to focus on what we can achieve ourselves. Who in the Far East knows about the new billion euro motorway? Who in Silicon Valley knows about our International industries located here? The IDA are selling Ireland Inc. We need to sell the South East Inc.

Incidentally there are local projects that could be fast-tracked which would create direct employment. The Coursthouse needs serious upgrading and has been on the waiting list for years. For this to happen the new Fire Station needs to be provided - and it's been on the waiting list also. Perhaps local companies could compete for these contracts if they were brought to the top of the list. If the Government is serious about helping us - and not just filling our ears with words - there's something concrete they could deliver. Same with the multi-education campus in Gracedieu. All would create jobs. Now.

I'm sure there is more and I will come back to it again but - the baby needs changing - so that must be seen to. My sincerest sympathies to those in TalkTalk and their families. I think they have been treated abominably by TalkTalk and it should not be allowed. But there you go. That's just words and we need actions. I hope that some of what I have suggested sparks some more thoughts and ultimately, actions. Waterford IS a great place to live, work and play. We love it. We will survive but we need to move and move quickly. And we need help. Is that too much to ask for? Actions. I have started a hashtag on Twitter #actionsnotwordsforwaterford and I intend to keep 'tweeting' it until I hear something concrete. I wonder how long that will take. But for now that's my warning...listen critically....where are the deeds that will help us? Words mean nothing. Keep safe.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Waterford City & County Merger?

Firstly, let me say a few things to contextualise my thoughts: (i) I love County Waterford. I think it is a most beautiful place with much to offer for people living there and tourists alike. (ii) I think change can be a good thing when it is done as part of a well thought out strategy that has a purpose and delivers improvements and (iii) I believe local government (and indeed all governement!) in Ireland is badly in need of drastic change - change that would deliver more responsibility and accountability closer to the people who avail of those services.

All that said, I am NOT in favour of change for change sake. Change that is part of a cut & paste 'pin the tail on the donkey' non-strategy or change that is merely moving the deck chairs, as it were. Change that doesn't deliver improved decentralisation and decision-making closer to the people - and that, I fear, is what is proposed in the mooted Waterford City & County merger for which a commission is about to be set up by Phil Hogan (who of course, has our best interests at heart) and which is due to report as soon as October this year.

Hands up, anyone who thinks that this is not a foregone conclusion? Hands up anyone who thinks the commission will recommend against merger? Hands up anyone who thinks this will be better for Waterford City? Hands up anyone who thinks this isn't an effort to give the EU/IMF what they want in a minimum way without looking at the bigger picture and sacrificing or downgrading Waterford City (& County) into the bargain? Hands up anyone who thinks this is part of a well thought out strategy to deliver better local government to the people of Ireland? And finally, hands up anyone who thinks that this isn't merely replacing old irrelevant boundaries, with new irrelevant boundaries???

I'm sorry to say but I think all of the above. I know that this is not part of a greater strategy. If it were, why isn't a merger of Galway City & County being looked at - despite the fact that the City Managers position in Galway has been vacant for a long time now - yet Galway City & County have been told they are not being looked at with regards to merger. Surely Monagahan - where the County Managers post is also vacant would merit a look at merging with, say Cavan. Surely the entire 26 counties would be being looked at in a complete way - rather than this 'commission' on Waterford City & County before the ink is even dry on Ray O'Dwyers retirement card - and he isn't even officially gone until September.

Sadly, I am long enough in politics to know that 'all politics is local' and I have a horrible suspicion that Minister Hogan from our neighbouring constituency, is using the merger mallet to crack a local nut. In order, not to cede part of South County Kilkenny to Waterford City (which makes sense and needs to be done), he merged Limerick City & County - without ceding the small part of County Clare that the City actually only needed and he is now proceding with Waterford. So, we will have control of what happens in Touraneena - but still no control over what happens 200 metres across the bridge! Call me a cynic if you like. You'd probably be right.

In practice, all a merger will mean is less focus on the city - think 2 1/2 days in the city and 2 1/2 days in the County for the City Manager and other senior officials! Is this better for Waterford? Think of our status as a City with a separate City Council - will this be downgraded from full city status leaving us in a weakened position in relation to the other cities in the State?

Think of our history and culture - we have had Mayors of Waterford CITY since the 1100's - and indeed we can even name them. Is that about to be ended - will the 2015 Mayor of Waterford hail from, for example, Tallow, or Stradbally? (No personal inference intended but politicians in those areas would have no affinity at all to the city in my opinion.)

Does any of this deliver a better service for anyone, City or County? Not in my opinion. Will it in fact, even deliver any significant savings? Are we being used as pawns in a 'don't mind the forest fire - look here at the pretty fairy lights' kind of excercise to fool people into thinking we are delivering 'efficiency' and 'savings' in local government for our economic masters? Will it mean Waterford Cities position will be strengthened or enhanced, or will it be diluted and weakened?

I am not convinced it is a good thing. I know it is not being done as part of a well thought out strategy to deliver better local government. I worry that we are being sacrificed in an experiment in obfuscation - and I have a great fear that what is about to be delivered up for the people of Waterford is a red-herring, dressed up as delivering 'efficiency' but really only delivering us back to the level of non-city status.

Normally I try to steer away from being a conspiracy theorist, but in this instance I can't help having a horrible sense of foreboding. And moreover, I think that no matter what we say, or think, or do - there is probably nothing we can do about it. Does anybody care?

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Monday After the Tallships

What a great day today is. Today, the people of Waterford - from the event organisers to those of us who put up someone on their sofa - can take a huge pat on the back. As long as I have lived in Waterford, I have never witnessed anything the likes of the weekend that we have just delivered! I have never seen a team - a huge team - work so hard and so well; never seen the city look better; never seen the people as happy and relaxed; in short Waterford was heaving, buzzing, welcoming - and all the while bathed in glorious sunshine. Take a bow, one and all.

I'm sure there were issues. I know people had to adjust but not one thing stopped the incredible Tallships event which we had dreamed about for so long and prepared for for so long and waited for, for so long. It was incredible, amazing, spectacular. Waterford sparkled.

I felt so proud as I walked the Quays, right up to early on the last morning as I went into the city to watch the beautiful tallships leave go their mooring lines and head silently and majestically down the mighty Suir. The streets - even at that hour (6.45am) were clean! After a day on Saturday which had seen up to 200,000 people make their way comfortably and safely around our city. It was perfect!

I hope you enjoyed the Tallships Festival. After all, it was for you. I hope the 200 young people currently sailing up the East Coast of Ireland have the experience of their lives. I hope that the Tallships will be back before too long again. But mostly I hope that the people of Waterford are as proud and happy as I feel today. I suppose because of the position I was in, I had the privilege of seeing at close hand just some of the preparation and planning and sheer hard work that went in to making the whole event run so smoothly. I know how much stress people were under. And the potential for it all to go horribly wrong. But, thanks to the planning and the work and the attention to detail it has all paid off handsomely.

I am quite sure that people will be back. I am quite sure that visitors had a unique experience. I am very confident that visitors saw us at our very best.

But for now, it's probably just enough to say well done. Thank you to every one who worked, volunteered, planned, visited, hosted, walked, enjoyed and took part in what was a signal event for our city. We suspected and hoped and prayed that we could do it - and by God we did it. We surely did it. This week - kick back, relax, reflect and rest. You did good people....really really good: thank you.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mayor of Waterford, Cllr Mary Roche, speaking at a presentation to Richard M. Daley, Mayor of Chicago of his family tree, Chicago, Mon April 4th 2011

Mayor Daley agus a cairde go leir: distinguished guests and friends – it is now almost a cliché for a Mayor to begin a formal speech such as this with the words ‘it gives me great pleasure’ but on this occasion, it really is a deep and heart-felt pleasure for me to come as Mayor of Ireland’s oldest city to be here today to meet you, Mayor Daley, Mayor of this great city of Chicago on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. We are here to mark you out: mark you out as ‘one of our own’. A Waterford man – almost through and through – who has made and continues to make an extra-ordinary contribution in the world – and more specifically here in your home city of Chicago.

It is almost a cliché of equal measure for Irish and American politicians to talk about the strong bonds of culture, history and heritage which connect the United States of America and Ireland – the old country. Again, today’s event here in Chicago could not be more powerful in demonstrating that a cliché has its foundations in the greatest truth. Little did your great-great Grandfather, Richard Dunne envisage a day like this when he bade farewell to his home country in 1865 and headed for a new life and whatever that held for him in the bleak years that followed the great famine.

We have with us the Daley family tree and when I was discussing its details with Waterford genealogist, Tony Hennessy, who researched and created it, I was astounded by the strength of bonds which Mayor Daley’s family has with Waterford City. We joked that we could fill City Hall with the Mayor’s cousins – particularly those descending from your grandmother’s father, Richard Dunne – who are still living in Waterford.

This is not an Irish exaggeration – we could indeed fill a large room with Daley cousins for we were delighted to discover that Mayor Daley can trace not just some but ALL of his ancestors in America right back to Ireland.

It is not unusual for American politicians to say they are Irish if they have a grandmother or great grandfather of Irish origin but Mayor Daley is totally Irish in ancestry – on his fathers side John Daly hailed from Old Parish in the west of County Waterford while on the Dunne side, Richard Dunne hailed from Waterford City. While on your mothers side of the family Sis Daleys grandparents Patrick Guilfoyle and Kitty Conroy emigrated from County Offaly! By co-incidence the descendant of another County Offaly emigrant is also a prominent US politician – of course I mean President Barrack Obama. I know that the Daley-Obama connections are also very strong. We wonder might he slip Waterford onto the Presidents itinerary for a couple of hours when he visits Ireland in May?

Some of the most interesting and ‘live’ links we discovered while working on the Daley family tree date back to the visit to Waterford of your father, Richard J.Daley, in 1964. During that visit, he met his cousin Thomas Dunne, who had been Mayor of Waterford in the forties. The Dunnes and Daleys were obviously dedicated to public service and politics – one Lillian Dunne, your Grandmother was also active politically in her own right in the Suffragette movement, working for the democratic right of women to vote.

In fact a cousin of yours, Michael Dunne who is still alive and well and living in Waterford city was present at that great family reunion almost 50 years ago. He’s just one of a clan of Dunne cousins who continue to live in Waterford.
We would like to take this opportunity to formally invite you Mayor Daley and your family to visit us in Waterford City.

And in this respect, I would like to say a few words about Waterford today. Many residents of the USA may get the impression from media reports that Ireland and Waterford are deeply depressed. We have had our economic difficulties, there’s no denying that, but Waterford is resurgent and is successfully fighting back. We got a wonderful morale-boost from the resurrection – yet again – of the historic Waterford Crystal industry which, with the support of the New York based KPS Capital Partners and Waterford City Council, has begun a new chapter of its history close to my office at City Hall. It has always been a magnet for visitors, particularly for American tourists, and continues to be.

It will soon be boosted by a new museum in one of our gems of Georgian architecture, The Bishop’s Palace, and we have exciting and ambitious plans for building on our Viking heritage by developing our ‘Viking Triangle’ the oldest part of the city linking us directly to our foundation by Norse invaders who became settlers and traders when they founded Vadrefjiord - now Waterford - in 914 almost 1,100 years ago. Just as you have focussed on making Chicago a Destination City, so we too in Waterford are working towards that goal. This year alone we expect to welcome around 1,000,000 visitors to our small city – beginning what we hope will be a resurgence in tourism and by default creating many more jobs in the tourism sector for our citizens.

We are told that an amazing 35 per cent of US citizens claim Irish ancestry and we have a message for all of them: “Ireland is not closed either for business or visitors”. Come and visit us, we are proud to show you modern Ireland and we believe that every visit should of course, encompass Ireland’s oldest city – Waterford.

Ta cead mile failte roimh – a hundred thousand welcomes to you all.
I will close with a quotation which we felt was appropriate to include on the Daley Family Tree. It was written by the late John O’Donoghue and is in the form of a ‘beannacht’ or traditional Irish blessing:
“May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.”

Go raibh mile maith agaibh go leir - thank you very much.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

From Shopping Centre to Conference Centre?

Having looked at Failte Ireland's conference and events website for the Island of Ireland I have to say that yes, I am indeed disappointed at Waterford Citys' omission from it. Having said that and having read Gary Breens response to the issue in today's Munster Express it does seem a little more than obvious, that, rather than jumping up and down about our omission, we would be FAR better employed looking at our hotel and conference offering and asking ourselves: how can we come up to the Faitle Ireland standard of 4 and 5 star hotel rooms, large scale conference facilities and a trade association/conference bureau which would engage in selling Waterford (with the assistance of Failte Ireland) to the lucrative International Conference market?

I have a suggestion: it seems to me that the Ferrybank Shopping Centre (artists impression above) is an ideal venue to be converted into an International Standard Conference and Events venue, with conference facilities, hotels, dining facilities and services all on one site, conveniently located adjacent to Waterford City (albeit within the County Kilkenny boundary). It seems to me that this would bring back to life an otherwise dead duck project which, in my opinion, has little to no possibility of ever opening up as a shopping centre in its own right as the population simply does not exist in Ferrbank to sustain it.

Ideally, I would moot for these type of facilities to be placed on the North Wharf, however that too is highly unlikely to happen and as the famous phrase goes; we are where we are. It seems to me that it is an obvious solution which would deliver a world class conference and events centre on one site the likes of which a city which considers itself to be a Gateway should have, as well as a solution which matches a need (for such facilities) with their possible supply. Could it be that two plus two really would add up to four in this instance?

It would appear to me to be a win-win situation. The building, if left in its current state will, sooner or later deteriorate a la the Ardree Hotel and Waterford badly needs to rise to the challenge laid down by Gary Breen (a Waterford man who does Trojan work for this City and the South East in his tourism role) in his letter.

Perhaps, the Waterford City Chamber of Commerce might consider setting up a group to explore this and/or other ways of ensuring that Waterford meets the criteria and will be able to compete for conference business and perhaps then they might facilitate the setting up of a conference bureau or undertake themselves - as a Trade Association - to do that work?

That way we would be moving forward in a positive and constructive way. The rates would go to Kilkenny County Council for sure, but the business spin-off would certainly benefit Waterford City. And isn't it time that we started having a few wins as a team here in the South East? Because, whether we like it or not we are going to have to work more closely together if we want to compete not just in Ireland, but globally.

This would, of course, involve a change in direction for the project and for both Councils but we either change and evolve - or we die, and we certainly are not competing (or even featuring at the moment in the citys case) on the world conference map. So do we want to stay off the map and hold onto that white elephant shopping centre....or could we make something of it and open up another market for ourselves?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Thomas Francis Meagher to be Remembered on St Patricks Day

Waterfords' Agnes Aylward will be remembering Thomas Francis Meagher and the historic year of 1848 when the Tricolour was first flown here in Waterford City on RTE Radio 1 between 9 and 10am on the morning of Saint Patricks Day. For those who are interested, please tune in!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

1848 Tricolour Commemoration Keynote Address

Fellow Councillors, Members of the Oireachtas, City Manager, His Excellency the Canadian Ambassador Loyola Hearn, Monsieur Cairet, representing the French Embassy, Mayor Charles Gautier of Saint Herblain and party, Colonel James Tierney and members of the 69th Regiment, Church Representatives, ladies and gentlemen:

On 9 July 1849 an order for the deportation of 4 prisoners to Australia - the penal colony of Tasmania or Van Diemen’s Land as it was then known - arrived at Richmond prison in Dublin. Among the prisoners was a young Waterford man Thomas Francis Meagher.

1849 was indeed a dark year for Meagher personally and for Ireland.

Having narrowly escaped the death penalty for his involvement in the failed 1848 rebellion, he was, at 26 years of age facing a very uncertain future – transportation from his native land for the rest of his life. This year the National Museum of Australia are mounting a major exhibition celebrating the Irish contribution to Australian society. It gives me great pleasure as Mayor of Waterford and as a member of the Board of Waterford Museum of Treasures to announce that we have been asked to loan 2 historic objects from the Meagher collection to this temporary exhibition, recognising the importance of Thomas Francis Meagher.

This weekend we are celebrating Thomas Francis Meagher and especially the national flag of this country. In proposing the tricolour of Green White and Orange as the flag of an independent Ireland Thomas Francis Meagher turned for inspiration to that country on the continent of Europe which was seen as the as the bastion of freedom. France - that nation of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity where the Blue, White and Red of their flag had, since the Revolution acted as a potent symbol of liberty, not only in France herself but across the world.

In 1848, Meagher went to France and returned with the new flag for his nation - a tricolour of green, white and orange made by and given to him by French women sympathetic to the Irish cause. That flag was first flown in public in March 1848 during the Waterford by-election, from the headquarters of Meagher’s "Wolfe Tone Confederate Club" at No. 33, The Mall, Waterford just a stones throw from where we stand today.

It is also significant that following his escape from exile in Tasmania Meagher chose the United States of America as his refuge. As an escaped convict he would never again be able to return to Ireland or his beloved Waterford where he would have faced arrest and imprisonment.

For Meagher America was that other great bastion of Liberty - a new nation which had emerged at the end of the eighteenth century and which he referred to in the course of his famous Sword Speech as;

“A giant nation that sprang up from the waters of the Atlantic, a fettered colony which became a daring free Republic.”
It is also ironic that when Meagher arrived in New York in 1852 and settled there he was returning to the continent where his father was born – several hundred miles to the north in Newfoundland.

Meagher’s grandfather, Thomas Senior, originally from County Tipperary, had settled in St John’s Newfoundland at the end of the eighteenth century where he prospered. He was part of that great wave of settlers from the south east of Ireland – all from within a 30 mile radius of Waterford city – that settled in Newfoundland. Today over half of Newfoundland’s population are of Irish decent and it is no wonder that one nineteenth century politician referred to Newfoundland in the middle of the nineteenth century as ‘merely Waterford parted by the sea.’

So for Thomas Francis Meagher America was his second home and like many other Irish people who settled there it would come to have first claim on his allegiance.

At the outbreak of the Civil War in America in 1861 Meagher called on his fellow Irishmen living there to volunteer for the Union army to defend the Union.

It is also significant that another famous Irish American – John Fitzgerald Kennedy who paid an official state visit to Ireland in 1963 as President of the United States of America should choose the example of Thomas Francis Meagher of Waterford, when in his address to the Joint Houses of the Oireachtas he summed up the contribution of the Irish community to the development of America. He paid tribute to General Thomas Francis Meagher’s Irish Brigade in the Union Army and in particular the 69th Regiment – Meagher’s own regiment.

President Kennedy referred in particular to the Battle of Fredericksburg.

At this battle the Irish Brigade wore sprigs of green boxwood in their caps – that famous ‘Sprig of Green’ and when the brigade suffered huge casualties the field was littered with those same sprigs of green. One of these sprigs in now on display in the Waterford Museum of Treasures – perhaps one of the most poignant objects from the Meagher collection.

As a fitting recognition to all those who fought to preserve the Union Thomas Francis Meagher was asked to be one of the pall bearers at President Lincoln’s funeral following his assassination in 1865.

The Ireland that Meagher left in 1849 was going through the most catastrophic event in its history. The Great Famine was entering its fifth year– a famine which would see 1 million Irish people dying of starvation and disease and another million forced to emigrate.

The very last letter that Meagher wrote in Ireland and which is now on display in here in the city – holds words which are as important and inspiring today as they were 162 years ago:
“in the darkness which covers the land we hear but the wail of the dying, and the supplications of the penniless and the breadless. Never, never was their country so utterly downcast, so debased, so pitiful, so spiritless.

Yet I do not, could not despair of her regeneration. Nations do not die in a day. Their lives are reckoned by generations, and they encompass centuries. Their vitality is inextinguishable. Their sufferings are sometimes terrible, but they survive the deadliest plagues, the red inundation of the battle-field, the storms which topple towers and pyramids, the fire in which millions of wealth is melted down, the earthquake which engulfs cities and buries a whole people in one indistinguishable sepulchre—they have been known to survive all.

Thus too, shall Ireland survive all her sufferings, her errors, and disasters, and rear one day an ‘Arch of Triumph’ high above the wreck and wilderness of the past.”

In 1848, Meagher had gifted the tricolour to the future Irish nation. That flag was, and remains a powerful symbol. Its adoption as the National Flag in 1949 gives Waterford and Meagher a presence in perpetuity. It remains a potent symbol of reconciliation and assimilation.

We can but hope, as we stand here today that the Irish flag will continue to inspire our people; that it will continue to symbolize a continuous engagement with our emigrants and diaspora and that the errors and disasters of which Meagher spoke and which appear to echo our nations challenges once again today will inspire us all to strive to re-imagine ourselves, our beloved city and our nation and that we will rear again our own ‘Arch of Triumph’ over the wreck and wilderness of our more recent past.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I commend to you a great Waterford son, Thomas Francis Meagher, who in his short 44 years of life was forever true to himself. Here on the Mall where is ghost may hover today I commend to you the green, white and orange and all that those colours symbolize for our people and our nation, flown for the first time in our ancient city in on March 7th in 1848 - the tricolour: the Irish flag.

Thank you.

Monday, February 28, 2011

University Here We Come.....?

I must say I welcome the change demanded here in Waterford - as evidenced by our historic selection of 3 new TD's in the General Election. I am delighted that they are all articulate, capable, bright, tuned-in and, largely, young and energetic. I am also especially delighted that we now have our first woman elected to the Dáil in this constituency in a mighty mighty long time. Fair play to Ciara Conway, John Deasy, Paudie Coffey and John Halligan.

Now the fun starts. Now the hard works starts. Now the expectations of jobs, EU deals, stimulation and whatever-you're-having-yourself starts for our four and every other TD elected.

And Waterford still has a lot of needs. We have the highest unemployment levels - truly startling. We have had very little in the way of new jobs in a decade. We still don't have a University.

But on that last one I can surely rest a little more confident than before. Surely with THREE Government TD's (assuming Eamon actually listens to his answerphone messages) in the constituency - all from parties who have committed publically and proudly about their pro-University of the South East status - surely we can now be assured of the delivery, at last, of that self same promise?

Surely we can expect to see that committment published in the programme for Government which will, no doubt emerge over the next few days. I, for one, remain confident. I, for one, remain hopeful. I look forward to perusing the document and being able to know that at last, a national Government understands that the South East needs equality on this issue not just for our benefit but so that we, as a region can play our part in the rebuilding of Ireland Inc. We need it so that we can become contributors and drivers in the fight to restore our small but great nation to its rightful place as a Country of innovation, drive and creatitivity. We want to be able to play our part.

Until I hear differently (hopefully never) I will be assuming all of the above. And I remain, as I said, confident.

Meanwhile, the people have opted for change. They have opted to punish those they saw as responsible for our plight. They have chosen to fell those who once saw themselves as mighty. Let us hope that everyone has seen and heard. Let us hope we have no more arrogant, insular Governments populated by those who saw themselves as somehow superior to, and knowing more than, the rest of us little people. Let us hope that the message of Government 'in the interest of and at the will of the people' will have been noted and that we can now look forward to a time when our interests and not those of particular parties or interest groups are looked after. If that happens then we will have had a particularly good weekend just gone.

Lets be positive and give Enda his chance. The man surely deserves that and our four new TD's surely deserve the same. I, for one, will not be part in pulling them down before they've even had the chance to make a difference. I hope they do make a difference. I sincerely hope it. I wish them well and I look forward, on this lovely Spring day, to a brighter future for Waterford, the South East and, of course, for Ireland. If she wins, we win. Good luck to all.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Official Opening of new City Cemetery - Mayors Speech

Members of the Oireachtas, Fellow Councillors, Church Representatives, ladies and gentlemen

It gives me great pleasure, as Mayor of Waterford, to officiate at the opening of the new Kilbarry Cemetery and to formally declare the cemetery open.

In a way, it is unusual to have a celebration at a venue such as this. Most of our visits to cemeteries are tinged with sadness and regret. But this is indeed a celebration – a celebration of Waterford City Council’s commitment to our citizens and a celebration of the real sense of community in this city of ours as well as the importance of family, loved ones and the memory of those we love who have departed.

It is not without reason that the cemetery has been named Kilbarry Cemetery as, by so doing, the Council is continuing a tradition from the ancient early Christian burial ground of Kilbarry, which is just down the road from us here.

The cemetery also, of course, celebrates a continuity of a different sort. A continuity from St Otteran’s Cemetery in Ballinaneasagh which has served this City for well over a century and which has acted as a resting place for the souls of thousands of the city’s inhabitants.

And there is further continuity and consistency. Soon the new nature park will open on the site of the remediated landfill just a stone’s throw away. It will be a lovely spot. A place to celebrate life and living juxtaposed with the cemetery here - a place to remember our dead. Between them, these two important projects represent Waterford City Councils commitment to the development of new quality community infrastructure in this, Irelands oldest city.

As I look around here, I cannot but be astounded at how lovely the place is - even without one headstone or memorial. It’s a gentle place. Over 3,000 trees and shrubs and over 30,000 daffodil bulbs have been planted here. Well laid out roads and avenues and plinths for the headstones are all in place. There is enough room for almost 5,000 graves. A columbarium for the ashes of cremation and a Plot of the Angels, which will provide dignity to parents in the saddest of losses – those of our children who will suffer death before knowing the joys of life.

This is a place where we will be able to remember them all. Whether in the sharp coolness of morning, or at the going down of the sun. It is a place which has a feeling of significance and serenity. And, over the years, its importance to all of us will grow. We will meet here often as citizens of this great city, as neighbours and friends and as a support to one another. We will meet here as people with a common purpose and, ultimately, a common destiny.

This is not so much a non-denominational cemetery but rather a multi-denominational one. A place which respects all beliefs rather than respecting none. I am delighted to say welcome to the church representatives who are here today, representing not alone their own religions, but also representing all beliefs, including those of other smaller churches and creeds.

As Mayor, I wish to thank those who have made this cemetery happen. Including Wills Brothers, the main contractors, associated sub-contractors, quantity surveyors GNKA Consulting and Bryan McCarthy & Associates who led up the design team. But also to City Manager, Michael Walsh and to Colette Byrne and their officials as well as to the on-site resident engineering staff.

I would also like to pay recognition to the staff of the Council, who, over many years, have looked after the graveyard in Ballinaneasagh and, especially, to its caretaker Liam Lanigan.

Finally, I hope that everyone recognises that Waterford City Council has designed and built this place in the hope that, over the years, it will provide solace to bereaved families, dignity in loss and an opportunity for prayer. Regardless of the language of that prayer or the beliefs of those who pray the words.

Nothing can replace a loved one departed. Nothing can take away the grief of a bereaved family and loved ones. But let us at least provide to those people a gentle place, a dignified place, where their loved ones can truly rest in peace.

I hope sincerely we have provided that place and today; it is my honour to declare Kilbarry Cemetery officially open.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

None Of The Above!

The running of this great little country of ours has now, quite simply, descended into farce.

I'm not going to enumerate the reasons - you as an intelligent reader are well able to list them all by yourself with no help from me I am quite sure. We have been bombarded by them over the last few hours, days, weeks, months and years....if not even longer.

What is really worrying though is that while the crew are squabbling on the poop-deck, the ship of state is rudderless and no-one even seems to be noticing the storm we're weathering.

Fianna Fáil are cathartic now in their scramble to try and have a new leader in time to mount some sort of challenge in the General Election in order to try and save some semblance of their existence.

The Greens are running to make sure that the back bench Fianna Fáil-ers weren't seen to bring down the government before them thereby making them look more loyal to FF than even their own disgruntled members.

Fine Gael will have a fight on their hands to try and erase from our memories the fact that most of the TD's have no faith in the abilities of their own leader - as expressed by themselves - as recently as last year.

The Labour Party are happy going around telling everyone what they want to hear and perpetuating the myth that we can continue to spend more than we earn.

Sinn Féin - even leaving aside their questionable principles - have their jaded ideology of the bad rich guy in a never-ending struggle with the good poor guy.

It has to be said that our political parties and Dáil Éireann have left us down very badly. I have no faith in any of them to save us. I have no faith in the systems we have here in Ireland which mean, effectively, that the majority of the people whom we elect to represent us can not do that simple job. Either they are stymied by party whips and so-called principles or they are stymied by the Dáil itself which has become a place where TD's effectively have no power.

Back bench TD's are nothing more than voting fodder, and opposition TD's are worse - mere vessels, echoing out their bleating in an empty, irrelevant chamber or in whatever newspaper will give them a few column inches. It is pathetic and sad and in no way serves the needs of a small, vibrant, open and innovative country.

That is the legacy that the parties have brought us here in Ireland. I for one cannot see that changing in the future - because its not in 'The Party Interest' to do so. (For Party you can insert the name of any political party that you like, the principle remains the same.)

I don't normally watch The Late Late Show but I caught Olivia O'Reilly on as a panel guest last Friday and she spoke with sense, passion - and more importantly - suggestions as to what we might actually do to improve the situation. While others simper on about 're-imagining ourselves' and such like, Olivia proffered a few, simple, effective ideas. None of them are rocket-science; none were even new. But none are done either. Lessen the number of TD's and make it so as they all have a real role to play; strengthen local government; balance to books.

Will any of the parties listen to Olivia's suggestions? Will they hell! Sure that wouldn't be in 'The Party Interest' at all at all!

I say shame on all the political parties in Ireland. A plague on all your houses. Who will I be voting for in the General Election? NONE OF THE ABOVE.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Hunt Report

So here we are. The Hunt Report - as it has been titled (and much leaked) is finally here. Early mutterings do not appear positive from a number of quarters academically and politically. Personally I am holding my fire as I have been unable to access the report itself either through the HEA or Department of Education websites. Perhaps there is so much interest in the report that demand has caused systems to fail?

Indications for some time though have been that WIT is not mentioned in the report directly but that it recommends that the option of 'University Status' as applied for by WIT six years ago now (yes you read right: 6 whole years!) under Section 9 of the 1997 University Act is to be taken off the table. In its place is the notion of (a) amalgamations of colleges - IT's specifically and (b) the potential to become a 'Technological University' an institution which does not currently exsist under Irish laws or structures. Can I say I am happy about this? No I cannot but as I have already stated I haven't yet seen the report so I am not dismissing it out of hand either.

Lets examine why the issue of University status was and is so important for Waterford and the South East. Universities, quite simply, are engines of economic growth in their regions. They attract investment, jobs, companies, brains and money. Now WIT does this too - but with one hand tied behind its back through the constraints of lesser funding, inferior autonomy and confused branding to traditional universities.

What we need in this region is for our engine to deliver at least equal horsepower to that being delivered in the other regions by their Univserities.

So will the recommendations (as reported) in Dr Colin Hunt and his committees report do that? What will be required to acquire this Technological University status? How long will it take to even deliver on the legislation required to implement such a thing? What research and economic mandate will the Technological Universities have? How will they be funded? Does Waterford IT need to amalgamate with some other college in some other location in order to achieve that status? Would that enhance or diminish its role in delivering economic growth to the South East region?

Crucially, will a Technological University deliver equality to this region? That is the test question for me. Do the recommendations in this report deliver equal (or superior???) finance, autonomy and branding to that enjoyed by other Universities, cities and regions in the state?

Both Fine Gael and Labour have indicated their support for full University status for Waterford IT (or so they say) uner the current legislation. What is their reaction to this report, which, lets face it, is being produced in the dying days of a most unpopular and most unlikely to be re-elected regime. Will its recommendations be accepted by the new government or will it go the way of most reports and gather dust on a shelf in some vault in the bowels of the Department of Education?

Time will tell. Meanwhile, lets hope that the links to the report are fixed so that those of us interested enough can at least see the full document and make our own minds up on the contents - as opposed to listening to the spin and reportage coming from some vested interests!

Meanwhile, as Mayor of the City I intend contacting Dr Colin Hunt directly (he is a Waterford man) and inviting him to meet with me to discuss his report in further detail. I will keep you posted!