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!