Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Government Needs to GROW A PAIR. University Designation for Waterford Now.

Okay people. So another jobs blow hit us in the solar plexus today. Bausch & Lomb who have been here providing much quality employment for over 30 years are shedding 200 jobs AND looking for a 20% pay cut from all remaining 900 workers. If I'm stunned, I can't even imagine what the workers and their families are going through.They must be reeling. The 200 job losses are bad enough but the pay cuts are unprecedented. How can a company that only 3 years ago sought to invest in massive expansion is now at this cliff edge? I can't figure it out.

People are hurting and calling for action to be taken. But what action? We've had Task Forces - the last one chaired by no less than the Minister for Jobs himself and what have they delivered? Sweet Fanny Adams. That's what. Because governments don't create jobs. (I know they take the credit but if you really believe that, you'd better go ask your Mama about the Tooth Fairy!!!)

So what do I think the government could do? Oh I have a list. A list that was fairly comprehensively covered by Senator David Cullinane in his recent Jobs Strategy which he authored as Special Rapporteur for the Committee for Jobs & Employment. A Strategy which no doubt now sits gathering dust in the Dail archives along with the hill o' beans that was the result of Minister Brutons Task Force.

I am no expert but there are things the government can and must now do to allow us to help ourselves. I am blue in the face arguing that if we here in Waterford are just given a level playing pitch - we will do the rest.

First on my list is that old but still not delivered UNIVERSITY..... I am calling on the Fine Gael government to immediately remove the requirement for a merger before Waterford Institute of Technology can apply to become a University and to allow the college to apply for that designation now. Preparations for an International panel to assess that application should begin immediately. The Dr Jim Port report stated that the college was 'already operating at University level' AND it is in the programme for Government.

That is something tangible and deliverable and completely within the governments gift.

Since the Port Report - while a pathway has been put in place - it is now predicated upon Waterford IT merging with another college before it can even apply for Technological (whatever that is) University designation. Why? Countries like Finland and New Zealand have twice our number of Universities for a similar population. Why the obsession with a merger? Why not remove it and allow Waterford the status and investment NOW and allow other colleges to join when AND IF they reach the required criteria. Waterford cannot wait. The government cannot create jobs. But it can do this as a meaningful way to help.

The Government needs to grow a pair. It needs to stand up to the vested interests in the political and educational spheres and show that it has the cojones to DO and not just TALK. The time for talking is over. JUST DO IT.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Goodbye WATERFORD CITY. Hello Metropolitan District.

Being as how nobody has seen fit to mark the end of Waterford City as we know it I am going to mark our last day as a City Council and as a CITY on exactly the same level as the other cities in Ireland.

I've had to re-write this blog a few times to be honest. The first iteration was just full of negativity and anger. But that's probably a consequence of it having been written in a fit of annoyance at about 2am one recent night when I was going over the whole saga in my head. So I've edited out the worst of the negativity because we have to hope for a positive outcome for all of this for our city and for our citizens.

When you wake up tomorrow morning, Waterford - while it will still be able to use the word CITY and indeed it will elect a MAYOR at it's first meeting - whenever that takes place AFTER the new CITY & COUNTY council meets on June 6th, it will, in fact, be the METROPLITAN district and as such, a sub-area of the new Waterford City & County Council. Effectively a downgrade for our ancient, historic city that has since its inception been self-governing. That is the factual situation. I am going to stop pointing that out though, after this post, as I will be talking Waterford up - as I always try to do. But that won't mean that I like it.

And so here we are at the end of Waterford city. I am truly sorry. Truly sorry at the half-truths and the spin that have been passed of as facts and truth. We'll be bigger they tell us. Like that's the answer to everything. But something tells me that when we wake up on the morning of the 24th, Waterford will still be the exact same size it was the day before. We may get some crumbs because well they'll have to make it look like their plan works or maybe they won't!). Crumbs like the announcement that the HQ of the new region will be based here in it already is... So we get to keep something we already have and we fete it like we've won the lottery. 

There is no research anywhere in the world that shows that cities that are hitched to a large rural areas excel. That evidence is not there but we have to look no further than Galway in 1980 to see what uncoupling a city from a large rural area (along with unceasing government investment and support) can do. Which is why, of course, Galway sought such an uncoupling. 

I hear Waterford government TDs on national TV spewing out the drivel that's been fed to them by the party spinners.  I don't think there's been an independent thought from one of them on this issue. One they haven't been spoon fed from head quarters. The truth is that Waterford City Council has been in hiatus for more than 12 months with the implementation of this amalgamation. With 50% of staff changing jobs and or desks. Huge upheaval. For what? Three million euro in capital costs this year alone. The new council still saddled with a €10m historical deficit. Mostly from the county council. Two locations. And nothing delivered that shared services couldn't deliver. 

Oh we have saved half the price of the city manager so that's something I suppose. Although the price of that has been that we now have a part-time manager. No disrespect to him but his job load and focus has doubled! 

So when the Urbs Intacta is gone; when the three ships have sailed; When we're introduced - as we will be - to the politics of geography don't rool your eyes and blame me. I know I can't stop it. I know I can't change it. I tried though. All I know is that this issue has my heart broken. 

I know the history of the city is well rehearsed so I'll just detail a few short points - from a time when the CITY and its LEADERS were prepared to defend it, not just with words - but with their very lives. Waterford City is one of the oldest elected city councils in Europe. Waterford had its first provost (governor) in 1195 and has been electing mayors from about 1260. We know the name of almost every single mayor of Waterford since 1282 - a remarkable record for any city in Europe. Mayors ran the city law courts and had to physically defend the city when it was attacked. Mayor John Malpas was cut to pieces at St Johns Gate and Bridge (still the same bridge as today) while trying to defend it from attack by the Powers from county Waterford and O'Driscolls from county Cork. He was immediately buried in the cathedral.  

In 1413 Mayor Wicken brought a small armada of ships to Baltimore the headquarters of the O'Driscolls gaining access by fooling the occupants of the castle, giving them the impression that they were bring gifts of wine- probably a black rent that they were extorting from city. Once inside the Mayor and other Councillors drew their weapons, captured the O'Driscolls taking the leading members to Waterford where the citizens welcomed their heroic Mayor with torches lighting up the city walls. The O'Driscolls had to pay compensation to Waterford. 

In 1613 the Mayor and Council travelled to London to face down the Protestant James I who was trying to force them to accept the reformed religion. This was a very dangerous thing as the King could have executed them.  Throughout history Waterford has had great leaders who when it came to the City's hour of need were willing to stand up to the line.   Today we can't  even raise a whimper !

All there is left to say is 'a bientot' Waterford...til later. Because today the fight begins to regain our rightful status as a city equal in every way to other Irish cities and not downgraded to satisfy the parish pump jealousies of a neighbouring minister. Waterford must learn to share says Hogan? We've shared our VEC - gone to Wexford. Solas (FAS) going same way. Ambulance control to Wexford. IDA and Hospital region decimated and managed from Cork. WIT still fighting for University status but now with assinine preconditions put in the way for a technological designation. Whatever that is. Which will deliver who knows what. There'll be nothing left to share shortly. 

But sure we're grateful sir, like Noonan tugging his forelock for Trump on the Tarmac. Whatever ye want to give us sir. Sure our children aren't entitled to the same opportunities as those lovely childer from elsewhere sir...beggars can't be choosers sir. The treatment of Waterford is a microcosm of how this country is run. As the personal re-election campaign of whichever of the Taoiseachs buddies are lucky enough to get the nod for the big pensions. We wouldn't know a strategy in this country if it stood up and bit us on the backside. Anyway. Goodbye Waterford City. I wish you God speed in your new guise. I still love you. Always will. Up Waterford.