Thursday, June 26, 2014

When Is A Mayor Not A Mayor?

'When is a Mayor not a Mayor?' That's the question no one wants asked in Waterford. And in truth I have procrastinated on writing this blog. Because the answer is not a good one. But I feel the truth must be told and the words would not go away. But few really care. So here it is (with some softening of my earlier wording).

Waterford City - Waterford Metropolitan District as it is now officially called - now has a Mayor in name only. This is no reflection at all on the personage of the current Mayor, whom I like and respect, but rather on the denigration of the Office of the Mayor by the current government and by the Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan in particular. Not that he will care.

Last Friday I witnessed our Mayor, looking resplendent in the beautiful, historic, priceless gold Mayoral chain, in attendance at New Street Gardens for the launch of the WiKID Festival by none other than our President, Michael D Higgins. Heretofore, the Mayor would have hosted that city event - ceding only to the President himself. But last Friday the Mayor of the 'Waterford Metropolitan District' didn't even have a speaking role. That was reserved for the Chairman of the City & County Council. (No comment intended on the person of the Chairman either who represented us ably). 

This proves the lie that we were told. Because despite what was said by Ministers, and officials and various mouthpieces who thought they knew better than the rest of us 'scaremongers', the Mayor is no longer a Mayor as we knew the role. No longer the first citizen of Waterford City. There is only one Council - Waterford City & County Council. And there is only one first citizen and that is the Chairman of the City & County Council. That is the body that is the inheritor of what was Waterford City (and County) Council: and not the Metropolitan District or Metropolitan Mayor despite the robes and chain. And if you need proof, it was there on the podium last Friday.

I now concur with Councillor Davy Daniels that the Mayoral Chain should be retired to our magnificent, award winning Museum of Treasures. I am quite sure though that this won't happen as the charade continues. The lie will not be admitted to. 

The Mayoralty is finished as we knew it. Sold out by a Fine Gael & Labour government that neither knew, nor cared enough about Waterford City. The Mayors Parlour, I believe, is even gone - available only now for ceremonial functions. The Mayoral car is gone (although it is conceivable that another sponsorship might emerge). The Mayors allowance has been reduced significantly - the money which is used to run the many civic and ceremonial events celebrating the many achievements and milestones of the citizens of our wonderful city - vested now in the allowance for the Chairman who, I expect, will continue most of that work.

Last Saturday night, as part of the WiKID Festival, which was launched by the President and Council Chairman, I took part in a sleepover in the Medieval Museum with my young son and his friend. As we bedded down in our sleeping bags underneath the unique and priceless City Charter Roll, I couldn't help but ponder the irony that we had fought so hard to protect and display our physical history and heritage while allowing our independence and cultural heritage to be ravaged. You couldn't move an ancient bone, or a sword, or a painting out of our city without a huge ruckus but the Mayoralty, our very city status? Those parts of our culture and heritage it seems, are disposable to suit a greedy, envious Ministerial whim. 

I hope what has been done will improve things for Waterford in time, now that we are *bigger*. Despite my many misgivings (see earlier blogs) I will work to try to ensure that will happen. But for now - despite my best efforts, I am still mourning for what has been lost.

I'm done with this subject now. I can't undo what has been done. But I know the truth and I won't forget it.

Our former Mayors are spinning in their graves.

(Photo shows myself and then Cllr Seamus Ryan attending the Waterford Gives a Shirt protest at Dail Eireann)