The Phoenix opinion column, which has been running in the Waterford News & Star for more than 30 years
IF THE present government continues for much longer, Waterford will cease to have any relevance as a city. We are near a tipping point. The current political dispensation will deliver nothing. Besides David Cullinane, our other three TDs must be replaced in the hope of a change of government. It’s survival time for Waterford city and we cannot afford ballast or dead weight. We need all the political representation we can get.
Last week’s analysis by Darren Skelton showed that Cork will receive €1.56 billion in investment over the next eight years, plus two new hospitals costing €350 million, while Waterford will receive a princely and already spent €21m to part cover the €31m cost of the newly completed but unopened Dunmore wing at UHW. The hospice will raise the difference locally. The entire South East may receive only €94 million in the same period. Cork will get 20 times more than the South East for the same population and 100 times more than Waterford.
‘As university costs escalate beyond the means of ordinary families, Fine Gael’s “let them eat cake” attitude, saying, “Let those who cannot afford university be satisfied with the regional colleges” emerges.’
Who signed up for that in this republic? Fine Gael policy will embed economic apartheid, with the South East losing out, for the next century. Waterford will get nothing from them. They are killing us off with mealy mouthed mañana promises, under the hand of an almost Waterford Taoiseach. If Mr Varadkar’s mammy was from Cork?
In nearly 35 years of this column, nothing like this has ever been seen. Fine Gael don’t even bother to hide the blatant medical, educational, commercial, industrial and transport disparities in state investment policies, driven by Simon Coveney and his Cork interests and our lack of political influence. We must have an election to give our city a chance to survive. It’s fight or die.
Now is the winter of our discontent!
Two years ago, in July 2017, Taoiseach Varadkar inter alia said in Waterford, “This is a great city – historic, resilient and proud. However, I fear that, in recent times, the city has regrettably lost some of its confidence. Maybe in dark hours, the city lacks hope that its future will be better, brighter. That should be of concern to all of us. Many in the city and city region feel that Waterford has fallen behind, has been neglected, even forgotten. And, it’s not hard to understand why. This must change. So long as I am Taoiseach Waterford will not be neglected or forgotten.”
Don’t tell us Leo, show us! We cannot accuse the Taoiseach of telling lies. What we can say is that these fine words, which we took to our hearts, are meaningless pap, recited for consumption by party hacks. Is there a shred of evidence to support them? Where is the second cath lab, the proposed new mortuary being delivered after years of “priority”?
The National Planning Framework is meaningless. Where is anything? Swallowed in the grotesque overspending on the National Children’s Hospital? Vodafone rolled out 5G Broadband to five cities, including Waterford, recently and wags tweeted ironically, “The cheek of them including Waterford”!
Eight years of Fine Gael government, compounded by gross local political ineptitude, have been an unmitigated disaster for Waterford.
Talking to Buncombe
When he spoke of the Ireland 2040 project, Leo Varadkar was insistent on the importance of Waterford city to the attainment of its planned goals. Yet, on 26.11 2018 he said, “Almost 200 funding applications were submitted to the Department since its call for applications in July. There was a huge range of applications including: transforming the former school on Rutland Street as a community hub; support for large scale strategic sites in the Cork Docklands Regeneration areas; Regeneration for O’Connell Street in the city centre of Limerick; and public realm and riverside enhancement for the Abbey Quarter in Kilkenny.”
No mention of Waterford. The Kilkenny project, recently started by the Taoiseach, received a grant of €5m and has morphed into a €100m development. Watch that space.
On 26.11.18 John Halligan wrote, “I’m delighted to be with An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar to announce combined funding of €7.35 million for two Waterford projects under the first round of the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund, which was launched in July as part of Project Ireland 2040. The Waterford North Quays project is to receive €6 million (we needed €20m) for the construction of a pedestrian bridge linking the city’s North and South quays – the single biggest allocation for any project to receive funding. The Urban Fund will reopen for allocations next February (2019), when applications will be made for further infrastructural works to facilitate the regeneration of the North Quays.”
The time line for the second tranche has not even been finalised. Political delay is killing us. Falcon Real estate will pull the plug unless North Quay infrastructure funding is forthcoming by November 2019. Will Fine Gael ever deliver anything to Waterford?
Statement from Oireachtas Members
September 19, 2019: “Minister for Health Simon Harris has this evening confirmed to South East Oireachtas members that a second permanent cath lab is to be provided on the grounds of University Hospital Waterford. The process to design and construct the new lab is to start immediately, with the recruitment of staff due to take place during construction. At a meeting in Leinster House this afternoon attended by Gerry O’Dwyer, Chief Executive Office of the South/ Southwest Hospital Group and Gerry O’Callaghan, the group’s Chief Operations Officer, Minister Harris told Oireachtas members that the new lab would be delivered within the next 12-16 months. Mr O’Dwyer has been instructed by Minister Harris to explore options to deliver the new lab in a shorter timeframe. In the interim, the mobile cath lab delivering diagnostics will remain in situ at UHW. Members of the hospital group will meet with local Oireachtas members on a monthly basis to update them on the progress of the works.”
Almost a year after that statement was issued even the plans for the proposed second lab are not complete.
All the bumf from the HSE and Simon Harris was nonsense. It has been cruelly exposed by the failure of Gerry O’Dwyer to do as he was instructed by Harris and the need to close and refit the permanent cath lab in UHW. We will be without heart attack cover (PPCI) in the South East for an indeterminate period. Many people are very afraid, as our cardiology service is ruined by Cork medicine and Dublin political disinterest. We are fed lies to confuse the peasantry. How anyone now believes anything from the present government or its lackeys is beyond me. We are simply being strung along and our public reps are swallowing this sh*te as if it was Beluga caviar.
A man from an ordinary (labouring) background in Cork who ended up as senior professor in another university told me that he went to university because Cork was full of role models who had succeeded at the time in the 1960s. At the same time people in Waterford, and who could blame them, aspired to work in the Glass. High wages trumped everything.
When the crash came, the lack of transferability of skills and low workplace educational attainment levels (JM Hearne, History of Waterford Glass) came back to haunt redundant employees and the city. In the long term, education trumps everything.
Cork and Galway have thrived on university education, with a huge participation rate in each of them from “local” students. Corkonians go to UCC! Limerick, after a generation with a university, is making a huge breakthrough. WIT has been denied the status its work deserves. It would have given the South East educational equality and the much desired university cachet. The children of Waterford are deliberately denied that opportunity in their own city because of UCC interests and Carlow/Kilkenny Fine Gael politics.
As university costs escalate beyond the means of ordinary families, Fine Gael’s “let them eat cake” attitude, saying, “Let those who cannot afford university be satisfied with the regional colleges” emerges.
Anyone who has been in Cork, Limerick or Galway recently knows how far they have outstripped Waterford. The leaders have broken away while we are in the peloton, designated as the provider of labour to the favoured regions, where the state spends its money. Is that acceptable? Are you content to be a second class citizen, sitting in the back of the apartheid bus while other areas swim in state largesse?
Meanwhile, in UCD, massive new multi storey blocks of student accommodation are being built to target the 3,000 school leavers that leave the South East for higher education each year and never return. There is no money to progress the TUSE. WIT has been eviscerated by this government, its budget raped and course development strangled. A small budget deficit is held over it like a sword of Damocles, while government, rallying behind the relentless Carlow/Kilkenny Fine Gael lobby, splurge money on Carlow IT to undermine our city.
Universities can borrow but WIT cannot. The University and IoT Acts both have provision for a ‘borrowing framework’ but the Dept. refuses to implement the WIT one. The seven universities have borrowed approximately €250 million each to fund campus developments (mainly from the European Investment Bank). Each has spent one million Euro each week, every week, of every year in the period 2011 to 2016 on new buildings. They will spend the same amount, every week of every year in 2016-2020.
Nothing has been invested in WIT teaching space since 2005 (Tourism and Leisure building, designed in 1998).
John Halligan, minister in the Dept. of Education, stands by as WIT is assaulted by the awful government he supports. What Fine Gael has done to WIT is unforgivable. In the proposed TUSE, the words WIT and Waterford will be erased forever as planned by Phil Hogan and his Fine Gael acolytes. Waterford could be denied the TUSE HQ because our voice is not heard in government. If General Richard Mulcahy of Waterford, a one-time leader of Fine Gael was around, I reckon he would be thinking of military rather than political action. Must equity be dragged from the hands of this government?