THE authors of the South East Economic Monitor are regularly rounded on by critics, and unfairly so, for speaking the truth in relation to the sorry economic state of affairs in the South East.
The figures in the Economic Monitor all stack up. They are facts. Yet, politicians and government department officials will, as suits their agenda, condemn their ‘negative’ message, and disparage their findings, which works to create doubt around the truth.
It is, in an era of spin – which has at its disposal excellent means of disseminating that spin in the form of a social media that is not subject to the rigours of good journalistic reportage and analysis, a powerful weapon.
At best this ‘opinion-mongering’ dilutes the important message clearly proven and stated in the Economic Monitor. At worst it leads the public to suspect the validity of that information.
But where does that leave Waterford and the South East?
It makes it easier for politicians to create their own smoke and mirrors, particularly around election time. It weakens our regional strengths and paves the way for the kind of decisions that ultimately erode Waterford and the region – a stagnation of educational development, weakened services at our university hospital, a lack of or sluggishness when it comes to cabinet-level support for crucial investment and funding.
But politicians will be politicians, and propaganda is an old form of influence. Ultimately it rests with the public to engage and be aware. At the end of the day, opinion is just that. If the sums add up, the sums are correct. And that includes the numbers in the South East Economic Monitor.
Time to honour maritime status
That the city of the ‘Three Shippes’ does not have a three ship-themed tourist attraction feels like a rare beat skipped by a local authority, which has shown great initiative in promoting both our Viking and Norman history.
The temporary relocation of the ‘Vadrafjordr’ longboat for last Saturday’s Maritime Festival at Mount Congreve, where essential maintenance for the boat will also be carried out, led to a considerable online debate focusing primarily on that one vessel. But the debate ought to be considered on a much greater scale.
When one considers the extent of our maritime history in addition to how the story of Waterford was shaped by invading forces, promoting our river and coastal history with berthed attractions must be examined.
We need only look downriver to New Ross for the tremendous success achieved by the Dunbrody for proof of how an area’s past can be honoured while boosting local tourism coffers today.
The installation of a longboat on the South Quay along with a second vessel at a fully realised heritage offering at the Woodstown site is surely worth exploring.
Such a proposal, with the ‘Vadrafjordr’ back in its slot alongside Reginald’s Tower, would create a three-ship offering exclusively of a Viking variety in Waterford. But such a vision should not end there.
A maritime museum, which should also perpetuate the heritage of the Portláirge dredger, currently rusting to extinction in Bannow Bay, ought to be established in Waterford with the support of Tourism Ireland.