The Phoenix opinion column, which has been running in the Waterford News & Star for more than 30 years
WE have had dead bodies on the mortuary floor and now live bodies on the mental health unit floor at UHW. We have had massive overcrowding, massive waiting lists, failure to open new facilities. Ho hum, storm in a teacup down there, you know, that place where they eat their young?
We have a grotesque wait for a second cath lab, and the opening of a new palliative care unit. It raises the temperature for a while. Marches, protests. Ho hum, storm in a teacup down there again. Earnest comment and shock in the national media. People are outraged. The HSE apologises to staff and patients. Nothing happens.
There is massive underfunding of WIT, failure to progress university status, an emasculated city region being forced on us by a flawed Metro Area Strategic Plan, underfunding of our city council (and anyone who accepts this €3.5m funding cut and the consequent horrific impact on this small city, is a dope), as we are kicked around again, funding delay for the North Quays.
‘Ho hum, storm in a teacup down there again. Earnest comment and shock in the national media. People are outraged. The HSE apologises to staff and patients. Nothing happens.’
The Taoiseach underestimated the mortuary situation having been badly briefed. On realising four local pathologists were not to blame, he promised action before this year’s end. The tender for a new mortuary has come back above cost expectations, but will the HSE sign the new contract? Manana, in a “few” weeks! Ho hum, storm in a teacup? What message is the government sending us?
Sometimes people laugh at things for fear that they might cry. What else can you do in this la la land with a government unable to divert itself from its own narcissism? Our acute medical care is being sacrificed to the financial madness of the National Children’s Hospital. An incompetent Simon Harris is still in office?
The message to Waterford is simple. You are second class citizens. Your health and education provision and your living standards are below those of your peer cities. Be happy with your lot. We are hostage to Dublin and particularly Cork politics, where nothing, in any field, that impinges upon any aspect of Coveney/Martin land can develop in Waterford.
If a dystopian post Brexit day dawns when food is short, we ask ourselves if the people of Waterford will be left hungry? We have a government in name only. They govern nothing, but supervise the aggrandisement of their favourites. A plague upon them and their Dubland centred bubble world. They do not represent us!
Space time blues
Is Waterford an alternative universe, where normal time does not apply? A Star Trek episode, where Captain Kirk declares a “hole in the fabric of the space time continuum”, and time is twisted or warped? The HSE announced a planning application last week for a second UHW cath lab. The local hospital manager informed public representatives that it will take two years to build after planning and tender processes are completed. That makes delivery possible in about three years or so, but provides little certainty.
John Halligan announced on November 22, 2018, “It’s now full steam ahead for a second cath lab at UHW, as I’ve received word that capital funding of €4.75 million has been approved by the HSE for the project. The new lab will take 12 to 16 months to design and construct.” Last week he announced, “I am glad to see that the planning application for the second cath lab at UHW has been officially submitted ahead of schedule this week. I have made it clear to the SSWHG that the mooted two year turnaround on delivery of the second lab is not acceptable.”
Can anyone explain how a November 2018 project, to be delivered within 12/16 months, can be “ahead of schedule” because a planning application, which may deliver it in three years, is submitted? Does normal time not apply?
We have seen similar things with Brexit where any old guff like “€350 million a week extra for the NHS” could be written on the Brexit bus, or Johnson can make any sort of nonsense claim about his wonderful deal, or Trump say almost anything, no matter how unreal, without fear or contradiction. Is this it in Waterford, where Orwell’s 1984 “doublethink” allows blatantly contradictory statements about anything?
UL in town
University of Limerick will create over 330 additional jobs and recruit a further 4,000 students over the next five years. UL President, Dr Des Fitzgerald recently launched the university’s new strategic plan.
“With the right support and backed by significant investment, the plan will bring staff numbers up to 1,930, to support rising student numbers. The extra students will bring in an additional €30 million to the city.” The launch took place at the planned new UL city campus in the former Dunnes Stores site, acquired this year, on Sarsfield Bridge. Imagine, this year, and already being built on! Not a penny spent on WIT since 2005!
The Waterford Glass site at Kilbarry, immediately adjacent to WIT, could have been acquired for small money, but was passed over. WIT has been eviscerated by a 25% budget cut in recent years, while Carlow IT has been bigged up by the HEA and Dept. of Education in the seeming intent to undermine WIT in a TUSE merger.
Student numbers in Carlow are inflated and published without challenge. Tech Uni Dublin is building its new €1 billion Grangegorman campus, and the newly ordained RCSI University is borrowing €40m from the European Investment Bank to fund a new €90m campus development in central Dublin.
WIT cannot buy a box of matches without being stifled by the HEA and Dept. of Education. Local politicians just don’t get what’s going on.
Fianna Fáil, who support in government, the current monstrously unfair treatment of WIT, have absolved themselves of all responsibility. The voters of Waterford are treated like sheeple being herded into the polling booths by the same old, same old parties which, with the exception of Martin Cullen, have failed to deliver anything to this city.
Funding to develop Mount Congreve is great news for this terrific amenity. But, why is the project, which will cost €4.96m, of which the city council will have to find €1.2m, devolved on the council? Future running costs must all be met by the council. Why could it not be taken over by the Office of Public Works (OPW)? They have almost zero input into this area. Why could it not be taken over, maintained and run by the Irish Heritage Trust, the Dept. of Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht quango which runs Fota House and Gardens in Cork, Johnstown Castle in Wexford and Strokestown House in Roscommon? Did we ask?
People welcome every cent that comes to Waterford, and indeed the €5m going to New Ross for development in that town of a Norman Centre, but it’s hard not to wonder why some places get investment without local funding being called in?
Why can the Crawford Museum and Art Gallery in Cork be nationally funded and designated as a ‘National Cultural Institution’ with free entrance? How can the Hunt Museum in Limerick be funded by the Dept. of the Taoiseach, or the Galway city museum, soon to be joined by a new €10m museum of the Atlantic, be built by the OPW with free entrance, while Waterford’s wonderful Treasures museums must charge for entry and indeed raise their own funds to develop new museums in Greyfriars and Cathedral Square? Different rules for the favoured few perhaps?
Urban success is bound up with perception and image. Galway is “sexy”. We are not. We do not “do” image or marketing, but desperately need leadership. One of the medical people interviewed in connection with the Psychiatric Unit woes said simply, that there is no plan for Waterford. The point was echoed in the Examiner with an article that “Waterford was being left behind”. Locals feel it across the board. Anyone who has been in Cork recently can see it. The level of waterfront development there is extraordinary while not a brick has been laid in much of our city centre for a decade. Our local business leadership and investment is barely visible. How can a city prosper without it?
A retired councillor spoke of the situation in Carrickphierish where a halting site has grown without any planning control whatsoever. Members of the Travelling community must indeed be decently housed, but young settled couples who have borrowed a quarter of a million Euro to buy a new house believe the council Housing Dept. has completely abrogated its responsibility and rewards those who have not obeyed the planning rules.
Council wants to increase the halting site from three bays to 10. Should more family members involved park illegally in the site vicinity the council will take no action against them either. Do council officials return after work to their “wisteria clad rectories” as one UK wit described it, a great distance from any halting site, leaving young house holders to deal with their planning and administrative failures? Is this civic leadership?
Many street lights at Brown’s Road/Cork Road and Cork Road/Inner Ring Road are out of action for over a year. The problem has been investigated and the solution requires new underground cables. The council has allowed this persist for reasons of cost. What’s next, turning off the water for a year in some housing estate because of a leak?
How does ignoring maintenance drive the city and council agenda of regional leadership forward? What real passion to make Waterford the regional city it should be is detectable from council? Do people care? Is it all just “jobs worth”? 1100 years of civic independence lost in 2014. Our council travel to a small town to decide matters of our city’s financial future simply because the FF and FG legion of the rearguard understand nothing about what the city has to be. The city has suffered disproportionately since the council amalgamation. The 18 councillors in the Metro district are failing in their duty to the city they purport to represent. Poor maintenance in the city reflects that. Where is the leadership?