Tuesday, July 07, 2020

There is an absolutely febrile atmosphere around town over the new government cabinet and its likely impact on Waterford. People are sickened by what has gone on. The Green Party has shown itself as idealistic, while being outflanked. Cork FF has exposed itself as grasping and voracious. FG has clung to a semblance of power. What is in any of this mix for us?None of the mainstream parties (excluding SF) have understood the feeling in Waterford. If they do, they don’t give a rat’s ass.  After nine years of Fine Gael government, Waterford city has been decimated.

The apologists for Fine Gael, which has systematically suppressed Waterford medical and education services for a decade, have been joined by the whingers in Fianna Fáil, who insist that “poor Mary must be given a chance” to prove herself. She might start by delivering, with her Cork Taoiseach, the second cath lab and 24/7 cardiology for UHW. She has nailed her future to that cross.

People were absolutely sickened by Fine Gael’s manufactured delay around this project. The new Fianna Fáil Minister for Health has indicated to the Dáil that he knows nothing about the issue and needs time “to find out”! There ie not a health professional or politician in Ireland of any note who has not heard about cardiology at UHW, to suggest otherwise is risible. The editorial in this paper last week captured the local zeitgeist emphatically. Waterford is out in the perpetual political cold and no one in government gives a shite.

No matter what we say, what figures we produce, what delegations we present or entreaties we make, the whole process of government as regards Waterford has turned into a gigantic spoof and miserable lie.

Leo Varadkar spoke glowingly of his roots here and did nothing. An utter spoofer! The devil take the hindmost attitude of Micheál Martin with three cabinet ministers in Cork speaks volumes for his belief in Cork superiority, exceptionalism and entitlement. Cork intends to subjugate politically, commercially and economically, the south of Ireland. No wonder there are revolts in the ranks.  We are having none of it. We will not be silenced.

The Programme for Government

I listened in shock to Dr Ray Griffin on Déise Today as he disassembled the politics around the PfG. It delivers nothing to Waterford and the region. I read this boring sentence from it having listened to him. “We will develop and implement the existing strategies for our cities such as the Greater Dublin Area Transport Strategy, the Galway Transport Strategy, the draft Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy, as well as strategies being developed for Waterford and Limerick, and other projects progressing through planning.” Waterford got mentioned, Cork, Galway and Dublin got action.

The Greater Dublin Area Transport Strategy is Bus Connect, at €750m and Metrolink slightly saucier at €3bn. Cork’s plan is a €3.5bn investment package including commuter rail, bus corridors, light rail, park and rides, walking and cycling infrastructure and road networks. Think about it, €3.5bn for transport infrastructure into Cork. This why having a Minister matters. Three of them can put a 45 word sentence together that spends billions. Ministers are Gods, and Simon Coveney, Michael Martin and Michael McGrath are Cork’s pantheon of Gods. Ministers are the conduit for connecting the needs of the people to those in cabinet, who by geography or design are “unaware” of regional shortcomings. This “unawareness” in the last cabinet managed to ignore half the country as Dublin gobbled everything in sight.

But what is Waterford getting in this pig of a PfG? A transport study costing a million or two? Real things happen in Dublin and Cork. Nothing real will happen in Waterford. In fact, Micheál Martin’s political promise of 24/7 was reneged on immediately by the new FF Health Minister in the Dáil, although the appointment of David Cullinane as SF spokesman on Health will create a fierce contest. Otherwise, no mention of the North Quays, the airport or the port. No funding for the “designed to fail” TUSE. The rage in Waterford is palpable.

A junior Minister sitting in the ante room to power will not change this as John Halligan’s career so graphically underlined. Refusals of that role tell their own story. Poor Mary Butler will be understudy to a Senior Minister who will call all the shots. She will attend events that are not important enough for the Minister and be dragged away from her own constituency, spending more time in Dublin on national issues of no relevance to many of the people who voted for her.

Just look at how livid Michael Fitzmaurice was when it was clear there would be no representation at Cabinet from Donegal to the edge of Kerry. He knew what this meant, that his people would get nothin’. Only the politically correct, locked in the Dublin bubble, can dismiss demands for regional ministerial representation as parochial. Fitzmaurice summoned up his anger into white spittle that fell from the corner of his mouth. This 50-year-old man, who looks like he could have been middle aged in 1969, stands up for the people of Roscommon–Galway–South Leitrim. In these woke times I should not mention his body. But he has a deep understanding of the political game – a smart cookie wrapped up in a “bogger from the Wesht” veneer. His ministerial nag Dara Calleary, Mayo Fianna Fáiler, did not romp home.

Perhaps he took inspiration from watching the career arc of Joe McHugh, famously the Minister for the Gaeltacht who spoke no Irish but had to account to the all-powerful Public Accounts Committee when some alleged that 93% of his departmental budget was shovelled into the Donegal Gaeltacht. He denied the claim, but stands his ground that he was good for Donegal. He was their milking cow and has rejected a junior ministry.

Other potent and powerful future leaders such as Jim O’Callaghan turned down a chair at the kids table too. Willie O’Dea describes the cabinet as an insult to Limerick. Eamonn O’Cuiv and others wait in the long grass for the Cork Taoiseach.

The aftershock

There is no doubt that there will be a serious economic decline after we get to grips with the current pandemic. Talk of an immediate rebound to the levels of economic activity we enjoyed pre-Covid is not taken seriously by anyone. At best, we will see a slow recovery and hope that government will spread a lot of money around to minimise economic disruption.  There is a constant drip of business closures in Waterford and in every town and city across the country. The service industry is particularly affected. Tánaiste Leo Varadkar predicts a very divisive recovery between those in Small and Medium sized industries and those in government employment plus those working for major multi-national industry. The suggestion being that the last two sections would survive relatively unscathed.

Indeed it was quite remarkable to read that Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath intends to pay teachers and others a wage increase in October. One would have thought that this might at least be open to debate? It looks increasingly like only those in the protected categories will be able to get a mortgage in future as bank lending protocols are tightened.

It’s like the old days when the teacher or guard married the nurse and bought a house while ordinary working people waited years for a council house. It’s also obvious that there will be a clear economic division, created almost entirely by Mr Varadkar’s and Enda Kenny’s Fine Gael governments, between various parts of the country. It is amazing in that context that Waterford now has a Fine Gael mayor.

The South East has had the highest regional unemployment for years and the government’s own Action Plan for Jobs target of being within 1% of the national average has not been attained here. What will the new rainbow government do (with Cork in charge) for Waterford, to end that particular division?

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