Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The View from the Blue as it appeared in this week’s edition.

BACK in 2017, I remember sitting down in the News & Star offices with the editor of the paper and one of the group managers. I asked them to suspend their disbelief, as a story that I had gotten wind of – if true – was going to be the biggest story to break in Waterford in decades. At the time, the developers had aggressive timelines and were hoping to have a significant portion of the project built by Christmas 2019. Sadly, they would soon learn that things don’t move that fast in this country, in fact, they barely move at all. 

I can’t even begin to comprehend the amount of meetings, negotiations and plea bargains that must have have gone on behind the scenes to get us where we are today. 

Anyone out there who has ever bought a new house will know that there are a lot of hoops that you have to jump through before you can even think about what colour curtains you’ll be putting in the sitting room. Imagine that pain, multiply it by a million and that’s probably close to how excruciating it’s been to try and get this project over the line. Believe me when I say that there were times when it looked dead in the water, that is, the plan as we have all come to know it. Other developers were sniffing around and if they had stepped in, we’d have been looking at some significant delays as the plan, which is already approved by all the governing bodies, would have been ripped apart, and a fresh plan submitted. It would have been deeply infuriating for all the people who really want this to happen. Which, by the way, is not as many people as you’d think.

There are a lot of people who don’t want the North Quays project to go ahead. Some of them have nothing good going on in their own lives so progress to them would just be a reminder of all the things they didn’t achieve. It’s that school like feeling again… I didn’t study so I want everyone else to fail too. I think the majority of readers of this column would be surprised by the amount of Waterford people who would prefer to see this project not happen at all. They’ve achieved pretty much all they’re ever going to in life so what’s the point of Waterford achieving some prosperity? It’s not going to improve their lives. In fact, it’s actually going to make it worse because of all the extra traffic in the city, and sure there’ll probably be more foreigners coming in to the city as well. It’s the kind of regressive thinking that can bury a city.

I’ve always wanted this project to go ahead because, as I said back in 2017, a rising tide lifts all boats. When the news of the government funding was announced last week, the internet was full of the usual comments from people who truly don’t know what they’re talking about. “But what about cardiac care?” “They can’t even fill the Ferrybank Shopping Centre and now they’re going to build this.” Every time I read comments like this, it takes every ounce of effort to not take a jackhammer to the keyboard explaining how profoundly idiotic that thought process is.

First and foremost, when – not if – this development goes ahead, it will create a barrel of jobs. Waterford will buzz like it has never buzzed before. We will become a destination city and people will come from miles around to see what we’ve become. Our population will increase and all those projects that we never thought possible, like the airport, and 24/7 will become a reality because they will no longer need to be justified. I would go as far as to say that the only possible way for the South East to get cardiac care is for the North Quays development (and supplementary projects) to go ahead. As I have said before I’ve always believed that the Government tapping that first domino would unleash all kinds of possibilities down here.

On that subject actually, I think Waterford owes a debt of thanks to Fianna Fáil – and that’s something I never thought I’d hear myself say. Fine Gael – through Paudie Coffey – unlocked the potential of this project with the designation of the site as a Strategic Development Zone… but then they disappeared. They had so many opportunities to deliver the funding – especially before the last General Election, but they didn’t do it, and I can’t help but think that they simply didn’t want to do it. Then, someone explained to Darragh O’Brien and his Fianna Fáil colleagues that the project was a no-brainer and it would reap so many rewards, and suddenly ALL of the money was there. Not just another €6m, or a promise of €30m – all of it. Varadkar, Coveney and co. have tried to stop our university, our health system and the North Quays and I’m hoping we’ve just scored the first goal in a hat-trick.

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Contact Journalist: darrens

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