Thursday, April 15, 2021

THE primacy of Waterford Institution of Technology (WIT) needs to be recognised in the Technological University of the South East (TUSE) equation, according to Cllr Mary Roche who set down a motion calling for clarification.

The Independent Councillor’s motion, proposed to Thursday’s Plenary meeting, read, “That Waterford City and County Council calls on the government to clarify the funding and configuration arrangements for their proposed Technological University before dissolving Waterford Institute of Technology.”

Cllr Mary Roche

She remarked that many may see this question as having been answered, but she did not. “The Minister has said there’s €150m in capital investment for the new institution, which consists of €50m for Waterford for the engineering building, €50m for Wexford for a new campus and €50m for Carlow for new buildings. That effectively means that there’s no extra capital investment coming for WIT as it is currently constituted, because that engineering building was proposed in 2009, pulled in 2011 and committed to donkey’s years ago,” Cllr Roche said.

The Public Private Partnership was committed for the first quarter of 2021, but nothing has started yet. She had no doubt that it would come, but reiterated it represented no extra capital expenditure for WIT.

Meanwhile, she said the commitment for the new Wexford campus was made by the Minister, who stated that he couldn’t make commitments on behalf a new board.

“I don’t know how you can square a circle of not being able to make a decision on the headquarters, but being able to commit the new board to spending €50m in Wexford.” According to Cllr Roche, Carlow has done very well out of the whole thing.

“From 2009 to 2019 the Minister confirmed in the Dáil recently that €996m was spent on third level education in Ireland, 4% of which came to Waterford. During that time we know that no new teaching buildings were added to WIT… There’s no recognition of the primacy of WIT in the new TUSE equation,” she said.

Along with the recognition of primacy, Cllr Roche said a commitment is needed on the headquarters, proper and capital investment. An answer is also required on whether or not the TUSE proposal will bring equality to Waterford in terms of third level offering with other cities. She criticised the Minister’s lack of engagement on the matter and said it merits answers. “The fact that he won’t do so is an ominous sign in my view,” she said.

In seconding the motion Cllr Thomas Phelan (LAB) said it was not just the future of Waterford city, it was the future of the South East, and as public representatives it behoved them to stand up for the primacy of WIT. Cllr Lola O’Sullivan (FG) said it was great to see that 15 out of 16 TDs and Senators from the South East have come forward in support of the TUSE. Meanwhile, Cllr Davy Daniels (IND) criticised the Minister’s reluctance and deemed it “completely unacceptable”. Following a roll call vote the motion was passed.

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