I’VE heard a lot of silly things about the North Quays in the last week. Comments such as, “I knew it wasn’t going to happen” and “it was only a pipe dream anyway”. It’s actually been quite frustrating listening to people who, frankly, haven’t a clue about anything but have all the time in the world in which to express opinions anyway. And of course, in the time of social media, they now have a massive soap box from which to broadcast their ignorance.
I’m not a stakeholder in the North Quays project and I don’t have the benefit of full, fly-on-the-wall access. However, I’ve always had my ear to the ground with regards to the project because I believe in it, and I believe it has the power to propel Waterford from the stagnant position it’s been in since the turn of the century. The next three years are arguably the most important in Waterford’s history and if things don’t go our way, our children and grandchildren are going to have to fight like we have.
First and foremost, we were steamrolled by the Technological University farce. Most people simply weren’t engaged in it, probably because they didn’t understand it. Nowadays, unless something personally affects someone, they don’t have much interest. I wish the entire population of Waterford understood that the college affects them more than any other issue around right now. Waterford has been fighting for University Status for close to 100 years and as much as we received promises from time to time, we’ve never been close to actually getting it. The Technological University Act will rip WIT apart in order to boost neighbouring counties like Wexford, Kilkenny and Carlow.
Let me give you an analogy that will explain what’s going to happen. Let’s assume you and your family have put a lot of time and money into your house over the course of the last 70-80 years. Maybe there’s a couple of extensions on it. Maybe you’ve done amazing things with your garden and it’s the jewel in the crown of your neighbourhood. Your house is bigger and better than all the other houses in the area, but that’s only because you and your family have lived in it forever and you’ve built it up to be the dream home it is now. But imagine that someone knocks on your door one day and tells you that the estate is going to get a fancy new name. There will be a new green installed out front with trees and fancy flowers. However, because your house is bigger and better than those around you, you’ll have to give parts of your house to your neighbours to bring them up a few levels whilst simultaneously downgrading yours. You don’t need that second toilet so we’ll give that to someone else. You also don’t need that entertainment room, that can be given to the house across the road that only has one telly.
The very idea of it would boil your blood but this is exactly what’s happening to Waterford, and most of our politicians have been cheerleading it all the way. Trust me when I say this – we have gotten a raw deal and in a few years time, you’ll be questioning why this was allowed to happen. Our future always depended on us being a University City… this Technological University bullsh*it doesn’t make us a university city in the same way that Thurles isn’t going to become a university city just because Limerick Institute of Technology and Athlone Institute of Technology are merging. It’s sickening to be honest.
Anyway, the other important factor is going to be the North Quays. I think it was known a year or so ago that Falcon Real Estate Management would not be developing the project. I believe that certain people (not Waterford City & County Council) put the feelers out for other developers and received several expressions of interest. I believe those expressions solidified and the wheels were set in motion for the new plan, which was published in this newspaper last week. Even though Michael Walsh publicly stated last week that they would be shopping for developers come September or October, I believe that the investors are already lined up. Now, if they can find a way to have a university campus on the North Quays as well as a large company like Google or Apple or one of those, we will have a ready made population and economic boost to the city centre and before you know it, everything else will fall into place. Until these things happen, the Airport runway will not be extended, we will not get any new flights out of Waterford and we definitely won’t get 24/7 cardiac care. Money follows money, and developments follow developments. We just need someone to flick that first domino.