‘This win was not an accident. It was judged by a panel who visited, who experienced and who researched. Waterford city won because it merited this accolade. Because, whether Joe Duffy likes it or not, it is true.’
JOE Duffy might not believe but that’s ok. What’s not ok is not believing in ourselves, in Waterford. The Irish Times judging panel unanimously voted Waterford city the Best Place to Live in Ireland 2021, in only the second ever iteration of their Best Place to Live competition. The first outing of this fantastic idea was in 2012, when the whole country took note of Westport in Co. Mayo winning this coveted Irish Times accolade.
This win was not an accident. It was judged by a panel who visited, who experienced and who researched. Waterford city won because it merited this accolade. Because, whether Joe Duffy likes it or not, it is true. But in Waterford we also know that we are quiet about it, because we barely believe it ourselves.
To those looking on from outside, that is hard to understand. Such things are psychological. As Darren Skelton points out in his column this week, once upon a time Waterford city was riding the crest of a wave. It was one wave and it was made of Crystal, and unfortunately it shattered rather spectacularly. It left Waterford people having to hold a mirror up to the fact that for a long time they had allowed themselves to be defined by very little else. After all a long time prior had passed since the heydays of Jacob’s biscuits and our vibrant merchant sea trade.
‘Gradually the Crystal void filled, and the big wave we’d crested was replaced with smaller, more sustainable waves, creating a rising tide that has sent its ripples out from our Déise capital’s heart to all corners of our beautiful, multifaceted county’
Reinvention has come slowly and carefully in our community, aided significantly by Waterford Council, who come in for criticism often enough but who must be credited for refusing to lay down under the trials of recession and the void left in Kilbarry.
The last element to recover, however, is the most crucial. And that is confidence. Down in Cork, and rapidly on their heels Galway and Limerick in the west, they’ve forgotten what it’s like to suffer such a lack of self-esteem. Our century-long university campaign constantly met with hurdles has not helped, and profoundly so. But Waterford never stopped doing.
After Waterford Crystal’s Kilbarry demise, reinvention became about survival for countless families. Small new businesses emerged, and the Waterford News & Star covered their stories. They proliferated in the Viking Triangle and in premises across the city centre, from the Apple Market to the Clock Tower, and from one end of the Quay to the other.
Outside our city, communities and landowners put any qualms they might have had aside and made way for a Greenway linking east to west. On the coast, simultaneously communities adapted and created.
And gradually the Crystal void filled, and the big wave we’d crested was replaced with smaller, more sustainable waves, creating a rising tide that has sent its ripples out from our Déise capital’s heart to all corners of our beautiful, multifaceted county.
So it is not surprising that the judges went away of the same opinion, that Waterford city truly is the best place to live in Ireland.
Confidence returns slowly and surely, but for the Déise, who perhaps for a long time have not fully believed, it’s time to start. In this week’s edition we triumph in the kind of pride such self-belief engenders – inviting all sorts of Waterford people, both at home and abroad, to indulge a little in what’s so special about this corner of Ireland. We hope you keep the supplements, tuck them away for future generations, just in case they ever need reminding.
Editorial, first published in October 5th edition of the Waterford News & Star