WIT’s Cork Road campus
The Phoenix opinion column has been running in the Waterford News & Star for more than 30 years
IN recent weeks and months the political agenda of this government with respect to Waterford city has become clear as we are inexorably detached from the cities of Ireland and categorised among the county towns. Phil Hogan’s machinations while Minister for the Environment, coupled with those who took the soup and the 30 pieces of silver to end our independent city status after 1,100 years, are coming home to roost.
Anyone interested heard Taoiseach Micheál Martin waffle away in the Dáil while refusing to explain why departmental largesse of €126m for the Irish airport sector couldn’t find €350,000 grant aid for Waterford airport. Mr Martin has more interest in the Dunkettle roundabout than in Waterford.
Our “green” TD Marc O Cathasaigh is silent. He and his party probably believe it would be a climate win were Waterford Airport to close. We’ve heard Senator Malcolm Noonan, ostensibly from north Wexford, but in my view a UCD and Higher Education Authority apparatchik and mouthpiece failing to convince WIT’s Ray Griffin that Waterford’s TUSE place was to sit in the back, shut up and take what is being shoved down our throats. John Cummins explains away the disgraceful delaying (until 2025, if at all) of the commencement of the proposed new WIT engineering building.
‘When a remediable situation like failure to invest in new stock persists for years as it has in WIT, it is a policy!’
Is he blaming WIT for the delay in the acquisition of the Crystal site when it is as plain as day that Dept. of Further Education, Simon Harris and the HEA are up to their neck in anti-Waterford sentiment? When a remediable situation like failure to invest in new stock persists for years as it has in WIT, it is a policy! WIT has been hacked at for a decade by Fine Gael.
We’ve heard Kilkenny radio sprouting news of Simon Harris’ recent visit where he singularly failed to mention WIT’s two campuses, Kildalton and the PACE /TSSG in Kilkenny. The hurt caused to the WIT academics involved in both places was shameful. But that’s Harris.
We’ve heard a Fine Gael junior minister recently tell us how thankful we should be for the Waterford Flood Relief scheme (completed in 2010) which only highlighted the paucity of delivery in the interim. We’ve heard the Taoiseach vehemently suggest that recruitment of extra cardiology staff is underway when PQ replies from UHW management clearly state that no such action has happened since 2018. We’ve heard Minister Mary Butler “announce” a new UHW mental health unit and latterly advise of a two floor extension above the Out Patients Department at UHW, when neither have any allocated funding anywhere in HSE documentation other than for initial design work.
We’ve heard Simon Harris announce a new Kilkenny TUSE campus without any clarification of where WIT, which has driven the university designation process for decades and without which Carlow would have failed completely to attain TU status, fits in. We’ve seen St Patrick’s College Carlow dragged into the equation to further erode WIT’s role as Waterford is literally treated like a mangy dog by Simon Harris in pursuit of his Fine Gael leadership agenda. WIT staff are completely shaken by this turn of events and now fear that WIT is just another negotiable piece of Waterford infrastructure up for political grabs around this region.
We have heard the rhetoric from Leo Varadkar when he came here in July 2017 and in February this year: “Waterford will not be forgotten etc”. The emerging reality does not concur with that and our government reps, M/s Butler, Cummins and O Cathasaigh have each singularly failed to speak up for this city. Timidity and reticence are their watchwords as party comes first. Apologies about the airport, about 24/7 cardiology, about TUSE, the North Quays or whatever, are facile in the face of what management consultants call the “tone” of messaging from the top.
Just watch as an anti-WIT board is announced by Simon Harris for the TUSE. Just watch as the leadership role of WIT is diluted. Just watch as the apparatchiks applaud the political lies, the underfunding, the denigration of our city, the dismemberment of WIT while we are powerless to do anything except point out the unfairness.
With apologies to broadcaster David Olusoga and a Guardian article. Being betrayed is nothing new for Waterford but that doesn’t lessen the blow as the reality appears, because expecting to be let down doesn’t make the experience of being let down any less painful or the resentment any less severe. Our anger stems from the fact people in Waterford fully understand that our city and region do not find themselves left behind, as if by an act of nature, but are being actively left behind. People in Waterford expect to be let down and pushed aside by Dublin and Cork interests because for so long they have been.
Have we learned nothing from the hospital group debacle? Endless promises were made by Prof John Higgins to ensnare UHW and ended with nothing being delivered. UHW was promised the chair and two positions on the SSWHG and ended up with one lonely voice among a cadre of Cork interests.
Must decimation be acted out, after the fact, on JC Decaux street signage, before we understand what is happening to the future interests and status of this city, by which time it will be too late? By which time the political yes men and women will regale us all with egregious nonsense about “working in the background, doing their best, Waterford must learn to share” and other such noisome explanations to cover their failure?
When do Waterford interests come first before the grubby politics of the party system? When will we hear voices from the chamber of commerce, from IBEC, from the heavyweight pharma and health science companies in our industrial sector, from local business, retail and construction, aye, and from the legal and medical communities, speaking up and denouncing what is happening to this city as the negative TUSE evidence mounts? Or is everybody joyously happy with the direction of travel?
The silence is deafening as we are downgraded and humiliated publicly in and out of the Dáil by this despicable government and set up for a TUSE fall from which there will be no recovery. Are there any Waterford people out there?
As late Irish Times journalist John Healy once wrote: “No one shouted stop”!