The Phoenix opinion column has been running in the Waterford News & Star for more than 30 years
ARTHUR Conan Doyle put it succinctly in his Sherlock Holmes novels. “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth!”
The longer you trace the course of government’s impact on Waterford city since 2011 the more you will be convinced of a quite deliberate and planned attack on the city’s regional service role. Personalities from Carlow/Kilkenny and Wexford constituencies who populated the 2011 Dáil were no friends of ours. None of them ever supported the development of a WIT university or the development of regional services at UHW. Two of the most powerful cabinet ministers of the time were from the South East and could have driven WIT university status without demur as it was in the programme for government. They did not do it. We live with the results of their opposition and are poorer for it. In truth, they did not want a university for the region lest it advantage Waterford city.
‘Even one wrecked or derelict building can be the vital image former that means Waterford city wins or loses. Do we understand that?’
The trials and tribulations of WIT, without a cent spent on new teaching buildings in nearly 20 years, while six new buildings have been provided at Carlow IT, will form the basis of future PhD theses by those researching Ireland’s educational and regional policy.
The simultaneous attempt to undermine WRH (UHW) with the deeply flawed and now redundant (under Sláinte Care) Hospital Group Strategy suggests some politicians in the South East would gladly have erased us from the map. The departure of one of the main actors from the political stage has seen a lessening, but not an ending, of our difficulties. SETU Waterford is still without new investment. The glass site looks unlikely to be bought this year, despite being “sale agreed” and the “new” (Jesus help us after 20 years waiting) Engineering Building is so overdue that every bit of positivity has been wrung out of it.
Being “a day late and a dollar short” does not quite capture the shameful reality of what has happened. On the UHW front, one need only listen to local radio to be regaled (if that is the word) with stories from the ED, which are redolent of the series MASH. Treatment in a cold tent outside the hospital doors is like a news report from an earthquake or battle zone. Yet there is hardly an official eyebrow lifted. A local TD, a minister on the Dept. of Health, is so silent on the issue as to defy description. Does she not understand? Is party loyalty her main or perhaps her only concern? It cannot go on and many people await the long delayed HSE National Capital Plan 2023 with trepidation lest it herald a continuation of capital resource starvation.
The €200m North Quays allocation gives hope that the worst days of poisonous opposition to Waterford are over and that UHW and SETU projects will come quickly on stream this year. That being said though, it is also obvious that the progress of Waterford city is in the hands of its own citizens. We may not be able to magic up investment in our university or Model 4 hospital, but we can deliver on things within our own control. Who for instance thinks it is a good idea to leave the wretched, roofless wreck of the former Power’s Seeds building standing sentry near the entrance to UHW? Is it a lack of money, of sense, of a plan or a just plain failure to understand by the owners? It’s the same with old Glass factory offices. Despite having full planning since 2019, the owner chooses to leave it as a disgusting mess on the entrance to the city. Some weeks ago in the Irish Times Wulf Daseking, architect and former head of urban planning of Freiburg in Germany, offended the people of Galway by saying that it looks “like a mouth full of broken teeth”. What might he say about sites like Exchange Street , New Street, Browne’s Lane, Newgate Street in Waterford, which would be intolerable in any mainland European city? That they remind him of post war Germany 1945?
Are we serious about the city we live in? The City Council has recently erected new lighting in Manor Street and the area has been laid out with cycle lanes, but who owns the old Shefflin’s Pub and who decides to leave its wreckage to ruin the area? Some of the premises around the Carstand are so shabby as to be grotesque. The condition is awful. Paint and maintenance are not words in Swahili. It can reasonably be said that the appearance of the city has a profound impact on attracting visitors and new business.
Are we in the business of attracting new business, new jobs, visitors and investment? What US multinational CEO could come from the IDA estate to City Hall past Glass offices and Shefflin’s without wondering if this is the best location for his new company?
News from City Council of the redevelopment of the Munster Express site in Hanover Street lifts all our hearts. Meanwhile, sites like the old post office sorting office (owned by council) with a rear entrance to High Street like some awful disadvantaged industrial estate must be prioritised for similar action.
We are in intense competition for investment and resources. News of hundreds of jobs in Galway, Limerick and Kilkenny, while we suffer the loss of 250 in Cartamundi indicate the task ahead. An “ah sure twill do” or the much overused “we must do something with that” attitude no longer cuts the mustard. Investment is competitive and mobile.
When this column first hit these pages, the late Nicky Fewer and Padraig O’Griofa produced a list for Waterford Chamber of “blackspots” along the seven mile journey from Belmont in Ferrybank to the Holy Cross pub on the Cork Road. There were, believe it or not, 167 of them, the most egregious being the wrecks of two Toyota Corolla cars scrapped and up on blocks near Rice Bridge. We have come a long way since those days, but so has everyone else. The paradigm has shifted and even one wrecked or derelict building can be the vital image former that means Waterford city wins or loses. Do we understand that?