Monday, December 20, 2010

Mayors Christmas Message

Christmas is a time for families and friends to share the best and for everyone to think about our fellow man and woman and extend the spirit of peace and goodwill. Luckily, we live in a city with a proud history and experience of making the best of everything. The people of Waterford city have a tremendous community spirit and resilience .

Our City is blessed with talented people in business, the arts, and in the community and voluntary sector. Our workers are hard working and decent. Our entire community of people deserve the best and we will continue to achieve in 2011 and build on our efforts last year in spite of the adversity facing our city and country .

Let this Christmas time be about the celebration of who we are as a city, a nation, as mankind and together we can enhance the celebration of this season for everyone and look to 2011 with confidence and hope.

In these challenging times, it is easy to forget what is the essential Christmas message, the message of hope for a better future. Let us not become isolated in our own thoughts. At Christmas time in our city we have the opportunity to value and celebrate the community of Waterfordians; locals, those who have settled in our wonderful city and those who have settled abroad and who cannot be with us at this time. Our thoughts and wishes go to all of you.

I would like to remember those individuals who for whatever reasons may not have the opportunity to enjoy Christmas in the way the majority of us do.
My thoughts are with those people are who are ill and hope that better health comes to you soon. And to those who have lost the security of employment. My wish is that our resilience and drive will create opportunities for positive change for all our citizens.

In my mayoral election speech in June this year I expressed a desire to work hard to inspire and bring hope to our citizens. Reflecting this Christmas, as Mayor, I have been privileged to see first hand the contribution of organisations, individuals and volunteers who work hard throughout the year to assist others. This has had the effect of filling me with great hope and pride when I have witnessed the contribution they have made. I have been inspired to continue our important work for the city; my sincere thanks go out to each and every one of them on behalf of all Waterford people.

At this Christmas time may I express the desire that peace and hope will be more than just aspirations at this time of year but that it will become a way of thinking for our people and city in the years to come.

May I take this opportunity to wish you all the very best for a Happy Christmas and a healthy and peaceful new year. Thank you.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thanks to Everyone for their professionalism during the snow!

I want, as Mayor, to pay tribute to those people working in Waterford City Council who have kept the city up and running during the recent spell of snow and ice. Many worked long, cold hours gritting streets in the early hours of the mornings. Many made it to work in difficult circumstances themselves in order to live up to their commitment to public service.

I also want to acknowledge those in the health services who ensured our hospitals and health facilities remained open, safe and accessible. I know many who could not get to their own homes bunked in with colleagues locally, shifts were swapped and indeed every effort was made to make sure the public were able to access a full service.

To the Gardai and Emergency Services, and all the volunteer services including the Civil Defence, the Order of Malta and the Red Cross all of whom have been providing necessary assistance over the past week and a half a big thanks is also due.

On behalf of the people of Waterford and the South East I think it is important to let you know that we are aware of the work you did and continue to due, the extra efforts you made and to let you know that we appreciate those efforts on our behalf very much.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Mayor to open 'Book of Dissatisfaction'

The Mayor of Waterford City, Councillor Mary Roche has announced that she is to open a 'Book of Dissatisfaction' at City Hall in Waterford.

"I see this as something which will allow people, in their own time and in their own way, to register their dissatisfaction with the current government and their handling of Ireland and Irish affairs," said Cllr Roche. "It is quite common for Mayors to open Books of Condolence when a great catastrophe is visited on a community or a country. It allows people, collectively to record their dismay and have it passed on to the relevant authorities.

That is exactly what has happened to Ireland. We have suffered a huge catastrophe at the hands of the current and previous Governments - and now, to add insult to injury, our health, welfare and social care budgets are going to be slashed in order to pay the money back. It is a disaster for this country and people want some way to release their frustration, and vent their annoyance and have their voices heard. I hope that the 'Book of Dissatisfaction' will allow one avenue for people to do that."

The book will allow people to sign record their name and address and will have a space for people to comment and have their say - pass their verdict, or just send a message - to those who have led us to this pass.

The 'Book of Dissatisfaction' will open at City Hall on Monday next, November 29th and will be available for people to sign from 9am to 5pm daily.

"I would ask as many people as possible to come and sign the book" said the Mayor "and through this simple means, to send a message to the Government that we are not happy with their performance on our behalf. To tell them 'we are dissatisfied'. This is something everyone can do in their own time to have their voice heard."

The 'Book of Dissatisfaction' will be open from 9am to 5pm daily for people to sign at the City Council Foyer, City Hall, The Mall, Waterford from Monday 29th November. The Mayor is inviting all the people of Waterford City & County and from the South East Region to make the effort to come in to City Hall and record their dissatisfaction.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

General Election Isn't the Answer

Ok....the government is unravelling and rightly so. I'm not going over the reasons or what got us here because personally I'm sick of hearing about it but in the interests of this Country of ours and our people we need to look a little more closely at how Ireland needs to shape up for the future. I'm not talking about financially either, as we have ceded that right to bigger, international agencies and it's outside of our control, in honesty.

So what am I talking about then? I'm talking about the fundamentals. How do we run our country. How do we elect those will run our country. How we 'do' our politics. Anyone who has followed this blog for a while will know that I believe that the political system we have here is broken; not fit for purpose - and so it has turned out to be.

We elect the nice guys, the guys we know, the guy we've perhaps always voted for (or his son!), the guys who (say they) got the house for your daughter or maybe the guy who (says he) sorted out your medical card. I use the word 'say' because the reality is that nobody can get you anything that you are not entitled to in your own right. Not a TD, a Councillor or even the Taoiseach himself. If you qualify, you qualify and that should be the way it is. A country that doles out favours on the basis of who-you-know is one that we should have no aspiration to be a part of in the grand scheme of things.

And what kind of service are we running if you need a TD to get you a medical appointment? That is ridiculous, wicked politics. What your TD ought to be doing is ensuring that our health, welfare and social services run efficiently, and fairly and in a timely manner so that people are delivered their rights as a matter of course and in a prompt and courteous way.

But no, they are happy to run around, like an errand boy, doing favours in order to get your vote. Is this really the way to ensure that we get the best people, with their heads in the game and focused on how best to run this tiny country with a big reputation? No is the answer. It isn't.

So we need to change it. And having a General Election - much as I welcome the opportunity to give FF a good kicking as much as the next person - will not deliver that change. We will change the bums on seats but not the country and we will still deliver up the same old faces, working the same old system, with only one thing in mind - and that is to hold onto their own seats.

So what would that change look like? Well, I don't profess to have all the answers but it must do a few things in my opinion. It must take the focus off individual TD's and put it onto policies and politics. It must make TD's less dependant on small numbers of votes and it must allow for talented people to enter the system. I'm not sure any or even some of this is possible. But it is the only way to make sure that Ireland is equipped for the future.

In most of Europe they use a 'list system' to elect their local and national governments - so, my party fights your party. And if my team wins, the people on my 'list' get in and if your team wins then it's your list. It puts the focus onto policies rather than people and also delivers a better 'team' approach with more balance in terms of skills, women, and leaders.

We need, it goes without saying, fewer TD's. About 66 should be enough I would think. (Perhaps we could reach that in stages - I'm thinking of turkeys and Christmas here!) That would give a much larger electorate meaning that the focus could not be on the mundane or the minuscule. That would have to be left - as it should be - to local politicians. This would make TD's less vulnerable to local self-interest issues and much more capable of working in the National interest.

The list system would also allow for bright people - who perhaps might not want to fight elections - but who have a hell of a lot to offer this country, to be brought into where they are needed.

But what do we want as a country? Do we want things to be the same? (I suspect yes.) Do we want proper leadership, with talented TD's focused on running the country? (I suspect not.) Even though almost everyone I speak to calls for 'proper leadership' - nobody actually, really wants it. They want things to go on the way they always have. I suspect there will be a low turn out for the next elections. I suspect that will suit the 'same old' heads. I suspect we have no appetite to really change and grow as a Country....but I live in hope that I am wrong.

And so I ask 'we the people': what do you want? I question that sacred cow that any politician must not question if he or she values their own seat: the electorate. What do you want? Do you want and modern, nimble, can do country that puts the people of Ireland first - as a people? That sometimes tells us things we don't want to hear? That guides the ship of state away from 'pothole land' and into a proper republic? That takes the tough decisions that 'the locals' don't like. That spends our resources wisely and not on the basis of getting them re-elected?

I can't answer the questions myself. But I know what I fear. Perhaps I shall have my question answered sooner than I think.

We need to re-think our politics, our republic, our country. Or else the only thing positive that may come out of all this mess - which is the opportunity to change a broken system, consciously, mindedly, together and rationally - will pass and will be lost.

A General Election will not do that. Will anyone - and does anyone want to even try? I, for one, do. I feel I should be calling people who are like-minded to action. The sensible, silent, thinking majority. The people who despair at the rent-a-picketers and those who are calling for disruptions and civil disobedience! They are only distractions. Thinking a General Election is the solution or can deliver a solution is deluded at best and completely infantile at worst!

I want to say lets get this conversation going. But alas I fear it wouldn't even be heard. So I'm putting it out there. These are big questions and we are in a time of great opportunity for ourselves if we can answer them. But who is willing. Who.....

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mayor Attends Tall Ships Conference in Norway




And on a positive note, as Mayor of Waterford City I am off tomorrow morning bright and early to Norway for the last International Tall Ships Conference before those beautiful vessels will arrive here on June 20th next year.

It's our last chance as a city to get all the main players in one place, to woo them, if you like, to come to our ancient city. We will go bearing gifts and with a great story to tell, with fantastic plans afoot and with the whole city simply simmering in anticipation of what is sure to be an amazing event - the largest festival on the Island of Ireland in 2011.

Des Whelan, the Chairman of the event locally is also attending as is Olivia O'Reilly who is the chief organiser of the entire event along with a few representatives from the Port Company and some sub-committee chairs. I look forward to a busy, productive few days in what I expect to be a cold Norway. Suffice to say that a warm coat, furry boots and hats 'n gloves are being packed!

We intend to also host some meetings at the event to explore the possibility of kick-starting the re-introduction of the Sail Training programme to Ireland which I am keenly interested in. Lets hope there will be something to report. While the return of the programme is my ultimate aim, it would be really fantastic - and what a legacy of the event next year - if we could have a Tall Ship operating out of Waterford City? Wouldn't that be something?

On a slightly downbeat note I and others are still working hard to ensure that there will be an Irish Tall Ship at the event next year. Many of you will remember the line-up in 2005 when the gorgeous and much lamented Asgard II (pictured above) was in attendance, graced by the company of the Dunbrody which came down from our neighbouring port of New Ross and also the Jeanie Johnson. Three Irish sailing ships was a sight to behold and sadly it will probably never been seen again. However I am anxious that some Irish vessel will be here to fly the flag proudly in our name. Here's hoping. However it is surely hope, rather than expectation!

In the meantime, it's an early start for my first spin up the brand new motorway to Dublin and on to Norway. Roll on the summer!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Dear Voters of Donegal South West

Dear Voters of Donegal South West,
I am writing to you as a voter in Waterford where we too have been denied the right to equal representation in Dail Eireann for quite a long time. Be that as it may, you are now being given the opportunity that we continue to be denied and I have a favour to ask of you. Could you send the Government a message on behalf of all of us in the Country? Do you think you could find it in your heart to tell them to shag off? You are in a great position because they think they might have a chance to win a seat in your constituency and if they lost and lost heavily, it would really hit home. You would be doing us all a great service and it would leave them under no illusion as to how dissappointing, disgusting and disgraceful we feel that their behaviour has been over the last few years.

We were a rich country and at every hands turn they made the wrong decisions and they continue not to seem to know what the real story is or how to get us out of it and now every man Jack of us is going to have to 'feel the pain' or so they tell us so that they can pay back every gambler, sorry I mean bondholder, at the expense of the future of our children.

So if you could find it in your heart to deliver a sound, swift democratic kick in their electoral family jewels I think you would find yourselves being feted in every county in the country. Please consider my request and I look forward to your response on voting day. Remember, we're all counting on you.

Yours in desperation and anticipation,
The Waterford Electorate

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Holy Cow - or should that be Laughing Cow - I'm Cheesed Off!




I can't say what exactly it is about the cheese that has angered people so much. And I'm not doing any puns either. This is a serious business. It's like they have just taken the insults they are prepared to launch on this small nation to a whole new low. Cheeses! Jesus! Can they not just go away?

I have blogged before about the need now for a General Election and I repeat that call tonight; in the interests of this Country they must surely see that the best thing is for a new government to be formed either before or after Christmas which has a mandate for the next four or five years?

Decisions need to be made and implemented over that period that the current government simply is not and will not be in a position to implement. At longest they can last another 18 months but I don't think that even the most optimistic amongst them see them lasting even that long. They are going to put us to the expense (eventually) of 4 bye-elections....can they not just go for the big one and release the powder-keg of upset, annoyance, disappointment and outright anger that people are feeling? At least a General Election is a valid way to let off steam.

Go Fianna Fail - and take your cheese with you. Go - and maybe you can nibble on it as you contemplate the fiasco which you have brought upon this country - when there was no need. When we had resources which you squandered. When you should have made the right choices for the Country but you put yourselves first. Go - if you have any dignity or shame left. Go - and give us a General Election now.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Government now Moving to Gag Waterford!

It is really beyond belief that the Government, while moving the writ for the Donegal SE bye-election, are still attempting through their Supreme Court Appeal, to ensure that the voices of Waterford voters continue to be unheard! How dare they!

They have been given one almighty slap on the wrist today that they weren't expecting and still they want to thwart the very democracy on which our increasingly floundering state is built. It's beginning to look more like a dictatorship every day! Either call all the bye-elections or better yet do the decent thing and the right thing for Ireland and call a General election.

This Government has neither the mandate nor the right to make decisions for the next four years. They were either elected on lies and spin or incompetence and they are in their dying throes. They either saw this coming and decided to ignore it, or they didn't see it coming in which case they are guilty of criminal stupidity!

And to add insult to injury they are using our money to silence us! Is there not some way that Fianna Fáil can be forced to fight their political battles with their own money at least??? I mean they're telling us till we're blue in the face that we are up the proverbial creek without so much as half a paddle and yet they can, in our name, spend probably hundreds of thousands of our money - in trying to silence us!

I, as a tax-payer am saying NO. You may NOT spend my money on this appeal. There is an implicit contract between governments and the governed. We pay our taxes and generally trust that they will be used for the good of the Country. That trust is gone. That contract is broken. This case is certainly not for the good of the people.

Call the bye-elections or call the General Election. Call a halt to spending hard-earned money on your vanity projects. We know you don't care about us but please, call time on this Government - even if it's only to save yourselves! I don't care what the reason is: just go.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Every Primary School Child in Waterford now a Waterford City Ambassador

Traditionally in Waterford City the Mayor visits every school to hand out School Attendance Certificates for children who haven't missed one, single day. This is obviously a great opportunity to speak to the children but in truth I was a bit worried about it. As a mum I know that kids can spot something phoney in about 10 seconds flat so I wanted to do something with them that would be real for them and good for the city. So I came up with the notion of making them all 'Waterford City Ambassadors'. I wrote the following pledge:

Waterford Ambssador Pledge

I am proud to be from Waterford
Irelands oldest City.
I promise on my honour
To always represent Waterford as best I can.
I promise never to litter our streets
To always treat others with respect
And to learn our history.
Waterford is my home
And from today I pledge to be a
Waterford City Ambassador.

All this week, in every Primary School in the City, children have been taking this pledge. They stand, with their hands on their hearts and they are so proud when they are doing it. I have been bowled over by their reaction, their enthusiasm for the idea and their pride in the city and in themselves. I sign and date the pledge and present it to the Principal and declare that 'through the authority of the Mayors Office, it is decreed that you are all now Waterford City Ambassadors'.

And you know what? The kids get it. They are keen to have a meaningful role and to have a purpose in the life of the city.

I now have plans to spin the Ambassadors Pledge out into the adult world (with a more adult version of the pledge perhaps). I have spoken to the Lions Club in Waterford City and they are very interested in the idea too. I am looking at having an exclusive 'Waterford City Ambassadors Pin' designed that people could wear on their lapel wich would signify their committment and hope to roll out this project very early in the new year. The Lions Club have agreed to sponsor the pins.

Perhaps this idea will grow and we will have a city full of Ambassadors all being proud of this ancient and mighty city of ours. Next year, we expect around 1,000,000 tourists to come to Waterford City. Wouldn't it be great to have a couple of hundred - or even thousand - Ambassadors ensuring that they get a once in a lifetime experience when they are here?

From little acorns......the children can show them how it's done! Thanks to all the schools for their huge welcomes and to all the children for being so inspirational!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

General Election In The Wind!



Sometimes the apple just ripens and simply drops off the tree. That is how it is beginning to feel with this current government and their tenure in office. It's feeling very much like they are about to just drop off the Government tree. A couple of things have made me feel that way. Some are tangible - others less so.

Firstly the announcement that the by-elections would be held in March/April. No way. That is virtually 'game over' and I suspect the Governement knows it will have lost its working majority before then. It seemed to me an almost coded acceptance that there will be a General Election in the Spring (although I would not be surprised if it were before Christmas in fact.)

Secondly, we have suspended bond auctions until next Spring. That would cover the period of 'instability' that an election would inevitably throw up so it gives a window of opportunity.

Thirdly, Fianna Fail know that they have no mandate to be introducing four-year budget plans; plans which seek to commit future Governments! I suspect the European Union is behind the four-year plan and that they will insist on a stable government to see it through. That means the GE would have to be brought forward as FF/Greens/Inds cannot deliver that - even if they were to go full term.

Then we have the whole issue of reduced pensions for those who retire after the end of this year! This, I would imagine would weigh heavily on the minds of certain TD's and Ministers who are likely to either not run again or would lose their seats. Next year those entitlements will be considerably reduced. This is a crucial one in my book. If there's going to be an election next year anyway (and by the looks of it that is inevitable) then why would you throw away your superior pension for the sake of four more months in office???? Especially when you are of the 'kind of grabbing mentality' that some of our elected represenatives have demonstrated!

Then we have the jumping jelly-beans known as the Fianna Fail backbenchers many of whom can smell an election in the wind and will be nervously trying to do everything to save their own seats. Unortunately for the Government that means distancing themselves from this current administration. Watch for the rats deserting the sinking ship I say. And a flurry of 'I put my constituency first' or 'Independent' runs.

The Government heads are down. The senior civil servant heads are down. If nothing else this Country needs an opportunity to let off steam and the 'machine' of the permanent Government needs an infusion of new thinking and new blood.

The signs are there. The election clock is almost at midnight from where I'm looking. Let's see who blinks first.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

It's simple, Minister Hanafin - It's FAB!




So Mary Hanafin is re-iterating once again at the so-called FF mini-think in at the Forum yesterday that WIT already has everything it needs? Ah me. Mini think in is right. Mini ideas; mini leadership; mini understanding.

Let me explain (again) to the Minister why WIT needs equality (nothing more). It's FAB! Finance; Autonomy; Branding. Simple enough for Mary? Yes. Just remember FAB.

Finance - because yes, as the Minister says, WIT is an extra-ordinary Institution with Awarding Authority up to and including PhD level. Problem? WIT is carrying out that mission with FAR less funding than all the Universities and even many of the other ITs. Institute of Technology Funding isn't based on anything. Not a per student payment. It's just historical. There is no fair yard stick. If you were always well funded, you continue to be and if you were historically badly funded - then you continue to be. So we are being treated unequally on the finance front with every other region in Ireland - and don't forget that outside of Dublin, the South East is the largest REGION in the country without a University at almost half a million people.

Autonomy - so that WIT can make its' own decisions and chart its' own course designed for this region without having to go cap-in-hand to the HEA (Higher Education Authority) for permission to run courses, change direction, respond to regional needs. Universities are autonomous. WIT and the South East needs that too. Why should we accept that our region not have the decision making power of every other region.

Branding - because yes the word 'University' does matter. It is an internationally recognised brand that allows the world understand instantly what you are. But alone, the branding would mean nothing. The name is important but we should be fighting for what the word means - equality of treatment and funding - rather than just for the word itself. If it were just a word we could have simply bought ourselves a new sign and gone out and rebranded years ago. We want what the other regions have Mary. What is so wrong with that? (That's why I am concerned about the leaks from the Hunt Report which allege that we are to be given some second class branding without any equality!)

I bet if Mary was still living down in Tipperary she'd be far more supportive of our bid than she is up in Dublin with their extremely well provided for University Sector. What's sauce for them up in the Capital is obviously too good for us down here in the South East!

Well I for one have had enough of Mary, and of Fianna Fail and of their 'we know better than you' pomposity. I am heartily sick of them. Go to the country Mary I say. You and your merry band and see what the thinking people of Ireland think of you.

People of Waterford and the South East: how will we get our University? By voting Fianna Fail out of power. Bring it on!

Friday, September 10, 2010

WIT - LESS TALK, MORE ACTION

While I welcome Enda Kennys statement in Waterford yesterday committing Fine Gael to a University of the South East, I personally would still prefer a form of wording which committed to the 'designation of WIT as the University of the South East' but perhaps I am being pedantic. My faith in political promises is at something of a low ebb.

I also note that the process which Mr Kenny seems to be proposing is to develop criteria for the creation of a University and the the examination of WIT's or any other case through Section 9 of the Universities Act 1997. And I have to ask: how long is that going to take? On my experience it sounds like a 3 - 5 year process. WE CANNOT WAIT THAT LONG!

Jobs are being lost this city and region today. Our young people and their talent are being lost to this region every day. We are operating at a disadvantage every day. How long more must we be expected to do this?

So while I welcome Fine Gaels seeming comittment, I still say we need this now. We need this issue to be the number one issue that is being talked about and fought for in the city. Why? Because it has the capapcity to deliver jobs. End of.

We need to rack the University issue up as an election issue and make it clear to Fianna Fail that if they don't deliver this to our region immediately they will face electoral annhialation. We need the people of Waterford to get up on our soap boxes and to really push for this.

Why should you be raising your children for export? We need jobs for them here. The best way to get that is to have a University. Today. Now. By this current government. Why should we accept any less? We need government to deliver for this region and I will continue to rattle cages and upset any politician in the land of any party in order to keep the pressure up for the designation of WIT as a University and I make no apologies to anyone - regardless of what they may say about me - in my effort to do that.

The debate is on again. We can tease out the niceties and debate the nuances to our hearts content but what we really need is action. Action. Give us a University. Designate WIT or suffer the consequences. People of Waterford I am asking for your support for this campaign. Together we can bring this issue to the fore and it is critical for the future of our children and our region - and Ireland - that we have equality and can contribute to, rather than be a drain on, the recovery that will need to be fought hard for, for our city and for our country.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Second Anniversary of Sinking of Sail Training Programme

I know that September 11th is a striking anniversary, being as it is the date on which the Twin Towers were attacked and 3,000 innocent people lost their lives in New York City. Nothing can compare with that event. The world will forever remember the terrible events that took place as the unspeakable tragedy unfolded before our eyes. Our sympathies rest with all those who lost loved ones.

September 11th also marks the second anniversary of the sinking of the Irish Sail Training Ship, the STV Asgard II. Thankfully, due to the professionalism of the crew,the calmness of the trainees and the generosity of the rescue services in France no lives were lost that day but it is nonetheless a sad day for our small Island nation. Because we didn't just lose a ship that day, we also lost our national Sail Training programme.

Sadly, nothing has been done by the Government in the interim to ensure its continuance - save of course, pocketing the insurance money into central coffers. Now Ireland, a maritime nation, with the International Tallships fleet due to visit us twice in the coming years has neither a ship nor a sail training programme. As it stands currently, there will be no Irish sail training ship to take part in our name in those events.

If Irish young people are to get the opportunity to take part it will have to be aboard the ships of other nations. I am calling on the Government to initiate this discussion immediately and in time for the International Tallships Festival in 2011.

While the entire country is convulsed with Anglo Irish Bank and talks of recession, we cannot allow everything good that had been built up over decades to be simply taken away from us by those who can't see beyond the next IOU to the bank manager and the bondsman!

Sail training was an immense, life-changing experience for most of those who were lucky enough to be able to sail aboard Asgard. We owe it to all of young people to do everything we can to restore it - considering it was funded through their own contributions and through Lotto funding! The Tallships in Ireland without Asgard is a hard enough pill to swallow. The Tallships in Ireland with NO sail training vessel would be a disgrace.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mayors Picnic In The Park - You're Invited!




I am inviting everyone who has a few hours free on Saturday, September 11th next to attend the 'Mayors Picnic and Play In The Park'. Weather permitting it is going to be a fun day for all the family with theatre, crafts, drumming, games and lots more to keep everyone entertained - from the tiny toddlers all the way up.

Caulfields Supervalu will have some ready-made picnics for early arrivals but why not put your own basket of goodies together - from the simple fresh rolls and bananas to something that takes a little more preparation if that's your thing!

It may be the last chance we'll have to lark around in the park until next spring! So come on, bring the kids and the blanket and let's all celebrate the harvest together!

Don't say you weren't asked!

We are so lucky to have so many people working on festivals here in Waterford and the Autumn and early Winter are no exceptions. We have, of course the Harvest Festival for 10 days with as fantastic a programme as I've ever seen; Imagine Arts Festival comes soon after and the the Waterford International Music Festival (incorporating as it does the 50th year of the Waterford International Festival of Light Opera) but now also boasting a high-school musicals festival, a gospel festival, Design Week and the re-invigorated Fringe Festival. Mostly organised and arranged by volunteers.

To assist their huge efforts Destination Waterford has put in place series of supports for festivals in the form of both Deirdre Molloy and Lynn Cahill who are putting their combined considerable energies and talents into developing the festival products and marketing them. I am sure the dividends from this investment will be hugely beneficial!

I sincerely hope that the good people of Waterford and the South East will come out and enjoy everything that we are working so hard to put in place for their delight and delectation (to coin a phrase!). Waterfords Arts & Cultural scene in hopping at the moment and is the envy of many other places. Lets support it and make sure it stays vibrant and indeed continues to strengthen and grow.

And don't forget now - see you next Saturday in the park. You Are Invited. (I'll be the one with the simple basket that needs virtually NO preparation....now I'm off to buy a few bananas!)

Visit www.waterfordharvestfestival.ie for more information on whats going on from September 10th - 19th.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mayor of Waterford, Councillor Mary Roche, today called on the people of Waterford to support Aer Arann, the passenger airline at Waterford Airport, as it goes through a period of Examinership. The Mayor stated her firm belief in the importance of the airline to business and tourism in Waterford and praised the services that Aer Arann continues to provide to and from the South East.

According to the Mayor, "the key routes to London, Manchester and Birmingham are critical to business investment in this region. In my recent round of discussions with large businesses based in Waterford, the importance placed upon direct access to key air routes is striking."

"Over 50% of traffic at the airport is now passengers visiting from the UK for business and leisure – in the context of our citys renewed focus on inward tourism, it is critical that we do all we can to support these services into the future. Our airport is a vital element of our infrastructure and we need to underline its importance to Government and seek to build upon the asset that we have."

"Recent studies have shown that Waterford Airport supports approximately 560 jobs in the South East, before considering the impact of air services on business location decisions."

"While I know that Waterford Airport has long had excellent custom from Kilkenny, Wexford, South Tipperary and Carlow, the new road infrastructure has greatly added to the airport usage in the region and to the convenience for inbound visitors to the Southeast."

"From my contacts with airport management, I am assured that it is business as usual at the airport and that all Aer Arann flights in and out of Waterford will continue through the Examinership. As Aer Arann uses the Examinership process to seek new investment, it is very encouraging to hear that the routes at Waterford Airport are among the best performing in their network and that Waterford is central to the future plans for the airline."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Reaction to the Hunt Report - No Second Class Solutions Acceptable!

The Mayor of Waterford Councillor Mary Roche has issued a statement commenting on the recent leaks from the National Strategy Group for Higher Education chaired by Dr Colin Hunt. The leaks claim that the group has rejected WIT’s case for University Status and will instead offer the entire sector the prospect of designation as ‘Technology Universities’ once stringent criteria have been met.

Councillor Roche states “The City of Waterford and the South East Region will speak once the Hunt Report is published. However, what we expect from the Hunt Report is nothing less than the ability of WIT – under whatever name or designation – to be able to deliver equality for this region. We will not accept anything that keeps us in the second tier and importantly would not deliver the same operating structure and autonomy as full University status.

We insist that WIT must have the remit to deliver inward investment into this region and the same capacity for research, development and innovation as every other region. The South East Region, more than any other needs that capacity to be unleashed.

“How many jobs,” asks Mayor Roche “have been lost to this City and this region as a result of the Governments’ prevarication on this issue? How many more will be lost if the Hunt Report doesn’t deliver? I want to send out a clear signal that we expect the Hunt Report to deliver nothing less than equality in terms of autonomy and finance for WIT – after that they can call the Institution whatever they like. The name is not important it is equality of opportunity for the region, for the city and for future generations that we demand.

Essentially if we are driving with the same engine it doesn’t matter that the bodywork might have a new coat of paint. I would urge the Government to take careful note of this message and not to attempt to deliver anything less for Waterford and the South East, ” she said.

Monday, August 16, 2010

North Quays



I think it's probably fair to say that we have faint hope that the North Quays will be developed any time soon under the current economic circumstances. They will, of course be tidied up and made safe for the visit of the International Tall Ships Fleet next June.

But what of the immediate or even medium term? I believe that there must be a useful purpose that the North Quays could be put to in order to restore them from dereliction and bring them into use for the people of Waterford and South Kilkenny.

My suggestions would be simple enough and simply achieved if people had half a mind to. They include either a simple park layout or a series of sports courts & pitches or even the dreaded parking.

Personally I favour the sports courts, followed by the park. One way or another this would tidy the area up until some other use is found for them. It will be an awful shame if they are allowed to fall once again into disrepair (see above and that photo was taken a year ago - I don't know what they are like right now but I'll bet it's not better)!

If all parties were willing the North Quays can and should be brought into use. There may even be a job or two in it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Thanks Lads!



Yes it was a disappointing day for the Deise. The lads didn't play the way we know they can and in fairness Tipp were the better team. I wish them luck now as they meet the giants of Kilkenny - they're going to need it!

But it has to be said; it was another great year for Waterford. Munster Champions! Another All-Ireland semi-final!! We keep a-knocking and sooner or later we're gonna get in!!!

I have no doubt but that the Deise will have our day. We're up there competing with the best teams year after year now. And every year we learn a little more and get a little more experienced and sometime - soon I hope - all the work and sweat and (probably) tears is going to pay off and that monkey is going to be off our backs for good.

We've waited a hell of a long time and we can sure as hell wait some more. At least now we are competing. Every year we have rightful expectation and hope. Every year we get to Semple Stadium and Croke Park. How many generations of Waterford people never saw that? Haw many counties can never even hope to see that?

Well done to Davy Fitzgerald and his backroom team. Well done to the mighty Waterford warriors. Sure it would be easy to be gracious in winning but what Waterford are doing is building, building.... and building character. And it's working. You can't deny we've made enormous strides!

You get nothing for sympathy or because you 'deserve it'- in sport or in life. You have to go out and fight. And I know that the Waterford team will tend their wounds and their dented spirits and then next year they'll don the white-and-the-blue and they'll go out there again with pride and that justifiable expectation in their hearts. And so will we.

Thanks for the great year lads! Thanks for the hard work. Thanks for the time and the loyalty and the effort and the pain. Someday it's gonna come right for us and until then we just have to keep believing. And we do.

We live to fight another year......Roll on 2011!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Could 2010 Be The Start of Waterfords' Decade?



Okay so. Lets get the nasty truths out of the way.

Our International reputation as a Country is shot (evidence the increased cost of borrowing for Ireland Inc.) Ivor (I will one day be President) Callely is making extremely heavy weather of this whole expenses saga. Ministers are traipsing around the country in heavy duty jets while their Ministerial Mercs are tagging after them on the road network.

The Anglo Irish Banks bill is heading for just under €25,000,000,000! Yes that's 25 BILLION if you've lost count of the numbers. The HSE are closing beds and wards and hospitals wherever they can. The cost of doing business just went up this weekend with the energy levy. The Cystic Fibrosis patients are still dying without their isolation rooms. The elderly and cared for are having their support hours cut. Special schools are having their budgets cut.

Irish Rail are doing their best to close down the Rosslare Waterford railway line. We STILL have no decision on a University for Waterford. And all of this is just taking in the last month or so for news! The list goes on.

The Country, it seems, is up the creek!

So what can we do in our little corner of it?

What can we do for ourselves? What decisions are within our power to change, influence or implement? Those are the decisions that we should concentrate on.

The City Council has led the way using tourism as a driver with the delivery of the House of Waterford Crystal, the improvements on The Mall (pictured above from an unusual angle), the development of the Tourism product (festivals & marketing etc.) and the new www.discoverwaterfordcity.ie website (a real gem).

We are continuing that focus and adding in an Enterprise focus to hunt down jobs for our city and to promote an enterprise culture. We need people to create jobs both for themselves and if possible, for others.

We continue to try and bring improvements to the public realm and either encourage or force others to do so also. However the powers available to do this are limited and will not in truth deliver the kind of radical solutions that some people (including me) might like.

By the end of the year Waterford will be the only City (possibly the only place in Ireland) to be able to say that we are 'flood proof'. By September we will have a Motorway all the way to the Capital with the tourists and market that it opens up to us.

Bad and all as things are nationally and even Internationally I believe that 2010 could see the dawn of a prosperous and visionary decade for our City. If we all put our shoulders to the wheel and get our brains in gear - then I know it will be. It is up to us to capitalise on these many developments because no one is going to do it for us.

So ask yourself this: What can I bring to the party? And then bring it!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Reassurances from FG locally on University




I note in a comment to my earlier blog and indeed in the local press, Senator Paudie Coffey (pictured above) has expressed his unhappiness with my blog last week concerning Fine Gael leader Enda Kennys comment on the designation of WIT as a University.

Enda said that (and I'm paraphrasing) once in government they would trigger a mechanism to have the case for WITs designation as a University examined. Now this seemed to me - and many others - to be a clawing back of the previously stated and much heralded (locally) policy adopted by Fine Gael, that if in Government, they would designate WIT as a university.

I gather from the statements by both Senator Coffey and Senator Maurice Cummins, that this policy has not changed. That being so, then I have to ask why Enda was so ambiguous in his statement which clearly in my opinion sent out the wrong message.

However I do accept Senator Coffeys assertion and I must add, in fact that I have the greatest of admiration for Paudie and in my opinion he would make a most able TD for this constituency. Paudie is very clued in on local issues, very vocal, very pro-active and articulates his message very clearly.

So while I am happy to accept that the FG policy has not changed I wonder why then Enda sent such a weak message? Clearly - and some of the history is fairly laid out by Senator Cummins in his letter to the News & Star this week - we have been led a merry dance on this issue for many a long year and not entirely by Fianna Fail either it must be said.

That being said, due to much lobbying locally, FG did adopt the designation of WIT as Party Policy. For it to actually proceed though, it would have to make it into a Programme for Government post the next election (assuming as predicted that FG are part of that Government), which one must be hopeful for considering that the Labour Party also claim to support this designation.

Although it will be recalled that the move from WRTC to WIT by a FG/Lab coalition did not exactly deliver what we all were led to believe that it would at the time but we won't re-hash old arguments. Let us hope that the FG and Labour TD's locally and their parties nationally mean what they say and that what they say is what we all understand it to mean; namely that WIT will be designated as a University with the autonomy, branding and finance that that designation brings and that there will not be another fudge as there was the last time which effectively tried to please everyone and ended up pleasing no-one!

Finally I make no apology for having a finely tuned antenna on this issue. Yes, I am uber-sensitive about it and why wouldn't I be? A University is the crucial piece of regional infrastructure that the South East desperately needs in our efforts to end the educational and jobs apartheid that we have suffered for decades. We have been messed about on it several times over many years - for much longer than I am involved - and anywhere I see a threat or potential threat or any ambiguity, I will call it.

That being said, the biggest threat of all comes from our lackadaisical current Government which has placed obstacle after obstacle in the way of WITs just claim for University status. They have yet to produce the report from the Strategy Group for Higher Education. I hear now that the report will be with the Minister by the end of the month and will not be published until September.

We await its deliberations with bated breath and hope that it will not merely provide the government with further cover to both do nothing and extend the time before which we will have our University.

However I do not wish to be negative in advance of knowing its contents so until we see it (or hear the leaks) I can but express the desire that they have been convinced, as were the many International experts who examined our case, of the validity of WITs claims for University status.

As Dr Jim Port put it (the Governments own appointed expert) "WIT is already operating at University level". We all know it. Will our work be rewarded? Time will tell.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What Is Enda On About - Massive About Turn on WIT

What the hell is Enda up to? Up to the weekend before last he and his party were committed to the designation of WIT as a University. Then I hear on radio during the week how he will, when in government trigger an examination of that question (or some such other jibberish but you get the gerneral jist of it)!

Now that's what happens when a party leader in weakened. He is now prey to the whims and parochial preferences of those who 'saw him over the line' in the recent leadership heave. And no one did that moreso than the man known as 'big Phil'. Deputy Phil Hogan of our neighbouring parish of Kilkenny who is well known to be anti anything Waterford. And who was Endas right hand man in the battle which saw him save his leadership - and to whom he is now obviously beholden???? Cue bactracking on giving Waterford City University status. If its not enough to make your blood boil and detest politics then I don't know what is.

So is this what we have to look forward to if and when Fine Gael come into power? Enda, giving in to every local yokel who supported him on the promise of either promotion or preferential treatment? Government by gombeen men!

The change in Endas position on University status for Waterford would indicate that it is indeed so.

In that case, the sooner the majority of his Dail colleagues who already voted against him and who see him as weak dispose of him altogether, the better. We need a strong, principled leader with vision and not one who is compromised by 'owing' everybody!

At least John Deasy, to be fair to him, is being honest about whats going on and not blathering the obvious lie that all is now happy clappy in FG-land!

Well, the fight goes on. We are not accepting anything other than a University for Waterford and for this region. The most annoying thing about the whole debacle is that some people are prepared to deny what's right - even though it hurts the very people they purport to represent! All of our futures are highly dependent on this issue - whether we like it or not and WIT is the only show in town!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Well Done Munster Heroes!




Okay I admit it. I'm usually an armchair watcher of sport. So it was with some trepidation that I took to the highways and headed for Thurles for what turned out to be two great sporting occasions 'in the flesh' as it were over the last two weekends. The GAA are kind enough to give the Mayor of the City two tickets for the Munster Final (both of them) and I must say, having 'followed' the team for years via television or radio I'm a convert to the live game! Nothing compares to the atmosphere of a heaving, heart-pounding, high-speed hurling game played out by a team you care so much about!

True, you miss a lot of the detail: I didn't know who scored the winning goal until I heard it on WLR on the way home (good man Dan, you showed them all - what a hero!) and I will admit to missing the replays and the close-ups! I'm not well up enough to know the lads by their numbers but luckily enough I had Michael Walsh (City Manager) on one side of me and suffice to say he's well up on them all, numbers or not! Although with all the squirming around in his seat he was doing I didn't want to interrupt him too often. Obviously the man was feeling every puck and if will power alone was enough to put them over or under the bar, then he would have topped the scoring list himself!

It was hard to resist joining in with the chants, so I didn't (resist that is)! It was hard not to let a few shouts of 'Up the Deise' out of you when you felt there as a lull and the lads could do with knowing we were there for them, so I did. I whistled, boo-ed, ate my nails, shouted at the referee, willed the shots over the bar, jeered the Cork lads behind us at half time for making such a racket and had an all round excellent time indeed.

The GAA, I must say, had it all extremely well organised. Plenty stewards on hand, good programme, just back far enough in the stand to miss the rain and of course, the cuppa and sarnies at half time across in the Dome. I had an uncle with me who travels quite a bit to games and he was mightily impressed with the treatment received in the guest enclosure.

Of course, it helped enormously that Waterford won! Waterford people in the run up to both games were quietly confident although almost all 'neutrals' seemed to think that all Cork had to do was turn up! Of course, that scenario always suits Waterford down to the ground for some reason.

Our seats were quite close to the magnificent Munster cup so over I went to take a photo. I assured those in the really posh seats directly behind it that we would be bringing it home to Waterford later that evening and they seemed pleasant - if somewhat dubious of my claim. Oh how I love it when a plan comes together!

When Stephen Malumphy, Eoin Kelly with his baby son, John Mullane, Tony Browne and all the lads filed up past me to collect it, well it was just magic. Looking out over the pitch which had been invaded by the white and blue of the Deise was just magic too. And while next year I won't be in the posh seats, with their half-time cuppas and I might have to brave the rain in my face, I think the whole experience is worth it.

It lifts your spirits to see those men battle so hard in the name of Waterford; to see the determination and character it takes to never give up; to take the knocks, the pushing and shoving, the sheer physicality of this most magnificent of games and to keep going. To keep putting the sliothar up the field, keep aiming over the bar and hoping your chance to put one under will come. To never give an inch to the other team no matter how they might try to force you by skill or by skin and bone. To hear the infamous 'clash of the ash'.

It was a pretty intense evening and may I say a heartiest congratulations to all of those who put themselves on the line; who put their personal lives to the side and who stand out there and fight the fight for us. To all the backroom team and the Manager Davy Fitzgerald who has worked so hard for us.

But the fight is only half done. There are other, bigger battles to fight and scores to settle. So like as we would to light the bonfires and salute our Munster Champions we defer it to another day - a day perhaps later this year in early September when the men of the Deise could possibly, maybe, who knows....bring home the big one? The one they deserve. This is a great team, with great heart and courage and fire so for now we'll just wish them well. We'll keep our powder dry and who knows....if they are determined enough, if they are strong enough and if they are fierce enough then dues will be paid, pride will be restored to those who have suffered and a too long gap will have been bridged.

Who knows the future. But one thing is for sure; the glory is theirs to take and God knows, they've earned it.

We wait with bated breath!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Speech Made at Mayoral Election Tonight

Fellow councillors, Members of the Oireachtas, City Manager, former Mayors, distinguished guests, Directors and staff, family and friends:

I wish to begin by thanking my proposer, Cllr. Cha O’Neill, my seconder, Cllr Davy Daniels and all the members for their support here this evening.

I’d like to begin by dedicating my election tonight to the memories of my grandparents William & Bridget Roche and William and Margaret Walshe all of whom I knew and loved well. While my family has no political tradition, it has a long tradition of service. Service to family and neighbours and to the wider community. My grandparents were decent, hard-working, ordinary people in a time when they knew what it was to have to struggle to make ends meet and to earn your living with your own sweat. I’d also hate to let the evening pass without mentioning my late in-laws Michael & Irene Keating who would most certainly have loved to be here this evening. Finally thanks to everyone for coming here and especially those who have travelled from as far as the Canary Islands! Your support is never taken for granted and is much appreciated.

This evening is the start of a year long voyage for me but I can’t begin without mentioning the formidable year that my predecessor John Halligan has just put in. Indeed he has set the bar so high that I will be able to limbo dance under it with no difficulty at all and as for trying to raise it even more, well I wouldn’t even try. Congratulations John. You were a credit to yourself and your family but most of all you were a credit to the historic office of Mayor of Waterford City.

The best I can hope for and what I intend to do is to put my whole heart and soul and effort into this job for the next 12 months and hope that I can, through that hard work, inspire and bring hope to our citizens. Hope that the sparkle of a new beginning that has been the opening of the House of Waterford Crystal across the Mall will signal the beginning of bright days for our city and for the people who share it.

While I want to strike a positive note tonight I do want to mention the plight of the workers who, when the old factory closed, lost their jobs and especially those who have lost their pensions. At a very late stage in their lives those men and women have found themselves cast adrift and I sincerely hope that they will be successful in their fight and will get the pensions that they have paid into with their own money – no more and no less and surely that is not too much to ask.

Waterford is a fantastic city, a beautiful city and I want all of our citizens to be proud of and feel part of the new energy and buzz that we are trying to create here. I want Waterford people both living here and abroad to become ambassadors for our city. I want them to visit and experience our attractions. I want them to make sure that they talk to their friends from outside about us.

I want people to sell Waterford and to make sure that when visitors do come here, they go away knowing that that Waterford is the oldest city in Ireland, that the Irish flag was introduced to this country by a Waterford man Thomas Francis Meagher and that it was flown for the first time in 1848 from 33 The Mall – directly across from here, just as is it once again flying tonight. Even that it’s thanks to Waterford that the world now enjoys the cream cracker and the rasher and of course, not forgetting the infamous blaa!!

I want them to know that Waterford has museums, galleries, theatres, parks, shops and restaurants to rival any other place and that our people, Waterford people, are the friendliest, warmest and decentest people in Ireland – as I surely know that we are.

There is much I would love to achieve during this year; University status for Waterford – very dear to my heart and something we have fought and will continue to fight for. We must leave the powers that be in no doubt that we will only accept a ‘yes’ answer on this issue. The spine of the education system in Ireland, from primary to University is based on a document written by Waterford MP, Thomas Wyse in the early 19th Century. This city has contributed so much nationally, particularly in the area of education, that is past time when we should be recognized with University status.

We will no longer stand for anything but the best. The M9 is almost complete, the new bridge is built, the Airport and Aer Arann are keeping us connected by air, and the port is continuing to grow, our Quays are about to change the very face of the City.

We have a story to tell and a city to sell! I intend to engage with the business and industrial community to see where there are synergies that they in partnership with us in City Hall, can deliver more for the benefit of our city. Waterford is open for business and I am exploring the possibility of leading our own trade delegation in search of jobs. We should not be prepared to sit back anymore and wait for other people to do this work for us. They have not been delivering.

We need to take that bit between our teeth, pack our courage in our suitcases and get out and sell ourselves to the world.

To those businesses who have survived these tough economic years – we salute your acumen and tenacity and the jobs that you have maintained and created. I would ask every business locally to look to the future and to consider whether they could possibly employ - even one more - staff.

I would also like to encourage and congratulate those who have set up their own businesses and taken the leap into self-employment.

Together we can and will fight our way back to prosperity and opportunity for more and more people. To our communities and volunteers and the wonderful work that is done helping people on the ground I say, well done. Your work makes a great difference to us and our city.

I also have plans to invite our schools to twin with schools in South Africa and I’m working on another linkage in that area which I hope will come to fruition during this year.

Traditionally, the Mayor has hosted a Mayors Ball in the Spring and I intend to continue this tradition. The charities that I have chosen are the Saint Vincent de Paul and the Solas Centre – both for obvious and very deserving reasons.

However I also intend to add in a third beneficiary and that will be a new fund which I intend to set up in memory of the late Nicky Fewer, Freeman of Waterford. The Nicky Fewer Memorial Sailing Scholarship will be used as a bursary to enable young Waterford people to go sail-training. Sail-training is a wonderful way for young people to begin to experience the world and make new friends as well as to start to know their own worth. It builds character and they will hopefully discover that the only limits are those we put on ourselves.

I have spoken with Nickys’ wife Maria and I am delighted to say that she has allowed me to proceed with this project in Nickys’ name and memory. And I would like to welcome Maria and Nickys sister Anne and her husband Michael, who have travelled to be here this evening.

Nicky was a proud Waterford man and one whom we should not forget for his vision, for his hard-work, for his never say die attitude and for his sheer determination to go out and make his ideas come to life.

We should not forget that it was Nicky who brought together the group of Waterford stakeholders who initiated the idea that Waterford Crystal must not be allowed to leave our city. He passed that mission onto the City Manager, Michael Walsh, who so ably led - indeed drove - its delivery. We need men and women like Nicky Fewer today more than ever. I hope that the Scholarship will go on in perpetuity and that Nickys’ name will be honoured and remembered through it.

I also hope to use my year as Mayor to encourage the Government to re-instate our National Sail Training Programme. The fact that the sail training programme sank when the STV Asgard II was sadly lost, almost 3 years ago now is a national disgrace, especially considering that it was funded by the National Lottery and not from central funds. Perhaps we here in Waterford, given our strong maritime heritage, can lead a campaign to have the sail-training programme re-instated. It is nothing short of disgraceful that, ahead of two visits by the Tall Ships fleet to our shores over the next two summers, we as a nation do not have a Tall Ship to replace the Asgard II, to fly the Irish flag and to continue in the role of Ambassador for Ireland which she carried out so magnificently during her 27 years of service.

I also believe very strongly that sport and the arts and culture are a very important part of our heritage here in Waterford.

I would like in particular to mention our mighty hurlers who continue to steadfastly chase and achieve glory in our name. I wish them God speed – and of course that elusive ‘bounce of the ball’ as they contest the Munster Final.

I am delighted that my friends in Red Kettle and Jim Nolan have come here tonight. The work that Red Kettle, Spraoi, the beautifully restored Theatre Royal, Waterford Youth Arts, Garter Lane, our writers, poets, painters, musicians and many others do, does so much to enrich our lives and I would like to take this opportunity to encourage people to become involved.

To do, to go, to see, and to enjoy the many performances and exhibitions that happen in this city each and every week. I would also like to congratulate Red Kettle and Waterford Youth Arts both of whom celebrate their 25th year of delivering joy and challenges in equal measure this year. We’ve all come a long way from Janey Mac!

I am particularly delighted that during this year we will see the Waterford International Festival of Light Opera return for its 50th Anniversary, incorporated as it is now into the Waterford Festival of Music. I have been energized and impressed by what I have heard of the plans so far and wish the organizers every success with this venture. May it be the beginning of another 50 years of success for the festival as well as celebrating those 50 years already gone.

Waterfords’ light entertainment heritage and talent should not be forgotten either and I have a number of plans for the year including an attempt to try and re-instate our own much beloved and once extremely popular and successful Tops of the Town. More anon!

There is so much that I want to do, but tonight is not a night for lists. Please God – and with the help of WLR fm and the Munster Express, Waterford Today & the News and Star – there’ll be plenty of time for that during the next 12 months.

I am anxious to build on and capitalize upon that new hope and confidence that has been peeping through over the past week here in the city. I find it impossible now not to walk along the Mall without an enormous sense of pride. I want all Waterford people to feel that pride – justifiably – in their city, in our city, in our home. I want the world to see and feel Waterford re-emerging with a new confidence.

As we build up to the magical Tall Ships Festival which will once again grace our noble quays next summer, I invite all of you and all of Waterford to come aboard; to fill the decks; to clamber onto the yards; to cling to the anchor if you have to because the good ship Waterford is taking sail – she’s been berthed in the shallows for too long and now with the wind beginning to fill her sails she’s heading towards brighter shores.

I invite you all to join with me on that journey.

Thank you.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Does the Boundary Issue Need to be Re-visited?



Waterford is indeed a historic city, with continuous settlement here since 914. We will have an historic anniversary to celebrate come 1014.

The work on The Mall and soon to be redesigned historic mile-long Quays are changing the way we view Waterford ourselves and the way Waterford is viewed from outside. At last, I believe the city is standing up, dusting itself off and beginning to look to the future with hope an confidence. The magnificent Tall ships will once again grace our city come next summer and with that and the activity surrounding the soon to be officially opened House of Waterford Crystal, things are beginning to feel right in Waterford.

But that is not the full story. Our neighbouring local authorities have demonstrated by their actions in the last few years that not only do they covet our prosperity, but that indeed they are prepared to put in place strategies which look to actively damage our historic city and along with it, our potential to deliver not just for for the narrow audience of our own citizens but also our ability to be a driver or the entire region.

This is demonstrated through, for example the huge Shopping Centre - one of the Celtic Tigers' worst examples of bad planning - now lying idle (as they were warned it would be) just outside the northern boundary of the city and also by the TK Maxx debacle, which was eating up jobs from our city centre on our western boarder.

Now it is my estimation that we have enough to be doing in looking after our own affairs that to be trying to fight rearguard actions on our flanks watching what those who refuse to implement proper planning are up to next. This is why I believe that if John Gormley is to make any meaningful changes in local authority systems, rather than just tinkering around and simply putting in place new unrealistic authority boundaries instead of old ones, any change that doesn't take a much closer look will be both a waste of time and a wasted opportunity.

Waterford City should be the administrative authority at the very least for the PLUTS area of South Kilkenny (leave them keep their addresses and GAA loyalties) and also for a large chunk of County Waterford out to and including the dormitory towns of Tramore, Portlaw, etc.

This would, I contend, lead to far better and more cohesive planning and balanced development in the entire area. I have long argued that East Waterford (County) has more affinity with, and in common with, the City than it ever has with those areas in the mid and west of the County.

What about regional authorities? Too many people on them continue to operate with a parochial mindset for them to ever be effective or indeed to place the good of the region over the good of their own small area.

So does the boundary issue need to be re-visited? Yes I would say. Will the boundary issue be re-visited? Well, that's the six-million-dollar question, isn't it?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Just So You Know

In case anyone needs reminding, among the news stories that happened this week but becuase of the Fine Gael leadership heave, you may not have heard them.....

....there was a motion of no confidence in An Taoiseach
....the financial controller of Anglo Irish Bank said that the €22bn that has been pored into the bank so far was a waste of money and
....the Minister for Finance announced that they will extend the bank guarantee to the end of the year. And the value of that guarantee? Four-hundred-and-forty-billion euro.

Just so you know.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Four Roads To Fianna Fáil (to be sung to the air of Four Roads to Glenamaddy)



Whether you choose banking, developing, regulating or politicking, all roads in this current debacle lead to Fianna Fáil! And stop there. They are the common denomintaor -where all roads meet, if you like.

And I blame them more than anyone, because is was their job to watch out for us, for Joe citizen in their role as this countrys elected government. None of the others mentioned above have as a central role, the protection of the citizens and their future. Not the banks - their role is to make money. Not the builders - their role is the same. Not even the regulators as they are neither appointed by, nor answerable to us.

Sorry to be going on about this but despite the polls, the public mood, the direct culpability - and even despite the fact that there are many decent hard-working Fianna Fáilers out there - Fianna Fáil itself seems to be either blissfully or deliberately unaware of their central, devastating, sycophantic role in this. Thinking maybe they can distrct the masses....not any more. The game's up now for sure.

They were so delighted to be sitting at the same tables as those they thought were bigwigs, that they allowed them to destroy the country. T.H.E. C.O.U.N.T.R.Y!

This is my last post on this subject. From here on in I intend to be inanely optimistic and positive. Okay.......??????

Friday, June 11, 2010

Three Lovely Laddies

Three TD's in recent months have been very vocal in their criticism of An Taoiseach Brian Cowen TD. Now we have had two seperate reports lay much of the blame for the countrys current economic meltdown at the feet of that self same Taoiseach.

Will Mattie McGrath (Tipperary), Ned O'Keeffe (Cork) and John McGuinness (Kilkenny) have the integrity to back up their words with action?????

Mattie has had a lot to say.
Vote of No Confidence to take place next Tuesday Mattie.
What will you vote?



Ned O'Keeffe has made a lot of noise in recent months.
Vote of No Confidence to take place next Tuesday Ned.
Will you have the courage of your convictions?



Now is John McGuinness' chance to show us what he's made of.
Vote of No Confidence to take place next Tuesday John.
You've done a lot of talking.
Now what are you actually going to do???

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Is The 'Big Cheese' About to Pass His 'Best Before' Date???




So; the government and Brian Cowen personally have had a large part of the blame for our current travails laid at their/his door. End of. Now we KNOW.

This raises a few points. Namely; is there now any reason for a prolonged, expensive enquiry to tell what has already been established?

Why has Bertie Aherns' name not come into this (that I have heard)?

Considering Brian Cowen sought resignations from Fianna Fail based on such things as expenses claims and house painting, surely the enormity of these latest 'wrong-doings' merits a similar response from An Taoiseach? Where is his credibility? He should resign as Taoiseach and a General Election should be called.

End of. As they say.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cyclists v Drivers




I went into Waterpark Primary School this morning to talk to the children in Mr Dalys 6th class about their ideas for improving the city that they live in. They were anxious that their ideas would, firstly be listened to, and secondly, taken on board if possible.

Their ideas were all very interesting and while not all were actually do-able within current constraints, they all had merit. I will detail them in brief a little further down.

But one thing struck me most forcibly was the story told by one boy who cycles to school every morning along the Dunmore Road. He detailed how, while cycling one morning, a motorist had slowed down, rolled down his passenger window, all the while bipping his horn and shouting abuse at the child, out the window! Now I am not sure about you but it made my blood boil. Aside from the utter ignorance of it; there was an obvious danger in that it could have caused the child (only 11 or 12 years old) to perhaps wobble and fall and maybe even get injured or worse.

Why is it that we feel as drivers that we can engage in the type of behaviour that we would never dream of engaging in, when we meet people face to face on the path for example? What kind of idiots do some people turn into behind the wheel of a car?

I have asked the City Council to put in place an awareness campaign to educate drivers mostly about the fact that cyclists do exist, they have as much right to be on the road as any driver and that drivers are going to have to make allowances for them - and indeed that we hope there will be many more of them on the roads in the near future.

We in the Council have made a firm commitment to cycling (and public transport) particularly on the Green Route which is currently being put in place on the Dunmore Road and be under no illusions but that the ultimate aim is to get children and even aggressive drivers out of their cars and onto bikes or buses.

I had one driver approach me just the other day demanding to know what would he do if there was a cyclist on his side of the road and a lorry coming against him which wouldn't leave enough room (in some places) for all three of them? I answered that he would just have to slow down and drive with due care and attention - and perhaps even be ready to stop! Well, you would think I had asked him to bite the head off a budgie!

Please drivers. You are simply going to have to drive while taking account of all other road users. End of. And please don't tell me about all the ridiculous things that cyclists can do. I know. But they are the vulnerable road user and it will sound very hollow indeed if you hurt someone - particularly a child - because you didn't drive with due care.

We are trying to get a substantial amount of people to make a modal shift out of their cars. Perhaps instead of yelling at unsuspecting children, that obviously wound up driver would have been better to walk or cycle off his stress or even take the bus. It is going to take time for all the ducks to line up but we are working on them all.

Meanwhile please take extra care with cyclists - remember they are vulnerable, many are children and one day, it could be you or your child. Drive accordingly!

The other ideas the children had included the renovation of the old cinema in Patrick Street as a kind of drop in/arts centre/cinema for younger children; the provision of mini-allotments aimed at children (about 1 metre square); bins at all bus stops; the instigation of a licensing system for Busking Boxes to be located in 8 or 9 places in the city centre and which would guarantee live music on Friday nights and Saturdays; a volunteer odd job scheme for people on social welfare and, of course an awareness programme for motorists about cyclists and their needs!

I hope to follow up on at least some of these ideas. I already have with the cycling awareness idea.

Thanks to all the boys & girls in Mr Dalys class for inviting me in to have the benefit of their ideas and I hope they will take with them through their lives the need for them to be responsible citizens who play a positive role in what is, after all, all of our homes: Waterford City.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

SOLAS paddle 2010 - please help!



Below is the story of a very old friend of mine, Bian Fanning who, having been through a hell of a lot in recent years, is about to embark on a 'cross the Irish sea' paddle to raise money for the Solas Centre along with Mick O'Meara who currently holds the record for the crossing. If anyone of you would like to contribute to this fanatstic fundraising event please contact me or the numbers below. Good luck to Brian and Mick - here's hoping you break that record!


Brian Fanning has lived in Waterford and Tramore all his life. He is husband to Anne and father of Lily (10), Anna (8) and Tommy (3). He’s, an electrician in Waterford Regional Hospital, a keen cyclist and a marathon kayaker. He’s fit, athletic and loves life.

In December 2007 Brian was diagnosed with stage three testicular cancer. Some time after an initial surgery to remove the tumour and multiple cycles of chemotherapy further cancerous cells were found in his thyroid gland. In January 2009 he underwent further surgery to remove his thyroid gland and subsequently received internal radiation treatment. During Brian’s illness and recovery he was supported by the South Eastern Cancer Foundation which provided counselling and alternative treatments to assist in coping with the stress and side effects of the diagnosis and treatment.

Set up in 1999, by Oncology doctors and nurses in Waterford Regional Hospital, the SECF is a charity which primarily provides practical support to cancer patients and their families by offering counselling and relaxation therapies. The organisation is currently based in a temporary rented suburban home which is without the expansion potential to cater for the increasing demand for its services. Contractors for the Solas Centre are now appointed and building work is to commence this month. However the South East Cancer Foundation requires further funds to fit out and finish the building and to continue to provide the support services to cancer patients and their families.

To mark his return to health and fitness Brian has formed a plan to raise money for the new Solas Centre. His plan is to kayak across the Irish Sea (from Rosslare to White Sands Bay, outside Fishguard) and beat the existing record of ten hours and seventeen minutes. The record was set in 2002 by two intrepid paddlers from Waterford– Brian himself and his long-time friend and paddling companion, Mick O’Meara.

Brian and Mick have paddled together since 1985. Together they have circumnavigated Ireland and Iceland by kayak and won a third place in the legendary Devizes to Westminster 125 mile kayak race and participated together in numerous Liffey Descent races. Together, in 2002, they set the record for the fastest time to paddle across the Irish Sea between Rosslare and St. David’s in Wales. The crossing is one of fifty miles and took 10 hours 17 minutes to complete. The plan this time is to aim for nine and a half hours at an average speed of about five and a half miles an hour and raise as much money for the Solas Centre as possible.
For more information on Brian and Mick’s paddle and/or to help raise funds for the Solas Centre contact Mick O’Meara on 087-2686529 or by email on info@seapaddling.com.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cathederal Square: Discuss







Every time I throw out an idea it seems there's someone only too willing to knock it. However, undeterred I now propose to set out an idea for Cathedral Square - an area of the city currently in a sad state but which is due for renewal within the next short while as part of the Viking Triangle and the 'One thousand Years in One Thousand Steps' idea - the one thousand steps being between Reginalds Tower and the Franciscan Friary and the Millennium of history contained therein.

Firstly as to what we can or cannot do. We do not own the currently derelict properties in the square although steps are being taken to try and get those properties improved at worst, and at best into active and beneficial use so don't go suggesting that we sort them out. They're awful: we know - we're doing what we can. For what its worth I would suggest that restaurant usage would be ideal - for that entire side of the square which is currently houses. Obviously I'm not talking about Christchurch Cathedral itself or indeed the Motor Tax office.

What I would love to see would be the development of the square as an almost informal venue for performances. As somebody suggested to me today; the acoustics are fantastic there and it would make a gorgeous venue for singers and small acoustic music sessions.

Of course with our weather we would have to make it somewhat weatherproof and I would suggest some type of tensile structure a la the Millennium Plaza on the Quay. Alternatively a series of umbrellas could be located there a la the (lower) photograph above which is actually of a square in Barcelona. The top photograph is of Cathedral Square itself.

This would bring life and usage to a beautiful area of the city and the opening of one or more restaurants or cafés in the area would be enhanced by having a facility for their customers to sit outside and enjoy some evening warmth (assuming we are to get any but with global warming and all that perhaps!) while listening to a little gentle music.

This could be achieved relatively easily and it could also incorporate the retention of the trees in this area.

But please.....discuss and let me know your ideas or what you think would work in this historic area of Waterford City. All comments and suggestions will be carefully considered and suggested to the relevant meetings. Either leave your comments here on my blog or feel free to email me directly at cllrmroche@waterfordcity.ie . Thanks!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Should You Work For Dole?





This is one of those areas that seems obvious and makes sense to me. The dole in Ireland is a living. It is enough to live on and is designed to keep people in the basic needs. And although it isn't PC to say it, it is a lifestyle choice for some. Some people do not work, have never worked and will never work - by choice. They do quite nicely. Some even have cars and holidays. Housing is provided for many and lots of other supports. Living on the dole in Ireland - for some (not all) does them very nicely thank you! And much more nicely for example than the £80 or so you would get in the North of Ireland.

Just as there are those arguing that it would be a crime not to pair empty houses with those in need of housing; how can it be any different to suggest pairing people with no work, with work that needs to be done?

And yes I know all the arguments about the fact that this system could be abused - so I would suggest that none of this work could be carried out for the private sector. Only public authorities or those dealing in the social economy i.e. Partnerships, CDP's, Family Resource Centres etc. etc. would be able to identify work to be done and apply for workers to carry it out. If any one of those workers subsequently got a job in the private sector then they could leave with no notice.

People should also be given a choice and not merely have to accept the first 'job' that comes up. They should be consuted about their talents and interests. There should also be sensitivity about the type of work that is undertaken and thought should be given to peoples skill levels and talents.

Local authorities and community projects are under huge funding pressures and staffing levels being reduced (hugely in some cases), with we keep being told, more cuts to come. Many people who would love something to do all day long are currently on the dole - many because of one reason or other, are unlikely to find work again or at least in the near future. Some simply have no work ethic and need to be introduced to it.

Meanwhile we have elderly people who will never be able to afford it, needing to have some work done in their homes or gardens. We have community centres not being able to afford to get the place redecorated or perhaps improve the landscaping. You have community projects with ideas to run fantastic programmes but not enough staff to carry them out; there are people who need to learn to read & write; there are people who would love to do a gardening course; there are children who need help with homework or stories to be told to them; art to be taught, languages to be learned! There are an hundred million things that people could, with dignity, be asked to spend their time doing. Many would welcome it as the solution to a life without work or stimulation or mixing with other adults.

It's time we started making a few common sense decisions in this country. This, I contend, would be one of them.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Banks! Banks! Banks!



The above sign has been erected outside Anglo Irish Bank on St Stephens Green and I don't think there would be too many would disagree with its sentiments (mis-spellings aside). It's a kind of 'a plague on all their houses' against the bankers, politicians, unions and pretty much everyone except the poor taxpayer who is delivering the moolah to bale them all out. All very justified.


I still have a major problem though in that the banks are merely trying, through all of whats going on, to get back to where they were and what they were at before the proverbial 'merdre' hit the fan. Is this progress? The bankers are still being paid exorbitant amounts of money and paying themselves bonuses for Gods sake! Is this justified?

Surely if you are in line for bonuses there should be a corresponding sanction for the people who have delivered the banks, the economy and the country down the tube! If this was the case then most of them would end up owing their place of employment money, such is the extent of the bad job they have done for which they have all (paradoxically) been handsomely paid!

People keep telling us that we have to save the banks without telling us why. Every international competitor on the banking scene, who were introducing some (much needed) competition into the banking market, are now running away like scalded cats. This means that as soon as the banks get enough money into their coffers again (from us) they will be back to business as normal. They are all private companies with their main focus as delivering 'shareholder value' - profits into the private sector. They have no responsibility (imho) to 'get the economy rolling again' as we are being told - notably by politicians as the banks themselves are making no such claims!

Interestingly Vincent Browne on TV3 last night covered a new TASC report which detailed the amount of cross-pollination of directorships held by a small few people mostly in Dublin who populate the board rooms of the biggest companies in Ireland. Each non-executive director was likely to be paid (€66,000-€130,000) a huge amount for their part-time work and each was likely to hold around 10 other non executive directorships!!!!!!!!

This is absolutely extra-ordinary and applies, no doubt, in great part to the boards of our banks also! Whats the bet that many of those directors also have contacts/appointments related to our great independent media and political spheres also? I always think it would be a most interesting task to 'map' as it were all the connections, through marriage, family, appointments etc. between business, media and government. Wouldn't that make for interesting reading!

I won't even go into the extremely low levels of women sitting on these 'old boys networks'....oh, sorry I mean 'boards'!!!!!!

Anyway, as these self same people are forever telling us (although for very different reasons) none of this gives us the rope to drag ourselves out of this very deep hole! That I think will be provided by neither the banks, nor the government. It will be provided by the ingenuity of the Irish people who are already showing signs of imagining themselves out of this mess.

I say this because, as you may know, I am a judge on the Deise Den competition currently running on WLR fm which is offering a €25,000 prize pack for some lucky new or nearly new business in this area. I have been very enthused and heartened by the range and amount of entries to the competition and while unfortunately there can only be one winner, many of the entries and finalists offer the potential for people to at least create employment for themselves and who knows, even expand and possibly provide much much more than that in the not too distant future.

One thing is for sure though: there is a wealth of ingenuity and imagination and determination out there amongst people! They are all to be encouraged and congratulated on their bravery and their spirit. I salute them all. We need more like them!