With Waterford’s university prospects waning on foot of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s prevarication on the subject at the weekend, a leading local trade union official has posed the question: why are we always left scrambling for crumbs from the national table?

The query came from SIPTU Waterford branch organiser Marie Butler who said that Waterford had not alone established its right to have its Institute of Technology upgraded, but we were also entitled to the significant show of confidence which such a designation would represent.

Ms. Butler pointed out that working families in Waterford suffered one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and only 24 per cent of its population held a third level qualification. There was therefore a high degree of dependence for jobs on traditional manufacturing and the retail sector.

“Reminding ourselves of these things is unfortunately necessary as sometimes the educational, social and economic need for the university is lost”, she argued.

Workers in Waterford and surrounding areas needed the estimated 750 new jobs that would be created, she said, and the local economy needed the extra €80 million that would be generated each year. That was aside from the positive image and increased stature that would come with Waterford being a University City.

“More of our children would grow up believing that going to university was a real possibility; also the quality of jobs and opportunity to attract well paid work and develop knowledge based industries would increase”.

Jack O’Connor, SIPTU’s General President, pledging the union’s support for the university, and SIPTU had 22,000 members in the south-east, some of whom worked in other educational institutions but it did not indulge in petty, counterproductive turf wars and would be pressing for the government to deliver a university as a matter of urgency, not on the basis of any particular interest group but for the region as a whole. 

Marie Butler concluded: “Waterford Institute of Technology deserves to be upgraded, the workers in the region deserve the opportunities accruing from a university and Waterford can’t afford to accept crumbs any longer. It is inconceivable that this just demand will be denied. But if it is, those workers will not be found wanting”.