A new employment plan to reduce the escalating Live Register figure in Waterford must be implemented to create jobs and stimulate the economy according to City Councillor David Cullinane.
Speaking after the latest Live Register figures for the city and county revealed that 14,345 people were now signing on; Cllr Cullinane didn’t conceal his anger with the Government.
“They are doing nothing to create jobs while cutting social welfare rates at the same time,” said the Sinn Féin Councillor. “This is a disgrace.”
The need for greater investment in Waterford was made plain to Tánaiste/Enterprise and Employment Minister Mary Coughlan when she received a Waterford City Council delegation before Christmas.
“We held a wide-ranging discussion of what I’d call ‘mainframe issues’ with the Tánaiste,” City Manager Michael Walsh told Councillors last month.
“But there weren’t too many specific commitments given to us regarding Waterford during those discussions,” he admitted.
While fellow Councillors offered support to the Manager and their colleagues who travelled to Dublin to meet with Ms Coughlan, their frustration was palpable.
“The Minister, at the very least, ought to be offering the people of Waterford some indication about what she’s going to do to preserve the jobs that we still have in the city,” said Cllr Davy Daniels.
“Yet we still haven’t received any firm indication from her about what she’s going to do for Waterford going forward…she has taken her eye off the ball when it comes to our city.”
During that meeting, Mayor John Halligan relayed some telling statistics to the Tánaiste, “forcefully putting across what we in Waterford have to offer and what we need”.
According to the Mayor’s information, of the past 9,000 jobs generated in Ireland via the IDA, only 140 of those were located in Waterford.
“None of the 47 businesses that intended setting up businesses in Ireland had expressed any interest in Waterford,” he added. “Going into the future, that has got to change.”
In a written reply to a Dáil question from Waterford
TD Brian O’Shea last week, Ms Coughlan stated: “IDA Ireland continues to actively promote the Waterford region to overseas investors.”
But the Minister’s reply didn’t detail any specific leads that the IDA were currently pursuing for Waterford, referring only to existing businesses and facilities in the city and county.
Cllr Cullinane called on the Government to establish a “labour intensive programme of infrastructure construction to create jobs, put people to work and invest in Ireland’s future”.
Referring to his ‘Getting Waterford Back to Work’ document published in September last, Cllr Cullinane outlined a series of both short and long term proposals to stimulate the economy.
“These proposals include helping local firms access national and EU funding, arranging a meeting of local bank managers to discuss, in a transparent way, banking practices and to help get credit flowing,” he said.
“The document also proposes the front loading of key infrastructure and employment intensive programmes, moving forward with transport infrastructure plans, support for local Research and Development and a new educational taskforce to help those who have lost their jobs.”
The cut in social welfare left Waterford’s unemployed “high and dry” in Cllr Cullinane’s view. “That was a disgraceful decision. We need urgent Government action to create jobs and get people back to work.”
Speaking to The Munster Express prior to Christmas, a prominent city business source suggested that solely looking towards the Tánaiste’s office for solutions was not the answer.
“We’ve got to get things done ourselves here,” he said.
“Innovations such as the ‘Destination Waterford’ initiative shows that the impetus, the energy and the drive to do just that, to make things happen, is something we can do here locally and independently.
“The Celtic Tiger didn’t shower Waterford with too many gifts, which could actually prove to be a blessing in the long run. In fact, I firmly believe Waterford is about to take control of its own destiny.”
Impressing the need to promote Waterford in a whole host of areas, including foreign trade missions, the City Council delegation couldn’t be faulted for their efforts with the Tánaiste.
Given the lead which City Manager Michael Walsh has provided in recent months, aided by the support of Waterford Chamber and the City Enterprise Board, local leaders are clearly providing sound, local direction.
Yet given her brief in securing our country’s biggest investment contracts, the Tánaiste must, to reverse Cllr Daniels’ pre-Christmas claim, keep her eye on the ball a bit better when it comes to Waterford. Because that is one task which is truly in her court.