RTE Radio One’s ‘Tubridy Show’ was broadcast live from the Nano Nagle Community Resource Centre on Wednesday morning last and featured a lively debate about the town’s social and economic profile.

With contributions from Lonan and Leonie Burke (proudly running a 200-year-old family business on Main Street), Clonea-born economist Jim Power and this reporter, it’s fair to say that Mr Tubridy chaired an interesting exchange.

Perception was a word which featured highly during the programme, within the context of how Carrick-on-Suir is viewed from beyond its hinterland.

And, as has been the case for quite some time, and I take no pleasure whatsoever in writing this, the non-localised perception is not a good one, taking a variety of factors into consideration.

The Celtic Tiger, one can state without fear of contradiction, bypassed the town a lot quicker than the long-touted new section of the N24 that features in the town’s draft development plan. And one imagines it’ll remain be a topic of discussion if and when the Carrick bypass is constructed.

Viewing Carrick from a Dublin perspective, according to Jim Power, is not a pretty picture, irrespective of the reality on the ground.

Sean Kelly aside, the biggest story connected with the town for almost a generation has been its unemployment figures, still among the highest in the country.

While Waterford city continues to expand, and with Clonmel, after many years of economic desolation, cutting a much more positive look in recent years, Carrick, at least from an outsider’s view, appears to have stood still.

The reality is, of course, somewhat different. While progress in the town is not being carried out at a rate which would have Eddie Hobbs flogging an investment scheme down Carrick way, positive steps are being taken.

An abundance of individual and community energy has been devoted to providing the town with a framework to ensure a brighter future, with Jim Power himself, it’s worth pointing out, part of that effort.

The very venue in which last Wednesday’s broadcast was held offers one such example of how Carrick has sought to improve itself without looking for handouts.

The Nano Nagle Centre has provided Carrick-on-Suir with a new socio-economic focal point, brought about by the desire of local business figures to provide the town’s citizens with the opportunity to better themselves.

Through a host of training programmes, job clubs and community-orientated initiatives, the Centre is a facility which Carrick’s population can draw great pride from.

The development of the town’s marina means that pleasure boats from as far away as Enniskillen can negotiate our inland waterways and wind their way to Carrick.

The Sean Kelly Tour, which proved such a spectacular success this year, is another positive venture which, with the necessary support from Fáilte Ireland, could go a long way toward exploiting the area’s cycling tourism opportunities.

And what an ambassador the town has in Sean Kelly, who has made Carrick so well-known on the cobble of Flanders, the Champs Elysees and beyond.

Which brings us onto Johnny Ronan’s proposed development of a 320-acre science and technology park in Coolnamuck, a project which could go a long way towards establishing Carrick as an economic player in the region.

Locally, Ronan’s plan is the polar opposite of the elephant in the room. It’s the oft-mentioned spark which could ignite an economic bushfire in the locality and in the views of most townsfolk, it can’t come soon enough.

With both South Tipperary and Waterford County Councils requesting further information from the applicant (more on this next week),the reasons for Ronan’s interest in Carrick appear to be more than economical.

At least that’s what Ryan Tubridy suggested when asking both Jim Power and myself about the project, which could lead to the creation of 2,500 new jobs in the area.

Jim suggested that there’s a philanthropic element at work here, which, given Ronan’s great affection for this part of the world is difficult to dispute.

But one doesn’t imagine as successful a businessman as Johnny Ronan would be willing to spend €10 million in the development of the site simply due to his affections for the locality.

As one of the most respected business brains in the country, Ronan has looked at this site and, I would suggest, the continued expansion of Waterford Institute of Technology and seen what’s coming down the line.

As last week’s supplement in this newspaper demonstrated, the reputation of WIT’s School of Science continues to rise. It’s a magnificent facility and an educational beacon for the region.

Today, the south east is producing skilled, qualified, educated young men and women in the sciences, many of whom want to stay and work in the area.

Would Merck, Sharpe and Dohme be undertaking a further expansion of its Ballydine site without the availability of a highly skilled workforce?

And would Johnny Ronan remain steadfastly committed to constructing a facility which could tap into the resources which WIT aims to provide in even greater numbers in future years?

A decade from now, with (fingers crossed) a University of the South East in place, the Coolnamuck development might leave discussions like last Wednesday’s existing only in the Montrose radio archive.

But what last week’s ‘Tubridy Show’ also proved is the enormous goodwill and passion that those long-associated with the area have for Carrick-on-Suir.

There may be no Michael Lowry-type dealmaker for Tipperary South to call upon in the Dáil, but no amount of political glad-handing could make Carrick-on-Suir a more positively minded place than it already is.

Yet every now and then, it takes the arrival of an impartial observer such as Ryan Tubridy to remind you of something you’ve already known for many years.

So forget about perception. Carrick is a proud, forward-thinking town. Let’s keep it that way.

More news

Active Retirement Club

The Carrick-on-Suir Active Retirement Club has attracted some new members who at the meeting last week enjoyed entertainment provided by Mickey Whelan and Jackie Faulkner. The next meeting of the Group is this Thursday afternoon 15th November from 2 to 4pm at the Nano Nagle Community Resource Centre and Tai Chi is back on the programme.

Green Paper on Pensions

The Government has published a Green Paper on Pensions to promote debate on the challenges and options for the future development of pensions in Ireland. Submissions may be made by e-mail at pensionsgreenpaper@welfare.ie or by post to Green Paper Consultation, Pensions Policy Unit, Dept. of Social and Family Affairs, Aras Mhic Dhiarmada, Dublin 1 or by fax to 01 7043457.

Any submissions received will be published on the website www.pensionsgreenpaper.ie. Submissions will help to inform the Department on making appropriate decisions for present and future generations. The Consultation Process will extend to the middle of 2008. The Green Paper was launched recently by Minister Martin Cullen who urged all stakeholders including trade unions and employers to take part. The Green Paper sets out various options to combat the lack of uptake in pensions in the private sector and the lack of cover among most pension holders.

92 Bridge Club

Weekly Competition – 1st Etienne O’Sullivan and Maureen Finucane; 2nd Martin Kiely and Breda Feeney.

Carers Association Collection

The annual Church gate collection in aid of the Carers Association takes place this weekend, November 17th and 18th.

Philip Phelan joins international charity

Humana People to People based in Denmark was established 25 years ago in the capacities of development and cooperation for third world countries. The Organisation selects only people with high level of skills, so Philip Phelan, 1 Pearse Square; Carrick on Suir is honoured to be chosen by this international movement.

Additional to being selected, Philip will be the first Irish person to continue after the initial training period in Denmark, the UK and South Africa to be honoured with the position as Country Director under Humana control and operations. Currently, Philip is spearheading a campaign to try and raise €5,000 before April 4th 2008 to go towards the cost of training with the Organisation.

He is contacting many of the companies in the south east region and further at his own expense to assist his cause. He would be grateful for any assistance or approach that anyone might give to him at e-mail philphel43@eircom.net or telephone 087 6231995.

Advent retreat at Glencomeragh House

Fr. James Browne, IC is presenting a Retreat over two weekends during Advent at Glencomeragh House Retreat Centre, Kilsheelan. The first will commence on Friday evening, November 30th until Sunday 2nd December and the second from Friday 14th to Sunday 16th December.

Inspire Programme

The Inspire Programme will commence in the Nano Nagle Community Resource Centre in mid-January 2008. It is a specially designed programme for those in their 30s and upwards who are working in the private and public sectors either full time or part time who have not participated in formal training for a number of years. The course content is life skills including communication, teamwork, goal setting, diversity, motivation, computer training and managing relationships.

The benefits include increased communication effectiveness, greater capacity to work with others, improved self-confidence and increased computer competency. The time commitment is 36 hours over approximately 12 evening sessions and as the programme is sponsored by the EU and FAS, it is free of charge.

Only 20 places are available so interested applicants should contact the Centre on 051 642418 as soon as possible to avoid disappointment

Pre-Christmas offer at Sports Centre

A 30-day membership offer for €30 is available at the Sean Kelly Sports Centre if you join before November 24th. Why wait for the usual new year get fit resolution, give it a go before Christmas and avail of this fantastic bargain. Are you aware of the Happy Hour for children at the Centre when music and fun is available every Saturday and Sunday between 3.00 and 4.45 pm in the swimming pool? You can even bring your own music.

Training seminar for Councillors

The long held wish of Councillor Denis Bourke to hold a conference in his home town which came to fruition in 2005 took place for the third time this year and proved very worthwhile. Denis in association with Kadenza Consultancies organise the event and the title ‘Training Seminar for Councillors’ was agreed.

This year’s theme ‘Health and Safety in Local Government’ was very topical and resulted in lively debate and discussion during the Questions and Answers sessions.

The speakers, Cllr Katie Ridge BL, Tom Haugh BE and Bernard Lennon BA gave excellent presentations and were highly commended by the delegates.

The Seminar was opened by Deputy Mayor Liam Walsh and at the close Cllr Bourke thanked the speakers, delegates and the Carraig Hotel for hosting the event so efficiently.

Painting exhibition in library

Carrick-on-Suir artists Jill Lalor, Annette Glascott and Jennifer Greene will hold an exhibition of their original paintings including local scenes in the Library, Greenside from Monday, November 19th to Saturday, December 1st. The official opening will be held on Monday next at 7pm.

Fairgreen Market opens

After months and a complete refurbishment the former Spar store located at the New Street Town Park junction is due to re-open today (Wednesday), November 14th at 10am.

In an innovative new store, owned by Martin O’Sullivan, David and Anne Skelly, the rebranded Fairgreen Market is open for business, its name recognising its proximity to the ‘The Fair Green,’ a local landmark. The store will be managed by Debbie Maher and her team includes Michelle Blackmore, Marie Carroll and new head chef Malcolm Hammersley. The store will be an important source of employment and the promoters are very proud of their locally-sourced staff. The supermarket will have an emphasis on quality fresh produce, including an in-store bakery, delicatessen, lunches to go, a new juice bar and, to keep the kids happy, a new exciting ‘Blizz’ ice cream counter.