For well over a year, there have been major concerns in Ireland regarding the dreaded Brexit.
Thankfully, that cloud somewhat lifted last week given the ‘Flextension’ that was agreed to by the European Union following further discussions with the British Government.
With a no deal Brexit already off the table thanks to one of the few sensible decisions recently taken by British MPs, a soft Brexit now feels decidedly more likely, be it this summer or in the autumn.
However, the threat of a hard Brexit/no deal has damaged our economy, with hotels receiving less English visitors over the past year. Farmers have also seen their prices for animals fall and consumers are, naturally, being more cautious. The debacle has also led to less car sales while other medium to long term decisions on a host of fronts have been left on the long finger, until Brexit is finally dealt with. Hopefully, we can drive on from here.
The Government and indeed the media may well have over-dramatised all matters Brexit since Christmas; granted the Irish approach to the crisis has been positively even handed in comparison to the hysteria generated by the Brexiteer-influenced Tory ranks and press.
The Brexit obsession, in which expert opinion about what will happen next has represented nothing more than optimistic kite-flying, doomsday declaring acts of soothsaying and everything in between has created a kink in the news and political cycle. And one suspects that both the educated and wildly bizarre guesswork concerning the UK’s future with Ireland has impacted upon economic confidence.
When confidence is hit, it can be hard to restore it with anything approaching immediacy; indeed it may well affect investment decisions in the months ahead.
It also doesn’t help when it comes to retail either as we in Waterford have higher vacancy rates in places such as Arundel Square. However, it is interesting to note that local media in Kilkenny have reported in recent weeks about the city becoming a “ghost town”. We must not delude ourselves into thinking that Waterford city’s problems are unique to Waterford city.
Maybe the time has come for the Taoiseach to be more positive and to deliver stronger messages. That’s the sort of ‘Strategic Communication’ we would all benefit from.
FAI-related problems appear to be taking up too much time of late on the Government side, with some politicians getting very exercised on it. Those issues too, are relative, in comparison to issues such as the National Children’s Hospital, housing and educational provision.
On a positive note it was good to see Transport Minister Shane Ross show interest in Waterford Airport, which he visited on Monday, and we know this is a topic which Minister of State John Halligan has repeatedly raised with senior cabinet colleagues.
Extending the runway is crucial when it comes to getting new passenger routes and possibly even more air cargo.In the meantime, one also hopes that relations among the Northern Ireland parties will improve that the Assembly will at last reconvene.
Building cross-community relations in the months ahead should be a priority and it was good to see former leaders Ahern and Blair show their willingness to engage in the safeguarding of the Good Friday agreement for both communities, this island and our neighbours in Britain.