We were surprised and taken aback at the definitive attitude shown by the Tanaiste against a university in the south east.
Having allowed Waterford Crystal to close and not rescue it, she has given the region another body blow by failing to support the demand for a university
for the south east and Waterford.
She claimed that if a university was given to Waterford it would also mean
Letterkenny in her own county of Donegal would have similar demands, as would Sligo, Cork and Athlone, all of which want universities.
The Minister has missed the point in terms of regional development and Waterford being a gateway city. She said the Institutes of Technology would sometimes be more preferable in terms jobs. She then pointed out how research was so important.
She must be aware of the great successes of TSSG group at the Waterford Institute of Technology and the major research work there that has led to much job creation.
While she may think that a university is not that necessary, the perception of an investor from the USA or elsewhere about coming to Waterford will be changed by having a university.
We appreciate the value of Institutes and the valuable work they create, but having some university faculties is a bonus. She also expressed her opposition to the Polytechnic idea.
Economist Jim Power said last year when there was a demand for state investment in Waterford Crystal and a state guarantee, the Government should put such monies into a university for the city and the region’s long term future.
Now we meet with rejection on the university issue, following such a body blow already from the closure of the crystal factory.
Waterford has a much stronger case than Donegal, Sligo or Athlone, an hour from Galway, or Cork which already has a university.
IBEC and the various social partners that create jobs have stated strongly that a university is needed and this is a major blow to their work and ambitions.
The region must make this an election issue with the European and local elections about to take place.
It was not a clever move for Tanaiste Coughlan to be so strongly against it at the Chamber and City Council Innovation Conference in the Tower Hotel last Friday.
She had been given a hostile reception by former Crystal workers which did not put her in a positive mood. The city and college must be shocked at her strong, forthright comments.
Perhaps if she looked back on her visit to Waterford she might feel it would have been better to have an arranged meeting with the glass factory reps in advance of the innovation conference. That could have taken the heat out of any political or worker protest. She did not visit Waterford at all during this crisis.
The protest may have created a certain image for Waterford but brought some result with the overdue payments of redundancy.
A delegation will need to go to Dublin to meet her again to present more strongly the Waterford case for a university. Rejection as we try to cope with industrial closures does not show very good foresight and needs re-assessment.
Upskilling is the new buzz word and let us see more of it so that when there is economic recovery we are ready.
Teva Pharmaceuticals and other such companies need a skilled labour force for the future life science industry that is strong in the south east.
We would appeal to the Minsiter to be more positive for this region which has hit hard times.