Waterford’s exclusion from a recently published National Competitiveness Council document, recommending to the Taoiseach investment priorities for Irish cities, has angered a prominent local public representative.
Independent City Councillor Mary Roche said she found it extraordinary that Waterford was the only city not included in the report entitled Our Cities: Drivers of National Competitiveness.
“This explains the lack of movement on the university issue”, she submitted. “It explains why the Government walked away from Waterford Crystal. It explains why we’re on the hind tit for all and every type of investment. It explains how the Tánaiste can come to our city and say that the loss of Waterford Crystal is ‘no big deal’ and why she’s ‘not convinced’ about the University argument”.
The NCC report states that “ensuring the long-term economic and social vibrancy of our main cities through the provision of targeted supports is essential for national and regional competitiveness”.
“Is Waterford and the south east to be denied these targeted supports”, Cllr Roche enquired. “The report recommends the prioritising of investment in the ‘Atlantic Corridor’, which it describes as Galway-Limerick-Cork, and the Belfast-Dublin Corridor. So it seems that the answer, as far as the recommendation of the National Competitiveness Council goes, is yes, we are to be denied that investment.
“The Government is shortly to review and ‘refresh’ the National Spatial Strategy which was developed in 2002 and which sought to ‘build up a critical mass in a small number of large urban centres, to enable them drive growth in their wider regions. We must be alert to ensure that Waterford’s designation as a Gateway City is not diluted in that review. Reports like this one give me cause to suspect that the Government is not serious about Waterford’s future”.
Cllr Roche said that in her experience, Government was very fond of referencing recommendations such as these when making policy decisions and it was essential that we sent the message clearly that Waterford and the south east would not continue to accept standards less than those of other competing regions. “Is the South East not to benefit from targeted investment? Will the development of Waterford not enhance the South East economy and indeed the economy of Ireland as a whole”, she asked.
“We must let organisations like the National Competitiveness Council know that we will not accept their downgrading. They have, with one swoop, completely ignored the development of the south east region, with a population of almost half a million people. It is absolutely crucial that Waterford gets the investment it needs in order to drive the economic growth of this region.
“Reports like this that exclude one city, and a designated gateway no less, should be sent back to the drawing board. We must be on our guard and alert to these threats to our small, yes, but amazing city. Our people and this region deserve to be on a par with every other city and every other region”.
The National Competitiveness Council is social partnership body which reports to the Taoiseach on key competitiveness issues facing the Irish economy and makes recommendations on policy actions to enhance Ireland’s competitive position.