At Monday night’s election of Jack Walsh as Waterford’s new Mayor there was a common theme in the speeches, involving a mixture of optimism over major plans for commercial investment in the city and a steely determination to continue the fight for facilities which should already have been delivered as of right.
In the latter regard, a university and radiotherapy for public cancer patients, as well as the roll-out of Breast Check, evoke greatest emotion and, by common consent, are the most pressing.
Mayor Walsh referred to positive things that are happening, apart from several largescale mixed developments in the pipeline, involving expenditure of close to €2 billion. He said the continued development of the airport, roads infrastructure, port and WIT would help Waterford fulfill its role at the south east’s Gateway City.
“However”, he said, “the lack of a university for the south east is a structural weakness which is undermining our ability to compete with other regions, not alone in Ireland but right across Europe.
“It has been shown again and again that a university, as well as answering an educational need, is a key element in economic development and my first demand of the government is for the designation of WIT as a University of the South East”.
In making the demand though, the new Mayor, who is vice-chairman of the WIT Board, acknowledged the excellence of the Institute, the high quality of its graduates and the expansion that was constantly taking place there.
And he continued: “The City Council, through the gradual implementation of policies outlined in the City Development Plan and also in Project 2014, is playing its part in providing the necessary infrastructure to create a high quality of life for all our citizens in the years ahead.
“The excellence of our library service, the continuing upgrading of our water and sewerage services, the improvement in our parks and open spaces, our constant development of waste treatment facilities, our successful and continuing anti-litter campaign, the refurbishment of our existing housing stock and the building of new local authority houses indicate the Council’s commitment to Waterford’s future. The City Manager will also have a very ambitious capital programme before Council in the near future.
“We should take pride in our achievements and use this sense of pride as the motivation to mount and sustain a vigorous campaign for the attainment of our right to be treated equally with other regions of the country”.
Having referred also to health service demands, he said he wanted no more broken deadlines and broken promises. It was time that the Minister and the HSE top management faced up to their responsibilities and he intended as Mayor to do all he could to ensure Waterford and the region got a proper health service.
“Similarly”, he went on, ” anyone who has followed the course of the campaign to have WIT re-designated as a university is well aware of the manner in which one obstacle after another is placed in our path. It is no longer acceptable that every time we meet the objectives set by the Department of Education they place another barrier in our way. This is disgraceful treatment of the south east by the government.
“As Mayor I will make every effort to do whatever I can, as an individual and in conjunction with local and regional public representatives and lobby groups, to rectify this wrong”.
He referred to the generosity of Waterford people and noted from the 2006 census that 5,444 people in the city were involved in voluntary work. He thanked all of them and all of the groups and organisations who strove to make better the lot of the elderly and the disadvantaged.
Must keep fighting
In a review of her year in office, the outgoing Mayor referred to a list of positive developments which would help Waterford develop as a modern European city.
But she noted with great disappointment that while radiotherapy was now available at Whitfield Clinic, we were still several years from the long-promised roll-out of the service, along with other cancer interventions and treatments, at Waterford Regional Hospital. Also, she was disappointed that greater progress had not been made towards the roll-out of Breast Check in Waterford.
And on the university issue, she concurred with Mayor Walsh that we could not compete successfully with other regions in Ireland and overseas without the driver of a regional university.
She voided concern for Waterford Crystal and its remaining workers but, on the positive side, said there had been job creation announcements at Genzyme and Ivax, while Bausch & Lomb continued to thrive.
She expressed hope that the decentralisation of 200 civil servants here from the Environment Department would materialize and issued a reminder that Waterford was still awaiting a positive announcement on its allocation from the €300 million earmarked under the Gateway Innovation Fund for the nine gateways identified in the National Spatial Strategy.
That funding held the key, she said, to unlocking the tremendous potential of the city’s Viking Triangle and developing the pedestrian bridge from the Clock Tower to the North Quays.
“We need to continue fighting for fair treatment from the decision-makers in Dublin”, she asserted.
Glowing and well deserved tributes were paid both to the outgoing Mayor and the new man in office by all of the other Council members.