Prior to Christmas, on non-newspapering business, I found myself in Piltown National School and was taken by the map of County Kilkenny, which identified its many towns and villages, with one notable exception.
It’s hard to imagine a map of County Waterford which wouldn’t name the traditional ‘second’ or county town of Dungarvan hanging in a primary school across the Deise.
But all that identified Ferrybank on the map of Kilkenny I recently cast an eye on was its grey outlined shape.
Forget not that, even when discounting the Waterford area of the city suburb, Ferrybank remains Kilkenny’s second most populated urban area, with the 2011 Census stating its population as 5,217.
For the record, that Census tallied Kilkenny’s total population at 95,419, so over five per cent per cent of the county’s entire population resides within Ferrybank – a considerable number of rate payers and voters, I would suggest.
While it appears the finish line is now finally in sight on this issue, due in no small part to the sustained efforts of local residents and the locality’s County Councillors, that Ferrybank remains without a public playground is shameful.
A population in excess of 5,000 without a public playground? How can County Hall in Kilkenny stand over a failure like this? How can Phil Hogan, who was a Carlow/Kilkenny TD for 25 years, stand over a failure like this?
The single biggest infrastructural development in South Kilkenny completed during my working lifetime (which dates back to 1999) was, would you believe, line-dotted by the last Waterfordian to hold a senior cabinet position – Martin Cullen.
Had it not been for the former minister’s intervention at cabinet level, the works on the M9, including the Thomas Francis Meagher Bridge, would not have commenced on the banks of the Suir. And that wasn’t thanks to County Hall or Phil Hogan.
And given the subsequent economic slowdown, one wonders, like the still incomplete Limerick-Galway motorway, might the same fate have befallen the M9 – and the bridge – had it not been for Martin Cullen’s presence.
It’s also worth noting that the €75 million Waterford Waste Water Treatment plant at Gorteens in Belview facilitated several developments on the north bank of the Suir, including the new Glanbia plant, was similarly signed off by Martin Cullen. Not County Hall. Not Phil Hogan.
In their joint submission to the Waterford Boundary Review, Waterford City & County Councillors Mary Roche, Cha O’Neill and Davy Daniels state: “Despite some (lately given) commitment from Kilkenny (to locate a playground in Ferrybank for example) it is obvious that Kilkenny and [its] environs have been neglected for many years.”
The submission adds: “Interestingly, even those who advocate against the boundary extension will admit that Ferrybank and [its] environs do not get a fair share of the Kilkenny financial cake or economic development pie.” Again, a wholly reasonable point.
The Roche/O’Neill/Daniels submission concludes: “The people of South Kilkenny could certainly expect a warm welcome from the people of Waterford as well as a far better delivery of services with vastly improved ease of access. There is far more that unites us than divides us and we are sure that arrangements could be made by other bodies (sporting or otherwise) to facilitate people’s preferred loyalties.”
The GAA argument that’s been made by the “not an inchers” has been the biggest red herring of all.
I would content that an administrative boundary isn’t the same as a traditional or historic county border, and it’s all the more curious that any red-blooded Irish citizen would be so beholden to the local government administration system established by the British in 1898.
After all, lands between Ballymacarbry and the Tipperary border (home to almost 1600 residents) are only returning to the Waterford Dáil constituency come this general election.
But no-one ever suggested that the men’s and women’s GAA teams in The Nire ought to play in the Tipperary Championship despite the Dáil boundary being different to the county boundary, for example.
Will Kilruane McDonaghs in Cloughjordan, North Tipperary, be usurped into the Offaly GAA Championship now that the club is situated in the revised three-seat constituency? No need to answer that one, folks.
By the way, none of this is intended as criticism of South Kilkenny’s County Councillors, the six of whom work diligently on behalf of their locality, and conduct their monthly meetings in a co-operative, cross-party atmosphere that puts the Dáil to shame.
They, just like Carrick-on-Suir’s two representatives, suffer, I suspect, from serving an area that’s situated on the periphery of a county flanking onto a neighbouring county and local authority.
And let’s not forget the long-standing hamstringing of local politicians by central government, a democratic deficit that can be attributed to the policies of successive administrations and not just one political party.
Facts, rather than red herrings, ought to be what we should all focus on when it comes to South Kilkenny, an area which, in my view, has been disserved by Kilkenny County Hall and Central Government for far too long.
And how I’d love to see the Rhu Glenn (as it was for a public meeting on the boundary on November 30th), heaving with local voters questioning why South Kilkenny has, for far too long, been the black sheep in the Black and Amber.
Because let’s be clear: South Kilkenny’s decades of disservice and disregard cannot be, in any way, shape or form, attributed to ‘meddling land grabbers’ in Waterford.