On Friday last, the Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan, gave some soothing news on the university issue at a special function in Waterford. The current state of the public finances was not given as an excuse to knock the aspiration of the people of Waterford and the South East to have a university.
The Mayor of Waterford, Councillor Jackie Walsh, put the case very strongly to the Minister and spoke of the need to redress the regional balance on the matter. Young people growing up in the South East did not have the same chance of making it to university as their counterparts in Galway, Cork or Dublin, he pointed out. The Minister stated that Waterford Institute of Technology was now involved in a process in terms of university evaluation.
The current Minister for Education, Batt O’Keeffe, may be a little more positive than his predecessor as far as Waterford and the South East are concerned but, with cuts coming in primary and second level schools and problems with class sizes, he is sailing into stormy waters.
It was good to see Waterford Institute of Technology continue to push its case and lobby the Minister strongly. We may be in more difficult financial times but we must think beyond the current recession and play for the future.
The Minister for Finance may not be popular at present but he did meet with the parties concerned and there is general satisfaction that the case is being accepted.
Minister Lenihan was speaking at the annual Chamber of Commerce dinner in the city on Friday last.
Mr Lenihan may not set the world on fire in terms of charisma but he gave an interesting backdrop into how the Irish banking system has to be rescued. There is general justification that this is the right thing to do but there is also concern that the banks gave far too much money to a small group of developers near Dublin who borrowed far too much as they became greedy to make more money on over-valued property.
All parties involved now regret that caution was thrown to the wind and a new reality is sinking in. In the meantime, bank shares drop to all time lows as investors query whether new capital needs to be raised.
The Minister referred to the budget in a limited way but given last weekend’s opinion poll information, there was poor feedback on the measures taken.
No doubt, if the Minister had the chance of turning the clock back he would change some of the measures.
Most people realise that reality has to be faced but both public relations in that area has been rather weak.
Green light for city development
Last week heralded some good news on the new planned shopping centre for Waterford city centre. To be known as The Brewery, it will be built on an area bounded by John Street, Stephen Street, Alexander Street and Newgate Street which is one of the older areas of our city.
The KRM developers are adamant that the development will proceed in the New Year and that it will go to tender shortly.
Given the weak state of the retail market currently these are brave words but then, by the time it is built, an economic recovery should be underway.
The fall in property values will affect the development as will the drop in building costs. Securing an anchor tenant will be challenging but the developers seem to be confident that they some top class tenants are committed to the project.
In the last twelve months, Waterford has had some major international names opening up here like B & Q, Harvey Norman and TJ Maxx. Some more big new names in the new centre will further consolidate the position of Waterford as the major retail centre for the South East. We would appeal to shoppers to think Waterford this Christmas.