Last week’s St Patrick’s Day parade was a wonderful spectacle and served to relieve some of the gloom and doom that we must live with these days. The Sky Fest was also a great success.
One of the interesting points in the parade was the almost total lack of representation of city industry, although it was great to see Teva there and Genzyme supporting local community groups and also AOL.
It did reveal that many industries not represented are going through difficult times. Bausch and Lomb for instance were missing as they have applied cost cuts and the Waterford Crystal story is well known – they were long a feature of the parade.
The resolution of the sit-in protest at the Crystal Visitor Centre will come as a relief to the city, although many of the workers owed money still feel aggrieved. On the positive side it gives some boost to the tourist industry, where there was worry over the prospect of many cancelled buses.
New efforts must be made to recommence manufacturing at Kilbarry. Let us try and keep Waterford Crystal more Irish.
Back to the parade, there was a great response from the community groups and the theme of colour was terrific. However, it was rather chilling to see how much industry we have lost here in Ireland, a point noted on one of the SIPTU banners.
The public sector may protest over the pension levy, but this is not a huge sacrifice compared to the job losses and short time worked elsewhere. What industry we have now is a fraction of what we had in the eighties and nineties.
We are entering a new era of the post industrial world that one saw in the UK cities of the 1980s and 1990s.
In Europe there is a stronger drive to retain industry than there is here in Ireland where there is almost a defeatist attitude by state authorities that there is nothing can be done about manufacturing because of our costs.
We must strive to retain some of the manufacturing that we have even if it is a little slimmed down to make it viable.
We would welcome a visit of Mary Coughlan and IDA chiefs to the industrial estates here to see for themselves what is happening to our manufacturing industry. What rescue plans can be undertaken? What EU Globalisation Funds can be utilised?
There will be a need for more state intervention in the future. What happened with the banking industry may be required elsewhere? Waterford Crystal could be an obvious example, when we know the full intention of the purchasers KPS. What else can be done here in Waterford in making glass for KPS?
The Government should be giving more support to industry, not saying that we are finished as a nation of manufacturers. We still have modern industries and traditional ones that deserve continued support.
Lower taxes, energy charges and waste costs would all help in these troubled times for industry to survive.
Overly fussy health and safety regulations add to costs too, noted one electrician to us recently, where ladders are now almost banned and special lifts are required. Has the insurance and legal world gone mad?
Where is the practicality? How do we compete with so many obstacles? If people spoke out more rather than accept the status quo we might hold onto more jobs.