THE news that Sam McCauley were leaving Waterford came at a particularly worrying time for the city. Right now, we don’t know whether we’re coming or going. We keep hearing talks of positive developments but none of them are showing any signs of happening. We’re waiting for cranes to appear in the sky and all of a sudden, BOOM, one of the big shops in the town are leaving because, essentially, they have lost confidence in Waterford City.
Apparently there are others on the way – time will tell if that proves to be the case. I was asked to go on WLR last Tuesday morning to talk about the story and also what it potentially meant for the future of Waterford. This is where I become conflicted. Yes, I’m a journalist and I would definitely describe myself as being an unpartisan one but I’m also a Waterford City man born and bred and I get frustrated when I don’t see our elected representatives doing what they are paid to do.
Someone said to me after the radio show – ‘you’re probably not doing your future prospects any good there!’ to which I replied ‘why?’ And he said “well you’ve criticised the City Manager and his right hand man, and you’ve criticised a Minister and a TD…surely that can’t be good for your prospects. Surely a journalist is supposed to remain on the fence.”
Let me tell you something, I’m allergic to fences. I don’t think journalists belong on them. We should always be fair and we should always be impartial but we should never be afraid to tell it like it is. There’s an argument to suggest that Waterford City is the way it is because we have been sitting back and letting the likes of John Deasy get away with murder. If Mr Deasy was any good, and if he cared about the job he was elected to do, he would get in touch with me and demand an interview that he’d know would be a tough one. The reality is that he hasn’t spoken to our paper in years and he barely speaks to any other media as well. Nobody knows where he is on any given week, and that’s devastating for Waterford because I always suspected that he’s a brilliant tactician and a brilliant politician. For some reason, I find it typical of Waterford to produce such a potentially great politician and for him to want nothing to do with us. I remember watching him in Public Accounts Committee meetings and I swear, it was like watching your ex-girlfriend win the Rose of Tralee. John, whatever reason you have for not fulfilling your duty to the people of Waterford – maybe it was because you didn’t top the poll at the last election – you were a great loss to the city and county.
I hope I’m going some way to explaining my frustrations about the two Johns. Minister Halligan goes AWOL at the most vital moments and I sometimes wonder if it has all got too much for him. Last week on WLR I said that John loves Waterford…and I stand by that. I just don’t think he was ready to hit the dizzying heights of shared governance after so many years on the back benches…and the benches behind those.
I don’t have anything against any of our TDs personally, and I would hate for them to think that I do. I just can’t help myself when it comes to speaking out about Waterford. My point about the City Manager, or the CEO as he is called now, was a valid one and I will repeat it now. I have never seen Michael Walsh in the centre of Waterford City. I spoke to a business owner in John Roberts Square and he said that he has never seen him there either. Now, maybe it’s not Mr Walsh’s job to go on walkabouts through the city centre but surely it would be a good idea? Talk to the man on the street and find out a little more about the people that are paying your rates. And, if you don’t have the time to do that, which you may not because I know you are busy with many other worthwhile things, why not hire a dedicated City Centre Manager to make sure that the Quays, John Roberts Square, The Cultural Quarter, Michael Street and The Apple Market are being monitored and assessed on a daily basis. I mean, the Viking Triangle has a dedicated manager, or sorry, an Executive Project Director, maybe it’s time the city had one as well.
On the subject of Waterford’s local economy, I have a somewhat unusual theory that I’d like to throw out there. It’s far from being the cause of our economic woes but it’s definitely a contributory factor. I’ve noticed, in the last 10 years or so, people have become so much more anti-social. They don’t want to ring a pizza or a taxi, so they order it online or via an app. They don’t want to ring up a hair salon to book an appointment so they do it online, or through Facebook. People are actually getting so lazy that they have stopped writing CVs and cover letters and walking in to ask for a job. They’re now messaging businesses on Facebook asking ‘have ye any jobs going?’ and thinking that they’re being proactive.
My fear is that this – whether it is laziness or anti-social behaviour or maybe a mixture of both – could also be stopping people from going into town and putting a bit of money into local coffers. Before, going into town was as much about the social end of it as it was about the shopping. People would go into town of a Friday night or Saturday afternoon out of habit, have a cuppa, do a bit of shopping, maybe a bite to eat and then head home. I fear that so much of the shopping is now being done online and as well as the local economy losing out on the money, the people are losing out on the valuable social interaction. We need to come up with an initiative to bring back the trips into town. We need to stand up and fight for our city.