TWO of our Fine Gael TDs are in public disagreement about where our future economic priorities should lie. John Deasy believes that we should be putting all our efforts into securing the Michael Street Shopping Centre while Paudie Coffey believes that a redevelopment of the North Quays should be top of the list.
The North Quays situation scares me to be honest. The first attempt at demolishing the buildings became quite farcical after it was subject to more false starts than a Grand National. There was a delay, and then there was another delay and then there was a finalised date. That date came and went. Then there was another delay and when they finally said that they were ready to go there was a big photo shoot and front page headlines praised the coming of Demolition Day. And then it was cancelled indefinitely and the powers that be sheepishly started the whole process again.
This is not what worries me though, what worries me is what we’ll be faced with once it’s demolished. I’m going on record now and saying that when those buildings eventually crumble to the ground everyone will say that they miss them. The rubble, which is going to be left on site in neat bundles, will be a far more horrible sight than the silos and old buildings ever where. Imagine having to stare at them across the river every day?
Let’s be straight about this now, we don’t have the money to develop the North Quays and we also don’t have the money for the Michael Street Shopping Centre. Everything that is even remotely ambitious in Waterford right now is “pending the successful acquisition of funding”. There is no guarantee that we will ever have the money but what is guaranteed is that in the meantime, the rubble on the North Quays will stare back at us in frustration, just like those empty buildings around Michael Street. Looking into my Crystal Ball now I can see people tearing strips off the Council for demolishing the Quays without having a proper plan in place to replace them.
This is not speculation by the way. When the Quays do come down, there is no concrete (excuse the pun) plan for what happens next. We WILL be forced to stare at the rubble for possibly many years to come and there will be uproar – and rightfully so.
Personally, I don’t think we should be demolishing anything until the funding has been secured for the next generation of the North Warf. Let’s give an artist a couple of grand to paint the silos into funny characters and rockets and things like that – give us something fun and colourful to look at. Make the buildings more attractive to the eye and then, when the cash is in the bank, knock seven shades of s**t out of them.
If, and it’s a big IF, the buildings come down in 2016, then we need to look at the idea of some kind of pop-up village. I don’t care what we put over there, but do something! And we clearly can’t afford a footbridge across the suir so what about a ferry leaving every half hour? I don’t think these are radical ideas….do you?
This is a very critical time for Waterford. In the last few years we have been bullied by the current government. This is not an exaggeration by the way – I genuinely believe that certain things that have happened to our county since Fine Gael and Labour came into power have been downright malicious. This has made it harder for our representatives – who have had to endure unparalleled levels of abuse – to fight for their home county. They could probably have done better for us but I, possibly foolishly, have always believed that their hearts were in the right place.
Now, more than ever, we need to look after ourselves. This will divide opinion, but does anyone else think that we are a bit precious about certain parts of our history? The Viking Triangle is lovely, as are all of our city walls and museums, but is there any justification for preserving every bit of wall and door that’s older than the hills? The lads in T&H’s have been given an awful time whilst trying to ready the pub for a new era. It’s been close to a year since they bought it and they are no closer to opening it because of all the delays that have been forced on them due to pedantic preciousness.
A local businessman, with backing from money men in America, had a big plan for the old John Hearn Hardware store on the Quay. They wanted to turn it into a bar/steakhouse, which I believed would have done a roaring trade on the quay and stretched the retail and hospitality offering of the city out a bit. They were put off by the amount of preservation protection on the building and the added money and work that it would cause and they subsequently took their bags of money elsewhere. I love our history as much as the next man but surely the future of our city is just as important – if not more important – than our past.
I have become a little bit obsessed with certain buildings in Waterford that are currently lying empty, and I want you to become obsessed with them too. The longer they remain empty, the more they become invisible to us and we just take it for granted that they will never live again. The Rugby Club on Parnell Street, the Ard Rí, all of the empty premises around the proposed Michael Street development that are waiting – depressed – to be put out of their misery. If, as I believe, the Michael Street Shopping Centre doesn’t happen for many, many years (if at all) does that mean we’re stuck with the empty and decomposing De La Salle Social Centre, the old WIT Arts building, and all the other buildings that will make way for our proposed economic saviour.
I’m not having a pop at our council for trying to do this by the way, in fact I think they should be applauded. However, I also think that they need a plan B, just in case their dreams do not become reality.