Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Time to support your future generation!

As our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews prepare to sit Junior and Leaving Certificate exams, we can all I am sure, remember just how we felt as the exams’ deadline approached. We can all recall fretting and worrying about whether or not all of the information we had stored and crammed into every corner of our brain could be regurgitated in the right order, for the specific questions we were answering.

I know that some, uh hum, thirty odd years ago, I was studying hard in my bedroom in Pitlessie Village, just a few miles from my secondary school, Bell Baxter High School, in Cupar, in a wee county called Fife. I very quickly realised that I was not the brightest match in the box and that if I was to succeed in my future life, I would have to work very, very hard and more importantly I would have to find a study system that worked for me and the limitations I had personally identified in the various subjects I was studying.

Strangely enough, the subject that I found the hardest was English and those closest to me will know that in my whole life I have probably read, cover to cover, just a handful of books. Such was my inability to like this most necessary of subjects, that my parents invested in tutoring and by some minor miracle, or divine intervention,  I managed to pass, with a sufficient Higher Grade, enabling me to go further on to third level education.

Little did I know that in my future careers and work life, I would need English probably more than any other subject I studied?

Despite having an almost complete hatred of the whole subject of English, I now find myself writing more and more in my everyday life and I owe a very big thank you to both my parents, for persevering and investing their time and energy in me, to ensuring I passed that most dreaded of English exams.

As those nearest to us prepare to go through the very same exam pressures, I know that we as parents must give the necessary support, encouragement and guidance to allow our children to perform to the very best of their abilities. We must become coaches and perhaps more importantly mentors so that they know they are not alone in the difficult journey they are about to embark on. As exam mentors, we need to be cognisant of the fact, that we all learn and study in different ways and our children will differ in the way they study, the way they retain information and the way they set down that information on an exam paper.

Luckily, today’s children are assessed throughout the school year and their performance is not all based around just one examination. We all know that a one-off examination will suit some children but will not necessarily suit others. The fact that children are now assessed, will bode well for future careers in the workplace, where they are continually learning and benchmarked. The ability to continually perform and improve is a hard lesson to learn but a necessary one if our children are to continually improve.

The pain and concern all our children are going through this exam time, will stand them in good stead for third level education and their future careers. The more as parents, we can relate to the fact that we too suffered, panicked and bombed some of our exams, will help them through this tough period of their lives. We must find a way of relating our own experiences back to them at the right time and in the right place.

I would wage a bet that the best bosses are in general those who are less gifted, those who found exams very hard, those who may not have a degree and those who had to find the means to get across the line.

It is hard to fail but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Programme for Government OR Room 101?

Remember this?
Room 101 originated as a BBC Radio Five programme in the early nineties and was hosted by the comedian Nick Hancock. The concept eventually moved to mainstream BBC Television and the show is currently being hosted by comedian Frank Skinner. There are also the endless repeats being shown on a “continuous loop” on the satellite channel Dave.

Room 101 was of course inspired by the novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, author George Orwell, where ALL the worst things in the World would be gathered, placed and forgotten.

The current BBC series allows us to view an endless stream of celebrates, in a panel of three, placing all manner of objects, themes, ideas, people etc into Room 101, having discussed the merits for inclusion with host Frank Skinner. As a “dip-in viewer” I have often wished that Skinner had placed all three celebrates into Room 101!

Over the years there has been an eclectic mix of “things” that have ended up in Room 101 including; the FA Cup, Postman Pat, Ferrero Rocher, Margaret Thatcher, cyclists, golf, novelty underpants, hangovers, moths and even poor old Bono!

Clearly then, Room 101 has become synonymous with somewhere to place “things” that clearly do not matter to you, me and our TDs.

I have a sense that the new Programme for Government will become Ireland’s very own Room 101!

There has been great interest in the new Government’s minestrone soup of a Programme for Government, which can be viewed on the good old interweb, through various sources. This huge 155 page document, aptly titled “A Programme for a Partnership Government” outlines ALL and I mean ALL of the proposed plans that will be carried out during the term of this 32nd Government.

In realty this is just a big wish list or our TDs equivalent of a Dear Santa letter!

Sarah's cats.
I recall a meeting in the Granville Hotel many, many years ago when I was CEO of Waterford Chamber. The event’s Top Table was Enda Kenny and a young (younger) Simon Coveney, with George Lee conducting the proceedings. You will recall that George Lee was trumpeted by FG as the new kid on the block, the new face of FG’s Irish politics and would be the man to shape the future of FG economic policy to ensure stability and drive the country’s recovery!

In the end the dinosaur that is Irish party politics made him resign; “For the last nine months I've done my best to have an influence on that (FG economic policy), but I have to confess that I have virtually no influence, no input whatsoever.”

At this meeting we were promised in FG’s Programme for Government, should they be elected in 2011 to the 31st Dáil, that amongst other “things”, Waterford Hospital would be suitably resourced and funded as a regional hospital, Waterford Institute of Technology would get “University” status, the south east would be supported for economic development etc etc.

In reality ALL of these promises were nothing but election husting’s spin and when push came to shove everything that was promised for Waterford was literally dumped into Room 101!

I fear that we are yet again reliving that Groundhog Day, and strangely enough the same people are promising to deliver for Waterford, yet their track recording in doing this is, well to be polite, diabolical! Yes, we have had some small wins, and these have been small wins, but the big ticket items have just not been delivered.

Who would you put in Room 101?
Proof that this Government is NOT serious about delivering for Waterford and the South East is the complete and utter lack of a FULL ministerial role for a south east TD. The last ministerial portfolio for Waterford was Cullen and our current crop of TDs are not even making the team sheet.

Rest assured that our Dublin centric TDs are lining up plenty of entries for Waterford and the south east for Room 101 – I just hope that our big ticket items do not end up back in there once again!

Thursday, 12 May 2016

“Peace for our time!”

"It is peace for our time" the headlines would read.
As the country moves ever so slowly towards a minority Government, we have in recent days, seen much trumpeting from John Halligan TD and the promise of 24 hour cardiac care at University Hospital Waterford.

In addition, it has been indicated from Halligan, that there will also be good news for Waterford in terms of increased funding for Waterford Regional Airport. Changing the criteria to allow Waterford Institute of Technology to pursue a solo bid, if they so desire, for a change in status to a “Technological University”.

Like all these promises the devil really is in the detail and whilst Halligan has laid ALL his cards, face up, on the table he insists that 24 hour cardiac care is only a few “hearts beats” away. However, we have not actually seen sight of the piece of paper that will commit this rag tag minority Government to deliver what was one of Halligan’s election promises. 

Lessons from history show us that people in the public eye, particularly political figures, must be extremely careful what they say and promise. I can now see Waterford, holding its collective breath, waiting for that embossed, letter headed piece of paper from Minister Noonan and the Department of Finance, committing the circa €10,000,000, identified by Halligan, to finally deliver the much needed 24 hour cardiac care to University Hospital Waterford.

I do hope that Halligan has not made the cardinal error of “Doing a Chamberlain”!

On 30th September 1938 the then British Prime Minister, returned to Heston Airport waving an A4 sheet of paper and declaring that after direct talks with Chancellor Hitler that there would be “Peace for our time”. History has shown that the letter signed by Adolf Hitler was nothing more than a tactic to stall for more time and to keep the Allies out of a direct conflict with Germany.

 All smiles & Benny Hill!
Chamberlain saw this as an opportunity to deliver for the people of Great Britain and boy oh boy did this back fire in the most monumental way. It is interesting to note that the plane in which Chamberlain retuned to London had an identification mark of G-AFGN – there are a few anagrams in there somewhere!

I know that Halligan has without doubt, had to wrestle with his conscience, consider his own values and those of his vast electoral base to have to “jump into bed” with a minority FG Government. It even looks likely that he will be given a seat as a Junior Minister when all the dust has settled. This decision I am sure does not sit kindly with many of his voters and in fact the vitriol across the various social media platforms last week was nothing short of shocking.

Many, I am sure are feeling betrayed and no matter how much spin is put out by the Halligan Camp, there will be some substantial fallout in terms of future voter support.

The caveat is of course, that if Halligan has secured the circa €10,000,000 funding and more importantly a proper structured plan to give the 24 hour cardiac care longevity for the South East, then we must all applaud his efforts and the labours of the many people lobbying hard in the background.

Halligan will no doubt be hoping for extra letters securing additional airport funding and that a resolution to the university issue will also be forthcoming.

TD Halligan
Time will tell, if the recent hyperbole of promises will actually be delivered for Waterford and I for one hope that the A4 embossed letters are imminent, so that we can start planning Waterford’s future.

If these three election hot potatoes are delivered by Halligan, before the end of the summer, then he must be applauded by everyone and even more so if he has had to make the impossible decision of, “Sleeping with the enemy”.

I do hope that the letters Halligan will eventually wave to the assembled media hordes, will deliver and there will be no anagrams in sight!

Thursday, 5 May 2016


Malcolm Tucker "The Thick of It"
“Noun, plural omnishambles. A situation, especially in politics, in which poor judgement results in disorder or chaos with potential disastrous consequences.” According to all things Wikipedia, this word is a compound word made up from the Latin prefix “omni” meaning “all” and the word “shambles” meaning complete and utter disorder.

This word was first used in the BBC TV series and political satire “The Thick of it” and in particular was used by the lead character Malcolm Tucker, aka Peter Capaldi, he strangely enough would later go on to become the twelfth incarnation of that most famous of Doctors - Doctor Who.

We have seen over the last few weeks, in fact months, political dithering on such an enormous scale, you could well believe that we have been watching a satirical TV series plotting the formation of a new Irish Government in 2016!

The all encompassing media have revelled in telling us, night after night after night, that there have now been many behind closed doors private meetings, with reports of dark shadows skulking and scurrying around the corridors of power in Dáil Éireann.

But are we really any the wiser as to what is actually going on?

I would say NO. The fact of the matter is that, we, as the electorate are being treated with contempt. Almost as though we are something, not so nice smelling, that we would stand on whilst out walking in the pedestrianised area of any high street.

My sentiment is that we are being contemptuously treated by the political glitterati. This was reinforced towards the end of last week when, for the right or wrong reasons, we were informed that one of our highly paid TD’s was applying for legal aid to fight a court case!

Now where is the sense in that? There are people in genuine need of legal aid not receiving it and now here we are with one of our elected representatives asking for yet more of our hard earned taxpayers’ money to pay for his own legal defence!!!!!

Swap Shop for a better deal!
Are our TDs not handsomely paid and have they not been on holiday for the last ten weeks?

These issues have irked, angered and annoyed the living daylights out of me for the last few days. In discussion with colleagues and friends, I have often asked what people are doing about it? The reply is more often than not a resigned intake of breath before the answer “Well what can I do and anyway they will not do anything about it!”

Unfortunately, this stock answer is exactly what is expected and I have no doubt that is why the political map of Ireland never really changes. People are either too tired of asking, or there is such a malaise with all things political, that nobody is prepared to put the necessary pressure on our TDs to make real positive change.

This seeming unwillingness to ask and drive home the hard questions, or be that Terrier with his bone, thus being prepared to fight to get the right answers has trickled down to local politics and local decision making.

The fact of the matter is, that we as citizens, and local businesses are plainly not prepared to fight for what is right, proper and correct. There are far too many recent examples of us just sitting back and accepting what is thrown at us.

The collective strength in numbers, does affect positive change thus creating opportunities for businesses to “barter a better deal”. If only more people believed in this mantra and were prepared to not just put a hand above the parapet, but were prepared to stand on the parapet and shout!
As long as we remain silent voters, we will be treated like mushrooms and forever kept in the dark.

Waterford is transitioning alongside the various highly publicised developments which are beginning to start. The future of Waterford must be in the hands of the citizens and businesses that fund that change.

Silence is never golden!