Wednesday, 28 September 2016

“Are we there yet?”

“Are we there yet?” are the very words that we all fear, here in Waterford and the South East, when directly related to ambulance transfer times for cardiac patients.

These are the dreaded four words that no wife, husband, father, mother, brother, sister, grandmother or grandfather will every wish to ask, when accompanying a loved one, unfortunate enough to need cardiac care outside the Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm window available in University Hospital Waterford.

If you have not experienced the anxiety of this horrifying journey, and I have not, to Cork or Dublin, in the back of an ambulance, then none of us can understand the stress of knowing that the clock is ticking ever so slowly to and, more than likely, beyond that 90 minute safety window.

The simple fact is that getting to Cork and Dublin, even with the blues and twos, will in truth take longer than 90 minutes. One simple hold up, one unaccounted for set of road works, a sporting weekend, a car crash or simply hitting rush hour traffic, will eat into this safety time zone. No matter what spin is put on this by Minister Harris or other Government Ministers it would be a miracle if that 90 minute window, could ever be achieved in the real the world.

Perhaps, the Minister has never driven to Cork along the N25? It is at best an o.k. road and at worst full of bottlenecks, eating into any journey time. The road does not allow for consistent travel and therefore we cannot rely on time to getting to our sister Cork hospital for coronary care within the golden timeframe.

Going to Dublin now has a much better dependable journey time, up the M9 motorway. That is until you hit the outskirts of Dublin. Once again you are in the hands of the traffic gods and getting into the heart of Dublin can be hit or miss. Even if you are in the back of an ambulance, when every second counts, it is still a time gamble.
24th September 2016

Our Minister is adamant that he is “not for turning”, a modern day Mrs Thatcher perhaps. He has been at pains to let everyone know that the Herity Report, with all its flaws, will be taken as Gospel. The people in this South East region will forever be playing traffic roulette in the back of an ambulance.

I recall meeting Minister Harris, on a number of occasions, in his previous role with reference to his old portfolio, which included responsibility for national Government tendering. Thankfully, he listened to our reasoned and sound arguments to make changes, to allow local businesses to compete with multi-national companies and he did implement change on this basis. So we can take some encouragement from this. He is sometimes willing to listen.

As I have said many times, perhaps we have gone about this in the wrong way! Look at our Teflon neighbour, Mr Lowry, getting ALL that he wanted, in terms of local health care provision for Tipperary. We would not have heard about this, only that we started looking at what other “Government Independents” were getting for helping Enda come back into power. Mr Lowry went about his business quietly, methodically and ultimately delivered “exactly what it said on the tin” of his election manifesto.
Hook & Browne?

Have we been too naive in fighting this battle in the glare of the national media? Quite simply we have given the likes of Messer Hook and Browne the opportunity to use a substantial baseball bat, to bash Waterford once again. They are collectively laughing at us from their Dublin Towers. But rest assured if they were unfortunate enough to have to endure a 90 minute life or death journey in the back of an ambulance then their mindset would change in an instant.

We marched once again in monsoon like conditions, at the weekend, and received breviloquent RTE coverage. Where now for the Waterford and the South East?

What is guaranteed is that it will take more than 90 minutes to fix this dilemma.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

One year on!

It has been one year since I started writing my wee column in the Waterford Today. WOW, time does fly as you get older!

I switched from another “Waterford” free sheet, due to the fact that it was not really being produced in Waterford. As a “blow-in”, who is passionate about Ireland’s Oldest City, I was very conscious that to be supporting the “Made in Waterford” brand, I had to be contributing to a Waterford produced product. A chat with Paddy (The Editor) Gallagher and we agreed a seamless transfer to Waterford Today. A publication that has a small, but significant, tagline that you may never even have noticed - “ABC accredited circulation”.

It is funny that having worked, so many years ago, for the exhibition arm of a European publishing company, that literally sold hundreds of thousands of pounds of monthly advertising, I would once again understand the significance of Audit Bureau of Circulation figures. These are figures that detail just how many people are reading a particular publication.

Sometimes, you do wonder if such stated figures are correct. But, judging by the number of people who do tell me that they read my wee column, on a regular basis, I have to assume that, in the case of Waterford Today, their readership numbers are extremely high and reflective of the ABC accreditation.

That is good news for me. As I know that when the newspaper arrives through your letterbox or is collected at your local newsagent, you will read this and share with other family members in the household. Yes, I also publish the article as a blog and this in turn is shared through the Waterford Business Group and the Ferrybank Newsletter (both on Facebook). These additional outlets give the article extremely high readership numbers and for that I am eternally thankful and, well, surprised and humbled.

To have the opportunity to speak one’s mind, through the medium of print, without the need to hide behind a pseudonym, is a wonderful opportunity to spark debate and openly discuss significant issues. As can be seen from the reaction to my recent article on Summerval. Front page headlines in one weekly newspaper and headline billing on Deise AM!

The point of such articles is to inform, you, members of the general public, by making more
transparent the information that is readily available to you, but is perhaps deliberately difficult to find. For Waterford to move forward we do need more inclusiveness and this starts with early engagement and a more open communication flow. Something that we in Waterford are, if the truth be told, not particularly good at.

There appears to be a communication block when it comes to getting many a vital message across. Maybe, the people of Waterford have just switched off to the current crop of communicators, as they feel that they are constantly being spun. Or perhaps the way that the information, deigned to be divulged, is being packaged is wrong, inappropriate and written in gobbledegook. The messaging becomes irrelevant because it is presented very poorly.

An advert on local radio does not reach ALL the masses. A notice in the local papers is NOT always read. A leaflet left in a public building is NOT always picked up, and so on.

To get any message across and understood you need a combination of many resources. Perhaps the one most forgotten about and most powerful is face to face interaction. Nothing beats “wearing out the old shoe leather” when you need to maximise communication messaging.

My wee column, “Waterford Business Matters”, is my contribution to help readers understand the many, many, issues that I see face the City, County and SE Region. If we do not know the issues then we cannot tackle the source of our problems.

Economically and socially we are in a very tough place and I feel that we need to be more open, honest and frank with our discussions on how to make Waterford so much better for EVERYONE.

Roll on the next 12 months.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

“Until the lambs become lions”

“Rise and rise again,
Like the Phoenix from the ashes,
Until the lambs become lions.”

A very appropriate quote for our magnificent Under 21 Hurlers, who wrote their names in to the history books, over the weekend. These young men, who played their part in the Minor Final in 2013, grew in stature and won Waterford’s, second only, under 21 All Ireland Championship, in the last 24 years. This is only our seventh All Ireland Hurling Championship title, in total, and was long overdue.

The People’s Park was awash with blue and white on Sunday afternoon, as thousands waited patiently for the team to return home to Waterford. The JJ Kavanagh bus eventually pulled up outside the Park and the team were introduced to the waiting crowd.

This truly was an astonishing TEAM effort, in the biggest sense of the word. As backroom staff, medical staff, fitness staff, coaches, selectors, analysts etc, even the bus driver, were ALL credited in playing their part in the victory in Semple Stadium, on Saturday afternoon. Thurles was an ocean of blue and white. Such Galway support in attendance, was simply swamped and overwhelmed by the Deise marauding hoards.

From Waterford, the team moved onto Dungarvan to receive their second home coming, from the supporters in the “Wesht” of the County. Once again thousands turned out to welcome these young warriors, who will without doubt go on to help the Senior team bring home that ever elusive Liam MacCarthy Cup.

This was not a day for political pontificating and thank goodness there was none to be heard. For once the political rhetoric was left in the wings and we could give 100% attention to the whole team, who quite literally filled the stage with the exuberance of youth – it was a day to remember.

In the week that was, it would be hard to get away from all the shenanigans surrounding Mr Herity’s “Independent Clincal Review of Provision of a Second Catheterisation Laboratory at University Hospital Waterford” (note the spelling mistake “Clincal” (sic) – I wonder if that is a portent of things to come?). This is a tough document to read and digest, but is readily available on the old interweb should you have a few hours to spare.

Whilst I was absorbing the atmosphere, in the Park, I started to wonder if our political glitterati actually got the message, from the Hurlers, that there is no “I” in team. Ah yes, there is a “Me” and perhaps they feel that politics is about the individual rather than the collective. It certainly appears that way when it comes to the provision of a second catheterisation laboratory at UHW.

We are now seeing knee jerk reactions. Hearing political claim and counterclaim. Spin on a biblical scale across all manner of social media, yet we are far from a TEAM on this matter. When you also consider that the UHW has a regional provision, then I start to get even more worried in terms of a united front – there is not one!

Whilst, we argue and fight, the Minister of Health, other hospitals, rub their medical hands in glee, as they do not have to find extra resources, from already stretched budgets, to fund an adequate health service in the South East region, through UHW.

It is FACT that NO party is prepared to actually put in writing that exchequer funds will be ring fenced and made available, to upgrade services, providing that essential second catheterisation laboratory. I MEAN NO PARTY!

All the political pomposity has resulted in every opposition party stating that “They will deliver what is required”. But no one is prepared to set this in stone. No one will commit to this in writing or sign on the dotted line!

To this extent our representatives should be ashamed.

We have one opportunity to pull together and work as a TEAM to deliver for Waterford. The South East region, needs to work in unison and do what is absolutely necessary to provide adequate cardiac services for the region. Failure to do so will cost lives.

I voted for lions but sadly got lambs....baaa! 

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Boyle’s Law – life in a vacuum!

Lismore “Boy”, Robert William Boyle, was an inventor, alchemist, chemist and physicist. He was actually born in Lismore Castle, to the 1st Earl of Cork. He led a privileged life and was sent to Eton College, England, to be educated at the very highest level and also spending time at Oxford. He published his own law, Boyle’s Law, around 1662. Because I paid no attention to “Big Jim Skull”, my Bell Baxter High School secondary teacher, I have absolutely no idea what use Robert’s Law does in today’s world. Or for that matter if I have ever used or come across his law – but I am sure I must have!

I do know that he worked with pressure, gases and vacuums. His worksheets, papers and books are all kept in The Royal Society archives. Vacuums were just great things, in the old chemistry lessons, and we all remember blowing up balloons, by sucking ALL the air out of that bell shaped glass vacuum.

We heard last week that the planning permission for the proposed Michael Street Shopping Centre development was also granted. Lecturer at WIT, Mr Ray Griffin, producer of a recent excellent WIT economic report on Waterford’s potential, was on WLR FM talking about the need for this development to go ahead. As we now expect, when we hear from Mr Griffin, he says it as he sees it, and he let the listeners know that we have been in a political vacuum for a number of years. This has contributed significantly to Waterford’s lack of actual real development.

Some might say that these were harsh words, however I totally agree with his accurate description. We have endemic problems that are not being addressed and until such times as we dig deep and see what needs to be changed, then change will not be made.

Whilst we are not living in a complete vacuum, we are to a greater extent, being pressurised by others, with greater political clout, to feed off the crumbs from the Department of Finance’s funding trough. But alas, we have been in the same political vacuum for many, many years and we do not seem to be getting any further forward? Are we just willing to accept yet another 3 or 5 years of others deflating our balloon?

Only a few months ago we heard that funding would be available for the airport, the hospital would get X, Y and Z, investment would be made in the City which would transform our economic future. The clock has been ticking very quickly since the last general election and now we have no more commercial flights in or out of Waterford Airport, the report on our hospital needs is now overdue, what is happening to our “University” bid and whilst other cities win European funding we are once again left wondering – “Did that really just happen!”

I cannot imagine Cork, Limerick or Galway standing back and accepting the same lack of funding that isn’t coming to the Sunny South East. We know that their political super heavyweights would simply NOT agree to anything else but the development of their City and Towns. They have political clout that is not affected by pressure and, trust me, they do not work in a vacuum.

Our competition box clever and fight for every Euro and cent that might just make their constituents’ life that wee bit better. They bang the table, have the ear of Kenny and Noonan, they threaten political revolt and have the cajones to barter a better deal for the very people that vote them into power.

Robert Boyle was a visionary of his time, with many, many sceptics who questioned his work and his findings. But Robert ploughed on regardless and is remembered as one of the founders of modern chemistry. 

Maybe we need to rekindle that “never say die attitude”, that Robert showed in his work, and make sure that we develop Waterford, not in a vacuum, but as part of our resurgent Sunny South East.

The last thing we need is another wee p*”@k bursting our balloon.

Friday, 2 September 2016

After all you’re my wonderwall!

Waterford last weekend was a heady mix of colour, sunshine, Bluegrass and crowds of people. The late summer weather brought people out of their homes and attracted many a day visitor from across the south east region, to the City and County, to see and experience, two most diverse of festivals.

The 22nd International Bluegrass Festival, took place in the picturesque village of Dunmore East and has been around, ehmm, for a number for years. This niche celebration, helps to extend the tourist season for the village, by incorporating a significant festival, into the last weekend prior to the “schools going back!”

Blue skies, “warm” Atlantic waters and very busy beaches all added to the festival’s flavour. This in turn attracted families, by the hundreds, and such is the compact geometry of the village, that mum, dad and the bairns, really could find something for everyone over the weekend. There were very few tears and tantrums as the Bluegrass delivered in spades and our home-grown Olympian, Mr Thomas Barr, added to the colourful mix by making a special guest appearance.

In the City, we were once again treated to a riot of colour, as unloved walls, gable ends and derelict buildings ALL received the Waterford Walls treatment. For once the local Garda turned a blind eye to the graffiti artists, whose canvases were quite literally a blank brick or rough plastered wall.

The event, is now in its second year and has grown significantly since 2015, with around 40 murals being created this year. It is a form of street art that delivers huge impact and sparks wild debate around the suitability of the finished piece. It is this unadulterated pure expression of the mind, that makes Waterford Walls work.

In addition to the many Irish artists, we have seen talented people from all around the world, including Brazil, Mexico and Australia, come to Waterford to leave their mark on our streetscape. Their legacy will be left for at least twelve months for us to view, like, dislike, criticise, applaud and debate.

That is what art delivers for us, the ordinary Joe Soap, the non creative people of this world, who see a piece of art and say “I could do that!” But the fact is that we could not do better and it is the art we are looking that has stimulated our mind to actually think!

“All the roads you have to walk are winding...”

As you wander around the City over the next few weeks, take time to seek out and look at the art that Waterford Walls has delivered. I guarantee, that should you that pass the same piece again, you will see a completely different perspective. Each time you view the work of the artists, possibly gravitating towards your favourites, you will be stimulated to think that little bit differently, as you view them in a new context. That is what art delivers by the bucket load.

The Waterford Walls project is without doubt one of the events that we need to support with increased funding. Any increase in public funding does of course come with the caveat of transparency and accountability. But there can be no doubt that this project has longevity, the ability to grow in both size and popularity.

Waterford, last weekend, was a national news story, for ALL the right reasons. It is that type of publicity that we need to court and demand if we are to move the City forward. We have legacy issues with very poor political clout and it will take years to redress this imbalance.

In the meantime, we must focus on what we are good at and we must seek out the events and festivals that are worth their weight in gold and start backing these.
With 2017 just around the corner, our summer in the City and County should have a beginning, middle and an end. With lots of smaller “support events” taking place in between three cornerstone events of significant scale.

PS. Sceptical, I am NOT! Opinionated, YES! Passionate about Waterford – NEVER A DOUBT!