Take it down from the mast, Déise traitors

During Heritage Week, I had the pleasure of being part of a tour of the walls of Waterford in the company of Eamonn McEneaney, the curator of the Museum of Treasures. In the course of the tour, he noted that during the early years of the Norman ascendancy Waterford was effectively run by a group of fifteen plutocrats, merchants who carved up the city, courting the church by granting property to the Church in areas like Greyfriars and controlling the right to trade. Due to the numbers on the tour, I never got the chance to ask him whether the number of councillors on the modern city council was related to that number but it seems like too much of a coincidence, especially in a place that can trace an unbroken line of Mayors dating back to 1377.

And with one fell swoop all that is history, and not in the good way that Eamonn McEneaney is trying to exploit, as the proposal with the Orwell-inspired title ‘Putting People First’ aims to abolish Waterford City Council. And make no mistake, that is what is happening. You can see the party apparatchiks spinning for all its worth . . .

. . .  but people capable of thinking outside the groupthink of party politics quickly punctured such nonsense . . .

‘Mayor of what’ is right. There’s a King of Greece knocking around even though he doesn’t have a kingdom. Maybe it’ll be like that. Mary Roche has fought the good fight on the political side of things and her blog is well worth a visit to get a sense of how misconceived this shameless act is. But having tried several times to make this blog post an excoriating denunciation of John Deasy, Paudie Coffey and Ciara Conway for standing idly by while this was visited on us, I’m going to leave the politics out of it and focus on the emotional trauma of this decision.

While this blog has always focused primarily on the goings-on around the Waterford hurlers, the hurling has been secondary to the Waterford. Yes, hurling is great it’s the glory game thousands of years old not men but giants blah blah blah. But you don’t read the match reports on this website because you want to know what happened during the match. I can barely remember what has happened from one moment to the next because I’m too busy fretting for Waterford. What will it mean to everyone in the city and the county? What will others think of us? Will tears of joy be shed at gravesides for those who missed this or will the soil be freshly turned at another humiliation? While it’s lovely to play such a lovely game, it’s all about the Déise. I’m secure enough in my sense of Waterfordness that the fact that I have to put Kilkenny down as my county of birth on census forms – while I arrived into this world in Airmount, my parents were living in Mooncoin at the time – does not bother me in the slightest. As Daniel O’Connell said of the Duke of Wellington, just because you’re born in a stable does not mean you’re a horse. It’s Waterford first, last and always. And intrinsic in that sense of Waterfordness is the city. Urbs Intacta Manet Waterfordia. Yes, the city is right over in the east and it’s a long way west, but you don’t have to live in Jerusalem to be a Jew. For years the Three Ships of Waterford were the symbol of the entire county – you can still see it in the top left of this page. This is because  the county draws its name from the city, not the other way round, and to reduce the city to a trumped-up town is to diminish both.

Recently my wife and I were driving from Clonmel to Carrick-on-Suir on the south side of the river and we passed St Mollerans in Carrickbeg, proudly flying the white and the blue of Waterford. Was this County Waterford then, she asked? Well, once it was but then they moved the border so now it was in Tipperary but that didn’t really matter because Carrickbeg was still in Waterford in GAA terms and that’s all that mattered. Clear?  I’ve probably not gotten the details of that right, but I use it to illustrate that the river of identify can take the odd rock thrown in its path and flow around it. The scaling-down of the city isn’t a rock though. It’s a whopping great Hoover Dam. I can’t speak for people in the west of the county but it always felt that whatever our travails we were that bit better for being both a city and a county. Most other counties were cobbled together for administrative purposes, but we were there before everywhere in northern Europe except London and Paris. Once this change goes through, we’ll be like all those other counties who happen to be named after a town. Donegal. Longford. Wicklow. Cavan. We’ll be at the same level as them, and that’s before you consider the really offensive examples closer to home. If you have tears to shed . . .

I’m incoherent with rage over this, or at least more incoherent than usual. This is an assault on our identity as Waterford people. Support or even acceptance of this is nothing short of treachery. Remember who has done this the next time some parasitic political hack comes knocking on your door looking for a vote.

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9 thoughts on “Take it down from the mast, Déise traitors

  1. County man

    Are you being a little bit dramatic? Does a county the size of Waterford really need two County Managers, Two heads of Services, Two sets of Counciillors, Two sets of HR departments?? Etc etc etc. Are people in Limerick committing Hari Kiri over this also?

  2. deiseach Post author

    Am I being a little bit dramatic? I’d say I’m being very dramatic because it is very dramatic. And within your oh-so-reasonable comment is further evidence of just how dramatic this is. You say that Waterford is too small to have two Managers and all the associated machinery of local government. Yet if Waterford City and County (combined population 113,795 at the last census) is too small, why are there still to be separate councils in Leitrim and Sligo (combined population 97,191)? And that’s only the most obvious example. Why should Carlow and Kilkenny (combined population 150,031, less than the combined population of Limerick City and County of 191,809) be immune from the bonfire of the HR departments? Can you imagine how batshit crazy they’d go in Kilkenny at the suggestion that we should combine those two relics of 19th century British rule? Yet it’s not reasonable to object to the abolition of a council that pre-dates the concept of the nation state by several hundred years. Maybe they don’t feel the same sense of pride in their civitas in Limerick. That’s their business. I’ll be registering my pride in mine in December during the civic carol service in Christ Church Cathedral. The Mayor and the City councillors will there. But not for much longer…

  3. County man

    You’re right there is no justification for Kilkenny /Carlow to have such duplication. Or Leitrim /Slugo for that matter. my objection is to the nimbyism when genuine and necessary cost cutting measures are proposed.

  4. John

    The old structures have failed. Waterford is an unemploymnent blackspot. It is time for change. It is a small county with two local authorities. There is too much duplication. The ratepayers take the hit and jobs suffer. Ireland is bankrupt since 2008. We can no longer afford this duplication.

    Limerick is amalgamating its Co.Co and City Council. Savings of up to €14 million will accrue. Tipperary North and South are being amalgamated. A unified Waterford will have more clout. I think Phil Hogan is endeavouring to find a good balance and protect Waterford city. I have been listening to claims that he is out to “get Waterford”. Is he out to “get Limerick” too? If Waterford people wish to be taken seriously they will stop referring to their city as the town. This leaves an indelible imprint on visitor’s memories.

    Waterford must SELL its attractions more. It has FAILED to do so sufficiently. There is too much negativity emanating from usual quarters day in day out. It is a turn off for potential investors.
    Other parts of Ireland have cottoned on to this. Just look at Kilkenny “city”. Contrast its constant positivity with the persistent negativity associated with Waterford. Every negative comment is on the www in seconds.
    Waterford has much more to recommend it than Kilkenny. Yet one would never think so listening to the self pity and negativity.
    Its time to sell the attractions of Waterford city and county in a coherent manner. Our economic survival depends upon it. Lets march TOGETHER under the blue and white flag. Our hurlers-both city and county- have shown the way.

  5. deiseach Post author

    The mere fact that you put Kilkenny ‘city’ in quotation marks show you don’t think it’s a city and no one is going to think Waterford is going to be a city, because it won’t be a city. If the government were serious about local government reform they would have expanded Waterford city, not abolished it. The new council will have control of administration up to Youghal bridge but no influence on planning a shopping centre a few hundred yards past the Kilkenny border. How can you square that with any insistence that this is about better local government? Feel free to put a positive spin on the abolition of a council that pre-dates by several hundred years the State that has failed so abysmally in recent times and now passes judgement on Waterford, but I’m not accepting the lipstick on this pig makes it anything other than a pig.

  6. John

    Waterford has failed abysmally to fulfill its potential. The current system has failed. If the current structure is so successful or desirable how come Waterford -which in the 1950s was a larger city than Galway- is now much smaller.
    One of the major problems is the high rates burden. Rationalisation will end duplication and over the medium term reduce the pressure on business rates.
    I have discussed this with several business people in Limerick. They are strongly in favour of the amalgamation of the city and county as it will reduce the rates burden.
    There is nobody out to get Waterford. One thing is certain. Businesses cannot continue to carry the huge rates burden. You state that council pre-dates by several hundred years the State. That’s precisely the point. The current structure is unsuited to the 21st century. It is outdated.
    Waterford either deals with its rates burden or it will fall further behind.
    The point I was making about Kilkenny is that it sends out a positive message. It is gaining ground because of this. It sells itself. It is seen as having a positive business image. Waterford is wallowing in self pity and negativity instead of propagating a positive message. It has much more to recommend it than Kilkenny.
    Waterford has a crippling rates burden. It either deals with it or it sinks commercially. The status quo is not the solution or an option.
    Sure you can pick holes in the current plan but the same could be said about the failure to extend Limerick city further into Clare.
    How would you reduce the rates burden?
    A bankrupt state-bankrupt since 2008- most certainly cannot provide the funding.

  7. deiseach Post author

    Well yes, I’ll happily pick holes in the current plan because the plan is full of holes. You didn’t answer my question because you know the answer is that the border with Kilkenny is sacrosanct for reasons of grotesque parish pump politics. Big Phil has kept the barbarians from the gates, hurrah! You say that you have spoken to business people in Limerick. In what context would you be doing that, John? It’d be nice to know where you are coming from with this.

  8. John

    I have asked business people in Limerick for their opinion on the proposed merger (in Limerick). They are in favour as they expect that their rates burden will be eased in the medium to long term. Our business has been hammered by local authority charges. There is just too much duplication for so small a county as Waterford. We cant afford it any more.
    Of course it would be ideal to incorporate part of South Kilkenny into Waterford. It is Waterford in everything but name. i agree with you fully on that. However that would not solve the rates/water rates/other charges burden on businesses.
    Martin Cullen was a Waterford Minister for the Environment. He did not incorporate part of South Kilkenny into Waterford city. It seems to me that no government will grapple with that. It is a hot potato. Similarly with Clare and Limerick city.
    Put in a nutshell I am fed up of the burden of local charges.
    I have no agenda against Waterford. Its the matter of rates/water rates/other charges that concerns me.
    We will have to agree to disagree.
    I think these proposals can be refined. Amendments can be introduced by our TDs when this comes before the Dail. This is not set in stone.

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