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.