Yesterday’s announcement by Environment Minster Phil Hogan on major council reform, The Daily Shift’s proud Waterfordman Sean Defoe says Waterford stands firm against any loss in status…
Environment Minister Phil Hogan has succeeded where Oliver Cromwell failed. The city that could not be taken by cannon or soldiers was stripped of its status following the announcement of nationwide council reforms yesterday morning.
After withstanding several invasions in the fifteenth century King Henry VII gave the city its motto: Urbs Intacta Manet Waterfordia (Waterford remains the untaken city). However Urbs Captus Waterfordia (Waterford City is Taken) may be more appropriate after Minister Hogan revealed his ‘Putting People First’ plan on Tuesday.
Under the plan 114 councils across the State will be rationalised into 31 bodies, 80 town councils will be merged into new municipal districts and the number of council seats will fall by 42%.
It is hoped that the reforms will record €420 million in savings over the next three years.
However the reforms have been heavily criticised in the areas affected. The amalgamation of Waterford City and County Councils for example was met with severe hostility in Ireland’s oldest city.
Kilkenny man Phil Hogan is being accused of stroke politics and of having a deliberate agenda against Waterford. The man who not so long ago sought city status for Kilkenny has now stripped Waterford of theirs. His allocation of funds is also in question. In March this year €1 million was approved for new library facilities and a new area office for Kilkenny Co Council at Ferrybank Shopping Centre, a shopping centre that has been vacant for years and shows no sign of opening soon, as a dispute with Dunnes Stores over anchor tenancy rages on.
Despite rhetoric by the Minister this amalgamation is a clear shot at Waterford’s status. City Councillor Mary Roche said today that “One way or another the city council is gone so in my eyes that’s our city status gone.” She went on to say; “We’ve been relegated to the Championship from the Premiership, but the fight goes on.”
The proposals mean that Waterford becomes a part of a municipal district with a mayor based in the city. However where the amalgamated council will be based is still unclear. Also unclear is whether the Mayor of the Council will be subservient to the Mayor of the Municipal district.
What is clear however is that this is a setback for the status of the south-east’s gateway city. The stellar work done in recent years by Waterford City Council, using a tightening budget to achieve large regeneration in parts of the city, will be curtailed by amalgamation.
Ireland’s oldest city has taken another heavy blow but the spirit of the people is what will keep the area afloat. The ‘Waterford Gives A Shirt’ campaign; where members of the public are asked to give the shirt off their back as a symbol that the city has nothing left to give in these economically harsh times, is a prime example of the strength of the community spirit in the city and picked up steam in the weeks leading up to today’s announcements.
The city of Waterford is taken but a steadfast spirit must remain in its inhabitants. Urbs Intacta Manet Waterfordia.