Tuesday, November 11, 2014

AS the fiasco surrounding Waterford’s campaign for a university continues, it has never been more crucial for the key stakeholders in the south east to rise above political machinations and demand what is best for the city and the region. The only credible option that must be put on the table is for Waterford Institute of Technology to proceed to university status on its own merits. The experts have all said it yet the government and the Minister for Education persist in treating Waterford like the naughty schoolchild. This 20-year plus struggle cannot continue any longer.

Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan as good as admitted that the merger between Carlow and Waterford was for the benefit of her political colleagues, when she said Brendan Howlin and Phil Hogan were representing the interests of their community “as they should do as public representatives. They were making their case on behalf of their community.”

This parochial way of going about government has undermined Waterford for decades and continues to ruin the opportunities of countless numbers of our young people, with a devastating knock-on effect on our economy. Mr Howlin and Mr Hogan must look beyond county borders and recognise that not only are they damaging our constituency, but also their own. A university in Waterford will send positive waves throughout the region. Its impact could be phenomenal.

Of course Carlow has strengths, as the Minister pointed out. But its strengths do not equal that of an institute that can progress in the short or even medium term to university status. Those are the cold, hard facts. This should not be about ‘learning to share’ as Phil Hogan previously intoned in relation to Waterford.

For over 20 years Waterford Institute of Technology has found itself in the same dead end alley thanks to party politics. Yet, in that time it has also progressed dramatically. It is ludicrously close to being able to achieve university status.

Fine Gael Deputies Paudie Coffey and John Deasy, Labour’s Ciara Conway TD, and Senator Maurice Cummins need to look to their home turf on this issue and present a united front, alongside Deputy John Halligan, Senator David Cullinane, and their city and county council colleagues.

We have watched Galway and Cork progress. We have watched City of Culture Limerick progress. It is Waterford’s time.

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