Thursday, 26th April 2018
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Michael Garland,

bizBoost Chair,

Waterford Business Group

"Happy Hogmanay!”

Aren’t traditions great? In Scotland, we celebrate Hogmanay, on December 31st, the last day of the year past. Looking back on what has gone, rather than towards what is yet to come. Unlike our "Auld Enemy”, those Sassenachs down South, we do our own thing, we’ve done for time immemorial.

This tradition also involves "The First Foot”. The taller and darker the preferred male "First Footer”, the better. He is the first person to cross the doorstep or threshold, of a friend or neighbour, post the midnight "Bells”. He brings with him emblematic gifts of coal, salt, shortbread, fruit cake (often Black Bun). Ensuring the household will have warmth and food a’ plenty, in the coming year. He’ll also bring a "Wee dram” in the form of Whisky, possibly even a fine malt, sharing and toasting "Slainte Mhath”. The ensuing party could quite literally go on for days – or at least ‘till the Whisky ran out!

It’s strange just how these topics come up in conversation. I happened to be talking about this to a Welsh friend, whilst out cycling on a cold, snowy capped Comeragh morning. We both agreed that our first experience of Irish tradition was in fact in church, with our respective wives. When at mass, the congregation turn round and wish everyone within a handshake distance, "Peace be with you.” A welcoming gesture to any visitor and certainly to this newbie. This action a sign of friendship and companionship. Initially my Welsh friend thought everyone was saying "Pleased to meet you!” Making him feel very warmly received indeed.

I thought that I would look back over the year past, picking out some of "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” moments, affecting us in Waterford. Boi, there was unquestionably an awful lot to choose from!

Our biggest ongoing saga, was of course our right to proper cardio care, at UHW. This story has been rumbling on for many years and it looks like we will have to wait another 18 months, for another report to be written. I was very disappointed, to have seen only a few hundred at the protest in Dublin. My daughter and I expected to see hundreds, if not thousands, on Kildare Street. I was kilted and ready to "Storm the gates”, Braveheart style, to take up position on "The Plinth”. With so few in number, we missed a gilt-edged opportunity to capture the National Airwaves, with our passionate protest.

What then of our "Fantastic Four”, who marched triumphantly into the Dáil chambers after that 2016 General Election? They would, collectively, deliver for Waterford and its electorate. With 25% of this Capella group, unable to perform, our bargaining power was anything but harmonious.

Cars tend to drive much better with all four wheels, don’t they? Maybe, 2018 will see the re-emergence of our missing TD, to bolster and re-energise Team Waterford’s clout in Dublin? Do we have to recognise that we will be driving a knackered, three-wheeled, Reliant Robin from now on?

Our City looked resplendent and magnificent, all through the busy summer months, with City in Bloom. A wonderful riot of colour, emerging from the simplest and most cost effective of projects, delivered by Waterford Business Group and Waterford Council. Spraoi once again produced something spectacular and Waterford Walls brought permanency, to some of the more bedraggled corners of the City. Festivals were, on the whole, a huge success and there is much to look forward to in 2018.

Waterford’s Greenway has been the jewel in our USP crown, attracting some 250,000 visitors to the County. This 42-kilometre converted railway line, between Waterford City and Dungarvan, has to be applauded, celebrated, cared for and most importantly, treated with the respect it deserves. If we are to reap the benefits from this tourist attraction, we must regard it as we would, one of Waterford’s Treasures.

2017 delivered a very mixed bag for Waterford. Let’s not lose sight of the fact, that we are only on the "Third tier” of Ireland’s economic recovery. Traffic jams and footfall do not equate to a booming economy. The reports and CSO figures tell us the truth. We have an awfully long way to go, to even just catch up. Here’s hoping, "Happy New Year” to you all.

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