Waterford, Galway and Limerick. The Department of Environment and Local Government have legislated a new policy to amalgamate the city and county of the aforementioned areas. For Galway and Limerick, this legislation has not been met with the media frenzy that other legislations have encountered. The most glaring comment stated from any Galway person was a quote from former mayor, Cllr. Michael Crowe, in which he has stated that the idea would be detrimental to the eponymous city. There has been little comment from the authorities of Limerick also, despite the fact that the merger of the two councils is likely to upset Limerick’s vicinity. Tipperary, similarly, will undergo a merger of the North and South county councils, despite the separate identities that are felt by the people. Cork, unsurprisingly, has managed to escape its county and city councils joining into a local authority. Despite this supposed escape, their boundaries are to be broadened within time. Despite the fact that there shall be a personal set back (council members will now be forced to work with colleagues to whom they have neither experience nor commodities with), Limerick, Galway and Cork will retain their titles as cities.
This is not the case for Waterford. As of 2014, Waterford will become legislated under its county council and it looks like it will be deprived of its city status. You would have had to be living under a rock, or have been away from Facebook for ages, to understand how controversial this concept has been. The county itself has been divided in two: there are those who respect the economic benefits of only having one council, and there are others who feel that their claim as city folk is being taken away from them by politicians. It may not be as jarring as the divisive Treaty from 1922, but it is still a bitter kick in the teeth for the people of Waterford.
If you were to look at this allegorically, it would be the equivalent of a person losing the house that they reside in because of some mishaps that their landlord was responsible for. Why should the tenants suffer the consequences because of their landlord’s incompetencies?
Having lived there for seventeen years, I saw its primal enterprises (Waterford Crystal and Talk Talk) fall flat on their faces, and I saw the place turn from a bright region of prospectus to retaining more unemployed people than anywhere else in the country. But, despite its massive flaws, it was quite cool to grow up in Ireland’s oldest city – this is an attribute that neither Dublin nor Cork can boast about. The place has stood since 917 AD since its foundation by the Vikings. Though its title as a city may be a rudimentary one, it is a title that Waterford natives feel proud of – and rightfully so. It is preposterous that an area should be stripped of its title because of government policies. In terms of historical areas, it is arduous and arbitrary to remove its title because of political and economic matters.
If it is not necessary that Limerick and Galway are demoted from their status as cities, then why is it mandatory for another place to lose its title? Is Waterford considered less important than these two cities? Waterford may not be as popular an area for tourists, but it’s still as statutory a city as those mentioned. And for what? Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan claimed in the Irish Examiner that this move will save the city anything from five to nine million a year. But is money everything? Is pride not more important? The line ‘tír gan teanga, í tír gan anam’ is a rudimentary cliché, but a similar opinion can be appropriated to this argument. Is a monetary decision as important as an obligatory title? That is a question that has been surprisingly been of little interest to the Irish media. True, there were a few written reports about this decision when it was initially announced back in October, but it has not had the interest that many stories that are less radical have garnered.
The lack of interest in this matter makes the situation even more difficult to swallow. Are the people of Waterford facing an irreversible situation? Is this upset a silly matter at the end of the day? Maybe it is. But a city is a city no matter how small it is. If a status can be taken for the preservation of pieces of paper, it questions the morals of the people of today.