‘Think Waterford First’ was the message delivered loud and clear at Waterford Chamber’s Dublin Diaspora Dinner, sponsored by EY and Waterford Chamber Skillnet, at Lansdowne Football Club, with over 70 business influencers with connections to Waterford in attendance. 

Opening proceedings, Paul Nolan, Waterford Chamber President spoke of the Chamber’s belief in Waterford being the driver of the South East region, which he insists can become the strongest region in the country in the coming years. 

“Waterford has a catchment of over 634,000 people within an hour’s drive, which presents incredible opportunities. As we look towards 2040 in 17 year’s time, it seems like a lifetime away, but just think 17 years ago was 2006. How quickly the time goes and how quickly it will go, so we need to get on with it. The strides we have made are incredible and I can only imagine what the future brings. If we do not grasp these opportunities, shame on us.” 

Following Paul’s address, Economist and Waterford native Jim Power offered an economic overview of Waterford, exuding passion and pride in the place he calls home. While he acknowledged the struggles, which are being experienced nationwide, he said Waterford has a positive story to tell in terms of employment, population growth and education. 

Jim went on to introduce a panel of speakers, including Paul Nolan, Waterford Chamber President; Michael Walsh, Chief Executive, Waterford City & County Council; Prof Veronica Campbell, President, SETU; Brian McGee, Regional Director, IDA Ireland; Martin Corkery, Regional Manager, Enterprise Ireland and Simon McAllister, EY Ireland Strategy and Transactions Partner. 

The panel offered insights into their various remits, ensuring guests were left no doubt that Waterford was a city of collaboration, with key stakeholders working hand in hand to develop the region and that ambitions were high but not unattainable. 

From the floor, William Bolster said the coming weeks are critical in terms of the development of Waterford Airport but he is confident of good news coming soon; David Sinnott, CEO of Port of Waterford and Chairman John Treacy spoke of the importance of the port in terms of off shore wind developments, while Pat Power of Harcourt Developments spoke of advancements on the North Quays. 

Graham Doyle, Secretary General at the Department of Housing, said Waterford had turned a corner and is getting noticed at Government level, while David Cullinane TD acknowledged the strength in collaboration and willingness to work together among his fellow Oireachtas members. 

Drawing the discussion to a close, Minister Mary Butler said, “I wish we could bottle the positivity in this room, it is infectious.” 

As the sun set over the Aviva Stadium, conversations of hurling and bygone days took over, as Dublin’s Waterford diaspora experienced a revived sense of pride and left with the ask of ‘Think Waterford First’ ringing loudly in their ears.