Following a meeting with Waterford Oireachtas members and a selection of its members, Waterford Chamber has reconfirmed its commitment to the process of securing a Technological University of the South East.
During the two hour meeting, the elected officials heard from business representatives from various sectors and were also afforded the opportunity to address the concerns raised.
According to Gerald Hurley, CEO of Waterford Chamber, what was clear from the robust discussion was the desire to get the Technological University over the line and to move forward to the application stage now with a renewed sense of positivity.
“Recent rhetoric around the headquarters is not helping the situation from a national perspective. Our Oireachtas members were very clear on a number of things, mainly that talk of a stand alone University was futile. The only option on the table is a regional Technological University and our efforts have to go into achieving this with the best possible outcome for Waterford.
“The Tanaiste has reiterated his preference for Waterford as the leading campus. It is in the Programme for Government and our speculation is only adding fuel to a fire that is only stemming from Waterford. It’s not helping and has to stop.
“What is encouraging is that the expected political point scoring has been parked on this issue. All of our Oireachtas members are united in their desire to deliver a Technological University for Waterford and are collectively and independently making representation to Government. We now need to trust in the process and send a message to Government that Waterford confirms its support for the TU as outlined in Project Ireland 2040 and the Regional & Economic Spatial Strategy.
“Over the past number of months Waterford Chamber has had frequent correspondence and meetings with Minister Harris and even last week, he wrote to us to clarify a number of points we had addressed.
“In it he stated: ‘Commentary regarding Kilkenny in recent weeks is misleading. I am not aware of any such plans for a headquarters in Kilkenny. Such conjecture, at this critical stage in the development process or, indeed, at any stage, is divisive and counterproductive. TUs can only come into being in the first place and prosper thereafter if all parties come together and work together. At this critical time, our concentration must be on getting the application in and over the line.’
“He went on to add: ‘I want to see the footprint in Waterford expanded and capital will be forthcoming to facilitate that. Normal business plans and appraisal processes need to be gone through. This is an opportunity to significantly expand the footprint in Waterford. That will include more students and investment, and a wider availability of courses. That is what I want to see for Waterford and the new technological university for the South East.’
“As a business community we now need to get behind this process and our Oireachtas members were very clear in saying having such support is hugely important and we are encouraging all our members to get on board.
“So to clarify where we are at right now – in the coming weeks there will be a vote of staff in both institutes to ascertain their support for the merger. If that is passed, WIT and IT Carlow will then submit an application on March 28th. That will go to an international panel who will assess the metrics. If they approve the application, it will then we up to the Government to designate the institutes as a Technological University commencing January 1st.
“From there a legal entity will be formed and a Board of Governance appointed. After nearly 50 years, this is now within our grasps within a ten month timeframe. Let’s move forward now as a collective and ensure delivery.”