Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A whirlwind tour of Waterford with ‘Good man Jack’

By Robert McNamara
The sun gleamed pink on the new River Suir Bridge as ‘Changing Ireland’ scuttled along on our journey toward the Ireland’s oldest city.
Not even a debate with the toll lady about her aversion to accepting coppers as legal tender could sully that sight.

Jack Walsh of Waterford

On arrival, I found that the Waterford Area Partnership (WAP) was ingrained in my guide Jack Walsh’s fibre and, everywhere we went, people knew him and greeted him fondly.
“Hi Jack”, “Well Jack”, “Good man Jack”.
Jack is responsible for monitoring, evaluation and research at the local development company and hence he is somewhat involved in all their projects. He’s also a former mayor of Waterford and a local councillor so he knows the city’s needs very well.
Jack took us around various projects in the city and even though we arrived unannounced, we were treated well and offered tea and a chat without hesitation – not always the reception you get when you’re with a politician.
After stopping off at the Partnership’s office on the outskirts of the city, where I met the CEO Joe Stokes and the LCDP team, we headed to Ferrybank on the northern bank of the River Suir.
Achievement breeds confidence and there at the U-Casadh project, which was set up by WAP, I was welcomed by ex-prisoners who know this to be true. Kenny Murphy and Kevin Colfer both told me that the project gives them the motivation to get out of bed in the morning – no better endorsement for community development work.
We met Ian Lennon and his colleagues at the Care and Repair Service’s offices in the John’s Hill area of the city. They are providing a service that is absolutely vital to older people in the area and the pride they take in their work was clear to see.
The Partnership, I learned from the highly driven WAP team, also carry out and support initiatives around critical areas of community need such as suicide prevention, transgender awareness, community strengthening and supporting volunteers.
The people of Waterford seemed aware of and appreciative of the work the Partnership carries out on the frontline and that means that all facets of society from the ex-prisoner to the elderly engage with them.
Who knows, they might even roll out a special programme for toll ladies with an aversion to copper next year. 
Luckily for her, I went through a different toll-booth on the way home. 

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