... former Kilkenny county council chairperson, Cllr Mary Hilda Cavanagh, went a step further in search of headlines by comparing the recent proposal by Waterford city council for a boundary extension into her county as “something that Hitler and his henchmen would try” (Irish Examiner, August 4).
Is it really fair to liken a matter of local authority jurisdiction, public service delivery and integrated regional planning - tied up though it is in matters of county and sporting identity - to the dark days of Nazism? Hardly.
What has occurred is that an official proposal has been published according to proper procedures and is awaiting public and official responses.
Does Cllr Cavanagh recall the Third Reich going through the appropriate channels of the planning process before annexing the Sudetenland, etc?
Is she expecting Déise Stormtroopers to swarm over the Suir should the proposal be rejected? In such a case, will the councillor be advocating a formal renaming of a besieged Ferrybank area as West Bank? If the proposal succeeds, are ethnic Kilkenny residents liable to be forcibly repatriated, or worse?
More realistically, would she like Waterford city council to respond in kind by branding her stance as comparable to extreme forms of intransigent unionism? Possibly not.
So why resort to the lowest kind of ‘them-and-us’ caricaturing that makes a laughing stock of our local political process? It only serves to pander to basic instincts, including the ‘not-an-inch’ brigade, and to instil fear of change.
The answer is that attention-seeking politicians realise that emotive language based purely on gut reaction will make headlines ahead of thoughtful contributions (some of which have come from Cllr Cavanagh’s colleagues) every time. Where important issues set to affect the lives of real people are at stake, elected representatives would do better to consider the relative merits - even contentious ones - rather than resorting to hyperbole, baiting and head-in-the-sand tactics.
It is only proper that they should bat, or even hurl, for their constituents, and it is not unreasonable that Kilkenny should not wish to cede territory or valuable ratepayers. However, it is every bit as natural for Waterford to seek to integrate that city’s ongoing natural growth across the boundary into a system to ensure proper planning and balanced development on both sides of the Suir. This is an overdue response to the lopsided situation currently prevailing where a vibrant city centre lies just hundreds of metres from an area controlled by another authority and which now risks being developed with little constructive reference to the city itself.
The proposal seems key to allowing Waterford, or even Waterford-Ferrybank, develop to its full potential and offer the south-east the functioning and competitive regional capital that its economy desperately needs.
At even a cursory glance it seems to be based on reasonable assumptions and is surely worthy of sensible examination and debate without recourse to name-calling. Let’s not portray the southeast’s boundary issues as if this was the former Yugoslavia. Should it ever arise, a Ferrybank under Waterford jurisdiction would entail cosmetic changes such as postal addresses.
Habitual behaviour and mindsets would not be adversely affected. People with origins in or affinity to either side of the divide would retain them. In any event, Kilkenny will probably remain pre-eminent on the hurling field.