Criticism of 'devastating' lack of focus on Waterford and southeast in programme for Government

The programme for Government is "devastating" in its lack of focus on Waterford and the southeast region despite a tenth of the country's population living in the region, a leading academic says.Dr Ray Griffin, strategic management lecturer at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT), said the "political antenna of Dublin and Cork has no understanding of the depth of alienation in the southeast". 

"Whilst the West and Mid-West are publicly licking their wounds at getting nothing in the Programme for Government, and being closed out of their God-given right to sit at cabinet, the southeast usually goes unmentioned," he said.

The Programme for Government is devastating in the sense that no capital projects are committed to in the southeast, Dr Griffin said, while very specific commitments were made to what he called vast capital projects in Cork and Dublin. 

"It also appears that existing political pledges to 24/7 cardiac care, the North Quays in Waterford and the southeast airport are being walked back on. The distribution of top jobs doubles down on the Cork-Dublin axis of the Programme for Government. 

"Based on existing data we have for the 2020-2025 window, the 10% of the population who live in the southeast will be luck to get 1% of the significant capital programme currently envisaged or underway. It is probable that the southeast was in recession before Covid-19 hit, having contracted in three of the last five years we have data for," Dr Griffin told the Irish Examiner.

He said the narrowing of the vote-getting for the traditional parties in the General Election across the southeast should have focused the minds in the corridors of power that the population felt marginalised from the economic recovery before the pandemic took hold.

"The rejection of these parties arises from the fact that they are now only delivering for a narrow section of people in terms of class and geography. With the boom over, it is clear that Dublin gobbled up everything, Cork and Limerick got a fair enough share, and other regions were substantially frozen out."

"That era was also typified by tremendous belief in the ability to hoodwink people, to separate between what was said and what was being done. If they have any hope of regaining their stature in Ireland, it will be by regaining the trust of people. This Government has a steep hill to climb to demonstrate to the people of the southeast that Irish democracy works," he added.

Regional fairness does not stop in major cities outside of Dublin. No one needs reminding that the general election was run on issues of regional fairness, getting a fair share of services and resources for the people of the South East, Dr Griffin said.

He concluded: "In practice for this Government, 'regional' equals Cork. Cork’s boom is going to get boomier, and Dublin’s boomier boom is planned to get even boomier again."