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Speech by An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD, Valeant (Bausch & Lomb) job and investment announcement and official opening of new facility, 31 July 2017

 

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Tánaiste, Mayor, ladies and gentlemen, good morning! I’m delighted to here today to celebrate this great news for Bausch & Lomb and Valeant and for Waterford.

And I’d like to offer a special welcome to all those who have travelled from the US and Canada, such as Joseph. Céad míle fáilte romhaibh go léir.

In my office in Government Buildings, I have a portrait of the great Waterford patriot, Thomas Francis Meagher, who introduced the Irish tricolour to Ireland, and unveiled it for the very first time in this city in 1848. It’s there to remind me of the ideals of our Republic and also remind me of Waterford and my responsibilities to be Taoiseach for all of Ireland - every city and every region.

The portrait reminds me that Waterford has for many centuries been at the heart of Irish life and Irish politics.

Waterford’s history is filled with exceptional innovators and thinkers, such as Robert Boyle, Luke Wadding and Ernest Walton.
Bausch and Lomb are to be applauded for supporting the continuation of that rich tradition.

When I became a minister in 2011 the very first place I came to for an official visit was Waterford, to open the Bishop’s Palace. Today the Viking Triangle is an award-winning cultural resource, with the Medieval Museum, Reginald’s Tower, and the Bishop’s Palace showcasing the rich history of this wonderful city.

As the official history of the museum reminds us, Waterford was pillaged, ruined, and burned down in 1050, and it was ravaged again in 1087. It was destroyed by fire in 1252 and again thirty years later.

Each time it was rebuilt, and each time it came back stronger and better. The spirit of resilience carried through over the centuries. No matter what was thrown at her, Waterford remained the untaken city.

This is a great city - historic, resilient and proud. However, I fear that, in recent times, the city has regrettably lost some of its confidence.
Maybe in dark hours, the city lacks hope that its future will be better, brighter. That should be of concern to all of us.

Many in the city and city region feel that Waterford has fallen behind, has been neglected, even forgotten. And, it's not hard to understand why.

Until the 1970s Waterford was bigger in size than Galway. Today Waterford is significantly smaller. Galway has benefitted from having a successful university, an increasingly vibrant city centre, new industries, and falling unemployment. Limerick has too.

In contrast, Waterford’s population growth has been substantially below the national average over the past 20 years. So the people of Waterford could be forgiven for thinking that the city has finally been taken - that Ireland’s oldest city seems to have fallen behind in health, industry, education and infrastructure.

This must change.

So long as I am Taoiseach Waterford will not be neglected or forgotten.

I say that not just because of my affection for the city and the county, or because of my roots here.

I say it because the success of Waterford in the decades to come, will be a litmus test for the Republic of Opportunity of which I speak - one in which every part of the country has an equal chance to share in our country's prosperity.

So let me set-out how I want to make that a reality, and it involves building on and expanding the work that has been done over the last few years.

Tourism
Waterford has benefited from considerable investment in her public realm and tourist infrastructure over the past decade. The Viking Triangle has benefited from close to €11 million euro in grants since 2010 and is now a hugely successful tourist attraction.

The Waterford Greenway is now open between here and Dungarvan attracting visitors, providing a new amenity for local people and families, and creating new business opportunities and employment.

Real progress has been made on the gardens at Mount Congreve and I look forward to its development as a public park, amenity and visitor attraction for the city.

Unemployment in the South-East has been cut by more than half, and we are determined to make sure that this trend continues.

Today's announcement will play a vital part in helping that work.

Health
University Hospital Waterford is expanding with a new Central Decontamination Unit and a new Interventional Radiology Suite opened earlier this month. Over the past four years we have increased the allocated net budget of the hospital by more than a quarter, and it is having a real effect. There is a new Dermatology Unit, a new Cystic Fibrosis Unit, and a new Paediatric Unit.

Construction of a new Palliative Care Unit is underway.

Last month the HSE issued a tender for the provision of a temporary mobile Cath-Lab at the hospital, which should begin operation later this year.

And I think much more can be achieved in the years to come.

I know that the issue of cardiac care in Waterford is enormously emotive and sensitive. I know the politics of it as Taoiseach and a former Minister for Health, and something about the medicine and science of it as a medical doctor.
I know the experts are not always right and equally I know that protests and political demands are not always either.

Decisions must rely on clinical and management advice. Any service of any sort that cannot be sustained or staffed - or that isn’t safe - won't save lives.

But, if it can be sustained, staffed and safe, there is no reason why it should not be provided.

So, I welcome the all-party motion calling for the national review to be expedited. There will also be a further regional review once the second cath lab is in place for a period of time.

Education
Over the last ten years some €50 million euro has been provided by the State in funding to Waterford IT.
Now that we have agreement with the trade unions, the Technological Universities Bill will be back in the Dáil in the autumn underpinning the potential for the creation of a new multi-campus Technological University for the South-East, with its major campus here in Waterford.

It is long overdue and I have asked Minister Mitchell O'Connor to take a personal interest in driving it forward. Once developed it will help to generate more investment and more good jobs and will mean more young people will go on to higher education.

The long-term result is that more graduates and young people will stay here or come here to live.

It must, of course, be a Technological University for real, not just in name. Anything less won't benefit Waterford and the wider South-East region, so it will require investment from central Government and extra effort among the staff to meet the necessary high standards.

I'll be behind you in both of those endeavours.


Infrastructure
Later this year, the Government will publish a new National Development Plan which will plan for the Ireland of 2040 with an estimated population of 5.5 million.

I believe that plan should provide for significant population growth in this city. Waterford should aim to be a city of 75,000 by the middle of the century thus ending arguments about numbers and critical mass.

It makes sense.

You are the largest urban centre in the south-east, you have good access to the motorway network and to the ports.

You have relatively inexpensive housing.

You have undeveloped land on the North Quays and elsewhere that can and should be unlocked. I share your ambitions to do exactly that.

The Government I lead will work with Waterford, her politicians, her council, her business and community leaders to make all of this possible.

Much of the work will need to be done here and led from here.
Success has to be home-grown and led from home.

Government will help - by removing barriers, blockages, building infrastructure and opening up new opportunities so the city can prosper.

And we will give you the means by which you can drive the regeneration of Waterford yourself.

Today’s announcement of 125 new jobs - 125 new opportunities - and this state-of-the-art facility represents exactly the kind of future that is possible in the years to come.

It will only further and strengthen your relationship with the people of this city and the region.

I know that Joseph and all those here today from Valeant’s Board of Directors believe in Bausch and Lomb - and in Waterford.

We believe in Waterford too. Thank You.

Ends