Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A vision unfolding before our eyes

The 30th January 2009 is a day etched in my memory. I got a number of calls from anxious and angry Waterford Crystal workers who were occupying the visitors centre. The dreaded news had arrived – the factory was to close. Truth be known we all knew it was coming. It was like a slow death in a family - you know it is coming but it does not ease the pain. Workers who had given years of service were fighting for their jobs, redundancies, pensions and dignity. It was a tragic end to a wonderful journey. One of the best programmes ever made for local radio was on the story of Waterford crystal produced by Liz Reddy. It was a magnificent story of the highs and lows, the joy and the pain of working in 'the glass'.

I grew up across the road from the Kilbarry plant. Like most Waterford people many members of my family worked there. When on holidays and people asked where you were from, they instantly linked Waterford to crystal. Waterford people are rightly proud of the connection and the tradition. It is something that we cannot afford to lose. And we almost did.

I say all of this as I am truly taken aback by the speed in which the new crystal venture is being delivered. I stood on the Mall today and looked on in amazement at how far advanced works are on the old ESB site. It has silenced the critics and the naysayer’s. It has enthused people who love Waterford and want to see our city progress. And this is only phase one. The next step is to construct the iconic building on the quay and progress the Viking triangle. A conference on this theme will take place in the city this year. As the main crystal project moves from the Mall to the Quay it opens up the possibility of creating a ‘craft village’ on the ESB site. It is hard not to get excited about all of this. The new vision is unfolding before our eyes. It may never ease the pain for those workers who were so badly treated but it is surely greater than how it was initially described – salvage from the wreckage.

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