Thursday, 14th December 2017
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Michael Garland,

bizBoost Chair,

Waterford Business Group

We are being heard, but no one is really listening!

There is a very distinct difference between hearing and listening. When you hear something, your ear is quite simply picking up and perceiving a particular sound. If you remember your Physics classes in secondary school, you hear and then your brain interprets those sound waves and vibrations.

Listening on the other hand, is a conscious effort to choose what you want to hear. To do this, you must concentrate on the messages you receive and understand them. Many of our senses are involved in listening and the result is more often than not, an immediate call to action. Whether that be a fight or flight response, or a simple “Yes, I am listening” response, to when Mrs

Garland asks you about housework, when Scotland are playing rugby, on the TV!

Many people get these two completely mixed up. As a result, there are far too many people assuming that other people are listening to them, when in fact they are only barely being heard.

It would seem that the root of many of Waterford’s current woes and problems, stem from our inherent inability to get Waterford’s message out to the wider public and those in power. We do enough shouting and we are very good at getting people to listen on a local level. Outside of that very narrow boundary, we do not seem to be able to get the right influencers to listen to, appreciate and grasp our case. This of course has been happening to

Waterford for many, many years. When we do eventually connect to the island’s consciousness, we are thrown the odd crumb, an appeasement us for another few years. M9 motorway, case in point.

Could we learn from other regions?

It seems that we continue to climb our Everest, unaided, unsupported and without oxygen, whilst others are gaining copious help. Many, many Sherpa Tenzings, considerable quantities of that essential life giving odourless gas and base camps supporting the treacherous ascent. The result is that “Regional Development”, and I use that phrase very lightly, is given to those who are able to make people listen to their plight and struggles.

For some reason we just seem to be an irritating background noise, annoying far too many “People in power” and “Influencers”. This can even be heard and seen, across the world of our terrestrial broadcasters. Ask them to highlight Waterford’s current health problems, third level educational issues, unemployment struggles etc and to a man and a woman they seem disinterested. It is almost as if they have not listened to our messaging. They are only hearing an irritating buzzing in their ears.

It is clear that we need to change the way we are engaging with people on a national level. Our regional issues appear to have become solely Waterford issues by the time they reach Leinster House. Thus, diluted and diminished on impact. Yes, a lack of political clout and Ireland’s love of parish pump politics does not help our case. But we should surely become just a bit more tactical in our campaigns to gain Dublin’s ear?

It might be time to get our national broadcasters to sit up and to give more than a few seconds to our many issues. Of course the sixty five million dollar question is “How?”

Maybe we could take a leaf out of Fianna Fail’s recent social media campaign, #askfiannafail, and ask them to deliver for the region? Maybe this hashtag should actually read #askalloppositionparties, if we are really to get things moving? Or better still we could just #askfinegael, as they are in power and we do have two TDs, who form part of this current Government. We even have a Junior Minister in Waterford. Of course I forgot, one is #missinginaction and the other is #awaitinganotherreview.

Our other option is to #takethefighttoDublin. I have heard people talking about taking a 90-minute protest to Dublin.

#driveslowly or #blockthetolls on the M50! This would get us noticed. But would we be listened to if we were to take such a direct approach? We clearly have an awful long way to go, #tobelistenedto.

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