The merchant of Ennis

The president of Ennis Chamber of Commerce T J Waters talks to Justin Comiskey about his background and winning the Information Age Town competition.

T J Waters, current president of Ennis Chamber of Commerce, played a significant part in having Ennis designated as the State’s Information Age town. Although he maintains that Triona McInerney "lived for" Ennis’s application "like no-one else involved in the project", it was T J Waters who made a vital contribution in lining up close to 200 high-tech jobs for the town conditional on it securing victory in the competition.

"Born under the shadows of Mullaghmore mountain beside the Burren," T J Waters is a big and burly Clareman whose down-to-earth affability tends, at first, to hide a canniness about people and how to get things done. He is the eldest of a family of nine from a mixed farming background, received his second-level education at CBS in Ennis and is married with three daughters.

He worked in the hotel business until 1979 and then joined Roche Ireland Ltd (a healthcare company) in Clarecastle. Since then, he has worked in the manufacturing, environmental and personnel sides of the Roche Ireland Ltd operation. Currently, he works as head of employee relations with the company.

"I’ve always been," he says, "involved in community activities. About four years ago, I became involved with Ennis Chamber of Commerce in a more direct fashion and was appointed president of the chamber last February.

"As president, the first project I wanted to get off the ground was a book - The Merchants of Ennis - a sort of who’s who of merchants in Ennis from times past that details all the key families involved in the town’s history.

"However, my first official role as president of the chamber was to go to Ennis District Council and invite them to become partners in the Information Age project. They came in behind the project very quickly and committed £15,000 to it. That really gave us the impetus to get the ball rolling and start the project."

With Ennis District Council on board, T J Waters and his team then got Shannon Development involved and, working with Ennis Chamber of Commerce, these three groups set up a task force of 15 people to bring the Information Age project to Ennis.

This task force met on a regular basis from 7.30 a.m. till 9 a.m. and from 6 p.m. until late. It decided to concentrate the town's efforts around five separate projects.

Working full-time for Roche Ireland Ltd. and performing the duties of president of Ennis Chamber of Commerce has, however, taken quite a lot out of T J Waters.

After his stint as chamber president is over, T J Waters almost salivates at the prospect of "spending more time on the golf course." He boasts of once "playing off a single figure handicap" but now "it's 12" and, after a self-deprecating sigh, he says "it'll soon be 13". He is looking forward to a "break next year" and having the spare time to do more of the things he enjoys, like driving into the Burren.

Winning the competition to become Ireland's Information Age town has meant it has been "quite a year" for T J Waters and this victory must surely mark him out as being one of the most successful presidents of Ennis Chamber of Commerce. However, it's also been quite a year for Co. Clare. As T J Waters said at the Point Depot minutes after had been announced as the victor in the Information Age Town competition "our third all-Ireland in 10 days - up the banner!.