‘Nobody can renege on Regeneration’: Jan O’Sullivan

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

Looking to the future: Minister of State Jan O'Sullivan with children from the Regeneration schools, Our Lady Queen of Peace, Clodagh McCafrey, and Our Lady of Lourdes, Patrick Nolan
MINISTER Jan O’Sullivan has accepted that criticisms of the pace of the Limerick Regeneration project in the past were “justified”, while insisting that the new launch presents “a road map for the future.”

MINISTER Jan O’Sullivan has accepted that criticisms of the pace of the Limerick Regeneration project in the past were “justified”, while insisting that the new launch presents “a road map for the future.”

The Labour minister was speaking in Thomond Park at the launch of the new framework implementation plan for the Regeneration areas over the next decade.

It envisages some 58 key projects and a spend of up to €290m from the next Budget to 2024.

As exclusively revealed in the Limerick Leader last week, the 500-page plan includes a projected budget of €93.3m for Southill and Ballinacurra Weston, €51.4m for St Mary’s Park, and €106.5m for Moyross.

Minister O’Sullivan said the plan clearly addresses “who’s going to do it (the work), when they’re going to do it” and added that the finance is committed – at least during her term in office.

“This is tangible evidence that the work is going to be done under the three pillars – social, economic and physical. For the people in the Regeneration areas they can see quite clearly what’s going to happen in their areas

She continued: “I think the criticism was justified. There were delays over a number of years. But what we have now is a very clear plan. We have construction under way – we have families living in the 34 units in Cliona Park, and a number of other projects underway in Vizes Court and Southill, and other projects that are ready to go, and ready to move on next year.”

While demolitions were a major feature of the Regeneration process of the last seven years, she said refurbishment will be “equally important in each of the areas”. She acknowledged that she can only commit to funding of up to €30m a year up to 2016, when the next Government will be formed, she said she “can’t imagine any future minister being able to renege on these plans.”

With some €225m spent on Regeneration since 2008, she conceded that perhaps too much focus was given to demolishing homes, instead of improving them, and rehousing families to such an extent that pockets of some areas has been their population decimated and community broken up.

The plan, she said, was designed in a very different time, “when the economy hadn’t collapsed” .

It was envisaged to cost €3bn. It will now cost some €515m over 18 years, up to 2024, depending on the exact allocations of funding in future Budgets.

City manager Conn Murray insisted he was not disappointed that it’s now costing less than one fifth of the original projection.

“Absolutely not. It’s realistic and it’s being provided, and it’s being used in the context of what people are asking us to do. Not, I’m not disappointed, I’m actually delighted with the resources we have,” he said.

Chief Superintendent Dave Sheahan, of Henry Street station, said the launch of the plan is a “great day for the communities”.

“They have put a lot of energy and time in making sure that this plan was their plan.

As many key figures of Limerick’s feuding gangs are now behind bars as a result of tougher legislation, Chief Supt Sheahan said one of the key questions he’s continually asked is what will be done to protect communities once these prisoners have been released.

“In time to come, if the resilience is built up within the communities, I think the communities will stand up themselves and say ‘Stop. We’ve had peace and quiet here for years. We want to continue to live our lives in peace.”

He rejected outright views that Regeneration has “failed” since it was first conceived seven years.

“A lot of the physical infrastructure that people expected takes time. You can’t build a road overnight.”

The plan anticipates an average of €28m per annum invested over the term of this Government and beyond, with the funding drawn from the exchequer, European funding, the voluntary housing sector and the private sector.

Tommy Daly, chairman of the Moyross Residents’ Alliance, said: “I think it’s brilliant. At least now we have something to go on.

“Now we’ve an inclination that things are going to look up for us, and we can all work together.