FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan has said if Limerick is to thrive in future, it must continue to be a “city without prejudice”.
Speaking at the Limerick Chamber regional business awards, Mr Noonan pointed out that many cities which are succesful “are open to people with very different lifestyles”.
“A lot of the very successful cities have a very strong gay community. We should look at what is happening in cities like these. Cities that are not tolerant do not work. Cities that are narrow minded, and intolerant never work. We have a very open city here, we have responded very well to outside influences, we have responded very well to outside investment. But I think we should keep all factors in mind as well. It is not infrastructure which drives a city, or investment alone,” he said.
Speaking about the forthcoming GVA-backed plan designed to reinvogate the city, Mr Noonan urged the public to have a say when it goes on public display early next year.
But he said it is crucial the city centre does not close down after business hours.
And he also said there must be private sector participation.
“I would like to see quite a bit of private participation. I do not think a public-sector city is what we want. I would like to see a living city. I do not want to see a development where people go home at 5.30 in the evening. I have seen this in other cities, and it does not really work,” he told diners.
In his keynote speech, Limerick Chamber president Gordon Kearney also urged the Minister to ensure the M18 to Galway is finalised, in order to “open up the region and help further development at the airport”.
In response, Mr Noonan said that during Ireland’s presidency of the Euripean Union next year, a meeting would be held on this matter.
“Last Tuesday, I had a meeting with Werner Hoyer, the president of the European Investment Bank. He is sending his vice-president over to Dublin at the end of this month to announce a package of funding worth €60m for Irish Water, wind energy, and AIB to invest in small businesses. He promised during Ireland’s presidency he would have a management meeting in Dublin, and he would pick up then on the N7. We need to get a partner with a strong credit rating to negotiate the second stage of this project. I have already negotiated funding with AIB,” he explained.
Also speaking at the business awards was Conn Murray, the new joint city/county manager.
He acknowledged that the differential between commercial rates in the city and county is “not acceptable” - and urged government to support measures to bring about the same rate in the city and county.
“The differential between the city and county is not acceptable. However, the speed of convergence of the rates can only be achieved and is dependent upon the level of local government support, balanced with the need to continue a spend on promoting our city,” he said.