GARRYOWEN could be left without a community centre as fears grow that plans to refurbish the former Brannigan’s bar in Limerick will fall through.
The Garryowen Community Development Project (CDP) could face homelessness come the autumn as a short-term lease in the St John’s Brass and Reed Band Hall expires.
They had planned to move to the bar once owned by exiled state witness Steve Collins, and turn it into a community hub. In 2004, Ryan Lee, Steve’s adopted son, was shot twice by a masked gunman at the pub, after he refused entry to Wayne Dundon’s underage sister. Dundon was jailed for threatening to kill Mr Lee.
But almost two years after “positive” talks commenced with the council, the building remains idle - and CDP chairperson Claire Flynn fears the money may not be available.
“We are waiting for a response from the Department of the Environment, but the impression we are getting is that it is not looking good. We are obviously hoping this is not going to the case, but the big thing is we have been waiting for two years.”
The plan was to refit the bar - which was burnt out in suspicious circumstances - and use it as a focal point for the CDP’s activities, which include providing adult education classes, a youth club, sports facilities and a range of other services.
Despite sending detailed information on its plans for Brannigan’s Bar to the Department of the Environment - including supportive letters from the PAUL Partnership and the Tusla child and family agency - Claire says the committee has been met with a “wall of silence”.
“We are all very surprised we have been waiting so long. When news first came, we were so excited, we were very optimistic, and we were happy that the City Council was willing to engage with us very positively,” she said.
The refit of the bar could potentially cost over €250,000, with the local authority applying to the department for funding.
But now it looks like this might be rejected.
If this were to happen, Clare said it would be “a huge blow” to a community which does not at present have a permanent community facility.
They have already had to cut programmes and services due to delays on this move, and she believes there will be further negative impacts as a result.
“Without government support, we are going to be pushed back, and we are going to lose more of our volunteers. It has already impacted on what we were already providing, which was not enough,” she explained.
The CDP has lobbied Mayor Michael Sheahan, Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan, and all 40 of Limerick’s city and county councillors for support. But so far, just two politicians have responded.
Claire added: “We just need a proper centre, a proper home. Brannigan’s as an interim measure for the next 10 years would have been great. It was never an ideal option, but it was the only one being offered. We were happy to accept it on the basis it was somewhere we could go.”
A spokesperson for the Department of the Environment confirmed the council applied for funding last summer, with more information sought that November. A response from the council is under consideration since March.
“The project is complex in that it involves either the partial or full demolition of an existing vandalised building to facilitate a move by the Garryowen CDP to a new location. It is not a straightforward social housing scheme and the Department has to evaluate the best use of the site,” the spokesperson added.
If the move to Brannigan’s did go ahead, Claire said the CDP would be able to “do so much more”.
“All we need is a place to do it,” she concluded.