THE battle on the northside over whether a youth centre is built took an unexpected turn yesterday when Deputy Willie O’Dea waded into the debate.
The Limerick Youth Service and the Ballynanty Residents Opposition Committee are at war over plans by the former to build a centre in the shadow of Thomond Park.
Residents argue that there will be a loss of green space, an increase in anti-social behaviour, and a drop in value of their homes.
But the youth service has said the scheme will bring employment to the northside, and see all their facilities under one roof.
The development has been made possible, thanks to a grant from the JP McManus foundation.
But Mr O’Dea has become the highest ranking politician to become involved in the debate to date, when he said northside residents are being treated “disgracefully”.
And he called for community facilities to be diverted to the east of the city instead.
Meanwhile, the youth service is seeking to win the hearts and minds of councillors by inviting groups out to see the facilities currently in existence there.
A group will go out tomorrow night, after Mayor Gerry McLoughlin and Cllr Tom Shortt visited youth centres in the city.
Unlike many other planning objectives, the councillors will have a say in whether it can go ahead or not.
Members can vote to either allow the youth centre to build on the public land, or reject it.
For his part, Cllr Shortt believes a move is necessary for the youth service to thrive in future.
But Mr O’Dea hit back, saying: “Residents of Ballynanty are being treated disgracefully in having a facility foisted upon them which they clearly don’t want. There are more community facilities on the north side of Limerick city than there are in any areas of similar size in the country.”
He said areas like Garryowen in the east of the city would welcome a youth centre.
“We all agree that a youth centre is a desirable objective, but it’s a matter of picking the correct location. The proposed location is clearly wrong and won’t work,” he added.
With the application to build currently before An Bord Pleanala, independent northside councillor Kevin Kiely predicted the national body will green-light the plan.
But he said he will stand behind the residents when it comes to the vote.
“This is ongoing now since 2009, and the residents are entitled to their opinion. They don’t want to see this.
“They have already put up with [the redevelopment of] Thomond Park. As far as I am concerned, I would be supporting the residents on this,” he said.