‘Leave political badges in back pocket’: Cllr John Sheahan
COUNCIL members must “leave their political badges in their back pocket” and fight for Limerick.
That’s the view of Fine Gael council leader Cllr John Sheahan, who was speaking at a meeting on the controversial new regional strategy this week.
Members met at County Hall to begin the process of forming a submission against the blueprint, which many feel leaves Limerick losing out in favour of Cork.
Now, with March 8 being the deadline for submissions, councillors will get down to preparing objections to the strategy, which many councillors have criticised for containing scant mention of rural county Limerick, the Foynes deepwater sea port, with the N24 Cahir to Limerick Junction road left out, alongside the Adare bypass.
The strategy is to be decided by the Southern Regional Assembly, based in Waterford, the first time the authority has been given the power to decide on the plan, which will govern Limerick’s development over the next 12 years.
Councillors here cannot reject the plan outright, council boss Conn Murray warned, as they will just be overruled by the majority of non-Limerick members.
Urging a “reality check”, the chief executive said instead amendments must be made.
Mayor James Collins acknowledged this will mean negotiating with councillors from across the southern region, and “jockeying for position”.
Independent councillor Lisa-Marie Sheehy said: “This council needs to stand in unity. If the plan is passed as it is, it would be detrimental to the growth of both the city and county. If Cork is designated as an international city, funding will follow it there.”
Cllr Sheahan, who is one of Limerick’s three representatives on the assembly, said: “Whatever you think of this draft, the first one was far less complimentary to Limerick.”
He said in that one, Newcastle West did not even warrant a mention, and it planned to do away with rural, one-off housing.
A “trade-off” was made, he said, to include the new Strategic Development Zone beside the University of Limerick which may bring a new town on the Clare side of the campus.
Limerick council must stand united, he added, saying: “Let’s get real here. If we bring politics into it, then let us fail Limerick. Let’s put our political badges into our back pockets and all represent Limerick. That is the essence as to why we came here today.”
Fellow assembly member, Cllr Noel Gleeson, Fianna Fail, added: “Politics is politics, but we need it to be left outside the door when we are trying to get the best deal for our city and county. It’s up to councillors from all parties to ensure this is rejected. There is too much hanging on it. We need to take the initiative to put Limerick back on the map.”
Kilmallock-based councillor Mike Donegan pointed out that in the strategy document, 48 pages were dedicated to Cork, as opposed to just 26 to Limerick.
“That tells its own story. There a lack of contemplation of Co Limerick. There is nothing in it for towns like Kilmallock, Bruff and Kilfinane. No opportunity for them to grow and develop. I see nothing worthwhile in this – it bypasses rural Ireland and it’s very disappointing,” he told the meeting.
Councillor Seamus Browne of Sinn Fein added: “It makes the likelihood of rural depopulation yet more likely in Co Limerick. It does not address the regeneration issue in Newcastle West town centre and Abbeyfeale. It’s a bad plan: it enshrines Cork as the capital of the southern region and Limerick as a small European town, and does nothing to show Limerick’s ambition.”
One decision was taken at the special meeting: Limerick councillors sought a ban on incineration of waste materials in Limerick in the plan.
City West councillor Malachy McCreesh gained the support of members in his bid to stop the burning of rubbish, on foot of controversial Irish Cement proposals.
Now it looks like his motion will form part of a submission to the strategy.