Nigel Dugdale - Limerick and Proud: A better city is a challenge for all

Nigel Dugdale

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Nigel Dugdale

This striking impression of O'Connell Street by Conor Buckley was a contribution to the Liveable Limerick debate around the future of the city’s main thoroughfare

This striking impression of O'Connell Street by Conor Buckley was a contribution to the Liveable Limerick debate around the future of the city’s main thoroughfare

WE live in a time when Limerick is witnessing an unprecedented level of growth, development and social change.

In under a decade we have gone from being a city struggling to overcome the problems of negative external perceptions to one now challenging for the title of Ireland’s second city. Over recent years, as regular readers of the Limerick Leader will be aware, I have engaged passionately in the local debate. I love my city. I love watching it grow and change. I live for the day when we look back at this period in Limerick history with pride for what it achieved.

Many of the readers of this new paper will be parents of young children; children whose future will be shaped by the experiences they gather in their home town. With any luck, they will never have to defend Limerick from the kind of stigma that many of us found so unpleasant for so long.

If trends are to be believed, our next generation of citizens will see an urban centre as their location of choice to live in. Our kids will probably see a time when the car is no longer the go-to method of transport.

The Limerick 2030, plan along with the recently launched Ireland 2040 National Development Plan, have set out a strategy for how our city will be developed over the coming decades.

We are already seeing tangible results in terms of Limerick 2030. Jobs are being created. Troy Studios, once knocked as a pipe dream, is real and now home to a major TV production company. Three significant sites within our city centre are in various phases of development. New homes are being built to cater for a quickly growing population.

But despite the many great achievements we have seen in Limerick over recent years, we must also acknowledge that problems do still exist. Large parts of our city still suffer the scourge of mass unemployment. Our city centre still struggles to shine as a retail destination of note. Our suburbs thrive as enviable destinations to live while our city centre continues to lag behind.

Patrick Kavanagh once said: “Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder”. When one is immersed in something every day we can forget to look for the beauty, the potential or the magic. How often do we ask a visitor to our city what they thought of the place? How often do we try something new in our home town?

It is all too easy to be complacent. All too often, debate across Limerick dwells on things that went wrong in the past. How many of us actively engage in determining the Limerick of tomorrow? Perhaps, now more than ever, we have the opportunity to get our opinions out there. We must ask questions. We must engage and show those who make decisions on our behalf that we care. We have recently seen the debate around the redevelopment of O’Connell Street. What started as a discussion about a road leading through our city has led to a much broader debate around what really would make a Liveable Limerick.

At an event last week, I heard a young girl talk about her dreams for Limerick. Her passion was admirable. Of all the many commentators who engage in the Limerick debate, it is our young people who will reap the rewards of the seeds we are sowing today. They have a voice too and deserve to be listened to.

Mistakes have been made in recent Limerick history in terms of aspects such as planning, urban development and social exclusion. We all must constructively investigate where things went wrong in the past, to ask if we have really learnt from these mistakes and take every necessary step in our power to ensure we don’t risk repetition.

As citizens it is the role of all of us to ensure the mistakes of the past are not repeated. We often forget the fact that every one of us has the power to help determine the direction our city takes into the future is a positive one.

Over the coming months I hope this column will offer ideas or opinions that will in some way stir debate and encourage you to play your part in shaping the Limerick of tomorrow.

If you’d like to get in touch about the column, I can be contacted by email: nigeljdugdale@gmail.com.

Festivals that brought life and learnings to Limerick

It was so refreshing to see two Limerick festivals take place in the city recently, both of which saw all their events sold to capacity.

The Limerick Spring festival has gone from strength to strength since its inception and its organisers deserve great credit for their efforts and their passion.

Its theme this year was ‘Hope in Uncertain Times’ and saw 23 events across the city including prestigious guest speakers like Vincent Browne, film screenings, lectures and the introduction of a new collaboration with UL, LIT and Mary Immaculate College.

The Limerick Literary Festival in honour of Kate O’Brien has equally seen both its profile and the calibre of its events improving year on year. This year the festival welcomed speakers such as Billy Keane, Fergal Keane and the authors of ‘Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling’, Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen.

Both festivals collaborated on Saturday night in Dolan’s with a joint reading and discussion by two superb local talents, Blindboy Boaclub and Kevin Barry. If this year was anything to go by Limerick has a lot to look forward to from both of these festivals over the coming years.