Over time, and for different unfortunate reasons, the very word regeneration has become devalued in Limerick. Defined in the Universal English Dictionary as “a process of being spiritually regenerated to a new life of grace”, it has taken on a pejorative meaning in too many quarters locally.
For some, particularly those living in the city communities told six years ago that there would be a new dawn – a better future for their children – it’s a word that conjures up feelings of disappointment and disillusionment, of broken promises.
For others, unhappy with the anti-social behaviour that has ensued from the displacement of many people from the regeneration estates, it’s a process that has brought trouble to neighbourhoods once more notable for their tranquillity.
We have commented frequently in this column that serious mistakes have been made, but we have also acknowledged the positive intentions of those seeking to make a difference to these underprivileged and neglected communities, as well as the evidence of real progress in areas such as early intervention.
So much for the past; it’s time to look to the future.
On Friday, in the fitting location of Thomond Park – a once run-down ground now transformed and among the finest rugby stadiums in the world – there will be a new beginning for Limerick Regeneration.
A mammoth report running to more than 500 large pages will be officially unveiled, key details of which readers can find on pages 6 and 7 this week. As a document, the Framework Implementation Plan could scarcely be any more comprehensive. It draws heavily on the significant and compelling insights of Dr Eileen Humphreys from the University of Limerick, as well as the soundings taken in all of the communities affected. Not many will have the endurance to read it from cover to cover, but that is not the point of it. What it represents is a declaration of intent – a plan to be delivered, with a schedule that holds people accountable. In local government in this country, there are few bigger challenges than the one documented in this report. It will stretch those who have the responsibility of implementing it, but there is clear evidence that they are already rolling up their sleeves, relieved that a viable framework document has been produced – effectively the new bible for Limerick Regeneration. Ministers come and go, but there must be no issue at Government level over required funding, no matter who is in charge of the country. The plan requires a modest €30 million a year over the course of a decade. If that cannot be delivered to put these communities on a sounder footing, it will be a shameful indictment of this country. It must. There can be no excuses.
In one sense, this is a vastly less ambitious plan than the one sold to the various communities five or six years ago. But the scale of the document to be released this Friday makes it clear that it will be far from easy. However, Friday will be another good day for the people of Limerick. Successfully implemented – in full – as part of the wider Limerick 2030 plans, the regeneration proposals will help to create a better, more prosperous and more decent Limerick.
We hope those who stand to benefit most from the implementation will take heart.