Limerick’s revived regeneration plan: smaller and cheaper but no less challenging
Demolishing homes is easy - but undoing decades of social neglect is the real challenge
Limerick’s King John’s Castle. he scale of social problems remains frightening. Unemployment rates in the most neglected regeneration areas are many times the national average, the proportion of one-parent families is one of the highest in the country and some children are already damaged by neglect before they even start school.
This latest attempt to revive regeneration plans for Limerick’s most neglected communities is smaller, cheaper and less ambitious than before. But even this scaled-down version faces daunting challenges.
The first plan, launched by President Mary McAleese in much better economic times, was to cost an eye-watering €1.6 billion.
It included demolishing up to 2,500 houses, creating two new town centres, co-ordinating responses to social and education problems and, ultimately, breaking the cycle of disadvantage that has gripped Moyross, Southill, Ballinacurra Weston and St Mary’s Park.
Then, the economic downturn hit. Much of the money earmarked for new projects dried up. Hundreds of homes were demolished, but not replaced. The population declined and the community began to lose faith that the plans would ever be realised.
A more modest version, announced yesterday by Minister for Housing Jan O’Sullivan, will cost €253 million over the next 10 years.
The bulk of the money will go towards building new homes, roads and other physical infrastructure.
But construction work will be the easy bit. Trying to undo decades of social neglect, criminality and reforming dysfunctional public services remains a daunting prospect.
The scale of social problems remains frightening. Unemployment rates in the most neglected regeneration areas are many times the national average, the proportion of one-parent families is one of the highest in the country and some children are already damaged by neglect before they even start school.
These communities have been neglected and let down, many times over. And the failures have ended up costing society much more in the form of justice, health and welfare spending.
The question isn’t so much can we afford to deliver these plans on this occasion, but can we afford not to?