Fitzgerald warns Limerick renewal is still fragile

 

THE REGENERATION of Limerick’s problem housing areas is “still fragile” and there is a “grave risk” that progress made over the past five years will be lost “unless the momentum is maintained”, the most senior figure involved has warned.

John Fitzgerald, the outgoing chairman of the Limerick regeneration agencies, which are due to be wound up today, said there was “no room for complacency” when the agencies’ work is taken over by a new office of regeneration run by the Limerick local authorities.

“If there is any such complacency or loss of momentum, then inevitably the situation will deteriorate to what it was in 2006 or even worse, with the consequential intolerable cost to the lives of those who reside in and around these communities, and to the region as a whole,” he said.

In a review “based on my own reflections as somebody who was involved at the start of this initiative”, Mr Fitzgerald said the level of “integrated and strategic focus” between the various public authorities had “fallen short of [what] I had envisaged in my 2007 report”.

This was partly to do with how programmes were funded, but also the ways in which departments and agencies “have been used to working for a very long time”. While this was “not going to change overnight”, there was “no doubt that different approaches are required”.

Recent budget cuts “have obviously hampered progress”, the former Dublin city manager said. Originally, it was hoped the exchequer allocation would be in the region of €75 million a year for five years, but only €116 million was given over the whole period.

“It should be noted that of this amount of budget allocation, the main component of the spending, over 75 per cent of the total funding allocated went directly to the Limerick local authorities and not to the regeneration agencies,” he said. Most of it was spent on demolition.

Given that the problems in areas such as Moyross and Southill dated back to the early 1970s, as highlighted by the late Jim Kemmy TD, “it was never realistic, nor ever promised, that all these long festering problems could be resolved in a timeframe of five years”.

While “significant further funds”, amounting to €27 million a year for the next few years, would enable the public elements of the housing regeneration to be completed, Mr Fitzgerald said the need to achieve a better social mix “must be assiduously pursued”.