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Weston Gardens Residents' Association

Background & Overview of our EU Petition

In February 2007, plans to regenerate our area were long-fingered. We felt abandoned by our Councilor's, TD's and our government, so we decided to look to Europe for help.

We contacted our Munster MEP's. The first and only MEP to return our call was Kathy Sinnott MEP and within in two day's of speaking to her she was in Weston Gardens assessing the situation first hand.

Kathy agreed that the Irish authorities were neglecting to do anything for us and believed that we might be able to petition the EU on issues of an environmental and public health concern.

We submitted a formal petition to the EU in March 2007. The petition was easy to put together as we had years of documentation and correspondence, including several annual reports from the Public Health Inspector, which made recommendations that were never even attempted to be implemented. (In Ireland there is no legal obligation on local authorities to heed or implement the Public Health Inspector report)

In June 2007 the EU Committee on Petitions were on a fact finding visit to Ireland and although our petition hadn't yet been deemed admissible, Kathy persuaded the Committee to visit Weston Gardens as they would be passing through Limerick.

On Thursday, 28th June 2007, a large touring bus negotiated the narrow boreen into Weston Gardens. The visiting European dignitaries had to step over rubbish that was literally dumped minutes before they arrived. (We had swept the boreen that morning!).

Above: The narrow boreen that is the entrance to Weston Gardens, illegal dumping is an ongoing problem here, but it is our residents that clean it up - the Council merely collects it afterwards.

The rain was relentless, so after a brief walkabout we all got on the bus, where our Cathaoirleach, Cathal McCarthy addressed our visitors and handed out briefing documents, including copies of the Fitzgerald Report. We invited members of the Southill Women's Group from Keyes Park to share our time and highlight the problems in Southill. They were encouraged to submit a petition by the Committee on Petitions.

Above: Pictured in Limerick Leader from left to right, Cindy Fogarty, resident; Cathal & Ruairí McCarthy, residents(towards front); David Lowe, Head of Secretariat; Heather Cunningham, resident; Radu Podgorean MEP, Romania; Francis Jacobs, Head of Office; Kathy Sinnott MEP, Munster; Marcin Libicki, Chairman of Petitions Committee; David Hammill, resident. (the Southill Women's Group were afraid to be photographed)

Our petition was declared admissible on 24th October 2007 as Article 4 of the EU Waste Framework Directive (WFD) requires Member States to take necessary measures to ensure that waste is recovered or disposed of without endangering human health or the environment. It provides that Member States shall take the necessary measures to prohibit the abandonment, dumping or uncontrolled disposal of waste. (In 2005, following EU Commission legal action, The European Court of Justice ruled against Ireland for the lack of Implementation of the WFD.)

The EU Commission requested the Irish authorities to respond to our petition, which they did on 8th February 2008, claiming that all our problems were now resolved. In short, they lied! Limerick City Council even took credit for the clean-up's that we had done on the boreen.

On 20th February 2009 the EU Commission ruled that (based on the information that they received from the Irish authorities) there was no infringement of Community Law.

However, in March 2009, we were invited to Brussels by the EU Committee on Petitions to contest this ruling. Our delegation could consist of no more then six people.

Of course by now the situation had changed and we were dealing more with the Southside Regeneration Agency than we were with Limerick City Council. We were told that we were part of a bigger picture, part of the 'Master' Plans.

With this in mind, the WGRA was instrumental in forming Limerick Regeneration Watch and had forged links with residents in other regeneration areas.

Earlier in the year, Cathal McCarthy had called on the Regeneration Agencies to sponsor a clean-up of all areas under their remit, citing sub-articles contained within Article 5 (Functions of the Agency) of the Limerick Regeneration (Establishment) Orders 2007 (amended 2008) that would allow the Agencies to sponsor such a clean-up:

Article 5(1)(a)(ii): It shall be the general duty of the Agency to secure - improvements in the physical environment of the Southside Area.

Article 5.(2): Without prejudice to sub-article (1), the Agency may do all such things, including the incurring of expenditure and, with the Ministers consent, the borrowing of money, which appear to it to be requisite, advantageous or incidental to, or which appears to it to facilitate the performance of its functions.

But the call fell on deaf ears. Indeed the Agency had refused a copy of the January 2009 report for Weston Gardens and Ballinacurra Weston from the Public Health Inspector when offered.

Cathal McCarthy led a delegation of residents from regeneration areas, which included Heather Cunningham (WGRA), Tommy Daly (Moyross Residents' Alliance) and Mark Franklin (MRA). Independent film maker, Nicky Larkin and a journalist from the Limerick Leader, Nick Rabbitts accompanied the delegation.

Our mission was to have the issue of illegal dumping and anti-social behaviour re-investigated in the context of the city-wide regeneration project. Cathal was given 5-minutes to make our appeal.

Above: Cathoairleach of the WGRA and Limerick Regeneration Watch, Cathal McCarthy, address EU Commissioners and MEP's in Brussels on 16th April 2009.

Cathal pointed out that the Public Health Inspector reports were ignored by our Council and the Regeneration Agencies. The EU bore witness to the third-world conditions that decent law-abiding residents have to endure as MEP's and Commissioners were shown recent photographs of illegal dumping displayed on a 10ft screen.

Above: Ballinacurra Weston - 10th March 2009. This is one of many photos showing illegal-dumping in Ballinacurra Weston, Southill, St. Mary's Park and Moyross,that was displayed on a 10ft screen while Cathal made his address.

Above: Munster MEP, Kathy Sinnott supports our petition and urges the Commission to visit Limerick's regeneration areas.

We succeeded. A delegation of EU Commissioners and MEP's gave a commitment to visit all of Limericks regeneration areas in the near future. Shortly after we returned we were informed that the Regeneration Agencies were to give Limerick City Council €500,000 to sponsor a clean up of areas targeted for regeneration. The clean-ups took place from July - September 2009.

Our petition is still on-going and we expect to be back in Brussels in the near future.

Above: Inside the EU Committee on Petitions. Pictured at the front is Ross O'Loughlainn from the Cork group that were petitioning the EU regarding the N8. Our thanks to Ross for putting together the powerpoint presentation showing the photographs of illegal-dumping in Southill, Ballinacurra Weston, St. Mary's Park and Moyross. Ross was able to download the pictures from this website the night before. Thanks again Ross.


"The commission have had the wool pulled over their eyes entirely. What I see is an absolute disgrace. When I was environment minister in the UK, if this came to me via a member of parliament, I would put a management order on Limerick City Council and demand they do something about it. This should be fixed period by the authorities."
- British MEP Sir Robert Atkins

"These conditions are reminiscent of the developing world yet it is taking place in a developed country in the EU. We should look into the source of the information, and ask the question why letters printed with official letterheads are not worth the paper they are printed on."
- Romanian MEP Victor Bostinaru

"This is a scandal. It is untenable. It is clear that EU citizens have been left defenseless. We must hold the local authorities to account."
- Spanish MEP Willy Meyer Pleite.

"Obviously this is an impossible situation for people to live with, but this is a weapon of war. The reason this waste is here is that gangs rooted in drugs are using waste as a way of getting rid of people in decent neighbourhoods which then provides them with the community they need to operate. They burn out cars, they vandalise property, but more importantly they attack human beings, intimidate old people, and they murder."
- Munster MEP Kathy Sinnott


The Irish Times - Article
The Irish News - Article
Limerick Independent - Article
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