Concerned Residents Alliance
Open Letter to City and County Managers

17 January 2008

Dear Manager,

We are writing to you on behalf of the newly formed Concerned Residents' Alliance (CRA). Our Alliance was formed arising from an emergency meeting of Limerick Residents' Associations, which was held to discuss the lack of Community facilities, the increasing problem of anti-social behaviour and the devaluation of property.

To date we are representative of Residents' Associations and Committees from the following City and County areas: Ballinacurra, Caherdavin, Castletroy, Corbally, Dooradoyle, Patrickswell, Raheen, Rosbrien.

It is our view that our local authorities are failing to fulfil their constitutional obligations to local communities. We refer to Article 28A.1 of Bunreacht Na hÉireann, which states:

"The State recognises the role of local government in providing a forum for the democratic representation of local communities, in exercising and performing at local level powers and functions conferred by law and in promoting by its initiatives the interests of such communities."

Specifically, we are most concerned about the failure of local government to promote "by its initiatives the interests of such communities."

Our key areas of concern are:

  • Regeneration
  • Garda Presence
  • Local Amenities
  • Council Liaison Officer
  • Estate Management
  • Landlords
  • Regeneration

    To begin with, it is important that we make the following points absolutely clear:
    • We welcome the opportunity that the various regeneration initiatives present for the improvement of our most neglected estates.

    • We fully support the Open Letter proposal from the various Community and Voluntary organisations for the regeneration of St. Mary's Park.

    • We applaud the recommendations of the Fitzgerald Report for the regeneration of Moyross, Southill and Ballinacurra Weston and support its undiluted implementation.

In relation to the Fitzgerald Report it is regrettable to note that thus far, the role of our local authorities has been counter-productive to its successful implementation and to the interests of the Communities concerned.

The first recommendation of the Fitzgerald Report is to "Put in place intensive policing arrangements…there needs to be a highly visible Garda presence at all times in these estates in order to restore confidence and stability in the communities." This is not being done.

The daily reality of living with criminal and anti-social behaviour makes law-abiding people desperate to get away from it and live normal lives. Our local authorities are currently taking advantage of this situation and 'buying' their homes for as little as €20,000, boarding them up as they vacate and turning homeowners back into tenants.

Such degeneration makes no sense at all, as the very people that are supposed to benefit from regeneration are being scattered to the four corners of the city and placed into Communities that are suspicious of them; forfeiting the right to a new home in the newly regenerated area.

Furthermore, this exploitative policy of displacement is undermining the confidence and stability of other Communities and is counterproductive to the aims and objectives of the Fitzgerald Report. The policy of purchasing houses in private estates to re-house people is having a negative affect.

While we accept that most of those who are re-located are law-abiding, some families that might be described as 'marginal' or 'at risk' are causing problems and disrupting once peaceful estates. Displacing the problem has devalued property.

Community interests have been abandoned. It would seem that the present priority of both the local authorities and the newly established regeneration agencies is to pave the way for developers by clearing the land of people.

  • Garda Presence.
  • While we accept that you have no direct power to implement Garda policy or provide the necessary resources and manpower, you can demand them.

    As manger, as a member of the Joint Committee on Policing and as a member of the Limerick Regeneration Board, you are in a position of influence that cannot be ignored.

    We believe that better Community Policing can be achieved through decentralisation of existing Garda structures with the establishment of local bases that employ civilian staff for general office needs. Due to the significant population increase of recent years and despite the recent assignment of additional Gardaí to the Limerick Division, current levels of cover are by no means satisfactory.

  • Local Amenities.
    There is an urgent need to address the lack of public amenities and Community centres in many of our estates. This issue is of particular concern with regard to existing tenants from areas targeted for regeneration. We fear that marginal or at risk families would not have access to the community services that they are accustomed to because they are not available in other parts of the city and county.
  • Council Liaison Officer.
    We presume that the role of the liaison officer is meant to be one of consultation and communication. However, we feel that they have simply become an effective barrier that prohibits the free flow of information.
  • Estate Management.
    There needs to be more co-operation between Residents Associations and Local Authorities so that services may be tailored to suit the needs of individual areas.
  • Landlords.
    There is an ongoing problem with Landlords renting to tenants that engage in anti-social behaviour. The remit of the Tenants Enforcement office should be extended to deal with problem and give legal support to local residents.

    The subletting of property by Limerick city and county councils through private landlords means that in effect these tenants are no longer under the remit of the Tenants Enforcements office.

    We would argue that these people are still in effect council tenants and should be subject to the same rules as those renting directly from the council. Defining these tenants as anything other than council tenants is merely abdicating responsibility on the grounds of a technicality and effectively undermining confidence of the wider community in the council's commitment to the area.

In conclusion we see the Regeneration as an excellent opportunity to remedy existing problems and make Limerick a positive example to the rest of the country rather than a cautionary tale. We would hope that what is put in place is not a stop-gap measure but a permanent solution to the ills of the city.

We would like to meet with you and discuss these issues with a view to finding a resolution.

A reply within 7 working days would be appreciated.

Yours Faithfully,
The Committee Of The Concerned Residents' Alliance

Eugene Younger
Eddie Nolan
John Reddington
Maurice Moynihan
Karen O'Flynn
Maria Bowen
Mike Cussen
Vice Secretary
Chris Purtell
Denis Ryan
Brendan Doyle
Bernadette O'Brien
Cathal McCarthy