Irish Times - Wednesday, 29 October 2008
regeneration master plans
THIS year, President McAleese visited Limerick to launch a major
community development and physical refurbishment programme for
the most deprived areas of the city. It was identified, correctly,
as the most ambitious social project undertaken by the State.
And it promised to transform the prospects of thousands of families
whose lives have been blighted by high levels of unemployment,
poor quality education and health services and depredation caused
by drug-dealing gangs.
behaviour and internecine warfare were all part of the toxic
mix. Now, it appears the Government may delay necessary expenditure.
This must not happen. People in these estates simply cannot
wait until Government finances improve.
It is not just about
building new houses, although in the current economic climate
that would make good sense. It is about the level and quality
of services available and the provision of community-based facilities.
Most importantly, it is about ensuring that law and order prevails
within these communities. Family-based gangs that have made
the districts virtual "no-go" areas for years should
receive no quarter from the authorities. Funding for a continuing
high level of Garda activity and for extra personnel must be
provided in order to reassure and support law-abiding citizens
and to draw a line under the legacy of the "bad old days".
A masterplan for
regeneration of the designated areas was presented to Limerick
City Council yesterday by the chief executive of the project,
Brendan Kenny. He made the point that while funding was not
immediately required for the demolition and reconstruction of
an estimated 3,000 homes and the provision of new town centres,
it was essential that other aspects of the plan be implemented
in order to tackle an unacceptable level of lawlessness. Major
capital funding will not be needed until next year. In the meantime,
however, official commitment and support for the 10-year project
Here is an opportunity
for the Government to show its commitment to community values,
social progress and basic fairness. Ever since the Budget, it
has been castigated for favouring the rich over the poor and
for concentrating cutbacks on the least well off. It can show
now not just that it cares, but that it is flexible and focused
enough to provide funding for the necessary educational, psychological,
special needs and health services that can give the young people
in these communities a positive start in life. Above all, families
should be entitled to feel safe and secure in their homes.