The Irish Independent - Saturday, March 31, 2007

Report due soon to tackle city's crime wave

By Kathryn Hayes

A MINIMUM OF 100 extra gardai and the demolition of 1,000 houses are among recommendations made to try and tackle crime in some of Limerick's troubled housing estates.
The report was compiled by former Dublin City Manager John Fitzgerald, who was appointed last year to head up a new government taskforce aimed at tackling problems of crime, disorder and social exclusion in certain parts of Limerick.

Mr Fitzgerald delivered his report to a cabinet sub-committee earlier this week and it is not due to be discussed publicly until it goes before a full cabinet meeting next Tuesday.

However, details of the radical report have been leaked, including a full transcript of the nine key recommendations.

A native of Galbally in Co Limerick, Mr Fitzgerald proposes several major changes, the most radical of which involves demolishing some 1,000 houses in council estates. "There are approximately 1,100 houses in Moyross, of which more than a third are not suitable for remediation work.

"There are also approximately 1,000 houses in Southill over half of which are in a similar state. Over all, then, excluding St Mary's Park, there are approximately 1,000 houses that need serious attention," he writes. "Remedial work on social housing costs almost as much as a complete rebuild," he notes.

According to Mr Fitzgerald, considerable demolition works will be required as part of any regeneration programme, particularly in the Southill area.

"Regeneration of the O'Malley Park area will almost certainly involve intensive demolition, including some of the purchased houses." Other key recommendations include the appointment of a garda superintendent and a minimum of 100 extra gardai to specific housing estates on both the north and south sides of Limerick city.

He also suggests the establishment of a local CAB operation to target local criminals as well as the immediate extension of the city boundary on the northside of the city to incorporate Moyross - currently administered by Limerick Co Council.

When contacted last night, both Defence Minister Willie O'Dea and Minister of State Tim O'Malley said they would not comment on Mr Fitzgerald's report until after it was presented to the cabinet.

However, Limerick independent councillor John Gilligan welcomed the report.

Mr Gilligan does not believe the expected bill of between €200m and €300m is too much to implement the recommendations.

"The alternative is that we let the place go to hell and I'm not prepared to do that," he said. "We have to give people in these estates back confidence. They have to know that a small number of people attached to drug gangs don't run the place anymore. It's time we took it back."