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Open Letter to Limerick City Manager Tom Mackey
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Dear Manager

We are a united group of Community and Voluntary organizations working in King's Island, and are representative of the Community of St. Mary's Park and the wider King's Island / St. Mary's Parish. We wish to express to you our collective view on the Regeneration Project currently under way in relation to St. Mary's Park, and for which Limerick City Council are responsible under your management.

At the outset, we wish to make the following points entirely clear:

  • We welcome and applaud the Regeneration Project initiative.
  • Regeneration should not be construed as other than a positive and refreshing approach to the persistent social and environmental problems which beset our Community here in King's Island and in the wider community of Limerick City as a consequence.
  • We do not wish to place any unreasonable obstacles in the way of the Project's ultimate success.

Having said this, the Community now both wants and needs a clear expression of POLICY from Limerick City Council which sets down the following basis for achieving our mutual goal of a safe, pleasant, and stimulating environment for working and living on King's Island and in St. Mary's Park in particular.

  • Recognition by Limerick City Council of the strong and rooted sense of COMMUNITY existing in this place, and all of the formal and informal networks and organizations which that entails.
  • A clear, transparent, and accepted process for Consultation with the Community must form the primary CONSENT with which the Council can proceed with the Project.
  • A clear statement from the Council that the existing residents have RIGHTS which must be respected from the outset.

It is our considered view that the conduct and management of the Project to date has been seriously deficient in the following areas:

  • The Consultation process has bypassed Community representatives and has been minimal and selective in its scope.
  • The Consultation process has not given sufficient ongoing feedback to Residents and Community Groups.
  • The marketing and media reporting of the Project has not been managed well leading to alarming and ill-informed speculation as to the eventual outcome.

As a consequence of the above there is a deep unease within the Community which has created ill-informed rumours and the suspicion that there is a secret other agenda at play, which seeks to displace the existing residents and condemn them to an uncertain future in another location. We call on you to give a clear and unambiguous message to us and to the wider Community that such an agenda does not exist, and such rumours have absolutely no foundation in fact.

That said, and to counter any perception of negativity on our part, we wish to outline now what we have gleaned from our contacts within the Community as its principal wants and needs in relation to the project and call on you to adopt these as the primary generators of change within the context of the Regeneration Project:

  • Housing - A Key for a Key: It has been established by us that a substantial majority of the existing residents are fearful of losing their homes and their place in this Community and, to ease their fears in this regard, they must be given the following options in any scheme agreed:
    • If they are Limerick City Council tenants:
      • They must be offered a home in St. Mary's Park or a home in another location acceptable to them, under the same terms of tenancy.
      • If this involves temporary displacement, you must conclude a legal agreement with them assuring them of a home in St. Mary's Park, within an acceptable and reasonable time, if this is their wish.
    • If they are home owners:
      • They must be offered a home in St. Mary's Park in exchange for their existing house, without penalty. OR
      • They may choose to relocate, and if so, they must be given the means to secure such a home by the Council (or other parties) purchasing their home at a market value which reflects the value of a new house within the redeveloped St. Mary's Park.
      • It is recognized that any such scheme must not allow compensation to house owners for more than one house, that is, their principal residence.

  • An Integrated Community: The Community recognizes that for its long term social health there is a need for new people to come to the area. The Regeneration plans must envisage a cohesive social mix by integrating private and public housing within the context of the overall development of King's Island as a whole. It further recognizes that the Regeneration Project should facilitate this expansion of population in the King's Island area and welcomes all and any new arrivals.

  • A Safe Community: The Community requires that any proposals for Regeneration must address the issue of crime to rid the area of those criminal elements which have wrought such devastation upon the Community through violence, drug abuse, and intimidation. The Community calls upon Limerick City Council to ensure a comprehensive Garda plan for addressing the crime issue to be integrated to and become an ongoing part of the Regeneration Project plans, and that this should include the provision of a CCTV system within the whole area of King's Island

  • Improved Infrastructure: The provision of a "Village Centre" to serve the expanded population with
    • Shopping and other retail services
    • Health Centre
    • Community Centre
    • Crèche and other family oriented facilities for children and young people
    • Education - improve existing primary school and Adult Education facilities
    • Sport and Leisure facilities - the Community recognizes particularly the role of sporting facilities and the support of sporting clubs in addressing the alienation of young people in our society.

  • Enterprise and Employment: The Community recognizes that the stimulation of enterprise and resultant local employment will serve to stabilize and develop confidence within the Community and calls on the Regeneration Project to consult with local and national business and enterprise development agencies to facilitate such development.

  • Tourism: The Community recognizes, and is intensely proud of, its physical heritage and its associated historical resonance. As the original location of one of Ireland's oldest urban communities dating back to Viking times, the physical heritage of King's Island is unsurpassed in Irish terms. However the Community also recognizes that it has not realized its considerable tourism potential due in part to the social and economic condition of its host community. Any improvement in the environmental and social infrastructure of King's Island is bound to lead to tourism development and associated employment and business opportunity. This potential must be recognized in the development of the Regeneration Project.

  • Waterfront and Water Based Amenity: The beautiful physical setting of King's Island and St. Mary's Park has potential for the development of a strong waterfront based amenity. The Community wishes that this potential be developed for the benefit of all residents and to attract visitors. Any such development should also respect the environmental integrity of the Abbey and Shannon rivers and their associated flora and fauna.

  • Links: The Community recognizes that one of the ongoing difficulties with St. Mary's Park is one of physical isolation from other communities in the City.The establishment of physical links to Moyross/Thomondgate and to Corbally (and its railway line) are seen as vital to future integration of St. Mary's Park to the wider City community. Other less tangible links, such as that to UL and LIT through educational and sporting links, are possibilities which should be explored in the context of Regeneration.

  • Management: The Community considers that the adequacy of proposals for the ongoing management of the area -community liaison, waste disposal, estate management, environmental protection, Garda presence, etc, -are the cornerstone of any successful implementation of Regeneration. Consultation and agreement on these issues must form part of any final plan for the area.
    Community Development: Lastly, the Community calls on Limerick City Council to ensure that existing Community structures and organizations are respected and developed in any proposals so that the historic integrity of "The Parish" community is reinforced and built upon for the benefit of both our Community and that of the wider City.

We trust that this will be taken in the same spirit in which it is given, one of positive and proactive challenge to you to respond to the Community's expressed and united wish for an agreed vision for our area and the Community looks forward to your early and equally positive response.