Saturday, 15 February 2014


Members of the Ballinacurra Weston Residents’ Alliance (BWRA) and affiliate organisations in Limerick Regeneration Watch were delighted with the news that their proposals for community participation has received the full backing of Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona , the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.

Letter of Support

Matt Collins, Chairperson of the BWRA explained the background to the UN Special Rapporteur’s involvement:

“Last December we made a joint submission with the Weston Gardens Residents Association for the Limerick Regeneration Framework Implementation plan. Part of our submission was a proposal that the Office of Regeneration should adopt a human rights based approach to community participation in the regeneration process and local Estate Management. We had used Magdalena’s reports to the Human Rights Council to make our case, so we contacted her early in January to thank her for the great work she does and we sent her a copy of our submission. We could hardly believe it when she replied to us with the offer of assistance.” said Matt

“At the end of the day we are a mandated group that is representative of the majority of residents, but we continue to be excluded from the decision making process, as residents we have no say on what happens. We are calling for community elections to be held in all regeneration areas to elect representatives on to localised power-sharing regeneration boards, similar to the one in Fatima Mansions, Dublin.” said Matt.

Martin Woodland, BWRA Secretary, said he was delighted with the news.

“I am delighted that we are been acknowledged for the work that we do, it is almost unbelievable that such a high profile figure as the UN’s Special Rapporteur has taken up our cause, especially when you consider the fact that our submission was ignored by local officials after we sent them hard copies for their convenience; they’d want to start paying attention now.” said Martin.

Chairperson of the Weston Gardens Residents’ Association (WGRA) and Limerick Regeneration Watch, Cathal McCarthy, said that their submission was part of a city-wide Human Rights Action Postcard Campaign by groups affiliated to Limerick Regeneration Watch that empowered residents to make individual submissions on the issue of community participation and reform of local Estate Management.

“Residents were only given 11 days’ notice from the Office of Regeneration to make submissions. We went door to door with the postcards, asking people if they would like to make a submission. Our campaign received the unanimous support from the residents we visited with; we didn't have time to get to every house as residents had a lot of questions and concerns. The Office of Regeneration hadn't even bothered to contact residents whose homes are being targeted for demolition in their new plan”, said Cathal.

Submission Postcard Front & Back

On 5th December 2013, representatives of the BWRA and WGRA together with representatives of the Kincora & Carew Parks Concerned Residents Action Group (KCPCRAG) handed in over 250 signed postcards from residents living in the Southside Regeneration Area to the Office of Regeneration. The postcards, each one counted as an individual submission, called for the immediate reform of the failed structures for community participation in the regeneration process and local estate management stating that, "Residents have a fundamental right to participate in the decisions that affect our lives."

Pat Begley, Chairperson of the KCPCRAG, said that local Estate Management was not working in the best interest of residents.

“This situation where paid local Estate Management workers are appointed as resident’s representatives cannot be allowed to continue. They have no mandate, they were not elected by residents and they do not represent our best interests. They operate as a closed shop; membership of their committee, like the other areas, is by invitation-only and here in Carew Park their office is never open. ”

ABOVE: Kenneth Robinson and Pat Begley (KCPCRAG) with
Matt Collins (BWRA) handing the postcards at the LEDP

Tommy Daly, Chairperson of the Moyross Residents’ Alliance had also handed in postcards to the Office of Regeneration in Watch House Cross last December, welcomed the comments of the Special Rapporteur.

“It’s great to have such international support. It’s about time that they [Office of Regeneration] got up of their arses, start listening to people and treat residents with a bit of dignity. They should be upholding our human and constitutional rights. They need to stop talking down to us and start working with us as equals.” said Tommy.

The BWRA and their affiliates in Limerick Regeneration Watch are calling on all public representatives to join with the UN’s Special Rapporteur and lend their public support for their position on community participation.

“We have a human right to participate meaningfully in the decisions that affect our lives; as Magdalena has said’ ‘this is a matter of fundamental justice from a human rights perspective’. I hope the powers that be have the good sense to heed her words because this is not just a local issue, it is one of national importance as Magdalena has previously called on the Irish State to introduce legislation that would ensure real community participation in the regeneration process for communities throughout the country ” said Cathal

Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona

The text of the letter of support reads as follows:




Geneva 13 February, 2014


Participation is a human right in itself and a key means of realizing all other human rights. As United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, a core part of my mandate has been examining to what extent people living in poverty are able to enjoy their right to equal participation in public life. During my mission to Ireland in 20 11, I visited the Fatima Mansions regeneration project in Dublin. I praised this in my subsequent report to the Human Rights Council as a "good example of community participation in the decision making process that should be ensured in other projects".

I applaud the great work of the Ballinacurra Weston Residents' Alliance (BWRA) in working with disadvantaged communities to promote their agency, rights and voice, and I support their approach to community participation. I believe they have legitimate concerns about the limited extent to which residents have been able to participate in decision-making around regeneration and I therefore urge the relevant authorities in the Limerick regeneration areas to take their recommendations, based on human rights, into consideration. Tokenistic or formulaic participation is not empowering or rights-compliant. In order for people living in poverty to have their dignity upheld, they must be able to have a real say in decisions that affect their lives. As the BWRA has said, "Safe and sustainable communities can only be delivered through real and meaningful community participation and partnership", and moreover, I would add that this is a matter of fundamental justice from the human rights perspective.

Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona
United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights

For more information
Report Mission to Ireland is available here:
Report on participation of people living in poverty in decisions that affect their lives is available here:
http://www AnnualReports.aspx



Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights (formerly Independent Expert).

Ms. Sepulveda is a Chilean lawyer who holds a Ph.D in International Human Rights Law from Utrecht University in the Netherlands; an LL.M in human rights law from the University of Essex in the United Kingdom and a post graduate diploma in comparative law from the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile.

Ms. Sepulveda has worked as a researcher at the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights, as a staff attorney at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and as the Co-Director of the Department of International Law and Human Rights of the United Nations-mandated University for Peace in San Jose, Costa Rica. She also served as a consultant to the Division of International Protection of UNHCR and to the Norwegian Refugee Council in Colombia. More recently she has been Research Director at the International Council on Human Rights Policy in Geneva and Associate Research Fellow at the Norwegian Center for Human Rights.

She was appointed Independent Expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty by the Human Rights Council in March 2008 and assumed her functions on 1 May of that year. In June 2011 the Human Rights Council extended the mandate on extreme poverty and human rights, and changed its title to Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights (HRC resolution 17/13).

Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona on Social Exclusion

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Christmas Newsletter 2013

Newsletter delivered to every home in the designated regeneration area on Tuesday 31st December 2013:

        Click on the image or link below for pdf.

           BWRA News - Christmas 2013

Monday, 14 October 2013

Human Rights - Regeneration Wrongs

The latest issue of BWRA News was delivered to every home in the legal remit of the Office of Regeneration on Friday, 11th of October:

It's 3-weeks now since the Launch of the Limerick Regeneration Implementation Plan in Thomond Park and residents' have yet to receive a leaflet about the plan, which was promised at the launch by the Office of Regeneration boss, Mr. Oliver O'Loughlin. At the very least, residents should be properly informed. It's a disgrace that homes are being targeted for demolition without prior agreement.

The Office of Regeneration have yet to make their plan available online. Thankfully, the plan has been made available by Limerick Regeneration Watch:

Saturday, 9 March 2013

"Consultations" & Proposals

Well, the 3-days of consultation are over. This long awaited and much anticipated event took place from March 5 - 8. It was advertised in the local media the week before and the BWRA promoted it on Facebook. 

Residents of the targeted "regeneration" area received their personal invitation the day before with a leaflet, the first one since the last Regeneration Newsletter in 2009. The leaflet had promised to dispel rumours and reveal all, so naturally there was a lot of interest from residents, with 70 attending during the opening night.

If the intention of the public consultations was to antagonise and demoralise residents, then Limerick City Council can be consider their efforts to be a resounding success. The proposed plans were more or less what the BWRA had informed residents of on page 15 of our Christmas Newsletter.

The proposals that were presented to residents were vague and unimpressive, consisting of an aerial photograph with proposed new roads, a new path, sites for medium-long term development and a site for short term new-build crudely indicated. Click on the image on the right to view the proposals (reorganised by the BWRA for online viewing - includes complete text), or on the link below to view a pdf of what residents were physically given: Proposals for Ballinacurra Weston March 2013 (pdf)

What we hadn't anticipated was that these proposals would be presented to residents without the inclusion of any recommendations from the National Crime Prevention Office (NCPO). From our discussions with the NCPO we have learned these are the same proposals that were received by the NCPO in October 2012. Requests for additional information by the NCPO in November 2012, such as site maps, went unanswered by Limerick City Council until the end of January 2013. The NCPO will present their report to the Office of Regeneration at City Hall on Thursday 28th March.

Some residents were informed during the consultation that their homes were targeted for demolition. Residents were also asked to give their feedback by filling out a form on the day and signing their name to it. There were no independent experts on hand to help residents interpret what they were being shown, only Office of Regeneration staff – none of whom have a background in planning. Indeed, it was reported to the BWRA that one Regeneration Official was unaware of the area under the remit of the Southside Regeneration Agency, which continues to define the target area.

A delegation of BWRA committee members (Matt Collins, Martin Woodland and Cathal McCarthy) attended the consultation on the last day during the last hour to seek clarification on the proposals. Sile O’Brien of the Office of Regeneration was on hand to answer our questions.

When asked why a CCTV camera that was already installed was part of the proposal. Ms. O'Brien told us that this was to ask residents if it is in the right location. It’s hardly likely that it would be removed if residents objected. Surely the best way to “ensure optimum location” for the camera would have been to consult with a security expert before it was installed. We highlighted the fact that the CCTV cameras on the Southside were not monitored and cited the Crime Prevention Office view that such unmonitored cameras "are not worth the money that was paid for them".

Ms. O'Brien was asked what was meant by “take houses out of dereliction” when pointing to the boarded-up houses in Weston Gardens. We were told that this could mean demolition or refurbishment. Ms. O'Brien was informed that residents there wanted the houses refurbished in line with the plans that were put on hold in 2007, that the expert view was that there should be no demolitions unless it involved an immediate re-build, this was the view of former City Engineer John Breen.

Ms. O’Brien was informed that residents in Beechgrove Ave were opposed to the proposed “new street from Beechgrove Ave to Crecora Ave” and that this was also the view of community Gardaí, who felt that it would create a “rat run” for joyriders. This also applies to the proposal to remove the wall at the side of the church to “allow both visual and physical access” and to the proposed “new streets” in the empty site where Clarina Park once stood. We asked why all these new roads were being built on an empty site. Ms. O’Brien said that it was to allow residents from Byrne Ave and Clarina Ave better access between the areas. We expressed the view that this was totally unnecessary and was not something that residents actually required.

We asked what was meant by the phrase “new build” in the “short term” and in the “medium-long term”. We were told that in the “short term” could mean 2-3 years and that it would involve the building of 4 houses for tenants to rent. In the “medium-long term” meant 8-10 years and that nothing had been decided regarding the type of “new build” on those sites.

We asked what was meant by “home for home in areas proposed for demolition” and expressed our concern for the family whose home was singled out on the proposal by a black dot. We were told that 40 boarded-up houses had been identified as suitable for refurbishment, the cost of which was capped at €30,000, and that home owners that were targeted for demolition would be offered one of these. Many residents have invested more than €30,000 in their homes over the years and Limerick City Council haven't exactly the best reputation when it comes to getting value for money (they paid €7,000 to have one bathroom refitted for an elderly tenant, who was left without a working shower for 4 weeks and numerous other problems after the job had been "finished").

We asked what conditions home owners could expect if they were offered a new house. We were told that “consent to sale” and “affordable housing” conditions would apply. We expressed the view that this was unconstitutional as it would change their status as home owners. We also expressed the view that many residents had been forced to leave and take what they were offered by the Council's policy of depopulation and boarding up houses one by one. This put pressure on residents living next to them to leave as the houses were left to be looted and eventually burnt out. We were told that that was our opinion. We informed Ms. O'Brien that the policy had been condemned in the Feeling Safe in Our Community Report (2011). Two more houses were boarded during the 3-day consultation period.

We expressed the view that the proposals were disappointing and informed Ms. O’Brien that many residents had contacted us and expressed their disgust and anger. Ms. O’Brien said that although it didn’t look like it, a lot of work had gone into producing the proposals in consultation with the “residents committee”. We informed Ms. O’Brien that the reps on the committee were hand-picked, did not consult with or keep residents informed, were not elected by residents and therefore did not represent us. Ms. O’Brien said that that was our opinion and that we were entitled to it. We informed Ms. O’Brien that it was not merely our opinion, but a matter of fact.

We asked if the Office would take on board the concerns of residents and amend their plans accordingly. We were told that “our input was welcomed”. We asked why residents were being ignored when reporting rubbish being dumped in council owned boarded-up houses. Ms. O’Brien said she was unaware of any such complaints. We informed Ms. O’Brien that we didn’t have any confidence in the consultation process as residents would have no say in the final decision and given the fact that Regeneration had commissioned numerous reports from experts over the years, none of which were ever implemented. If they won’t heed the expert opinions that they paid for what are the chances that they will heed resident’s views?

Finally, we asked why the proposals were presented to residents without including recommendations yet to be made by the National Crime Prevention Office. Ms. O’Brien said that she was unaware of it but that they “would welcome their input”. We said that we hoped the report would made available to the public and that the proposals would be revised to include recommendations to design out anti-social behaviour.

Ladder of Participation
Before leaving we presented Ms. O'Brien with a copy of the Nexus Report, another expert opinion paid for by the taxpayer, this one makes recommendations to reform the failed structures for community participation and local estate management. This report is so damning that the Council are not content to simply ignore it, they have refused to publish it. 

If anyone in the Office of Regeneration takes the time to read it they will learn that, “Consultation should not take place after the decision has been made: independent community consultation should take place from day one.” and that “There can be a high level of frustration from residents when there is ‘no response’, or when they see that the results of consultation is being ‘ignored’" Consultation is considered to be meaningless unless it is part of a progressive process that leads to real participation.

The whole consultation was little more that a Public Relations stunt.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Regeneration Seminar Series 2013

Following on last years success, UL's Department of Sociology Seminar Series, 'Critical Perspectives on Youth, Community and Urban Regeneration' returns this February with an impressive line-up of speakers. Advance booking is required, contact

Wednesday 20th February @ 1pm: Kicking the Seminar off is Dr. Cliona Barnes with 'Exploring Community Safety in Limerick Regeneration Communities'. This will be of particular interest to residents of Ballinacurra Weston and Southill as the talk will focus on the Feeling Safe in Our Community report, the research for which was conducted by Dr. Barnes and Dr. Martin Power. The report was commissioned by the Regeneration Agency in 2011 and the recommendations of the report were largely ignored.

Wednesday 27th February @ 1pm: Dr. Mimi Doran:  'Does News Matter? Media Literacy, News Making & Social Activism - Participatory Research with St Michael’s Estate Regeneration Team'.

Wednesday 6th March @ 1pm: Leslie Holmes: 'Salford Lads Club: Teenagers on Coronation Street, 1903 - 2013'.

Wednesday 20th March @ 1pm: Dr. Colm O’ Doherty: 'Regenerating Family Support and Community 
Development in Ireland: Opportunities and Strategies'.

Wednesday 27th March @ 1pm: Dr. Gary Graham & Dr. Anita Greenhill: 'University engagement with local communities'.

Wednesday 10th April @ 1pm: Rita Fagan: 'Family Resource centres: The impact of Austerity'. Residents from Limerick regeneration areas that attend the Community Action Network and Tenants First  will be  familiar with the good work of Rita Fagan.

Wednesday 1st May @ 1pm: Dr. Imogen Tyler: Revolting Subjects: Eviction and Occupation in Neoliberal Britain.