Residents’ representatives and community activists in Limerick’s regeneration areas have slammed a meeting of regeneration workers and board members as “exclusionary and elitist”.
The meeting, which was held in an undisclosed city-centre location last week, was organised by Southside Regeneration Board member, Fr. Pat Hogan.
“This meeting was not held in the interest of the people living in regeneration areas, if it was it would have been publicised” said Tommy Daly, Chairperson of the Moyross Residents’ Alliance.
“I have been reliably informed that the purpose of this meeting was to form a new Regeneration committee with a view to holding a meeting with the new Director of Regeneration, Oliver O’Loughlin. These are some of the same people who worked against our communities as they were destroyed over the past five years and now they think they can keep their gravy train going. Well it’s not on; we want real representation and inclusion in any new arrangements” said Mr. Daly.
Attending the meeting were Fr. Pat Hogan, Fr. Tony O’Riordan, Brian Thompson, Nuala Kernan , Liam McElligot, Chris Sheridan, Mary Higgins, Katherine Kirby, Chirs Quinn, Chris Dhuig, Con Corrigan, to name but a few.
“Apart from the two parish priests, most of these people are paid community workers living outside the regeneration areas” said Cathal McCarthy, chairperson of Limerick Regeneration Watch.
“They were amongst the few to have benefited from this so-called regeneration, through jobs and lucrative contracts. Nuala Kernan for example, is an architect from Caherdavin who works with St. Mary’s Park and sits on the Northside Regeneration Board. Katherine Kirby lives in Raheen and is an estate management worker in Ballinacurra Weston. Essentially, they are functionaries of the state and have failed represent our best interests over the past five years, this meeting was exclusionary and elitist”, said Mr. McCarthy, who is also the Community & Voluntary representative for Our Lady of Lourdes Parish.
“I contacted Fr. Hogan as I am concerned that once again residents’ voices will be ignored if this new committee is co-opted by Limerick City Council when the Regeneration Agencies close in June. He claimed that they were only meeting to offer each other support. Its residents that need to be supported and included in any new regeneration committee” said Mr. McCarthy
Mr. McCarthy said he was surprised by Fr. Hogan’s reaction to his phone call: “He told me it was 10 O’clock and hung up on me. I didn’t consider it too late and I had hoped to arrange a meeting with him, but he didn’t want to know” said Mr. McCarthy
Community participation is considered to be a vital component of any regeneration project and Matt Collins, chairperson of the Ballinacurra Weston Residents’ Alliance says that this is something that was absent from the Limerick model to date
“We had the toothless resident forums; I was a rep on one for 3-years, but it wasn’t real participation, it was just a way to keep us quiet and pretend we were involved. Most of us left and set up the BWRA to demand change and represent resident’s’ concerns and views” said Mr. Collins.
“We’re looking for community elections to be held that would elect representatives onto a local power-sharing regeneration board, like they had in Fatima Mansions and St. Michaels Estate in Dublin. People have been making decisions without even consulting or informing residents and that has to stop. I am aware that Fr. Hogan was advised by the St. Michaels Estate Regeneration Team to link in with our group when he visited that area last year, but he didn’t bother. Now he’s organising meetings and deliberately excluding residents who are active in their communities. It’s a disgrace” said Mr. Collins, who is also the RAPID rep for Our Lady of Lourdes Parish.
Pat Begley of the Southill based Carew/Kincora Concerned Residents said that the level community participation in the regeneration process has been non-existent, saying that “local estate management seems to have taken over the regeneration forum and are acting like they’re community reps, only their not representing the views of the community. We need to hold community elections in all four regeneration areas to give residents a real voice and a say in the decision making process.”
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