Monday, 30 April 2007

Council plan to bulldoze gangs out of city estate

Radical move to make way for urban centre

AN estate of almost 500 houses which is home to the country's most dangerous criminal gangs could soon be completely levelled to make way for an ultra-modern development.

St Mary's Park in the heart of Limerick city, known locally as the Island Field, is the heartland of the Keane and Collopy gangs who are central to the drugs trade and criminality in the city.

Limerick City Council plans to put radical proposals for the demolition and regeneration of the area before the local authority members by the end of the year. If agreed, all 480 homes in the area could soon be demolished to make way for a new urban centre in Limerick, including around 30 owned by members of the gangs. The demolition proposal follows a recent report into social problems in Limerick by former Dublin city manager John Fitzgerald, which proposed the demolition of another 1,000 houses in Southill and Moyross.

Representatives from the Department of the Environment and the city council have already met on several occasions to discuss regeneration of the St Mary's Park area and the plans are at an advanced stage.

Limerick City Council owns the vast majority of the houses in the area, but residents who have bought their own homes will be forced to sell up under a compulsory purchase order.

Senior council official Paul Foley said: "We have engaged the services of Ennis-based Tom McNamara & Partners as consultants to work with Limerick City Council and the department to draft a strategy for the regeneration of St Mary's Park.


"It is expected the strategy will be put before the council at the beginning of the autumn and it is envisaged it will be the first of the regeneration schemes to be rolled out in the city," said Mr Foley.

St Mary's Park was built in the 1930s and is surrounded on three sides by water. In recent years, the area has suffered from anti-social behavior, criminal elements and a lack of government funding and state initiatives.

It is understood the consultants will meet with the four local councillors early next month, to gauge their views and to share ideas. Also next month there will be a walkabout with city officials and local residents.

Reports advocating the demolition of the estate and arguing for renovation have in the past been knocked by the Government. However, finance is now available for a massive regeneration of the area.

Barry Duggan
Sunday Independent

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