AMID a wave of optimism, a large cross-section of Irish life gathered yesterday to learn of an ambitious redevelopment of two of the country's most deprived suburbs.
The Limerick neighbourhoods of Moyross and Southill have known some dark days in recent years but President Mary McAleese yesterday spoke with members of both communities and her hopes for a "truly better future".
Mrs McAleese viewed at first hand the proposed changes that the Government hopes to make in four areas in Limerick as recommended in the regeneration vision documents.
The documents propose a radical improvement amid ambitious plans to make the communities of Moyross, Southill, Ballinacurra-Weston and St Mary's Park, the most vibrant and sustainable areas in the country.
It is proposed that over 2,000 homes be demolished and new town centres along with associated services and facilities, including two major sports campuses, be created for the estates.
It is hoped the far-reaching plans will successfully tackle criminal activity and anti-social behaviour in the areas.
The president complimented those who had worked on the vision documents and brought the overall project to such an advances stage.
"In a very short time, Moyross is going to be a national example of what that spirit of courtesy, generosity and community can achieve when it focuses on breaking with an unhappy and unpleasant past and takes a firm step towards the radical change needed to create the best future possible for the children, the women and the men of Moyross," she said.
Ms McAleese told the Southill community: "We should be under no illusions about the challenges that lie ahead -- for the State, for the agencies, but primarily for the community. They will be about keeping faith with the process of radical change that this report authorises.
"The process of consultation to which you have already given so much and so generously does not end today but now, instead of producing words and plans, it will produce action and visible change."
At a specially erected marquee alongside Moyross Community Centre, local politicians, property developers, FAI president John Delaney, his counterpart from the GAA, Nickey Brennan and IRFU President Der Healy all mingled freely with locals from both sides of the city.
Chairman of Limerick's Regeneration Agencies, John Fitzgerald, said the overhaul of the city's estates could transform the way the city and region was viewed and marketed on the international scene.
Last year, Mr Fitzgerald presented to the Government his proposals to tackle the socially deprived estates.
"These are national solutions. By Limerick standards, it is a lot of houses and a lot of people, but by national standards it is not enormous," Mr Fitzgerald said.
"I have been dealing with social deprivation for a long, long time in places like west Tallaght and Clondalkin. What I have seen here and the issues here are the worst that I have encountered.
"It is not unique, but it is more concentrated and is more severe and it will require more drastic solutions.
"The potential of Limerick as a region is huge, but it is undermined all the time by the activities of a small number of people. However, you can't sweep this under the carpet. You have to face up to it and confront it.
"Once you accept there are problems and you confront them then I think the problem of selling Limerick to the international community will be a hell of a lot easier after this," Mr Fitzgerald said.
The cost of the entire project is not yet known, but it is hoped that the majority of the expense will originate from private investment.
Regeneration Agencies Chief Executive Brendan Kenny said, "The vision plan sets out clearly the physical infrastructure required but as we have always said it is the social regeneration aspect which represents the biggest challenge therefore it gets most attention in the plan."
The agencies will contract planning consultants in February.
Construction on the new homes will start early next year.