Individuals will have to obtain Garda clearance before they are allocated local authority housing in deprived areas of Limerick city if a major Government regeneration plan is adopted. Carl O'Brien , Social Affairs Correspondent, reports
This is one of a series of radical proposals contained in plans for the demolition and rebuilding of the Moyross and Southill areas. The plan is due to be launched by President Mary McAleese later this month.
The Irish Times has learned that the report will propose demolishing almost 2,500 houses and creating two new town centres with shops, hotels and Garda stations.
The report will also raise a number of controversial social policy questions, such as whether parents who neglect their children or who are involved in criminal activity should be allowed retain their welfare benefits.
The plans were signed off in recent days by the board of the Government's regeneration agencies for Limerick's northside and southside, which are chaired by former assistant Dublin city manager Brendan Kenny.
The board includes senior officials in government departments and agencies such as the Health Service Executive (HSE), the Garda and the local authorities of Limerick city and county and Co Clare.
The "Vision" plan, which follows a lengthy consultation process with local communities, is deliberately radical and seeks not to repeat the mistakes of urban renewal projects in other parts of the State.
The plan states that life in parts of Limerick city has been made difficult for the majority of responsible citizens living on the estates, many of whom feel marginalised, frustrated and demoralised.
The proposal that applicants for housing should obtain a "certificate of eligibility" and Garda clearance is likely to spark a public debate over whether the plans go too far in addressing the issue of criminality in the area.
It follows evidence that some criminals have been buying up homes in parts of Moyross and Southill, spreading anti-social behaviour and criminality.
Those involved in drafting the plans say the recommendations have the full support of the community, whose members suggested many of the ideas contained in the final document.
One of these recommendations is that a new tenant-purchase scheme should be introduced which is more affordable than the existing shared ownership scheme.
This would allow local authority tenants to incrementally buy their homes from the State.
The report accepts that deprived areas of Limerick's northside and southside have been "failed" in the past by public services, despite the efforts of officials on the ground.
It recommends a new co-ordinated response to social and education problems to break the cycle of disadvantage.
Part of this involves one-to-one support for vulnerable groups, such as lone parents or ex-prisoners.
The report also states that private investment should be attracted into the areas, especially on State-owned lands.
It estimates that as many as 4,500 new private homes could be built in the area, with the help of private investment.
The document, due to be published on January 21st, will be circulated to Government departments and other agencies who will be involved in the regeneration of the area.
It follows on from a report by former Dublin city manager John Fitzgerald, who wrote an initial study into the regeneration needs of the city which was accepted by the Cabinet. Moyross and Southill have experienced acute social problems and high-profile criminality over many years.
The injuries suffered by two children when the car they were sitting in was petrol-bombed led to a national outcry and prompted the Government's response.
The Irish Times