THE beleaguered Government is facing a fresh financial challenge.
The state will have to come up with €1.6 billion in order to back the massive €3bn government-commissioned plan to transform rundown, crime-ridden, housing estates in Limerick.
As the plan was backed by Limerick City Council yesterday, Southill parish priest Fr Pat Hogan said: “An opportunity is being given to build a new city and a new citizenry.”
The council was told that the plan marks an epoch in government strategy to bring new hope to the lives of thousands whose neighbourhoods are gripped by poverty and crime.
Although it carries a price tag of over €3bn, backers warned that failure would be even more costly.
More than €1.6bn will be needed from Government funds and a further €1.4bn from the private sector.
The plan to demolish and rebuild Moyross, Southill, Ballinacurra Weston and St Mary’s Park has been widely welcomed in the city.
Brendan Kenny, head of the two regeneration boards, said what is envisaged should be viewed as an investment as much as a cost. “We have a mandate from Government to do this.”
Mr Kenny said it will be 2010 before they start the new housing and at that stage they will seek “a small amount of capital investment” to start the project.
“The overall funding is not required now, it won’t be required in 2009, it will be required over a period of 10 years. The money will have to come ultimately.
“We are not naive and understand the situation we are in at the moment and there are likely to be some delays, but we are talking abut a plan for implementation over 10 years and a plan for Limerick city for the next 50 to 100 years.”
There is all-round acceptance that Limerick’s most rundown estates could not go looking for public funding at a worse possible time. But its backers warn that the cost of doing nothing would even be more catastrophic.
Central to the plan is the demolition of 2,500 houses which will be replaced by 4,800 dwellings in mixed public/private estates.
Former Dublin city manager, John Fitzgerald who was asked by the Government to put a regeneration programme in place said: “There is no easy solution to problems that have already spanned many generations — particularly to change behaviour and attitudes that exist both inside and outside these communities that are deep rooted and create barriers to progress.
“However, once implementation begins there is a lot that can be done relatively quickly during the earlier years of delivery. The potential benefits of implementing this plan far outweigh the costs.”
Mayor John Gilligan said: “We now have a clear strategy to bring us into the implementation phase of regeneration. We must seize this opportunity and use it to advance Limerick as one of the most vibrant and progressive cities in western Europe.