Traders vent anger at city’s decline


AMID threats to withdraw payment of rates and make city council bankrupt, traders did not mince their words of condemnation when they demanded immediate action from City Hall in order to save what remains of Limerick’s city centre’s retail business.

They pointed to, and requested:

* Poor garda presence on the streets

* expensive parking

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* dirty streets

* magnificent wide paths but no footfall

* beggars and heroin addicts causing intimidation

* incentive for shoppers to “come into town”

* first hour of on-street parking free

* paint the frontages of the premises in the Opera Centre or demolish it entirely

* more ground floor parking

Speaking at a meeting with Mayor Kevin Kiely and Fine Gael councillors, they said that compared to Dublin, Cork and Galway, Limerick city is not on the map.

Chief executive of Limerick Chamber, Maria Kelly, was acutely critical of the lack of co-operation and goodwill between the Limerick City and County Councils.

“There is no messing in Cork’s city centre because there are gardai all over, and in terms of image, Limerick’s is the worst in the country. We have no visitors at the weekends unless there’s a big match – we need to make this a destination city. In Cork, everyone is involved – we need to do the same as what we have now is a crisis situation – people held at knifepoint in their premises is terrible”.

 Over 100 traders told the FG councillors that they are now literally on their knees. The mayor, on behalf of the nine FG councillors had invited them to voice their concerns which they, as the “pro business party” on the council, would take to the city manager.

“We are pro-business and have to decide how best to promote you the traders and stabilise jobs,” Cllr Ger Fahy told one trader, who wanted to know what City Hall is going to do to maintain business in Cruises Street, William Street and throughout the city.

Calls were made for free parking days from 11am. It was said that landlords need to be penalised for leaving their premises to run down, “when as it is, we are being served fines for €300 for putting out signage to promote our businesses”.

Ger Clancy of Clancy Electrical, said his family had been trading on O’Connell since 1936. They moved to the Parkway Roundabout last autumn, asserting that they had no option as City Hall had ignored their calls for essential parking.

“I now have a pup’s chance of letting this main street premises in this ghost town. We must bring in a cardboard clock system of parking which would give people a chance to set the clock for one hour free parking – this would bring people in to do three or four messages at a time”.

There was enthusiastic support for another trader’s call to demolish the empty premises in the Opera Centre area.

“The few businesses that are still there are isolated and vulnerable, it’s not safe to walk there and in the summer months there is a revolting smell coming from some of these buildings”,

The general manager of Brown Thomas said it is essential that a major anchor sets up in the city. The meeting heard from a female retailer how she has been held at knifepoint in her shop on three occasions.