Council Affairs: Limerick Council and the Curse of St Munchin

Limerick County Council Offices in Dooradoyle.

BENJAMIN Franklin once said that “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. A wise man indeed. You’d know he wasn’t from around these parts.

I often wondered though, is that level of ineptitude a job requirement down in City Hall?

Organisation doesn’t always really seem to be their strongest suit. No better men for hopes and promises, but when delivering on plans, they often appear to be more based on pie in the sky notions than any sort of realism.

Maybe that’s just what’s so damn frustrating about bureaucracy — nothing happens quickly.

Kids have grown up and left school in the years the Opera Centre has been in the pipeline. But now, after first buying the city centre site back in 2011, they are on track in 2023. Touch wood it won’t be another good old-fashioned Limerick sh*t show.

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Let’s not even mention the Horizon Mall.

At present, at least, it does look like it is going to happen. The Opera site will be built, and hopefully a lot faster than the works on O’Connell Street.

As much as I like to poke the bear down in Merchant’s Quay, a lot of the hold up with the Opera site was out of their hands in fairness.

Between bats in the belfry, an economic crash from hell, and the dreaded Covid plague, we can’t really blame the suits in Limerick City and County Council for everything, the poor craturs.

I don’t know whether its the Curse of St Munchin that has well and truly bedevilled the people of the Treaty City, but something seems to have a right hex on us.

It could be we’re unlucky. Maybe we couldn’t organise a bouncy castle at a children’s party. Or are we really just like the characters in Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, thriving on the misery of it all?

Raised on pigs trotters and misery, we were!

The 3.7 acre “mixed use” Opera development, fully funded with loans from the European Investment Bank and the Council of European Development Bank, is set to be delivered over a six-year period. If some act of God, or total act of stupidity from the local authority, doesn’t see it go arse over elbow first.

The long-awaited €200 million development is heralded to kick-start the city’s economic recovery, which has certainly been needed for a very long time indeed.

The city is crippled, businesses are on their knees, and much of it, I reckon, is as much down to poor planning and governance as it is our noxious economy.

Personally, I’m not convinced the likes of the Opera Centre and the rugby museum are going to give Limerick the Lazarus-like wake up call it so badly needs. But if the right planning is actually in place for all these ambitious plans, I really hope to be proved wrong.

I do love Limerick. When you consider the thriving city it was in previous decades, it’s heartbreaking now to see it in such a shabby state. It’s hard to believe that cycle lanes and more office space are the solution our problems, but who knows?

Maybe if the people of Limerick helped our strange patron saint build his parish church back in the day, we wouldn’t be in this pickle?

Or maybe it’s just years of grand plans and even grander talk that has seen our beloved city fall into such a shambles. Rather than just dreaming of this bright and wondrous future for our city centre, perhaps better planning would have bequeathed more fruitful results?

When you look at those clunky statues of Dickie Harris and Terry Wogan in the city centre, it’s enough to put the fear of God in you.

I just wish the powers that be would realise that Limerick isn’t Barcelona and all the street furniture in the world isn’t going to change that fact.

Even the lads working on O’Connell Street at present — the greatest horror show this city has seen since Gerry Hannan’s mustard suit cropped up on The Late Late Show – appear to have lost the will to live. And who could blame them?

You get the sense that the O’Connell Street works have been made up as they’ve been going along.

Whoever is to blame for the never-ending fiasco on our city’s main thoroughfare, it certainly isn’t the men in the hard hats. I’ve no doubt the real story behind this ginormous farce will eventually come out and someone is going to be left with a lot of egg on their face.

Over the years, I have heard numerous councillors comment about how more focus should be placed on the River Shannon. And they’re right.

The route along the Quays and Three Bridges riverwalk are livelier and more vibrant than our main street on any given day. It is the jewel in our city’s crown at present, and more focus on this part of the city might be the way forward.

So forget about Barcelona. Ye’re feckin’ obsessed with the place. Nice junket if you can get it, of course, but take a good look around and maybe focus on what’s in front of ye instead of what they’re at in sunny Spain.

Must we always follow the herd rather than forging our own path? That’s not the Limerick I know and love.

Maybe for once we should instead say, everyone else is doing it, why can’t we try something different?