Limerick councillors in the dark over O’Connell Street delays

Work under way on an earlier section of the O'Connell Street redevelopment project.

QUESTIONS have been raised about the cost of regeneration works on O’Connell Street as a result of ongoing delays with the project.

At last Monday’s Economic Development meeting of Limerick City and County Council,Fine Gael councillor Stephen Keary said he had previously called for a special meeting to “thrash out” the issues regarding the delays and overrun of costings.

He was not impressed that no special meeting had been called despite his motion being seconded by fellow Adare-Rathkeale representative Cllr John O’Donoghue and passed by the meeting.

“This is a typical fob off by the executive once again to try and keep the councillor down at all times. Don’t facilitate them no matter what you do, don’t facilitate them. Make sure they’re kept in the dark,” he declared.

Cllr O’Donoghue described the local authority’s response as “shoddy” and said he wanted answers.

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At February’s Economic Development meeting, Cllr Sarah Kiely (FG) proposed that the feasibility of a Business Interruption Scheme for traders be discussed as a means of compensation for when building works impact on the revenue local businesses.

The City East representative also suggested that such a scheme could be a tiered system of compensation, depending on the losses incurred and the time involved.

At the time, Vincent Murray, Director of Economic Development for the Council, told members that the O’Connell Street works were due to be finished at Easter. He also said that there was no budget in place to implement such a scheme at present.

This week, in response to Cllr Keary, Mr Murray said that the project team are dealing with the contractor to get the works finished as speedily as possible.

“At this stage they are almost finished, there is only a short time left in completion of the works,” he explained.

“In relation to a special meeting, we would be concerned at having that at this stage because there’s a number of contractual issues and claims to be resolved on the job. It’s probably best that we don’t have a special meeting to discuss the item and blaming different people while it is going through a separate process of conciliation,” he explained.

Cllr Keary thanked Mr Murray for his “miniscule reply” but said he wouldn’t be totally blaming the contractor at all but would be instead pointing the finger at the executive. The O’Connell Street project, he pointed out, is almost a year over contract.

“Whoever the project engineer was engaged by this authority, what was he doing while Rome burned?”

“Have you any idea what kind of overrun is going to be there? It is taxpayers money,” Cllr Keary declared.

Mr Murray indicated that he didn’t have any report on it at this stage.

“I am conscious of not discussing it at the meeting with the press present,” he added.

Cllr Keary took umbrage with this comment. “It should be discussed in public. It is a public project,” he concluded.

It was confirmed by Limerick City and County Council this week that public realm works on O’Connell Street would be temporary halted to facilitate Riverfest and the Great Limerick Run.

According to a statement by the Council, the project is “anticipated to be fully completed in May.”