Council Affairs: Pigtown is mutton dressed as lamb

Limerick County Council Offices in Dooradoyle.

ABOLISHING road closures fees could be a positive step from the local authority to help the city rise from the ashes like Lazarus from the tomb.

Well, that’s some councillors’ take on it anyway. Bless them, you have to love their deluded confidence.

Businesses in the city centre have been crucified long enough and something’s got to give before it’s too late. If it isn’t already.

Sure, abolish road closure fees. I was thinking more along the lines of another mass, or preferably a miracle. If Dr Pat Daly has any sway in the miracle department, that would be aces.

I was in Limerick after 6pm for the first time in many moons recently to catch up with an old friend visiting from abroad on a Wednesday evening. The streets were deserted with the exception of the poor misfortunes begging on the city streets, who are out there in large numbers.

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We passed no fewer than three to four lost souls on every block — on both sides of the street — from the junction of Sarsfield Street right up to Roches Street. It’s like trying to navigate a maze to try and avoid them getting up into your face.

And listen, before you accuse me of lacking empathy, my heart goes out to them, it really does, but it’s not a good look for the main thoroughfare of Ireland’s third city.

A former work colleague of mine used to make jibes that Limerick was a town pretending to be a city. Having seen more life in Charleville and Ennis on a Saturday morning, I am starting to think he might have been onto something.

My old friend, who grew up in Limerick, had not been back in almost a decade, and I felt embarrassed, mortified actually, that this was his first impression of our hometown in 2023 — a city that I love every damp grey corner of.

Forget the pedestrianisation of O’Connell Street, it’s hard for anyone to see past the dereliction, being accosted by scroungers, and the overpowering sense of desolation on the city’s streets. I imagine many people must feel unsafe when out on the town at night. I was certainly on high alert as we visited the local hostelries.

There wasn’t a Garda to be seen and we spent most of our time around the city explaining that we didn’t have spare change to give, not to mention dodging the more anti-social elements on a rare night out. I found the whole experience depressing and was hugely saddened for my friend to leave with this memory of Limerick.

You can fanny around and try and dress mutton up as lamb all you like, but all the rugby museums and state-of-the-art offices in the world with people swooping back off to Killaloe or Kildare after their day’s work isn’t going to improve life here for anyone.

Limerick City has gone to the dogs and little is being done to fix this.

Fine Gael councillor Sarah Kiely recently called on the Council to abolish road closure fees for events as a move to help the city thrive. Honestly, I think that’s just wishful thinking at this stage.

Between the Dolan family’s wonderful endeavours and those of the good people at Thomond Park to continually attract international artists to the city, it shows in spades that we can hold our own and take pride in being a really vibrant and youthful place to spend time.

Where we are continually falling down is in the nitty gritty of the day-to-day planning and management of our city centre. However bad it is during the day, in my humble opinion, after working hours it is grim beyond belief.

And as if I needed any further proof of this, the diggers were back on O’Connell Street the next morning as I said my farewells to my mate.