Reopening Limerick

The Committee of Yes to #LiveableLimerick welcome the recent positive steps taken by Limerick to protect its citizens by making changes to how people circulate and use parts of the city.

We welcome the fact and thank councillors on both “sides” who insisted that the discussions must continue in two weeks’ time to see how further improvements may be added.  

We especially welcome the measures to help people to safely navigate their way to and around the city other than in cars.

Since the foundation of #LiveableLimerick we have been of the view that the way forward for our Limerick is an ambitious liveable plan explained to all stakeholders in an inclusive and positive way.  We have pushed for consultation to be open and transparent but also meaningful.  We have pushed for dialogue to be respectful and inclusive.  We have not been alone. Many others have been vocal in wanting a better city.

Only working together with mutual respect, taking the time to understand each other’s perspectives can real lasting and positive change be implemented.  No result should depend on whose voice is loudest or whose threat of legal action is strongest. 

Indeed, the role and duty of our officials and elected officials is to guard against that and make sure everyone is represented fairly. 

We are today disappointed that many of the people, including our members, who consulted as part of the public process did not see their views communicated and explained to the Councillors at this week’s meeting in a rush to have something agreed.  This makes them feel that their views are less important than those of the people (on both sides of the arguments) who have been invited to dialogue before the proposals went for decision to the elected members.  It is understandable why people feel angry and disappointed.  A strong united city has no place for that. 

Limerick Council issued a press release Friday saying that the “vast majority” of the COVID-19 proposals were to be implemented.  It was stated that after a review of the submissions and a meeting of an “Advisory Group” (of which we were listed as members), a set of changes would now be implemented.  The impression was created by the press release, which we have asked to have corrected, that #LiveableLimerick was part of the discussions leading to the amended proposals.  None of our committee or anyone with authority to represent us was invited to the meetings described where we understand common positions or at least amended positions on the original proposals were negotiated.  We were also not contacted after the meeting unlike others to see whether we might be able to support the amended position for the elected councillors. 

But we say, that is now history.  We have to find a way to move forward.

There is reason for optimism not the pessimism which has rained on social media since Wednesday.

A less than perfect process has left many people feeling angry or overlooked but that is not an excuse for nastiness.

We believe in their own way, everyone agrees that they want a better Limerick.  Despite the recent advances, our city and towns are still not working as we would like them to.

As a result, we are calling for everyone to take a step back and reflect on their common ground first and then to engage in further dialogue.  We understand many other great ideas (not just our own of course!) have been tabled as part of the consultation.  These should not be consigned to a closed file in Limerick Council’s office bur carefully examined to see if they can be implemented so that the changes are more inclusive.   Specifically, even if the city plan has dominated the airwaves, we should also include better plans for our county towns and villages. 

Now we believe is the time for our newly elected Cathoirleach to use her historic office to bring people together.  We, like many others to whom we have talked, are ready to support her and help.

Now is also the time for the council staff who have worked hard to get us this far to produce an analysis of the best and least controversial of those ideas, to circulate that full analysis in advance of the meeting in two weeks’ time and for our political leaders to see how many of those might be implemented quickly and how many others need further analysis before they can come back for decision.  No one’s points of view should be ignored or forgotten.  We would recommend, to ensure a feeling of full transparency that the full set of consultations available on line for those who want to see them.

Most importantly, we call on the council staff to revert to people who carried out their citizens duty to engage in the consultation to explain the whys or why not if their idea is not being put forward.

Some years ago we would never have believed that we would be seeing these positive changes in the core of our city.  That is due to strong advocacy across the political spectrum and the hard work of officials in Limerick City and County Council.

Of course, it is natural, we might still want to see more as explained in our own submission.

But the change that can appear obvious and necessary to some may be fearful for others.   

It is necessary that we cross this bridge together.

We will be working with traders and the authorities to animate some of the newly available spaces over the summer in a family friendly and fun way.

We call on all parties now to move recent history and their differences to the side.   We need to harness a new energy to work on our shared ambition.