As the old song goes, ‘Limerick, You’re A Lady’.
Well, hell hath no fury like a lady scorned it seems. Last week, serial criminal chaser Donal McIntyre was on TV talking about the gangs and gangsters of Limerick City.
The backlash was almost immediate. In the following days, the hashtag #LimerickandProud was trending on Twitter as more and more people shared what they loved about their city.
McIntyre defended his show and what it had to say about the urban area. He described the city as being “overly sensitive” when it came to facing up to the problems within it.
However, the bigger issue was missed. Yet again, a national broadcaster was depicting Limerick by its criminality and social unrest.
People aren’t asking for the problem to be ignored, they are asking to stop being defined by it. So it goes in Ireland. We love our typecasting. From D4 Dubs to Kerry culchies, we have a nasty habit of defining what the ‘other side’ are to us.
I will not say there is no grain of truth in what McIntyre showed. Limerick does have a criminal element, of which we are all well aware.
However, it’s not the Limerick that I see and love.
A number of months ago, I used this column to write about the giddy madness of Limerick Start-up Weekend at the University of Limerick. It was just a flavour of what I have encountered in the city over the past number of years.
One day you should get in your car and go to Limerick.
Drive down by the university and the technology park that adorns the way to its gates as you come in from the east side of the city.
Limerick is quickly becoming a bustling hub where foreign direct investment companies open up next to Irish success stories and young start-ups with global domination in mind.
Further down the road lie the spired flag posts on the entrance to the university. Drive down Plassey Park Road and take a look at the Kemmy Business School and Nexus Centre . — innovation and business are driven by the young thinkers and doers who step through their doors every morning.
When Dell upped sticks and left the city, it bore a hole into the very heart of the community. A jobs stronghold crumbled almost overnight. Former employees banded together to find solutions, start-ups were created, and the long road to recovery was begun. Dotted around the city are these success stories.
Park the car and pop into the innovative Gasta Good n’ Healthy café on Thomas St for a bite. Quality health food is there for you no matter if you’re in need of good food minus the gluten or lactose.
The well-renowned Cornstore Restaurant is just a few doors down if you’re looking for that indulgent taste. However, those are just the beginning, I urge you to discover more for yourself, including the wonderful Georgian houses at the top of O’Connell St.
Now it’s on to Sarsfield Bridge. Finished in 1835, this old bridge holds character. It’s the last stretch for the annual Great Limerick Run. It’s where the longest river in Britain and Ireland meets the freshness of that Atlantic air; a welcome stimulant to the weary runner who knows the finish line is only minutes away.
This was also one of the focal points for the Royal De Luxe last year, a theatre company which took its world-famous walking giants on a tour of the city. It was the largest collection of people in Ireland for an event in 2014. Over 250,000 people journeyed to the city centre to view this extravaganza — although you may not have known, as RTÉ declined to provide coverage of the event. The largest event in the country was not, it seems, a priority to the national broadcaster.
And now it’s on to the Milk Market. The towering white cover that keeps the weather out of this old stone courtyard will let you know you’ve arrived. Here, especially on the weekends, is where you’ll find a great butcher, baker, and maybe even a candlestick maker as well. The smell of freshly brewed coffee made from Ponaire, based in Annacotty, will perk you up enough for the next and final leg of the journey. We’re off to hallowed ground.
Head out of the city centre along the Ennis Road. The Gaelic Grounds are on your right as you move on. You can still hear the echo from the roar to the final whistle of the Munster hurling final of 2013. Seventeen years of Limerick hurt evaporates on a hot July afternoon.
Turn right up here and make your way down to the Limerick Institute of Technology; more of our best and brightest creating a name for themselves in there. The Hartnett Centre is a keystone in the city’s ability to hone raw entrepreneurial talent. Its incubation centre is home to some of the best companies in the country. Many more have left in order to expand and grow. In this place success is a habit.
But we’re not stopping here. Keep going, straight through the roundabout up there. There it is in all its glory: Thomond Park. This city loves rugby and rugby loves this city. What’s happened on this soil wouldn’t even make it onto the pages of a Hollywood hack, the stories are too far-fetched.
There are unbelievable stories and there are Munster stories and, of course, that match: Munster 12-0 New Zealand.
They were told to ‘stand up and fight’. They did and they won. That’s what this city has done, it’s what it always does.
Through innovation and ideas, this city is producing a wealth of business talent and it’s doing it through its people, people inspired by what they have around them. The city gives them a sense of place.
Of course there are problems, but show me a city that doesn’t have problems and I’ll show you a liar. This is a city that is standing up and fighting for its future. It is a fight it will win.