A former sweet factory is destined to add new vibrancy to Limerick city centre, it emerged yesterday.
The old Cleeves toffee-making site on Clancy Strand is earmarked for several possible uses, including an international conference centre.
Denis Brosnan, founding chief executive of the Kerry Group and chairman of the Limerick Economic Forum, said Kerry Group has sold the seven-acre site to Limerick City and County Council for a “knockdown price”.
He said: “It is now up to the people of Limerick to decide what should be done with the site.
“Maybe an international conference centre or something for the food industry.
“I hope to stay around long enough to see it redeveloped and that this site will be the heart and soul of Limerick.”
Mr Brosnan was speaking at the annual Limerick Person of the Year ceremony in the Clarion Hotel where he was made an “Honorary Limerick Person” by decree of Limerick City and County Council.
The overall and youngest-ever winner of the Limerick Person of the Year, however, was Katie Whelan, a 19-year-old student whose Lisa’s Lights campaign lit up bridges in the city to highlight suicide awareness after the death of a cousin.
Meanwhile, Mr Brosnan said he was humbled by the honour, joining rugby legend Tony Ward who was last year named as the first recipient of the honorary Limerick person title.
Mr Brosnan recalled that when Dell closed its manufacturing plant in the city in 2009, with the loss of 2,000 jobs, he was asked to head a taskforce.
“For me it’s so little that has been achieved,” he said.
“Others say so much has been achieved. The truth lies somewhere in between.”
Mr Brosnan, who runs a stud farm in Croom with wife Joan, said the city forum he heads had seen the unification of the city and county councils into one local authority.
The forum had also been to the fore in changing the fortunes of Shannon Airport.
But, he said, the biggest change in Limerick in recent years was the rebranding of the city to one associated with education and culture.
Receiving her award, Katie Whelan said: “If somebody feels suicidal it is not the only option. There is always somebody there to listen.”
Mayor of the City and County of Limerick Liam Galvin said: “Last May, many hundreds of people stood on Thomond Bridge with Katie and in solidarity with those who need a helping hand in their darkest days.
“It is my hope and belief that her project will continue to spread a message of hope and will help light a path for many people.
“I particularly want to commend Katie for involving the promotion of suicide awareness through education by advocating that our young people should be shown the reality of the pain that is caused for the families of those who take their own lives.”
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