THE stop-go controversy over the €3 billion Limerick regeneration programme took another twist yesterday when Defence Minister Willie O’Dea, who said last week the Government would not be able to come up with the €1.7bn it has pledged, claimed the plan and the money was still on track.
Mr O’Dea said work would begin this year on 100 new houses in the four regeneration estates of Southill, Moyross, St Mary’s Park and Ballinacurra Weston.
To date more than 400 damaged and derelict houses have been demolished, but not a single foundation for the thousands of houses set out in the regeneration plan has been dug.
Mr O’Dea said he had been negotiating with the Environment Minister John Gormley over the past week and work on building houses will start before the end of the year.
He said they were awaiting final proposals from the regeneration agency and Limerick City Council and the Government will move then.
Mr O’Dea denied saying the Government’s €1.7bn would not be made available.
He said a newspaper report stating this was not accurate.
“I never said the €1.7bn would not be spent. The Government are committed to spending that and the Government remain committed to spending that. All I was saying was that on the building side, money was not as plentiful as it was and it was always envisaged there would be private investment going in to supplement the public investment and I am trying to get in the private investment as quickly as possible to supplement the public investment. But the Government remains committed to the €1.7bn that will be spent over the period of the regeneration and in addition to that again an awful lot of other money will be spent and is being spent from other Government departments,” he said.
He said he was reliably informed that private investment is there and was trying to access that as quickly as possible.
Over the past two and half years, he said the foundation for the regeneration plan had been put in place with extra community and social supports in place.
“When money was plentiful it was envisaged it would take 10 years and when the economy recovers I am sure we will be able to meet almost that time table. I am a bit impatient and want to get on with it and I want to see more than houses being knocked. I want to see houses being built, And I am glad to say that now before the end of the year is out we will see houses being built,” he added.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved