State agencies ‘abandoned’ St Mary’s Park, says  former Limerick mayor

An outspoken former Limerick mayor claims the people of St Mary’s Park — named in a Pobal deprivation index as the most disadvantaged area of the country — were “abandoned” by state development agencies over decades.

Reacting to the index’s findings, showing St Mary’s Park has an unemployment rate at just under 70% for males, and at 40% for females, Cllr John Gilligan launched a stinging attack on IDA Ireland, as well as the former Shannon Development, which handed over its remit of developing the Limerick region, to the IDA, in 2014.

“Nobody, and I mean nobody — Shannon Development or the IDA — ever lifted their finger to try and replace [traditional industries] in the inner city for places like St Mary’s Park. They did absolutely nothing for them. The people of St Mary’s Park were simply left abandoned,” he said.

The estate, with a recorded population of 759, was built “prior to the Second World War” he said.

“I’m very sad and disappointed, but not surprised [by the findings]... Shannon Development, and the IDA — the people who were paid to put jobs in [the area] — never came next or near the place.”

He added: “I’ve been shouting about this for years, but, like a lot of places, we are just the forgotten people on the Island.”

The ex mayor said a “€20m” flood defence wall is currently under construction around St Mary’s Park. However, despite the investment in flood barriers around the Island, Cllr Gilligan complained: “I’ve yet to see anybody from St Mary’s Park employed on it.”

He also criticised the local authority’s handling of the regeneration of four of Limerick’s most disadvantaged areas, which includes St Mary’s Park. Over the past decade, not a single new house has been built in St Mary’s Park, and just over 100 existing homes have been refurbished in the estate, he said.

He further claims that the local authority “never acted upon” an idea put forward to it by councillors and locals to train local people in refurbishing and retrofitting houses in the estate.

“The last thing you want to do is have people from St Mary’s Park inside [in their homes] looking out their windows, watching [outsiders] regenerating the area. We are putting millions of euros into redeveloping an area, and not tackling the single most important problem that we have, which is a lack of jobs.

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