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Regeneration hampered by board rows

THE board of the Limerick regeneration agencies has been riven by disagreement and division in the five years since the controversial project was launched.

Documents obtained by the Irish Independent show major differences of opinion at board level over the direction of the project, which has been roundly criticised over its lack of progress.

Previously unpublished minutes of board meetings detail tensions between board members who were tasked to transform four neighbourhoods -- Moyross, Southill, Ballinacurra-Weston and St Mary's Park.

The relocation of tenants by Limerick City Council to areas outside of regeneration estates has caused major disagreements at meetings since 2007.

The records reveal:

• In 2008 former Limerick city manager Tom Mackey and the regeneration agency's chief executive Brendan Kenny clashed over the "displacement" of residents. Mr Mackey claimed a policy of moving residents out of areas was needed "to create a better social mix". Mr Kenny strongly disagreed.

But despite his objections €53m was spent buying 365 alternative homes for residents outside of regeneration areas.

• The conflict on the widescale nature of the relocation programme was cited again in 2009 by the regeneration chairman John Fitzgerald. The Limerick county manager Ned Gleeson also questioned the direction being followed, asking board members: "What are we doing?"

• In January 2010, board members Fr Pat Hogan, the parish priest of Southill, and Paddy Flannery, of Moyross Community Centre, complained that residents were not seeing the physical signs of regeneration, with no construction of new homes even begun at that stage.

• Board member Liam McElligott, of Limerick Enterprise Development Partnership, complained that Limerick City Council had a policy of shrinking neighbourhoods, something the then city manager, Mr Mackey, denied.

Mr Mackey claimed residents had left the areas due to intimidation and harassment.

• At the same meeting Mr Kenny made an appeal for unity between the regeneration agencies and the city council.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Kenny said the different views among board members were a significant problem. "There was not a shared vision," he said.

Yesterday, Housing and Planning Minister Jan O'Sullivan said there are lessons to be learnt.

"Limerick Regeneration was unable to galvanise the various stakeholders in the project and this diverted from the core goal of the regeneration project," Ms O'Sullivan said.

Irish Independent